Should Cellphones Be Banned in the Classroom?

This is one debate that I entered strongly agreeing. I have had to deal with many issues in the office that have involved cellphones over the years. Videos taken of teachers while they are teaching and then posted to group chats mocking and making fun of them, texts that said hurtful things about other students, pictures taken of others when they didn’t approve, stolen phones, lost phones, the list goes on. There were days when cellphones were the constant in many issues I would deal with. Both teams did an excellent job of presenting their arguments which really challenged me to think and reflect on my opinion.

Jill and Tarina presented the agreeing side and their video focused on four main points:

  • Cellphones are distracting for students
  • School devices are safer for students to use
  • Cellphones increase negative behaviours
  • Cellphones are creating an addiction for students

The two points that stood out to me are that cellphones are distracting and creating an addiction. I agree that distractions have always existed and as Skylar said in the past students would spend time reading posters on the wall or looking a the bulletin boards. I believe that the type of distractions cellphones are creating are not just the “I am bored, what else can I do” type of moments but rather they are distractions driven by FOMO. That is powerful and causing all kinds of other issues in students. When their phone vibrates with a notification, they almost instantly need to check who it is and what it is about. Even if they are in the middle of something and engaged, that vibration is enough to pull them out. I get it, I do the same and often if I need to work on something without being distracted I leave it in another room. The video below that Jill and Tarina shared explains that the presence of phones might be triggering our minds to create a persistent sense of urgency.

I believe that urgency has also created our need for instant and immediate access to each other. Is that good? Is that bad? Does a parent need instant access to their child to answer a text message during class or is that something that could be addressed at lunch or after school? Does a student need to know what their friend in another school thinks of their snap they sent while trying to work on math? I’m not one to use the “back in the day” argument but yet I can’t hep but stop to think about the reasons people give for needing instant access. Other than a horrific emergency, why can’t a phone call or message wait? I have been an educator long enough that I know of a time before cellphones. Students received messages if needed through the office. Was that so wrong?

Skylar and Alyssa countered the argument with their reasons on why they believe cellphones should not be banned in the classroom. Their points included:

  • Cellphones are needed for medical and emergency uses
  • They can be used for educational purposes
  • Cellphones can be used to help students develop digital citizenship skills

Often the use of cellphones in classrooms comes from a bring your own device (BYOD) belief. Teachers want to be using technology and there are never enough school devices to go around. I understand that and believe in the use of technology. As a public education system, we don’t have enough devices for teachers to use them in a way that always enhances learning. Rather than making BYOD seem like a great privilege for students we should be seeing budgets increased in order to supply our schools with the technology we need. We may disagree with students having cellphones in a classroom but when it comes down to it, we need them to have cellphones in order to access technology we can’t provide them. Teachers aren’t asking students to bring a cellphone so that they can use it as a phone, but rather use it for it ‘s capabilities to act like a computer. I found that reading the article BYOD – Worst Idea of the 21st Century that Alec shared with us highlighted concerns that I had not thought of before.

Skylar and Alyssa provided a strong argument about the definition of the word ban. I wrote about how I don’t agree with banning in my previous post so why was I ok with the thought of banning cellphones? I think it was exactly what they said, it eliminates a problem but doesn’t solve it. Their slogan – don’t make a ban have a plan was very effective. Again expressing the importance of teachers teaching digital citizenship and how to use the device effectively. I like the stoplight visual they shared and can see how it could effectively be used in a classroom.

So once again a debate challenged my thoughts and opinions. While my final vote was disagree, I believe I fall somewhere in the middle. As the semester goes on I am finding the middle to be a place I am ending up in often!

Is Social Media Ruining Childhood?

It was our turn. This topic was one that my partner Christina and I were looking forward to debating! I have held debates with middle years students but this was the first time that I personally have taken part. I thoroughly enjoyed the process from researching and reading many articles, to creating our video, and presenting to the class. My take aways from the technical side of things:

  1. WeVideo – we used it to create our video and again I am so impressed. We were able to use the group feature which allowed us to collaborate and create the video together. The only downfall is that you both cannot be in the video at the same time. I see many uses for this in a classroom with students.
  2. Don’t meet deadlines early – posting our articles to the document a few hours before the debate allowed our opponents Dean and Amy to look over what we shared and use the points against us. Great job!
  3. The support – while this was a new format for me, Christina and I were a great team and were ready to take on Dean and Amy. I also was so impressed with the support from all of our classmates. I know it has been said many times about how amazing this community is, but it is so true. Everyone’s support made the experience that much better!

Christina and I dove into the agree side and worked to present an extreme view. We had fun gathering photos from our “perfect fairy-tale” childhoods and decided that showing the evil villain that social media is was a great way to demonstrate this extreme view.

