Debate #8 Reflection – Is Online Education Detrimental to the Social and Academic Development of Children?

All educators approach online education with varying degrees of enthusiasm and concern. I think I hold an optimistic perspective about online learning. Delivering courses online could offer more learning opportunities for students. For teachers, parents, and students, it is important to consider both the pros and cons of online learning so teachers and parents can help their children better prepare to face the challenge of studying online as well as embrace the new opportunities that it has to offer (University of Illinois, 2021). Strengths of Online Learning Anywhere & Anytime There are many reasons why online learning become popular among teachers, parents and students. As the disagreed side mentioned, online learning is flexible compared with in-person learning. It allows students to participate in high-quality learning when a location becomes an issue. For example, my niece in China can learn English online with a foreign teacher who might be in the USA, Canada or Australia. Online learning allows her to practice oral English with foreign teachers through an online platform. This has created a positive English learning environment for her. Nowadays, many American English teachers are remotely teaching English to Chinese students. Here is an example: Every morning at 5 a.m., Autmn Fletcher walks into her home office in Monmouth, Illinois, and switches on her laptop, just in time to teach English to Chinese children arriving home after school in Beijing. Tens of thousands of Americans are teaching English remotely, connecting to a massive Chinese population eager to learn the language, and aided by advances in global communication technology (Zhang, 2019). Technology has made remote teaching English and learning English easier, and helped students improve academic performance in English.  Students can participate in classes from anywhere in the world, provided they have a computer and Internet connection. In addition, the online format allows physically challenged students (and teachers) more freedom to participate in class. Participants access the virtual classroom through their computers instead of having to “go to class” physically (University of Illinois, 2021). Online learning makes education accessible. Student-Centered Learning (SCL) In traditional in-person schools, students respond to learning content differently. Online learning can be a more student-centred learning experience for students. For example, online learning classes can be a one-on-one model. Teachers can provide learning materials based on the students’ understanding level and abilities. Students can choose what they are interested in and want to learn, and have more control over their studies. Online learning is usually very interactive. The use of interactive learning environments as contributing to self-direction and critical thinking. Many traditional classes are still based on lectures and memorization of materials. Self-directed and student-centred online learning provides innovative and creative approaches and creates a dynamic learning environment. Supplement to In-person Learning The disagreed side also mentioned that online learning can act as a supplement for traditional in-person learning, and online learning cannot replace in-person learning. I agree with that. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, online learning has been adopted in all stages of education. This sudden change from traditional learning to 100% online learning may affect students’ learning effectiveness (Hong et al., 2021). Teachers and students mush adapt quickly to a new learning model which differs from face-to-face learning. However, the vast majority of online courses lack hands-on activities requiring experimental operations. When online learning becomes the only method for teaching, such as during the pandemic, it has caused ineffective learning for students, but if online learning act as a supplement for in-person learning. Students would have more opportunities to study something that may not be covered in the in-person classroom, and learn more about what they want to learn.  Weaknesses of Online Learning Limitations of Technology The agreed side argued that not every student and every family has access to high-speed Internet and digital devices. Technology also has its limitation. When everything is running smoothly, technology is intended to be low profile and is used as a tool in the learning process. However, breakdowns can occur at any point along with the system. For example, the server which hosts the program could crash and cut all participants off from the class; a participant may access the class through a networked computer which could go down; individual PCs can have numerous problems which could limit students’ access; finally, the Internet connection could fail, or the institution hosting the connection could become bogged down with users and either slow down or fail altogether. In situations like these, the technology is neither seamless nor reliable, and it can detract from the learning experience (University of Illinois, 2021). Quality of Education A successful in-person course does not mean it can be successfully transformed into an online course. Some teachers do not acquire essential online teaching abilities. For example, they are not properly trained in designing online class curricula, delivering online classes, interacting with students online, and using online platforms and tools. Thus, the success of the online classes would be compromised, and the quality of online classes would be reduced. Teachers who are teaching classes online need to have enough knowledge and skills to facilitate online classes. Teachers need to know how to create a supportive environment in a virtual classroom where all students feel comfortable participating. If not, an online class would be weakened. Responsibilities for Students Not every student is suitable for online learning. As previously mentioned, online learning allows students have more control over their own studies. Thus, students need to become more mature and self-disciplined. They need to have more responsibilities to manage their learning experience. The features of flexibility and accessibility for online learning require more management for students over their schedules and calendar. Online learning may not be appropriate for more dependent learners. For these reasons, online education is not appropriate for younger students, such as elementary or secondary school age, and other students who are dependent learners and have difficulty assuming responsibilities required by the online paradigm (University of Illinois, 2021). I am just listing a few of the strengths and weaknesses of online learning, and I am having an optimistic perspective on it. Although there are many weaknesses to online learning, I think with a balanced practice from teachers and parents, students would benefit more from both in-person learning and online studying. Thank you for reading my blogs throughout the EC&I 830!

