A Teacher’s Plea: I Don’t Care If You Listen To It, Though.

For the first time in my teaching career, I will be leaving students I’ve taught for a few years. This has hit me really hard in a lot of ways because, for the first time, I’m not going to see the amazing students I see every day. I know there will be new students, but there is an overwhelming grief that comes when you are leaving students who you’ve made a connection with. I’m grateful for this grief mindset because, honestly, I don’t know if I would have had this moment of clarity if I was returning next year. At the time of writing this, my students did not know I was leaving.


I had a very vulnerable moment with my  students today. Over the course of my four years of teaching, I’ve seen an increase of students coming into the classroom saying, “I can’t do it.”

This comes in a variety of forms. “I don’t know what to write. I’m bad at this.”

“I just don’t understand math.”

“Man, I’m not an artist. How can you expect me to do this?”

So, when the phrase, “I just can’t write essays,” came up today. I saw what I have seen time and time again. The student did something that drives teachers absolutely insane: behaved with complete disrespect. There seems to be a variety of things students do because kids are just “plain ol’ disrespectful these days”: going on their phones, talking loudly to distract others, not starting their assignment, putting their head on your desk and leaving a strange greasy sweat mark (who knew their heads would be so greasy?!) coming in late, or worse not coming in at all.

I get it. This is super frustrating as an educator. And I’ve reacted the way I’m guessing many of you have: trying to help, offering extra time at lunch, getting frustrated, stress eating the snacks in your class so that you can’t tell them the internal monologue in your head, telling them to be responsible and do their job as a student, repeating the expectations, asking for respect, kicking them out of class, sending them to the office. My reactions are always based on a lot of things, and it usually depends on what’s going on in my personal life, like not getting enough sleep.

But today, I had a different reaction (because I’m leaving, so what’s to lose?). I didn’t react.

I simply said, “Can I ask you guys a question and just be honest with me…. Do you feel you can either do something or can’t and that’s that?”

And there I saw it: a classroom of students, simultaneously bopping up and down. Yes. Yes. We feel like we are either good at something or not.

You don’t have to take my word for it, but they knew exactly what I was talking about it. These grade 9 students knew already.


So, there a couple reactions that might immediately come to mind…. Things like, “that’s crap. I gave you clear instructions.” Or maybe, “I told you if you needed support to come and find me. So that’s on you.”

Those are totally normal reactions as educators, by the way. I’ve had them before and will likely forget this letter one (or several) days in June and react like it again.

But my reaction today was heartbreak.

No one wants to be bad at something. That goes against human nature. Every person wants to feel successful in what they’re doing, even if it’s not their strength. Why choose to be unsuccessful? That doesn’t make any sense. So why are students saying this, time and time again?

If you’ve lost interest in this story already, then you might as well stop reading at this point because it won’t matter. You’ve already decided. You’ve already decided I don’t have enough teaching experience to know the realities of the profession, or one simple story with my grade nines does not an all-knowing teacher make. It’s fine; I get it. You’ve already decided this doesn’t matter, even though I haven’t finished, and that’s the problem.

You just went through what students are going through every single day in our education system.

The students have already decided that they “can’t do it” before they enter your classroom. That’s not your fault. It wasn’t your choice. You didn’t cause it. You can’t change it.

I really want to make sure you get that part. You can’t change it. You can’t change the past. You can’t change that kids won’t stop talking about Fortnite or the fact they have cell phones. So, let’s stop talking about it, okay? No, seriously. Stop talking about it. You are wasting your energy on complaining about realities that exist, regardless on if you agree or not. Think of what teachers could do if they used the energy they have on what changes they could make. Yes, it’s going to require you to rise above the various things you disagree with, but you can’t change them anyway. So,what can you change?

What can YOU change?

What can you change tomorrow? What can you change in a year?

The truth is everything we do is a choice. It’s a choice that I react the way I do with students who “can’t do it.” My students make the choice to misbehave in class. The difference is they don’t know they are making a choice; they honestly feel like trying isn’t worth it because, let’s be honest, our society doesn’t reward trying; it rewards doing.


Well, here are the choices I made today in my grade nine classroom.

