The digitals of our lives…

I will be honest, throughout this semester I learned a lot about literacies.  To be honest again, I had relegated the concept of literacy to academia, words, libraries and books.  When I had the choice of courses, the idea of multiple literacies, specifically in regards to the technological age was an interesting idea.  Listening to the group presentations, and the readings throughout the course, I learned a little bit about the different kinds of literacies.

Social literacy was the literacy Kamal and I choose to research.  Social literacy is an individual’s ability to successfully and deliberately mediate their world as family members, workers, citizens and lifelong learners (Arthur, 2000).  In other terms, social literacy, or social intelligence, is the ability to build relationships and maintain those relationships in any kind of social environment, including digital ones.  In other terms, social literacy, or social intelligence, is the ability to build relationships and maintain those relationships in any kind of social environment, including digital ones.

I also read comic books and while completing the project, there was a strange cross over between topic and fantasy.  I am always dazzled by the amazing powers some of these characters have.  One of these powers is an individual named Doug Ramsey (Grand, 1993).  He has the ability to read, or understand, any language.  Doug’s power rang through when researching social literacy.  To be able to read socially, or to understand body language, would be a wonderful power.  With this ability you could understand how to work with people and how to navigate socially, how to better build relationships and deal with potential problems with communication.

I learned from doing our social literacy project was the importance of teaching social skills, specifically in this information age.  Cyberbullying is an example of the importance of teaching students how to understand their own feelings and how what they can do can have a disastrous affect on another person (Arthur, 2010).

Through the courses, I learned more about the role of technology and education.  Technology in the whole should be used as a supplementary to education.  Nothing in education should be used for the sake of using it; the intrinsic value of using technology should be weaved into the lesson and should give students an opportunity to be creative and engaged.  Technology offers a wonderful opportunity to snag students, and to get them to “buy in”.  But it is a double-edged sword.  Without purpose, or clear direction, technology could hamper and confuse.

As a teacher, I find the ease of technology tempting.  I also find students tend to enjoy using technology more so than other traditional forms of classroom lesson plans.  I have learned of many different types of programs that I can now use in day-to-day teaching like Stormboards, Google docs, and VoiceThread.  I have already thought of ways to use the voice summary programs with getting students to log in and do quick plot summaries of short stories for next year.

I enjoy learning and the idea that I can do that and improve being a teacher is an ideal match.  Technology is also something I seem to be comfortable enough with that I am always willing to try something new and try to integrate into reaching curriculum goal.  Overall I learned a lot through these courses, and I will take this information to strengthen and modify lessons to encourage engagement and help students reach new heights.

Arthur, J., Davison, J., & Stow, W. (2000). Social literacy, citizenship education, and the national curriculum. Routledge.

Grant, P. (1993). Poor Dead Doug, and Other Mutant Memories.  Wizard: X-Men Turn Thirty, 66’69.

Advertisements

To be digitally literate, or to be digitally illiterate, that is the question.

The traditional view of literacy is being challenged with technology being the catalyst.  It is important to realize that the concept of literacy has changed consistently in the last few centuries.  In only the 15th century, the definition of Illiterate was coined (Thomas, 2005).  During this time period, very few people could read, even less could write, and even more could do neither.

This idea of literacy, now including various aspects of digital mediums, is changing.  In regards to digital literacy, it is important to realize that people may be experiencing challenges and effectively be digitally “illiterate”.  I find the idea of being digitally illiterate interesting.  The fact that digital literacy is such a new topic, the idea of being illiterate in this area is even newer.  Being illiterate has always carried a stigma of not being included or being left out (Mifsud, 2005).  So what happens to those who are digitally illiterate and what is the difference?

The major difference between conventional forms of literature and digital literature is the ability of the latter to be visual stimulating and enhance understanding and the written word (Mifsud, 2005).   Another major difference is the skills and information needed to use different forms of literature produced digitally (Mifsud, 2005).  It is not as simple as grabbing a book with an appropriate reading level – computers can now aid in that decision – but also knowing how to effectively use, manipulate, and even simply turn on digital mediums is a challenge to some who have little experience with technology.

Regardless of digital literacy, or otherwise, the fundamentals of sentence structure, searching for meaning and comprehension are essential aspects of being “literate” in any medium.  People must be able to recognize, analyze, and comprehend what is before them before more advanced forms of literacy can be mastered.  Phonetics, grammar, syntax, and whole word meanings are all part of educating people to be literate in general.  Although digital literacy may increase engagement and understanding, it still falls under the general umbrella of literacy.