While the approach we took was light-hearted , the information we focused on was any but. We honestly could have made a 30 minute video with everything we read about, however it was important to highlight some of the biggest issues we felt supported our claim which included mental health, cyberbullying, and the safety risks. There is a lot of information out there about the negative side of social media. Adults who don’t use social media or don’t understand it are quick to latch on to the negativity and without knowing more will ban their children from ever using it. The word ban came up quite a bit in our debate. That is not something I believe in. I can’t think of a time that banning something achieved the results people were looking for. Nor was it in the topic we were debating.

Daina’s statement during the discussion was powerful – what do we consider as childhood? In my opinion that puts everything in perspective. Teens will use social media and they should. It is a part of life and there are many positives (which I will discuss later on). Children, not so much. But what age is too young? Social media platforms have guidelines for ages which is due to the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act also known as COPPA. Yet there are claims of many social media platforms utilizing persuasive design, specifically designing their apps for behavioral change by using motivation, ability, and triggers. When we have children under the age of 13 using social media we are setting them up to be impacted by the issues we discussed in our video.

I know part of my beliefs and opinion have been influenced by discussions with my sister. She is currently working in an ICE Unit in Northwest Territories. She and I have had many, many discussions about this topic. I realize that she sees the worst of society and works tirelessly for protecting children and I am so grateful that she and so many others take on this position. But, it’s important to know that the exploitation of the past which was the unknown creepy predator lurking on the internet is not the only exploitation that exists. In fact, one of the most common forms is self/peer exploitation which includes the sharing of nude photos amongst peer groups. She does not believe in banning social media rather the message she shares with me and with her community is education and awareness.

That fits in perfectly with Christina and I said in our video and our statements. I believe parents and teachers hold a great amount of responsibility. Teens spend time learning in a classroom about how to drive and car and then actually drive it with an adult beside them guiding, suggesting, and teaching. We need to do the same thing with social media. It shouldn’t be as simple as, the “be safe on the internet talk” and then sign up for an account. Adults need to be there guiding, suggesting, and teaching as things come up. Should all of that responsibility fall on teachers? I don’t think so. We definitely need to incorporate digital citizenship into our subjects regardless if it appears in curricula or not. Social media is a part of our students’ lives. We need to help prepare them for what they will face and experience.

Dean and Amy gave a compelling argument for the disagree side. I enjoyed their news broadcast and found the interviews with classmates were a great touch!

Their argument for why social media is not ruining childhood included the points that it allows users to build connections with others, it can be used for creativity, and gives them a platform to promote their voices. I agree with everything they said. Social media does provide those things. It has broadened our world and provides us access to people and places we might not have otherwise been able to reach. I remember the first time one of my tweets was liked by the other of the book I had tweeted about. I thought it was super cool that she acknowledged what I had to say.

The article that Dean and Amy shared, 10 Reasons Why We Should Start Showing Middle Schoolers How to use Social Media by Jennifer Casa-Todd disputes many of the claims we made. Her message is loud and clear, we need to teach students how to use social media. The points she makes are valid and the importance of teaching students about social media is one I agree with. If all of the adults in a child’s life taught them about social media and the points Casa-Todd makes in her article maybe we wouldn’t be faced with some of the negative points Christina and I brought up. Amanda recently was able to interview Jennifer Casa-Todd for her podcast. Check it out as they discuss some great points. See Amanda’s blog for more information and check out her podcast here.

Thanks again to Christina for being a wonderful partner and to Dean and Amy for being tough opponents! I enjoyed examining this topic through the debate process and all the points that were made provided me with thoughts to reflect on.

So where do I end on this topic? I am happy to say strongly in the middle. To quote Uncle Ben from Spiderman, “With great power there must also come great responsibility”. Social media provides us with an audience. What can be done with that audience has the potential to be powerful or the potential to be harmful. We as adults need to be aware and educate our youth so that the outcome is a positive one.

Schools Should Not Focus on Things That Can Be Easily Googled

In the 80s my parents bought a World Book Encyclopedia set from a door to door salesman.

I remember those books vividly. Every year, a yearbook would arrive that had updates on discoveries and changes that had happened in the world that year. The best part was that I got to go through the set and put the sticker that came with the yearbook on the articles in the other volumes. A simple task, yet something I looked forward to for many years. It taught me how to search, how to locate words alphabetically, how to appreciate that the world was changing and that there was always new information. I was introduced to topics I might not have otherwise read about.

Did I learn and memorize some mundane facts? Yes.

But I also learned so much more. I am not going to give all the credit to a set of encyclopedias. That goes to my dad. His love of information and passion to question and find answers was shared early on with me. The encyclopedias were there to give me answers but my teacher, my dad, was there to instill the skills I needed to become a learner.

I felt this story from my past fits in well with the topic of our class discussion. What should we be teaching in school? Are facts enough? Do students need to memorize when they can easily look something up on google? Those are age old questions in education. Will we ever be able to agree on an answer, probably not. Every generation believes that schools should be teaching the “basics”. It’s just that with a changing world, those basics need to adapt. Is it enough to just teach students how to add, subtract, multiply, and divide? To be able to just decode words and only understand the mechanics of writing? Maybe there was a time when those skills alone were enough for students to be successful in society. In 2020, we need more.

