Net Neutrality and the Digital Divide

Before this week I had never hear of net neutrality, or at least not that I can remember. If I heard the term before I certainly didn’t question it or learn more about it when I did hear about it, so I’m guessing this is the first time I have heard about it. A few things stood out for me this week and each article gave me something to question and think about.

In terms of the New Digital Divide I found it quite saddening that digital media & technology is another place (in addition to so many others) where the poor are at a disadvantage. The article focusses on the security issues that face those who cannot afford to use android or Apple devices. When you cannot afford to use the devices that come with built in security you are at risk of fraud or identity theft. If you have no internet access at home you might have to rely on public wi-fi spaces to connect. Once again those spaces are not as secure as an at home network. Your privacy is at risk simply because you don’t have enough money. We know that there has been a push to use technology in the classroom and we are told that students need technology to learn and prepare the for the future. It is great that we are recognizing the rise in technology and need to grow and learn with it. A lot of classrooms and schools have iPads, laptop carts, wireless internet and smart boards. Our classrooms may be equipped (many are still unequipped) but are all of our students equipped when they leave the classroom? What happens to students who go home and don’t have a phone, tablet or computer to connect to the internet? What about students who have a phone but a limited data plan? It is clear that there is a large technology gap between the rich and poor but how can we solve this problem?

Photo Credit: Dirk Dallas via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: Dirk Dallas via Compfight cc

Unfortunately I don’t have an answer to that question but Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook had an idea to offer free internet to the developing world.  The project titled has received backlash from some claiming that it will only make the divide worse. The idea is that the user will be able to access free sites and be prompted to pay to receive additional data gaining access to other sites. The problem is that many of these people won’t be able to afford to pay for the service. I decided to look into and see what I could find out about it. After looking at the site, I realized that it’s actually a pretty neat idea. They have created the Free Basics Platform where web developers can launch their free site with them. There are a few sites that have joined the Free Basics Platform to provide free access and one of them, Baby Centre, is one that I am familiar with. Another concern with the free access to was based on the security issues as users wouldn’t be connecting through a secure network, but it seems as though they have started to use secure networks through the use of HTTPS. This service is obviously not the same as having open access to the same things that the rich in the developed world have, but it is better than nothing. I question just how free the service actually is. Perhaps it is free for those who use it and there is not money involved for them, but I am sure there is money involved in terms of gains for the major companies involved but I could be wrong. Either way, it seems to be having an impact on students like Kenner.

Net neutrality ties in with our previous discussions about open internet. Net neutrality is the idea that all people should have the same access to the internet and be able to access all sites at the same speed. When net neutrality doesn’t exist there are internet highways that companies can purchase that would allow their users to stream their content faster than other sites. Companies would pay to use these highways leaving the small companies with less money to travel on the grid roads of the internet. Schools would be at a disadvantage because they can’t afford to travel and use the high speed highways of the internet. Students who can’t afford to pay for the highest tiered internet access would have limited access compared to those that can afford it which would once again widen the digital gap. 

Photo Credit: drcohn via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: drcohn via Compfight cc

I noticed that all of the articles I read were based out of the United States so I decided to look into where Canada sits on the whole net neutrality topic. In terms of net neutrality we are going half-throttle. There have been limited complaints made and issues have been quick to be resolved with most companies. Xplornet seemed to have the most complaints and also has throttling policies in place that will limit speeds depending on usage or time of day. I know that other companies have similar policies in place. Take for example Sasktel mobile phone service. My husband had a plan that was supposed to have unlimited data. However, it was far from unlimited data. At the time my husband was working out of town and didn’t have wireless where is was located so he often used data. He would watch Netflix which uses a lot of data. Well it didn’t take long before his phone basically slowed down enough that he couldn’t watch a video. He called Sasktel to ask what was going on and they told him that after you have used 10GB the speed of your data would slow down substantially.

