Digital Divide

One ethical issue of using technology in the classroom that is affecting my students and me (and probably almost every teacher on the planet right now) is limited or no access to technology. We are in unprecedented times right now and we are seeing a huge gap in the digital and socio-economic divide. I am in a classroom of only 12 students, but almost half of my students do not have a computer at home. Most of my students have other types of technology at home, however, some of the supplemental work we are to provide is easier or requires a computer/chromebook. I completely agree with Trevor’s comment about how challenging moving into this new type of classroom has been. I have always used technology in my classroom, and I felt like I had enough knowledge to make of a go of it, but it has been very difficult and stressful for me and my teaching partner. I think the hardest part for both of us right now is the stress that this is placing on our students, and I know that there are many students across Saskatchewan that are feeling the same.

I know I have mentioned it before, but I teach in the Quiet Elementary classroom, which mean all of our students are diagnosed with anxiety and/or other mental health conditions. Every single one of our students have grown immensely after moving into our program, as it is an environment that was created to support them. A large majority of the time that we spend with our students is supporting their mental and emotional well-being, so they are able to complete academic tasks. The school closures and move to distance education has been very difficult for our students and their families.

We have been using Seesaw to communicate with our students and parents/guardians and to provide them with supplemental academic tasks. However, many of our students are not able to self-regulate and manage their anxiety while in the home setting, so they are unable to complete the work. Like I said earlier, there are also some families that do not have technology in the house. We tried to have a Google Meet video chat with the class today and had four students join the chat. It was so good to see them all and it felt just like the classroom (me talking and them staring at me with blank looks). I’m hoping that over the next couple of weeks we are going to be able to get everyone in a group video chat, but I don’t know if that is going to happen. We have a few students that do not feel comfortable with their video popping up for everyone to see, so I am going to try to work with them to get them to join the chat (even if it is just the audio!) Anyone have any other ideas for students that feel self-conscious about being a video chat?

School Role in Digital Citizenship

Digital citizenship, as defined by teachthought.com, is defined by the quality of habits, actions, and consumption patterns that impact the ecology of digital content and communities. Digital citizenship is ever evolving and needs to be included in today’s curriculum. I think that digital citizenship should be approached by using a three tier approach (home, student and school). Teachers can only control what happens in their classrooms and should be teaching students about digital citizenship from a early age. As I was looking around the book fair at my school today, I came across a book called On the Internet; Our First Talk About Online Safety by Dr. Jillian Roberts.

The following is part of a review of the book on CM: Canadian Review of Materials “Eleven questions or statements, presented from the point of view of a child, are briefly explored. The queries primarily focus on socializing online and how those interactions are not always positive: ‘Why would people put mean or inappropriate things online?’; ‘One time I saw a picture on my big sister’s social media account. It was of a friend of hers from school. People were teasing the girl in the comments’; ‘Thinking about this stuff makes me kind of uncomfortable and angry’. The answers, written by Dr. Jillian Roberts, a child psychologist, professor and parent, introduce concepts of boundaries, privacy and cyberbullying. Sidebars provide a more child-friendly and relatable definition of the highlighted terms, including, for example, ‘Boundaries are kind of an invisible safety fence”, and privacy “is when you are being left alone, free from the attention of others.'” I think this book could be a good way for elementary teachers to introduce the topic of digital citizenship to their students.

I am going to be honest, I really don’t know how the topic of digital citizenship is being addressed in my current school. It has been something that is discussed very much at staff meetings. I do know that I see a lot of students in the halls and on the playground with their personal devices. Since I teach in a special program, my students do not integrate into the “regular” classrooms very often. In my own experience, digital citizenship was something that I didn’t delve too deep in to. Most of my students have their own personal devices and are active on many different social media apps, gaming systems, etc. After looking into some of the different social media apps and learning more about digital citizenship, identity and literacy, I am going to start teaching my students more about these topics. I also think it is really important to learn alongside students and letting our students teach us. They have a wealth of knowledge about the good, the bad and the ugly of the digital world.

I found a list of some examples of digital citizenship on teachthought.com that I thought would be a good starting point to discuss digital citizenship with my students: Communicating with respect, respecting other’s privacy, seeing things from another perspective, adding helpful information/context to a discussion or wiki page, supporting others by offering useful feedback, encouraging them, or sharing work they’re proud of, etc. I know that there is much, much more that needs to be addressed, but I also know that these are some of the issues that my students are facing and maybe some of the bad habits they have while on social media.

