Author Archives: EC&I 830 – Joeffice

Riding Off Into The Sunset

Well, here we are. At the end of a spirited run in EC&I 830. An engaging, quick paced, debate filled run with contemporary issues in education technology.

It’s been a neat sort of summative experience that has allowed me to reflect on my growth through an entire academic school year of courses. I came at these courses with a goal in mind, and I believe that I have achieved that.

As I have elaborated on  in many blog posts over the year, I was becoming increasingly aware that my negative views of social media were distancing me from my students in some pretty important ways. I knew that I was going to have to make some deliberate moves. Not to completely flip my perspective on social media necessarily (after all , my negative perceptions did spawn from something) but to have a more open mind.

Looking over my posts for this particular course, and comparing them to the work I’ve done as I was just beginning EC&I 831, I can see a change is there. It’s in my practice too, as I have implemented a pretty cool social media platform, Seesaw, to fantabulous effect in my small group reading interventions.

This summary of learning covers this class for sure, but it reaches back and tries to talk about my entire year with Alec.

Thanks guys!

Part One:

 Part Two:

Technology: Friend or Foe?


For me, in thinking of the role of technology as a force for equity, I can speak firsthand to the kinds of opportunities it provides students that were not there only a decade before. For students with learning challenges that delay literacy, accessing curriculum has been a challenge for as long as we can remember.

But this is changing. Thanks to dramatically improving text-to-speech technology, gone are the days when accessing science and social studies content was predicated by being able to read. As long as the content is available online, with a click of a button, students can following along with their peers bu having that content read out loud to them. Thanks to dramatically improving speech-to-text technology, gone are the days when the not being able to write was a dead end to being able to a student’s ability to express themselves in writing. The potential or students’ with learning disabilities accessing curriculum is there, and it no longer costs thousands upon thousands of dollars to do it.

My preconceptions of technology have never been in sync with my narrower, and darker views of social media. From my perspective, technology has revolutionized education, and there’s no turning back. (Nor would I want to)


Coming into last week’s debate, I empathized with the position Amy and Rakan found themselves in. I’ve typically tended to take a more conservative view of using innovations like social media. But when I consider this more general topic question,Technology is a force for equity in society, I don’t think there has ever been a time where I would have places myself as disputing that. From where I was standing, they were pushing an impossibly gigantic boulder up an impossibly humongous hill.  Like me on my own debate night, Amy and Rakan

I was thinking that this debate had the potential to follow the pattern of a few that came before it, especially the previous week’s debate on social media ruining childhood. In my reflecting blog post, I tried to approach the controversies surrounding social media from a historical perspective, thinking that our own present struggles with managing social media might resemble scares of the past.

I thought that some of the same arguments from last week’s debate might re-emerge. In some ways, they did. For sure. But this is where I tip my hat to Amy and Rakan. They didn’t zoom in and focus on minute details (as important as those details are). They very persuasively connected technology to some very current and pertinent issues in social injustice.

Rakan uses what we already know about Twitter, and social media in general, having the potential to being used as a devastating weapon:

Specifically, Rakan articulately points out how Twitter can be used as a weapon to further marginalize women. This certainly is a counter-spin to our more habitual narrative of social media being a tool to embolden and help people find their voices.

Amy advanced her team’s cause by making an argument for technology not truly being an instrument to promote equality. She points out that access to technology, and it’s accompanying opportunities and benefits, decreases for those of lower income:

This was a clever argument to make, trying to spin the argument that her opponents would inevitably make, and Sapna did just that in pointing out that “technology has removed many of the barriers people face in the past.” Amy also references statistics showing that 62% of Canadians in the lowest income bracket , which on its face does not seem particularly good. Internet is not exactly a new technology anymore, right? The only thing I would ask Amy is whether or not that 62% is an increasing or decreasing trend.

Finally, Amy compellingly cites Virginia Eubanks argument that technological systems that are “not specifically and explicitly built to dismantle inequalities … are poised to intensify them.”

Honestly, these are arguments that are hard to counter. Where I struggle, however, is their incredibly wide applicability. Looking back historically, you can make the case that so many innovations have been used to further marginalize groups, and won’t have any trouble finding examples. However, it’s equally possible to find arguments for those same innovations being used as a beacon to advance worthwhile causes.

