Final Project for ECI 832

Note: This script contains hyperlinks mentioned in the video

Introduction:

This is Kelsie Lenihan’s final final project for ECI 832. I chose to deep dive into apps on my phone. I chose to look at ones I use personally and professionally, and ones that intersect. I wanted to discover the actual value in these apps and whether they stand up to any kind of critical examination. I examined three types of apps: the social, the essential, and the nice-to-have.

The social app I looked at was the ubiquitous Snapchat. I use Snapchat and my students avidly use Snapchat. It seems that one cannot avoid Snapchat. It is a tool that facilitates and complicates communication around the world. It has its pros and cons. I wanted to discover whether the pros do indeed outweigh the cons. I also wanted to see if I could bridge the personal and the professional and see if I could find an educational application for Snapchat where I could use it safely and effectively as a tool in my classroom, keeping in mind the integration of technology and use Snapchat not as an add on but as an enhancement to my teaching.

The essential app I examined was Google Classroom. I use the app on my phone and I use the web-based app. I will be looking at both. I find both apps essential as they have both fundamentally shifted my teaching, I hope for the better. Google Classroom is a problematic application that I will explore in some depth, but by no means its entirety.

The app I looked at that I deem nice to have but not essential to my teaching is Remind. I was an early adopter of Remind (I joined in 2011) and have created a class for every semester, but am a sporadic user. I will go into the technical aspects as well as the privacy aspects of Remind as well as why I consider it a nice to have tool, but not an essential tool like Google Classroom.

Snapchat:

The first app I will explore is Snapchat.

Snapchat was created in April of 2011 by college students, similar to Facebook. The purpose is to share pictures and videos, which disappear after a user sets a time limit, as they discuss in their FAQs on their website.

According to Snapchat itself, “Snapchat lets you easily talk with friends, view Live Stories from around the world, and explore news in Discover. Life’s more fun when you live in the moment!

It has gained in popularity since its launch and a reported 187 million daily active users.

Along with its popularity came scrutiny. In 2013, a mere two years after its launch, Forbes was already warning parents of the potential issues regarding privacy and sexting.

A side note about this picture: a student discovered my ECI blog and was concerned for my internet safety because I had posted a picture of my Snapcode. I assured them that I had doctored my picture by adding random dots in Paint and was safe from random people adding me on Snapchat. Students are more aware of privacy and safety online than we give them credit for, sometimes.

I currently use Snapchat as a communication tool with my family and friends. I enjoy the fact that it doesn’t last and I don’t have to worry about producing the perfect Instagram shot. I can be my imperfect self.

I hadn’t explored Snapchat’s Terms of Service or Privacy Policy in depth recently and figured since I am an active user, I should know what I had agreed to.

At the very outset, Snapchat warns its users that they are indeed entering a legally binding contract with “Snap Group Limited”.

When I polled my students regarding the fact that they’ve signed a legal contract with Snapchat, there was a sense of disbelief. My students weren’t aware that the terms of service they glance through (at best) or accept blindly (at worst) were legally binding. They thought these terms of service were just guidelines on how to use the product or what they were or were not allowed to do on the app.

Students were also not aware that, while they do still maintain ownership over content, Snapchat may use the content as they wish. As is seen in the TOS, Snapchat retains the right to monetize your image (including your own picture) as they wish and you have no right to any compensation for it.

Snapchat also explicitly references the fact that their product may be used for less than honourable means.

Snapchat’s privacy policy states that they don’t “stockpile” data about and from users as other tech companies do.

However, according to this document (which I highly recommend reading through), Snapchat keeps files for 31 days and these records contain “metadata”, which can include geographical information associated with snaps sent and received as well as the user. It is important to note that these logs are not the actual snaps themselves, but the logs of the snaps (when they were sent, from whom, to whom, if and when they were opened, from where it was sent etc).

If requested by law enforcement, Snapchat can and will preserve information they receive.

Armed with all of the information, as a teacher, I am hesitant to use Snapchat in my classroom.

I understand the ephemeral nature of Snapchat and the need to see and have hard, concrete, permanent evidence of learning. I don’t see any application of Snapchat in my classroom as a technological app.

Where I have found the idea of Snapchat useful is in the template. As part of a novel study, I ask students to create physical copies of a snap as sent by a character from the novel we read.

I have encountered a few really useful websites in order to help parents and educators navigate Snapchat, especially as its features alter and change to include some worrisome things like the Snapmap.

In conclusion for this app, I think I will continue using it for my own personal social media presence, but I don’t foresee it becoming a part of my teaching. I like to have concrete evidence of a student’s learning and unless they’re just continually taking screenshots, there isn’t a way to produce permanent evidence on Snapchat. And if they’re just taking screenshots, there’s surely a better way to document their learning.