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Debate #7 Reflection – Do Educators and Schools Have a Responsibility to Help Students Develop a Digital Footprint?

Internet usage is now thoroughly embedded in many children’s lives. Although young people are frequently online, they do not consciously consider how their usage affects their digital identity, focusing instead on the short-term benefits of being able to network with friends (Buchanan et al., 2017). As Dan mentioned in his video, “Teaching Students About Digital Footprints and Digital Citizenship,” what you put online today, may stay there forever; anything you put online or sent to someone can be saved or screenshotted, will exist forever and you can’t take it back. It’s your digital legacy. Children need to be aware of their digital footprint and digital identity because they will have a long-term impact on their lives and will affect their employment and career development in the future. Thus, I think educators and schools have a responsibility to help students develop a positive digital footprint, and children need to know how to manage their digital footprint.  Digital Footprint and Children As the disagreed side argued, children have developed their digital footprint and digital identity before they enter the school. I agree with that, but having a digital footprint does not mean children understand how to build up a positive digital identity. Children may not know the definition of a digital footprint, digital identity and digital citizenship. Children may not be aware that how a negative digital footprint would have serious consequences for their future. Children may not know how to manage their digital footprint. Their parents may not have knowledge, awareness and attitudes toward digital footprints and strategies. Younger children and adolescents are much less likely than adults to consider how their present actions could have an impact on their future (Buchanan et al., 2017). I think children and teenagers should be systemically taught by educators and schools to curate a positive digital footprint even though they have already developed one. They would become cautious about the future use of the Internet and social media. They could share what they have learned from schools to educate their parents and let their parents become aware of the appropriate practice of media release and the impact of what they post on children.  Digital Footprint Management The need for education about digital footprint in the primary school curriculum is supported by the children (Buchanan et al., 2017). To achieve successful digital footprint management, this mission does not solely rely on educators and schools. Without parental involvement and systemic support from the government and schools, this mission is hard to succeed. As the agreed side said that teachers have responsibilities to educate their students, protect them from digital attacks, and help them distinguish between the real world and virtual world, but without support from schools and the government, teachers would feel isolated in this mission. I feel the supports need to come from both schools and the government. For example, the disagreed side mentioned that teachers are not well-prepared to teach students about digital footprint and they feel resources and guidelines are not enough. Can the government make the course about digital footprint part of the mandatory curriculum? Can schools provide more resources and professional development opportunities to educate teachers about this topic? Can the government and schools provide more funding to support this course? I feel these methods could help teachers to be well-prepared and become confident about teaching digital footprint. It is a shared responsibility among the government, schools, teachers and parents because it is important that children receive formal education about strategies for digital footprint management that enables them to understand how to develop a positive digital footprint for their future (Buchanan et al., 2017).  Parents Involvement and Education The disagreed side points out that not all parents are accountable or capable to educate their children about their digital footprint. Parents may not realize that their digital footprint can impact their children’s future. For example, they may not know sometimes it’s not okay to share their children’s photos online because it will expose a child’s digital identity to a global audience (Anson-Smith, 2021). Some pictures have geotags. Those tags stay with your pictures when you share on online. All the information stays with the pictures and can contain clues to where you live (Spada, 2019). So parents need to be careful when they share photos online and also need to educate their children about the risks of sharing information online. In addition, the disagreed side also mentioned that parents may not understand the digital release forms, such as newcomer families or low-literacy families. Educators need to spend more time explaining to these families and helping them understand the importance of it.  In conclusion, I think educators and teachers have the responsibility to teach digital footprint, but need supports from the government, school management, and parents. For the policy level, the government could change the particular policy to provide more funding for creating a mandatory course on digital footprint; school management could provide more professional development opportunities and resources to equip enough knowledge for teachers; parents need to know the important impact of the digital footprint on children and monitor children’s online behaviour. A successful education on a digital footprint requires multifaceted efforts from teachers, government, schools, and parents.

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Debate #6 Reflection – Should Cellphones Be Banned in the Classroom?

