Becoming Fully Literate… Reading Between the Lines

Never before have I realized that distinguishing between fake news and authentic news was such a difficult endeavor.  However, according to a Harvard study that was highlighted by Jaimie and Jocelyn, “80% of students are unable to identify a fake news story from a real news story”.  As was indicated by Logan Petlak , it is imperative that we teach our students to become more media literate, and fake news presents a great opportunity for learning… teaching our students to have healthy skepticism.  This really got me to thinking about how I could incorporate the development of this type of skeptical learning into my major project unit development.  Why not present the students with various news stories and headlines, some authentic and some fake, and have them attempt to distinguish between the two based on some of the skills outlines by Logan.  These include:

  • Consider the source
  • Author credentials
  • Date posted
  • Check biases
  • Read beyond post
  • Supporting sources within the article

I’m really excited to move forward with this aspect of my project!


I found it interesting that Regan  found research that indicated that “[In terms of distinguishing fake news] same results found in poorer, under-resourced schools as in wealthier schools.”  I think this further perpetuates the notion that teaching digital citizenship and media literacy falls into the laps of the educational system. What other institution has access to all types of learners regardless of socio-economic background? In order to educate and support a fully literate future generation, teachers must incorporate the use of different technological tools throughout all lessons and subject areas.  Teachers not only need to teach their student how to properly use technological equipment and programs, but also how to be critical consumers, and informed purveyors of information.  The technological age, while relatively new and emergent within the educational system, is here to stay.  Educators need to move beyond the tried and tested teaching methods and systems that have been used over the course of the last century (as they were developed to support the needs of the industrial revolution) and restructure and direct the methods to meet the needs of the technological demands that are going to inform the direction of our future!


Image result for old school classroom               



To teach or not to teach…

I don’t think that’s the question.

As Dani Hackel explained, our students are completely surrounded by and immersed in the digital world, and it’s no longer a question of if digital citizenship should be taught, but rather how it should be taught in order to foster and encourage the informed viewpoints of our students.  She argued that digital literacy should be taught in much the same way as math or reading, and I have to agree. I think teachers often rely on their personal experiences within education to base their teaching philosophies and perspectives, and because many of us completed much of our educational journeys prior to the digital age, we don’t always see the value or importance of including technological components within our lessons.  However technology is here to stay, and is only going to continue to become more visible and prominent within society.  I think rather than resisting the inclusion of technology within the classroom (ie. no cellphone policies) we instead learn how it can be utilized to best serve the learning needs of our students, and ultimately use it to our advantage as an educational tool.


A big part of teaching media literacy to our students, is helping them to become critical consumers. I really appreciated how Erin Wiley equated media literacy to skepticism in her Powtoon.  What a great comparison!  Staci Senger furthered these ideas when she discussed that the role of teachers should include assisting our students in developing skills to look deeper into the message.  She emphasized the importance of asking questions and becoming inquisitive consumers of media information. Jaque Bampi also touched on this point when she discussed that the information to which students are exposed should not be censored, but rather teachers should be present to look and watch alongside them to offer support, understanding and guidance.  To be honest I was so mesmerized by Jaque’s voice that I listened to her video three times (have you ever heard anything so melodic and soothing!!) Girl, you need to break into the world of audio book recording artist, so that I can buy every one!!


Finally, Mr. Pat Maze… that man is as charismatic as they come!  I’ve always eaten up everything he says, and it doesn’t hurt when he’s just so darn bang on when he speaks.  When he discussed the responsibility of teachers to teach new methods and inform students, I believe that spoke directly to the issue of teaching digital literacy in school.  For some students, their time at school is the most consistent, routine and reliable time that they experience.  How can we not utilize that platform to inform them about what may be considered one of the biggest influencers in their life?  It is our responsibility as teachers to not only educate our students about what technology is, but also how to use it critically and responsibly, how they can use it to their advantage moving forward in their educational and professional lives, and how to decipher between what’s reality and what is socially constructed.

Now, as far as the discussion about the dichotomy of personal and professional spheres, I think there’s still some work to be done, and some precedents to be set, but I’m hopeful that this is something that we’ll establish over time as people continue to become more familiar with, and comfortable in, the digital age.




New Age Goal Setting

This week I made a self-realization… I’m a cynical pessimist.  Okay that may be a tad extreme, but there were definitely some “glass half empty” moments.  I realized that when I hear “digital footprint”, I have a deficit-based mindset, in that I assume the worst in terms of what people put out into the digital world. I came to this conclusion when we were tasked with the “Digital Sleuthing Activity” (which was awesome!!)  Immediately upon commencing my detective work, I thought, “I’m going to dig up something real good.”  I consider myself a bit of a Facebook Creeping Aficionado, and I was certain that I was going to dig up every bit of dirt there was to dig up on this poor social experiment volunteer.

