Debate #7 – Last, but not Least

“It is not enough to be compassionate.  You must act.”  – The Dalai Lama

This debate was by far the most emotional one for me, considering what is happening in the world at the present moment.  People are moved to act, to fight the injustices of our world.  But, how that related back to the classroom is such a complex issue which was highlighted by both sides of the topic:  Educators have a responsibility to use social media and technology to promote social justice.  This topic was far different than any of the other six we had and I believe comes with more long term impacts.

Michala and Brad were quick to point out that there is tremendous risk when it comes to dealing with social justice in the classroom, and that adding technology increases that risk further. I was shocked to hear that when Brad did a recycling project within his classroom I was disheartened to hear that he received backlash from others. However, I recognize that regardless of the opinions of others those students underwent meaningful learning that cannot be taken away.  I believe that it probably taught them a valuable lesson about the fact that when it comes to doing what it is right a person cannot be worried about what other people think.

I find this topic of social justice in the classroom completely foreign to me due to my own experience growing up in China where the idea of social justice is ultimately non-existent.  In fact, the voices of people are repressed and any opinions put on social media would be immediately censored and taken down.  The fact that it is even possible to create a forum to teach social justice within the classroom environment is phenomenal to me and I think that it will create much more critical thinkers and citizens who will challenge the actions of others in order to work for justice.  However, it is important to note that children are very vulnerable and can be at risk of easily being swayed by the opinions of others.  Educators need to remain neutral and allow students to create their own opinions.  My hope is that educators can give their students a voice in order to be meaningful advocates in their own lives.


Openness and sharing in schools are unfair to our kids

Melinda and me agree that as David Wiley stated, “openness is the only means of education” and “if there is no sharing and giving feedback, there is no education”. We still believe though that openness and sharing in schools are unfair to our kids for a number of reasons. 

When it comes to openness and sharing, our children’s privacy can greatly be jeopardized. With our growing immigrant population, we feel that first of all the language barrier needs to be addressed. Schools need to make sure that our families completely understand the media release form that is sent home at the beginning of the school year. With the help of Microsoft Translator, Talking Points etc. schools can provide translations as well as additional examples to make sure parents are aware of what the media release form implies.

The story of the 4-year-old Karim from Toronto even made us wonder if posting students’ pictures on social media should be part of the media release form at all? Karim’s parents not wanting their child to have pictures posted on social media decided not to sign the media release form. This resulted of Karim’s picture being left out of a school project and he didn’t make it to the class picture either. When the case reached the superintendent’s office, the parents were told that this is the only way to completely protect Karim’s privacy.  

As Jessica Baron highlighted in the article Posting about your kids online could damage their future, when it comes to the consent form, we notice a conflict between the parent’s freedom to post and a child’s right to privacy. Since the pictures posted of children become part of their digital footprint, we believe children should have a say regarding this matter. According to psychologists, “When kids get to their early teens, they have a massive change with hormones, a sense of self-awareness and wanting to form their own identity… If their parents are constantly posting, it’s robbing those kids of the opportunity to work out how to express themselves.” A 2016 survey conducted by researchers at the University of Michigan found that while children ages 10 to 17 “were really concerned” about the ways their parents shared their lives online, their parents were far less worried. About three times more children than parents thought there should be rules about what parents shared on social media.” Parents have to work out what’s right for them but be aware that this is another person, another human being, who may not thank them for it in 15 years to come.

Additionally, children’s personal data that comes with oversharing can be misused on social media. Much of the time, students and parents are not aware of its adverse impact of openness and sharing when their personal life is exposed to the public.  Either their parents’ or their own online oversharing could also potentially lead to “online grooming”, which “takes place when someone builds an emotional connection with a child in order to gain the child’s trust for sexual exploitation or abuse, or recruitment to terrorist or extremist causes”. Sharon Kirkey in the article Do you know where your child’s image is? describes the darker side of sharenting. Facebook, Instagram and other social media accounts serve as the perfect place for pedophiles to lift, manipulate and photo-shop children’s pictures posted by their parents. According to one Australian study roughly half of images shared on pedophile sites are taken from social media sites. The idea behind the article is not to silence parents, but to help them be aware of the safety concerns. “A recent study of 152,000 reports to Cybertip found 80% of images and videos involving child sexual abuse involved children under 12. The majority was under age 8, and more than 3% involved babies and toddlers.”

Another reason why we feel openness and sharing is unfair to our kids is the use of Open Educational Resources. Knowing how to read laterally and finding accurate, quality information in a timely manner can be very stressful. When it comes to showcasing learning, in order to be able to show off their performance, students often fall into the trap of plagiarizing and copyright.