It is interesting to read all about net neutrality and think that companies would compete and pay to have their information streamed on the super highways of the internet. It seems to boil down to the same two things that drive everything else in the world…money and power. I am happy that we have the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) to monitor Internet providers to ensure they are providing equal treatment to content and users. I have found that in the evenings my wireless is much slower than in the day making it harder to get things done. I have always assumed that it’s because more people are at home accessing their network as well which weighs down on the network as a whole but maybe I’m wrong? Has anyone else experienced similar things?


My “Expert” Finds

In an attempt to prepare for my ‘expert’ discussion I decided to try and organize my thoughts into this post. My hope was that writing about it would guide me in my discussion and prevent me from rambling about nothing. All of my worries disappeared when we didn’t have to share last night although I’m sure I will have to share at some point so here it goes….

The two articles I have decided to share are “Everyone Says That Being a Good Digital Citizen Is Important…But Do We Believe it? Five Lessons Learned On Digital Citizenship” and “Turning Students Into Good Digital Citizens”. Both articles discuss how citizenship has changed and look at how we can better understand the use of technology by students in hopes to teach digital citizenship more effectively.

In the first article it starts off by asking if there are any students who are using social media and technology in positive ways? It seems that in the news we only hear about the negative side of social media and technology. With technology being more and more present in schools it is important that we teach students to be good digital citizens. Before we can teach about good digital citizenship we must first talk about issues that sidetrack us. The article presents five issues but I will only discuss four because the fifth is regarding the Children’s Internet Protection Act which is only applicable in the United States.

  1. What issues? Gaming addiction, online predators, sexting, cyberbullying, digital reputation, smart searching and knowing when to unplug are just a few of the issues relating to technology. It is important for you to determine which of these issues is most important to focus on for in your classroom.
  2. One life of two? For most students the digital world and real life do no exist separately from one another but rather co-exist. Because of this, it is important that we teach students about being responsible and respectful citizens in more general terms as opposed to in our digital life vs real life.
  3. Positive Adults. Adults are still trying to learn the complexities of the digital world and can be found struggling with what is appropriate and what is not. Adults participate in online shaming, email scandals and struggle with the appropriateness of using your phone in a meeting or when out with friends. If adults struggle, how can we expect students to understand how to use technology responsibly? It is important for adults to be positive role models and be willing to honestly and openly discuss online reputations so students can learn from us.
  4. Change perception. We need to focus on the students who are using social media in inspirational ways rather than always focusing on the negative uses of technology.

Lessons learned from a digital citizenship workshop.

  1. It’s not about the digital – it’s about the citizen. When laptops are used in schools the focus is usually on the technology aspect of it. We need to focus more on the citizen part of it.
  2. It isn’t about Facebook – it’s about what students bring to Facebook. Before the internet and handheld devices, teenagers would spend just as much time talking on the phone with friends or hanging out with friends. Students are using technology to connect with one another. “Understanding why young adolescents use digital media for good or bad, is still primarily understanding young adults—their needs to be part of a group, to be expert at something, to be recognized as an individual, and much more.”
  3. Is isn’t about unplugging—it’s about knowing what to do when you unplug. This is a very important lesson to learn. Our students need to know when to unplug and how to do something else. They need adults who can model this behavior as well.
  4. It’s not about being involved—it’s about having a voice in their learning. When students have a voice in their learning they are more likely to be involved. Why not allow students to create seminars or blogs about digital citizenship to share with other students and their parents. Take the AV club one step further and create a Digital Citizenship club where students can be advocates for digital citizenship.
  5. It’s not about parent nights—it is about true parent-teacher collaboration. Parents need to be involved and work with the school to help teach digital citizenship.

The article finishes by saying that digital citizenship isn’t something that should just be thrown into the classroom here and there as an add-on. It needs to be part of school culture and should involve everyone in the school on a daily basis. Just because students use technology on a daily basis doesn’t mean that they know how to use it safely and effectively. We must teach them how to properly use technology.

