Monthly Archives: November 2015

Embracing Technology in the Classroom is NOT Enough


I h8583949219ave been spending a lot of time thinking about what i have learned in EC&I 832. One thing that stood out for me was realizing that I thought I was informed and in fact I knew very little. Digital literacy, Digital Citizenship and Social Media all look very different to me after 3 months.

Initially, I felt like I was doing a great job educating my students about being responsible on line by embracing technology and  simply transferring the character education I was doing in class to online behaviour. It is SO much more. Many of my colleagues still feel that they are educating their students by simply embracing technology, this is NOT enough.

It is so easy to say that “I use the Mimio, incorporate videos and devices in my lessons”. Moving beyond this is the challenge. In some cases our students know more about being online than we do. They are using Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Chat Rooms at home and on handheld devices. They are constantly connected and often begin the journey without realizing the digital footprint they are creating. They are growing up in a digital age. What they do and learn now will directly affect them in the future and the frightening part is that age online isn’t as apparent. Facebook policy is that no one under 13 years of age is allowed to sign up, yet I have had grade 2 students send me a friend request.  Parents think that this is a recommendation not a requirement and can lead to things that we want to protect our children from, like bullying but even more serious sextortion. Parents need to be part of the conversation about what their children are doing online but what role do educators have in it?


Technology is changing the definition of community we are no longer limited to our neighborhoods and places we can travel to be connected digital citizens can engage with groups that are local and groups that are not geographically connected simultaneously. We need to cultivate 21st century skills within our students and teach them how to manage these connections. The problem is if an educator is not willing to learn these skills themselves chances are the will not cultivate them. Educators need to also be learners.

Students are using digital media all of the time. The students in this video Youth and Digital Learning: Are Kids Different Because of Digital Media? students explain the shift in thinking with digital media. They also explain the disconnect with the generation before them (their parents and often their teachers).

It is critical that we move beyond becoming familiar with the following documents to effectively using them to guide our student’s learning.

Because many schools are shifting to BYOD policies and pushing for integrating more technology in the classroom students need to be able to effectively understand and examine their online activity. There are 5 Reasons You Should Be Teaching Digital Citizenship

  • The gap is growing
      • Most educators embrace new technology without fully understanding the consequences of implementing them Our. students will continue to use them whether or not they’re available at school so teaching them how to use them responsibly is important.
  • Digital footprints are easy to leave
      • Employers and colleges are using online digital footprints to screen potential employees and college admissions. Many students don’t think about what they post online and how it can effect them in the future.
  • It’s real life
      • Our students are accessing technology everywhere and it makes no sense to avoid giving them the opportunity to do it in a real authentic way in the classroom with guidance.
  • There’s a culture of multitasking
      • With increased connection and instant access to multiple things multi tasking or fragmented attention is growing we need to teach students how to regulate and sustain their attention.
  • Content curation is an emerging literacy
    • Students have access to information at all times they need to be taught how to carefully collect site and determine which information is reliable.

Educators need to step out of their comfort zones and work with students to access and connect responsibly. I have struggled with finding my voice in this blog and on Twitter BUT I now have a better understanding of what my students need because of it.


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Posted by on November 30, 2015 in EC&I832


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Don’t forget the heart

3643510503This post strays slightly from the posts for the class but I felt the need to reflect. The past week has been an incredibly emotional week. It is been difficult to find time to work on my major project or any additional work outside of my job. I found that I was on a roller coaster of ups and downs and realized that in fact my reading for the week tied into everything that was going on. Being educator is normally an emotional rollercoaster. I am with “my kids” during the week sometimes more than their parents are. It is difficult not to be moved by the children in my classroom. They come to school and share stories of what’s going on at home, other parts of their world, and with their friends. The openness and honesty of these children is sometime shocking. They will tell you why they didn’t eat a meal last night or why they have that bruise or even why they didn’t get much sleep last night.