Google Classroom:

The second app I took a look at is Google Classroom.

This is an app I consider essential to my teaching.

However, if you had asked me a year ago about it, I wouldn’t have said so. I would’ve said that it looked like too much work for too little pay off.

I know it sounds like a shameless plug for Alec’s courses, but the course EC&I 834 Online and Blended Learning, really changed my perspective on how to learn online.

This year, I started putting everything onto Google Classroom. All of my handouts are up there, all of my assignments are there, students communicate with me and I ask students questions about their assignments.

As I’ve mentioned in blog posts, the amount of paper I consume has drastically been reduced.

For example, I assigned 3 mini-essays to  my 30 ELC 20 students. I put these assignments up on Classroom and expected my students to hand it in on there. Each mini-essay is approximately three pages. Three pages times three essays is around 9 pages per student. Multiply that by 30 students and that’s easily around 300 pieces of paper (or 150 if it’s double sided).

I took home 30 pieces of paper. These thirty pieces of paper are their blank rubrics.

To me, this is a significant change and impact on my teaching.

Students I have asked appreciate the due date feature. Assignments no longer have to be due at the end of class. Assignments can be due later on in the day, or even later on in the week. Students have more control over their deadlines because they are allowed more responsibility for their learning.

But, if I remove my rosy glasses, I become more aware of the issues surrounding Google Classroom. These issues include privilege, copyright infringement, privacy, and the separation of personal and professional.

First, the Terms of Service for Google Classroom.

That indecipherable picture on the screen right now is a screenshot of the TOS information page for Classroom.

It is huge and daunting.

Google provides videos to explain how some of these things work. However, glancing through them, a grand total of 349 people had wondered about data protection for their students. 349. This is astounding and frightening.

Around 15 million students use Google Classroom, according to a NYT article published in 2017. Conservatively, that’s 500,000 classrooms. Imagine how many teachers. And 349 people watched the 2:01 video on data protection.

Google faces many, many privacy issues. Are schools wise to use these products? Am I doing my students a service or a disservice by insisting they turn their assignments in on Classroom? How many assumptions about a student’s position in relation to technology am I making when I insist they use Classroom? Why do I assume that they have consistent, stable access to technology? What can I do about these assumptions to make me a more social justice oriented teacher?

In my EC&I 834 class I looked at other online learning apps, such as Canvas, as an alternative to the monolith of Google. But, I came to the conclusion that Classroom was a much better service because it offered seamless integration of apps like Docs, which students use to create their assignments anyway.

In terms of copyright, how much am I able to post online on my Classroom, which is a closed community? Can I leave it up there all semester or should I remove it when I no longer need it? What about archived classes? All of these questions I have are dependent on who sees my Classroom and to what extent they’re worried about me posting my bootleg copy of “A Painted Door” because the copies in the books are too hard to get right on the photocopier.

Finally, in regards to my personal life, Google Classroom can interfere with my separation of the teacher me and the at home me.

I preface the following with the caveat that I understand the choices I have made and understand I have complete agency to change them, should they become too much of a  burden.

I have the Google Classroom app on my phone.  I get alerts whenever a student has turned an assignment in late or has a question or comment on their assignment. I like the accessibility of being able to access all of my classes on my phone. I can monitor students’ work from afar, as I am not always present in class due to a variety of reasons. I can schedule assignments and troubleshoot as I go.

However, this convenience comes at a cost.

Students are not always known to turn assignments in at reasonable hours. I will sometimes forget to turn the Do Not Disturb mode on my phone and will receive alerts at 2 or 3 in the morning of a student handing in a late assignment.

Again, I emphasis that I know my choices and for now, I like having Classroom on my phone.

This may change as privacy issues evolve and change and as I reevaluate my stance on the separation of personal and professional.

In conclusion, Google Classroom has far more benefits for me as a teacher because it removes excuses of lost papers and the “I totally handed that in under your door!”.

Accountability for personal learning has increased in my own classroom and in my opinion, I think Classroom is a good, essential teaching tool.

Remind:

The last app I looked at is the communication service, Remind.

Remind was founded in 2011 as Remind 101 by a pair of brothers. Their mission was to increase engagement between the classroom and parents as a way to help students achieve success.

In 2014, Remind 101 became simply Remind as part of an update in their user interface and branding.

I’ve written about Remind earlier in the semester, as I launched my final project and a lot of what I said in the blog post will be repeated and expanded upon here.

As I mentioned, I was an early adopter thanks to a fellow teacher telling me about this awesome app where you can text students and they can’t text you back.