I watched the video Our Journey to Awesome in EDL 825 and really loved how they have approach student learning. The video is about a middle school in Ontario named Park Manor Public School. The staff at Park Manor Public school created an accelerated learning framework that includes the use of technology. The creation of the framework required the staff to come together as a group and shift their pedagogy. Students are at the centre of the framework and the staff are learning alongside their students. One of the first steps they took up was instituted a BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) policy. As a staff they came up with a list of skills that they felt were critical 21st century skills:

  • creating
  • communicating
  • collaborating
  • critical thinking
  • citizenship

Many of the skills that Park Manor identified as important overlap with the competencies that Renee Hobbs lists students and teachers need in her interview about Media Literacy for the 21st Century. The competencies that she details are: access, analysis, create and collaborate, and reflect and take action. I would love to see schools in Regina Public to adopt a learning framework like Park Manor. They are incorporating the critical 21st century skills into every subject, every lesson and every assignment in their classrooms. What did you think about the framework that Park Manor implemented? Can you see any potential issues from adopted this framework?

Major Learning Project – Discord

Discord is an all-in-one voice and text chat for gamers that’s free, secure, and works on both your desktop and phone. Most websites that describe what Discord is states that it is similar to Skype and TeamSpeak. It is an American company that was founded in San Francisco. Wikipedia states that as of 21 July 2019, there are over 250 million unique users of the software.

I first learn of Discord in my classroom last year. I currently teach in the Quiet Elementary classroom and I think about three quarters of my students use this app. It became an issue in the class last year because it is an invite only chat room. There were some students that were not invited into the class group and the arguments about this spilled into the classroom. I came across a Discord blog and found a guide for parents. The author, Marcella, is an employee of the company and she describes some of the features of discord:

Discord is different than other social platforms like Twitter or Reddit, in that people come to Discord to build private, invite-only groups. All conversations are opt-in, so anyone not interested in chatting have a variety of tools at their disposal:

  • Choose who can direct message you
  • Choose who can add you as a friend
  • Choose what servers you want to partake in
  • Choose whether or not to block another person
  • Choose whether or not to scan and delete direct messages with explicit content
  • Choose who can join your server
  • Choose security and verification levels on your server

I also found a video from Common Sense Media that lists 6 Things Parents Should Know About Discord. It brings up a few safety concerns that parents should be aware of if their children are using the app. The app originally started as a gaming chatroom, but is now available across many different platforms. My students have it on their phones and can use it to have a group chat in the classroom when they are not supposed to be.

I am going to use the following video to help me test the waters with this app that makes no sense to me. Like TikTok, I plan on using my student’s knowledge and experiences throughout my learning. I am also going to check with my nephew on this one, because he is using this chat room app. I am also going to research the dark side of Discord and see if there is more than meets the eye.

Major Learning Project – TikTok

TikTok is a social media app that allows users to create short lip-sync, comedy, and talent videos (Wikipedia). It was created in China and was launched outside of China in 2017. It has quickly become a very popular app for young people in North America. TikTok‘s website states that “TikTok is the leading destination for short-form mobile video. Our mission is to inspire creativity and bring joy”.

Most of the students in my class have TikTok accounts and I feel like a fish out of water, or maybe a boomer, when they start talking about the app. This lead me to start watching some videos to try and figure out what the heck my students were talking about. There are a ton of videos that explain what TikTok is and how to use the app. Common Sense Media has a parent reference page about TikTok and has a lot of useful information, including a short video explaining what TikTok is and why kids like it so much.

Common Sense Media

Common Sense Media also delves into topics like how safe is TikTok?, is it appropriate for kids to use?, is there an age requirement?, can parents use TikTok with the kids?, how to make an account private and much, much more. It really is a good starting place for parents and newbies to TikTok. I also found the following two videos very helpful for how to get started on using TikTok.

Learn Video Online
Howfinity

There will be much, much more to come to show how my start to using TikTok went. I also will be including some interviews with some of my students about their experiences with TikTok.

What is Digital Identity?

A person’s digital identity is an amalgamation of any and all attributes and information available online that can bind a persona to a physical person (forbes.com). While doing research on what digital identity is I found a reading on a website that broke down what digital identity is into digital attributes and digital activities. These pieces of information, either alone or combined together, can be used to identify you (jumio.com). The following table lists some examples of digital attributes and digital activities.