The second article I chose discusses similar things. It begins by looking at the term citizen and how it has changed over the years. It describes digital citizenship and argues that it goes beyond safety and civility. It focuses on the participation in worldwide online conversation that requires a set of sophisticated skills. It is important to identify these skills and attempt to teach them as a day-to-day skill set. The fact that technology evolves so quickly makes it difficult to have a skill set that is set in stone. One way that we can try to develop these skills is by creating assignments that require them to build these skills. For example, if the assignments require them to properly use a search engine, they will be more likely to properly use a search engine in their free time.

It discusses social responsibility regarding technology. Technology has eliminated physical borders and allowed people to connect with others across the world. A true digital citizen is someone who interacts with those in their local geographic community as well as those who are not in their local community. Skills that we learn from face to face interactions such as understanding body language no longer apply to online communication. We need a whole new set of skills to understand the words and messages we are receiving online.

In the article, Mark Frydenberg describes digital citizens as “someone who uses web-based communication and collaboration tools as part of his or her daily routine to share ideas, plan activities, and stay in touch with others”. His version of digital citizens blog, comment, like, chat, tweet, connect, and follow–they “live” on the internet and use it to stay in touch and build relationships, often with people they may never have met in person. He describes skills every student should have in order to communicate effectively online.

  • basic computer literacy skills (how to maintain a computer, use spreadsheets and databases)
  • basic web literacy skills
  • how to distinguish between information that is credible and deceptive
  • how to understand the difference between synchronous communication (chat, Skype, instant messaging) and asynchronous communication (e-mail, VoiceThread).
  • how to create a web presence beyond Facebook (blogs, wikis, Twitter, web sites, etc.)
  • how to tell the difference between personal and professional presence online (Facebook vs. LinkedIn)
  • how to use online collaboration tools.

Helen L. Chen agrees that these skills are important but argues that we cannot forget about skills such as critical thinking, written and oral communication, teamwork and the ability to adapt to new situations. Others agree with Helen and think it is essential that we teach students to think critically about the messages we see online.

Both articles shared similar ideas and stressed the importance of understanding what it means to be a digital citizen. They also suggest lessons and skills that we should be developing in an effort to create good digital citizens.

Here are some other articles that I found throughout the week.

Raising Digital Citizens

Digital Citizenship

What should I teach my kid about safe online behaviour?

Walking a Mile in Someone’s Headline. The importance of digital citizenship.

You’ve probably had somebody ask you to “walk a mile in my shoes” before. Monica Lewinsky has given this idiom a new spin by asking people to walk a mile in someone’s headline. In her TED talk: The Price of Shame she describes her experience with public shaming during a time when the internet was just beginning to blossom.

Just like Kystle I was only 12 years old at the time and never really knew much about this story when it was actually happening. Before watching this TED talk I hadn’t ever taken the time to read about the story and learn about what happened. I knew she had a sexual relationship with then President Bill Clinton, but I never knew how the information was leaked or how their relationship came to light. I didn’t know that she had confided in a co-worker who then began recording phone conversations between the President and Monica. I was surprised to hear that her conversations were recorded although I shouldn’t have been. I guess I thought that private conversations would have been harder to get ahold of back then. In today’s digital world this breach of information wouldn’t come as a shock to me. It seems that information is so easy to access and people are able to find private information through hacking or other means.

Technology has made it easier for people to share information and a lot of people aren’t afraid to share private information via social media. I would say that there are no boundaries or filters for some people when it comes to sharing things online. People are also quick to make comments and state an opinion behind a screen that they wouldn’t normally say out loud in person. This makes it easy for people to publicly shame another person online. Monica Lewinsky described how public shaming affected her life in such a negative way but she was able to overcome the shaming through the help of her family. She decided it was time to speak up and tell her story when she hear about Tyler Clementi’s story.  Just like Tyler, Amanda Todd also took her life after experiencing cyberbullying and online shaming.  Tyler and Amanda had private information shared online and made public for others to see. Neither of them wanted this information to be shared but it was.

