Moral, Ethical, and Legal Issues

Examining the moral, ethical, and legal issues that can exist when using technology and social media brings up many topics. As this was the topic I signed up for to do as a content catalyst I spent a lot of time reading many different articles. I chose this topic as I felt it fit in best with my current role as an administrator and also fit with what I was investigating for my final project (post to follow in the upcoming days). While there are so many topics to discuss the ones that stand out for me are copyright issues and the legal issues around privacy and consent. The fair dealing decision tool that Curtis shared is one that I was not familiar with and see great value in. I am looking forward to sharing this with teachers to help them understand and determine what is ok to use.

With the very quick turn we have taken to now teach online, consent issues are coming up hourly. In Amanda’s podcast with Mike Ribble, he speaks about what the pandemic means for online learning. Amanda asked Ribble which of the nine elements he feels is most important for what we are currently going through. His response was safety and security.

Being able not just to provide these tools but how to do it in a safe and responsible way. We have to look out for our most vulnerable members of this digital society.

Teachers are amazing and I am so impressed with what I have seen go on this past week. While everyone is doing everything they possibly can to provide their students with learning moving forward, I know that many are way out of their comfort zone when it comes to technology. The emails and links to shared resources have come in fast and furious and to be honest, have completely overwhelmed many. My own experience this week had me leading a discussion about privacy and security. Websites were being passed around and teachers were encouraging others to check them out. I heard things like, this is great, so many things you can access, all you have to do is create accounts for every student in your class. While all teachers have the best intentions and just are trying to provide students with learning opportunities, I felt it was important to draw their attention to privacy and consent. I shared our school division’s document for approved software, apps, and websites. Most had not seen it before or were not aware that approval was even something to consider. Again I heard, “well it’s free so I didn’t think it would matter”. We had a great discussion and I received multiple emails from teachers asking more questions. I by no means am an expert but I was happy to share what I know about this topic and make others aware of consent and security. As Ribble stated above, we can’t just provide these tools, we need to make sure they are done in safe and responsible way.

I was impressed to see the EdPuzzle website prompt a teacher before creating student accounts. After signing up as a teacher, the website asked the teacher to select one of the following options: I have consent from the student’s parent to make an account or I am authorized to offer consent on behalf of the student. It requires you to select one before moving on to create a student account. I thought this was great to see on the website’s behalf as they are doing their part in ensuring proper consent. The teacher did not feel comfortable checking either off as neither was true. This prompt helped the teacher determine that creating an account for a site that is useful for what they want to teach, was not worth taking the risk for not having consent.

I am hopeful that as we enter this new world of teaching, everyone will see the value of digital citizenship. I hope they will be able to appreciate that technology is an essential part of who we are and it is important that we as educators teach and develop the digital citizens of the future. Being thrown into something feet first is not always the best way to learn but hopefully this experience of learning together will change us. As Mike Ribble said in the podcast, “as we move through this, we will be different on the other side”. I can’t wait to see what that will be!

What Does it Mean to Be Literate?

Asking this question years ago people would have answered with being able to read and write. A quick google search shows the Oxford dictionary states that literacy is the ability to read and write, but also competence or knowledge in a specified area. This question made me think about how this idea of literacy is reflected in some of the teaching resources that are used. In the most recent version of Marvelous Minilessons for Teaching Intermediate Writing Grades 3-8 by Lori Jamison Rog, opens with:

Welcome to the “writingest” generation in history! Where writing was once the domain of the few and reading the domain of the many, today everyone is a writer. Your students are more likely to interact with their friends by text message than by phone or even in person. They blog, tweet, follow, friend, chat, and poke. For today’s young people, literacy is no longer a private world of a reader and a book; it is a social world of texting, blogging, and tweeting.

I was pleased to see this updated idea of what literacy is, however it is still defining it in terms of reading and writing. In the resource 100 Minutes Making Every Minute Count in the Literacy Block by Lisa Donohue there is an entire chapter called “Building in New Literacies”. Under the title Integrating Digital Technology and Media Literacy, Donohue states:

Digital tools are not a new element in teaching; in reality, they are no longer even considered optional. We need to use these tools as a way of teaching our students how to interpret material they find online, how to create and share content in responsible ways. We need to teach them responsible digital citizenship and how to be critically literate of the information they encounter. We need to help them learn cyber-safety and teach them how to locate, evaluate, and analyze online information. By integrating digital tools into our classrooms, we allow our students to apply their reading, writing, speaking, and listening skills in authentic learning situations. These tools are valuable when we teach students to connect, communicate, create, collaborate, consolidate, and critically analyze.