As schools struggle to keep up with technology, the basics of literacy may get pushed to the side.  However, because of the onset of technology, digital skills are now important skills for people to have in order to function in society.

Teaching digital literacy not only gives schools the opportunity to reinforce literacy skills, but may also encourage understanding and comprehension, while at the same teaching digital skills associated with computers, laptops, and other forms of technology.  Digital literacy offers teachers another tool to help students learn and is quickly replacing traditional forms of teaching using solid print forms of text.

 

Thomas, S.  (2005).  Transliteracy: Reading in the Digital Age, English Subject Centre, 9.

 

Mifsud, L. (2005). What counts as digital literacy: Experiences from a seventh grade classroom in Norway. Retrieved from http://www.socialscience.t-mobile.hu/dok/9_Mifsud.pdf

Transliteracy: the new frontier?

Transliteracy is defined as the ability to read, write, and interact over a variety of mediums using various modes of communication (voice, handwriting, print) (Ipri, 2010).  With transliteracy being new, awareness of it as a concept is limited.  According to one librarian, this word is new, but accurately addresses the phenomenon and issues that are currently being tackled in libraries every day (Ipri, 2010).   The idea of this social element of knowledge construction is potentially a rich area of research.  By adding personal anecdotes, and perceptions, knowledge can be more engaging and enriching (Ipri, 2010).  As opposed to pure research, the personal, social experience adds a new element of engagement.  This new idea and concept has the potential to bridge the gap between those interested in subjects based purely on academic pursuits and those who are interested in topics on a more personal level.  To engage in something you have interest in is to increase understanding and comprehension.

Academic literature is now becoming fundamentally altered by the never-ending advancement of technology.  The inherent bias that literature is based solely on the written word is being challenged with the introduction of transliteracy (Ipri, 2010).  The skills needed for this type of literacy differ somewhat from traditional literacy approaches and challenges the concept that literacy is solely a solid print based medium.

In the transliterate world creating a network of experts is important (Ipri, 2010).  The overall importance in a transliterate experience is to add value and encourage input from different types of people and backgrounds.  Although this new concept of transliteracy often is tied to the advancement of technology, it is important to realize that it doesn’t just involve computer based forms of communication, but incorporates input and information from a range of times and a range of cultures.

Anything that could potentially encourage engagement and attempts to bring different groups of people together for input is a great concept in our current climate of those who are educated and those who are not.  The idea that someone who may not have a formal education being involved in the understanding and conveying of concepts and experiences is different from only those who have degrees being able to contribute.  This concept is exciting and anything that encourages people to be active and engaged is something that should be encouraged.

 

Ipri, T. (2010). Introducing transliteracy. College & Research Libraries News, 71(10), 532-567. Retrieved from http://ezproxy.lib.ucalgary.ca:2048/login?url=http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=afh&AN=55321486&site=ehost-live

Technology infusion, unintended consequences, & the importance of being a responsible digital citizentry.

Rehtaeh Parons was a high school student who went to Cole Harbour High School, in Nova Scotia.  A victim of a gang rape where a photo was taken and passed around the community, Rehtaeh ended her life from months of ridicule and constant bullying.  Tragically, Rehtaeh committed suicide, a victim of cyber bullying in what some are calling a cry to act.  She was a victim of a system that is not working, much like Amanda Todd was out in BC, both teenagers suffered similar fates.  According to Rehtaeh’s dad, Glen Canning , “My daughter wasn’t bullied to death, she was disappointed to death. Disappointed in people she thought she could trust, her school, and the police,”  (Canning, 2013)

This is a problem for our country, not just community.  Somehow a young girl died, a victim by not only her friends, but by her school system, the justice system, and community.   Stephen Harper also felt the need to comment saying that this is no long bullying, as that word seems to have childhood connotations to it.  Harper went on to comment that what happened is sickening and these activities are criminal activity, both online and offline (Visser, 2013).

This tragedy calls to action the need for better education, and more awareness.  The veil of secrecy that the Internet provides needs to be discussed and explained.  Students need to understand that when they pass something over the Internet, it stays over the Internet.  People also need to know that by contributing, by letting it happen, you become part of the problem.  As a society, for something so blatantly wrong and awful, to claim anyone, is a stain on our culture.

I teach in the high school next to Cole Harbour High.  The school is literally 5 minutes from the other high school located in Cole Harbour, Nova Scotia.  I tried to explain to students how tragic this event is, that Rehteah could easily be them or one of their friends, and that as people exposed and proliferating this type of hate, they are part of the problem.

