Literacy for the Digital Age

Being literate has always been a sign of progress, I sign of success.  It was seen for many years as a way to bring oneself to a higher level.  To be literate was to be above the illiterate.  To be educated.  To be free.  It opened a world that was closed to so many.  Being able to read meant that you could access services, learn new things, be connected to a wider world and share your thoughts with others in the form of text.  It has historically meant the difference between having jobs, wealth, status or being a second class citizen in many countries.

In more recent years, it could be argued that there is a similar technology divide that exists in society.  Certain skills are quickly becoming necessary to properly function in day to day life.  Having an email address and being able to access it is one example of a skill that is becoming increasingly necessary in today’s world.  So many important pieces of important information are stored an accessed online as well.  Things like banking, mortgages, subscriptions to services, media content etc are all using technology to provide an experience of ease to the consumer. 

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In comparison to traditional literacy which was usually considered reading and writing, the literacies of the 21st century look much different.  Many argue that learning to write in cursive handwriting is no longer a necessary skill, whereas checking email would be considered very necessary.  In terms of what we would consider necessary skills in today’s world, above are 13 literacies broken into broad categories that are touted as being for the digital age.  Interestingly, a category entitled traditional is still included.  It is crucial that these types of conversations continue to occur in order to flesh out those literacies that are needed in society.  Many would also site physical literacy and mathematical literacies as important tools in preparing for the world of tomorrow. In the following video, I outline the importance of Media/Digital Literacy.  I also highlighted the fact that being media literate is about more than just tools.  It is about thinking critically.

The more we can encourage students to think critically about the world around us, the more aware they will be of the varied nuances of digital messages.  In addition, as stated in this Media Smarts article, students must also be able to be smart consumers of products, recognize the role of media in culture, create media responsibly and recognize point of view.  In a changing and intense world, the biggest asset teachers have in media literacy education is parents.  As stated below, it is at home that kids will grapple with ideas and become independent thinkers.






What does Community have to do with Digital Citizenship?

Although much has been said about digital citizenship in education, what does it look like when it is truly introduced in a cross-curricular manner?  Although there is a great framework in place for Saskatchewan teachers as Krista and Kelsie pointed out in their recent video on the subject of digital citizenship, it is at times difficult to implement in a strategic and meaningful way.  In reflecting on the question of the educators’ role in digital citizenship, I realized several things.  First of all, digital citizenship has been largely focused on elementary students.  Due to the fact that high school students are ‘generally’ more mature  and have developed the technical skills to use technology, teachers and parents often  assume that they also know how to be responsible digital citizens online.  Secondly, I realized that in the 10 years that I have been teaching, digital citizenship education has almost exclusively been defined by the idea of digital safety.  The thought being that if we can at least keep kids safe while they are online, then we have done our jobs.  This is a strategy driven by fear and, as witnessed throughout history, the best laid plans driven by fear can have dire consequences.

Digital Citizenship education has to be about more than fear mongering and trying to keep kids from visiting certain websites online.  There several key aspects necessary for true digital citizens to emerge within a school.  To break things down I would like to examine 2 key questions.  Firstly,  What does digital citizenship mean?  Some common responses might be;

1. Being responsible and respectful to others in the community.

2. Caring about your community.

3. Being informed about the needs within your school and community.

4. Doing your best to make your community a better place.

It is clear that the common theme here is community.  The living, moving organisms that make up our physical and digital world.  The key to educating the future generation of digital citizens does not lie in strategies of protection but in community.  This is why schools with higher rates of belonging and connections with regard to school culture have fewer issues with social media and online bullying.  Understanding a school’s culture and climate are key aspects in enacting change in any fashion as pointed by Macneil in his study.    If a school has an existing culture and climate of positivity, community and engagement, good digital citizenship will follow.  It is crucial to understand that the digital world is simply a reflection of ourselves as human beings.  If positive school climate and culture foster community engagement and achievement, positive digital interactions will follow.  

A second important question to consider is this:

Why is digital citizenship important?