So because I am an educator my job is emotionally challenging on a daily basis. Add to this the fact that I work daily with students who have behavioral challenges and /or medical diagnosis in addition to what other students may be experiencing. Although as a professional I know what happens during the day with my students is not a personal attack on myself it leaves a mark on me. If they are melting down, angry and unable to self regulate I may be the target of objects or unkind words. It reminds me of the story that I frequently use with my students. I will bring in a fence board perfectly smooth, beautiful and unmarked. Then I bring out the hammer and we talk about how the words we use or our actions impact others. Each time I hit the board with the hammer it leaves a mark. We never know the sensitivity of others and what those words might be that leave a mark. So we should always choose to treat each other with kindness and respect. 3515977739.png

This week my great uncle passed away. He was 97 years old and had lived a very full life. As I listen to the words that people were saying about him and how he impacted their life I began to wonder why do we only share this when someone is gone? Why do we choose to spread the gossip, mean, and nasty things about people? We see it daily on social media. From celebrities, to friends of friends and professionals in our community. Every mistake becomes a scandal and spreads like wild fire in seconds on the web. How different would the world be if we chose to let people know how they impacted your life or if we chose to use social media to spread those good things that happen on a daily basis?

As educators it’s a rare thing for us to know exactly how we impacted the lives of our students. We hope, at least I hope, that I’ve made a difference in the life of even one student in each class each year that I teach. They always say be careful what you ask for but in this case it wasn’t a bad thing. I ran into two former students who are siblings and I had the opportunity to teach both of them in grade 2. They were a few years apart and I taught the older brother first. As we were talking their dad was explaining some of the challenges they’ve had over the past few years in education. The older brother more so than the younger sister had experienced significant difficulties and was kicked out of two schools. I was shocked by this as it wasn’t the kid that I knew in grade 2. He was strong academically, was able to get along with others socially and was intrinsically driven. As I sat with him and talked a little bit about what was going on you could see the disappointment on his face. He told me “you were one of my favorite teachers and I know I’m not doing that good now”. I was faced with a moment of heartache sitting in the middle of a busy restaurant having a 15-year-old boy crying because he felt he disappointed his grade 2 teacher. I reminded him of all the wonderful things I see in him. The potential to do great things. The kindness and love that he shows for others and the support he still has from me. When I left him I made sure that he knew where to find me and that if there’s anything I could do to come and see me. He smiled and said thank you. There was no way I could know exactly how much what I thought of him meant to him.

I started thinking about every interaction we have with people. Whether it’s a hello on the street or honking crazily in the middle of traffic because someone is in a hurry or a “like” on social media. Each interaction is like a hammer on the wood and it leaves a mark. The depth of that mark and whether that mark changes the object to something more beautiful or something less appealing is up to us. I watched the Amanda Todd story and immediately became sad, angry and disappointed. This is a girl who made a mistake, who needed help in several different areas of her life and ultimately felt hopeless enough to take her own life. How many kids in our own class could potentially be in this situation? Our students need to not only be taught how to be good citizens in society but they need to be specifically taught how to be responsible online and just as importantly how to protect themselves and treat each other with respect online. Although Amanda Todd story was about sexploitation and harassment by someone she potential didn’t know there are instances that I know of where students have done this to other students in their school. As an educator and as it administrator what is our role and responsibility in a situation like this? What is the responsibility of the parents?

As my week came to a close I received a phone call from a former parent. (YES! an actual phone call not a text!) I had the opportunity to teach their youngest son and coach their oldest in the same year. It’s been at least two years and I have since moved schools. She called me to update me on how the kids were doing and talk about potentially inviting my husband and myself over for dinner one night. And then there was silence… The next thing I heard was the crack in her voice and I knew the tears were flowing down her face. As she began to speak and let me know that the real purpose of her call was to thank me for the impact I had on her youngest son. He has become her rock and her comfort. She didn’t speak a lot about academics at this point but she spoke about teaching her son to be a good person. Teaching him how to be respectful, kind, and not afraid to love.