I thought it was interesting to see the 5Cs listed above are very similar to the discussions we have had in class on the attributes and characteristics we believe students should posses. In Daniel’s suggested reading Media Literacy for the 21st Century: Interview with Renee Hobbs she states, “there is a constellation of five inter-related competencies that are now needed to participate in contemporary culture. Both students and teachers need these competencies, which are acquired as part of a lifelong learning process”. These include: access, analysis, create and collaborate, reflect and take action. While everyone may not agree on the exact same skills one thing is clear, regardless of the area or subject, being literate requires more than being able to read or write. It requires you to possess skills that allow you to become knowledgeable or competent.

Media literacy is one type of literacy that needs more attention and focus on in our classrooms. In the article These Students Are Learning About Fake News and How to Spot It shared by Shelby and Brad, media literacy is defined as how to critically understand, analyze and evaluate online content, images and stories. While critically understanding, analyzing, and evaluating are all skills we have taught our students before, media demands using these skills in slightly different ways. The article also states that “research has shown that an inability to judge content leads to two equally unfortunate outcomes: people believe everything that suits their preconceived notions, or they cynically disbelieve everything”. These words could not be truer than what we are facing right now. Countless articles are being shared and liked on social media right now based either on fear or on disbelief. It is clear we have a long way to go in order to have a media literate society. Teaching skills such as lateral reading and fact checking are essential to develop media literate students.

The Role Schools Should Play in Teaching Digital Citizenship

This week we worked on an activity that had groups choose a student of a specific age and then decided what key attributes as a digital citizen we believe they should possess. My group group decided on a student in kindergarten. At first, we all felt a kindergarten student might be a challenging task but as we discussed and shared experiences as teachers and as parents it was fairly easy to identify characteristics. Listening to the other groups present their students it was clear that while we all choose different grades, we were all able to come up with definite attributes. Within a fairly short amount of time all the groups easily identified attributes, characteristics, or competencies of digital citizenship that students should possess. Digital citizenship plays a very important role in the lives of our students and therefore I believe schools need to be the place to teach about, foster, and develop digital citizens.

In 2014, the Saskatchewan Ministry of Education published Digital Citizenship Education in Saskatchewan Schools: A Policy Guide for School Divisions and Schools to Implement Digital Citizenship Education from Kindergarten to Grade 12. On page six of this document the following appears:

While I hope we are past the days of having to convince people that digital citizenship should be taught in schools I believe we are still addressing how it should be done. My experiences with teaching about digital citizenship included using resources such as MediaSmarts and Common Sense Media. These sites provided me with lesson plans and activities to explore digital citizenship with my students. This was a over five years ago and I relied on the direction the websites went in terms of topics to use at each grade. In Saskatchewan, we now have the Digital Citizenship Continuum from Grades K-12. This continuum was developed using Ribble’s nine elements of digital citizenship and provides a focus for what students in each grade should understand and be able to do in relation to the elements of digital etiquette, digital access, digital law, digital communication, digital literacy, digital commerce, digital rights and responsibilities, digital safety and security, and digital health and wellness.

I think it is important to note that at the top of this continuum it reads, “this digital citizenship continuum is intended to support professionals as they infuse these concepts and skills into their teaching“. The Digital Citizenship Education in Saskatchewan Schools Policy Guide states, “digital citizenship education is not intended to be a stand-alone unit, course or lesson, rather it is best learned and under-stood when taught in context through supported online practice and real-life examples and experiences“. Both statements are acknowledging that digital citizenship should not be taught in isolation. While I agree with these statements and hope that we get to that point, I don’t think everyone is there yet. I see both isolation and integration happening in schools. I would rather see it being taught in isolation than not at all. I hope that as teachers become more familiar and comfortable, the isolated units begin to become integrated in all that they teach.

I remember hearing about the Digital Citizenship Education in Saskatchewan Schools Policy Guide when it first came out and looking at the Continuum thinking how great it was to provide some specific direction. But to be honest, I haven’t used them or looked closely at them until this class began. While my role no longer includes having a classroom of my own, I know my role needs to include supporting and encouraging teachers to explore digital citizenship education.