I believe this topic comes down to Bloom’s Taxonomy. What is our goal in education? Should we be teaching concepts for students to only remember? For some things, yes. But, we cannot stay there. Teachers need to be providing students with learning opportunities that challenge them to use all the levels of Bloom’s Taxonomy. Is that possible for every thing we do in all grades, no. In fact, the higher levels of the pyramid require a certain level of maturity. That doesn’t mean that we don’t try. Students need to be challenged to apply, analyze, evaluate, and create.

In both the videos Curtis and Lisa and Daina and Jocelyn shared they spoke to the importance of how teachers are teaching. Curtis and Lisa identified that the 4Cs – creation, consumption, curation, and connection should be be the focus of learning and that can be achieved with technology through the use of the Loti framework. The use of this framework has teachers examine the balance between between instruction, assessment, and the use of technology to promote higher level thinking. It also promotes engaged student learning and authentic assessment practices in the classroom. While the framework is slightly different from Bloom’s Taxonomy, the message is still the same. Teachers need provide students with opportunities to develop higher level thinking.

Daina and Jocelyn stated that teachers need to move away from basic questions that don’t involve thinking. A great example of this is when a student is assigned a novel to read and then has questions to answer such as, where did the character go after he finished his supper? Not only does that not require any thinking, it can be answered without having read the book at all. Kailyn also spoke to this regarding the conflict some professors are facing as they worry their exams can allow for cheating. Her answer to this was perfect, then change your exam. I don’t feel that this situation is only present with remote teaching. Students have always been able to cheat. Teachers can change that with the types of questions they are asking.

In grade 7, students are always so excited to see that the math textbook for the first time has an answer key at the back. It was one of the first things I would show them. They were so sure that math was going to be easy for the year because they had all the answers. I would explain that having the answer was not what I would be looking for but rather their ability to explain, show, apply what they had learned about the math concepts.

Just having a final answer does not mean you have learned something. Google, answer keys, encyclopedias can’t do the thinking for us. Those tools are important (maybe not the 80s version of the World Book Encyclopedia) but they are tools. As Daina and Jocelyn stated, it is a tool not a teacher.

Technology is a Force for Equity in Society

I thought I knew where I stood on this topic heading into the debate this week. My opinion was based on past experiences but I quickly realized there was so much more to consider.

Presenting the agree side, Kalyn and Nataly explained that technology as provides people with greater access to information, allows us to personalize learning, and helps students with disabilities. The most powerful quote that I feel was presented on the agree side was, “technology makes things easier but for students with disabilities it makes things possible”. Assistive technology does eliminate barriers for students, whether it be physical or learning disabilities.

I stated that I have seen middle years students be able to do what their peers are doing with technology as the fear of others finding out what they cannot do is eliminated. I believe this. Technology can level the playing field. However, it depends on how it is implemented. My school division has a process where applications can be made for assistive technology when a student is identified as having a need. For the most part it is a relatively smooth process and not often denied. I fully agree and have seen how this can do the opposite. It can create a divide as no one wants to be different. If one student is the only one using a computer then it definitely draws attention to them, exactly opposite of what the intentions were.

I am not new to the idea of presenting something to an entire class in order to target needs of specific students. I taught a class how to use the many tools in Google Read&Write as one student in particular need to rely on it. Not only did it introduce everyone to the features but also erased the stigma of having to use something. The one student suddenly saw how classmates were just as excited to use the tool. What I wasn’t familiar with was the Universal Design for Learning. This is something I am going to learn more about.

The article EdTech and the Promise of Quality Education For All shares the belief of the Universal Design. Specifically it states “To make inclusive education a reality, however, students with disabilities must be considered in the design requirements of any new education technology”. This is so important. While there is a need to create technology to target specific needs, it is just as important that technology is designed for all students. “We see too many technologies that leave too many students behind—particularly students with disabilities, who could perhaps benefit most from technological innovation”.

Countering on the disagree side, Victoria and Jasmine presented the topics of the digital divide, techno-colonialism, and non-neutrality of technology. Their points really got me thinking. The digital divide is no longer just about access to devices but also access to connectivity and skills. I feel this has been put under a microscope with our remote teaching. While school divisions handed out devices that did not solve all of the problems. To hear that families have had to drive to locations to pick up a WiFi connection so students could complete their work while others can access what they need from the comfort of their couch demonstrates the lack of equity. There are also many families that have not been able to take part because they don’t have a device, don’t have the internet, or don’t have the skills to use the devices. That is not equity.

While the remaining months of this school year have been supplemental learning, what will we do if we need to continue remote learning in the fall? Learning can no longer be optional but how will the inequities be addressed? Is this something that the education sector alone can deal with?

I end the second debate agreeing with points on both sides. I don’t know that I can say I fully agree or disagree. I am enjoying this process as these debates and topics are challenging me to think about my own experiences and opinions.

Does Technology in the Classroom Enhance Learning?