    • I made the choice, despite being an “expert” English teacher, to tell them that I was at a grade 3 reading level in seventh grade. I usually choose not to admit that because it’s not something I am very proud of. Again, no one is proud of not being successful. And I am their English teacher, so I want them to think I can teach them with my super, amazing “expert” knowledge that I seemingly got out of nowhere.
    • I made the choice to tell them that I got a 51% in chemistry in high school. And that’s okay because it was the best I could do. I went to class. I tried. I didn’t get it. That’s alright though because there is another guy in the school teaching chemistry– sweet!
    • I made the choice to explain that there is a very big difference between not being able to do something because you can’t and not being able to do something because you aren’t trying— a message students don’t seem to be getting.
    • I made the choice to tell them I’ve never failed a student who was genuinely trying their best and just couldn’t quite get it because I knew that student gave me the most they could give. By the way, I’ve never had a struggling student who tried their best for the entire semester because they’ve constantly been told by society that trying doesn’t count for anything, and they don’t believe I’ll be different (because sometimes I’m not, but at least I am trying).
    • I made the choice to tell them the next time they have the urge to say, “I just can’t do xyz” to try and have a different reaction. I told them changing their reaction will be difficult to do, and they might fail at it the first couple times, because it’s a habit. But it’s okay because they will have opportunities to try again.
    • I made the choice to say it’s okay that English class isn’t their strength because they’ve got some pretty amazing talents elsewhere. It’s fine if they can’t do the assignment, as long as they give me all they got. I chose to mean that and not just say it.
    • I told them the way they are feeling is not their fault and validated what they told me. I said I believed them. I said the system has failed somewhere because, at one point, they tried really hard, and it wasn’t their strength, so they failed. It didn’t matter that they had tried. And then they stopped trying (shocker).
    • I made the choice to write this letter for my  students because their opinion is more important to me than anyone else’s.
    • I made the choice to be potentially laughed at in staff rooms because teachers think I’m disillusioned with the education system.
    • I made the choice to have these authentic conversations with my students, which you may think aren’t very insightful, even though I could have chosen an easier path of blaming them for not being motivated.
    • I made the choice to read this letter to my classes before posting it because I don’t want to speak up if it’s not their truth, and, if it is, I want them to hold me accountable for my words. Their response when I asked them if I should post it was, “SEND IT!”

 

 

Now, this is what I’m choosing to work hard on doing for the present and future:

  • I’m choosing to be vulnerable and share this letter because I believe I have something valuable to say that’s not being talked about in society.
  • I’m choosing to publish this, before having another teaching position next year, knowing it’s a risk. Because if I don’t get hired at another school due to what I’ve said in this letter, then I won’t be a good fit in that environment and my administration might as well know it now.
  • I’m choosing to write this to keep me accountable for my words to my students, future coworkers, and administrators.
  • I’m choosing to collaborate and support co-workers who are struggling with some of the things I’m strong at simply because it improves students’ lives.
  • I’m choosing not to say, “I’m sorry you feel that way,” when a student comes to me complaining about an assignment because it 1) does not express remorse and 2) makes it clear I think my student’s reaction is irrational.
  • I’m choosing not to blame my students for their lack of motivation in learning because it completely alleviates my responsibility as an educator to meet their needs.
  • I’m choosing to seem naive to others because I honestly believe students want to learn and their behaviours are a result of oppressive, invisible forces that perpetuate the idea they aren’t intrinsically motivated.
  • I’m choosing to put students’ mental health before any curricular outcome.
  • I’m choosing to outwardly state how grateful and proud I am of students when they meet the high expectations I know they’re capable of.
  • I’m choosing to have honest, open communication with students who aren’t meeting those expectations and, rather than lowering them, construct a plan together to reach their highest potential.
  • I’m choosing to use my position of power that I’ve been given in society to make decisions with the students’ best interests at heart because I am beginning to understand why they’re drowning.
  • I’m choosing to make my struggles visible, so they know it’s okay to mess up or not understand something as long as they are trying.
  • I’m choosing to never become a mediocre version of myself for other people because my students deserve me at my best.
  • I’m choosing to believe what my students are telling me is how they are really feeling and do my best every day to listen to them with an open heart and the respect they deserve.

You might not believe a single word I am saying right now, and that’s your choice. Honestly, I respect it. I’m glad we live in a society where people can make their own choices, or I wouldn’t be able to write this letter right now.

Heck, you might be questioning my motives for writing this letter to begin with. That’s your choice. I don’t care because I know the only reason I’m doing it is to support my students who said they’re struggling.

Believe it. Don’t believe it. Read it. Don’t read it. Digest it. Don’t digest it. Think I know what I’m talking about. Or don’t.