Technology in the classroom has even more of an impact when students can continue their ed tech use at home. However, not all students have the same access to technology due to a lack of Internet access and devices. Those students are more likely to fail to complete their homework because they lack a reliable computer or internet connection at home. The limitations caused by the digital divide often make sharing and openness impossible. These barriers cause an ‘opportunity gap’ that can lead to a negative experience when students are trying to apply for further studies or enter the work force. 

One more issue in terms of openness is the unsupervised sharing in our schools. In many schools, students are allowed to use cell phones during lunch break. The main concern is that this is where cyberbullying, sexting, and sharing pictures/ videos without permission happen. The solution to this problem is not to ban the cell phones and forbid sharing but as our peers Skyler and Alyssa suggested, to bring them in the classrooms and teach our ‘digital natives’ through examples to be respectful and responsible digital citizens.

Please check out our Wakelet resource collection and our video why we think openness and sharing in schools are unfair to our kids!

When students have used mobile phones as part of their lives, We should ban it or take advantage of it?

I agree with the statement proposed by Jill and Tarina: Smartphone is one of the drivers distracting students from concentrating on their learning in the classroom. But I personally believe that this is not a compelling reason that smartphones should be banned in the classroom. This is primarily because Regardless of whether there is a ban, students will still use mobile phones to study outside the school and continue to use mobile phones in their future workplace. If a Smartphone can make work, communication, and information transmission more efficient, why is it impossible to use it in the classroom?

We have seen many shreds of evidence that smart devices have enhanced students’ learning process. For instance, If a student doesn’t understand a term or concept, the student can search the knowledge instantly. Apps like Google or Microsoft translator can reduce the language barriers for those new immigrant students. As Melinda pointed out:

” For a newcomer life without being fluent in the respective country’s language can be very stressful and having access to a cell phone could help ease this”.

Most importantly, social media, like Twitter provides students with more interactive space to communicate with their teachers and peers, this is an especially effective way to engage those introverted students with classroom discussion. For me, the nature of distraction does not come from the phone itself but the improper use of the mobile phone. Educators must better understand the design of learning scenarios that genuinely exploit the unique pedagogical possibilities of mobile technologies instead of replicating existing behavior patterns.

On the other hand, encouraging smartphone use in the classroom is a way of improving students’ “cell phone etiquette” as it is suggested by Brad. Most children are spending a lot of time online in or beyond school. A poor mastery in digital etiquette is likely to exacerbate social issues improper phone use create. Considering the fact that most parents grew up without relevant education, they may feel helpless when facing such a tricky issue. Therefore, it is important for teachers in their classrooms to teach our children how to behave and treat others online. Failure to do so may result in children abusing technology, harassing others and even putting them at risk of cyberbullying.
Although smartphones can present some risks, it’s important to understand what the benefits are to give your child the guidance they need to make the best out of their smart devices.

Mental Health Issues Come with Intensive Social Media Use

Undoubtedly, for our digital natives, social media has become an integral part of our lives. Most children may be familiar with technology and the Internet, but you may forget that they are still learning and not equipped to understand the risks and falls of constant contact.

As Laurie and Christina highlighted in their opening statement video: Constantly communicating through social media may have a negative impact on children who are not able to handle emotional stress.
When obsessed with social media, Children may be more inclined to measure their acceptance or receive gratification by the number of ‘likes’ on a status update, instead, a lack of likes on their posts on social media may prompt them to perpetually refresh their social media feeds. With such constantly compulsive use, feelings of anxiety and loneliness would be amplified.

Laurie and Christina also introduced us to the popular concept of Fear of Missing Out (FOMO). This phenomenon already happens to me quite a long time. I refresh social media on average every hour. Occasionally after a few hours of continuous concentration on completing something, the first moment of relaxation is often to keep up to date with the activities of my online social circles.

Image Credit

I agree with what Dean suggested FOMO is not a new phenomenon exclusive to social media, it also happens before Social Media permeating. But according to the study, for children with attention issues, social media may make it worse:

“they tend to become hyper-focused on the screen for extended periods of time. They find mobile devices and social media even more consuming than typical adolescents, and it is especially challenging for them to shift their attention to something else. For these children, FOMO can increase dramatically, leading to an increase in ADHD symptoms, depression, unhappiness, and even aggression”.

When our kids are struggling with these problems, as educators or parents, we may need to help them understand: you can’t really get all the information from the circle of social media, you can’t really keep up with all the trends, you can’t really farewell to loneliness, and you can’t really be the one you carefully dress up. Perhaps what is important about being truly satisfied with what we are in the real world is the moment when we are no longer controlled by the virtual world.

Why do I need a teacher when I’ve got Google?

The debate topic “Schools should not focus on teaching things that can be easily googled” triggered me to think about the following question. By clicking a mouse or tapping a smartphone, endless exposure to an abundance of online information has reshaped how we socialize, educate ourselves about the world around us. If all the information can be summoned instantly by googling, what is the point of studying them at school and at university for years?