The communication  between students and teachers/parents has been enhanced in the past while, as there is now a feature that a teacher can turn on or off where a participant in the class can respond beyond the four emojis. I’ve turned this on, this semester, and have had only a few students make use of it. I am undecided if I’m going to continue using it in the future, or if I am going to encourage its use.

When I first started using Remind 101, I tried it out in a couple of my classes to mixed results.

At this point, not every student had access to a cellphone and RBE hadn’t yet implemented GAFE so not every student had their own email address (they may have been sharing with parents, siblings etc) so signing up with email wasn’t always an option.

However, I persisted. I saw the potential in keeping in contact with students and parents regarding assignments, class changes etc.

I found it especially useful with my homeroom classes. I let parents and students know of happenings around the school, three-way conferences, scholarship opportunities etc.

All of this being said, I don’t find it essential. I find it a nice add on to my arsenal of communication tools, but if it were gone tomorrow, I would probably find a way to communicate in another way (most likely through Google Classroom).

A deep dive into Remind’s Terms of Service leads to some interesting reading.

Remind is iKeepSafe certified. I examined the iKeepSafe’s website because I wasn’t familiar with what it was.

iKeepSafe is a non-profit organization that certifies products on their privacy compliance, specifically around educational tools. They accept applications from products and companies to conduct compliance checks and if the company passes, they receive a “badge” to indicate that they take privacy of student information seriously.

Programs like Hopscotch (which I used as a coding teacher in a previous class, so I was happy to see it on the list), ClassDojo (a Remind alternative), Happy Numbers, and Easel.ly are listed as having passed the privacy tests. There isn’t a long list and the focus is generally on K-8 tools, which makes sense.

But, knowing that external auditors found Remind to not breach any privacy issues is reassuring when promoting this as a safe communication app to students, parents, and fellow teachers.

On the Terms of Service page for Remind, they have their legalese on the left and on the right is a summary of what the section is saying or trying to explain.

I found this useful to be able to compare what the technical information is versus what it means in plain speak.

I noticed that in the Snapchat TOS, they attempted to do the same thing. It made me wonder if this is a new corporate responsibility movement, to make their TOS more accessible and easier to understand and read.

In the TOS, Remind is very clear about the limits of use for the application. They explicitly state that this is not an app for solicitation of goods or services. This is an educational app to foster communication between school and home.

Remind’s website is very user friendly, with an emphasis on large, circular icons to guide navigation. It focuses on user experience, however, in trying to find the homepage for Remind, it gets a little tricky.

Whenever I type in “remind”, it takes me right to my homepage, with my list of classes. In order to access external help pages, there needs to be a few clicks before you get where you wanted to go. The emphasis of the pages is on use, not external navigation.

In finishing up the examination of this app, again, I find that it is a nice tool to have and to use, but it is not the only thing nor necessarily the best thing out there for communication between home and school. I enjoy using it because it’s what I’m used to, but if something else came up, I could be convinced to explore a different app.

Conclusion:

In conclusion, I’ve explored three apps this semester: Remind, Google Classroom, and Snapchat. Two of these apps have desktop companion apps that I’ve used as well.

Being a 21st century teacher comes with living in a land of tensions. The balance between personal and professional is continually blurred and the concept of not taking your work home is almost non-existent now. My students have continual access to me, if they require it. It takes an effort on my part to disengage and to remove myself from teacher mode and enter home mode.

While the educational apps I explored certainly do have conveniences about them, the drawbacks cannot be ignored. Education continues to become more and more complex as technology evolves.

The social media app I used is certainly fun and engaging (I mean, come on. Even my one-year-old loves the filters.), I understand the privacy issues facing the company. The trust between the app and its users and also the app’s obligation to the legal community is something that again, requires work to be balanced. In the end, who does Snapchat have to respond to the most? Their shareholders or a judge?

This semester’s project into applications was fun and informative. I read through Terms of Service, which I hadn’t really done before and was amazed at the language and the efforts put forth by the companies to appear transparent.

I will continue to use Google Classroom, though I don’t know if I will keep it on my personal phone. I will definitely keep using Snapchat. I enjoy it and it provides levity to my day. Remind is one I am continually on the fence about. I always ask myself if it is really adding something important and irreplaceable to my teaching or if it were removed, would I really see a difference?

I think these are all questions that should be asked about any app, educational or not: does it help me or does it hinder me?

Thanks for watching!

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ECI 832 Summary of Learning

Welcome to Kelsie and Krista’s FINAL summary of learning for ECI 832! We’re both REALLY excited because this is our last summary of learning EVER.

This semester’s class revolved around the concept of digital citizenship in many permutations. Digital citizenship is a call to action for teachers to take up to ensure students in their care are well-equipped to deal with the online world and how that translates into their real world experiences.