I can’t change any reactions I get to this, so I’m not wasting my time worrying about it. You can choose how you react.

I really don’t care. I mean it. It’s your choice.

But I will say this for the sake of students, and because they asked me to be their voice: I hope some people in the education system start making different choices. It’s okay if you fail because you’ll have tomorrow to try again.

I want to apologize to my former students for the choices I have made in the past that made them think trying wasn’t important. I want to ask them for forgiveness because I am now making a choice to do better, even though I will screw up sometimes.

Post-Prototype Project: Final Thoughts

Well, the course prototype is finished for Social Studies 30… or is it? I don’t know about Elizabeth, but I am more determined to adapt this curriculum to an online collaborative space. This project was very difficult for me. I was overwhelmed with what content I should cover. As Elizabeth mentions in her blog post this week:

we have a very large course prototype for a very heavy 30-level, 300+ page, 200+ objective curriculum – daunting to say to least.

I’m not really sure how to say this in a nice way, so I’m just gonna say it: this curriculum kind of sucks. There are wayyyyy too many objectives to cover, and it’s easy to get lost in the document; sorting out what objectives are necessary for students is something I am still struggling with, as it’s my first time teaching the course. As a result, our feedback on the course was that we had a lot of information and it was heavy. We agree! I think it’s a result of our inexperience with the document, as well as the nature of Social Studies itself.

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Image Retrieved from: Giphy.com

If the curriculum wasn’t heavy enough, Elizabeth and I also struggled to grasp this assignment. We constantly asked Alec and Katia questions after class, and they demonstrated their almost non-human level of empathy and compassion when trying to clarify what we were doing. Thank you, lovely humans, for all of your help.

In order to alleviate the content-heavy curriculum, I focused mostly on creating an engaging artefact. This video took me longer than I thought it would to create, but I think it makes learning economics interesting and engaging. It’s something I can use for future teaching years.   Also, shout out to the number of students who helped me– from filming to editing, they are the best!

I’d like to thank everyone who gave us feedback! It’s always nice to hear peers’ opinions and improve our practice. Our Course Profile goes over common concerns and considerations when blending a classroom, so take a look at what our vision was before creating modules! This next portion was written by Elizabeth and me in response to the feedback we received, and yes we did write it in 3rd person. Yes, Katherine and Elizabeth thought it was super weird to write that way.

  • The link to Tubaland (artefact) didn’t work – We tested each other’s links to ensure they were working before sending them to people for feedback, and they did! However, we did not realize people without a @education.uregina email would not be able to view the Google Form. We have changed the link so that anyone can now view it. Thanks!
  • Teacher-student and student-student interaction in Google Classroom – We did not intend for Google Classroom to be the hub of discussion. Each student would have a blog where they would respond to various prompts throughout the semester. On Katherine’s Unit 2 module, she includes a blogging post about Canada’s staples, which requires students to interact, learn from each other, and provide each other with feedback. We wanted to use the various strengths of different platforms: Google Classroom is wonderful for providing immediate feedback and organizing assignments; WordPress blogs create opportunities for students to collaborate and discuss things in an online setting. We found that discussions on Google Classroom are not fluid and students can have very limited engaging conversations, so we used more than one platform for our course.
  • Long paragraphs – Our course profile did have very long paragraphs which can be daunting to read, and we were worried of this when elaborating our profile. We received different feedback in regards to our long paragraphs; some reviewers
    appreciated the information provided, while others found it intimidating. We believe, in the end, this does come down to different learning style and different teaching
    styles, as we explored even in thiscourse. Some appreciate longer

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    Image retrieved from: Sirseth.net

    paragraphs, while others prefer short bullet points. This is something we look forward to exploring further in the future and trying to manage to attain a balance that would fit most learning and teaching styles. Even during the elaboration of this course profile, Katherine and Elizabeth had differing points of view and different teaching styles. Elizabeth prefers longer paragraphs, while Katherine prefers concise bullet points.  

 

 

  • Confusing order of assignments – We acknowledge that there are confusing elements of this course. We believe this is because people providing us feedback only view the online aspect of the course and miss out on information we would provide face-to-face (or over Zoom). We struggled throughout the elaboration of the course prototype ourselves with the idea of a blended environment – we questioned how much information would be shared in person/over zoom and how much needed to be shared online. This is evidently a great learning process and something that we will review in the development of our next prototypes.

