Mobile Transitions

When I imagine a classroom of the future, each student has their own personal tablet or laptop device. My future grandchildren will likely not know any different. They will wonder how we ever managed without personal learning devices in the same way that my children cannot fathom a time when you actually had to get up off the couch to change the channel!

Today we find ourselves in the transition phase. Some students have their own devices, others do not. Classrooms have laptops for students use, but not .at a one-to-one ratio. Personal cell phones and iPads are being used in some schools and are banned in others.

To guide us through this transition phase, researchers provide many recommendations for implementing BYOD in schools. Changes to instructional practices, and infrastructures which support network access/bandwidth and equity for all students are required. Perhaps more importantly, as stated in the Alberta Education Bring your own device guide (2012), “(t)eachers will need to learn how to redesign lessons, instruction and assessment to integrate collaboration, communication and social creation of knowledge.” (p. 8). The guide also stresses how ” the school culture must embrace digital citizenship, which Alberta school authorities have identified as critical to the success of the use of technology in schools. ” (p. 24). Teacher training and the establishment of digital citizenship practices are perhaps the most critical for making the transition to the ubiquitous use of personal learning devices in schools.

Yet despite all of the work to be done in readying our schools for BYOD, I see the future materializing in front of my eyes, with almost no intentional effort on my part at all. “There are no more laptops, Mrs. Lasher. Can I use my iPod?” is a phrase I have heard several times in my classroom this year. Students who have iPods will use them to translate words for a project in French class. The kids are simply using them as tools because it makes sense to do so.

With the right attitude and understanding of best teaching practices, the integration of personal mobile devices may simply morph into reality. I am not suggesting we do nothing, and simply sit back and let it happen. There are many important considerations and actions to be taken to ensure equitable access, that the tools do not drive the practice, and that they are used appropriately. But in spite of the challenges, we will make it through this transition period successfully. I can hardly wait!

References:

Crichton, S., Pegler, K., & White, D. (2012). Personal devices in public settings: lessons learned from an ipod touch / ipad project. Electronic Journal Of E-Learning, 10(1), 23-31

Alberta Education (2012). Bring your own device: a guide for schools. Retrieved from http://education.alberta.ca/admin/technology/research.aspx

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Technology – Balancing Dependence and Success

Technology allows us to make the seemingly impossible become possible. Individuals with limited mobility use technological devices to interact and participate in the physical world. Students with cognitive disabilities use assistive technologies to help them read, write,and communicate knowledge and ideas. Assistive technologies are devices “..which substitute for or enhance the function of some physical or mental ability that is impaired.” (Kelker & Holt, 1997, p. 2). These devices help to open doors for people with disabilities to engage in activities with greater independence. Individuals without disabilities walk through those same open doors.

Technology has become an integral part of life. Whether for entertainment, social interaction, or performing daily tasks such as navigating city streets, shopping, banking, nearly every aspect of our lives is impacted by technology. Have we become too dependent in technology? According to several studies, “..people, especially members of the Connected Generation, appear to be dependent on their technology, even to the point of addiction.” (The Challenge of “Media addicted”consumers, 2011, p. 29). Is this a valid concern? Instead of persevering to overcome challenges, are students simply being afforded ‘quick fix’ accommodations through technology?

It seems that our reliance technological devices will only continue to increase, and that”… as the interface becomes more seamless — involving gestures, speech recognition, and perhaps even literal physical integration — the question of addiction will seem archaic.” (The Challenge of “Media addicted”consumers, 2011, p. 30).

As a parent, I have questioned if my own children should have iPhones and access to social media tools. While I do have concerns about addiction and over-reliance on these forms of communication, I also feel that not allowing them access would put them at a disadvantage. A study of the effects of media use on young girls suggests that”.. increased use of media was significantly associated with lower levels of self-esteem.” (Racine et al, p.752) Yet I have seen first hand how participating in digital media can also positively impact a child’s self esteem, as it provides them with a sense of belonging and acceptance with peers who use social media to build and maintain relationships.

We are all dependent on technology. The key is finding balance. As teachers and parents, we must help children to understand that technology has a purpose, a time and a place. We must teach them to make responsible decisions and help them to understand that success lies not within the technology itself. Success lies in how they choose to use technology because ultimately, their true capabilities lie within themselves.

References:

Kelker, K. & Holt, R (April 1997) Family Guide to Assistive Technology. Retrieved from: http://www.pluk.org/Pubs/PLUK_ATguide_269K.pdf

Racine, E. F., DeBate, R. D., Gabriel, K. P., & High, R. R. (2011). The Relationship between Media Use and Psychological and Physical Assets among Third- to Fifth-Grade Girls. Journal Of School Health, 81(12), 749-755.

The Challenge of “Media-Addicted” Consumers, Employees, and Citizens. (2011). Trends Magazine, (98), 27-30.