Digital citizenship can take many forms, as we learned throughout the semester, from Alec, our classmate’s catalyst posts, and our amazing guest speakers of Carol Todd and Pat Maze. These different takes on digital citizenship provided a well-rounded, fully-fleshed out concept for digital citizenship.

It was essential to have these differing ideas around digital citizenship because there are so many ways to interpret and to define what digital citizenship can mean, depending on the situation.

For example, when discussing digital citizenship with a student in grade 1, the conversation will look very different from a conversation about digital citizenship and a grade 12 student.

Elements of digital citizenship that Krista and Kelsie will examine in our summary of learning include who is responsible for teaching and encouraging digital citizenship, the concept of digital identity in regards to the permanence of an online presence, what media literacy means in 2018, and tied in with media literacy, how to combat “fake news” in a constructive manner so that we encourage robust consumption of media. All of these ideas are further complicated through the identification of separate generations of digital citizens, which each have their own comfortability with media and digital tools.

In addition, DC also assists teachers in developing professionally. Through digital citizenship, teachers have opportunities to grow their Personal Learning Networks, or PLNs, in order to move beyond mandated professional development. Understanding digital citizenship means that teachers can access meaningful resources by connecting through mediums such as Twitter, or our own Google Plus community.

Week One focused on how our identities and citizenship in the digital world become more and more complex as the technology we work within continues to diversify.

There is interconnectivity within our digital identities and media literacy.  We are much more interconnected today than we were years ago. Due to this connectivity, educators, students and our community need to participate responsibly in their global and local networks.

The media and digital culture has changed dramatically which has brought about great changes in our media and digital culture. We are now not only Canadian citizens but our passports are also as digital citizens where the media that surrounds us shapes our worldviews and relationships. Becoming a digital citizen can start at home, but will also need to continue in the schools and in society. Without the education of DC, we run the risk of creating negative impacts on not only our digital identity but possibly the digital identities of those around us, either through ignorance or willfulness.

There are many issues today within modern technology. For instance, how can we foster Digital citizenship in a world that does not forget?  Families today posting pictures of their own children on social media platforms has been dividing a nation from what author Leo Kilion from BBC. suggests. Cyberbullying has become even more problematic with issues of online sextortion, online bullying, and the sharing of inappropriate images within youth. The development of social media platforms speeds up with every year, it seems. Students migrate from one to another with great dexterity. It is becoming more difficult to keep our students and children aware and safe online. Facebook, Twitter and youtube are being used more ad more as a location / platform to shares one’s opinions and thoughts.Though sharing one’s thoughts is now facing backlash or even more negative bullying.

In Week Two, our class examined the importance of creating PLN’s, especially as educators. Personal learning networks give all of us an opportunity to connect with one another via our Twitter, Google Plus, and blogging to demonstrate and share about our learning in a cohesive way, while exploring multiple platforms of communication. While we were connecting within social media platforms and blogging throughout this course, we were also learning about our own digital citizenship, and becoming more media literate while connecting with fellow EC&I 832 classmates.

In order to connect in meaningful ways, our class learned about proper hashtag use in order for our posts to be more visible and attract the answers we were looking for. As well, in our blog posts, we learned how to create categories to separate our ideas into “subjects” so that our audience sees only the relevant blog posts.

With all the technology that is out there, it’s important that we all become media literate. Potter  discusses the importance of media literacy and the strategies to become media aware. There continues to be a complexity of media processing, information problems such as too much media. Potter discusses strategies / building blocks to help build knowledge, skills and the idea of control while becoming media literate.

In order to become better digital citizens, teachers need to practice experimenting in the digital world by publishing and seeking out information.

Even though we are becoming more and more connected we are also becoming more alone. Is technology tearing us apart by the variety and emerging technologies that are out there? Digital dualists believe that the virtual world (digital world) and the real (physical world) are becoming more and more intertwined. We are using more and more of the social media rather than physically socially connecting with one another.

In Week Three, we began to look more intensively at the foundational theories of media education as well as how we have viewed “technology” throughout the ages.

Technology in classrooms has evolved from slates to tablets, from chalkboards to Smart Boards, from encyclopedias to Wikipedia. It continues to change the way we interact and connect with all educational stakeholders.

In explaining the various technological theories, Alec discussed the importance of an Aristotelian philosophy in examining the nature of technology: truth is discovered through imperialism, that is, through experience and sensory expansion.

The theories in media education continue to be relevant and impactful for our work today as educators. Neil Postman explains that technology is not distributed evenly across classrooms, cities, and countries. Culture pays a price in using massive amounts of technology to expand its reach because while technology facilitates the growing hegemony of a culture, it also takes away by creating isolationism and factions that can often lead to internal and external disputes.

