Breaking News! Your Phone Isn’t Just for Cat Pictures: Take Action!

Today I would like to reflect on how technology can be used to promote social action. Ben Rattray discusses how social media can be used to create grassroots movements through sharing digital stories and starting campaigns and petitions that lead to nation-wide movements. Maybe most influential is the idea that our technology is just beginning, therefore, our social action is just beginning. Ben notes that “we face big problems… but the democratization of technology [means] people will be able to start more campaigns than we can possibly imagine… because together with the right tools, we can change the world.” This video gives me hope that “there is no issue that will be left untouched.”

But how do we get students to engage in these issues that matter? I do think great change will happen but the technology is just the tool. In other words, the tools don’t use themselves. We must use the tools properly to make the change. It is the people behind the screen that matter.

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Photo Credit: andres musta via Compfight cc

So how do we promote social action for our students?

1. Knowledge/Exposure – kids cannot fix things if they do not know they are broken. We have the information at our hands. It is very important that we do not let single stories dominate our teaching. It is important that we show the voices of all: strengths, weaknesses, issues, successes, etc. If we expose children to knowledge in the right ways, this creates a culture of empathy in our classrooms/societies.

2. Create a Positive Digital Citizenship – kids need to create a positive online self. They need to actively be creating this positive imagine and we must assist them along the way (ie. get them to create a blog, discuss the risks/provide examples of inappropriate technology use that led to issues for people like this UCLA Student, discuss cyberbullying through examples like Amanda Todd, etc.).

3. Passion – with exposure to the knowledge and the know-how and platform to have a positive voice, students will find things that matter to them. It is up to us to help them pursue these things. Committees like We Day or SRC can help students work towards their goals. I was proud to be part of both of these groups during my internship and amazed at the action the students took; for instance, selling rafikis to empower women/families in Kenya. Here are some more examples of what has been done or what could be done:

Note that with all positives, come negatives, too. For instance, the ASL bucket challenge was a huge waste of water and highlights privilege (many people do not have clean drinking water so dumping good water on ones head would seem a bit insane to some). There is also the socio-economic divide causing a lack of access to technology. And we can’t forget the trolls of the internet.

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Photo Credit: uomoplanetario.org via Compfight cc

But in my opinion the pros outweigh the cons. If we expose students to different causes in an environment that encourages a positive sense of self; if we are proactive about bullying; if we help students find their passions; if we provide additional tools so that everyone has access to learning (even if it isn’t through technology); if we make technology a top budget priority in our schools; there really will be no issue that will go untouched. The internet, like our world, can be a more equitable place for all if we work from within. 

To Use Technology or Not to Use Technology: It’s Not Even a Question

Computer Hard Drive Half-Full

Today I will be reflecting on Wendy Donawa’s and Leah C. Fowler’s “The YA Reader in the Digital Age” from their book Reading Canada. This chapter focuses on using technology in ELA classrooms. Donawa and Fowler (2013) state that “technology ought to be a seamless, integral part of what [teachers use] in the classrooms, especially in literature classes. Students and teachers want and need a connected classroom” (p. 188). This quote fits perfectly with my reason for becoming a teacher: my purpose is to help students realize their potential, uncover their unknown and known interests, and gain the confidence needed to share their knowledge and perspectives with others (both face-to-face and online). In my opinion, the purpose of learning is connection; we learn to share, we share to learn. Technology is a tool that teachers can and should utilize to get students engaged with collaborative learning. Furthermore, the use of technology improves “students’ interest, engagement, learning and success with Canadian [and other] literature” (Donawa et al., 2013, p. 190). This is how I view technology in my classroom. I believe all methods of instruction need to be utilized and would suggest that the only wrong strategy is an over-used strategy. Technology – although I will have to step back and explicitly teach certain programs – is not the lesson but the tool. Donawa and Fowler (2013) suggest that “mastering digital tools and technology is not the goal of instruction, but if they are well integrated for reading, research, and analysis of literature, they motivate, engage, and support learners” (p. 179). Appropriate use of technology is vital, as our directive is to implement the Saskatchewan Curriculum. Therefore, technology is a tool in accomplishing that goal. Donawa and Fowler (2013) note that “technology needs to be relevant to the objectives, topics, and assignments; it should be high quality, fast, accessible, glitch-free, focused, and specific. Classroom sites or web-based instruction platforms can be marvelous resources for teachers’ tailor-made assignments and activities that enhance learning key principles. Teachers and students support success when they co-create relevant resources and links that connect for learning” (p. 188). Some of the platforms – albeit, not always glitch-free or accessible to all – that can be used are:

Teacher Resources Student Resources Both
Teachers Pay Teachers

Twitter (ex. #edtech; #edchat)

Youtube Youtube
Teaching Channel Prezi EBooks
Edutopia Blackboard
Facebook (ex. Sask. Teachers’ pages) WebCT
Pinterest

Upworthy

TedTalks (Ed)

Class Wiki or Blog (ex. kgorhamblog@wordpress.com; kidblog)
 Google Docs Moodle

I believe that adding technology into our repertoire does not discredit or ignore previous methods or disrupt a sound ELA curriculum. Through the use of technology in the classroom, students can develop “inquiry strategies… receptive and expressive literary skills, and form meaningful online relationships and participate in reading communities” (Donawa et al., 2013, p. 179) and still work “on classic literary strategies: phonemic awareness, oral language development, spelling, vocabulary, writing, comprehension, and fluency” (Donawa et al., 2013, p. 193) through online exploration. We are not replacing the old with the new but shifting from individual classroom studies to global knowledge sharing communities; “the impact of the digital world and on readers and reading, and on literature production, has been profound” (Donawa et al., 2013, p. 179). Donawa and Fowler (2013) note that “we have come to expect an unlimited choice of information and communication as a norm and a right” (p. 180); technology is not going away and it is time to embrace it in our ELA classrooms.

Computer Hard Drive Half Empty

With the positives always comes the negative. Although I do believe technology is something we must incorporate, there are definitely some cons. One of my biggest issues with technology is the overload! I often feel bogged down; I can never keep up to all the information that comes my way and I am sure students feel the same. As an educator with endless amounts of great resources and new information each day, it is hard to pick what to study. We need to help students – who are coming of age and figuring themselves out – navigate through a vast amount of sources and engage with positive choices.  Donawa and Folwer (2013) note that this can be done through instructional scaffolding (p. 191). But this is harder than it sounds, especially when you can find anything to back up your opinion. I often wonder how we can determine if anything is credible? Are we not more incline to believe that an article that supports our preexisting belief is more credible than something that challenges our ideas? Technology is a great example of this: take for instance the many pro. technology articles on edutopia or #edtech on Twitter versus John Lornic’s work or Fusion New’s “This is what it’s like to be one of the 75 million Americans living without Internet access:”

(Note: John Lornic (2007) suggested that “multi-tasking, although inseparable from pervasive electronic distraction, is a phrase initially used to describe the capabilities of a the computer, not the human brain” and that “the sheer glut of data itself has supplanted the kind of focused reflective attention that might make this information useful in the first place (p. 50; 59)).  Even Donawa and Fowler, who are promoting the use of technology in ELA classrooms, suggest that “the generous support of information technology and competency-based learning may well be the prudent fostering of a future workforce, but it is generally accompanied by diminished support for art, music, literature, and liberal education” and furthermore, “ceaseless electronic demands… replace human interaction or inner contemplative and cognitive activity” (2013, p. 180). How do we pick what to focus our attention on and what to believe? And how do we teach this to students when we are figure it out ourselves?

Another issue I have with technology is the lack of access. Donawa and Fowler note that “Canadian students have a media-textual world at their fingertips through home, school, or public library computers” (2013, p. 189) and although this is true for most, over 75 million Americans are without technology access (see above video). This creates a socio-economic divide and also disproves the misconception (see page 191 in Reading Canada) that students are “digitally competent and able.” Many students need explicit instruction and just as learners are ready to learn at different paces, their ability to access technology is diverse. I want to flip my classroom one day but what if I had students who did not have access to technology? Could I do it? What could I do to assist those students and even the playing field?

Searching for Files

In the end, I will utilize technology in my classroom because the pros outweigh the cons and it is not an option. It is here to stay and it is a mode of teaching that works. Not only that, but it is ingrained in our lives; it seemed like I was helpless on my trip to Minot when I had to shut off my data and couldn’t consult Google Maps or Goolge whenever I wished. Technology is part of us and the theoretical framework of an ELA classroom can be met through the use of technology. For instance, technology fosters inquiry-based learning (answering self-directed, real questions), and constructivism (“learning is a socially mediated process, where learners are actively and relationally involved in a process of meaning-making and knowledge production” (Donawa et al., 2013, p. 191). By utilizing technology students get “choice, pace, and control over their work” (Donawa et al., 2013, p. 193). Technology fosters motivation, responsibility, independence, interaction, engagement, critical thinking, exploration, and reflection. Our learners may be all over the map with technology but as teachers it is our job to start with the zone of proximal development and expand their horizons, albeit at their own pace. Furthermore and most importantly, technology = digital citizenship = citizenship.