Digital Citizenship Education in Saskatchewan Schools page 5

Who Are You?

While we can see that our digital and non-digital worlds are becoming one, it is interesting to see that identities still can be kept very separate. I will admit the investigating activity we did in class is one I have taken on before – but I think I referred to it as creeping! I would say that has become more common practice when trying to find out who someone is prior to meeting them or wanting to find out more after meeting them. Yet, I question how many people truly are putting thought into the digital identity they are creating intentionally or unintentionally.

When thinking about my past, present, and future in terms of digital identity I have made some interesting conclusions. Going into the past the earliest online identity I believe I created was on Facebook in 2007. I remember my sister, who lived in Newfoundland at the time, was telling me about this great online site that I needed to join. She told me how everyone was on it where she lived and I told her that I didn’t think it would be that big here in Saskatchewan. What did I know?!? I joined and created a profile to share family photos and vacation pictures and to connect with friends and family. It was funny taking the time to go back to those first years. I especially enjoyed reading the status updates that used to be written in third person! I was already well into my career at this point so the fear of having pictures or posts on my profile that would be later taken as unprofessional is not something I had to face. I did share pictures of my family, including my children. As they got older my youngest would complain that I had shared a picture. Up until that point I had never thought about asking her if it was ok. Without realizing it at the time, I can see that I did begin to create my daughters’ online identities by sharing photos or bits of information about them.

I would also say that my online identity has been influenced by some of my family members who are in law enforcement. I have a family member who works in the Internet Child Exploitation Unit (ICE) and another who investigated identity fraud and identity theft which included online scams such as phishing scams, romance scams, CRA scams, and credit card scams. Their influence has been one of safety and one that has made me cautious of what I share. Not only to protect myself but to protect who they are. While I may be ok with being online, they have chosen to keep their identity offline in order to continue to do the work they do.

After Facebook, I joined Pinterest in 2011, Twitter in 2013, Instagram in 2014, and Snapchat in 2016. My use of Instagram and Snapchat are not contributing to my identity as I do not share anything on either of those platforms. Instagram is solely for me to follow others and Snapchat has been used for the map feature (to see where my teenager is) and for the funny filters to take pictures with my niece. While I have been on Twitter for seven years I haven’t tweeted my own thoughts very much. I am on it almost every day, reading articles, keeping up with others, and reading chats. I like tweets and re-tweet but just have not fully made myself vulnerable to share all of my own thoughts and opinions. My Twitter account is open which leaves it open for anyone to see. I guess when I think about it, the wanting to uphold a professional image takes over. However, this class is helping me understand how it is possible to have both.

When looking at the five different types of online identities I would say I definitely fall in the audience category in that I use different social media platforms for different purposes. It was reaffirming to see that this is the most common identity used throughout the internet. I really don’t see my identity type changing in the future as a fully open identity is not one that fits with who I am. My Twitter account has followers and I follow others who relate to my job as an educator. My Facebook account will continue to be used for connecting with friends and family. The use of these platforms fit a specific intended purpose for me. I enjoy that I can choose to spend some mindless time scrolling through my Facebook feed or catch up with news or the latest articles in education on Twitter.

As we think about the future in terms of digital identity it will be interesting to see if society’s thinking changes. Many people (me included) will say they are happy social media didn’t exist in their youth to document the choices that were made when they were young. We encourage our youth to take risks and learn from their mistakes but are we equipped with a society that is willing to forgive and forget those mistakes if they are documented on social media?

Project Update

I was hoping to be a little further ahead in my project than I am – my excuse is the 10 days I just spent on the beaches of Maui. Totally worth it! I used that time to recharge, relax and took a break from my phone and computer to be present with family.

I have made progress though. I started my looking at my school division’s policy and procedures for approving software, apps, and online services. I have easily accessed the list of approved and not approved and the application process to request approval. While this is pretty straight forward, I am digging deeper into the why. What criteria is used to determine if something is approved or not approved and why? I feel the why question is very important and not often understood by teachers wanting to use an new app. Simply looking at a list of approved and not approved which is compiled in a chart with words such as approved and rejected does not give enough information. If a teacher is really wanting to use an app because they see educational value just hearing no can be difficult to accept. There is clearly a reason for apps and online services being rejected by our division and I trust the decisions that are being made. However, I want to know more and see how those decisions support digital citizenship.

