I’d like to say thank you to Matiul and my peers in 511 this term for their support, challenging discussion, and insight into their various teaching worlds.  I have learned an invaluable amount about the foundations of educational technology.  I am happy that I have this e-portfolio to refer to in the future as I reflect and digest the content we analyzed and synthesized over these short three months.  Merry Christmas to all!

Post on your blog something that includes either a question you are left pondering or an observation you’d like to make regarding Spirituality and Educational Technology or how this course has brought Educational Technology into focus for you.

Something I am still questioning is if people are replacing their natural desire for God with technology.  As a Christian, I believe that we are all born with an innate thirst for a relationship with God, our Maker.  I see that often we take up idols to try and satisfy this empty space inside ourselves.  People, including myself, often turn to short term pleasures to bring themselves happiness.  With God, we are to experience life more peacefully so that we don’t necessarily get on a roller coaster of emotions when reacting to what is happening around us.  Instead, we are to maintain a balance with conscious thought and prayer.  I don’t yet have this ability.

For me, I feel most at peace when I’m snowboarding.  I have heard other snowboarders refer to snowboarding as a spiritual experience or religion.  Of course, I learn much from church but don’t feel as connected to God as I do when I’m alone on a mountain.  I wonder if people can find God through technology as I can with snowboarding?  If so, what would that experience look like?  What technologies would allow for that to happen?

More and more people have addictions to their blackberry, ipod, cell phone etc. but this would be different.  These connections to God make me feel grateful, insignificant, elated and overwhelmed.  I would guess that an expereince with technology can not, as of yet, do that but I’m sure that the content certain technologies holds could.

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Would you agree, or disagree, that technology, through the form of television, has helped connect people to religion and spirituality?
If possible, back up your response with examples of shows, media events, and even commercials that have acted as reminders of the spirituality that is part of our global community.

To me, spirituality goes hand in hand with religion.

The reports of natural disasters in the news could connect people more to God but I would think only if they already had a belief in Him. Otherwise, I think most people would need to experience the natural disaster first hand before turning to God. In my experience, I am closest to Him during my worst moments.

Religion has turned many people off from God. I know people come to God in many different ways. I’m happy that they can find spirituality and something to believe in even without religion.

For me, it’s a different journey. I need religion to guide my spirituality. I want to learn the history of what I believe in through a teacher (pastor) in a formal way. These teachings frame my beliefs. Religion also bonds me to other believers.

In his argument for Ecotheology, Latour argues that the traditional Christian view of concerning ourselves with matters of the soul and the expense of all things material has left our environment in a sad state. He advocates for a reconciliation of Spirituality and Ecology – Stewardship. What are some examples of lessons on Stewardship that you teach in your own classroom?

I would argue with Latour that Christianity is only concerned with the salvation of people. There is an infinite number of websites on the ‘net dedicated to a Christian’s role in environmental stewardship, including scripture verses.

One prescribed learning outcome in the grade three curriculum is “demonstrate a sense of responsibility for the local environment” which can be accomplished in a range of ways from river clean-ups to composting.

Our school is very focused on the environment due to the passion of one teacher in particular. We have enviro. awareness assemblies, a school garden, recycling/composting, enviro themed plays etc.

Keeping in mind all the efforts people have made in order to protect and restore the earth, do you think that the global ecological revolution Carolyn Merchant advocates is already taking place? How do you see the role of e-learning in this revolution?

I like what the EU is doing and I think this is the only way some producers will ever be responsible for recycling their e-waste. The EU’s Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment Directive (WEEE Directive) started in 2003.

It made we wonder what type of law we have here in Canada for e-waste. After a quick search, I saw that Ontario, Alberta, British Columbia, Nova Scotia and Saskatchewan have e-waste stewardship programs but they differ immensely. For example, Alberta imposes a fee on the consumer which goes into a fund for recycling e-waste. Some provinces say manufacturers are responsible for their own collection while others pay a fee to have it collected for them.

Considering Ontario just got on board with this type of program in 2009, it seems like more and more provinces are recognizing the need for such programs.

Looking at these Canadian laws for e-waste, I’d say that the environmental revolution has just begun. However, I know Nova Scotia has been considered a leader in recycling since 1995.