This week brought our first Great Ed. Tech Debate with Amanda and Nancy taking on the agree side and Matt and Trevor challenging them on the disagree side. Both teams did an excellent job of arguing their side and I found myself agreeing with points from both teams throughout the entire debate.

Amanda and Nancy argued that technology enhances the 4Cs of 21st Century Skills. These include critical thinking, creative thinking, communicating, and collaborating. They added in a 5th skill, connection. Their argument was validated in the examples of how our current remote learning situation is only possible through the connections made with technology. I fully agree with this point. Staying connected during this time is only possible with technology. Being able to communicate with students instantly through platforms like SeeSaw, Google Classroom, and Google Meet is the next best thing to being with them in person. Many teachers have commented that they are able to see a different side in some of their students through remote learning. Students that were shy or extremely quiet in a classroom have now been able to shine through the use of technology. Technology for connection is not new to the pandemic. I was in a grade eight classroom earlier this year and witnessed a group of students working on a project. They told me that one of their classmates was at home sick however, they did not want to miss out on the work period. From their bed at home, the student Facetimed so that they could still be a part of the group. Technology provided that student with the connection that was needed. The power of technology for connection is also incredibly demonstrated in the video Amanda and Nancy shared, The Born Friends.

When we say that technology enhances learning, the term engagement often accompanies that statement. In George Couros’ series, The Myths of Technology, he discusses the common myth that technology equals engagement. Just because we put a computer in front of our students engagement does not magically happen. Like the example Couros shares in his article, I have checked in on many students to see what they were working on. It is very common to find a tab open which is showing a YouTube video, or game which is not at all what the student needed to be doing. With the belief that technology enhances learning, is engagement the carrot we are looking for when we use it? I found this quote from Couros to provide an answer to that question.

With the world now literally at our fingertips, “engagement” should not be the highest bar we set for our students. If we can develop meaningful learning opportunities that empower our students to make a difference, our impact will go beyond their time they spent in our classrooms.

Looking at the other side of this debate, Matt and Trevor provided strong arguments for disagreeing. One point they made was about the amount of screen time students are experiencing between home and school life. How much screen time is too much? It was interesting to read the article The Digital Gap Between Rich and Poor Kids is Not What We Expected. The articles discusses how parents in affluent communities are pushing for their children to move towards “screen-free lifestyles”. One parent in the article speaks about the impact that screen time has on her boys’ behaviour. She explains that she would see anger in her son when the screen had to be turned off. So how does that transfer to our classrooms? When students are spending a considerable amount of time on technology at home are we adding to the concerns by providing more screen time at school? Many parents will admit that an iPad or iPhone at times becomes the babysitter at home. This type of use of technology is not transferring well into a school setting. I have seen primary students stop having meltdowns and enter a trance like state when given an iPad. They see the iPad as instant gratification rather than a tool for learning. In some situations based on how an Ipad is used at home, teachers have been unable to use it in the classroom.

The other point that Matt and Trevor made that really spoke to me was their claim that technology doesn’t mean good pedagogy. Technology at best only amplifies the pedagogical methods of educators. It can make good teachers better but it can make bad ones worse. While this is a bold statement to make, it is one that speaks truth. Knowledge of the SAMR model is key to address this issue.

The issue I see with technology in the classroom is that many are still at the substitution level. How do we move on from this? While stakeholders say may say that technology enhances learning and money is spent on equipment is that enough? I don’t believe it is. As I said earlier, putting a computer in front of a student doesn’t cause engagement magically to appear. Well the same is for teachers. You can purchase all kinds of technology and fully equip a classroom but that does not mean modification and redefintion – the two highest levels in the SAMR model are going to occur. Can we continue to accept that some teachers are just not comfortable with using technology? Is that meeting the needs of our students and their needs for the future?

If we want to improve the use of technology in classrooms because we value what it can provide our learners then we need to improve teachers’ skills. The number one reason teachers have for not using technology is that they don’t know how to. Yet we have seen many PD opportunities fall by the wayside in the ever increasing tightening of budgets. So if we believe in the use of technology, where does the responsibility fall? Should school divisions be doing more to develop technology skills in their teachers? Should teachers take on their own learning and seek put PD opportunities? How do we move people forward in order to keep a better pace with the changes in technology?

So which side did I end up on at the end of the debate? Well, I don’t feel I can simply say that I agree or disagree with the statement. I don’t believe it’s one that can be answered with an either or response. It depends on how the technology is being used. We need to consider the purpose and what levels of the SAMR model are being reached. Only once those questions are answered can we truly say if technology is enhancing learning.

Groundhog Day

As of today, it has been 54 days since I was with colleagues and students in a school building. Many days I feel like I am living in a updated version of the Bill Murray movie, Groundhog Day.

Source: Giphy

Wake up.

Check work phone for messages and emails.

Walk down the hallway to my home office.

Sit in front of the computer.

Repeat.

I miss the obvious, like everyone else, the students and colleagues. I miss the casual interactions with people as you walk down the hallway. I miss smiles and hugs and high fives. I have also realized I miss things I never thought I would – the drive to and from work, recess supervision, the busyness of a day.