There continues to be many implications on how we view media literacy and/or digital citizenship programs/education for students/teachers/parents.

Prenski in his video from PBS Do “Digital Natives” Exist? (PBS – Watch until 5:34) discusses the idea of  Digital Natives vs. Digital Immigrants.This video, while informative, also can be criticized because it is not truly clear who truly is and is not a digital native. How does one become a digital native? If one is not a digital native, where does that place in them in terms of being able to exist socially in the 21st century?

A potential answer to these questions is through the concept of a digital immigrant, one who comes “late” to the digital world. However, the connotations of immigrant are possibly negative. This means that the world an immigrant left was potentially untenable and unlivable and that the digital world is by far superior.

So then, if adult learners, who are part of the Generation X, Y or millennials, are supposed to educate Generation Z or the Alpha Generation, but we are digital immigrants, is our education then flawed or not as authentic as one who is a digital native? Or is it more credible because we have seen both the analog “version” of the world and are able to compare it to the new digital “version” of the world?

This conversation continued through Week Four where we discussed that it is important to understand the generational frameworks which help us all better understand the lives and the world that are students are currently living in.

One of the issues with the generational gap in use of technology is that students have a multitude of ways and means to access learning and education well beyond what previous generations could even dream of accessing. However, this is not always a positive thing as the expectation of this generation is that they know how to sift through the information coming at them and discern what is good versus what is bad information.

A consequence of this is that students multitask more and more and do not know how to do a singular task in isolation. This can cascade into feelings of anxiety and being overwhelmed.

One outlet students have in expressing these feelings is through the medium of Youtube, as explored by Michael Wesch. They use this digital space as a way to rebel against institutional powers embedded by previous generations. Henry Jenkins argues for the importance of transmedia within mainstream media in order to create cross-curricular competencies in a way to connect multiple platforms, which include storytelling on Youtube. Youth use platforms such as Youtube to unpack issues of identity and self-awareness.

While creating communities of support online is commendable, students are not always aware of the dangers that lurk when posting highly personal information. Privacy agreements and Terms of Service are highly unnavigable areas of crucial information that are ignored and accepted without understanding the full consequences of who has access to information and what it will be used for.

Consequences of oversharing on social media platforms can include being “doxxed”, which is where personal, identifying information is shared online for the purposes of bullying or intimidation.

Sklar discusses the idea of digital hygiene, where it is something of daily routine that people use and understand daily within technology which will foster digital citizenship.

Parents, adults would also have to take on the fostering role to help implement the idea of digital hygiene. Reminding youth that technology is a privilege that encourages responsibility and trust within all digital users.

There will be more cultural shifts ahead with the continued use of technology. As technology continues to change at fast speeds it is important to teach our current and upcoming  learners about DC.

Furthermore, we are now seeing more and more social media activism as a response to the broadening of knowledge about world events. This includes movements like #ParklandStrong, #GunReformNow, #MeToo, and #Reconciliation. Students are standing up to entrenched power institutions in grassroots movements that gains momentum through the sharing of these ideals through social media platforms. Not only have these movements been popular, but they have also created real, sustained conversations regarding issues in society.

In order to support students in their burgeoning social media activism, schools need to support a DC policy to prepare our students for a digital world. This means showing students how to effectively create change through example. Teachers need to discuss with students proper DC behaviours, like non-inflammatory language, how to remain somewhat anonymous, and how to engage thoughtfully in online and IRL discussion. How will DC look like in the future? Will it be embedded in our curriculum?

Week Five merged these ideas nicely, as the Joel Westheimer article discusses  three types of citizens: personally responsible citizens, participatory citizens and justice-oriented citizens. It is suggested that digital identities can be created through a person’s online communications and actions. A person’s online digital identity is seen as a direct reflection of the type of citizenship that a person chooses to show online.

Costa & Torres discuss the issues in developing a digital identity in the networked world. They looked at the issues of openness, uniqueness, and honesty while outlining the approaches that educators might take when developing a social presence and professional profile online.They highlighted the themes of presentation and reputation within digital identities. Furthermore these authors aim to help educators navigate their own online identity development so that they are able to model online behaviour which will in end help mentor their students as they build their online identities and become media literate students.

Students and young learners today are not understanding the true meaning of what it is to be a true digital citizen. Shulman defines what a digital citizen is, and identifies eight strategic areas from which digital citizenship can be better understood.  Her article pushes the importance of fostering better digital citizens today, so technology continues to evolve in a positive manner.  