The revolution started long ago for many individuals (David Suzuki!) and organizations. Yet for many others, it has just begun.

Province of Nova Scotia (2010). Recycling and E-Waste. Retrieved from: http://www.gov.ns.ca/nse/waste/

Fishlock and Chaisson (2009). E-Waste Product.Stewardship in Canada Retrieved from: http://www.blakes.com/english/view.asp?ID=2997

What are some ways to encourage reluctant teachers to use educational technology in their classrooms, and not view it as an invasive species? (Keep in mind the “Implications for Policy and Practice” section of Zhao and Frank’s paper, use the ecological metaphor, or draw from personal experience.)

I think it’s important for teachers who are comfortable using technology to model how to use it. These teachers could choose to use prezi, for example, to present something at a staff meeting, share a class video at a school assembly, embed podcasts on their website etc.

There is a teacher at our elementary school who is well known for being passionate about science. She runs an environmental club, hosts live dissections in the gym, asks her students to collect the recycling from every class, started a garden etc. Her enthusiasm is addictive. She gets other people excited about science. What’s that saying…”Be the change you want to see”?

Every three years teachers have to work on a professional growth plan (PGP) on the topic of their choice. This would be a great opportunity to do something tech. related for those teachers who never have time to look at it on their own.

Merchant suggests a ‘partnership ethic’ as a way of men and women working together – equally – to harmonize the relationship between people and the environment. What are some of examples of how this could work? What is the role of educators in this new partnership?

Initially, I thought of a community garden but then I realized that isn’t a good example because that would be controlling the land which is contrary to what Merchant is saying.

An equal partnership with nature would mean we help each other live more sustainably.

To promote this partnership teachers could take their students on a field trip to clean-up a river, park or any other area that has been preserved in its original state. We would be giving to that place by helping to keep it in its pure form. We would be receiving a wide range of things from oxygen to inspiration from its beauty.

Teacher could also educate students about where their food comes from, discussing their role as consumers. For example, they could compare and contrast the environmental impact of buying food locally vs. imported food.

After some discussion I realized the community garden would be an equal partnership. I originally hought Merchant was implying a partnership between people and nature in its original form, not reworked by people. A garden is definitely mutually beneficial.

There has been a lot of controversy in other countries that private tutoring is putting too much pressure on students.

Mark Bray, Director of UNESCO’s International Institute for Educational Planning, has written much on this subject. He found international teachers have been known to withhold “part of the curriculum during the day in order to sell it to their students outside school.”

He is also quoted as saying, “Educators in the mainstream should ask why tutoring exists, and endeavour to provide better services in the public sector.” Ouch!

However, he does say that the US, UK and Korea have well developed education systems so tutoring there is sought after because of high stakes testing and competition.

He notes countries like Finland, Norway and Denmark don’t have a heavy tutoring culture. I’d like to know more about their education model.

I am concerned that tutoring in North America works against everything we value in public school. The traditional teaching methods like rote practice and memorization are no longer our focus but continue to be taught in learning centres. This makes it confusing for parents and students.

de Sousa, M. (2010) http://www.unesco.org/en/education/dynamic-content-single-view/news/interview_with_mark_bray_director_of_unescos_international_institute_for_educational_plan

The following is information taken from “Educational Testing Service” by Stephen Petrina in Encyclopedia of Curriculum Studies.

The Educational Testing Service (ETS) was established in 1947 as a nonprofit corporation in the United States. At that time, 60 million tests were given to 20 million people. Currently their revenue is $900 million from 24 million test takers. The ETS produces tests like the Graduate Record Examination (GRE), The National Teacher Exam (now called the Praxis Series), The Test of English as a Foreign language (TOEFL), and the Scholastic Aptitude/Achievement Tests (SAT). In 1993, Sylvan Learning Centre won an exclusive contract to administer the ETS’ tests in their centres and landing contracts in city schools to standardize curriculum for the SAT and other tests throughout the 1990s. In 1980, Ralph Nader released report called The Reign of ETS: The corporation that makes up minds asking why the ETS is considered a nonprofit corporation. However, the ETS maintains that they are an independent non-profit research and educational organization.