Digital AttributesDigital Activities
Date of Birth
Medical History
ID Numbers (SSN, driver’s license)
Government Issued ID
Bank Details
Login Credentials (username & passwords)
Email Address
Biometrics (fingerprint, eye scan, 3D face map)
Badges and Tokens
Likes, Comments and Shares
Photos on Facebook, Instagram, etc.
Purchase History
Forum Posts
Search Queries
Signed Petitions
Geotagging
Downloading Apps
Cell Phone Usage
jumio.com

A person’s digital identity can change throughout their life, just like their personal identity can. I know that my digital identity has changed a lot in the last 10-15 years. When I first started using the internet more and was creating accounts on different websites, I used to use the same password over and over again. It seems so ridiculous to me now, but at the time I didn’t know any better. Teaching students about the importance of using different passwords for different accounts and choosing strong passwords is really important. Every time I choose a new password I think about my students from a few years ago that shared their Snapchat login information with friends to keep their Snap streak going. I remember at the time thinking that it was so ridiculous to me and that they just didn’t care that almost everyone within the class could log into their account, because the snap streak was more important to them.

When Daina and I were working on our video about how to approach the idea of digital identity, we had a discussion about how our Facebook posts had changed in the last 10 years. There are days that some of my memories that show up make me cringe. I used to change my status two or three times a day when I first started using Facebook, and now I don’t even know the last time that I changed my status. The other thing that I have changed over the years is making comments, posting pictures, etc. on social media. I think when I first started using Facebook, Instagram, etc. I didn’t really think about how all of that was going to be forever linked to me. I know that this is something that needs to be taught and discussed in schools. I am going to use the above table to teach my students about their digital identity. It would be interesting to ask a group of students what kinds of things they think make up their digital identity to see what they come up with. Daina and I also talked a lot about how our different social media apps allow us to post different facets of our identity, kind of like the Dolly Parton social media challenge. Digital identity is very different for my students and all young people today. They use way more social media apps and gaming apps than I do. I found a really good poster on lifelock.com that helps explain what digital identity is, things that make you vulnerable and things that you can do to help protect yourself. The information on the poster would be really good to discuss with students as well, as there are definitely some things that I need to make sure I am more aware of and change.

What tools or resources do you have to teach students about digital identity? Has learning about digital identity changed your online presence?

Mary Beth Hertz Reflection

This post is uber late, but circumstances out of my control have really set me back this semester. I hope everyone enjoys this late post! I wasn’t able to attend the class that Mary Beth was the guest lecturer, but I am so glad that Alec records all of the Zoom sessions because I would’ve hated to miss out on her lecture. Right from the beginning I was amazed and intrigue with the school and lessons that Mary Beth teaches. I can’t imagine teaching in a school where every student gets a laptop to use and receives lessons on digital citizenship. I love that she uses the grade 9 class she teaches as a sort of boot camp about technology and digital citizenship. In Adam‘s post he talks about how Mary Beth starts her lessons at the very beginning with basic questions that he never thought of asking his students (I never thought of it either). I wouldn’t of thought to teach my students about what the internet is, and what cookies are and the different parts to using the internet. I don’t even know if I know all of the answers to the questions that Mary Beth presented.

giphy.com

I have a thirteen year old nephew, and his parents finally caved in and got him a phone. Every time we have had a family gathering in the last six months, he is constantly on his phone. Mary Beth also mentioned danah boyd during her lecture. danah talks about how teens are addicted to social media, but that they are also addicted to each other. My nephew looks like he is physical pain when asked to put his phone away or turn it off. There are so many social media apps that I have no clue what they are and how they work. I am using my students and my nephew to help me with my learning project.

I also found it interesting when Mary Beth talked about lower income students have higher screen time. An article by Rani Molla discusses screen time between different economic statuses. The article uses data from Common Sense “Tweens and teens from families that make less than $35,000 per year spent nearly two hours more with screen media each day than their peers with incomes over $100,000”. The article also discusses how there has been a “reversal in how we understand the so-called digital divide: it’s no longer just access to technology but also the ability to restrain that access“. It is the modern day version of latch-key kids.

Mary Beth’s lecture has opened my eyes about how we need to teach students about how to become responsible digital citizens.

Major Learning Project – Option 2

Giphy.com

Well, after a very crappy start to the semester (and year), I am finally able to post about my major learning project. I have decided to delve into option #2 and learn more about both social apps and educational apps. I haven’t fully decided which apps I am going to research and learn how to use, but I think that I want to look into TikTok for sure. After talking with my students, they suggested looking into TikTok, Discord and Instagram. I already have an Instagram account, but haven’t actually done much research into the app. I have never used TikTok and Discord, but these social apps are used by my students on a daily basis and it would be good to know what they are all about. I also would really like to look into the impact that these social apps have the mental health of middle years students. For the educational apps I would like to look into ShowMe and SeeSaw. I am already signed up for SeeSaw, but use it strictly as a way to message parents. I haven’t used the app to share lessons, activities and projects. From what I quickly saw about ShowMe, it seems like it could be similar to SeeSaw. I am sorry that this post is so short, but there will be more details coming soon.