I’m not sure that I can take credit for all of the things she gave me credit for but I do know that I impacted the life of that child. I am grateful that the parents took the time to let me know that it made a difference in his life and theirs. 4983443426

Consider the ways you interact with students, parents and strangers both online and offline… what mark are you leaving on them?


Posted by on November 27, 2015 in EC&I832, Uncategorized


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Beginning with the end in mind…blogging

My initial proposal for my my major project had three components 1) blogging with my students 2) using apps to communicate and build our classroom community with parents 3) looking at behaviour tracking apps that would work in my classroom. I have been working diligently on my major project but have neglected to post on my blog about it… so be prepared to be inundated with posts for a couple of weeks!!

A bit about the school and the students in my class.It is a behavioural intervention program for students in Kindergarten to Grade 8 with more complex behavioural difficulties.

In consultation with the parents, students are referred to the program from the home school to provide them with additional supports and skill building opportunities.  I currently have seven students in grades 1-4. The skill level of the group is so diverse, from non-readers to very proficient ones. Naturally my approach to teaching them to blog had to be very creative

Blogging (First two hooks set)
Blogging has been a difficult journey for myself and working in a classroom with the most vulnerable kids in our school division I felt I needed to be extra mindful of the privacy concerns as well as levels of frustration of the students. The students in my class are fairly techno-savvy but if something doesn’t go quite right there is potential for them to become frustrated and toss (quite forcefully) the device aside.

I knew that the idea of writing journal entries frustrated most of my students and they always asking me “how many sentences do I have to write?” My answer was usually “how old are you? that is how many sentences you have to write.” This was a great deal for my younger students but the 9 year olds in the class often felt this was ‘unfair’. So this was my “in”.

I presented the idea of blogging to my three senior students in the class. They weren’t quite sure what it was but one student knew what a Vlog was so I showed them the Youtube video How to Vlog: From the Vlogbrothers.  They weren’t keen about the idea of having their faces on screen and figuring out what to say on camera, as I knew they wouldn’t be … too much pressure. So I continued by showing them the samples of Kid Blogs.  I repeated the process with each grade level. They were intrigued and the hook was set. I showed them where we wanted to go (best backward design ever!) and now we had to figure out how to get there.

Step one: we need to know how to stay safe.

Using the Digital Citizenship Continuum from Kindergarten to Grade 12 I focused on the Protect section. Students watched the Youtube videos by Planet Nutshell What is the Internet? and What is Personal Information?

When we finished these we talked about what information should stay in our “castle”. Students completed sheets with a footprint on it (yes! we discussed what a footprint was and why it was important when we are online) and we posted it on our Dojo news to start conversation at home with their parents.


The students were very anxious to get onto the devices but knew that we had to talk more about digital citizenship before we could blog. I received emails, calls and messages from parents about blogging because their children were very excited… hook number two set… parents curious and involved.


Posted by on November 19, 2015 in Major Project


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Near the End but Truly Just Beginning

We need a pedagogy free from fear and focused on the magic of children’s innate quest for information and understanding. — Sugata Mitra

The readings this week led me on a journey that took on a life of its own. So many ideas and thoughts swirling around in my mind. I have suspected for years that I am a visual / auditory learner (reading is not my forte) so I started with the videos.

I know I am a couple years behind on this idea but I feel as though my eyes have just been opened. Although our EC&I 832 course is not Massive (although it is larger than any Grad class I have taken), nor is it open for registration to anyone, the format is much like Dave Cormier discusses in his videos. I think it would have been helpful to have Dave Cormier’s video introduction about the Massive open online course (MOOC) before we started the class to give me an idea of how different it was going to be. I had taken an online class previously which does not even come close to resembling this course. In that course the assignments were given, readings were chosen and you completed your essay which was handed it in to the professor. The only feedback I received in that course was from the professor, there was no peer review or collaboration. So I had come into this class with the preconceived idea that this was going to be the same. I think if I would have seen this video at the beginning of this course my mindset would be different.