 

  • Sorting assignments in topics – This is a fantastic suggestion; Elizabeth had no idea this was even possible on Google Classroom! Definitely something that we would add next time to our course to help organize our assignments.

 

  • Heavy prototype – We acknowledge we both had heavy prototypes. This was due
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    Image retrieved from: co2partners.com

    to the fact the Social Studies 30 curriculum is very heavy (330 pages of heavy).  There are over 200 objectives that teachers are supposed to cover in this curriculum. As a result, we decided to create engaging and interactive artefacts. It’s a difficult feat to make economics and confederation exciting, so we really focused on making the content suitable to our grade 12 audience (puns, technology-use). This curriculum is purely content-driven (other than creating a dialectic essay) and, as a result, can seem daunting.

  • Additional step-by-step assignment guide for students – We had written up a step-by-step guide for our reviewers to follow along our prototype because we knew it was heavy and at times confusing. It was suggested that we do this for the students as well. This is a great suggestion and one that we will add to our next course prototype. At first, we didn’t feel it was necessary because of the blended aspect of the course, but it never hurts to add a written dimension to the verbal instructions given in class (particularly because of the different learners that exist!). 

Koskie Out!

Creating Communities with Computers

Let me start of this blog post by saying that creating an online community for Social Studies 30 is proving to be quite difficult for my brain. I think it’s difficult to create a blended space when the people providing feedback are only going to see the online aspects of it. However, the readings this week definitely made me reflect on my teaching practice; I realize most of my classes only have face-to-face discussions, with little room for students to share their thoughts in an online community. I’ll be honest, I haven’t seen a lot of benefit from having discussion forums on Moodle and similar platforms, so the whole idea of creating online discussion spaces went out the window for me.

Because I have failed in the past to create online communities, this week gave me time to think about the reasons why they didn’t work. Here are my top 3 concerns with creating an online discussion space:

  1. I don’t want to take away the time I set aside for face-to-face discussions, since I think facilitating discussions is one of the most rewarding ways for students to learn from each other.
  2. I find the same problem persists in online discussion forums: some students speak up and provide insightful feedback and others do not.
  3. In my experience, online forums usually become so structured it loses the natural flow of discussion and conversation. 

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Image Retrieved from: CampusTechnology

Last week, I wrote a blog post explaining what kinds of programs I use for blending my classrooms: Google Classroom, WordPress blogs, and Moodle. Elizabeth and I have discussed at length which platforms we want to use for our SS 30 course, and I think we’ve come up with a good balance.

Since we are teaching a higher level course, and our students will be able to navigate multiple platforms with instruction and scaffolding, we are using a combination of Google Classroom and blogging. Elizabeth is also going to be using Zoom to help engage students in a Confederation simulation. I have opted to focus more on a blogging community, as I think the types of discussions that Zoom offers would be done within my classroom with TodaysMeet running in the background (to replace the text chat aspect of Zoom).

For my module I decided to use blogging for discussion because students will have more control over their digital identities. WordPress blogs are totally customizable, so students can demonstrate their personality and knowledge in a way that reflects who they are. While the initial set up of blogs is more time consuming than a traditional forum, I find that discussions, feedback via comments, and pingbacks have a natural flow of discussion for students. Additionally, I have found that students tend to reflect more and edit their posts because they recognize they will reach a larger audience.

When I implement this module in the classroom, I would also create a blog hub, similar to the one for EC&I 834 or the one I created for my Media Studies 20 class. I am hoping this will make it easier for myself and other students to provide feedback on each other’s thoughts. I also find that students snowball off of each other’s reflections, and students’ writing improves over the course of the semester. Elizabeth goes into more detail about how we will be structuring our blogs in terms of assessment (pingbacks, comments). So, instead of repeating the information, I am just going to let you read the wisdom that is Elizabeth! We seem to have similar ideas on how to create a community online.

The prompts for discussion will vary; the ones I am creating for my particular module will be linking economic models to current events. Sometimes I will provide content

of economic models and ask students to find a current event that it links to, while other times I will provide a current event and ask them to find the connection to an historical economic model we are studying. Now, I am trying to think of an example for what Bryce-Davis describes as a “ringer.”

 

 

Ringers are the surprise events, the small rocks tossed into the glassy surface of smoothly operating community discourse. For example, a surprise guest in a chat room can be a ringer, as can a contentious statement from a participant. A new or unusual activity can also disrupt the established patterns and expectations just enough to renew interest. Ringers can be planned or serendipitous, but in either case, they keep a virtual community awake.