1. We need good digital citizens to make our school and community better for everyone.

2. It is our duty and obligation as digital citizens to do our part.

Just as we expect certain things of our administration, our teachers, and our students, we must have high expectations in our online interactions as well.  So often I find that students and many time teachers are unsure of what the expectations are for themselves.  What is considered acceptable to post online?  With whom may I have an interaction online?  How often should I be online?  How should I portray myself in online spaces?  In what forums may I speak out online about issues that matter to me?  These are questions that are not often discussed in schools perhaps.  The reality is that expectations for digital citizenship online need to be clearly defined in any school in order to foster caring and engaged digital citizens.  This is something I hope to address with our core teachers at my school in the near future.

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With the conditions of a positive school culture and digital expectations clearly defined, it becomes much more feasible to engage students in conversations around digital citizenship.  In many ways our Saskatchewan curriculum has many areas of crossover in which digital citizenship themes could be included.  If our province desires to be  a leader in this field, it will be important for schools to establish these expectations for students and staff.  As Quijada aptly pointed out in her TedTalk, themes like deconstructing media messages could be discussed in many different courses including Health Wellness, Psychology, Social Studies, or ELA.  Rob Williams points out that these ideas about media haven’t radically changed over time, we simply have more media content coming at us every day.  In his view, skepticism is the key to driving digital media education.  I believe this is an important piece of being a good digital citizen but it is somewhat simplistic.  As we learned through the discussion with Pat Maze this past week, there are often more grey areas than black and white.

On a more personal level, I need to be better about modelling what being a good community member of our school looks like.  I believe if every teacher commits to promoting a positive school culture and encouraging high expectations of digital citizenship, we will be on a steady path to where we want to be as a province.

Teaching digital citizenship should, in essence, be an offshoot of  what teachers are already doing all day, every day, anyway:  teaching kids to be good humans.

We are all in the business of raising up responsible and engaged citizens.  Keep encouraging students and modelling how to be the best they can be.  That is the role of teachers in digital citizenship education or as I prefer to think of it, Character Education!


Mirror Mirror on the Wall: What’s your Digital Reflection?

How do you define yourself?  Digital identity can be described as the digital representation of a physical entity.  This could be a person, an organization or even a school district for example.  In today’s world of new and emerging technologies, managing one’s identity online has become a crucial and necessary skill to have.  Some have argued that digital duality does not exist in the strict sense and that there is no true demarcation line between a digital self and a real-world self.  Others agree that digital identities are simply a reflection of what we choose to show in the mirror.  In other words, we can choose to reflect our true nature or, for some, the choice exists to portray a totally new persona online.  It has often been described as a footprint, a tattoo or a reflection but no matter the metaphor, it has become apparent that having an online presence is the way the world has moved.  As Dr. Alec Couros describes below, having control over our identity online is not always easy when we consider the apps, websites, and companies that house much of our data.  In essence, how do we allow students to experiment with their digital identities in a responsible way that fosters connection and collaboration?

One of the more profound ways to help students in this manner is through leading by example.  When I think back to when I first started building my digital identity, it probably was nothing more than a Facebook page and maybe a few images on a google search.  Now, however, there is a whole host of apps and websites that own my data.  Although this may not be troubling for some, the fact of the matter is that in examination of the terms of use of many of these apps we find that any data uploaded to these websites ceases to be our own property and can be reused without permission.  For most in today’s society, this makes little difference in their day to day lives.  However, in my opinion, it will become evident in the coming years that prudence with what is posted online will be a valuable skill.  In reading Jaque’s blog post on this topic it became clear that I am not the only one who has become more rigid in deciding what to share online.  It seems as though increasingly there is little to no filtering being done before photos are shared or live streams started.  In France there are even new regulations to discourage parents from sharing photos of their children without discretion.

As I have built my digital identity, I have moved away from the constant uploading of personal data and have started to manage who has access to my personal photos and information.  Certain platforms are used strictly for professional posts such as this blog, Twitter, and Youtube for example.  I have tried to curate a profile and identity that would reflect positively at all times on myself, my family, and my profession.  This is what is at the crux of the argument for more inclusion of digital citizenship lessons in schools.  The importance for the future of our students and our society con not be understated.