Dave Cormier states that we need 5 things to be successful in a MOOC.8620174342

  • Orient- get an idea of the content
  • Declare – make your presence known (Twitter, blogs etc)
  • Network – Interact with those that are also taking the same content
  • Cluster – Connect with those that share similar ideas and views
  • FocusContinue to be active, read and respond

It may be a little too late to back track now (I feel like I am still orienting and declaring) but at least I can finish the class out continuing to network, cluster and focus. (Thanks Katia for the feedback!)

I was interested in the idea of MOOCs and wanted to explore it further. I watched the Ted Talk Why massively open online courses (still) matter . When we look at access anyone with an internet access can participate. To put it into perspective Agarwal explained that “155,000 people enrolled – 7,200 passed the course” If he was “teaching at MIT 2 semesters every year” it would take him 40 years to teach this many students. It has opened the doors for large scale education. The idea of this leaves me wondering ….How would this work in an elementary school situation? Could it work in an elementary school situation?

As i was preparing to post a comment on Ashley’s blog Is There a Role for Schools in the Future? I realized that my comment was going to be part of my “blog confession”. Her post derailed my thinking as I was finding my way through the course readings and caused me to dig a little deeper to challenge my own perspectives. I am at the end of my course route in completing my MEd. and feel like I am just beginning my learning because of EC&I 832. My role as a teacher has changed over the last 10 years and in many ways I have failed to adapt with it. I embraced technology but have failed to follow through and keep up with the ways to guide student learning in the digital world. A course like this needs to be mandatory at the undergrad level (maybe it already is?) so that pre-service teachers aren’t afraid to allow learning to look a little different in their classroom (fear has always held me back) as well as do our students justice by teaching them to use their skills and access in a responsible way. I don’t think school will ever cease to exist but I do think that the way education is delivered most definitely has, will continue to and should.

I came across a tweet as I was composing this blog and it fit with what I was curious about. Sugata Mitra talks about the future of learning in his TED Talk and proposes we “Build a School in the Cloud”. He discusses the changes that have happened in the way we deliver education and the way we adapt it to meet the needs of society. He claims that traditional schooling is obsolete. Kids don’t need to have beautiful penmanship or know how to add numbers based on the jobs we have today. (I disagree to some extent with Mitra). But i do agree with the larger idea he presents about opening the borders of learning and giving students some freedom to direct their learning is important in changing the way we educate students in a digital world. He did some interesting “hole in the wall” experiments that are worth watching if you haven’t already.

A final thought … How would unschooling or open schooling or a school in the cloud work for students who have difficulty with executive functioning skills?


Posted by on November 16, 2015 in EC&I832


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Mindfulness and Digital Literacies

Digital Literacies, technology and media change over time…

In his Ted Talk David Belshaw believes we need to develop digital literacies in a more progressive way instead of a linear way. Moving away from the idea that we need to begin with basics and continue through to advanced skills. Belshaw also suggests that it is important that we use people’s interest to develop digital literacies. We can’t just throw them into something and expect them to figure it out. We need to focus on what he calls the “eight essential elements of digital literacies”.

Cultural –Cognitive – Constructive – Communicative – Confident – Creative – Critical –Civic


Professionalism in the Digital Environment’s Blog provides a good synopsis of Belshaw’s Digital literacies. I particularly like this blog entry because the author focuses on what the literacies mean to a student. The three literacies of that I feel I need to focus on are cognitive, communicative, and confident.I recognize that I need to work on the cognitive literacy as I need more experience in order to master the how to’s of different technologies platforms and devices. the communicative literacy has been the area that I’ve grown in the most in during this class. I used to only use Facebook and Twitter on a somewhat regular basis but I never focused on making connections and building a community. I didn’t think twice about the particular norms, values or protocols within each of those platforms until now. In the confident literacy I found that I shifted from being paranoid and worried about my digital footprint to taking charge and being responsible for my digital dossier. I want to create a positive footprint that shows who I am as a mother, a wife, a teacher and a human being.  I still have a long way to go and still struggle with feeling confident when using Twitter but continue to move outside my comfort zone.