This post isn’t meant to be all doom and gloom. There have been so many things to celebrate during the past 54 days. Collaboration, support, growth, stepping out of comfort zones, asking for help. While all of those things existed prior to the pandemic, they have been amplified as we were thrown into remote teaching. While I’m not sure that being thrown into the deep end of a pool is the best way to learn to swim, there is something to be said about just in time learning. While the tools were there, many were not used the way they are being used now.

I utilize a number of tools throughout the day for different reasons. To stay connected – Zoom and Google Meets. The first time I had ever used Zoom was last semester for EC&I 832 and I am so thankful for it. I will admit that the during the first few classes I felt a bit odd as we all stared at each other. But Zooming has become such a regular part of my day that all of the awkwardness has disappeared. I am thankful that this tool exists as seeing people’s faces is the next best thing to seeing them in person. Using Zoom for the first time did present some challenges for people but I love that we can see the humour in it. I think SNL did a great job of depicting this:

My school division quickly identified that they did not want us using Zoom with students and have identified Google Meets as the tool to use. I have used both and will say that I do prefer Zoom over Meets. Meets does not have the breakout rooms feature (in the way that Zoom does). The breakout rooms have been essential in our staff meetings with a staff of 50 people. Just like in class, the breakout rooms give everyone opportunity to speak in a smaller group. Google Meets has served the purpose of connecting with students and with the accessibility through their Google Accounts it has been relatively easy to access. While some students had used their Google Suite tools while in school, many had not. When this all began I supported teachers first in how to use this tool, but then also supported them with how to teach students to use it and how to teach parents to use it.

I joined a Google Meet the other day with a grade 7/8 class. I was so looking forward to connecting with them but was a bit disappointed. All of the students turned their cameras off. While they spoke and shared their ideas and questions, it still would have been nice to see their faces. I had to remind myself while seeing their faces is what I was needing, for many students video chats can be stressful. In this article, a grade seven student discusses how Zoom has been a trigger for her anxiety. It goes on to explain that when people are socially anxious they turn their attention inward. Video chatting mimics that self-focus. “In a real-time conversation, we don’t have access to that same mirror view”. I felt this article was useful in helping me understand what students and teachers are facing and dealing with during video chats.

While I am enjoying the opportunity to connect with people through video chats, I will admit that the days where there are multiple meetings can be exhausting. After experiencing a few of those days in a row I questioned why I was feeling so exhausted. Really, all I am doing is looking into a computer and talking, why is that tiring? I found it interesting to read the many articles that have come out recently about Zoom fatigue. I was relieved to read that it wasn’t just me and is a real thing. The article explains that the exhaustion can be a result of “our minds are together when our bodies feel we’re not. That dissonance, which causes people to have conflicting feelings, is exhausting”.

I am not connecting with students as much as I would like as I don’t have my own classroom but I am doing my best to join Meets, checking into classroom Seesaw accounts and Google Classrooms. Aside from video chats, I am also staying connected with teachers through emails, texts, FaceTime and phone calls. Of course all of those have their own notification sounds so by the end of the day I am ready to unplug!

I have also been able to lead a few sessions with my staff on how to use some of the tools available to us. Many were interested in creating videos but overwhelmed with how to do it. My division subscribes to WeVideo which I played around with last semester. I was able to guide teachers with how to create screen recordings, recordings of themselves, and videos using stock footage. I was so happy to see a number of teachers jump in and create videos to share with their students. One of my favourite moments so far was receiving an email from a teacher (self proclaimed least techie person) to say that they had created multiple math videos and were able to share them on Seesaw. Had I provided the same PD on WeVideo back in September, there likely would have been a different outcome.

Just in time learning. It is powerful and I am excited to see where it takes us.

Final Project Summary

Sitting down to summarize and compose all of my learning has made me aware of a few things. First, I learned a lot! I was eager to take on this project but yet at times felt I was trying to go in too many directions. As I wrote about in my first update I had many questions which were leading me in many different directions. Add in all of the topics from our class each week which then led me down other paths, I now know it was not possible to do it all. Second, I learned a lot about myself. This was a semester like no other which presented many unique challenges. Looking back, I wish I would have blogged more about my progress in order to get feedback and responses from EC&I 832 community. I kept notes and information but waited as I felt there was still a lot of time left to work on putting things together. How wrong was I! However, I am happy with what I learned and I put my project together based on the initial questions I developed to guide my personal journey into media.

Here are the links to all of my previous posts that document my learning:

I started with really diving into the Procedures and Policies that exist within my school division. While I was aware the administrative procedures existed I will admit I had not read them all from start to finish. After reading through many, I pulled out the eight that specifically deal with technology and social media. It was interesting an informative to read the procedures my school division has developed. In particular Admin Procedure 118 – Online Communication and Interaction/Social Media. This speaks to many of the topics we discussed over the semester and the stance my school division takes:

  • 4.6 – Personal online interactions with students and parents, except those for instructional and or school related purposes, are not permitted.
  • Guideline – Staff/students are encouraged to maintain separate online accounts if they chose to maintain professional and personal online interactions.