As I have been examining policy and procedure within my school division I have also been exploring some apps. Tik Tok was brand new to me and has become quite a time sucker. It is so easy to watch just one more video! I was surprised at how many videos I saw with older people in it, not just teens. Also the amount of professionals – police officers, doctors, nurses, teachers was something I was not expecting to see. My verdict is still out on what I fully think about Tik Tok and I still need to fully examine the terms of service and how they relate to my school division’s policies. I also plan to look at Tik Tok with a lens of Ribble’s nine elements of digital citizenship. I’m not sure that I see the educational value of Tik Tok but I am keeping an open mind.

I have also decided to look into Wakelet. It was recommended in class and was something I have never heard of before. I started using it to organize articles and sites I have come across and I am very pleased with its features. Prior to using Wakelet I would either bookmark a site (which resulted in a very lengthy bookmark list) or copy and paste a site into a word document. Both seemed archaic yet I never explored to find a better way. I have to continue to use Wakelet and dig deeper into its possibilities and terms of service.

The last app I am looking into is SeeSaw. This app is approved in my division and utilized by many teachers. I do see the majority of use in kindergarten to grade three. Teachers in kindergarten and grade 1 have access to the paid version of SeeSaw in division which provides them with more features than the free version. I do know that after grade three, not many teachers use SeeSaw. However, there is a grade seven/eight teacher in my school that uses it daily. I plan on having an in-depth conversation with him and his students to see what their thoughts are about it. While SeeSaw is approved it does create some significant challenges for teachers. The biggest complaint I hear is that the chat feature allows teachers to be accessible all the time. I have heard of parents messaging late at night asking if it is library day tomorrow or messaging during class time wanting to know how their child is feeling. The chat feature is a slippery slope – teachers like the convenience of being able to message parents quickly however it has also created instant and constant access to teachers. While I see an easy fix to this – simply shut off the chat feature, it is not one teachers want to do. I also question if this is how SeeSaw should be used? I need to dig deeper into the features and purpose and how that fits with my division’s vision for Seesaw.

While I have many questions which are leading me in many different directions I still need to figure the best way of putting this all together. I am hoping that as I continue to explore I will be able to make it all fit together.

There is Nothing Permanent Except Change

Those words from Heraclitus, a Greek philosopher who lived 2500 years ago fit perfectly with our topic this week. As we examined the generational frameworks I was making many connections! My husband and I are both generation X and we have one daughter who is a millennial and the other daughter is generation Z. While we can poke fun with the memes that make light of each group, I believe there is no denying there are differences.

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Source: imgflip.com

I am not talking about the characteristics often used to stereotype each group such as millennials being described as entitled and gen Z being described as self-centered (both my daughters would argue against those descriptors). Rather the differences in the experiences and changes in society they both encountered. In order to fit into the world they were growing up in, we as parents had to make changes. Whether one generation to the next agrees if those changes are good or bad, we should be able to agree that our world changes, things are different. As parents and educators we need to be able to change as well in order to help guide and prepare our children and students for the future.

Examining the differences and similarities in the generations led our discussion to the terms Marc Prensky introduced in 2001, digital natives and digital immigrants. I was familiar with these terms and had accepted that based on my age I was considered a digital immigrant. However, the video Do Digital Natives Exist from the PBS Idea Channel helped me question that acceptance. Just because I was “not born into the digital world” should not necessarily automatically define who I am with technology. As stated in the video, “access doesn’t come pre-packaged with understanding”. Regardless of age, we learn “through context and immersion and practice”. A great example that reaffirmed this for me occurred this summer while I was at a family function. I observed my grandma’s brother and sister, both in their 90s, very active with Facebook and all of the features on their iPhones.

Rather than making these generalizations solely based on age, we can look at the differences in attitude around technology. The article Visitors and Residents really helped me consider my online engagement. While I like to think that I have stayed current and use technology it has become clear that I tend to be a visitor. This course is definitely a new way of learning for me and with each week I am becoming more comfortable with moving towards becoming a resident.

After reflecting on who I am I had many thoughts about how change applies to our education system and the future.

Do schools really need to change?