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Connected Solitude

Screen Shot 2013-02-25 at 8.58.19 PMThis week I watched Sherry Turkle’s TED Talk “Connected, but alone?”. (2012).   She expresses concerns that our constant connectedness may have negative consequences for how we relate to each other and to ourselves.  Turkle worries that by constantly texting and networking online, we may be losing our capacity for self reflection.  She stresses the importance of teaching our children to be alone.

As I considered her words, I began to wonder if the constant connectivity craved by those who sleep with their phones is in some ways like a hovering parent who doesn’t let their child do anything on their own.  With the ability to have someone there for you 24/7, and perpetual access to information and support, will our children become forever dependent, relying on input, assistance and connectedness to others in all aspects of their lives?  Even though technology supports our ability to be independent, could it also be inhibiting the development of skills in self-reliance and self-reflection?

Screen Shot 2013-02-25 at 8.58.07 PM

Brown (2011) refers to how people are using technology to connect to like-minded individuals as ‘digital tribalism’.  (p. 34).  This term, along with the concept of digital natives, led me to reflect on native tribes of the past and how they worked together as communities, constantly connected with each other, relying on the tribe for survival.  While the constant connections we are afforded through technology are admittedly quite different from these native communities, perhaps a reliance on connections will serve future generations well, just as it did in the past.

The need for solitude is indeed important.  As in the rituals of meditation and solitude found in so many cultures, I believe we must make affordances for self-reflection within our digital society.  But the building of connections, both online and off, must also be cultivated, for it is only through our connections with others that we find truly find ourselves.

 

 

References:

Brown, A. (2011). Relationships, community, and identity in the new virtual society. The Futurist, 45(2), 29-34.

Turkle,S.(2011). Sherry Turkle: Connected, but alone? [Video file]. Retrieved from: http://www.ted.com/talks/sherry_turkle_alone_together.html

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Digital Footprints

Criminal Minds is one of my favourite television shows. In the show, the character of Penelope Garcia uses her technological skills and access privileges to collect reams of personal data on victims and suspects of crimes being investigated.  This week as I read through information about creating and managing our digital footprints, I found myself wondering what information Penelope Garcia would be able to dig up on me.

Whether intentionally or not, our actions and the actions of others are leaving a trail of crumbs that make up our digital identities.  This happens when we post photos, opinions and ideas using various Web 2.0 applications. It happens when sign up for accounts and make purchases both online and off.   It happens when we use email and send text messages to our friends.

When I ‘Google’ myself, I am able to find a few tidbits of information, mostly web tool accounts pertaining only to my online learning during the past few months.  I see myself more as what Kligiene (2011) calls a ‘digital tourist, who doesn’t really participate often in social media or online consumer behaviors.  Sure, I have a Facebook account and do some banking online, but I try to refrain from (or am simply not interested in) significant online activities, so I haven’t been too concerned about my digital footprint.

Perhaps I am being naïve. Weaver and Gahegan (2007) describe average individuals who “enjoy the benefits of new technology without giving much consideration of or appreciation for the social and ethical tradeoffs,” of surveillance and location aware technologies. (p. 327) Should I be more concerned about my daily offline activities, which also contribute to my digital footprint?  Should I, as Richardson (2008) suggests, be worried that a Google search doesn’t yield any substantial results? Should I take more action to shape my digital persona and protect my personal information?

One thing seems certain – there is a great deal to consider when reflecting on your digital footprint.  As teachers, we need to do our part to guide students in making safe and responsible choices when leaving their mark in the digital world.

References

Kligienė, S. (2012). Digital footprints in the context of professional ethics. Informatics In Education, 11(1), 65-79.

Richardson, W. (2008). Footprints in the digital age. Educational Leadership, 66(3), 16-19.

Weaver, S. D., & Gahegan, M. (2007). Constructing, visualizing and analyzing a digital footprint. Geographical Review, 97(3), 324-350.

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Digital Eclipse

In my personal life, I am a mother, wife, daughter, sister, friend. I am an individual who for the most part is an introvert, likes music and quiet contemplation in nature. At school, I am a teacher, mentor, leader, colleague, advocate. In this environment I am more of an extrovert, constantly engaging with others, planning and acting on those plans to move people forward. For the most part, I keep these two worlds separate, recognizing my need to maintain balance between home and school. But my digital life exists in both of these realms.

Ohler (2011) believes that as educators, we should be striving to connect these two worlds in order to help our students “.. understand issues of digital responsibility,” and “…balance the individual empowerment of digital technology with a sense of personal, community, and global responsibility.” While I see merit in this approach to developing digital citizens, I can’t help but wonder if there may be negative side effects to this merging of two lives into one.

Incidents like that of a teacher who lost her job as a result of personal content posted on Facebook illustrate that living one life can bring significant conflict. (CBS, 2011). Increases in communication through email and social media, while beneficial in building community and transparency between schools and families, may make it more and more difficult for people to find that important balance between their professional and personal lives.

I often wonder if the digital realm which is beginning to connect our personal and professional lives will at some point eclipse both worlds completely. What will that mean for my personal and professional identities? How can we ensure balance between digital citizenship and individual needs and identities in a way that promotes emotional and social well- being?

