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The combination of three different pandemics — the coronavirus, racial injustice & economic uncertainty — has opened a gaping anxious hole in my inner being ripe for the filling. Like many people I know, I began to fill that hole with “doomscrolling” and mindless swiping through social media.

Over the last few weeks, as the pandemic has worsened, the presidential transition has felt like a queasy rollercoaster ride, and societal inequities have been pulled to the surface like we haven’t seen in decades, I have found myself falling down a hole of endless scrolling in search of something that I couldn’t name. …

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As this whirlwind, unprecedented school year comes to a close, many schools are grappling with how to close out their gradebooks for the year. I have seen a variety of approaches to assessing students during this time of emergency remote teaching. These span from consolidating grading terms to marking work complete/incomplete, to more traditional grading practices with strict deadlines and penalty for non-completion. Many of the policies (thankfully) lean toward only improving student grades during the pandemic.

I wonder, though, how many schools are taking the time to assess themselves? We are in this for the long haul, and remote teaching and learning is not going to magically disappear in the Fall. How are we collecting data on our own approaches and practices during this time so that we can improve them for what will, no doubt, be an unpredictable start to the school year? …

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As I sit at home with my 5 1/2 year-old and 2 year-old attempting to figure out some kind of routine and manage my own anxieties, I have been struggling not to cringe as I watch the entire country turn educating kids into a huge social and technological experiment.

The approaches range widely, with some schools and districts switching entirely online, requiring students to submit work for a grade and running daily Zoom “classes” for kids as young as elementary, and some districts, like mine here in Philadelphia, directing teachers not to teach online at all due to FAPE (Free Appropriate Public Education) law and instead providing families with enrichment materials. …

As I watch many schools move their instruction online due to the unprecedented COVID-19 crisis, there are many questions and concerns I have. There are the obvious ways that many school communities are not prepared for the switch, especially with such short notice. There are also obvious concerns with supporting students with IEPs and disabilities, as well as students who do not have access to the Internet or devices at home.

One of the not so obvious ways that this switch will challenge school communities lies in how schools consider specific laws that govern protection of student data and students privacy. I have also seen concerns posted by authors, publishers and librarians over the sharing of copyrighted materials through this mode of communication that is often new to many teachers. A number of librarians and educational institutions have release this statement regarding fair use during this difficult time. …

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Photo by niklas_hamann on Unsplash

About 2 years ago, I was looking to incorporate digital well being into my Freshman Intro to Tech class, and I came across the excellent TED talk by Manoush Zomorodi, podcast host extraordinaire. In 2015, she ran a challenge on her Note to Self podcast focusing on putting down your phone and tuning up your attention and embracing boredom. Her book, Bored and Brilliant, is a deep dive into boredom and how it is beneficial to our creativity. Scientists who study boredom explain that our brains go into overtime when we are bored and let our minds wander. Try to remember the last time you had a great idea. …

Each year, as I prepare for my Media Literacy unit with my Freshmen, I scour my various social media timelines for examples of things to share with my students to challenge their critical thinking and research skills, and to spark discussions about their own experiences consuming media.

This year, an example came in my own Facebook timeline. A friend shared an image from reddit that took a jab at President Trump. …

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Over the last few weeks there have been a number of conversations centered around who owns the content that teachers create for their classrooms. Anyone in the teaching profession knows that part of being a teacher is actually not that different from being an artist. Teachers have to think outside of the box about how to convey concepts and ideas just as artists strive to create works that encourage people to think differently. Teachers are constantly repurposing and revising units and materials created by others to meet their needs. …

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Just in time for the holiday season, a new study guide for the book is available! The guide can be used for any chapter of the book, and helps make connections between the content of the chapter and the reader’s current classroom units and lessons and pedagogical exploration. Sample rubrics and lesson and unit plan templates are included. This would also make a great addition to current professional development opportunities for teachers or a great resource for pre-service teachers.

The guide can be used digitally and replicated as many times as needed for as many chapters as the reader wishes, or it can be printed and completed by hand.

Just last week, a relative of mine posted an image on Facebook that grabbed my attention. I teach juniors and seniors in a Media and Design class, and our first project was based around image editing. At first glance, the photo just didn’t look right.

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The next day, I showed the image to my students, explaining that I had seen it on Facebook. Immediately, one of my students said, “It looks like someone put the front of someone on the back of someone!” They all squinted looking at the proportions of the body. …

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This post contains excerpts from my newly released book, Digital and Media Literacy in the Age of the Internet: Practical Classroom Applications, which is now available on Amazon.

Social Media and Mental Health

A 2017 Royal Society of Public Health (RSPH) social media study of 1500 young people in the UK from ages 14 to 24 years old found that Instagram, out of all of the social media apps, had the most negative impact on young people’s mental health. Due to the highly stylized and edited content, teens reported that it had a negative effect on body image. The ability to follow others’ experiences in real time also led to high levels of “Fear of Missing Out” or FOMO as young people worried that if they didn’t keep scrolling, they would miss something important. …

About

Mary Beth Hertz

Mom, author, Technology Coordinator at SLA Beeber. Guiding kids through digital and media literacy. Here to learn & share. http://marybethhertz.me

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