In examining digital identity, it is imperative that we understand that it is not simply about safeguarding kids against possible dangers online.  It has to be about more than that.  It’s important that students also realize that managing your digital identity is based in positive interactions online.  As Kristin Hicks states in her post,

“Teaching digital citizenship means embracing the reality that we’re all interconnected through the Internet, and that we therefore need to understand the responsibilities and risks that come with life online”

Many teachers in Saskatchewan are incorporating a classroom Twitter account into their everyday routines with students in order to reiterate the importance of and the knowledge to foster positive interactions online.  As Dani mentioned in her post, education is truly the key to ensuring students have the tools necessary to not only stay safe and protected online but to THRIVE online!  This means creating positive meaningful relationships with others.   Below is a great example of a 7/8 classroom here in Regina which uses Twitter to share learning and connect with other learners across the globe.

In reflecting on my own family, I hope to engage in meaningful and valuable conversations around digital identity with my own kids as they grow up.  I hope to continue using scrutiny when posting any pictures or video of my kids, knowing that this data is no longer my property or theirs.   I hope they grow up with teachers that teach and model appropriate use of technology to create positive connections with others.  As is stated in this article from the Atlantic, youth should have a moral responsibility to control their own digital footprint and sharenting has done much to circumvent this.  I hope my digital identity makes my kids proud and not embarrassed.  Finally, I hope that my kids rise to the challenge of creating and curating positive identities for themselves online.   The internet has the ability to bring out the best in people and also the worst in people and I hope for my kids it brings out the best.  Here are some tips for parents to help promote a positive digital identity with their kids via edmentum .  

  1. Only share personal information when necessary.
  2. Take advantage of Internet privacy settings.
  3. Remind your child to always think before typing.
  4. Manage online accounts and passwords closely

In the above video, kids share with their parents what they are really doing online.  As is stated in the video, this is the world our kids are growing up in.  Let’s be involved and learn together what it means to be a positive contributor to this online world.  Ultimately kids are always watching what we do so it is truly on our shoulders to model what this looks like for future generations.

Question to consider: In what ways do you already model positive digital behaviour for students or children?  Is it effective?

You’ve Reached Your Goal: Digital Citizenship in Health/Wellness

I have recently been exploring the idea of using technology in my Health and Wellness classes to promote a healthy lifestyle.  The idea is to explore apps that would allow integration of Health and Wellness concepts into class structure and into the students own personal lives.  The end goal being to evaluate these apps for their effectiveness.  I plan to evaluate tools that touch on the areas of evaluation, physical activity, health and safety, class management and goal setting to name a few.  I also wished to explore the link between Digital Citizenship and the promotion of wellness through the use of technology.  Mike Ribble identifies 9 elements of digital citizenship which can be viewed as norms for behavior with regard to technology use.  In this work Ribble describes these 9 elements as follows;

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In the exploration of these elements I was at first struck by the fact that my chosen area of study seemed to only touch on the area of digital health and wellness.  In many mays this is true however, it is somewhat simplistic to think that just because I am exploring health and wellness topics, I will not be implicating other elements.  Indeed it has been apparent in recent years that screen time among children and teens has risen drastically, often replacing physical activity and leading to increased levels of obesity according to Boone and Gordon.   However, after further examination, a focus on health and wellness in a digital age could provide opportunities for other elements to explored as well.  These could include but are not limited to; digital communication, digital etiquette,  digital security and digital literacy.  It is clear that that any inclusion of technology in any area of the curriculum must also offer a valid discussion of digital identity.  As Wesitheimer and Kahne discuss in their work, the examination of digital citizenship merits a closer look at what types of citizens we want students to be online.  Whether promoting personally responsible citizens, participatory citizens or justice oriented citizens, it is crucial to include discussion of digital identity and what implications health and wellness apps have for identity online.  The recent debacle with Strava and their heat map has proven that releasing fitness information to the world can have consequences.

Teaching students to be conscious of what fitness/health data is published for others to see is an exercise in digital security.   Students’ health information and data should be carefully considered when being shared.  In addition, many of these apps contain social media features and the ability to contact and connect with others.  These exchanges of information between peers and also between companies constitutes the same need for digital etiquette in regards to the publication of information.  It’s clear that any examination or inclusion of wellness/fitness apps must also provide for students an open discussion around identity questions and privacy rights.  As Talitha Williams points out in the following TEDTalk, data generated from Health/Fitness apps can have a tremendous impact on our general health.  However, the elements of etiquette, communication, security, and literacy are all valid parts of this ongoing discussion.