Photo Credit: smileham via Compfight ccWe have seen so many different ways that private information has become public. Actor, Jennifer Lawrence, had her iCloud account hacked which lead to nude pictures of her being shared online. These were taken from her personal computePhoto Credit: smileham via Compfight ccr and the pictures weren’t meant to been seen by anyone else. She was able to stand up for herself and made some pretty impressive comments fighting back against the negative comments she was receiving. Maybe it was easier for her to stand up because she is a celebrity and has more power than a regular joe. Maybe she was able to speak up because she had a valid point…the information was on HER computer. Her computer that she thought would be a safe place for such pictures to be kept. I suppose the lesson here is that nothing is safe from being hacked.

In my opinion if something happens in public then I would consider it fair game. If it’s something you don’t want to be shared then keep it behind closed doors. But is there really such a thing as closed doors? Look at the Tyler Clementi story in which he was behind closed doors and was being recorded unknowingly. Look at Jennifer Lawrence whose private information was hacked. Can we ever be sure that our information is safe? I think that anything we have on a device is at risk for being shared. It is important to think about the access to our devices that people may gain and be thoughtful about what we share. It is important to remember our digital footprint.

The screen seems to provide a mask that some people feel safe hiding behind and name calling. The screen somehow makes some people forget to think about how their comments will affect others. I was shocked when I read Danielle’s blog and saw the comments people had made about her grade 1/2 students! As soon as someone comments with their opinion, others have to chime in. It is almost like mob mentality in some cases. Jon Ronson describes the case of Justine Sacco in which she made one tweet that changed her life in a matter of a 10 hour flight from England to Africa. The mob mentality took over on twitter and the masses had a hashtag trending to get her fired by the time she landed in Africa.

The power of social media and the impact of it is remarkable (not always in good ways). It is important for us to think about the role digital citizenship plays in all of this. Mike Ribble describes nine elements of digital citizenship that can help guide us in conducting ourselves appropriately online. I believe that the two most important elements in relation to everything else I have been talking about are Digital Rights & Responsibilities and Digital Security. We have to remember that although we have the right to free speech, we also have to remember that it comes with responsibility. We also have to try protect our information as we would protect the items in our house.

I don’t think there is an easy solution to cyber bullying and online shaming, but documents like Saskatchewan’s Action Plan to Address Bullying & Cyberbullying and programs such as Sasktel’s iamstronger make me feel like we are on the right track. I was also happy to find out that criminal charges were laid in the cases of Amanda Todd and Tyler Clementi. Although the criminal charges can’t bring back the life of Amanda or Tyler it shows the severity of cyberbullying. Hopefully people think twice about the consequences of cyberbullying for both the victim and the bully. In order to help prevent cyberbullying I think it is important for us to teach our children and students to be empathetic. Cindy has written a great post and included some good resources about teaching empathy using technology. The more empathy we have the less bullying there will be. Like Monica Lewinsky says, next time you are tempted to comment or join in with the mob, imagine walking a mile in someone else’s headline.


Flipping my classroom

The last time I was on mat leave I came across a infographic on pinterest about a flipped classroom. It caught my attention and seemed really interesting so I looked into it a little bit more. After reading a little more about it I decided that I wanted to try it when I returned to work. Last year I made it one of my professional goals and I must admit that I really enjoyed flipping my classrooms. This is something that might be more difficult to do for some subject areas, but I teach high school math so it seemed to be a great fit. I thought I would share my thoughts and experience on how a flipped classroom changed teaching for me.

For anyone who doesn’t know what a flipped classroom is, it can be easily described as a classroom where lessons are taught outside of school using video lessons and homework is done in school so the teacher can be there as a support. This sounded like it make a lot more sense to me than a traditional classroom where you teach students for 30-45 minutes some days which leaves very little time for students to work on homework and get help from you. Students in a traditional classroom often go home, attempt to do homework and get stuck. With no one to help them when they get stuck, they stop trying and the homework is left unfinished.

