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.

Outline of Major Project

Where to begin? When looking at the options presented for the project, the personal journey into media piqued my interest right away. Having the opportunity to take a closer look at the apps our students are using in their personal lives as well as the apps we are using within schools is something I believe will be valuable. But why? What is the value in knowing more about these apps? In Sherry Turkle’s TED Talk Connected, But Alone she explained “little devices in our pockets are so psychologically powerful that they don’t only change what we do, they change who we are”. This statement helped solidify my why. How much do I really know about the apps students are using everyday and the apps we are asking them to use in our schools? How are these apps changing who they are?

My plan is to examine these apps from an administrator’s perspective. In the past few years my school division has changed the policy around what apps are accessible on the school iPads. Students and teachers still ask why they cannot add a “really great app” because it is free. Why are “fun and free” often the only criteria people consider for what we want our students to use?

At this point I have many ideas and possible directions I can go with this project. I know I need to narrow things down and hope that as I begin to work through my ideas my direction will become more clear. I plan on examining Snapchat and TikTok and two educational apps (looking into the possibilities and will finalize the two very soon). Some questions I have to drive this investigation include:

  • What is the purpose of the app? What does it provide the user?
  • What is the potential and the pitfalls of the app?
  • What are the educational uses?
  • What do the terms of service and privacy guidelines mean?
  • What is the policy/guideline development for apps in my school division and why do these apps meet/not meet these requirements?
  • What is required in terms of parent communication/involvement when these apps are used at school?

My plan is to use these apps as much as possible to be able to get a true understanding. As I do not have my own classroom, I will also be working with my colleagues and speaking to students to hear their voices around the usage of these apps. I am really looking forward to this project and I am open to any suggestions or advice anyone might have!