This article by Abe Grindle, thank you Sapna, points out 6 ways that technology is seriously addressing inequality. As my peer Daniel points out, this issue is as far from being black and white as our other debate topics. I can’t help but recursively go back to the same argument that technology is not anything in and of itself. It’s the intent behind the user that determines the intent and impact of a tool.

Social media, for example, can be used to great benefit, as it has been for crisis mapping as part of disaster relief efforts. Crisis mapping has become a staple for disaster relief teams and helps to coordinate support and identify immediate areas of vulnerability. On the other hand, social media technology is being used to influence elections across the globe: “The spread of disinformation also contributed to the overall decline of Internet freedom across the world for the seventh year running, and contributed to violent attacks on human-rights activists and journalists, according to the report”

In the end – Realistically

As we have with most topics in our class, we arrive to a sort of compromise, or middle ground. Or perhaps it’s a realistic position that we come to. There is certainly no turning back the clock on most of the controversial innovations we have been discussing, and technology in a  general sense is no exception. There really is little point to occupying an extreme position, as all it does is give license to do nothing.

As teachers, doing nothing cannot be an option. It hurts me, by moving myself towards irrelevancy, and hurts my students. It hurts my students by not giving them access to the wonderful educational opportunities that technology provides, as well as the critical skills that I know they will need to work in their future economy.

I’m glad that I’ve come to that conclusion. Thank you EC&I!


“So Fatal a Contagion”

Is social media ruining our children’s lives? That is the question we debated in EC&I 830 this week. As has been the pattern in recent weeks, this debate stoked passions, and preconceptions were challenged. What made this debate particularly intense was a more even divide between those who agree and disagree. A lot of people had a lot of things to day.

Dangers of Social Media

Instinctively, I have always found myself squarely in the camp that decried social media as a negative influence. I didn’t like it, and I didn’t like seeing my students use it. There was a time, not so long ago, that factors brought up by my peers Melinda, Allysa, and Lori would have formed the entire basis of my opinion. Like Catherine, my preconceptions have traditionally fallen into that camp; “A bold statement, but one I could easily agree with at first.

At the 2 minute mark of their video, for instance, team agree make the point that social media is “not designed for children.” They back it up with some solid evidence as well:

They further augment their point with some well chosen resources, like an article from the American Academy of Pediatrics that goes into great detail in discussing the pitfalls of social media with adolescents.

You know what? I agree with them. There is so much of social media that seems to be tailor made to bring out the worst in kids. Cyberbullying, sexting, Tide-pod challenges, .blue whale game… ugh.

Melinda argues further her case with this compelling image of Bill Murray:

There really isn’t any arguing any of this. Everything they have said is true, and undeniable.

DANGERS OF ______ Media

So what, if anything has changed? It certainly feels as though my position on social media is as coloured by my fears and misgivings as ever. But, over the course of the past year, for me, something has definitely changed. My own position, I believe, can be portrayed best by taking a journey through time. Come along for the ride!


“Social media is ruining childhood.” ECI830 class in Regina, Saskatchewan debates social media ruining children’s lives.


“Outsourcing our brains to the cloud” NY Times Columnist Bill Keller worries over the impact of digital technology and social media: “Basically, we are outsourcing our brains to the cloud. The upside is that this frees a lot of gray matter for important pursuits like FarmVille and “Real Housewives.”


“Lax Habits, Low Moral Standards, Hotel Episodes…” An issue of The Pentecostal Evangel decries the atrocities of film: “[The screen artists’] beauty, their exquisite clothing, their lax habits and low moral standards, are becoming unconsciously appropriated by the plastic minds of American youth…”


“A Lessening Sense for Both Duty and Discipline” Psychologist Stanley Hall frets the temptations of urban life on the youth of the day: “Never has youth been exposed to such dangers of both perversion and arrest as in our own land and day…”


“So Fatal a Contagion” A London Times issue warns decent people from the horrors of the Waltz: “[Now that it is] forced on the respectable classes of society by the evil example of their superiors, we feel it a duty to warn every parent against exposing his daughter to so fatal a contagion.”


“Corrupted the Morals of Many a Promising Youth” Reverand Enos Hitchcock laments the younger generations reckless reading of romances and novels. “The free access which many young people have to romances, novels, and plays has poisoned the mind and corrupted the morals of many a promising youth…”


“confusing and harmful to the mind” Swiss scientist sounds the alarm over free press and the information overload that it would bring.