Examining all of these procedures led me to a closer look at the procedures that are in place for using software, apps, and online services. While I knew about the approved/not approved apps I had never taken a close look at the list that exists. I know it can be discouraging for teachers to not be able to use an app or website they discover because it has not been approved. By taking the time to examine the criteria that is used and then looking at the terms of service and privacy policies it is clear why some would be denied. Prior to this class, I really had never taken the time to read a terms of service or privacy policy. While they can be difficult to get through, they hold very important information. Just because we see something has educational value is not enough to warrant giving away personal information for our students. It is reassuring to know that procedures and policies are in place to checking security and privacy. While this is done by individuals based out of the school division office, I believe that more teachers need to be aware of the approved/rejected list and why it exists. This became very apparent when we moved to online teaching. Many had never heard of it and began signing students up for accounts on all different types of websites.

After looking through all of the procedures and polices I used that lens as I looked at Wakelet, TikTok, and Seesaw. I was pleased to be introduced to Wakelet and found it useful in my own learning during this class. Currently Wakelet is not listed on my school division’s approved/not approved list. As mentioned in my review, students under 13 cannot have an account on Wakelet. Therefore, using it with classes in elementary school would require the teacher to create collections so that students could collaborate through the teachers account. Regardless of how it used, I see value and hope that it would be a site that my school division would approve. One of the questions that is required on the request form asks if a similar product is already approved and available for use in the Division. By looking at the list I feel the answer is no and therefore it fills a void that exists.

It was fun exploring TikTok. While I was not brave enough to make and post a video (but who knows what this staying a home will bring!) I did enjoy seeing all of the very creative people that are out there. While I can appreciate and see the value in creativity and creating videos I’m not sure that it would be an app that could easily be used. Based on privacy policies and the mature content that is easily accessible I don’t believe it would receive approval for use in my school division. As I stated in my review, aside from privacy issues, I feel that there are other products already approved and available for use in my division that would provide students with similar tools.

SeeSaw was the one I knew the most about. I left it to the end for that exact reason and therefore my exploration was cut short. While I was familiar with the functions of SeeSaw I had hoped to dig deeper into different uses. In particular, discussions with a teacher at my school who uses SeeSaw regularly with grades 7 and 8 for feedback and reflection. SeeSaw is typically used in the primary grades in my school division and I had hoped to spend some time looking into the similarities and differences with how it is used with older students. However, COVID-19 quickly halted my plans. While I couldn’t finish out my project how I had originally hoped to, I am definitely now immersed in SeeSaw with all of our online learning! New challenges are emerging and I am learning all kinds of things alongside the teachers who are using it. I plan on taking advantage of the tutorials and training SeeSaw has provided in order to be able to better support the teachers I work with.

So while this project did not fully come to completion, I learned a lot. One of the best pieces of advice Alec shared this semester that I really took to heart was, “compare yourself to who you were yesterday, not to someone else today”. When I reflect back to where I was in January it is clear to me not only did I learn about content but also who I am as a digital learner. This class pushed me out of comfort zones I didn’t know I was in and really prepared me for all the Zoom meetings that have unexpectedly become part of my day to day life! I look forward to reading through everyone’s posts about their own final projects. I have learned so much from you all! Thank you EC&I 832.

Laurie

Review of SeeSaw

SeeSaw is an app currently supported and used in my school division. Teachers of kindergarten and grade one have access to a paid subscription while teachers in other grades can use the free version. I never had the opportunity to use Seesaw when I had my own classroom but have had access to it through an administrator’s account. I have not come across any teachers who do not like SeeSaw and have found that it is used in many different ways in order to suit the needs of the students and comfort level of the teacher.

What is the purpose? What does it provide the user?

SeeSaw is described as a platform for student engagement. Students can reflect, create, share, and collaborate by taking pictures, recording videos or sharing their work. Teachers can send out messages, share student work, create activities, respond and communicate with families. For parents, they have an immediate look into what their child is doing at school, share in their learning journey by viewing videos and documentation of learning, and have direct access to comment on their child’s account or directly to the teacher through the messaging feature. For all parties involved, an account becomes like an online portfolio for the school year. With the paid version, the contents shared can stay with the student from year to year. With the free version, the account does not roll over into the next year.

What are the educational uses?

SeeSaw was designed for student engagement. While the features I listed above all fit into educational use, the company identifies that SeeSaw can be used in a variety of ways which include:

  • Feedback and reflection – students share their work and then teachers and peers can comment in order to provide feedback, guidance and encouragement.
  • Assignments and Assessment – teachers can send out assignments and give direct private feedback to students.
  • Family Engagement – communicating with families and keep them up to date in real time as posts can be sent out as they happen during the day.

What do the terms of service and privacy guidelines mean?

