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Changes to My Digital Identity

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
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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.

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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.

google hangouts
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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.

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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.

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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.

snapchat
https://pixabay.com/en/snapchat-social-media-smartphone-2123517/

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.

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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.

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https://pixabay.com/en/meeting-relationship-business-1019875/

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!

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Summary of Learning

Wow, what a journey.  Not only does this week wrap up our ECI 832 course but it ends my journey in the Masters of Curriculum and Instruction program.  Its been quite a experience and I enjoyed reflecting back on what I have learned this semester and on other important skills I have gained throughout my four years of completing my graduate studies.

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I was very nervous taking this course and yet I felt it was so important as I was feeling like I was falling behind with my technology skills.  I could actually count on one hand how many times I had used a laptop computer before this course (I have a desktop and a smartphone though so it’s not like I was coming in from the Dark Ages).  When I started at Cornwall 6 years ago I thought that my skills in technology were OK but I allowed myself to go somewhat stagnant.  Once I felt that I was behind, I kind of resigned myself to that fact and didn’t push myself to learn new skills.

To create my Summary of Learning video, I teamed up with my classmate and sister Jocelyn Carr.  We figured we might as well jump in with both feet and created a video using our family members to help us portray some of our highlights from this class.  We chose to use OpenShot Video Editor which was a free program we downloaded onto the computer.  It was our first time using any sort of video editing software so even though it’s super corny I’m kinda pumped about how it turned out.  This is definitely something I want to learn more about in the future and I think I could put it to good use making instructional videos for my classroom that my students could re-watch if they needed clarification on something and didn’t want to ask questions out loud.

In terms of posting online, I’m still super nervous about saying or doing the wrong thing.  It’s been nerve racking participating on public platforms like blogging and twitter to say the least.  I think I definitely prefer social media platforms that consist of only my friends and acquaintances but I can appreciate the professional networking that has take place and how much more connected I feel to some other great educators.

The things that I appreciated most about this course was its tendency to push me far out of my comfort zone and the fact that it was self-led.  Because of this, I know that I can teach myself any new apps I come across that I feel would benefit my students and no longer will I wait around for someone else to take the lead.

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Creating Spaces for Collaboration

I wanted to jump on and do a quick post about one of the unexpected benefits I’ve experienced though learning about Google Classroom as my professional app choice.  Primarily I’ve been working with Jocelyn Carr and we’ve been utilizing Google Classroom as a launching point for an inquiry Wellness project with my grade 10s.

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After some introductory posts which we were able to schedule and create from home, the students were up and running.  They are now passionately creating their own videos about an important health topic of their choice.  We’ve been working very hard to shift away from teaching the app towards utilizing the app as a tool for learning.  This has gone remarkably well although I imagine I am a bit spoiled having older students.  They know that I am learning as well so they are fine jumping on, fumbling around for a littler bit, and helping me and other classmates when needed.

In March I decided to do a March Madness poetry competition with my students (full disclosure, it’s from Teachers Pay Teachers).  After printing out the interactive bulletin board one of the other teachers form my school said he wanted in.  After trying to figure out how we were going to do this for two full classes without making a million photocopies, I clued in that this would be another great place to use google classroom.  Now there are three of us.

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So unexpectedly, we have this team of educators all working to create this march madness poetry experience for our students.  I now have another teacher in my school learning about and attempting Google Classroom for the first time, Jocelyn who is able to work from home while on maternity leave, and me in my own classroom.  And all of this can be done from a variety of devices ranging from phones on the go to desktop computers.  Talk about increasing our levels of digital literacy!