Everything can be googled, which does not mean that we can systematically master a subject or a knowledge system. With information overload, the quality of information we are searching varies, much of them are more fragmented. Transforming this fragmented information into a well-organized knowledge framework requires critical thinking skills, which most students are unable to acquire by simply searching online. In other words, every piece of knowledge has its own structure, and in many cases, it intricately entwines others. Additionally, It is thought that excessive reliance on Googling will have an adverse impact on students’ creativity. Thanks to the artificial intelligence algorithms, search engines like Google is gathering your preference to provide you homogenized information. Once algorithms start guiding decisions, students will lose their independent thinking ability. However, how to deconstruct them and form an individual’s cognition towards the world is what teachers are imparting to us. According to Ian Gilbert in “Why Do I Need A Teacher When I’ve Got Google? ”, a teachers job in today’s technological world is to “help young people know where to find the knowledge, to know what to do with it when they get it, to know ‘good’ knowledge from ‘bad’ knowledge, to know how to use it, to apply it, to synthesize it, to be creative with it, to add to it even, to know which bits to use and when and how to use them and to know how to remember key parts of it” (p.24). These skills facilitate students to use existing knowledge to create new content, by engaging in problem-solving and critical exploration and developing a new learning environment.

As Tarina indicated “Google is a tool, not a teacher.” Google provides students with a huge abundance of information, but the role of teachers is beyond the information providers. The purpose of education is not to turn students into Wikipedia but helps students build and develop a problem-solving learning environment to inquire, question and criticize existing knowledge, eventually facilitate them to become the creators of knowledge, an individual with independent thinking.

Technology Brings Us Equity Along with Issues to Be Solved

Both sides put forward compelling and thought-provoking arguments around this week’s Great Debate topic ‘Technology is a force for equity in society’. Initially, I thought I would be an absolute agree side, but that was not the case. I found myself swayed back and forth as the debate progressed. As it is argued in my last blogpost, any innovation (technology) may come with issues and side-effects that challenge teachers, students and the whole society.

Victoria and Jasmine pointed out that the educational inequity is exacerbated by the fast and growing appetite for Ed Tech use, linked to an issue that is unfolding on a global scale, — The Digital Divide. The digital divide exists, and challenges individuals and the society even in regions or countries with reliable information and communication technology infrastructure and household connectivity. Efforts to provide reliable connectivity and affordable devices to all might be the ultimate solution but barely can bring about significant effects in a few years. To lessen already existing inequalities, we must also support other alternatives rather than limiting education to online and digital means. Although we’ll need to come to terms with how technology positively affects widespread places and people, excessive reliance on technology may limit creativity in all ways of learning and teaching.

On the other hand, I also agree that technology is a force of equity in society. President Franklin Roosevelt declared four universal freedoms, one of them is Freedom from Want.
OERs provide a wide range of educational resources, that gives those who are willing to learn an opportunity to achieve success. Technology and Online Education allow people from humble families to be exposed to high-quality education which is equal to the education received at university. In other words, technology enables people to have more options in pursuit of what they are willing to know without worrying about social class, financial constraints, amongst other things.

I would like to end this post with a story of one of my favourite open-source software developers, as it is said in his self-introduction on his Github homepage,

“thanks to the Free Software Foundation and the GNU project that a guy coming from a humble family with not much resources learned how to program and achieve success as valuable professional in the IT industry. Today, I share my work under the GPL license that guarantees that anyone using software that I’ve written will be able to use it, execute it, study it, modify it, redistribute it or even sell it with totally freedom”.

What a vivid story that demonstrates to us how technology promotes educational equity.

Technology in the classroom enhances learning

This week under the topic “Technology in the classroom enhances learning”. The great debate in which Amanda, Nancy, argued for the agree with stance and Trevor, Matt argued the disagree stance. Both sides made meaningful and insightful arguments around their stance respectively.

Like most of us, I am in favour of the Affirmative. The points that stood out to me were thoughts around the idea that technology alone will never make education take one step forward, but devices and related technologies will play an important role in the hands of teachers who know how to properly integrate technology with daily teaching. As Tarina mentioned in her post that “the integration of technology into a classroom needs to be purposeful”. What strategies related to electronic devices would bring on an engaging classroom and how to steer clear of distraction that comes along with the use of technology may be the two major problems to take into account in the current school context.

Your classroom would not be enhanced by simply using technology, instead, lacking a well-organized technology use may fail you to achieve your initial purpose. When I first used Quizlet in my classroom, I took it for granted that my students’ interests in the learning of Chinese characters would be aroused by this what’s so-called “technology-enhanced learning”. But it was a totally messed up experience that they kept asking me to allow them to stream the Youtube video or to download Roblox rather than concentrating on those flashcards on Quizlet.