The terms of service start out in a very unique way, “Seesaw’s mission is to create an environment where students can be their best. To accomplish this goal, it is essential that Seesaw is safe place for students to document their learning, and that parents and teachers are in complete control over how that information is shared”. While others often begin with legal jargon and legal terms, this terms of service feels like the company cares for you and the content that is shared. It goes on to share promises which include:

  • We never sell your data or student data.
  • We never advertise in Seesaw.
  • We don’t own the content you add to Seesaw.
  • Student work is private to the classroom by default.
  • We use the latest security industry best practices to protect you.
  • We are transparent about our practices and will notify you if things change.
  • We are compliant with FERPA, COPPA, GDPR, MFIPPA, and the Australian Privacy Act.

The privacy guidelines state that a teacher or school is required to gain parental consent prior to using Seesaw and even provides a sample consent form (although you would need to use the one created by your school division). While the opening statements in the privacy guidelines make promises to you about protection, SeeSaw does still collect the following data:

  • Account information – name, email, password, phone number, profile picture
  • Journal content – photos, drawing, files, notes, hyperlinks, comments on posts, and voice recordings
  • Messages – all messages sent and received
  • Activities – any activities created by the teacher
  • Activity Author Profiles – teachers who choose to publish activities to the Community Activity Library
  • Information from your Google Account or other Third-Party Sign-in Service
  • Log Data – your IP address, browser type, operating system, device information, and your mobile carrier

While that list is lengthy and similar to other apps, I feel that the way the policy is written is almost more reassuring. It goes on to say they only use the information they collect to provide the service to you. The information is used to:

  • Verify your identity and store your Journal Content, Activities, and Messages.
  • Provide teachers, schools, and family members with customer support.
  • Notify you about activity on and updates to your account or your child’s account.
  • Research, understand, and analyze trends of users to improve and develop new features for our products.
  • Promote enhancements to Seesaw relevant for teachers, families and schools.
  • Investigate, prevent, and detect activities on our service that we believe may violate the law or applicable regulations. We may, at the request of a school, investigate accounts to determine whether they comply with school policies.

It is important to note that users are given the option to withdraw their consent of personal information at any time.

Review of TikTok

TikTok was new to me, I had heard all about it but had not actually looked at it prior to this assignment. My first step was to ask my 17 year old about it and she laughed. In fact I think her words were, why do you want TikTok?!? I downloaded the app and began watching way too many hours of videos! I became familiar with the Renegade, I’m a Savage, all the challenges from fitness to dances to food, the Oh Na Na Na foot dance and the ever popular hand emoji challenge.

What is the purpose? What does it provide the user?

TikTok provides users with a platform to create, share, and view videos. The app allows you to shoot 15 second videos and then edit them with filters, music and special effects. With TikTok being one of the newer social media apps, it provides the user with familiarity from other popular apps. The filters which gained popularity in Snapchat and Instagram can be applied to your video to create special effects. When viewing a video you can show your appreciation by clicking a heart, similar to likes on Facebook and Instagram. Videos can be posted with a title or hashtags which help organize them in the way hashtags work on Twitter. There is also a comment feature similar to Facebook and Instagram. TikTok allows the user to view all videos that have been made public or you can customize the videos you see by following other users that are of interest. Comment and heart totals are displayed for each video. I believe this also provides the user with validation and the goal of going viral or having a top viewed video. There is also a duet feature which allows a user to react to a video by creating a split screen showing the original video and the person who is responding or reacting.

What are the educational uses?

It is very clear that TikTok fosters creativity. It has provided a platform for everyday people and celebrities to create and share pretty much whatever they want to a global audience. In terms of education, I was surprised to see the videos that provided factual information like doctors and nurses sharing some quick FYIs about different topics. However, with factual information shared I have seen just as much misinformation. As with anything, students need be critical viewers of the videos they are seeing. As for using TikTok in a classroom, I’m still undecided. I can see the possibilities of creating videos for assignments and projects however, I’m not convinced that there are not already other video apps that could produce similar results. Of course, those apps would not provide a student with the opportunity to share a video in the same way. I would have liked to do more investigating to see if I could find someone or see examples of how teachers have used TikTok with their students.

What do the terms of service and privacy guidelines mean?

The terms of service is lengthy and covers many topics which include intellectual property rights and content. It also states that anyone under the age of 18 needs consent of a parent or legal guardian and recommends that the terms have been reviewed and discussed. The privacy policy is why TikTok has received some bad press and countless warnings to parents to keep their children off of TikTok. In 2014 there was an app called Musical.ly which eventually was purchased by a Beijing based company in 2017. This company already owned TikTok and decided to merge the two apps in order to create one global platform. Just like any app, personal data is collected and stored. What makes TikTok more controversial is that their servers are located in the United States and in China.

There is a seperate link to a privacy policy for younger uses which was updated in January 2020. It begins by stating, “this Privacy Policy for Younger Users explains our information collection practices with respect to information provided by users under the age of 13 on the under-13 experience of the TikTok mobile application for users in the United States”. This separate policy was developed after TikTok received a $5.7 million fine for violating COPPA. The violation was based on accounts of an investigation that Musical.ly “had undisturbing practices, including collecting and exposing the location” of young children. Despite receiving thousands of complaints from parents, the company failed to comply with requests to delete information about underage children and held onto it longer than necessary”.