 

Reflections on the Beginning Stages of My Media Project

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 I read some time ago, that “I’ve read and agree to the terms and service” was the most common lie ever told on the internet. In the context, it was intended as a joke but as we are learning and becoming more aware, there can be some important things seemingly hidden in the terms and service agreements of the various apps us and our students are using every day.

terms of service
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Generally, terms of service agreements come across as the image above.  You already know you wish to use the app, so you scroll through and click “agree”.  Because really, what are your options?  How many apps give you the opportunity to agree or disagree to certain amendments in their terms of service agreements?  Below, I’m going to show some highlights from the three apps I’ve been focusing on for my major project: Google Classroom, Snapchat, and Instagram.

google classroom
https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Google_Classroom_Logo.png

My decision to begin using google classroom for my professional app was a challenging one.  I’m already using Google Sites as a main platform in my classroom and was hesitant about transitioning to a new format.  However, I’d been hearing such good things about it I decided to give it a go.  The first thing I did was read the Term of Service Agreement and I had to decide which kind of Google Classroom I wanted to create.

I decided to embark on my Google Classroom quest with my classmate and sister Jocelyn Carr.  She is an Learning Resource Teacher but it currently on maternity leave so it worked out great for her to come into my school a few times to work with my students and myself.   It is has also been a great resource for being able to plan from home or on the go simply using our smartphones.  To read a much more timely (aka less procrastination) account of our set up attempts, check out her blog post from when we were starting up Jocelyn’s Blog on Beginning Google Classroom .

When we were searching for terms of service, we came across Google’s Terms of Service as kind of a broader terms of service agreement then just for Google classroom.  In a lot of ways I like this as I’ve been playing around with integrating more google apps into both my Google Classroom and my Google Site and it is nice to feel that I have done my due diligence by looking through the Terms of Service agreement before using these apps with my students.  I found the Terms of Service agreement straightforward and there wasn’t anything alarming that came up.

For me, the most confusing thing and what I spent much of my time on was deciding which type of google account to create with my students.  For most teachers this is a no-brainer as they have division policies, and most students have a school google account.  For us, not so much.  In the beginning of the year I have my students create a “professional” google email address that we will be using in our classroom and one that can be placed on their resumes.  They use this to access our Google Site as well as for a few other apps and communications we have been using.  You can check out the  Differences Between the Types of Google Accounts by clicking here.  The school google accounts had some great features which could be managed school wide.  Since I am only one of two teachers in my school using the google teaching apps, the more I read the more this began to feel like a step backwards for my students.  I felt that they had already learned and demonstrated proper digital citizenship in regards to their google accounts, having them switch to a school monitored account (when they will be leaving our school in a few months) felt unnecessary.  In the end, I decided to stick with the personal accounts my students had already been working with as we use this solely for school use anyways.

apps

After talking with my students and debating what apps I should know, I settled on learning more about Instagram and Snapchat.  This prompted lots of great conversations with students, especially in the beginning. Students in my classroom and students in other classrooms wanted to help me and give me tips.  

Before even getting too much into the apps, one of the things that I learned about Instagram is that you can create and open or closed accounts.  I learned this by accident by creating an open account. My hope was to have an Instagram account where I could see close family and friend’s pictures and feel more comfortable sharing pictures myself.  Instead at one point I found myself being followed by Yorkton KFC.

I found that in regards to the Terms of Service, both Instagram and Snapchat had many similarities.  Both state that you must be 13 years old to use the apps in the very first line.  We all know many user under the age of thirteen but it does raise the question of where does the app creators responsibility end and where do teachers and parents responsibilities begin?  By placing this first, I feel that they are sending a very clear message in regards to the apps usage.  I’m not sure what to think about this.

Instagram’s Term’s of Service next includes a “no nude photo” clause.  Snapchat’s makes no sure mention.  This makes sense, given what Snapchat is sometimes used for.  This has gotten so many teens in trouble with the idea that an image will disappear in seconds but alas, that is a topic for another day.  Snapchat’s service agreement states that “Many of our Services let you create, upload, post, send, receive, and store content. When you do that, you retain whatever ownership rights in that content you had to begin with. But you grant us a license to use that content. How broad that license is depends on which Services you use and the Settings you have selected.”  This is a fairly broad clause for a service that is supposed to send 20 second pictures when are then deleted.