I love the idea of breaking up the normal structure of a classroom and surprising my students with a new task or lesson. I have some thinking to do for the next couple weeks on how I will break up the structure of my module and creating a ringer to remember!

  • Koskie Out!

Started from the Slate Now We’re Here

The debate this week for EC&I 830: Does technology enhance learning?

If you look at any of my blog posts, I think you will be able to figure out  which side of this argument I agree with. However, each side brought up compelling arguments and I would like to take this time to provide a McGonagall clap for all of you.

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I think it’s virtually impossible to argue that technology does not enhance learning.  Technology can enhance learning for every student, but it can be life changing for people with learning disabilities.  Learning disabilities are permanent, but Quenneville (2002) argues “the potential for assistive technology children with learning disabilities is great, and that its benefits include enhancing academic achievement in written expression, reading, mathematics, and spelling; improving organization; and fostering social acceptance“.  Technology allows students with learning disabilities to take ownership of their own learning.

Last year (my first year of teaching), I had a student who had trouble reading and writing, so she requested a scribe during exams. After some internet sleuthing, I came across Read&Write for Google Chrome and asked how she would feel about trying it out for an exam.  She loved it.  She had never written an exam independently before, despite being more than capable of answering questions without a scribe. Admittedly, she felt a little strange about “talking to a computer” but requested she write future exams with the extension.

Companies are creating numerous applications and programs to help students with learning disabilities.  All of my students have access to Chromebooks and the Good Spirit School Division has provided Read&Write for every student account.  I had students “talk to their computers” many times this year, which normalizes verbal interaction with technology  (and hopefully makes students will learning disabilities feel more comfortable doing it).   While this extension may be targeted towards students with learning disabilities, I found virtually every student benefited from Read&Write.  Many companies, such as Google, Yahoo, and Apple, discovered focusing on developing technology for users with disabilities led to a higher overall product for everyone.

Greg Toppo asserts that people will always resist emerging technologies. The discontent with educational technology is partially due to the lack of training for educators.  Truthfully, training teachers to be effective with technology will be a difficult task.  Technology is always changing. This is evident by the classic “oh, I regret purchasing this new phone because a way cooler one came out three days later.” As Amy Sing states, “The challenge with this remains . . . that technology evolves and changes quickly, so without constant investment in professional development, there’s virtually no hope in maintaining the knowledge obtained in professional development.” I think it’s essential that professional development, specifically in regards educational technology (but can be applied to everything), be differentiated so teachers can find value in it.

Here is the moment that I like to call “Koskie starts to get real.” Integrating tech is difficult if  schools have access to 1-1 devices, pretty reliable Wi-Fi, supportive administration, and teachers with growth mindset (my situation). I recently read Ainsley’s blog describing her experience teaching in Nunavut– a place where people have access to limited technology.  My first reaction was guilt: Wow, I have such a unique opportunity to do what I am passionate about and create lessons  with the expectation that technology will be there and I am complaining about it being difficult.

I think part of my hardships are because I am a new teacher and I am going through the classic “how the *%&^&*%&^)#*%&#$)^*^*$#)(%*^*%# DO PEOPLE DO THIS JOB?!?!?! Learning new curriculum, classroom management, organization, and time management are difficult enough;–throw in technology and it’s easy to feel overwhelmed.  When we reviewed the Technological Pedagogical Content Knowledge (TPACK) diagram in class, I realized that I am probably more frustrated with the classic first-year-teacher-what-is-happening scenario than integrating technology.

Technological Pedagogical Content Knowledge

I am hoping once I gain more content knowledge I will start to overlap and it will be smooth(er) sailing! What do you think you’re missing on the TPACK diagram?

  • Koskie Out!

 

The Digital Project Story

Well, I am going to be honest. Every single time I had to write a reflection for my major digital project, I thought of this poem by Peggy Smaith Krachun:

Cursor, Cursor, blinking Cursor
Shade of iridescent green
Cursor in the "Home" position
On my new computer screen

Cursor at the starting gate
Chomping at the bit and byte
Pawing at the screen, impatient
Nagging me to start to write

Cursor poised for the race
In position One, Line One
Waiting for a brilliant word
To set off the starting gun

Until now a plain old scribbler
Was the only thing I'd use
On it I would draw and doodle
While I waited for the Muse

Now I have winking cursor
Mocking me in brilliant green
Have you ever tried to doodle
On a blank computer screen?

