After some technical difficulties with the Weebly website, I was finally able to get my summary of learning posted. I wish to thank all of my colleagues for all of the class discussions, interactions, debates, and informative blog posts over the course of the semester. Enjoy the well deserved summer break!
Welcome to the final chapter of our EdTech debate series. In this debate we discussed if online learning is detrimental to the social and academic development of children. While I participated as a member of the disagree side, I held some pretty firm pre-conceived biases that aligned with the agree side. I would suggest that after the rigors of online learning during the Covid-19 pandemic that a majority of teachers walked away with strong feelings around how the relationships and connections with our students are simply not the same through online learning as they are in the classroom. Many of us struggled with implementing online learning, and the lack of meaningful connections with our students. With that in mind, I was a little bit disjointed when I realized that my group would be arguing in favour of the online learning
In the end, “having” to argue against my predisposed bias was probably for the best. Having to work around my (and our) preconceived notions pushed me to look that the question in a deeper, more meaningful way. We quickly realized that a blanket online learning is good (or bad) simply wasn’t going to work. Like most other things in life, context, parameters, and terms and conditions ought to be attached. Having to argue that switching every student from each grade directly to online learning would clearly be a bad idea. As would be arguing that online learning should not take place under any circumstance. Like with most issues in our increasingly polarized world, we believed that the answer lay somewhere in the middle.
I should also say that Britney, Kayla, and Colton did a masterful job of presenting some of the pitfalls that online learning can have on student academic and social development – frankly, it was quite difficult to argue against most of the points that they had made. I believe that these strong fundamentally sound arguments forced the team of Kat, Arkin, and myself to take a deeper look at when online learning can be beneficial or successful. We concluded that like most things that we teach, there is a time and a place. We typically don’t pull out a baking pan and magnetic letters for high school students. As well, we don’t send grade 1 students to take drivers education or to cooking class. Moreover, when some students choose not to register for a course, we don’t stop offering it to those who may wish to take it. When viewed as an option (for a litany of reasons), we believe that online learning can both have a place in our schools, and not be detrimental to a students academic or social development, if implemented appropriately.
I found this topic (pre-debate) to be one of the more interesting ones for me personally. I think I was intrigued with the topic because it is something that myself, and I would say many others know little about. Most individuals would have an opinion on say cell phone use in the classroom whereas they might not have an opinion or even an understanding of a “digital footprint”. Ironic no doubt that something of greater importance is likely significantly less understood.
In terms of assisting the development of a digital footprint, this article here covers some of the issues that a school may encounter. Knowledge of these potential issues is enough to make me not want to post anything school, and especially kid related as a teacher. It simply feels like too much risk, for very little, if any reward. The disagree side (Gertrude and Kim) also provided a plethora of research to support their position against working with students to develop their digital footprint. After hearing them speak, and reading through the articles, I am inclined to agree with them. To be frank, I was impressed and agreeable with the arguments made around not letting big tech off of the hook for the mess that they created. I thought that the comparison between it and what happened in the past with putting the onus of recycling on to the consumer was excellent.
While I agree with the points around not letting big tech companies out of what should be their responsibility, I also appreciated the points presented by Rae and Funmilola and educating students on their digital footprints and the consequences it might have. In my mind there is a significant difference between education around digital footprints and assisting in developing one. For example, we teach kids about bike safety (wear a helmet), but we don’t always practice riding bikes together as a class. Sometimes we do, but that is teachers going out of their way to be awesome!
Relatively speaking, the internet is quite young, and many of us simply aren’t aware of what the consequences might be yet. I for one did not give pause in 2007 when I joined Facebook that a future employer might look into what I was up to or doing (fortunately, nothing too nefarious). That notion alone may be enough to change the way individuals interact with the internet – these footprints are not being made in the sand, rather in concrete.