The most alarming part about beginning Instagram for me was the use of hashtags which wasn’t explicitly stated in their terms but just a connection I’ve made since starting to use it.  I find that Instagram and Twitter are the social media sites that use hashtags the most.  Both are used with a purpose but I wonder how many people use hashtags and don’t fully understand that by doing that they are sending their photos to open platforms for whoever to see?

I was most impressed that with very little research I was able to find copies of the Terms of Service for both apps broken down and explained in simpler terms.  I’ve already used this practice for other apps that I’m not focusing on for this project and I feel it’s something good to know as educators and it comes time to research other apps in the future.

 

Is Facebook my main source of news?

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My typical day begins the same way the previous day ended, with Facebook.  I’m not sure what I think has changed in the wee hours of the night while everyone has been sleeping but it has become my routine none the less.  I like to scroll through and see what’s new in people’s lives and occasionally something will stand out that someone has shared which triggers my “hmmmmm, this seems sketchy” reflex.  Now, I would love to say that I calmly go through all of my fake news strategies that Jocelyn and I talked about in our video… kind of but with a few adaptions.

In our video, we mainly reference John Spencer’s video and his 5 C approach: Context, Credibility, Construction, Corroboration and Compare.

Hmmmmmmm, citing my own video as a source?  Ugh, vain much?  Instead, check out this video by classmate Logan Petlak who has much smoother skills 🙂

As we talked about in class, the problem with teaching students how to follow these stages is that even knowing better, we don’t always go through all of these stages because it takes so long.  We are presented with so much information through various medias that we need to develop quick ways of knowing what is real.  So I present to you, Jaimie’s Cheat Ways of Knowing if Something is Accurate (this has no basis on anything and I would never teach this to my students).

Step One:  How many people have shared this “information”? (Aka, corroboration and compare).  Is it just your one crazy friend or does this information seem widespread?

Step Two: Context.  Does this person hate Justin Trudeau (for example).  Is this just another “I hate Justin Trudeau” posts.  Do I like this person for reasons other than their crazy postings?

Step Three: Lastly, Credibility.  Has my father-in-law shared this? He is the most credible online person that I know and I’ve never known him to not fact check a source.  If it’s something he’s shared, I know it’s probably good.  If not, I’ll fact check it on Snopes if it still seems off.

Step Four: Share.  Just kidding, I so rarely share things on social media because of a crippling fear of saying or doing the wrong thing.

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So this is how I spend my mornings before getting out of bed.  Once up an appropriately caffeinated, I head in to school.  Once there, our staff gathers and reads the newspaper together.  No word of a lie, this is how we begin every single day. So I am fairly versed in the Leader Post news world and we discuss current events happening around the Regina.  Teaching young, First Nations youth has had me become more critical of print bias in our city so this is something I try to use as I dissect the morning content.

Teaching throughout the day, I basically assume a “fake until I know it’s not” mentality about sensationalist stories my students share with me.  We will often look things up together on different fact checking sites and talk about how whoever is sharing this story might be less credible or biased.

Once at home, I’ll get into discussions with my husband about different things going on around the world.  He gets most of his news primarily form Reddit so I am somewhat privy to that world of information.  (As I bug him for this blog post, he assures me that he does due diligence of linking to the original article and checking that it is from a credible news site.)

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From there, it’s basically back to Facebook land for me to see pictures of peoples’ children or inward groans when family member’s that I love share posts about giveaways on February 29th.  We really are living in a land of fake news and the more I learn, the more I feel I need to take a better look at my own consumption habits.

What does it mean to be fully literate in today’s world?

What does it mean to be literate in today’s world?  When I looked up literacy it provided me with three definitions which work well for our context. 

literacy

Traditionally, literacy has been viewed as the ability to read and write.  However, our definitions are changing rapidly as influenced by our lived-experiences.  When pondering this question, I tried to think what literacy looks like currently and what it will grow into in the future.  I found that I kept drawing comparisons between the multiple intelligence approach and the idea of traditional literacy.  