Nagging cursor, cursor cursor
Blinking on without a sound
Go away until I'm ready
I'll never write with you around.

I really appreciate how EC&I 831 takes educational theories and puts them into practice. Honestly– it’s a tough and rare thing to do. This class has demonstrated how powerful participatory culture can be. I’ve met a lot of supportive classmates throughout this blogging journey who I will continue to engage in dialogue with. However, I seriously struggled with posting progress on this project.

I pretty much summed up how my digital project went in a previous blog post. The golden rule that I had discussed is something that I am terrible at remembering for myself: continuously reinforce that progress is more important than end result. I never used to consider myself an academically inclined individual — seems weird to even type that out at this point in my life — but this project has demonstrated just how much I have been raised in an environment of the end product being the only thing that matters.

Each time I started a blog post to reflect on my major digital project, I stared at my computer screen for a ridiculous amount of time. Damn that blinking writer’s block cursor! I’m not going to lie, there is a big part of me that wants to talk about how my project was all sunshine and rainbows but I am going to #keepitreal and give you both the positives and negatives:

Sunshine and Rainbows:

  • High level of engagement – Students having the ability to choose and change their skill made them excited to research about it. I never had students complain about working on their major digital projects.
  • Students would teach each other (and me) what they were learning. While I initially thought this would take place through comments on the blog hub I created, students discussed what they were learning in person to their peers. And the Jedi becomes the master!
  • I used some of the readings in this class to show relevancy of what they were doing. I think reminding them to focus their attention while technology surrounds them is a necessary behaviour to learn.
  • I adapted this project for students who did not enjoy writing in ELA. Many students reflected on a construction, welding, or mechanic project that they were currently working on (cross-curricular).
  • Students were able to work on this assignment when they finished other ELA work early since assessing and reflecting is a continuous process.
  • Sometimes I include “Grammar of the Week” into their blog posts so they can practice skills we are learning in class while they assess and reflect on their skill.
  • I was able to build stronger relationships with students because this assignment offered me a lot of opportunity to discuss their passions and hobbies. As Rita Person states in a TED talk discussing the importance of being a kid’s champion:  “Kids don’t learn from people they don’t like.”

What’s the opposite of sunshine and rainbows? Rain? Failures? I’m going to title this “Feedback” because failure implies I’m not going to adapt this project in the future (boo-yah, word win)

Rain/Feedback

  • Setting up blogs for students is a lot more difficult when they are in high school. Being a new teacher, I sometimes forget I need to explain the purpose of hyperlinks, where to put images, why titles are important, etc. I know this will improve over time but it’s frustrating when I forget how much modelling I need to do to support students.
  • My blog hub isn’t working for all my students and I’m at the point where I have given up on it. I am trying to get their feeds into my site slowly but this is my first year teaching ELA so I need to prioritize my time (right now it’s planning engaging activities and marking).
  • I wish I would have adapted a rubric earlier because students’ posts have improved since creating it. I always see students looking at the rubric as they write the progress posts now. It has also decreased the amount of time I get, “But, Ms. Koskie, what should this post have on it?”
  • I need to reinforce that students should be looking at a variety of resources. Some students are only using one or two resources, but part of this assignment is to recognize how many online programs can help them learn.
  • Keep whatever date you decide to do this project on consistent. I forgot how important routines and being consistent is for students. Once I started making this project due on Mondays, students understood my expectations.
  • Right now I am using Moodle for most of my classes but I would like to set up a classroom blog next semester so students are familiar with using wordpress.com. I also think it’s valuable to open up my classroom so other’s can learn from what is taking place in my class.

Implementing this projects TAKES A WHOLE LOT OF TIME AND ENERGY. I think it will be worth it in the end!

I feel like there is a pretty cliché English teacher way to end this…. are you ready? Oh man, I am pretty excited about this:

Yeah, it happened.

  • Koskie Out!

Quieting that Inner Voice: Slacktivism DOES Promote Action

Sometimes I hate that inner voice. The inner voice that tells you “Ugh, instead of changing your Facebook picture to have a deep blue, red, and white flag filter could you actually take action to prevent terrorism?” or “can you please stop posting pictures of yourself ‘getting fit and happy?” I’ll be the first to admit I battle this voice all the time. Now, I stand back and think why am I having this reaction? Is it because I promote social justice on social media in a more meaningful way? No, I don’t think that’s it. Do I have a negative reaction to people becoming fit because I am currently balancing Cheetos on my stomach as I type this? OK, that one may be true.