As a teacher, and in light of recent events, the plan for technology infusion includes looking at the intended and unintended consequences of using these devices.  The Internet provides a sense of secrecy and protection hiding behind false user names, multiple emails, and almost encourages this sense of recklessness.  According to one report (Slonje & Smith, 2008), almost half of all teenagers will have experience as a victim of cyberbullying, most of them young teenage girls.  Parents should watch for changes in behavior of children they assume may be being bullied.  According to Slonje and Smith (2008), cyberbullying may lead to worse negative impact on the victim due to the larger audience and anonymity often associated with bullying on the Internet.

I want to teach students that technology is not dangerous, but how you use it is.  I want to emphasize that by not standing up, or to let cyberbullying happen, they are part of the problem.  All kinds of technology have unintended consequences and inherently it is not the technology that is the problem, it is reckless behavior or disregard.   There are many programs that are made to help deal with bullying.  Some similarities with successful anti bullying programs include whole-school anti-bullying program, couple with awareness-raising curriculum based activities (Salmivalli, Karna, & Poskiparta, 2011).

I think a classroom that does not embrace technology and use it to help differentiate learning is doing the students a disservice.  However, not teaching the potential impact of using technology in the wrong way and how that could impact another person is as equal a disservice.  It important as educators we work on teaching the anonymity of the Internet does not give you the right as a person to hurt someone else.

If nothing else, above all, this incident highlighted the need to stand up and right an injustice.  According to Martin Luther King,  “In the End, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends” (“Martin Luther King Jr. Biography”, 2013).  It takes a village, digital or otherwise, to raise a child.  To be silent, or participate in the spread of this destructive material, is to be part of the problem.

Education is the key, but unfortunately for Rehtaeh, the call to arms came too late.  In regards to lack of action, and a sentiment that rings through all of society after another tragedy of this type, “for the love of God do something” (Canning, 2013).

Canning, G. (2013, April 10). Glen Canning. Rehtaeh Parsons was my daughter. Retrieved April 12, 2013, from glencanning.com/2013/04/10/rehtaeh-parsons-was-my-daughter/

Martin Luther King Jr. Biography.  (2013). Martin Luther King Jr. Biography – Facts, Birthday, Life Story – Biography.com . Famous Biographies & TV Shows – Biography.com . Retrieved April 13, 2013, from http://www.biography.com/people/martin-luther-king-jr-9365086

Salmivalli, e., Karna, A., & Poskiparta, E.  (2011).  Counteracting bullying in Finland, the KiVA Program and its effects on different forms of being bullied.  International Journal of Behavioural Development, 35, 405-411.

Slonje, R., & Smith, P.  (2008).  Cyberbullying: Another main type of bullying? Scandinavian Journal of Psychology, 49, 147-154.

Visser, J. (2013). Rehtaeh Pasons suicide: Stephen Harper ‘sickened’ by alleged ‘sexual criminal activity’ | Canada | News | National Post. National Post | Canadian News, Financial News and Opinion. Retrieved April 13, 2013, from http://news.nationalpost.com/2013/04

Environment, trades, and technologies

When I was in high school, university was the only way to go.  Trades were often considered for those who didn’t want to, or couldn’t, do anything else.  What an antiquated and dated perception.  In the program I teach now at school there are many new opportunities are made aware to students at the college level.  As well, upon completion of the 02 program, students get a guaranteed seat in what ever college program they decide to take.  A big advantage to these students as some programs have 2 – 3 year waiting lists. 

Stalwarts of trade like mechanics and plumbing are common choices by students, by also new trades and technologies.  One emerging trade, based on concern over the environment, are green jobs.  These green jobs focus differently in scope, but basically focus on sustainability and responsible use of the environment.  In fact, a new campus recently built on the Dartmouth side of the Halifax harbor was built with this new idea of responsible environment use to the forefront of its purpose.  The campus features many new and cutting edge trades as well as having the distinction of being only one of 2 buildings in the province that meet Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Silver Certification (Nova Scotia Community College – Waterfront Campus, 2012).

As well, compared to university, the job rate for those who attend the Nova Scotia Community College is at 86% in Nova Scotia (Nova Scotia Community College – About NSCC, 2012).

This school, and its programs, because of perception mainly in the area, was not seen as a viable option for most.  However, with recent announcements of trade based jobs becoming a big part of our economy with off shore oil and a ship building contract announced by the federal government, many are choosing on taking up trades.  This new focus on environmental concerns and demands is also a popular burgeoning choice for our environmental conscious students now choosing careers.