Doug Bledshaw also feels we need to encourage people to remix ideas and move beyond mere “consumption” to creativity. I have operated in the “consumption” stage for most of my life within the digital realm. test scoreWhile in th
is consumption stage I have always claimed to be a master multitasker and been very proud of it.  The question that I now face is, with constant connectivity is it really multitasking or “fractured” attention?

I took a quick online test for fun that measures your ability to focus and filter distractions. Although my score indicates I am a high level multitasker, I must confess that it took everything that I had to force myself to concentrate and I even guessed at a few.

In his blog Why We Need to Teach Mindfulness in a Digital Age Aran Levasseur, a writer and teacher, states that “Students must also be mindful of how digital tools and perpetual web connectivity are shaping their brains, perceptions and habits.” The constant connectivity feeds the endorphins in the brain and when we “unplug” the brain craves the next “high”. The New York Times talks about this as the “dopamine” squirt. The constant dings of your device with text messages, email and updates alerts trigger it in your brain.(Sometimes panic if it is related to deadlines!)

So how 3363073562do we teach our students about digital literacies and mindfulness? After all Levasseur has a point when he says that “ If schools hope to prepare students for our hyper-connected world, it reasons that training students to be proficient with digital tools is only part of the equation.”










Important note: I picked up my cell phone at least 30 times to look at updates, texts and social media while writing this blog.
See if you can keep track of how many times you reach for a device to trigger that “high” when doing something else?


Posted by on November 12, 2015 in EC&I832


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From Fear to Empowerment

I continue to be intrigued with how the digital identity is formed. I began this class really understanding very little about my digital footprint and in all honesty not caring much. As the journey continued I felt fear. As with most fear it was fueled by the unknown. I was growing more and more concerned with what was available online that may reflect negatively on me. I have had a shift happen over the last week or so moving from fear to empowerment. I now recognize that I need to manage my digital footprint and increase the positive aspects so that as I pursue a career as an administrator I have a strong positive online presence.


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The article Teachers, Take Care Of Your Digital Footprint suggests that it is easy to manage my digital footprint… So how does one do that?

  • Google yourself so that you know what is out there and use variations on your name.
  • Brand yourself by using the same name over multiple platforms and try to make it unique if your name is fairly common.
  • Get a space of your own to create the positive digital footprint you want. This may be a Twitter or a blog account.
  • Stay on top of things by signing up for google alerts (I am not sure how to do this or how effective it would be).

This week I was thinking about all of the discussions at school about Facebook and the items some students were posting. I recognize the urgency to teach students how to manage their footprint responsibly. Just look at the impact it had on the young man in this video.

I wholeheartedly agree with my classmate Amy Scuka in her blog post Viewing Critically, Posting Thoughtfully that we need to model “positive digital footprints for students” and show “them the good that can come from social media”. She included picture of a poster to remind us to think before we post and it made me think of this video “5 Ways to Make a Positive Digital Footprint” that could be used for middle years. It was a quick reminder about creating a positive digital footprint. It is similar to the philosophy that Addictions counsellor Rand Teed asks students when they are in a position to make a choice on how they respond to something.  Is what you are thinking true, helpful, inspiring, necessary and kind? It also applies to how we respond online in a more critical way because once we post it, it is seem by hundreds of people instantaneously.

This is another video that was created by High School educators that explored how to create and manage a positive digital footprint. It is a great resource to share with senior elementary and high school students. I forwarded it on to the staff in my school to share with their students. It made me rethink (again) what I have posted online and what others have posted. In this same video Dann Hurlbert encourages us to take control of our footprint so that when people do a search for you online it shows the positive rather than negative and it “increases your marketability and reveals a responsible and respectful personal life”.


“If you aren’t controlling who you are online, some else is or will.” Steven W. Anderson


How do you manage your digital footprint?

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Posted by on November 2, 2015 in EC&I832


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