As Homayoun discusses in her article, the dangers of getting caught in a feedback loop mean that teenagers are not always cognizant of what they should or should not be posting online.  In many ways wellness and mindfulness apps would offer a sharp contrast to the constant need to post and share new content.  Many new apps like SmilingMind are geared toward helping teens and adults find balance in their lives via a serious of meditation and calming reminders.  The temptation with fitness apps is very similar to other social media apps in that many are based on comparisons with others, thereby increasing the need to outperform others.  As is notable with the current rise in sales of wearable technology, the more we compare ourselves with what others are posting, the more we are motivated to continue to post our athletic achievements online as well.

  As I continue to explore the world of health/wellness apps, it will be crucial to, as Costa and Tores state,

“establish a reputable digital identity which students can looks up to and follow as example.”

In closing I believe that this project touches most significantly on the elements of security, health and wellness, communication, etiquette and communication.  It is in each of these areas that proper use of technology to enhance physical and mental health must be modelled.  Topics of identity and and presentation of self online should be explored in detail and students should be encouraged to live “non-linear lives” as Brown puts it.  As far as next steps are concerned for the project.   I will be finalizing the suite of apps to explore and beginning to use them myself as well as introducing them to my students.  A series of videos/blogposts will allow me to evaluate the apps and their perceived effectiveness in the area of health/wellness.




Gazing into the Future of Education

How do you prepare someone for something you can’t understand? Is it even possible?  The recent discussion in educational technology circles has centered on the fact that we do not know what the world will be like in even 5-10 years.  With the exponential increase in technological advancement, it is doubtful that the students graduating from our high schools or universities in 10 years will have any of the necessary skills to find employment or succeed if we continue to educate them for the 20th century.  It has been argued that instead of teaching a specific set of facts or knowledge, it will be increasingly important to focus on skills.  In his paper,  Confronting the Challenges of Participatory Culture: Media Education for the 21st Century, Henry Jenkins argues that there are new skills that will be of utmost importance for the next generation.  These are what he claims are the building blocks for successful education in for the future.

Play — the capacity to experiment with one’s surroundings as a form of problem-solving
Performance — the ability to adopt alternative identities for the purpose of improvisation and discovery
Simulation — the ability to interpret and construct dynamic models of real-world processes
Appropriation — the ability to meaningfully sample and remix media content
Multitasking — the ability to scan one’s environment and shift focus as needed to salient details.
Distributed Cognition — the ability to interact meaningfully with tools that expand mental capacities
Collective Intelligence — the ability to pool knowledge and compare notes with others toward a common goal
Judgment — the ability to evaluate the reliability and credibility of different information sources
Transmedia Navigation — the ability to follow the flow of stories and information across multiple modalities
Networking — the ability to search for, synthesize, and disseminate information
Negotiation — the ability to travel across diverse communities, discerning and respecting multiple perspectives, and grasping and following alternative norms.

Looking through this list it is perhaps glaringly obvious but, few if any of the outcomes of our current Saskatchewan Curriculum look even remotely like this.  It is interesting to consider the changes that have already occurred in our educational system over the last 50 years.  It’s true that we have seen the emergence of educational technologies that could not have been imagined 50 years ago.  From the internet to handheld devices, educational apps and realtime feedback, there is now a myriad of tools at the disposal of the 21st century educator.  However, there exists in our classrooms a resistance to the change in structure that has existed since the industrial revolution.  Other than a few forward thinkers, we still, for the most part, educate children in desks placed in rows with the teacher at the front of the classroom.  But what could education look like?

Robyn Shulman in her article on digital citizenship, discuses the fact that our students have a vast knowledge of the use and navigation of tools and online spaces but very little idea about how to “leverage technology for best outcomes.”  I tend to agree that the students of today’s generation have enormous potential at their fingertips but perhaps have not been given the tools to promote their digital wellness.  It will be ever more crucial in the coming years to expand our understanding of health and wellness to include digital hygiene as well.  As Alisa Sklar states,

Digital hygiene teaches so much more than just safe, responsible use of digital tools. A parent who sits down together with their child to Google how to configure Instagram privacy settings is also modelling critical thinking, research techniques, discussing context, and involving their child.