…370 BC…

“forgetfulness in the learners’ souls” Socrates rails to Phaedrus against the evils of writing: “…for this discovery of yours will create forgetfulness in the learners’ souls, because they will not use their memories; they will trust to the external written characters and not remember of themselves….”

And back we come to 2018.

Are we sensing a pattern here? This is not the first time that the elders have been spooked by what the kids are doing. Is our fear of social media different from media scares of the past? Or are we getting angry at the kids on our lawn?

Vaughan Bell convincingly compares our fretting of social media to media scares of the past. He humorously points out that Socrates did not believe that children were developed enough to handle fantasies, and should only be exposed to “wholesome allegories.”

Arguing on the other side of this debate, Daniel rightly acknowledges the threat posed by cyber-bullying. But he also goes on to note that bullying is not new: “Intimidation and bullying has been a reality of childhood for decades and maybe even centuries.” (Dion, 2018) Let’s face it, he’s right.

My point is not to mitigate the uniqueness of the problems posed by social media. Social media is a new form of media, and it brings with it equally unique challenges. But think about it…. every new major form of media (TV, film, free press… writing…) would have been just as groundbreaking for anybody who had never before fathomed it. Seeing the challenges of social media in their historical context (at least, that’s what I’m trying to do) has supported me in moderating my position a bit.

We’ve been through this kind of dilemma many times before, and we will go through it again. I wonder if history has any lessons to teach us in how to deal with the challenges we perceive from social media?

Is social media ruining childhood?










Graceful in Defeat: Debate Reflection



rIIIIIIIIIigged!!!!!!!!!!!!!   #riggeddebate

Ok, so my wife tells me I went a bit over the top in my post-debate loss rage. So, maybe I did. Anyways, it’s obvious the agree side would have totally won if it wasn’t for the pervasive and rampant voter fraud.

The Topic

Ok, so, this week we debated over the topic: Openness and sharing in schools is unfair to our kids. It shouldn’t surprise anybody that this topic evoked some emotion.It was inevitable that the debate turn to some sensitive areas connected to the safety and well-being of our children.

Our Position

Our position more or less revolved around safety concerns and ethical considerations connected to sharing images of our children/students online.


Amy, Dani and myself were pretty blatant in our farcically transparent attempt to evoke worst case scenario kinds of fears:

This is, in fact, the worst case scenario that any parents likely fears, no matter how they use social media. And fact is, it is always a possibility. No matter what we do, there really is no way to entirely eliminate the risk. We all know that there are people out there who surf the internet with dishonorable intentions in mind. There is no shortage of potential risks that come hand in hand with posting online, and powerful testimonials, like this mother’s worst nightmare come true, would give anybody pause.


We also considered the ethical ramifications of sharing images online on our children’s behalf. Like our debate adversaries, we considered the idea of building our digital identities. Our view, as far as the debate went, was that there may well be a kind of ethical violation in essentially building our children’s profile for them.

Even getting their permission might not be enough, because there is no way for them to fully appreciate the gravity of that digital profile; how permanent it is; how it can impact them both tomorrow as well as twenty years from now. I think this can be evidenced as, at the very least, a concern by stories such as this one. Can you imagine, as a parent, being sued by your own child over images you posted of them growing up? On the one hand, this almost seems surreal. But on the other hand, I get it. I still have pangs of discomfort when I see myself online, and this debate introduction video is no exception. I get how that kid might be feeling.


Thinking about the debate afterwards, once I had time to get over my loss, I actually thought it was kind of funny how I ended up debating in favour of it being unfair for us to be sharing as we are in schools.

It was just over a year ago that I initially enrolled in ECI831, my first Edtech class with Alec Couros. The drive behind my taking the course was my growing perception that I was becoming increasingly out of sync with how many of my students are learning.

My idea of being tech savvy was completely different from how my students saw being tech savvy. I knew I needed a bit of an eye opener. My preconceptions were so negative that it essentially precluded me from acknowledging the benefits of using social media and having an online presence.

And here I am, a year later, taking joy in arguing for a position that I am actually gravitating against. A position that, a year ago, I would have likely endorsed wholeheartedly.

I very much appreciate my peer Daniel’s blog post, where he categorizes teachers as being risk adverse and risk tolerant. His self-description feels like a mirror image of how I perceive myself:

Although I find myself leaning towards being a risk adverse teacher, I find myself being more and more positive to the idea of opening my classroom and using some of the tools I mentioned earlier to make my offering as a teacher more diverse.

