I recently burst into a workroom at school full of excitement and enthusiasm for the new 1:1 Chromebook rollout our board is doing; every student in our school will have a Chromebook at their disposal, giving them access to the information and tools available to find, create, and share in our lessons. No more booking computer labs or shuffling around bulky laptop carts! Less paper!
Boy was my bubble burst quickly.
Since I don't have permission to share this story, I'll leave the details vague. The complaints started with "yeah they will never bring them to class", "they will lose them or sell them", and "the kids will destroy them." I mentioned how other boards saw a very low percentage of these issues in similar rollouts, and this never made a difference for some folks. The big one, was "these devices use the cloud and internet, and the data will be stolen and we will be sued." This argument was used by one teacher in particular who I thought would have seen the new Chromebook initiative as a positive development, as he uses similar technology every day in his current practice.
True, cloud services rely on an element of 'trust' in the provider. The data sits on a remote server, often in a remote jurisdiction. Google has their data centre's located in the following locations:
While these are reputable locations in countries that follow the 'rule of law,' relinquishing control of information can indeed be an issue, especially for teachers who are used to being the 'king of their classroom.'
There are valid concerns about student data in the cloud. These include:
- foreign government collection and use of data
- company use of data for profit
But I got to thinking...what is really different than how we currently use technology already? Most teachers will freely sign up for quizzing software, and will use of plagiarism-checking sites such as Turnitin, submit internet report card, etc. We also will transmit student data to school board servers, but using an outside ISP such as Rogers or Bell. According to Techsoup Canada (2015), about 90% of all data transmitted in Canada over the net actually pass through US servers at some point.
We are already trusting various companies to keep our data safe. If we want a fool-proof method to keep our data secure, then we will succeed, if you count on not using technology at all as success.
We will end up paralyzed in our worry about privacy and miss out on some exciting opportunities for our students. This does not mean that we should be reckless!
Here are some steps we can take as educators to ensure that we are being responsible, while also moving forward in the age of the cloud:
1. review your school's code of conduct on privacy
2. review your school board's policies on technology use and privacy
3. use sites such as https://tosdr.org/ to help you review the privacy terms listed in the Terms of Service of the software/website you would like to use. *Pro tip: have students use this site to evaluate social media sites they like to use*
4. reach out to your school's technology coach, board technology facilitators/officers for resources and guides that are employer-approved to help determine what can be used, and how.
5. contact your school's administration if you have questions or concerns about any of the above
We need to see the 'light' while not being paralyzed about the 'dark' when it comes to technology and privacy. Keeping online privacy in mind in the classroom can also lead to teachable moments that can translate into a digital citizenship lesson for students to apply to technology use outside the classroom.
Canada, T. (2015, December 15). Canadian privacy law, cloud computing and how it applies to nonprofits.Retrieved from
Team, T. (n.d.). Terms of Service; Didn't Read. Retrieved from https://tosdr.org/
Nothing is more important than a safe and healthy classroom. In order for students to come to class ready to learn, they need to feel that the class is a safe place, and as a teacher I make this a priority. The health of students is also important; parents fully expect (and rightfully so) that their children are in a healthy environment. Parents would be rightfully upset if they found evidence of lead paint and asbestos in the classroom, while a teacher sat at the front of class enjoying a cigarette!
While the above scenario might seem ridiculous to us today, not too long ago this would have been a realistic scene in a class. Hindsight is 20/20, so when we hear about possible health concerns around our rapid adoption of technology in the class, it is natural for us to wonder if we are hurting our kids’ health. In 20 years, will we look at a wireless router sitting in a classroom above students’ heads with the same horror as we do when we consider a teacher smoking near students?
We don’t have answers yet when it comes to some of these technological advances and their effect of health, but we do know that we live in a connected world and that the internet is ubiquitous. We have the students in our class with us, and we have a world of information at our fingertips, and the ability for our students to connect with each other and disseminate and create new knowledge. The students will do this away from the classroom, so as teachers I believe that we need to embrace it and help model and teach students how to use technology effectively and safely, while ensuring their health is maintained.
There is no doubt that students spend a lot of time in front of screens; Houghton et al (2015) notes that paediatricians have indicated that kids should spend less than 2 hours a day in front of screens in order to maintain their physical health. The authors also indicate that 45% of kids 8 years old and less, and 80% of kids 16 years old, spend more than 2 hours of time looking at screens throughout the day. Students are in front of screens at home on their phones, laptops, and then come to school and spend all day in computer labs, using smartboards, phones, and other devices for school work. At our school, a new Chromebook pilot will ensure that students will have ready access to a screen for the entire school day.
2 hours is not realistic in a connected world.
We do know that students are experiencing issues such as back, neck, and wrist problems. Murphy (2011) suggests that students should treat technology use in a manner similar to an athlete about to do an exercise; do some stretching and other physical preparation before and during technology use. As teachers, we can model some stretches in our classes, and incorporate them into our daily routine to help mitigate one of the health issues surrounding technology use. Technology teachers like myself can even reach out to our physed staff to find ways to make stretching a fun activity to help get our classes using Chromebooks started. See below just one of many video resources available that illustrate some exercises that can be done in the class.
We are doing our students a disservice by being afraid of technology. We need to embrace it, while adapting and working around the pitfalls.
