Thursday, May 18, 2017

Let's Not Blame Netflix

Well it seems like the age-old debate in education is rearing it's ugly head again. On the one side, the great cry from schools, teachers, and some parents about banning social media & devices, while on the other its the students who don't want their digital freedom to be taken away.

First, it was banning personal devices in the classroom, and now it's one of the largest school board's blocking social media. The usual reasons are given - "doesn't support the learning", "negative impact on students' well-being", "wifi usage", etc. - and although there is some validity to these (Netflix does make up for a huge amount of network traffic), they are often thinly veiled excuses for not doing what is really needed - educating. So I enter into this debate with my own thoughts on social media & device use in the classroom, and they are just that, thoughts. I don't know if they are the 'right' answers, but I do feel strongly that we need to consider these - our own fear of new technology, the power of social connectivity, and digital leadership instead of simply digital citizenship - in forming conclusions that impact so many.

Ok so here are my thoughts...

Every new technology is met with as much acceptance as there is resistance. There are both the costs & the benefits associated with it, and we see this all the time in education. When the calculator was introduced to schools many teachers wanted to ban it, or even better when paper was introduced as a substitute for chalk and slate "Students today depend upon paper too much. They don’t know how to write on slate without chalk dust all over themselves. They can’t clean a slate properly. What will they do when they run out of paper?". It takes time for the media/technology to find its place, and we're really in the infancy of social media adoption & mass use - Snapchat is only 3 years into its mass adoption and has reached its peak by many accounts.   History provides us with a fairly similar example of a social media app's rise & fall - Twitter. It too was once called upon to be banned, as it distracted, led to cyberbullying, and consumed a certain amount of network traffic, but now is barely used by students. My own belief regarding Twitter's role in education (no scientific evidence) is that it reached its peak a couple of years ago and has since found its place in the market as a content consumption & sharing media tool rather than a media form for two-way communication for our students. Snapchat too will find its place and be much less of an issue for some in the coming years.

Secondly, the power of connecting socially today is more important to our students than ever before, but we too had similar behaviours when we were students (we just choose to forget or actually forget due to old age which I'm learning all about). I'm sure many of us couldn't wait to get home from school to make the phone call to our friends? And were distracted all through last class to do so. How many of us pleaded with our parents to install a second phone line just so we could have that available social connection? I too struggle with managing the students' need for immediate gratification and connection, as it does distract from a lesson's purpose or in-person collaboration. I also believe that various initiatives taken by social media companies (and other media companies for that matter) are created for user-control purposes rather than positive reasons such as 'sharing what you ate for lunch'. Snapchat 'streaks' are definitely something that has been created by the company itself to manipulate users, rather than empowering them to become leaders online. However, let's not overlook the value of those social connections that our students have through the app, or downplay how important they are because they are not 'face-to-face' or "are in real life". They are real, and they are important to them, and banning social media, or a specific SM app will not stop these from happening. Our students are resourceful, creative, and innovative when it comes to overcoming such obstacles, and they will find a way.

And last, and I feel most important, is the need to educate rather than ignore. Banning social media/devices/etc. is really just ignoring an opportunity to educate our students on how to be responsible online, and how to move toward digital leadership (using it for good). If we aren't going to educate our students regarding digital health & well-being, who is? Most parents exposure to social media is Facebook (a 12-year-old social media platform - really considered ancient when compared to the others) and are not fully aware of what else is out there. We've really done a poor job with regards to educating students on digital citizenship, as we constantly opine that they need to "be careful what they post else they may lose that job", or "don't cyber bully because it's mean". Our kids know these lessons, just like they know it's not a good idea to walk the opposite way in Ikea, or eat yellow snow, and while they were and are worthwhile topics to be covered, we don't need to repeat those message every year, and in every grade. We need to shift the conversation toward digital leadership - how to use the social media form to take advantage of opportunities and support, rather than the negative messaging. There are many elements to social media and the ones that we often overlook are the ones that need to be focused on now more than ever - health & well-being (nomophobia), security (credential hacks), literacy ('fake news'), law (using Uber yet being under 18), rights & responsibilities (right to privacy and identity protection). It's our job to help & support, and we need to allow devices & social media into our schools to do so.

I'm interested to see where this debate/conversation goes. I have a feeling it will continue for years to come, and I'm sure a new tool will enter into the fray. We'll just have to wait and see, but until then gotta go keep my streaks going.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Innovation in my Classroom. #JASSLearns

"Here's the very FIRST installment of our #JASSLearns Blog Hop. We have had many conversations about Innovation this year, and therefore feel it would be beneficial to share our thoughts on what it means for each of us in our classrooms.  Also, be sure to take a look at the blogs posted at the bottom, and hop from one to another to see some other views."