On the agree side, I still stand by my point. Cellphones should be banned in the classroom. Besides the few reasons that have been elaborated on during the debate, as Breanna (2019) mentioned, she has noticed in her own classroom that students have become increasingly dependent on their phones, and students are dealing with nomophobia, the fear of not being able to use one’s phone or the many apps that these devices now offer. This phenomenon leads to other issues including the inability to focus, stress and anxiety, and the inappropriate use of cellular devices.  Nomophobia & FOMO How many of you are attempted to check your phone, like text, social media notification, etc., during your work or study? How many of you are felt empty or missing something when your phone is not around? How many of you are felt fear of missing out (FOMO) important notifications? I certainly do. I start questions myself: are they really important? Similar to students, they need to mature enough to control the urge to compulsively check their phones (Smale et al., 2021). As the whole new generation was born into the digital world while growing up, technology is natural for them. Their brain is constantly seeking information. To ban cell phones in the classroom, we will reduce the seven or eight hours that students will have on their phones and let them focus on what they need to focus on. There is no doubt that the notorious dependence of children on their mobile devices is a problem, that why the strict rule of banning cell phones need to be implemented in classrooms.  Cyberbullying & “Sexting” During the debate, we have not had too much time to elaborate on cyberbullying and sexting. They are also part of the reasons why cell phones need to be banned in the classroom. In the context of cyberbullying, the cell phone is a “potentially offensive weapon. More recent studies reported that children who owned cell phones in Grades 3 to 5 were more likely to be both victims and perpetrators of cyberbullying compared to those who did not own cell phones. Cell phones in classrooms could contribute to increases in written and verbal threats due to these devices’ inconspicuous nature, especially when cyberbullying is compared to more traditional, overt forms of bullying (Smale et al., 2021). Banning cell phones is one of the methods that could help reduce cyberbullying and stop it at the school gate. Related to cell phones, there is an ever-growing prominence of students’ use of cell phones to engage in “sexting.” “Sexting” is defined as the “self-production and distribution by cell phone of sexually explicit images in the course ofconsensual, voluntary activity.” 48% of the youth had received sexually suggestive text messages, 31% had received nude or semi-nude photographs or videos, 38% had sent or posted sexually suggestive text messages, and 20% had sent or posted semi-nude photographs or videos (Smale et al., 2021). Banning cell phones can stop students photographing and then texting images of their peers without their permission. Surveillance Capitalism I mentioned surveillance capitalism in the opening debate statement video. The ban on phones in school will effectively limit the data collected on children by not allowing them to use their personal devices during school hours (Selwyn & Aagaard, 2021). Surveillance capitalism refers to the collection and appropriation of device users’ personal data by third parties such as advertisers, data brokers and other beneficiaries of the so-called “data economy” (Holloway, 2019). Phone bans will significantly disrupt students’ exploitation by commercial data brokers, stop relentless tracking of and marketing to children, and avoid excessive commercial incursions into classrooms.  Changing Mindset I can see the benefits of allowing cell phones in classrooms from the disagreed side, such as increasing accessibility, improving the connection between teachers and students, students and students, and students and parents, engaging in learning, interacting with students etc. There are many successful examples of integrating cell phones in the classroom. For example, Kunnath and Jackson (2019) research about incorporating Twitter into the class to implement critical literacy. Students and teachers utilized their cell phones inside and outside of the classroom to access Twitter for purposes of research, communication, and interaction.  To not ban cell phone in the classroom, teachers need to change their mindset and design curriculum to incorporate these devices in class, update school policies and classroom expectations to reduce distractions, provide guidance and supports towards cyberbullying and sexting, and find ways to use phones as academic tools.

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Debate #5 Reflection – Is Social Media Ruining Childhood?