As our culture chances and becomes more aware our current level of unsustainable resources use will one day deplete the planet, jobs are being created in hopes to curb this disturbing trend. 

 

Nova Scotia Community College – About NSCC. (2012). NSCC – Nova Scotia Community College. Retrieved April 3, 2013, from http://www.nscc.ca/about_nscc/index.asp

 

Nova Scotia Community College – Waterfront Campus. (2012). NSCC – Nova Scotia Community College. Retrieved April 6, 2013, from http://www.nscc.ca/about_nscc/locations/waterfront/

Responsible digital citizenship and active members of society

Technology pervades almost all areas of our lives.  From dating sites, to online banking, few aspects of modern life are untouched by technology.   Now we stand in an interesting time where we can plan and organize particular sections of society using this technology.  A part of society now beginning to embrace technology is the world of politics.  Often seen as geared towards more mature and active citizens of society, technology may be able to bridge the gap between those who are involved in making decisions for the future, and those who feel disengaged.  President Obama was one of the first politicians to fully embrace new technology and use it in different way.  This new “change” has been credited with increasing voter response, and creating new interest in politics by engaging those who would otherwise be uninvolved (Social Media, 2010).  As well, the use of technology and popular social media sites, led to higher donations then using only conventional methods.

So how do we use technology to increase and encourage political activism, and create citizens who feel they have a say in the decisions that affect their life in the future?  The idea that as a society we could use technology to help get children involved early in the political process and help them learn, and understand, what it means to be a digital citizen is exciting.  Some studies have already investigated the possibility to engage students. One possible way to do this and help promote children’s participation in civics is by creating opportunities for these young citizens of society to see themselves as agents of change and capable to make decisions on their own (link).

Technology offers amazing opportunities for new and exciting levels of engagement.  To get students involved in politics, and to help them see themselves as active members of society, capable of making changes that impact their lives, could lead to more engaged and effective members of society.

Fonseca, C., & Bujanda, M. (2011). Promoting children’s capacities for active and deliberative citizenship with digital technologies: the cade Ppoject in costa rica. Annals Of The American Academy Of Political & Social Science, 633(1), 243-262.  http://ezproxy.lib.ucalgary.ca:2048/login?url=http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=poh&AN=57204687&site=ehost-live

Social Media. (2010, January 22). SOCIAL MEDIA: Politics 2.0 – The Power of the Citizen – YouTube. YouTube. Retrieved March 26, 2013, from http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=1vrczoLm7Es

To engage, or to student engage.

It is hard to keep students engaged.  As a teacher, it sometimes feels like you have to almost be an entertainer to keep them on task.  The term student engagement means different things to different people.  Traditionally, engagement simply on the academic level was the focus.  I agree the term student engagement gets thrown around with various meanings attached to it.  As more and more research into what student engagement is, and what defines “it”, the more complex it is to define (Parsons, & Taylor, 2011).  However, looking at student engagement strictly in a pass/fail context – all or none – does not accurately depict true engagement in an overall sense.  Students need to be able to analyze and critique.  As well, students should be the architects of the their own learning, and be motivated to do it as they get older.

According to Parsons and Taylor (2011) the five core types of student engagement are academic, cognitive, behavioral, psychological, and social. Student engagement should be more then just about academic success.  Minds should be activated, thinking should be central, and students should be guided to become lifelong learners and develop critical thinking skills.

The idea that technology can fill the gap between those who are engaged and those who are not is encouraging.  With mounting research into what engages, and how it works cognitively, lessons can be tailor made.  Teachers could be given research, evidence based practices that are known to activate and foster deep thought.  Ultimately, schools and boards want educated students better prepared to face the future, and successful.  Student engagement and the greater potential to keep students in school, and become motivated in their own learning, is a prosperous and exciting step for the future.

 

Parsons, J., & Taylor, L. (2011). Student engagement: What do we know what should we know? University of Alberta, 1-59. Retrieved from: http://education.alberta.ca/media/6459431/student_engagement_literature_review_2011.pdf

The problem with brains and technology.

Recently at the school I teach, as a staff, we voted to allow students to use their cellphones in school, but only in the hallways and not during instructional time.  This year, a wireless network was installed in the schools and it seems we are now heading the way of many schools by allowing students to BYOD to school.  Assisted technologies are a common sight within the classroom now, but with the implementation of this wireless network, a sort of control to the internet can be used when students decide to bring their own devices to school.  The not so obvious problem with allowing students to bring in their own devices is the potential problem with controlling access to restricted sites and potentially destructive information..