Multiple-intelligence
Multiple Intelligence 

I feel that in order to be fully literate in today’s society you have to encompass something in all of these areas. Digital literacy is unique as it encompasses many of the multiple intelligences but also is unique in it’s own right.  Digital literacy is something that can help enhance people’s other strengths and open up new possibilities.  When someone is digitally literate, they are able to use digital skills to enhance their skills and abilities in other areas.  To me, this means they aren’t just using technology for the sake of technology but they are using it with a purpose behind it.

The second definition is that you are in possession of an education.  In our Western world, possessing an education holds a high value in terms of evaluating how literate someone is when we are equating literacy to knowledge.  Just as Mudita Kundra emphasizes in the article Digital Literacy: What does it mean to you?, I feel that my literacy in all areas has really expanding through this journey of completing my masters of education. Key areas of growth in myself through my masters has been: an increased focus on play and art in my secondary classroom, importance of outdoor education, integration of First Nations content and a greater understanding of cultural impacts in the classroom, and a deeper understanding of how the digital world impacts my students’ daily lives.  Along with increasing my own personal literacies in these areas, I work to weave these new knowledges and deeper understandings into my teaching practice and classroom environment.

I feel that to be “fully literate” might be something that we are never finished with.  The third definition is a person’s knowledge of a particular subject matter or field.  No matter how hard we work, we can never know everything.  I’m beginning to see that a key component is the drive and desire for new knowledge.  If we are constantly seeking out new information and attempting to better ourselves, I think it will be very difficult to feel as if we are done.  As teachers, I feel that we can best model this by demonstrating our desire to learn for our students as well as familiarizing ourselves with many different areas of knowledge.

 

Reading, Writing, Critical Thinking, and Creating Change.

This week’s question posed “what is the teacher’s role in educating students about digital citizenship?”  This made me think, first on what I am doing now, and more what I would like to do in the future.  In Mudita Kundra’s article Digital Literacy: what does it mean to you she states that “for students to be digitally literate, they not only need to learn how to use technology, but to be critical of the information they gather.”  Part of our role as teachers is to help students learn how to accurately critique the information they are accessing. Just as Kundra has emphasized, taking my Master’s of Curriculum and Instruction, particularly this course, has lead me to feel a deeper responsibility and understanding for my role as a teacher  in shaping my student’s digital identities and pushing them in their roles as critical consumers.

reading, writing, color coordinating

really enjoyed the Ted Talk: “Creating Critical Thinkers through Media Literacy” with Andrea Quijada.  She makes some excellent points about teaching our students to recognize the subtext occurring in the media around them.  When we know as a society that girls are “nudged out of math” by media around them ranging from advertisements, to t-shirts, to children’s toys, etc. it makes our job as educators that much more important to encourage them to stay in.  It also means that sometimes we are fighting a losing battle against friends and families that fall prey to the dominant media’s perspective.  When Andrea Quijada hinted as to who the target audience for this advertisement is, it really hits home how ingrained these messages become and how our students can become surrounded by them.

When I think towards what my role may become in addressing digital citizenship in the future, I find that I am turning towards my colleagues in this class who are role modelling confidence and strength in their digital literacy.  I am hopeful that this can one day be me as I push myself to grow, change, and adapt to the world around me.  In Luke Braun’s video, he quotes Alvin Toffler in saying that “the illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn.”  If nothing else, this drives home how important teachers need to become in the digital worlds of the students around them. The gap between the “digital” and “real” world is closing fast and is almost non-existent in the lives of some of our youth.

Click here to see Luke’s video on Media Literacy 🙂

Digital citizenship is starting to become a common topic in my classroom discussions.  My students and other students in the school are talking more to me about their digital identities as I ask them questions about their online identities and have them help me expand my own online presence.  Every student loves being the expert and allowing students to teach me has created lots of openings for these conversations.  I feel that students seeing me engaging in various apps has created a more open platform for discussion as they sometimes as me questions and advice in return.  I hope that as my own digital literacy grow stronger I can become an even better resource for my students.