This week we were treated to another awesome debate surrounding an issue that has become far more prevalent in recent years, openness and sharing in school. I think Brad hit the nail on the head during our first intermission when he explained that this was the first debate that he genuinely didn't know how to feel after listening to both opening arguments. While I initially voted on the "Disagree" side during the pre-vote, after hearing compelling arguments from both sides, I was in the same boat as Brad as I had no idea where I was going to land on this issue. So, as I've done in the past few posts, let's examine some of the key points from each side that really resonated with me.
First I would like to commend Melinda and Altan on an absolutely wonderful video. Not only did they have some excellent points to back up their arguments, but I really felt like the animation they utilized was great, and also Altan might have one of the most relaxing voices ever. Seriously, did anyone else find themselves instantly relaxed after listening to him? Is it just me, or could he have a second job recording mindfulness and meditation videos!? Great job you two! Anyways, let's get back on topic - here are a few points that stood out from their stance on openness and sharing:
1. Understanding Privacy Forms for English Language Learners
Melinda made an excellent point when she talked about how many EAL families may not fully understand the privacy forms they are signing or the permissions they are giving school divisions. This is an ethical issue as families may have given consent to something without being fully aware of what they were agreeing to. As someone who has only taught in schools with very high EAL numbers, this is something that has come up in the past in regards to our Grade 8 Farewells. Typically in a Grade 8 Farewell, there are many slideshows shown with various pictures of each of the Grade 8 students. However, for this to take place, parents need to have permitted the school to share their child's image, and each year there seems to be a few students who have "no photo consent". In these situations, the school will contact these parents to inquire if they would like to change their consent for this event, and in most cases, these families switch because they weren't fully aware of what the form was asking and simply checked "No" just to be safe. As was also pointed out during the discussion period, even though many schools have access to the resources to help with new families (Newcomer Welcome Centre, SWISS Workers, Community Coordinators, etc.), schools may need to revisit this issue to ensure families are fully aware of what they are agreeing to when they sign all forms at the start of each school year.
2. Digital Footprint of Students
Considering how many teachers have classroom Instagram and Twitter accounts, this issue has certainly become more relevant in the past decade. While most media consent forms include the use of social media, I do wonder how many teachers ask for consent from their students before posting a picture. While parents may have signed off on this, at what point should we also include our students in deciding what images we post of them? I know I am definitely guilty of this, and with each Instragam post I make, I am adding to their digital footprint. Especially knowing how image-conscious middle years students are, I believe I need to do a far better job of speaking with my students before posting - even though their parents have permitted me to do so.
3. Openness Issues
Another point that Altan and Melinda touched on was the issues that can arise from openness such as plagiarism, unsupervised sharing of images, and potential cyberbullying during recess times and lunch. I completely agree that all of these are all issues that can (and do) occur in schools yearly, and have personally dealt with each of the issues above in my classroom. However, just as we discussed in our debate on cellphones last week, the key to this problem would be education. By educating our students in becoming responsible digital citizens, we help to deal with this potential issue proactively, rather than simply banning it.
After the great opening arguement by Melinda and Altan and found myself siding with the agree side... just in time for an excellent video by Sherrie and Dean to pull me back to the unknown! I really enjoyed the engaging and creative way they delivered their arguments - especially that amazing Mercer inspired rant. While this side certainly presented many great points, here a few that really stuck out to me:
1. Openness is part of our current reality.
The first point that Sherrie made in her rant was a doozy! As technology has advanced, the privacy of the members of society has certainly changed. As Alec mentioned in an earlier lecture, initially our identity was "Private by Default" and "Public with Effort". However, as time has passed this notion has shifted, and our identity is now "Public by Default" and "Private with Effort". Understanding that so many things in our world are instantly shared online, we need to recognize this as educators, and rather than hiding it from our students - we need to educate them on the current reality they'll face outside the walls of our classroom. If we embrace this situation in a positive light and take the time to educate them on how to navigate this world, we are actually empowering them instead of leaving them in the dark.
2. Openness allows for instant communication with our stakeholders.
As an educator who regularly utilizes a social media account, this point definitely resonated with me. When I first started teaching, I had created a classroom Twitter account, and my students and I would use it to share our learning with others (especially their parents). This was an awesome experience as parents would not only be able to experience what we were doing each week but also interact class. However as time went on, I started to notice that the engagement on our Twitter account was starting to dwindle and parents (and my students) were no longer commenting, liking, or even checking our Twitter account. After taking some time to chat with my students about this, it became apparent that sharing wasn't the issue, but rather the platform I was using. I was quickly informed that "no one uses Twitter anymore" (sorry Alec, the words of Grade 8's not me) and that if we wanted to have a platform to share our learning, Instagram was the way to go. So I ultimately shifted to Instagram and utilized that to share our learning and instantly found that the engagement and communication had shot up again. It turns out that many parents (and students) are active on Instagram and this actually became one of the primary ways I highlighted our Supplemental Learning the past few months.
3. Openness allows for connectivity among participants.
I would argue that this might be the strongest point for the "disagree" side as it would be hard to refute the benefits that openness and sharing have in schools - especially considering the current climate of education during COVID-19. Providing students with tools like blogs, OneNote, Google Classroom, and SeeSaw creates a learning environment that fosters creativity, communication, and collaboration among all those involved. As I mentioned in the intermission, I strongly believe that we owe it to students to provide them with these opportunities, especially knowing that so many are already using other means to connect. By teaching them the appropriate use (and skills) to navigate openness and sharing in a classroom setting, we help to prepare them for the world outside the four walls of the school.
While both sides made excellent points for each of their respective sides, I did ultimately find myself siding with the "Disagree" side as I really do see value in utilizing an open environment in school. Not only does it prepare students for the "real world" but it also allows us to connect with stakeholders and provides students with a means to enhance the learning experience through collaboration with others. However, the "Agree" side also made some excellent points regarding the issues with privacy and digital footprints with students in our school that had me leaning towards their argument. As Dean mentioned at the end of the debate, I too agree that this topic might be better suited as two separate debates: one for privacy in school, and the second on openness and sharing. I think these are two very important issues, and it would be very interesting to see what discussions might arise if they are dealt with separately.