  • Why was it unable to be effective as it was supposed to be by replacing a real-life flashcards game with a visual one?
  • What else I need to improve my teaching skills?

I had been struggling with these upsets until I realized this enhancement was still in the first phase of the SAMR model created by Dr. Rueben Puentedura. As it is explained followed:

“At this stage, technology is directly substituted for a more traditional one. It is a simple, bare-bones, direct replacement”.

This simple replacement comes with no functional change. It was still a teacher-based classroom setting and limited student participation and on-task peer interaction.

Coming up with these thoughts, I started seeking genuine technology-enhanced teaching strategies in order to achieve the second and the third stage of SAMR model. Since I combined Kahoot games with the learning materials on Quizlet, in comparison with their previous low participation, students have come to start taking the initiative to review and learn those contents posted on Quizlet. The combination of Quizlet and Kahoot! is a method that has enriched the quality of student learning in my classroom, with a positive impact on classroom dynamics, engagement, motivation and improved learning experience. As Amanda said, Technology is not making kids use Google to find answers of questiones but enhancing meaning and learning because kids become curious and they want to deepen their learning.

Overall, I agree with the statement that technology enhances student learning. This is true across every grade, school size, and school type — technology has changed the entire system of learning. And yet, pervasive as it is in the current educational context, it should be noted that any innovation may come with issues and side-effects that challenge teachers, students and the whole society.

Reimagining What Teaching Looks Like During Quarantine Days And Beyond

I miss those days in a physical classroom. I teach a beginner Chinese course for the age group of 7-9 years at weekend language school. Games-based tasks accounted for two-thirds of all my course delivery, in which sitting in a circle and playing vocabulary cards brought kids great fun. Most importantly, when playing games with kids, I could clearly spot whether an individual student has a good grasp of the knowledge or not.

The rest of the course activities came around playing Kahoot, the most used app in my classroom. This was an unbeatable way of totally allowing them to stay engaged in my class without any distractions.

But with the coronavirus pandemic shutting down schools across the country, kids, their parents and teachers are reimagining what the school day looks like. However, those changes extend well beyond what they need in a brick and mortar school. For many parents and school kids, it means a sudden deluge of technology, while selecting the appropriate and consolidating them in one platform could help kids and their parents spend less time and energy learning technology and steering clear of registering countless websites and apps.

I am fortunate that the guideline and learning outcome from eci834 have inspired me a lot in creating my online course. Google Classroom is a platform that all the learning materials could be consolidated in one place, in which, parents and kids could stay focused on the well-chosen materials, instead of searching around on the internet.

Another aspect I need to consider before delivering my online course is that I cannot take it for granted that every participant would have the same knowledge of using technology as what I have acquired. In this regard, I posted some walkthrough documents with screenshots and descriptive words aiming at showing participants how to use those related apps and sites before they hit the external links corresponding to course content. Google Classroom plays more than being an asynchronous learning management platform. When I host synchronous sessions via Zoom, it also helps keep my mind focused on the task at hand—and avoid potential embarrassment, like having too many tabs open at one time could even affect the quality of my call.

Beyond Google classroom, I primarily use Quizlet and Kahoot to facilitate my Zoom sessions. Quizlet allows my kids to learn the Chinese characters in a visual way by flipping the cards I have designed in advance. The genius part on Quizlet is when you type in the vocabulary on their cards, it always can automatically match a random image to your content, which enhances vocabulary memory associated with the authentic objects.

As for me, Kahoot will never disappoint me when it serves the way of motivating individual kids to catch up with others. “Let’s do it again”, this is what they always said when a round of the game ends.

Flipgrid is my choice for offering extra chances for the interactions between me and my kiddos for the rest days of the weekend synchronous class. My video contents on our Flipgrid community rely on feedbacks from communicating with parents via Wechat and text messages as well as kids’ responses to my questions raised on our synchronous Zoom sessions. In this way, I can post a video to help them address what largely shared problems they are struggling with or design a personalized video to fix the problems that are challenging individuals. So far this strategy goes well as my class is on a scale with approximately 6-8 kids.

One of the major concerns over my online course is that my course could become less fascinating, attractive, or engrossing if I would stick to the same set of apps or tools in my visual classroom. So exploring more apps that can fit in my classroom has become a priority. I really appreciate those apps and tools introduced last night, some of which serve a similar purpose with my current tools but come with the fresh layouts and new features to be explored. My plan for the next week is to dive into Edpuzzle‘s feature of making an interactive and student-centred video and to design a set of questions on

Keeping kids engaged during online learning is always a big challenge for me. My personal teaching practice online has convinced me that embedding technology into teaching holds the key to keeping courses dynamic and evolving in the 21th-century education setting.