I see myself in the exact same way, and it’s taken some work to get to where I am.

Not only do I intellectually understand the benefits of using social media innovations to enrich my teaching, but I have lived them. Last Fall, for ECI831, my social media project had me embracing Seesaw as a collaborative tool for my small group reading support. This has been a turning point for me, and I can no longer fathom my L.L.I. groups without using Seesaw as both an engagement piece for my students, as well as parents.

For me, what this debate has done is to ensure that I maintain a sort of balance in my view and how I act on it. As I worked with Amy and Dani on building our case, I came to the same realization that I see Catherine coming to in her post:

I didn’t even think about the fact that these students will inherit a digital footprint that they had no part in creating.

Becoming engaged as I was with using Seesaw with my reading groups, I was not really thinking about it possibly being a building block in the digital identities of my students. A digital identity that they will have to live with. That’s not to say that the photos I have been posting onto their Seesaw profiles are in any way bad. But I didn’t even think about the fact that these students will inherit a digital footprint that they had no part in creating…


In all seriousness, I remain very wary of the consequences of what I am doing online both in terms of my personal practice, as well as what I do online on behalf of my school and students. This debate, for me, serves as a kind of check and balance. As with anything really, when it comes to education, the outcomes of any intervention depend on the purpose and intent behind that intervention.

And this is where our debate adversaries had it right in sharing resource this this one, where the ISTE ask us to consider 5 questions before posting:

1. What information am I sharing?

2. How secure is it?

3. Who am I sharing it with?

4. What am I leaving behind?

5. What are my rights?

By teaching this to our future digital citizens (aka. citizens), and modeling this deliberate and intentional process to sharing online, we can hopefully reap the benefits of using social media wonders in a responsible and ethical manner.

Thanks for reading!









If you thought you were going to have to wait until Monday for the haymakers … well, you were wrong! In a couple of nights, we’re going to square off against a team of honorable opponents in Kari, Esther, and Shelley. We’ll be mauling each other over the following question: Openness and sharing in schools is unfair to our kids.

I see Dani has already come in with an opening salvo.

Oh no! Here comes McGurran with an early jab!


Dave the psychic uses a team of internet research experts to trick participants into believing he is psychic.

As Dani said in her own pre-debate potshot, the internet is an incredibly connected place. Our actions in this incredibly connected internet have very real implications on our real life. I might even go so far as to say that the internet is the real world. Treating the internet as something different, where real world considerations do not apply, is a risky proposition. What we say, do, and share can come back to bite us in the future, sometimes in ways that we could never have imagined…

Yes, the world is a scary place, and we obviously can’t insulate ourselves from all the dangers out there. Not without sacrificing all the good that we get from everything we do online (and there is a lot of good). But we had better be mindful of what we are doing, especially when it comes to sharing on behalf of our students…

Looking forward to Monday evening!

Kari, Ether, Shelley …. scared … ?





Post Debate: What’s the Point?

This week, we were treated to a wonderfully engaging debate that, it can be argued, goes at the foundations of what it means to be a teacher. Nicole, Channing, and Jodie savagely duked it out with Catherine, Amanda, and Shelby over whether or not (or to what extent) we should be focusing on knowledge that can be acquired by googling.

This topic is not at all as simple as it seems, and opened a can of worms that had us discussing what we are doing as teachers, as well as the merits of having such a  wealth of knowledge at our fingertips. At one point, even the well-worn question over memorization reared it’s head. It was a good time!

I unleashed my own predisposition prior to the debate last weekend. The debate did not do a whole lot to move my predisposition to be honest, but it did help me see this as the controversial, and perhaps confusing, topic it is.

Specifically, we were prompted to examine the topic through a self-reflective lens.

So , I consider the kinds of changes that this massive expansion of knowledge has on my own profession.

For my part, I do not really see this increased access to knowledge as a threat to my position, or any teaching position. Knowledge simply being accessible does not really intrude into what we do as teachers.  But, as I will argue below, it will (already has) forced us to evolve in our practice.

Nicole, Channing and Jodie shared an engaging Tedtalk from Pavan Arora. In it, he shares the startling revelation that our base of human knowledge is doubling every 1-2 years …

With knowledge growing at such an exponential rate, how would we even know, as teachers, where to begin? What do we consider fundamental, core knowledge that needs to be passed on to our students?