Parents and teachers alike must be confident in addressing digital concerns with students and youth if we are to give them a firm hold in a digital future.  Brittany raised a good point about the parallel between the current idea of citizenship in a real world context in comparison with the digital world.  Allowing students to learn and exhibit the same rights and responsibilities in both realms will be key in assuring that these youth become engaged, critical thinkers in online spaces.  Not only as passive consumers but as active participants who defend and advocate for the rights of others.

In addition, it has been suggested that the need for formal educational institutions may one day be no longer.  As Danielle pointed out in her recent post, this idea tends to make educators slightly uncomfortable.  Not only because it could mean the end of our jobs but also because as teachers, we have seen the value of critical thinking and face to face interaction that happens when students/teachers are engaged in the learning process.  On the other hand, as Jocelyn pointed out in her post,  the potential of tools like Google Classroom to help students move beyond a physical set of classroom walls is astounding.  In remote areas this is happening already with school divisions such as SunWest  right here in Saskatchewan.  In many ways the disintegration of physical classrooms spaces is already happening.  As teachers and students look ahead to the further convergence of education and technology, we must be prepared to look at what future students will appreciate in their learning environments.  It’s hard for me to believe that teachers will ever be taken completely out of the equation, however, educational landscapes are changing and will continue to do so.  So, here are some tips for teachers from actual students.

1. Make it about ME 🙇

2. Let’s DO things 👩‍🔬

3. Don’t ditch me in an online course 💻

4. Be my coach 👩‍🏫

5. Teach me relevant skills 🙇‍

6. Foster a growth mindset 📈


Techno Wars: A New Hope

I have always felt somewhat torn by discussions of the role of technology in society.  I think in large part this is due to my upbringing.  I lived in Mali, West Africa from the age of 3 to 16.  A country that was, and still is, one of the poorest in the world.  Many of the villages we lived in had no phone lines at all.  We would write letters, drive 2 hours on dirt donkey trails into the nearest town with a post office.  The letters would take about 2-3 months to reach Canada at which point the response would take 2-3 months to get back to us.  This disconnect meant that we were in many ways cut off from the world due to lack of infrastructure.

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When we returned to Canada in 2001, I had a lot of catching up to do.  I had missed roughly 10 years of my generations’ pop music (maybe that was a good thing), I didn’t get any of the pop culture references, and people that quoted Ace Ventura to me would be met with blank stares.  In the world of technology I was awkward at best.  I was able to type to some degree but as my peers explored MySpace and MSN Messenger it never quite took hold for me.  I often felt I was an alien visiting earth for the first time and I wasn’t sure where to start.  I slowly started making inroads into my lack of knowledge in these areas.  I watched the movies such as Star Wars that had been touted as classics by my friends and began exploring the online world.

When Facebook came on to the scene in 2004, I was drawn to it through nostalgia more than anything.  I discovered that I could reconnect with friends from half-way across the world.  I could view pictures from back in Mali and even carry on conversations with old friends.  From this point on, I truly began to feel much more engaged in Canadian culture because I was able to at once be in step with popular cultural acceptance of Social Media but at the same time keep connection to a part of me that I thought had been left on the other side of the ocean.  I would say this was definitely the beginning of my entrance into the realm of being a digital visitor.  Although Prensky’s notion of Immigrants vs Natives perhaps holds more initial connection to my situation from a geographical standpoint, I find it difficult to reconcile the notion that generational gaps alone account for feelings of technological competency.  For example, there are children between the ages of 5 and 15 growing up in third world countries right now who have limited or no access to the internet or social media.  Nor does it follow necessarily that 1st world teens born after a certain year will automatically possess an understanding of digital spaces as part of nativity.   As David White suggests,

   ‘the cultural effects of the social hyperconnectivity brought about by social media and mobile devices are often masked by shallow assessments of technological functionality and the apparent capability of specific groups in consuming ‘new’ technology.’- Citation

When I first began using Facebook, I felt as though I was and perhaps still am a visitor;  using online tools when necessary and then turning those tools off when they are no longer needed.  Even when it came to cell phones I held back for a relatively long time compared to others in my peer groups.  My first smart phone was the iphone 4 which was released in 2010.  Once again, it became a tool to use when I needed it.  A few years later, I began to research the world of #edtech and realized quickly that this would be the way education might evolve.  I started trying to incorporate technology into my teaching and learned as I made mistakes.  However, I was still a visitor.  My personal relationship with technology with regards to  the technological engagement continuum remains ambiguous.