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via Google Images

Fortunately, what I came to realize was that this American high school tech. teacher, had done an outstanding job of censoring her online presence to the point that there was no real dirt to speak of.  In fact, through images of folk fests, beer tastings, and adorable pictures of her toddler, I’m pretty sure we could be best friends!  I very much appreciated that while maintaining her professional appeal, she still came across as a very authentic, approachable, and fun-loving individual.  Censorship does not have to pretentious and boring!!

This brings me to my second revelation  (and no I don’t have a revelation every time that I study!). What if we worked with our students to develop their digital footprint in the same way that we work with them on goal-setting? As Jocelyn Carr alluded to, perhaps digital footprints can be more accurately referred to as digital tattoos, due to their permanence. As was stated during this week’s class, “Be the person you want to present to the world”.  Through education, why don’t we embrace our students’ technological activism, and utilize it as a platform to discuss personal, educational, and social goals. As Wendy explored in her blog, technology should be embedded throughout the classroom and curriculum to “invent, design, create, and build”. In addition, Megan discussed the importance of classroom teachers being proactive vs. reactive in terms of preparing our students for society.

As the mother of an almost two-year old son, I am already aware of his emerging digital footprint.  As a parent, I want to ensure that when he “takes over” his digital identity, I’ve created a solid foundation that includes, a pictorial “scrapbook” of positive travel experiences, personal accomplishments, and depicts a strong, and loving social support system.  I want him to understand the care that I put into developing his online presence, and hope that he builds on it with the same thoughtfulness.  I believe that these same ideas can carry over to our classrooms, and our students, in guiding and assisting them in the development of their own digital footprint.


My classmates are geniuses!

Well a lot of food for thought this week, starting with some excellent content catalyst presentations.  I honestly had to start a Word Doc to get down some of the fantastic information that was being presented.  A major take-away for me, in terms of my major project, was just how imperative it is that digital citizenship and digital identity be taught to elementary school students.  It was very interesting to listen to Jessica and Katie express how important they see developing digital literacies and citizenship in high school students, and then to stretch it even further, to  gain insight from Krisanne’s experience in post-secondary education.  I’m really starting to gain an understanding of why the development of Digital Citizenship education in the Middle Years is so crucial.  (In addition, I may take away a little T-Swift motivation music to get my students going!)  So many amazing ideas and perspectives that I can utilize to build upon when developing my unit!  To quote the Pointer Sisters, “I’m so excited” to get going on this project…

via GIPHY 

Upon reading Carter’s Blog, I was drawn to one quote in particular, “I gave my students a voice and together we came up with a very interesting and effective policy that will keep our class engaged and safe when it comes to technology”.  I think this is such an imperative consideration in terms of engaging students and making their learning experience relevant.  If we want our students to “buy-in” to what we’re teaching, they need to be part of the process.  In addition to their involvement in the inaugural stages, I think it’s imperative to encourage feedback from them and do regular check-ins throughout the unit.  Similarly to Carter, this is certainly a learning experience for me as well, and I hope I am able to capitalize on this unique opportunity for authentic collaboration and learning alongside my students.  In fact, I sincerely hope that they will take the opportunity to teach me a thing or two along the journey!

via YouTube 

Finally, I was very intrigued my Alec’s comment concerning “What is beyond Ribble’s 9?”  I think this is a very significant issue, due to the quickly evolving nature of technology.  If we, as teachers, are tasked with the responsibility of teaching and developing digital citizenship among our students, we need to be thinking about what’s coming next, and how do we equip our students to deal with new issues as they emerge.  I believe the key to this is to stay connected to our students.  Foster relationships of trust and sharing, so that they feel comfortable to come to us as they encounter new challenges in their technological world.

An Argument for Job Security

The lesson that really resonated with me this week is the notion that the “egocentric and selfish” label that is currently being placed on Gen Y’ers has been a common theme throughout history, and it’s likely not the generation that is responsible, but rather the age and time of life that Gen Y’ers currently find themselves.  Ultimately, it’s a twenty-something issue, not a generational issue.

This leads me to my second query, how is technology currently being utilized in education, and what can be done to encourage and support future growth? Too often, in my experience, I have seen technology being used as a “time-saver” for teachers.  A chance for them to catch up on marking, or plan for another lesson, while student learning is being guided by apps.  However, we’ve come to realize, this seemingly innate ability of our “Digital Natives” is not as proficient as once believed.  Therefore, just as twenty-somethings have struggled with selflessness, and accepting responsibility throughout history, elementary level students will continue to require the guidance and support from their teachers in their learning endeavours, and this includes the acquirement of technological skills.  As indicated in Kyla’s article this week, “This [poster] makes it useful not just as a visual for teacher understanding, but for students to discuss, internalize, and apply themselves.”  It is imperative that teacher’s teach their students how to properly and responsibly utilize technology beyond social media and communication apps, and instead foster the development of their student’s academic and professional technological needs.  Just as Brooke had mentioned in her blog, “The students in my classroom will need these skills in the future which means that we need to be teaching them now. Are we ready for it?”