The ETS defines their mission as follows:

“To advance quality and equity in education by providing fair and valid assessments, research and related services. Our products and services measure knowledge and skills, promote learning and educational performance, and support education and professional development for all people worldwide.”

Similarly in British Columbia, we have the Fraser Institute, an independent non-partisan research and educational organization that depends entirely on donations to operate. They rate schools based on performance on a standardized test called the Foundation Skills Assessment (FSA), a province-wide exam that measures reading, writing and numeracy of grade 4, 7, and 10 students. The ranking of schools published in the newspaper which is supposedly done to help parents choose a school for their children and to encourage those schools that get low rankings to improve. In 2010, “Burnaby’s top five schools were all private. Edmonds Elementary, one of the city’s poorest schools, was ranked last – 870 on a list of 876 schools province wide” (Moreau).

As one would image, many educators are against these type of tests and the publicity they receive.

“It’s the BC Liberal’s agenda to undermine public education, to go private,” said Judy Richardson, president of the Peace River South Teachers’ Association (Bains).

“The Fraser Institute is a right-wing think tank and part of their agenda is to see an increase in private schools, and we’re firmly against that. We want to see the best public education system in the world,” said Beth Miller, Sea to Sky Teacher’s Union President (Burke).

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A case study of Sylvan Learning Centre partnering with the Baltimore School District

Sylvan Learning Centre partnered with the Baltimore public school system despite resistance surrounding privatization. Malen et. al. (2005) investigated how this was accomplished in their article, “Legitimating privatization: The politics of Sylvan Support Centers in the Baltimore Public School system”. Even more importantly, Malen et al. (2005) suggest that this case highlighted the “complex process through which particular types of organizations might establish and maintain legitimacy in new markets and challenging environments.

In the 1990s the Baltimore Public School Board faced financial challenges like underfunding, lack of resources, poor student performance etc. How did Sylvan win a contract for providing tutor services for that district? Sylvan, important political figures, educators and the public all had a role to play.

At the end of the first year, the superintendant of the district used test score results to promote the program in a public campaign. So the program expanded. Sylvan hired school administrators for organizational positions, tailored programs to meet school needs, and provided staff development to teachers. In 2000, Sylvan was involved with almost thirty percent of Baltimore`s schools before the program ended.

Scott (2001) as cited by Malen et al. (2005) argued that private businesses need to meet one or more of the three pillars of social institutions as outlined to be accepted as legitimate partners with public organizations. Sylvan was able to align with all three pillars.

Regulatory Pillar
“An organization may be perceived as legitimate, if it’s actions ar legal, authorized by relevant officials and subject to the ‘suveillance and sanctioning power’ (Scott, 2001 in Malen et al., 2005) of those officials.” Sylvan secured relationships with district officials, the mayor and the superintendent.

Normative Pillar
Does the organization model society’s values, beliefs, and expectations? In this case, Sylvan tried to exemplify the values of educators and the surrounding community.

Cultural-Cognitive Pillar
“This pillar directs attention to widely and deeply held assumptions about social realities, roles and responsibilities. It exposes the taken-for-granted understandings that shape how actions and events are interpreted.” (Malen et al. 2005) For example, Syvan agreed to tutor a group of students instead of trying to reform the whole education system. Also, they were subject to reviews and accountability for their practices.

Sylvan’s flexibility, important connections, publicity, educational values, employees and the fact they first began working with a small cohort, Sylvan was able to work in partnership and influence public domain. Are we in danger of this happening again? Could the Fraser Institute in British Columbia (or other examples of private business near you) continue to reform education in an exceeding amount?

Aurini and Davies (2004) compare and contrast the shadow educator and learning centres in their paper, The Transformation of Private Tutoring: Education in a Franchise Form. They discuss the impacts franchising has on tutoring and education. The statistics (shown in the youtube video below) demonstrate the increasing demand for private tutoring in Ontario, Canada and North America. Aurini and Davies (2004) show that these learning centres are becoming highly diverse and beginning to offer an alternative to public schooling. Please watch the xtranormal animation to learn more about what learning centres offer.