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I use the tech tools that I find useful in my work and in my personal life and if I look at my phone or laptop and notice apps that I have not used in the last month, they are often deleted.  I am a fan of functionality and I love using technology when it engages students, enhances learning in some way or allows students to deepen their understanding.  However, it disheartens me to see technology enhance preexisting human conditions such as disunity, discord, jealousy, hatred, and disparity.  I wholeheartedly agree that technology, when it is used properly, has enormous potential to create social change, improve life for people on earth, and foster connection.  On the other hand it also has the potential to be used to devastating effect to inflict pain, divide instead of unite, and give voice to hatred.  Technology cannot be saviour nor can it be our doom, it must therefore be approached in a more realistic fashion.  Technology must not be analyzed in a vacuum.  It is born of man, born out of human social constructs.  Since I could not identify myself as a proponent of  techno-utopian ideas nor techno-dystopian ideas, I began exploring middle ground.

In reading Stephen Bernard’s Blog Post on Techno-Realism, I have found myself drawn to the idea that we must not simply blindly adopt Techno-Utopian or Techno-Dystopian theories without truly engaging in critical examination of the ways in which technology and social fabrics are intertwined.  Conversely we must realize that although technology has been the driving force behind human advancement, it does not leave us without options and does not exist separate from human interaction.  There must be a balance, in effect, between positive and negative in the techno-theory debate.  It allows for the ability of technology to affect positive change in the world while accepting that there are certain aspects of technology that have and will continue to affect humankind in a negative way.

“What can technorealism do for sociological inquiry?  Besides offering a healthy dose of reality, it can guide us beyond mere polemics and onto a plane of thought grounded in both logic and evidence”-Stephen Bernard

Here are some of the key principals of technorealism as espoused by


1. Technologies are not neutral.
2. The Internet is revolutionary, but not Utopian.
3. Government has an important role to play on the electronic frontier.
4. Information is not knowledge.
5. Wiring the schools will not save them.
6. Information wants to be protected.
7. The public owns the airwaves; the public should benefit from their use.
8. Understanding technology should be an essential component of global citizenship.

This idea seeks to be a neutral territory between positive and negative views of the role of technology although it lacks a certain element: HOPE!  What is human society without hope.  It is what drives to create, share, uplift and uphold one another.  It is hope that led to the great technological advancements of the 20th century and it is hope that inspires people all over the world to wake up and create change for the better.  For these reasons I find myself slowly moving from digital visitor to digital resident and from techno-realism to techno-progressivism.  Yes we must be critical of the ways in which technology is being used, however, if we are constantly looking over our shoulders for possible problems we will potentially miss out on greater opportunities for the good of mankind.  In a recent Globe and Mail Article, Jennifer Anikst explored the idea that millennials are pragmatic idealists.  Supposedly two very opposing theories are taken up simultaneously to allow this generation to solve social problems through the use of technology for social justice.  To me that spells hope for the future.

Technology and Wellness: It’s Time to (Re)connect

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It’s been a while since my last post so I’ll start with a quick reintroduction.  I have been teaching K-12 in the French Immersion program in Regina, SK for ten years now and I have loved the challenges and rewards that have come along with it.  This is my final Masters course and so I’m very excited to be finishing my program in a fourth course taught by Alec Couros .   I used to consider myself somewhat tech savvy but have, in recent years, realized that I have only begun to scratch the surface.  In many ways it is becoming clear to me that the lives we live are inextricably linked to, and perhaps even defined by, technology.  The lines between the virtual world and the visceral world are being blurred infinitesimally.  As the younger generation makes its way through the doors and hallways of our schools, critical questions about the relationship between education and digital media/citizenship must be posed.  Today’s youth are connected in a way that previous generations could have never foreseen.  Content is being created and consumed at an unprecedented rate.  According to Youtube, 300 hours of new video are uploaded every minute and 500 billion videos are watched everyday.  It has never been easier to create, share and comment on media from all over the world.  Whether it be video, live streams, music, chat, images, gifs, etc, the world is awash with content.  So how do we curate and filter what we would like to consume? How do keep emotional, social, physical, and mental wellness intact?  More importantly, how do we teach youth to approach content through a critical lens?  One important caveat here is that to teach youth how to navigate these tidal waters of content, there must be an awareness of what is out there in the form of apps and websites.