This is another loaded question, that countless educators have flip flopped on multiple times; at least I have. One day it feels like cell phones are a powerful learning tool that we know is going to be prevalent in real life. The next day it is a massive distraction that seems to be only good for impeding and getting in the way of learning. Reading this Guardian article from Australia, it looks like I am in good company – with some experts suggesting that cell phones are bad, with others suggesting that it would not be a good idea to disbar them from the classroom.
While I have found myself more situated to one side with most of our other debates, I find myself to be caught smack in the middle on this one. The reality is, cell phones are prevalent in our daily lives, so the argument that students ought to learn how to properly use the “tool” makes a considerable amount of sense. One of our roles as educators is to prepare students for their lives outside and beyond school – they will without a doubt end up using a cell phone at some point. My counter to this would be that cars are also a way of life in our society, and we know that the large majority of our students will end up owning and operating one someday, yet we don’t provide that tool or training for it until a person reaches the age of sixteen, as we have decided that age is the appropriate time for a person to “learn the rules of the road”. Perhaps we as a society, parents, and teachers should give pause to what the appropriate age is for cell phone use, and specifically cell phone use at school. We provide driver training to tenth graders, whereas we do not provide it to students in elementary school. As such, appropriate age considerations should be made. This article makes some interesting arguments in favour of allowing cell phones in school that range from saving the environment, promoting independence, cost savings, and teaching digital literacy. That said, while the arguments presented make sense and are likely to resonate with most individuals, they do not appear to be research based in nature. Similarly this article here from the British Journal of Education Technology provides a compelling case for banning mobile phones in the classroom, however, it is not research based either.
Like many things in education, I believe that the decision to ban cellphones in the classroom should be left up to the individual teacher and their professional judgement. There may be instances where it makes sense to ban the phones, and there may be circumstances where it makes sense to utilize them. This of course is not much different than most other things in education – we must trust that the teacher knows what works best for their individual teaching styles, assigned curriculum, and of course the needs of their students. A one size fits all approach is rarely useful or successful.
If one were to talk to a parent, grand parent, or basically anyone who is older than thirty years old, they are likely to suggest that social media is ruining childhood. You hear it all the time “kids these days, can’t put their damn phones down to see what is going on around them”! Or maybe that is just something that my grandpas says, but I doubt it! Growing up somewhere in the middle, where it felt like cell phones became prevalent about half-way through high school, I am inclined to agree. This BBC article that suggests almost 2/3 of a parenting group believe that childhood ends at the age of 12 is both surprising and alarming. I know that many of us have a penchant for romanticizing our youth, or the “good old days” as described in this USA Today essay, but I believe that being born in 1989 excuses me from romanticizing the techless 1970’s summers.
The “for side” of the debate group strongly supported this with Carly Bizieff’s piece on The Impact of social media on Children. In her research, she provides ample evidence that the negatives associated with children participating using social media largely outweigh the positives of children participating in social media. As a teacher I can think of countless anecdotes that would support this work.
At this point I recognize how unbalanced I have been. I must credit the “disagree” group as I believe that were in a position where they had to battle uphill from the start. Excellently, they used the inspiring story of Bana Alabed in this Girl with a Voice article to demonstrate what can happen when social media and digital tools are used for good. This acted as a strong counterweight for some of my predetermined biases around the impact of social media on childhood.
While I still believe that social media has a strong potential to negatively affect childhood, like with anything else, it also has the potential to create good when used appropriately. It reminds me of the expression “to a hammer, everything looks like a nail”. If I use a hammer for all of my chores, more often than not, something is going to get wrecked. If I use the hammer in a measured and appropriate way, I am going to find some workable solutions, without encountering collateral damage. A hammer for all home projects will be detrimental as will social media if applied to all aspects of childhood.
