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.
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 Ask.fm 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 Louv,
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:
- Explore apps that are used in the Phys ed/outdoor ed community using #pechat, #outdoored, #wellness and #PhysEdTech
- 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.
- 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.
- Document findings through blogging and videos in order to draw final conclusions.