Houghton, S., Hunter, S. C., Rosenberg, M., Wood, L., Zadow, C., Martin, K., & Shilton, T. (2015). Virtually impossible: Limiting Australian children and adolescents daily screen based media use. BMC Public Health, 15(1). doi:10.1186/1471-2458-15-5
Murphy, S. (2011, February 22). Tech overload causing kids back, neck problems. Retrieved from http://www.nbcnews.com/id/41718918/ns/technology_and_science-digital_home/t/tech-overload-causing-kids-back-neck-problems/#.WW43YojytPY
PT, M. (Producer). (2012, June 1). Top 3 Exercises for Carpal Tunnel Syndrome [Video file]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gTxQqu9USC4
I have used memes in the class, and I considered it to be successful. I have used the "Son I am Disappoint" meme to light-heartedly indicate to a student that I was displeased with performance on a task in class, and the student laughed with me, and made corrections (and also told the class about my timely use of the meme).
On several occasions, I have used the "Unhelpful Teacher Meme" to poke fun at my own mistakes, all in an effort to connect with the kids at their level. I have been lauded by some for my ability to connect with kids; for my classroom management, I typically build a rapport with the kids, and when things go sideways in class (either academically or behaviourally), I will utilize my relationship to help the student see the issue from my perspective, and to help build a bridge to help move the student along and to align both of our goals. I find that communicating with students at their level is an effective way to reach them.
I am now re-evaluating this approach.
This week I read the article by Zittran, Reflections on Internet Culture (2014) and an important note stuck with me. The author makes a good point, in that nobody can own or claim a meme, and its symbolism can change at a moment's notice. Zittran makes this point by mentioning how a meme was commercialized by a clothing manufacturer and put on t-shirts, and an internet community (Reddit) decided to give the meme a racist symbol, thus reclaiming it for themselves and making the t-shirts undesirable..."The commercialization its use of the meme represented
angered Reddit users...If the Redditors weren’t going to have it, no one was going to have it" (p. 384). Recently, an internet cartoon named "Pepe The Frog" was co-opted by alt-right neo Nazis, and is now used by the staunchest of Trump supporters.
I wonder what would happen if, in an effort a few years ago to connect with kids, that I used the original Pepe meme on an assignment, and did not know that its significance had changed? How would a student in my class feel about seeing that meme, during the height of the 'muslim ban' in the news coming from the US? I certainly would not want to suggest any kind of support for this initiative in the US, and I would hate for students to feel unsafe in my class if they thought I was pushing this agenda.
Use memes at your own risk, if you choose to do so at all. You are using a nuanced communication tool that you don't have full control over, and the pitfalls could be as disastrous as they are advantageous, and could end up creating an emotionally unsafe environment, and jeopardize your career and the learning of your students.
Nuzzi, O. (2016, May 26). How Pepe the Frog Became a Nazi Trump Supporter and Alt-Right Symbol. Retrieved from http://www.thedailybeast.com/how-pepe-the-frog-became-a-nazi-trump-supporter-and-alt-right-symbol
Son, I Am Disappoint. (2016, March 25). Retrieved from http://knowyourmeme.com/memes/son-i-am-disappoint
Unhelpful High School Teacher. (2017, June 26). Retrieved from http://knowyourmeme.com/memes/unhelpful-high-school-teacher
Zittrain, J. L. (2014). Reflections on Internet Culture. Journal of Visual Culture, 13(3), 388-394. doi:10.1177/1470412914544540
I wonder if we as teachers should be careful about focusing too much on the dark side of teaching digital citizenship. The world is full of dangers, and as teachers we need to do our best to prepare our students for all the challenges facing them. I have found myself delivering heart-felt lessons to my students on:
- texting and driving
- sharing inappropriate content
- effects of technology on empathy
- phishing, fraud, and viruses
But I wonder if we actually get through to the kids if we come across as being too 'preachy' or negative. In the film "InRealLife" by Beeban Kidron, a commentator made the observation that kids will use technology to escape the anxieties of the real world by retreating to the virtual one, so I wonder if focusing too much on the negative aspects of technology will just encourage students to rely on technology even more to escape the new dangers we present them with. The BC Children's Hospital warns us that students will use the fight or flight method to deal with anxiety, and we as teachers need to be wary of framing too much of the world in a negative light, or as having dangers around every corner. The hospital also notes that 1 in 10 students will come to class with an anxiety issue, so we must be careful as teachers not to be too negative in our discussions around digital citizenship.
How to we prepare our students, while not having them tune us out or to cause them to be more anxious? Fight or flight, anyone?
As this semester progresses, I believe it is important for me to find resources that prepare students for the real world digitally, but in a positive manner. I will seek out resources such as that developed by the Newfoundland government on being positive while teaching digital citizenship, that is also engaging. I don't want to be the person at the front of the room, wagging my finger at them and throwing out warnings that make half the class anxious, and the other tune out.
Fight or Flight [Digital image]. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/8/87/The_Fight_or_Flight_Response.jpg
Kidron, B. (Director). (2013). InRealLife [Video file]. Retrieved July 8, 2017, from https://www.nfb.ca/film/inreallife/
Newfoundland, Canada, Government of Newfoundland, Department of Education. (2013). Teaching Digital Citizenship. Retrieved from http://www.ed.gov.nl.ca/edu/k12/safeandcaring/procedure_5.pdf
Tips for Teachers of Anxious Students. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.ocdsb.ca/com/Mental%20Health%20Docs/Tips%20for%20Teachers-%20Anxious%20Students.pdf