Week Six expanded on the previous ideas to show that, as educators it is important that educators and schools promote digital citizenship. DC must be interwoven in the curriculum, not as a one time lesson but something that is seen as daily routine, such as the digital hygiene routine. Educators, schools and the community need to encourage our students to create online identities where students feel trusted and empowered. We cannot make our students fearful when being online, we must teach them to be aware and that technology can be used in a positive manner.

As more and more students use their devices for more than just information retrieval we must teach them on how to share properly and respectfully.  They are using technology to share images, to self express, and they use technology today to build more personal relationships.

We, as educators within schools and communities, need to help build our future, as it is dependent on our own children and our students’ digital identities.

We can work through this with proper support and support in Saskatchewan comes in the form of the working document, Digital Citizenship Education in Saskatchewan Schools (created by our very own Dr Alec Couros!) This is an important document for all schools to create the vision of positive digital citizenship policy in the educational system.

In answering the question posed in Weeks Seven and Eight, “What role should schools play in DC?”, schools and teachers play a huge role in educating students about digital citizenship. Policy is in place, though more needs to be done to integrate DC into existing curriculum. Buy in needs to be had by educators, because without support from on-the-ground workers, digital citizenship would be doomed to fail. More DC practices need to be put in place in schools through professional development opportunities that allow for experimentation and guided learning. DC needs to be addressed in the schools and in the community to encourage responsible digital citizens in the future.

In the final weeks of the course, we met with Pat Maze, the STF president, where we learned about the professional duties around digital literacy within the professional and personal worlds of teachers. We also met with Carol Todd, Amanda Todd’s mother, where we had insightful and moving conversation regarding the effects and impacts that cyberbullying has on the individual, the community, and on families.

In connecting digital citizenship to teaching students to be vigilant about information they’re consuming, we examined the concept of “fake news”. We must teach our students to use critical thinking skills in learning to identify and spot “fake news”. In doing this, we teach them to examine the credibility of the source, the author, the date, and own personal biases. Students also need to examine multiple sources in order to gain a fully fleshed out picture of what exactly the story is by looking at what is left out or emphasized in different examples.

We re-examined the morality, ethical, and legal issues surrounding the use of technology in the classroom, from how and why we should get permission to diffusing potential privacy issues when teaching students good digital citizenship behaviour. Teachers must be hyper-aware of the guidelines set out by the school division so that they feel protected in knowing that, if there are issues, they have the backing of the board.

In closing, our views on  teaching, learning, technology, and our roles as community-builder have evolved throughout the course of the semester. We have grown through our experimentation with various aspects of digital citizenship and media. We have come to understand the themes of the course, which are: the history and contemporary trends in media literacies and digital culture, key theorists and practitioners in the field, the implications of the recent and ongoing shift from a passive to a participatory media environment.

As well, we have gained an appreciation of the concept of digital citizenship and its associated theories and practices. We have understood the complexities of digital identity and the implication it has on our learners, educators, and society. We have been able to answer the questions of what digital culture, citizenship, and activism are in relation to one another, how our society and culture been shaped by mainstream, emerging, and fringe medias, and how we can continue to become critical and knowledgeable consumers of media in a variety of forms, and understanding the implications of digital culture and media for both curriculum and teaching practices.

Ok, Maybe Take My Word For It?

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An average day for reading for me consists of a lot, and I mean a lot, of reading. I generally begin my mornings by reading the news on my phone (news apps and aggregate apps). My Google Home keeps me company when I’m getting ready with news podcasts.

All of this reading and listening makes sense, as I’m an English teacher.

My post last week touched on “fake news” in regards to media literacy with students, but I focused mostly on a pedagogical approach to media literacy, with resources like the NYT.

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In terms of my own consumption of media, I’ve pared down what I consume in terms of sources. I’ve logged off of Facebook and Instagram as a New Year’s resolution and have stuck to it, surprisingly. I re-visited my lack of Facebooking in February and decided that I really didn’t need it and have kept it shut down.

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Which, considering the news recently, I think was a wise decision in hindsight.

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In my Facebook news feed were all kinds of “articles” from all different kinds of sources, like well-meaning aunts posting Food Babe articles or Gwyneth Paltrow’s latest and greatest “medical” treatments.

When I or anyone is faced with these articles on a social media feed, there is a choice: do you comment or not? If you comment, you risk offending relatives (which makes holidays a wee bit awkward) or ignore it.

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If you comment, are you educating the person? Do they want to know if the information they’re posting is wrong? Why did they post it in the first place? Do I have a moral obligation (similar to the one that caused them to post in the first place…) to correct what I perceive as misinformation?

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The question of information versus misinformation is hard to tackle in such a limited space, like Facebook, where if I refresh the page, I have one heck of a time finding that post again. But, Facebook counts on that limited attention span. They hope I get distracted by someone’s cat pictures, forget about the controversial thing and click on that ad they just posted.