Again, I am sorry that I wasn’t in class the other day… but I can imagine that this one was a bit of a DOOZY! I can envision the massive divide now: Yes, as educators it is our responsibility to teach social justice, while others may be concerned with what exactly is social justice. This can be complicated, because as much as we would all like to believe that our perspectives are through the best or most appropriate lens, we must admit that social justice can often times be a subjective thing where multiple individuals or perspectives may feel like they are promoting social justice, when in fact they are doing could be detrimental to what might be considered social justice by social scientists or other experts. Moreover, there are many strong arguments around empowering students to come up with what social justice is or isn’t on their own. This article on the “Power of Neutrality” gives a couple good examples. In principle, I would agree that asking probing questions of students is far superior to simply doling out answers whether it be around social justice or another topic entirely.
Further complicating this question is the fact that many educators don’t heavily use technology or social media outside of work. For some it is about disconnecting and getting away from it all, while others are just hoping to enjoy some privacy in their non-working hours. This is where I would be inclined to disagree with some of the notions from the article “Should all Educators have a Social Media Presence? Yes.” Plenty of strong educators, and individuals outside of education have little to no social media presence. In fact, and this is a big-time anecdote, some of the most well-rounded, reflective, and happy individuals I know have absolutely nothing to do with social media. To be frank, I too have been striving to distance myself from social media. Let’s be honest – what are the odds that I have ever sent out Tweet, or shared a Facebook post that actually changed somebody’s mind or solved a problem? For many of us, it was likely the exact opposite experience, whether it was drawing they ire of a strange uncle, or worse yet, our employer. Nonetheless, I am still in favour of trying. This article offers some important advice to translate online activism into something a little more concrete. Since we don’t live in the Metaverse yet (what is the Metaverse anyways), I think it is of significant importance to work towards turning our online activism into something real and concrete. Human connections matter.
Additionally, teachers would be wise to take warning after reading Madeline Will’s article around Teachers, Politics, and Social Media: A Volatile Mix. While South of the border, the article references the “Pickering balancing test”, in which the court weighs the employee’s interest in commenting upon matters of public concern and the employer’s interest in “promoting the efficiency of the public services it performs.” In other words, a teacher cannot publicly say something so offensive or inflammatory that it impacts her ability to do her job and educate students – I don’t know about you, but who want to be on the judgement end of that test, with one’s job hanging in the balance.
As this meandering post comes to a conclusion, I feel as if I have spent more time arguing against my perspective than for it. What I think this means is that teachers shouldn’t be forced to take on a social justice role anymore than anyone else is. There are often times risks and stressed that come with the territory that some educators might simply find overwhelming in light of everything else that educators are required to take on. For those that find themselves with the capacity, I certainly encourage them to promote and empower students with as much social justice as they can. We all know that it is needed in today’s world.
Unfortunately, I missed this debate due to a work commitment. Having not participated in the actual debate myself, I can only assume the team arguing for the continued teaching of skills that could be easily carried out by technology such as cursive writing and multiplication tables faced an uphill battle. I really enjoyed the Ted X featuring David Middelbeck that was shared by the agree side. In the video, David provides examples of where technology raced ahead of where we were at as a society. Often time, this causes “pain” and inequity, until the education system is able to catch up. For me, this was a very compelling argument as to why we should get away from teaching things that can easily be carried out by technology, and work towards catching up on teaching the skills to masterfully incorporate the new technologies into our learning and daily lives.
I must also acknowledge the great lengths and excellent research that the “Disagree” team did to make a compelling argument in favour of continuing to teach skills that could perhaps be carried out by technology. The argument(s) I found most intriguing were the once’s based on hand-eye coordination, fine motor skills, memory, and other brain functions. I found the Berger (2017) article interesting, because it featured many of the same rationales that I have heard from colleagues over the years when I had suggested that it was perhaps time to ditch some of these skills that can be replaced by technology. For example, my cursive skills after all of these years are nearly non-existent – as in I literally couldn’t hand write anymore. Perhaps I should be embarrassed, but it has yet to have any sort of impact on my personal or professional life; although, I have never bragged about it publicly before. Moreover, have you ever had a friend who was like a human calculator? Super cool right? But what is the real value in that, aside from appearing smarter than the rest of us. In less time I can make the same calculations with a calculator with a much lessor error rate. To me, one is better off learning how to appropriately use our tech tools as opposed to trying to compete with them, in a battle that we will never win. As they say "we must get with the times!"