I'm captivated by the practices of others. I love learning about what others are doing in their classroom to energize, empower, captivate, and connect with their students. New tools, strategies, learning environments, and the rest, push my thinking forward, and in turn my students.

Much of what captivates me is when I see something new for the first time or something that I've seen before but done in a new way. This innovation drives my thinking and forces me to question what I'm doing in my own practice. It also forces me to consider that age-old question "What is innovation?"

Innovation to me is the mindset of making someone's world a better place. It's building on existing products, ideas, or processes to improve the life of others, even just a little. It's often discussed as a process, a new technological product, or a new discovery. However, I feel this is bigger than it needs to be; when you boil it down it's just the thinking around making someone's world a better place.

When it comes to the classroom, it's about the learning. What are we doing to push our students forward, to try something new, and for them to explore the world around them. From the learners' perspective, it's something they haven't experienced before that allows them to pursue deep learning in a more effective way. From an educator's perspective, it's the practices we employ that we haven't attempted before in hopes that we may create a better learning environment & results. It's nothing overly complicated, it's just making the learning new & better.

This innovation is what keeps learning moving forward, and for many, like myself, to always feel like they're learners, just like their students.

So why not jump over to some other blogs to see what others have to say!

  • Jim Blackwood
  • Lynn Filliter 
  • Michelle Hollingsworth
  • Graham Whisen

  • Tuesday, April 26, 2016

    Design is Hard. #GDD16

    "Here's the next instalment of #Peel21st Blog Hop. We  thought we would continue to connect to the Ministry's 21st Century Competencies document and this time pair it with the Global Day of Design. So today was a challenge, design something, share it, and reflect here. Be sure to hop on over to the other blogs after and see what other #peel21st tweeps designed!"

    So no big deal. Just design something. Think about a need in this world and create a 'thing' that will fill that need. You have every resource at your disposal, you just have to design it. 

    Design is hard.

    I grabbed a coffee, broke out my stylus & iPad, and opened up Paper 53. I was keen on the Global Day of Design, and thought it was such a great idea. Super stoked, and ready to design. Something. Anything. Just a little thing.

    Design is hard.

    I tried brainstorming and jotting down ideas for my creation. I thought I was going to sketch out a new car, revolutionary bike, new city streets (I was sitting at a Starbucks looking out a window - my inspiration was what I saw through that window). I then thought of what I know best - design a new classroom, a cover for a phone, a coffee mug, or a toy. Nothing came to me though. I kept telling myself it's already been done.

    Design is really freaking hard.

    This is the process of design though. We ask students to design something new all the time - new reports, videos, products even; but do we take the time to really think of how difficult this is. Design thinking is hard, it takes time; and it takes a lot of collaboration, to bounce ideas off of one another. I've come to realize, nothing is really 'new'; we just innovate a little on a lot of previous things, and we need to encourage this. 

    So I checked my Twitter account to see what was happening. Then I designed...

    We need to look at the world around us for inspiration, but acknowledge inspiration may not come right away. Give it time, let ideas percolate, swim around in that brain, and try, fail, and try again. It's all okay, and it doesn't have to be something that's going to change the world. It may only change your life for a moment, but you created something in that moment. And that is something. 

    Be sure to check out the other #Peel21st bloggers and their thoughts, reflections, and moments of collaboration! And connect with them on Twitter!

    Tuesday, March 29, 2016

    Vow to Collaborate

    "Here's the next instalment of #Peel21st Blog Hop. We  thought we would reflect on the 21st Century Competencies released by the Ministry which discusses the core 21st Century skills that are essential elements in modern learning. We thought these competencies could be a great way to prompt a conversation amongst the #peel21st community and afar as well. This month, it's all about...

    Collaboration: Near & Far

    I think collaboration is an essential element in learning. It replicates 'real-world' scenarios where you need to draw on expertise amongst a group. It involves skills at various levels and across various dimensions. It allows individuals to see how their thinking, actions, processes, compare against others, who all come from different places. It truly is a learning experience in itself. But how much do we explore this with our students? How much do we ask them to collaborate, not just work as a team? How much do we emphasize all its aspects? Therefore...

    • I want my students to realize the difference between collaboration and working in a team. 
    • I want them to develop the skills necessary to resolve conflicts on their own. 
    • I wish for them to work together for a set of goals instead of just one. 
    • I will push my students to explore empathy, disagreements, respect, accomodations, support, connections, leadership, creativity, and flexibility.