While the terms of service state users should be 18 and over, the privacy policy for younger users discusses under the age of 13, Common Sense Media has recommended the app is appropriate for 16 and older “due to its mature content and information settings”. TikTok is popular and students are going to be interested in watching videos or trying to make their own. With such a broad age range currently accessing TikTok, there definitely are videos that contain mature content. But rather than banning pre-teens from using it, TikTok has created a parental guide to assist parents in making accounts and viewing options “safer”. This includes instructions on how to change accounts from public to private, restrict duets (setting who can make them with you), enabling comment restrictions, reporting a comment, unfollowing a user, blocking a user, reporting physical danger, enabling restricted mode (which limits the content that is shown), and setting screen time limits.

Review of Wakelet

Prior to this class I had never heard of or used Wakelet. My first exposure to it was when Dean shared the Wakelet he created for his content catalyst. In our class discussion, many people spoke about how great it is and I was intrigued. As I was still looking for an app to look into, I was eager to see what Wakelet was all about.

When you click on About on Wakelet.com, they describe their mission as, “working to change the way people find, organize and share information. In a world of algorithmically-driven content, Wakelet puts people first, helping them organize and find the most relevant, authoritative and compelling content from across the web”.

What is the purpose? What does it provide the user?

Wakelet is a tool that allows you to save, organize, and share content. It provides the user with one place to curate articles, videos, images, tweets, and anything else you can find online. This is achieved by creating a collection. Collections that you create are private by default. This can be changed at any time to unlisted – only people with the link can see it or as public – everyone can see it. Watch the video below for more information on how to create a collection.

What are the educational uses?

As we teach students to navigate the internet and develop literacy skills such as synthesizing, analyzing, creating and collaborating I feel that Wakelet is a tool that can assist in developing those skills. While there are many possibilites for using using Wakelet in the classroom, I cannot speak directly to them as I did not have the opportunity to use it with students. I had hoped/planned on speaking to someone who has more direct experience with it than me but due to events of the past month it was not possible. Based on my own personal for my project and research on the content catalyst, I would love to use Wakelet with students. I see great potential at all different levels. From providing students with a teacher generated collection, to having students effectively research and develop their own collections, to collaborating with others to develop a collection. Wakelet promotes itself as a “powerful storytelling tool for teachers and students”. They have even developed an educators guide which is available to download from the For Educators section of their website.

What do the terms of service and privacy guidelines mean?

My use of Wakelet has made me a fan and I plan on continuing to use it and tell others about it. As I stated above, I see educational value and believe it would be a useful tool to use with students. Before taking this class that would have been where I stopped. I used it, I liked it and I see value in using it with students. However, that is not the only criteria that should be considered when deciding if it can be used with students. As I read further into the terms of service and privacy policy of Wakelet I discovered some interesting information. I found the terms of service and privacy policy easy to find and for the most part easy to read. While there is still technical legal terms, they have written it in a way that users will be able to understand. Maybe that is just my lens now as I was searching for specific information that prior to this I did not consider?

A summary of the terms of service is that by using Wakelet you are agreeing to all of their terms either as a registered user with an account or as a user without an account. Also simply stated, if you do not agree to the terms, don’t use Wakelet. As I read further I came across the question, can children use Wakelet? The answer: “of course, but Wakelet is not currently directed to children and we expect that use by children will only be done with the guidance, supervision and consent of their parents, guardians and/or authorized school officials”.

This statement led me into the privacy policy which begins with, “At Wakelet, the privacy of you and your students is very important to us. We do not sell any personal information to advertisers or third parties. We only share data with third parties when necessary to provide and improve the service”. Wakelet shares data with the following service providers: AWS, Redislabs, ElasticSearch, Cloudinary, Mixpanel, mailchimp, embed.ly, zendesk, Google Analytics, unbounce, pushwoosh, ANS, slack, and Loggly. The privacy policy also explains that some of the service providers are based out of the European Economic Area (EEA). It goes on to explain, “where we transfer your personal information outside of the EEA, we ensure a similar degree of protection is given to it”. So while Wakelet is not selling any personal information you provide when creating an account or from using their tool, they do share your information with other companies.

So what does this mean for using Wakelet with students? There is an entire section titled COPPA and Students which begins with “you must be over the age of 13 to be a Registered User of Wakelet”. The policy goes on to state that teachers can invite students under the age of 13 to contribute to their collections through the Collaboration feature. It suggests that students can create a nickname, only visible to their teacher and other contributors to the collection. When using the Collaboration feature in Wakelet, students are not required to provide their name, address or other contact information. This means that aside from what policy and procedures exist within your school division, Wakelet is stating that no one under the age of 13 should have an account. See the video below for more information on how to use the Collaboration feature.