I was able to find youtube videos and websites such as Khan Academy and to help me build my video lessons for students. I don’t have a smartboard so I had to find the resources online to match the lesson that I would normally teach on the board. I created handouts for the students to complete as they watched the videos. Here is an example of a handout the students would receive 4.6 Examples. I use Edmodo to upload videos and handouts as well as post homework assignments and reminders for students. For anyone unfamiliar with Edmodo here is a brief video on what it can do for you and your classroom. 

Obviously this type of classroom won’t work for all teachers or students but here are some things I learned from my experience.

  1. It really keeps students accountable because they must watch the videos in order to learn the material for next class because it will not be taught. There were times I knew students would struggle with an important part in the video and I would teach that again the next day to help clarify any issues. Some students took a few days to understand that if they don’t watch they will fall behind quickly.
  2. I like that students can always access the videos so it is great for reviewing. I also like that students can stop and start the video whenever they want. They can rewind it or replay any parts they might not understand and it allows them to work at their own pace.
  3. Using Edmodo allows students to ask me questions at any time and it is easier to respond to than emails. It is possible to complete a question and snap a picture of the work to upload for a student who has a question about homework.
  4. It allows so much more time to answer student questions and help them while they are in class. This is so beneficial to students who struggle.

Some of the negatives from my experience…

1. Students missing a video – usually with these students I had them use their class time to watch it on their phone or a laptop. This way students were losing out on the time they could be getting help from me. It didn’t take long for them to realize it was a waste of time to watch the video in class.

2. Sometime the videos were a little long but it should have never taken students more than 20-30 minutes to complete the handout and watch the video. This is probably the same amount of time they would be doing homework for math at home anyways but sometimes it seemed like a lot.

3. Students were a little resistant at first but they adapted really quickly. Some students may not adapt and will not be able to work in a classroom like this so other arrangements would have to be made for those students.

I was fortunate enough to work in a school where no parents complained and all students had access to some type of device at home where they could watch the videos. We also had access to devices at school most days so if students missed a video they would have to watch it in class. In order for the flipped classroom to work you really need to use something like edmodo to work as a communication channel between you and your students. Edmodo also allows parents to join so they can follow updates on exams, assignments, homework etc. Edmodo is also great for students who may be absent from school. They can check edmodo at the end of the school day and see what they missed from the day.

I wasn’t sure how the flipped classroom would go, but I am happy to say that I tried it and it worked for me. I thought that since students seem to be connected to technology all the time that they might think it’s kind of cool to have a class that was sort of online. I was worried that students would think I didn’t know the material or wasn’t smart enough to teach so I just made them watch videos, but no one thought that because I was able to help them in class and answer any questions they had.

If you have any questions about the flipped classroom, please don’t hesitate to ask. I encourage you to try it some time. Maybe even start with one or two lessons and see how it goes. I really enjoyed it and will continue to do a flipped math classroom.

And so it begins…

The start of my third class en route to completing my masters in EC&I. I am excited, anxious and eager to get going this semester. I consider myself somewhat tech savvy but the thought of keeping up with all of the posts from classmates does make me nervous. I am looking forward to reading what everyone has to share and learning from you. I hope to share some things you will also find interesting and beneficial to your overall learning experience in this class.

This isn’t my first time blogging. I had a blog up and running for a class I took from Alec in 2007 but I didn’t keep up with it after I finished the class. Well that’s not entirely true…at some point I used a blog while I was travelling through Europe to keep my family and friends up to date with my travels; but sadly I don’t remember the address for that blog. The thought of having my writing on display for everyone to see makes me a little nervous because I am not the best writer out there. My grammar can sometime be poor and I feel as though my writing may be dry. But I will do my best to write posts that are interesting and relevant.

Although I am a little nervous to get going this semester I am really looking forward to everything that we will be learning about. I feel like the topics we discuss will really help me in the classroom as I move forward in my teaching career!