Like many questions – the answer may depend on who you ask. As a person who enjoys access to the most recent forms of technology and its benefits, I would be inclined to say yes. As an educator who has worked in community schools (and suburban schools) where students and their families have varied degrees of access to both devices and internet, as well as a wide spectrum of skills to put the technology to use, I might be inclined to say no.
Anecdotally, it seems obvious that the “Tech Divide” follows the same fault line as other societal divides in our society. It seems to disproportionately affect those that are disadvantaged in other ways. Assuming these anecdotes can be supported by research, the answer would be very clearly a resounding no in terms of technology leading to a more equitable society. This is supported by the Amundson and Ko article (2021) where they stated, “The shift to remote learning was a blow to many students who were already vulnerable”. In other words, while some students were able to enjoy success while learning from home, many who were already vulnerable became even more so. What technology appears to have done is allow those of us who are privileged enough to maintain our “bubbles”, enabling us to forget and overlook those who were less privileged. For many technology simply further enabled a divide that was already in place.
As I side in the opening – an answer typically depends on who you ask, and I think there are many that would say that technology has indeed granted them equity. Both the Benetech article as well as Amundson and Ko speak to this in detail. In Saskatchewan K-12 schools, there are many examples of technology being used to bring equity in the classroom. A simple but powerful example are the translation tools that assist our many English as an Additional Language learners. As well, speech to text, and dictation are tools that are used with great frequency. For these students, the answer to the question of technology leading to a more equitable society is a resounding yes.
I believe that it is clearly established that technology can be a double-edged sord that can either exacerbate inequities, or work to quell them. In my mind, what is needed is appropriate public policy that ensures technology is used for the greater good. As long as the gap between public policy and technology exists, the technological divide and it’s negative implications will continue to persist as well. Bruce Schneier explains it eloquently here. As Bruce says ” For some reason, ignorance about technology isn’t seen as a deficiency among our elected officials, and this is a problem. It is no longer okay to not understand how the internet, machine learning - or any other core technologies - work.” I couldn’t agree more.
Does technology in the classroom enhance learning? At first glance, the answer is very clearly a resounding yes; with, the debaters Megan and Brittaney doing an excellent job of reinforcing my previous understanding(s) of how technology can be a marvelous classroom intervention. Their point was supported by an article from Stanford: Technology Can Close Achievement Gaps, Improve Learning. I was especially interested in the article, because of it's claims around benefitting students who are are at risk of dropping out. I also REALLY appreciated how the article highlighted the importance of school division's having a plan for the educational technology before making the purchase - I find that often times technology is provided as some sort of magic bullet, with no meaningful plan in place. Moreover, I was intrigued that both sides used the "No Significant Difference" phenomenon to bolster their arguments.
Of the many compelling arguments presented by Nicole and Daryl on the nay side, the one that resonated with me the most was the one from NPR titled: Attention, Students: Put Your Laptops Away. It resonated, because I believe I have experienced what it describes first hand. With my laptop in toe, I am undoubtedly able to get more things "down", and quicker. However, ask me what I just typed up, and I will likely be at a loss for words. More compelling yet, is the point around tablets and computers themselves providing the distraction(s). The same device that is supposed to make me more efficient is actually in many respects slowing me down. Imagine, using a dishcloth that was so dirty that it made your dishes dirtier at a quicker pace than it was able to clean them - Yikes!
To conclude, after weighing the arguments and the evidence, and overlaying it with both my classroom experiences, and personal experiences I concluded that technology can indeed enhance learning in the classroom. For me the real world examples are simply too numerous. The caveat however, is that it must be planned and implemented properly, or else the risk of it detracting from learning becomes greater than it's potential to assist with learning. It is never good when the medicine is worse than the illness.
Technology is now embedded into our daily lives, from sunrise to sundown, and beyond