This also brings up the question of media literacy in older as well as younger consumers of news. I wonder who is more media literate? Younger or older generations? Or are they equally susceptible to fake news?

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In terms of analyzing media I come across, I try to practice what I preach. I examine the source. If I’m not familiar with the source, I use Google and DuckDuckGo (as I mentioned in a previous blog entry about filter bubbles). When I use a tool like Google, I look at the web search results and the news result. I like to see what else they have published in the past.

In addition, I try to distinguish between opinion pieces and informational articles. The line between those is sometimes blurred, as opinion can colour the facts given or how the facts are viewed by the audience (see Colten Boushie).

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It’s not easy, though. There’s so much out there I’d like to believe. But I know I can’t believe it straight on. I need to look further and deeper.

It’s a personal mission to combat fake news and to promote media literacy, not only within myself but within everyone I encounter.

Maybe I’ll have to get back on Facebook to continue this crusade…

Don’t Take My Word For It…

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This week’s readings focused on the concept of “fake news“, which is a really scary thought.

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Every week, I challenge myself to a Buzzfeed quiz (I know I know) to see if I’ve been following the news blindly and just reading the headlines or if I’ve dived deeper to see what’s really happening in the world.

What’s even more terrifying is, even though I’m a news junkie, I don’t get perfect scores. I still fall for real-sounding headlines that have just enough credibility to fool me.

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The article from The New York Times (with the accompanying link their really amazing lesson plan — NYT has stellar educational resources, FYI) really struck home. What exactly am I doing to help combat fake news? What am I teaching – today – to help my students become more media literate?

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The NYT Learning Network has a weekly news quiz for students that I would probably be better served completing instead of Buzzfeed, because, being semi-media literate myself, I understand that the credibility of Buzzfeed, with its glaring, click-baity headlines, is not the paragon of objective, real journalism.

This was especially troubling to my teaching practice because I teach a lot of grade 12s. This is second semester. I’m supposed to be releasing them on the world as fully-fledged adults in THREE MONTHS and I can’t guarantee they’ll know the difference between real and fake news.

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I really have my work cut out for me in the next few months.

Luckily, I have the TED Talk about what my students can do and I teach B30, which means my entire course is focused around global issues and this means I have the perfect platform for media literacy education.

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This isn’t to say that I can’t or won’t teach media literacy to my other classes, because I most definitely will. However, I feel the most urgency with the grade 12s because they’re graduating so soon.

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The problem I face is determining the line between opinion pieces and factual news stories. Websites like Breitbart News have been legitimized through their political connections and combating what is said on that website is difficult because it has been promoted as an unbiased alternative to the “left-wing media”.

Educating students on media literacy is an uphill battle we face as educators and it is one that I am willing to take on.

How have you been taking on the battle against fake news and promoting media literacy in your classroom and your personal life?

Filter Your Bubble

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Oh my.

This week’s virtual visit from Pat Maze (thanks, by the way!) was really eye-opening. It is really scary to think just how under scrutiny teachers are. Teachers are really supposed to adhere to a strict set of  behaviours, both in public and privately.

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It seems like the role of the teacher has not changed all that much: teachers are still seen as guardians of student virtue and innocence. The medium may have changed, but the message remains the same: teachers are in charge of protecting the future at all costs. This may mean at the cost of the teacher as a person.

In my current context, I am at a fairly diverse high school. This means I have everything from having to explain what Twitter is:

To having students explain what VSCO is (spoiler: it’s Instagram without the drama). There’s a wide-range of levels in regards to digital citizenship in this context. For the beginners, it’s mostly how to navigate safely. For those more used to using tech tools, it’s a matter nuance and advocacy. How to use their voice to make a difference now that they’re done being a passive consumer of technology.

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In my vision, the idea of digital citizenship will be ubiquitous. Right now, as it stands, digital citizenship isn’t as widespread or as integrated into curriculum as it ought to be. Digital citizenship is a growing concern because of the availability of information and content online, but there is a disconnect between how to discern what is good and what is bad.

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As well, there is the issue of “filter bubbles” as seen in the TED talk video. Filter bubbles change the information you see, and sometimes to a drastic extent. I have discussed the concept of filter bubbles with classes and we experiment with searching terms that could change based on your search history (think political parties, particular news stories etc) and then searching that same thing in an incognito window or in DuckDuckGo. Students are shocked by the difference that eliminating a search history can make.

In conclusion, the demands on a teacher in regards to social knowledge online is expanding. Teachers must be hyper vigilant when working through their online identity and that of their students.

However, I think the gif below sums up teachers’ jobs perfectly: be vigilant but not afraid.

