Friday, June 30, 2017

When Should a Student (be Allowed to) Get Facebook?

Two different questions have been on my mind recently.


When should a student get Facebook?

I recall asking my sixth-grade nephew once if he had Facebook. “I don’t need it,” he responded.

That threw me off.

Students at my former school obtained a smartphone and/or an iPad by mid-elementary, and there’s certainly a different age requirement than 13 in China. I say this because a lot of elementary students already have WeChat or QQ (social media platforms with chats, posts, and so much more). I didn’t even stop to consider how one of my 6th graders recently asked to add me on Facebook. Reflecting on all of that had led me to wrongfully assume that every child I met as young as mid-elementary would desire to connect via social media. Low and behold, every child’s life and context are different. When a child actually wants to get Facebook more than likely varies on lots of factors, many of which we as outsiders to their lives may not know about. (For more on ways we may misunderstand teens and technology, please check out danah boyd’s It’s Complicated.)

I didn’t think of the fact that my nephew was under 13 years old when I asked him either. Thankfully I haven’t met, heard of, or needed to report anyone under 13 using Facebook. This brought me to the following question…
When should a student be allowed to get Facebook?

Little did I know about the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA), a law passed in 1998 to protect children under 13 from having their personal information available. Thus, Facebook’s age requirement is 13. Most other apps/sites have the same condition while some range lower or higher.

Common Sense Media has much to say about protection and guidelines for social media, along with what is going on at age 13 developmentally. Parents and teachers alike should take heed and stay informed. This will help when striving to understand what pre-teens are going through. It should be strongly suggested for the parent as well to be involved in the child’s life during this time since children lying about how old they are may put peers at risk. (Side note: This would be a great time for adults to also examine our social media habits and behaviors because, as I have discovered in parenting and teaching, I and other adults still have some maturing to do too. Children are NOT alone in this manner.)

All of that makes sense while there are certainly “teachable moments” to be learned earlier in life, including those for a six year-old on Snapchat. But…can not the parent help guide the child in using social media such as Facebook before reaching the age of 13? Can the parent learn from the child? I’m not prompting you to push social media on to your child and lie about his/her age. (There are other ways to justify looking at your phone more than your child.) Don’t misinterpret that. What I’m urging is that we as adults be ready to understand the child, listen to his desires, and most importantly, steer him in the moral way to live before he is 13. The life the child lives offline will undoubtedly determine who he is online.

Sunday, June 25, 2017

5 Things to Mull Over Before Integrating Tech in the Classroom

Hearing quite a bit about the SAMR Model recently has really got me thinking. There are several things to consider along with it because the model alone can NOT aid you in deciding what tech are best for your context. But before we dive into those, let’s start with a quick intro of what this model is about.
The SAMR Model is one of a couple frameworks available to help educators determine the level of integration when utilizing new technology in the classroom. For my own sake, I’ve tended to think as a teacher though I’ve found it helpful to imagine being a school administrator as well. There are levels of integration that may be deemed best by educators, but the reality is that this model is not a one-size-fits-all solution to justifying tech use in the classroom. Let’s examine at least 5 questions that a teacher should ask alongside any model, including SAMR, before integrating tech in the classroom. All of these stem from my research, student interviews, and experiences as an EFL teacher abroad.

1. Where are the students in their personal tech integration?
Imagine teaching students who have historically not been taught at levels where their thinking has been challenged by transformative guidance. Would the students themselves be able to innovate or be okay with copying a worksheet on their iPad? Do the students only take in information without considering how to edit or create new, unheard of things? Do the students know how to connect their use with learning?

2. What is the culture or school culture like in their view of technology?
What is the country’s view on tech in education? How do teachers view technology integration into their teaching and why or why not? What about the school’s perspective? Are there bans on everything and anything? Are any teachers willing to take risks? Do the students hardly use tech at school but then return home and come back to today’s reality? (Side note: I examined this through a Data Story last December on "The Preparation and Integration of Technology in Teaching K-12 in China," which included a focus on Chinese teachers' perspectives of tech and integration.)

3. Is this integration simply for tech’s sake or innovation?
If you haven’t read this blog post by George Couros, do it now please. It’s worth the read. My first two questions indeed lead up to his thoughts, which have fascinating comments and dialogue following.

4. How will you assess your students and not simply your tech integration? What acceptable evidence will you set beforehand during your planning?
This one totally makes sense while I delve into Understanding by Design, Differentiated Instruction, and how the two frameworks can coincide. A tech integration model like SAMR can’t assess a student’s understanding, so acceptable evidence must be decided.

5. Is there research out that already proves non-tech ideas are better than tech-related ones?
Recall any articles about how handwritten notes are better than digital ones? Here’s one, and there’s another. Just Google the debate and research the pros and cons. Now…what other tech-less ways have research behind them? Stay objective, and do keep a balance between pedagogy, technology, and change knowledge.

What other questions would you consider? Let me know, and hopefully we can accumulate a list of at least 19 things to check beforehand. In the words of Luke Neff, “If you put less than 19, then you think surgery is more complicated. More than 19? You think teaching is more complicated. So, shall we say, 19ish items?”
But honestly, don’t be irrational and use tech in your teaching simply because it's cool. It might be better to put on the brakes, slow down, and scrutinize its place. Let the SAMR Model be a possible guide, not your Bible.