We are born in a world where we feel the need to compete with each other. I’ve met a select few people who don’t seem to have this need, or maybe they can simply hide it better than most.  Part of the problem is that people internalize the dominant narrative in order to fit in.  An example of this happening is how women will call other women derogatory terms as much as men do. Unfortunately, what ends up getting lost is the message or issue we are trying to fight for.

The simple fact is that slacktivism does promote social agency. Who cares if you disagree with it? If it’s helping people spread awareness of a cause, it’s better than the alternative (balancing Cheetos and doing nothing else). Do I wish people would become more involved and take action? Yes, I do. I wish we all had time in our days to help the less fortunate and work towards a world where people can meet their basic needs with dignity.

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For those of you who don’t know what slacktivism is:

“Slacktivism is actions performed via the Internet in support of a political or social cause but regarded as requiring little time or involvement, e.g., signing an online petition or joining a campaign group on a social media website.”

The Wikipedia article has a negative definition of slacktivism that emphasizes how it does nothing at all but make us feel better about ourselves: “It is the act of showing support for a cause but only truly being beneficial to the egos of people participating in this so-called activism.” Woahh, calm down Wikipedia. I don’t speak for the entire population, but I certainly don’t feel like I’ve changed the world by sharing or tweeting a social justice issue. Scott Gilmore argues that slacktivism makes people less likely to donate to a cause because we get instant gratification from a “like” or “share.”  In fact, Gilmore goes as far as shaming people who engage in slacktivism while other researchers suggest that people are more likely to donate to a charity after they’ve signed an online petition.

Well, Mr. Gilmore and other slacktivist critics, here are a few things that slacktivism has helped spread awareness of and/or raise money for:

  • ALS Bucket Challenge (raised $115 million in six weeks w/ more searches for A.L.S in 2014 than in the entire previous decade)
  • #YesAllWomen – brought awareness to street harassment, and specifically bystander intervention
  • #NotYourMascot – addresses the “misappropriation of Indigenous identity, imagery, and culture.
  • #IdleNoMore – honouring Indigenous sovereignty and protecting land and water rights.

I’ve even included a few hashtags that are no longer widely used (and some would argue show how slacktivism is not effective). Here is the thing, though: These hashtags or “slacktivism campaigns” have led to some meaningful conversations in my classroom where students want to know why people are “sharing” or “liking” a cause/issue. Social media is especially important because it provides an opportunity or “buy in” to show students how historical issues are still relevant and have implications for today. It makes my social studies heart happy. Awareness is the predecessor to action; so, instead of wasting your time complaining about slacktivism, start having conversations around the issues that matter.

I don’t know about you, but I think we have bigger things to complain about.

  • Koskie Out

 

Digital Literacy Skills in da Formative Assessment House

Why didn’t I think of including 21st century digital literacy skills into my formative assessments? One of the most valuable things I have been talking about in my classes this semester is how we can focus our energy when surrounded by so much technology.

In a previous blog post, I discuss an epiphany I had related to educational technology.  To sum it up in one sentence: Technology and the ability to access information that is distracting is never going away. Students will always be able to ignore what they should be focusing on at school, work, or their home so there is no point complaining about it. It’s time we start teaching students how to focus their attention WITH technology rather than putting a band-aid on the problem and temporarily taking it away.

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Let’s be clear here, I am not perfect. I used to take away phones without a second thought. Now, I have started reminding them to focus their energy and explaining why it is important to do so. I’m not going to pretend like I still don’t take away phones sometimes. However, the amount of times I have to take phones away has decreased exponentially.  I keep reminding them that focusing their attention on what is important is a skill that many employers are looking for in the workforce.

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As a social studies teacher, I always try and make content engaging and relevant for my students. I never like to hear the question “why do I have to learn this?” However, I have neglected to explain the relevancy and purpose of learning specific skills– whether it be digital literacy, researching, citation, etc. I love making meaningful connections with literature and content, but I’m beginning to recognize that skills are being left behind.

I decided to include a row on my rubric that addresses 21st century digital literacy skills. For the first couple of weeks, I am going to give them reminders to focus their attention. I am hoping I will continue to see a decline of students using their technology inappropriately.

  • Koskie Out!