Aurini and Davies (2004) show that learning centres are becoming more competitive with public schools because of their increasing diversity of programs they offer by their franchises. Essentially, they are becoming more and more school like. Since tutors are usually sought out for after school help, learning centres have had to target different groups to fill their spaces during the school day. Now learning centres are targeting four main groups (Aurini and Davies, 2004, p.427):

1. High school students who want to go to university in the States. These students can prepare for the entrance exams (SAT) during their prep. periods.
2. Preschoolers. “Beginning Reading” (Sylvan), “Little Readers” (Oxford) and “Fast Track Kids” (Academy for Mathematics and Science) are just some of the programs targeted at this age group.
3. Adult education and skill upgrading. Some of these programs are being taught online.
4. Some learning centres are opening full day private schools. They attract parents by offering small class sizes.

“It has been found that there is high demand for tutoring in countries that have post secondary entrance exams, major status differences among their post secondary institutions, and direct occupational rewards for entry into those institutions.” (Bray, 1999 as cited in Aurini and Davies, 2004, p.421) So why are Canadians feeling more and more pressure to seek out tutors and private schools?

-More parents are becoming involved in their children’s education.
-University is becoming harder to get into.
-“Parents generally view private schools as having superior resources, smaller classes, and a more academic environment.” (Aurini and Davies, 2004, p.436)

Is the public education system pushing our students away?

Schools are regularly introducing new curriculum, more standardized tests at many grade levels, new report cards etc. These changes can cause confusion and unease. The founder of a math tutoring business believed that Ontario’s new math curriculum has boosted business because of the fear it has invoked in parents and students. (Aurini and Davies, 2004)

“Activity for “Whither Psychoanalysis in Computer Culture?”

Turkle suggests that “in cyberspace, identity is fluid and multiple, a signifier no longer clearly points to a thing that is signified and understanding is less likely to proceed through analysis than by navigation through virtual space” (p. 24). She acknowledges that Freudian ideas about a unified identity have fallen out of favour, and contemporary psychoanalytic research is focusing on what Freudian theory overlooked: the multiplicity of identity. The multiple, distributed selves we create in cyberspace reflect this shift and offer new ways of thinking about identity.

We would like to invite you to show us another version of yourself. Have a look at the little Xtranormal movie on our blog in which Sheila becomes Hilary Clinton and Brianne becomes Sarah Palin for a few minutes. Then go to Xtranormal.com, create a movie using a different version of yourself and post the link here (please press “reply”–do not create a new post).

We look forward to meeting a new version of you!”

“Turkle refers to Erik Erikson’s mid-20th-century theory of “psycho-social moratorium”—the idea that an adolescent is allowed a “consequence-free time-out,” but suggests that while our culture no longer offers this safety net, cyberspace does, and it is no longer limited to adolescence. Thus, cyberspace can actually facilitate self-reparation in terms of identity—it can help individuals resolve social and identity issues in the same way that adolescence—a time of social experimentation—does. To what extent do you agree with Turkle’s argument? If Turkle’s premise is valid, what does this mean in terms of the on-line classroom?”

This is a dangerous statement to me because it suggests that adolescents can explore behaviours or personalities without consequence on-line.

I am doing my essay review on cyberbullying. If this is the type of exploration a teen chooses, the impact can be very severe. In many ways the impact is worse than traditional bullying because it is relentless, usually anonymous and very public.

Cyberbullying doesn’t lead the bully to more self-discovery. If anything, because of the superficial nature of the internet, the bully’s emotions don’t develop as well as they would in person. For example, the bully isn’t able to respond to social cues like body language or emotional responses like crying etc. that he/she would otherwise see in person. Also, if the bully is never caught, he/she doesn’t have to deal with the consequences of such behaviour.

Right now, there is controversy over a school’s role in cyberbullying. It is clear that a school needs to take action if this happens at school. Recent literature supports that a school also has a responsibility to act even if the bullying takes place off campus. This is because a victim’s learning could be severely disrupted if he/she is bullied by an anonymous classmate.

Schools need to develop intervention and prevention programs for cyberbullying. They also need to be aware of the legal implications for their authority over the child.