Several reflections arose throughout my reading of 9 Things That Will Shape the Future of Education.  Many of these highlighted the importance of the teaching profession within the continued evolution of the technological age. The first is the idea of Personalized Learning.  If the development of tech tools that meet the unique capabilities of each learner does come to fruition, it would vastly enhance the educational field, especially considering the current budgetary cuts that are affecting the programming and supports that many of our learners desperately need.  However, the students will need to learn how to utilize the technology and the programs, they will need someone to facilitate this learning, and they will continue to require the face-to-face opportunities that encourages and enhances their social development.


Secondly, I was intrigued by the idea of Project Based learning outlined in the article.  While I absolutely see the validity and potential of inquiry based learning, in my experience I’ve come to realize that it’s not something that comes without guidance and practice.  Students today continue to have most of their education delivered through more traditional methods.  For many, without being given specific criteria, expectations, and guidelines, they are left feeling unsure of what direction to go.  However, through the guidance and support of the teacher, and the more times they are exposed to inquiry-based learning, the more comfortable and self-directed they will become in the future.

Finally, I really enjoyed the idea of Field Experience.  This is a step in the right direction, however caution needs to be exercised when considering some students will still require guidance and monitoring, and some will venture into several areas before finding their right fit.  We’ve already seen an emergence of career-pathways programs, and we’ll hopefully continue to see them thrive and become more prevalent.

I believe the concern of teachers eventually becoming replaced by technology is an unfounded one.  Children will always need guidance and support, and teachers need to continue to evolve their practices and engage in professional development opportunities that will allow them to meet the continuously emerging needs of their students.  Teachers need to shift their thinking from technology as a privilege or reward for good behaviour, to instead being an essential educational tool for the development of their students.

An Identity Conundrum- Me, a Digital Native?

I have often found myself feeling bad for the millennial generation, because they will never know a time before the “Big Brother” world of social media.  These poor kids will never know what it’s like to unplug, to have a fully engaged conversation with those around them, to not have practically every living moment documented by them (or for them), or to never know what it’s like to not be available at any given second.  It got me to thinking, is this what our parents thought about us with the introduction of colour television and VHS into our lives?  Is what the older generation experienced in their youth always going to be considered the “good ol’ days”?  I’m beginning to think this may be the case.  I believe a shift needs to occur from viewing technology, specifically social media, as a drain on our younger generations’ intellect and ability to engage, and instead direct our focus onto how many of the social media apps are currently, or may potentially, serve as platforms for social change and intellectual development.  After all, it is through this technology and the “digital natives” who engage with it that tomorrow’s “next thing” will emerge.  Who knows, maybe one day we’ll be looking back to a much simpler time when we could connect with all those around us by posting pictures of special memories and simply comment at the push of a button to let those we love know that we “liked”?

I very much appreciated that the speaker in the “Do Digital Natives Exist? video highlighted that simply being born after 1980 does not bestow upon you the title of “Digital Native”.  I, for one, have been very stubborn in coming around to the digital age into which I was born.

Seriously, my grandmother possesses much more “Digital Wisdom” than I do!

A big reason that I’ve been resistant to the adoption of the digital era in my life, is the same reason I’ve always been terrible at taking pictures… I don’t want to miss the real thing!  It always blows my mind when I see concert-goers videoing large portions of the show.  Why would you watch through a 3×2 lens when you can have the real experience right in front of you?  Then again, perhaps my confidence in my own memory is greatly over-estimated! Thus, the idea of IRL has always seemed a little foreign to me.  The mere fact that the tech-speak “IRL” is well known and commonly used is a bit frightening to me.  Should there be such a prominent dichotomy between real and make-believe within our society that we need to identify when we’re referring to our reality? YIKES!  Then again these are the opinions of someone who held many a conversations with her imaginary friend “Jelna”… girl was always getting me in trouble.  As a new mom and teacher, I am very much aware that technology, social media, and the ever-evolving “next new gadget” is here to stay, and it’s time I get on board.  While I’d very much like to earn my “Digital Immigrant” status, I want to maintain that it will not be to an extent that it will interfere with MRL (My Real Life).

Proposed Major Project

Due to the increasingly prevalent presence of the technological age, and specifically social media, in my middle years classroom, I have decided to focus on digital citizenship and awareness for my major project.  I would like to create an inquiry based unit that really encourages the participation and engagement of my students.  As indicated in the The Secret Social Media Lives of Teenagers article, “[A favorable] option is to help young social media users realize that their online and real-life experiences are more intertwined than they may think”.  Parents, or in my case teachers, need to shift focus from censorship to instead encouraging students to develop their own standards around appropriate online behaviour.  I would like to design lessons that illustrate real-world, relate-able situations, and encourage the students to generate the solutions through collaborative research and discourse, so that they will be better-able to incorporate their learning into their own digital citizenship practices.