Right now our schools have firewalls in place, but they are dated and any student, or teacher, who has a somewhat advanced knowledge of firewalls and proxy servers, are able to get by these restrictions.  According to Lawson and Comber (2000), simply putting restrictions up is equally as important as educating students to become more responsible users as these restrictions might not work and can cause the opposite undesired results.  Some of the potential threats to students online range from pornography, gambling, and the often publicized cyberbullying.

Restrictions seem to work, but education seems to be another way to curb potential threats to students.  Telling students not to do something, and then educating them as to why it’s a problem, are two very different things.

Lawson, T. and Comber, C. (2000), “Censorship, the internet and schools: a new moral panic?”, The Curriculum Journal, Vol. 11 No. 2, pp. 273-85.

Assisting assistive technology

Technology is advancing at a staggering rate.  Along with the advancement of technology, is the advancement of assistive technology.  Assistive technology helps those who struggle with cognitive and physical disabilities to be included and help overcome any barriers (Kelker, & Holt, 1997).  The earlier those are introduced to assistive technology, the easier it is to use.  Later on, the earlier the student is introduced to this technology the better integrated, and easier, it becomes to use (Ellis, 2009).  Students should be introduced to assistive technology as soon as possible; the earlier the technology is introduced the better, and thus the more effective the technology will be.  By getting students to learn the functional aspect of technology, content would then would not be as overwhelming.  The problem inherent in assistive technology is not the benefits of using it, but the access to it.

As a high school teacher, I have students who would benefit greatly from reading assistive technology.  The problem, it seems, is the inability to effectively get the technology.  Parents, and schools, must work together to ensure that students are being engaged and learning.  By high school, assistive technology should be fully integrated in the students learning experience.  Struggling in school is often attributed with lower self-concept, and lower self-esteem (Baumeister, Campbell, Krueger, & Vohs, 2003).  By identifying the need in students, assistive technology could be the difference between being successful with a healthy self-concept, or struggling and trying to figure out where to fit in regards to education.

 

Baumeister, R. F., Campbell, J. D., Krueger, J. I., & Vohs, K. D. (2003). Does high self-esteem cause better performance, interpersonal success, happiness, or healthier lifestyles?. Psychological science in the public interest, 4(1), 1-44.

Ellis, K. (2009). Assistive Technology Enabling Dreams. Edutopia Retrieved from: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zZ5CkpgVQJ4

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

Virtual Footprints in the Sand

Being from Nova Scotia, taking courses at the University of Calgary seemed foolhardy, especially when considering that I would have to visit there to complete practicums to become a school psychologist.  I have since abandoned the idea of being a school psychologist, but I did go to Calgary one summer to complete the practicum.  Citing money as a factor where I would be able stay, I searched Kijiji looking for a room to rent for 6 weeks.  I replied to this ad from a young girl living in Montgomery, and we began correspondence.  She was initially a bit hesitant, but suddenly changed her mind. 

Once I got there, and the initial fear of what I was moving into disappeared, we started talking about how interesting it was that we got in touch with each other.  I then asked her about whether or not she was worried about me at all and she informed me that she wasn’t worried because she searched my name in google.  When she had done this, the school I work at, along with the subjects I teach, and the webpage I use for students, came up.  Also the results of my name yielded a RateMyTeacher.com page.  The overall glowing remarks, she said, made her feel comfortable so she did not worry about having me move in.

I never googled my name before.  After this incident, I decided to give it a try.  As per the recommendations of Lisa Nielson (2011) on her blog The Innovative Educator, googling yourself is a good way to determine what your digital footprint potentially says about you.  I have a Facebook page that uses my real name, however, it does not come up when googled as I do not want to have ex students looking at my profile, or trying to add me to their list of contacts.  Other then those things I can not control (school websites, ratemyteacher page), I feel I have a somewhat good handle on my digital footprint.  The security settings on my facebook dictate that only those who I add are able to see my page.  Other than that, there are no other glaring remnants of my digital life that I am aware of.  I feel adamant that as a professional, I need to keep those two worlds separate and distinct.  I worry, and have encountered, students who have found my address on the Internet and came to school to tell me about it.  I feel the Internet is a wonderful technology, but it can be invasive and potentially harmful in the wrong hands

Nielsen, Lisa. (2011, August 19).  Discover what your digital footprint says about you.  The Innovative Educator.  Retrieved from: http://theinnovativeeducator.blogspot.com/2011/08/discover-what-your-digital-footprint.html