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It is clear that the little social network that started it all (Facebook) has continued to gain popularity over the years and is growing in worldwide subscribers.  However, recently the now tech giant has struggled to attract younger audiences and a variety of smaller social networking startups have, one by one, risen to take the place of Facebook promising new features, live parties or greater connections with friends.  From Houseparty to to Sarahah to Vsco, apps fall in and out of favour with teens.  Some lasting a few months others making it almost a full year (or longer as in the example of Snapchat) until the next app storms the phones of the world’s adolescents. In the Fall, a CBC news story highlighted the dangers of apps that are secretive or ask for anonymous feedback reporting that cyberbullying and harassment levels are hitting all time highs among teens.  Common Sense Media gives Sarahah a rating of 1 out of 5 stars due to the potential risks involved with it’s use.  Some of the most popular apps among teens today are also causing the most psychological and emotional damage.  I agree that simply trying to limit or police the use of these apps is not really addressing the problem long term.  Along with teaching about digital citizenship and media literacy, modelling the proper use of apps and the use of technology to say healthy and well is crucial.   As Richard Louv suggests;

“Man’s heart, away from nature, becomes hard; [the Lakota] knew that lack of respect for growing, living things soon led to lack of respect for humans too. —LUTHER STANDING BEAR (C. 1868–1939)”
― Richard LouvLast Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder

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As an educator who teaches High School Math, Health and Phys ed, I have to admit that my use of technology has been quite limited to use in the confines of the 4 walls of my classroom in teaching of math.  I have gotten quite comfortable using blogs and apps in the classroom both for assessment and instruction.  However, there exists a whole host of apps designed for use outside of the classroom as well.  Health and wellness apps need to strike a balance between ease of use and engagement in order to help users reconnect with themselves, with nature, and find balance.  I hope to explore apps that promote health and wellness for teens and which can be used in the Sask Health 9 and Wellness 10 curriculums.  I have a keen interest in the outdoors and have been doing a lot of reading around Nature Deficit Disorder and the loss of connection to outdoor spaces.  I hope to be able to evaluate and explore the possibility of using technology to enhance learning in spaces like the Gym, Fitness Centre and in the best classroom there is: the outdoors.

Fitness apps and wearable technology has seen huge growth over the last number of years and as students are increasingly unable to separate themselves from their phones for more than a few minutes, it seems logical to utilize the existing technology.  Even augmented reality apps like Pokemon Go have been instrumental in getting kids active and outside.  My hope is to explore the relationship between Phys ed/outdoor ed and technology through the evaluation of various apps and their potential educational applications.  Many proponents tout technology as crucial in the engagement of students in phys ed/outdoor ed.  Others claim that technology and outdoor ed are diametrically opposed and cannot be mutually beneficial.  I believe that technology can play a pivotal role in outdoor ed/Phys ed through engagement, assessment and fostering connections with others and with nature.  Apps that encourage health and wellness are also a great tool to keep parents and students accountable in an age when unhealthy habits are all to easy to form and bullying due to online anonymity is growing.  Let me know what you think?  Please fill out the survey below to help me get started on this.

As far as concrete next steps are concerned, I hope to:

  1. Explore apps that are used in the Phys ed/outdoor ed community using #pechat, #outdoored, #wellness and #PhysEdTech
  2. Compile a list of apps and catergories to work from including but not limited to; fitness, augmented reality, mental health, outdoors, assessment, mindfulness, organization etc.
  3. Chose 3 apps and become familiar with the use of these apps through their use during term 2 Health 9 and Wellness 10 classes this year.
  4. Document findings through blogging and videos in order to draw final conclusions.