    • I need to push my students, and myself, to collaborate across backgrounds & differences; and collaborate with both those in the room, and those across the globe. 
    • I need them to realize that collaboration can happen with those in far off lands, who may offer greater insight than what can be found on a website, in a book, and definitely, in the 1999 textbook. 
    • I would like them to hear the stories of others, to listen to those experiences, and to make something from that. 
    • I will support them to take the risks, try new things, and learn together.

    Collaboration. Not just teamwork.

    Be sure to check out the other #Peel21st bloggers and their thoughts, reflections, and moments of collaboration! And connect with them on Twitter!

    Tuesday, February 23, 2016

    Passion Project

    "Here's the next instalment of #Peel21st Blog Hop. This round it's all about student PASSION! Also, be sure to take a look at the blogs posted at the bottom, and hop from one to another to see some other best moments."

    In your current role, how have and/or could you support students in discovering their passions in your practice?

    I struggle with this. I think we all do. The feeling of being shackled to curriculum objectives, while trying to ensure students have the freedom to travel down paths that interest them. I think we often try to force things on our students that we feel are 'fun' or 'exciting ways to learn' but will they feel the same?

    I used to do this a lot when I taught business classes like Marketing. I would encourage students to create products they were interested in, but still placed restrictions and limitations on them. I thought I was doing them a favour by helping them to focus and channel their energy. I think I was doing it wrong though.

    I never fully encouraged them to go further with their products and actually create. I was still too focused on ensuring their projects addressed every little detail I wanted to assess. I had my checklists, my templates, and my lesson plans. They could follow their passions so long as it fit within my structures. I think they pursued projects that they knew would fit within those parameters, without fully exploring ideas they may have wanted to. And to be honest, why would they? The final product was all just an idea on paper. It lacked any real tangible element.

    What I find amazing now is the opportunity students have to actually create something real. The technology available to them - the possibilities for 3D production, coding for games, guides & websites for app creation, music hosting sites, video production tools etc. - allow them to truly pursue passions. It's no longer just an idea on paper, but an opportunity to CREATE! I now realize that if students were further supported to follow the design & creation process then the motivation would be there to pursue those passions. As well, that accomplishment in itself would fit any checklist, template, or lesson plan I could ever create for them.

    The value of making is something I need to pursue further. Something I want all my students to experience, in whatever they do.  The design thinking process can take student learning to new heights. I think if we can offer this opportunity to all students, the passion for learning, like we have all felt, can take over.

    Be sure to check out the other #Peel21st bloggers and their thoughts on discovering student passion:

    Tuesday, February 2, 2016


    "I've 'decided' to join the #ossemooc Blog Hop around George Couros' book 'The Innovator's Mindset'. To start things off, we've decided to share our ideas around the concept of innovation. Enjoy! Also, be sure to take a look at the blogs posted at the bottom, and hop from one to another to see some other ideas."

    It might be my affinity for all things marketing - I love looking at new products, ideas, processes, etc. Talking about a topic such as innovation, I am immediately drawn to the stories of how products and services came to be. It's amazing to read about the people behind the YouTube, Spam, and the concept of sharing a car with a complete stranger. It has always struck me that when looking at these innovations now, they seem so simple; however, at the time so revolutionary. 

    The stories however all share one quality that set them apart in my mind - improvement. And I don't mean over the long term; just an improvement from the day before they came into being. I do stumble over this idea at times when I look at products so popular and are considered innovations, and yet am left saying "Whaaaaa? Why?!" I think back to early days of social media tools (Twitter, Snapchat, YouTube, etc.) where many share that same expression. Many ask the simple question - how does this improve my life? It's difficult to see what's innovative at times because we fail to hear the story behind these innovations. The story always starts with a problem, and that is the key.

    And so even though we find it difficult to see what is innovative at times, it doesn't mean it's not solving a problem. Many don't see the innovation because we don't see how the improvement impacts us - we hold innovations at a personal level and expect them to directly impact us. And if they don't, well they can't be innovative. Can they?

    Sometimes it takes a new perspective - watching how a technological innovation can change a whole person's life. I think this is what strikes me as innovation - has it changed someone's way of doing something? Is it better than before? Than that to me is innovation. It doesn't have to be complicated. It just has to make a positive impact.

    Be sure to check out the other #ossemooc bloggers and their ideas!

      Friday, January 29, 2016

      Our Limitations

      Sometimes we feel ashamed, embarrassed, or lost. I think it's important to remember...