Inclusive Education Resources

10 Steps to Writing an Inclusive Lesson Plan from Concordia University

Adaptive Dimension

ADHD from Alberta Education

Autism Resource Centre

Autism: Sensory Overload

Behavioral Recording

Bilingualism and Children from the Hanen Centre

Birmingham Grid for Learning: Multiple Intelligences: This website is a great tool to get to know students and how they learn best. This link leads to a quick, 5 page learning inventory for high school students. After completion, students receive a code and they can give this code to their teachers. Then the teacher can print off individual graphs for each student, the entire class, the boys, or the girls. This offers a great visual for the teacher and can help guide instruction. I would personally put the whole-class visual in my classroom and after each lesson I would check-off or assess what ways of knowing/learning I targeted for the day (an inclusive education strategy). Students could also print off their own results so they know their strengths and areas to work on! I hope to use this in my pre-internship, along with some more interest-based games, to get to know my students so that I can instruct them appropriately and work on relationship building.

ConnectAbility for Developmental Disabilities

Constructivism from Concept to Classroom

For Parents with Children with Hearing Loss

Four Directions Teachings

Glossary of Instructional Strategies

Inclusive Education Library

Inclusive Education from Western Canadian Research Centre of Inclusion

Inquiry Based Learning from Concept to Classroom

Instructional Strategies and Lesson Plans for Inclusive Educators

Katie Letnes’ Blog

Language-Based Learning Disabilities from American Speech-Language-Hearing Association

Lesson Plans Directory

Lesson Plans for Teachers from eduref

Lifelong Learning and Adult Education

Power Soccer and Power Soccer Video 2

Rhett Syndrome in Males

Rick Hansen on Losing his Ability to Walk

Social Media + Differentiating Instruction

Supporting Behavior and Social Participation from Learn Alberta

Supporting Positive Behavior from Alberta Education

Special Ed. and Physical Education

Special Ed. Wiki by Sarah Belson

Technology Lesson Plans

We Act Lesson Plans

Wheelchair Basketball

Wheelchair Yoga

It Is Not Appropriate To Say These Things About Any Other Student Population, So What Makes Students With Special Needs Any Different?

I Believe In Inclusion, But…

Some common anti-inclusive phrases:

  • Students with disabilities learn best when they are educated with other disabled students.
  • I believe that students with disabilities should be educated in regular classrooms as long as it doesn’t take attention away from other students?
  • Students with disabilities should attend regular classrooms in regular schools as long as the cost is reasonable, and it doesn’t take resources away from the regular students.
  • The student with a disability is welcome within my classroom as long as the student comes with a teacher assistant.
  • Educating students with disabilities in the regular classroom is a good idea, provided that the student is not too disabled?
  • If students with disabilities are disruptive or distracting, they should be placed in alternate classes or schools.
  • Students with disabilities need to be with other students with disabilities, so that they can form friendships with other students just like them.
  • The best way to educate students with disabilities is to provide special classes for academic areas, and include them in regular classes like physical education and art.
  • Students with disabilities are happiest in special classes where they won’t get picked on or bullied.

But would people say the same things if we replaced the blanks with First Nations, female, LGBTQ students? IF IT IS NOT APPROPRIATE TO SAY THESE STATEMENTS AND MANY MORE FOR ONE MARGINALIZED GROUPS, THEN IT IS NOT OKAY TO SAY THESE STATEMENTS AT ALL!

  •               students learn best when they are educated with other                           students.
  • I believe that                                students should be educated in regular classrooms as long as it doesn’t take attention away from other students?
  •                            students should attend regular classrooms in regular schools as long as the cost is reasonable, and it doesn’t take resources away from the regular students.
  • The                                   student is welcome within my classroom as long as the student comes with a teacher assistant.
  • Educating                       students in the regular classroom is a good idea, provided that the student is not too                    ?
  • If                        students are disruptive or distracting, they should be placed in alternate classes or schools.
  •                            students need to be with other                                students, so that they can form friendships with other students just like them.
  • The best way to educate                         students is to provide special classes for academic areas, and include them in regular classes like physical education and art.
  •                            students are happiest in special classes where they won’t get picked on or bullied.

(Article taken from Wanda Lyons).