I was initially on the agree side of this topic, but after the debate and reading provided materials, I start questioning my position and questioning if social media is ruining childhood. I need to admit that social media does have some negative effects on children, but it’s not ruining childhood. We need to be aware that the time is different now, childhood for kids is different now, and parents’ responsibilities are different now. Stop Making a Comparison I hear both debate sides as well as as the videos from Matt and Dr. Brenna mentioned somethings like “when I was a kid, I don’t have so many screens in front of me except TV,” and “when I was growing up, I spent times playing in the field,” “when I was growing up, I didn’t have a phone, which turns out fine.” I just want to say stop making a comparison between your childhood and nowadays kids’ childhood because times are changing. We can never go back to the 70s, 80s, or 90s. There is no standard about what is a good childhood and what is not a good childhood. If children enjoy the moment, that’s a good childhood. We enjoyed the moment when we were having a lot of physical activities and when we were running around and playing on the field. It was a good childhood for us. Today’s kids enjoyed technology, enjoyed digital activities on iPads, and enjoyed social media. It is a good childhood for them. If we hold a biased opinion that I had a good childhood because it was full of physical activities and no social media and too much technology, kids in today’s childhood are ruined because they may not have as much as physical activities than I had, and it is full of social media and advanced technology, we will never have an impartial perspective to analyze the effects of social media on children. Our childhood and kids in today’s childhood are not comparable. The Social Media Dilemma I admit that social media has negative effects on children. As the agreed side mentioned, social media is an online predator. It spreads sexual messages to kids and affects children’s mental health. Social media would cause obesity issues because it affects children’s physical development social media is lacking physical activity and also losing sleep (Bizieff, 2021). Social media is superficial and impacts children to build long-term face-to-face relationships. Online advertising through social media provides false information to children. As Matt (2021) mentioned in his video, social media for children causes stress, anxiety, depression, lower life satisfaction, and makes kids lonelier. Moreover, Dr. Brenna (2021) mentioned that social media are horrible for kids. Pre-teens and teens who are always on their phones are addicted to their devices. She provides an example of a 14-year-old girl who does not want to get up from bed because she lost her phone. Children on social media will have unfiltered and unprotected information. I agree that social media does have a lot of negative impacts on children’s physical, mental and social well-being, but social media has positive impacts on children as well.  As the disagreed side mentioned, social media can allow children to connect with their friends. Social media provides more learning opportunities, such as children can use TikTok to share culture and language. Social media doesn’t just have to be fake news, trolls, echo chambers, and clout chasing, it can be used for empowering children and helping others (SmartSocial, 2022). Moreover, social media can make space for children to have a voice and advocate for children globally. Like Bana, a 7-year-old girl, uses Twitter to write a story about her experience in the challenging war and advocates a voice for peace (Chelsey, 2020). Social media then becomes a powerful tool for activism and advocacy.  People with disabilities often encounter challenges in establishing the social relationship and sustaining connections to their community. Social and physical barriers often make it difficult for people with disabilities to mobilize, hear, or understand others, to speak, or communicate. Social media is a wonderful platform for people with disabilities to connect, build friendships, connect with communities, receive or give information, share knowledge, find social support groups, and advocate for themselves (Sweet et al, 2020). The development of social media is essential and inclusive for all children with disabilities.  Parenting Children in the Age of Screens Although social media has those negative effects, with proper guidance and supports from teachers and parents, I think social media will become a powerful learning tool for our children. A lot of parents don’t know what to do, like Dr. Brenna mentioned in her video, they would say what am I support to do or do I just take their phones away from them? Parenting has never been easy, and the rise of social media has introduced a new wrinkle to the challenges of parenthood (Auxier et al., 2020). Parents need to say “I am going to protect you no matter what.” Same as the disagreed side mentioned, teachers and parents are the rule makers, we need to enforce the rules towards our children, and determine what is best for kids in the long-term. Social media cannot be used as a method to engage with children if parents are busy. Parents cannot throw children a phone and let them do whatever they want to on the phone without monitoring them. If parents are unsure about how much screen time is too much for their young child. The World Health Organization issued strict guidelines on the amount of time young children should spend in front of screens.  None for kids younger than 2 years old Just 60 minutes per day for 3- to 4-year-olds Parents need to monitor how much time children spend on screen and monitor what social media apps their children would use. There are many parental control apps that parents can install on their phones and their children’s phones. Parents can use parental control features to monitor their children’s screen time, protect children from inappropriate content online, such as pornography or other adult content, and restrict what their child does online. Unlimited social media apps and unlimited screening time would harm children’s well-being. Digital Leadership Digital leadership is new terminology for me and I was inspired by ideas of digital leadership. As Miller (2018) mentioned, digital leadership is defined as using the vast reach of technology (especially the use of social media) to improve the lives, well-being, and circumstances of others. Digital citizenship is the norm of appropriate, responsible behaviour concerning technology use. Under the guidance of digital citizenship, students need to learn how to use the Internet and social media in a responsible and ethical manner. Compare with digital citizenship, we need to educate children to develop digital leadership skills. Using social media as a tool to advocate for social inequality. Teaching students to be a part of the online community is not enough, educators should teach their students to shape and influence the online community in a positive way. Students are not only to be good digital citizens but also to be good digital leaders. If today’s children are living in the world of screens and spending so much time engaging with their peers in the digital world, simply knowing how to behave is not enough, they need to learn how to lead. Using social media as a platform to advocate for others’ well-being and social injustice. They need to know how to influence others appropriately online. I like the idea of digital leadership. I think educators have a responsibility to teach children how to become digital leaders, which is the correct way for us to guide children to use social media.  In conclusion, firstly, we cannot make a comparison between our childhood and today’s kids’ childhood, and use our standards to judge if children have a good childhood today. Social media have some negative impacts on children, but with appropriate guidance and supports from parents, social media can become a powerful tool to give and receive information and knowledge as well as advocate and influence others positively as a digital leader.

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