Teetering with technology: how I explore my own use, disuse & misuse of 21st century devices and tools

An earlier version of this post was published in the Linden School’s literary journal, House of Girls. A print copy is available for purchase at the school now; an electronic version will come out soon.

Contrary to popular belief, this technology teacher isn’t all that techie. Sure, I have a few of the latest devices, but I also place great value in some of the classic ways of reading, writing and interacting. I probably write just as often with a good, old-fashioned pen and paper than with my laptop, tablet or phone. I still call up my best friends to come over for a gabfest, even though my public social media profiles divulge details of my life. Every day I read and review web articles and videos. But ever fall asleep while reading or watching something on your iPad? Well, a glass screen bonking you on the nose can wake you up quicker than those annoying analog alarm clocks, I tell ya.

Though, I think things are a bit more complicated. You see, I prefer to order my food with a server than through an iPad, but will never step foot in a restaurant without checking its Yelp reviews first. I solicit book recommendations in online forums yet still spend hours browsing used bookstores. I probably have as many books in my library as I have followers on Twitter. I love the printed word, so much so that I chose to lug a luggage full of books home from the UK than housing digital copies of these texts in a tablet. Technically, I had some help with that heavy load of literature, but I’m sure my friends and the airport porters were muttering “Oy vey” under their breath.

In class, I ask my students to critique our learning activities using new technology or paper. Sometimes they submit handwritten reflections; sometimes they post it online. Often, I ask them to evaluate the very software used for our learning tasks. I want them to choose their tools wisely. Do we collaborate on a Google doc or do we talk face-to-face? Do you ask the teacher or do you crowdsource information? In what ways can technology support our tasks and help us meet our goals? In what ways can it complicate this? Sometimes I purposely structure problematic activities so the girls understand it is important to pick the right medium to communicate a message, the right tool to create a product, the right words to bring our ideas to life.

As someone who supports both adults and young people in learning about ‘technology’ and ‘social media’, I have to figure out how to make sense of these tools and practices – however new or old. I suppose some would argue I am light years ahead in my understanding of technology and social media. But some would say I’m quite behind.

Just the other Sunday, I was posting pictures of past travels on Instagram using the hashtag #TBT. I immediately received a WhatsApp message (instant message application on my phone) from a friend asking, “Aren’t you posting that on the wrong day?” These shared moments of nostalgia, tagged with those three key letters, were apparently part of the “Throwback Thursday” trend. I had interpreted it as “Turn back time” (shout out to anyone who knows the Cher song). D’oh. Despite being the Technology Teacher, clearly I’m behind on hashtags and social media trends. All my years of training and experience using social media, there are still more things to learn.

I remember when my mom thought LOL meant Lots of Love. Look who’s laughing now…


Social media & digital literacy – what to do?

I’ve heard mixed reviews about teachers’ on-line participation and communication with students.  Specifically, a concern I often hear is that this treads into cyber surveillance. Some think becoming Facebook friends or a Twitter follower of students will require you to be hyper-vigilant in terms of monitoring their after-school or out-of-classroom activity.

However, what are the consequences of simply disregarding and ignoring the realities of the ubiquity of technology and digital media in our students’ lives?  I’ve thought about this quite a bit… who teaches students how to participate in responsible ways on-line?  We may choose to ignore their Facebook requests, but are we guiding them in navigating through and participating in the on-line world?

How do we support our students?

At Edcamp Toronto, I facilitated a conversation regarding this issue. Here was my written prompt:

Social Media use – who teaches our students? Who teaches our teachers? We all saw the Ontario College of Teachers’ advisory on Social Media. With no mandated curriculum for reference, teaching internet safety and social media use aren’t set priorities in our elementary classrooms. Some of us choose to expose, encourage, and teach students about responsible use. Others do not with their own sets of reasons.
Why? Why not? How?
Do teachers even know how to do this? How can we teach this to students when our own personal and professional use is so varied?
Is it up to the parents? Do students learn by trial and error? By experience – by error and consequence?

Is it enough to do a small unit on internet safety? Is it enough to leave it up to the the Teacher Librarian to model responsible use? Do we assume parents are going to do this during evenings/weekends?  Where do teachers fit?

Thoughts?  Let’s continue the conversation.


The #Edtech litmus test – quotation from interview

I’m currently transcribing one of my interviews with “David” (pseudonym), an Ontario educator (more of this in another blog post).  I quickly wanted to share a key statement:

There are so many people in education who like to depict themselves or to present themselves as people who do “techie” professional development or workshops or are “leaders” in that respect.  But the true litmus test is when you ask them the question, “How are you using technology to transform or to change the learning and teaching?”

Early today, I tweeted some food for thought from Gary Stager‘s comments on Joe Bower’s critical blog post.  I’d like to share a key quotation from Stager:

Like everything else in popular culture, the most simplistic “acts” will get all of the attention. Education magazines have been filled with dazzling bulletin board decorating ideas for decades. Many edublogs are the digital equivalent. With the exception of handful of thoughtful blogs… most “edublogs” merely reinforce the educational status quo. Even if the blogger proclaims herself a reformer, often she is in the words of another social media star, merely “putting lipstick on a pig.”

This is something I’ve been thinking about for a while now…

ECOO11/Minds on Media: Playing around with Stop Motion Animation

Better late than never, here are two videos from our playful exploration of Frames, an Animation and Digital Storytelling software (available through OSAPAC).  We were at the October 22, 2011 Minds on Media event/ECOO.  The wiki from the day is available here.

Special thanks to Kent Manning, he ran the Frames workshop.  The Wiki page dedicated to this workshop is here.

We did this under 15 minutes with lots of room for improvement (see the still shots of our hands?).  I recorded this with my iPad 2 and as you can tell, it was a little tricky.  I opted for this instead of a screen shot because it’s quite nice to see teachers get silly during “PD” play.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T_IvOszwn_Y&w=420&h=315]

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QPeUPqx3d_o&w=420&h=315]