Change is hard, change is uncomfortable and many people avoid it as much as they can. There are amazing things happening in schools and students are learning. Yet I can’t stop but wonder if we are doing everything possible to prepare them for the future. Jobs that don’t yet exist and future we can only imagine. In order for change to occur in our schools, we need teachers to change. This may come across as a generalization but all too often I hear “I’m not techie, the students know more than I do, I’m not comfortable using technology”. While I can understand these feelings, it does not make them right. Educators should be life long learners. Yet this mindset of not changing is often accepted because parents feel that way too – this is how I learned and it worked for me! I find it interesting that we would not go to a medical doctor who is not up to date with medical discoveries and technology yet in education we are accepting of those who have not changed. I understand that we are comfortable with what we know and often teach the way we were taught but is that good enough for our students and the future? In order to change this mindset, professional development is required.

That, in my opinion is the other obstacle we face. Finding time within a school year to provide the needed training and professional development for teachers has become almost impossible. It is not just about training teachers how to use technology but also the understanding and attitude about technology. Many teachers have taken their learning into their own hands and developed online PLCs and take part in online learning. I see those teachers sharing their interests and learning with other willing teachers. We also need to somehow reach the teachers who don’t have the access to that type of learning. Yes, I believe change in schools is needed. I just wonder if it will happen fast enough to keep up with our changing world?

What sort of education or education system will be needed to adequately prepare students for the world ahead?

I believe that we require an education system that believes in developing students who are knowledge-able. Michael Wesch explains the difference between knowledgeable and knowledge-able in this clip. He explains that we need to inspire curiosity and wonder in our students so that they can find, sort, analyze, criticize and then create and share new information and knowledge. We need an education system that develops students that do not just receive knowledge but actively go after it. By developing these skills in students, I believe we will be preparing them for the world ahead. Now more than ever critical thinking skills are a necessity and cannot be developed if we just give all the answers. As Wesch explains, there needs to be a balance between being knowledgeable and knowledge-able. I feel that is our goal as an education system.

Reflection from Week Three

This week we had the opportunity to hear from Mary Beth Hertz, author of Digital and Media Literacy in the Age of the Internet. I really enjoyed the topics she presented and could have reflected on many things that were discussed. One area that provided me with a few “ah-ha” moments was her comment about how students are used to trusting. In the past, teachers were the knowledge keepers and would present and share information with students. There was no need for a student to question that information, it was true because it came from a teacher. This trust and acceptance of truth has changed and we teach students that not everything they read is true. However, as Mary Beth pointed out, we now face a new problem. People are not trusting facts. The mentality of “I don’t believe that so it must not be true” exists in our fake news world.

I have explored digital citizenship and online safety with different groups of students and spent time teaching them the “how to”. How to protect their privacy online and respect others’ privacy, how to avoid scams and schemes, how to build a positive digital footprint. Mary Beth spoke about how she teaches students to recognize bias. Light bulb moment for me! This is a “how to” in media literacy I have not taught. But why haven’t I? Mary Beth explained that it can be difficult to teach as students have to have context to understand bias. She shared that she asks her students, “When you read this what do you think the person is thinking?”. I found the discussion around bias and how important it is to teach students really connected back to the earlier comments about trusting and accepting facts. Not only are we teaching students to examine the information and accept it as facts (or not) but they need to also understand the author’s bias and understand how that relates to their own bias.

All the discussion around trust, facts, and bias led me to affirm the importance we have as educators and parents to teach our students how to be critical thinkers. This is a skill that is crucial to help them be successful in the world we live in. I came across this CBC article this week which I found connected to these thoughts about being a critical thinker. It was interesting to read about a Kiona Osowski, a student in grade 12 who has done some research into why her peers are so accepting of the new societal norms that exist. Kiona examined the current curriculum in New Brunswick and acknowledged that while many of the topics were good they need to be updated. Her goal is “to get students thinking more critically about the media messages”. I found this article different than others because it was interesting to hear from a student and her observation of what she sees happening with her peers. We as adults see can see the advantages and disadvantages of media and do research into the effects of screen time, the impact on mental health, etc. However, we don’t experience media the same way our younger generation does. It was enlightening to read that Kiona has identified:

“Once we start challenging the views that we’re being brainwashed with and that the media keeps feeding us, then we can fix the relationships with ourselves and we can fix the relationship with each other as well.”

Not that any more evidence is needed but this article definitely demonstrates the power of critical thinking and the vital role it plays in media literacy. I am looking forward to further examining this as topics come up in future weeks.