References:

CBS. February 6, 2011. The Internet and Our Right to Privacy. [Video file] Retrieved February 6, 2013 from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_K8f-r_BK1M

Ohler, J. (2011). Digital citizenship means character education for the digital age. Kappa Delta Pi Record, 48(1), 25-27.

Schachter, R. (2011). The social media dilemma. District Administration, 47(7), 27-33.

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Knowledge consumer or consumer knowledge?

I am an online consumer.

Online consumerism could be defined as the actions of providing or acquiring goods and services in the digital world. I have never really considered myself much of an online shopper, but I have come to rely on the Internet for many types of transactions in which I provide or acquire any number of things:  paying bills, ordering take-out, purchasing event tickets, downloading music…

While I may be a consumer in the online world, my brain was in overload this week, as I realized how much I really don’t know about online consumerism.

I have no experience or (even full understanding) of virtual online communities such as Second Life, where participants create virtual identities and purchase virtual goods. Until this week, my understanding of the term e-inclusion would not have included knowledge of how companies such as HP seek to “…increase consumption of ICT among the worlds poor and the institutions serving them.” (Schwittay, 2012, p.53).  Nor had I really ever stopped to consider how organizations that use social media to connect with customers need employees that can manage and maintain the company’s image in these online environments. I have never even heard of Groupon or Living Social, websites that sites that provide daily deals for to consumers of local businesses. Perhaps most embarrassingly, I did not know that the ‘s’ in ‘https’ stood for secure.  How is it that I never learned such an important component to online consumerism?

Without any of this knowledge, I have been able to engage successfully as a digital consumer. Yet my learning experiences with this week have resonated with me the importance of providing students with the knowledge and tools to become savvy online consumers and contributors to the digital world.  We cannot assume that participation alone will guarantee sufficient knowledge.  We must teach them how to communicate and navigate safely and successfully in a variety of digital consumer contexts.

References:
Hughes, S., & Beukes, C. (2012). Growth And Implications Of Social E-Commerce And Group Buying Daily Deal Sites: The Case Of Groupon And Livingsocial. International Business & Economics Research Journal, 11(8), 921-934.
Koles, B., & Nagy, P. (2012). Virtual Customers behind Avatars: The Relationship between Virtual Identity and Virtual Consumption in Second Life. Journal Of Theoretical & Applied Electronic Commerce Research, 7(2), 87-105.
McEachern, R. W. (2011). Experiencing a Social Network in an Organizational Context: The Facebook Internship. Business Communication Quarterly, 74(4), 486-493.
Schwittay, A. (2012). Incorporated Citizens: Multinational High-Tech Companies and the BoP. Information Technologies & International Development, 8(1), 43-56.
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Convenient Interactions…

Learning in an online environment has for me thus far been both a positive and negative experience.  One benefit has been the flexibility in scheduling my learning around personal and professional commitments.  This level of convenience has been described as “…the obvious advantage of asynchronous learning.” (Ge, 2012).   Hrastinski, (as cited in Murphy et al, 2011, p. 585) discusses how asynchronous interactions promote more complex and reflective cognitive practices than synchronous interactions.  As challenging as I sometimes find the required posting assignments in my predominantly asynchronous learning environment, I would tend to agree with these findings.  My thinking would likely not be as in-depth if I were participating in a face-to-face setting that is more constrained by time.

As Ge (2012) noted, asynchronous learning environments have been found to involve less opportunity or interest for interactions, and can result in feelings of isolation for students.  While my courses have required significant text-based interactions, I have certainly experienced such feelings of disengagement and isolation.  The opportunity to meet many of my classmates previously in a face-to-face setting certainly helped, but for me there is still an element of camaraderie missing from this environment.

Regardless of my opinions toward online learning, I believe that these methods of delivering instruction will only continue to expand.   One of the recommendations outlined in the Alberta Government’s Inspiring Education discussion paper was “Personalized learning with flexible timing and pacing through a range of learning environments”. (p.14).    This most certainly speaks to the nature of online learning environments.   Whether an asynchronous, synchronous or blended approach is used, I agree with Murphy et al (2011), who stress that teachers working in online settings need to be well grounded in pedagogy that promotes interaction.  Learning environments must be structured so that “.. students contribute to diverse learning communities in which the social component of learning and the development and sharing of knowledge is central to their educational experience.” (Government of Alberta, 2010, p. 14)

Alberta Education. (2010). Inspiring Action on Education: Discussion Paper. Government of Alberta.  Retrieved from http://ideas.education.alberta.ca/media/2905/inspiringaction%20eng.pdf
Ge, Z-G (2012). Cyber Asynchronous versus Blended Cyber Approach in Distance English Learning. Journal Of Educational Technology & Society, 15(2), 286-297.
Murphy, E., Rodríguez-Manzanares, M. A., & Barbour, M. (2011). Asynchronous and synchronous online teaching: Perspectives of Canadian high school distance education teachers. British Journal Of Educational Technology, 42(4), 583-591.
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