Throughout this course I thought again and again about my digital identity. By exploring apps and programs of my choice, I feel like I’ve taken back control over my own learning. There is nothing stopping me from increasing my digital literacy at this point and learning any new skills that I wish to acquire. That is definitely not how I felt at the beginning of this course. The three apps that I chose to explore were Google Classroom, Instagram, and Snapchat.
Google classroom was the app that I chose to explore as a professional app. Unbeknownst to me, this would lead to a spiraling effect of integrating other google tools as our class progressed. I am stronger now in Google Slides, Hangouts, Sites, and Classroom. When I first started, I was interested in the difference between Google Classroom and a regular Google Site which is what I have a lot of my assignments through now. I just recently learned how to use Google Docs with my students and I wasn’t 100% sure that I wanted to make the leap.
There were features that I likes about Google Classroom and features that I didn’t. When we were doing our March Madness Poetry experience at the same time as another class, I really appreciated the collaborative approach I could take on Google Classroom and the scheduling functions it provided. However working at an alternative school, more often than not my students are not working on the same thing at the same time. I sometimes have students doing completely different units or assignments than their peers. Therefore for myself, I feel like appreciate a regular Google site more for my ability to differentiate. I like the flexibility my students and myself have of seeing all that is required for completing their credits laid out for them. Students who are starting at a different time then can complete the assignments as they have time, they don’t have to complete everything and have it say that it is late.
One of the best things about taking this course while teaching grade 10s is how open I could be with my class about my own learning goals to increase my digital literacy. They loved helping me out along the way. Whenever I am away from school or the students are away anxiety increases and we talked as a class about the best way to keep in touch. We decided to create some google hangout accounts that we can use because everyone already has accounts they use primarily for school. I have had contact from students ranging from those who need rides to school to someone asking for a new notebook when I wasn’t at school. I have also been able to send messages and reminders to students who don’t have phones at home but often find access to wi-fi such as important information about our many snow days this year.
Instagram was my least favourite of all the three apps I focused on. Once I got over the craziness of having an open Instagram account by mistake, I narrowed my friends list down to my closest family and friends. My thinking was that this would create a space where I would feel most comfortable posting and would be prompted to post more often. Unfortunately this didn’t really seem to be the case. I am just at a point where I don’t really feel like posting or sharing a lot of what’s going on right now in my world and I guess that’s OK.
What I appreciated the most about my exploration about Instagram was the conversations it prompted into peoples online identities. I learned that the majority of my family and friends feel much more comfortable posting on Instagram photos of their children because they feel as if they have more control over who sees the pictures and have narrowed down their friends lists to people they feel comfortable with seeing pictures of their families. For my students, it was often the opposite. Most students that I talked to had at least two Instagram accounts, one that they let teachers and families see, and one for friends. This really reiterated for me how important it is for us as teachers to teach responsible technology use to our students so that they can self monitor their digital footprints because there are always going to be ways that they can get around us monitoring them. Alarmingly, most students had their accounts as open accounts because “that way it would get them more likes”. With what I’ve been reading about Instagram’s tendency withhold likes from certain posts to encourage people to check more often, this raising concerns for how this app is knowingly negatively affecting youths’ mental health.
The app that I became most excited about as the class wore on was my exploration of the Snapchat app. Snapchat is an app that I knew students were using on a regular basis but I didn’t know much about it. I would hear students talking about streaks and stories but my experience with Snapchat was that you sent a picture and it disappeared after a few seconds.
After talking with my students and students in other classrooms, I became increasingly aware of the pressure of Snapchat streaks. I learned quickly that very little would stand in the way of a student completing their streaks. These kids have streaks in the hundreds and anxiety over breaking those streaks, I soon learned, was a major concern for them socially. Students shared about times when they would get into very real fights with friends if they failed to maintain a Snapchat streak. Most students, to prevent this from happening, give their Snapchat passwords to their friends which can open up an entirely different can of worms.
These conversations prompted so much of my teachings surrounding digital responsibility that this became everyday conversation I would start to hear around my classroom and with other students during breaks. It was exciting to watch students think about their online identities in ways they hadn’t before.
As for myself, I enjoyed using Snapchat immensely. I didn’t feel that I was in danger of losing friendships and the only person I had to maintain a Snapchat streak with was Jocelyn as she was also attempting it for this class. I liked that with Snapchat, I can pick and choose who sees certain posts or set them to my story for all the see. I experimented with the filters and funny dancing creatures and I had a lot of fun with it. I managed to hit a streak of 53 with Jocelyn and another friend and I are currently on a streak of 9 after our discussion about the anxiety social media can cause.
For myself, I find that Snapchat is now my preferred method of communication. I gives conversations a little something extra sometimes that you can’t get from a text. When you’re away from home, it’s nice to see pictures of friends and family as you’re chatting with them. I can see updates of my niece playing throughout the day which always put a smile on my face.
In conclusion, I feel like I have a much great grasp, not only on these three apps but on technology in general. I can blog, tweet, use hashtags, use appropriate images, and much much more. I feel so much more empowered and in control of my own learning than I did before and I’ve discovered a fantastic PLN to help me along the way if I need. Thanks everyone for the fantastic class and for helping me complete my journey through graduate studies!