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Unplugging is not an option.

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As my time as a Master’s student draws to a close, I’m starting to reflect on the course my digital identity will take once I’m no longer in a weekly tech class where I get updated in the latest and greatest in edtech.

The concept of identity and being split was very nicely put in Jessica Moser’s blog about a teaching versus a private version of oneself online.

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Digital identity, as a concept, has been at the core of the majority of the discussion this semester. Everything about digital citizenship falls back on the idea of digital identity. Digital identity is becoming – or has already become – an essential part of existing in a current environment.

While examining what I’ve accomplished so far, I took a look at the history of my blog. I realized I’ve got half of my Master’s on this blog. To have half of my degree in a place where I can access my thoughts on topics quickly and also see classmates’ reactions to my thoughts is really invaluable. It creates a sense of accomplishment in seeing how far I’ve come from the first time I ever blogged to now, when I’m an old hand at it.

This blog has become an inextricable part of my digital identity. When I google myself, it pops up right away:

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But, you’ll notice that not only my picture pops up but a couple pictures of my kids from my blog. They’re part of my digital identity, whether they know it or have chosen to be or not.

This is something I have to deal with once I’m done this class: the conundrum of erasure versus legacy. Do I leave those entries up because they mean something to my journey of edtech or do I erase them because my children deserve to create their own digital identities as they grow?

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I thought about deleting this blog and my Twitter (sorry, Alec!) after I was done this class because I don’t if I could faithfully continue with either with any regularity, but then, I googled myself again. If I deleted my blog and Twitter, what would remain of my digital identity? The first hit would be “Rate My Teachers” and nothing from me.

In order to have a say in how I’m viewed online, I need to have input.

This means keeping the blog and keeping Twitter. I want to be in control of my digital identity and this means I cannot opt out of being online.

As much as I’d like to sometimes.

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Choose to say no.

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This week’s blog post is brought to you by the Nine Elements of Digital Citizenship.

In examining my progress through my major project (which I explain here), I think the Nine Elements of Digital Citizenship help me frame how I see my apps.

All three of my apps relate to the third element: digital communication.

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The first app in regards to my professional use of communication is Google Classroom. I don’t know how I could teach without it now. It’d reduced my paper consumption by around 75% and increased the number of assignments I receive from students. There’s no excuses for losing paper and they can turn their assignment in from wherever they are.

The problem I have is that Google Classroom is also on my phone. I receive notifications whenever I post an assignment or a student turns an assignment in late. This means my phone goes off at a fairly regular basis the day after an essay is due. I’ll go into more detail about digital interruptions later in my post.

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The second app for today is Remind:an app I’ve used for years. I really have enjoyed watching it evolve from a little start-up to the ubiquitous educational company they are now. When I first used Remind, I had to get an invitation because it had just come out of beta testing. It was also a challenge to convince my students to get on board. They were a little leery of texting with their teachers. We had to do a few trial runs before they believed that no, it’s not my phone number. No, I don’t see their phone number. No, they can’t reply (remember, this was at the very beginning!).

But get on board they did.

And I’ve used it every semester since.

I’ve been slowly adopting their “new” features, like replying, over the years. I tried out the reply just this year and I have really enjoyed how it has increased interaction between my students and myself. I’ve sent out reminders to my students and they can respond quickly if they have a question:

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Although, this kind of instant communication can mean that students view me as being available for them 24/7. It’s a continual learning process in drawing firm boundaries between teacher-me and non-teacher-me.

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This bleeds into another of the nine categories: Digital Health and Wellness. Being able to remove myself from social media and electronic forms of communication increase my personal sense of wellness. I even made a New Year’s resolution to stop using Facebook and Instagram (though I don’ t have any social media proof of it. It’s funny how something like this seems untrue unless I can prove it through a social media trail. Kind of a paradox: I want to avoid using social media but need to prove through social media that I’ve done it.)

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I think this is where I agree with the critique of Dr Paul Gordon Brown (and Krisanne’s awesome video) in that I want a separate identity from the one I have online, mostly because the online identity I cultivate is me as a teacher. Being a teacher isn’t my whole self. It’s a portion of myself and it’s the self I choose to share online. I can understand Dr Brown’s argument, but I don’t agree with it.

The one thread I’ve noticed in my apps is the ability to have constant access to them, but it comes at a cost. I think the cost could be the elimination of the barrier between personal and professional and I think that could harm a teacher’s well being in the long run. Teaching is such an emotional job in itself that stepping away is necessary otherwise a teacher risks burning out.

These are all aspects of digital communication I will be examining in my final project (which is coming up faster than I thought!)

Do you have any experience stepping away – or not being able to step away – from apps you use in the classroom?