I can’t help but consider the radical changes to the face  of literacy, as an example. There was a time that a student’s ability to meaningfully and independently access curriculum was predicated by their being able to physically read text off a page. Don’t get me wrong, reading and writing is incredibly important, and learning to read rightfully dominates our primary grades.

But …

As an LRT, the manner in which assistive technology can now help students with learning disabilities bypass their challenge and actually access curriculum on their own… it’s so very incredibly exciting. No longer do students with these challenges in literacy depend on a scribing teacher to record their ideas for them. They can do it as independently as anybody, using tools that other kids think are cool (speech to text, screen reading). All I’m asking is: is it knowledge itself that remains fundamental, or the way that students access and employ that knowledge?

Let me take this a little further in deploying another article shared by Nicole, Channing and Jodie: THE OBJECTIVE OF EDUCATION IS LEARNING, NOT TEACHING. The authors interestingly ask: Why should children — or adults, for that matter — be asked to do something computers and related equipment can do much better than they can? Why doesn’t education focus on what humans can do better than the machines and instruments they create?

It’s a fair question to ask, isn’t it? As a teacher, I want to make sure what what we are doing is in fact relevant for what our children are going to need to find meaningful employment in their economy. The Future Work Skills 2020 report succinctly highlights how the skills that will be required are dramatically different from our own. They discuss the rising importance of skills like social intelligence, new-media literacy, cognitive load management

 Media Literacy

Knowing that we are in a world where not only is our access to information on the rise, but our base of knowledge is growing dramatically, I can’t help but be concerned and feel responsible for helping students develop the abilities to navigate and make use of this unlimited knowledge at our fingertips.

My own worries are only amplified by concerns brought up by Daniel “The phenomena of fake news, misinformation, propaganda and pseudoscience have ravaged the internet in the past few years” Nicole shares similar concerns in remarking how…” Every day we are bombarded with information all around us. Whether it is in a store, on a billboard, on social media, the radio or pretty much anywhere we go – there is something to be consumed.”  Are they ever right. The controversies surrounding fake news and its impact are regular topics of conversation in our Ed Tech courses, and for good reason. There are, without a doubt, forces that actively use this confusing overabundance of information to advance agendas and misinformation of their own.

So what do I want?

So what is it that I want, exactly, for my own practice? I feel like I’ve been all over the place in this post. However, if there is some sort of common thread here, I think it has to be something along the lines of a recognition that we do, in fact, have a vast pool of knowledge at our disposal. To pretend otherwise, as a teacher, would be irresponsible and doing a disservice to my students.

Thanks for reading!




PRE-DEBATE: What’s the point?

This week, tomorrow in fact, we have our second debate of ECI830. We will be watching two groups go head to head in a discussion over whether or not schools should be putting focus in the classroom on things that can be googled.

Coming into this debate, I have some clear preconceptions that have have taken shape over the course of my previous two Ed Tech courses. I don’t really see the point of drilling information into our students, and assessing for how well we drilled that information into their brains.

Everything we know can be searched, referenced and cross  examined in a matter of seconds. While factors like internet availability and copyright certainly remain factors in differentiating who has access to what information, knowledge is proliferating. Sources like creative commons and school of open are making content readily available to learners with internet.

I believe it is not so much knowledge that schools should be focusing on, but rather how to access and evaluate the overabundance of sources of information that are available. As a per of mine from ECI 832 put it in his vlog, we are bombarded with an estimated 10 000 media messages per day…


Information is clearly out there. What I believe we need to do at schools is help our students develop the skills they will need to sift through the information out there. In the age of fake news, where there is no hesitation to put misinformation out there, dressed in all the trappings of formal news, we really need to know how to evaluate sources.

And this is where we start to talk about media literacy.An article on common sense media identifies these critical skills as being encompassed by media literacy:

  • Thinking critically,
  • Be a smart consumer,
  • Recognize point of view,
  • Create their own media responsibly,
  • Identify the role of digital media in culture,
  • Understand the creator’s goal

I believe that these are the kinds of skills we need to be focusing on at schools, and we need to start in earlier grades. Our kids will start to access these materials, whether its at school or in the comfort of their own homes. They will need to be able to lend a critical eye to information and knowledge that elbows its way to the front of the queue using well placed visual effects and intentionally evocative, attention grabbing headlines.

Looking forward to our debate tomorrow, and I wonder if media literacy will in fact find its way into the discussion.

Thanks for reading!






Technology ≠ Short Cut

This week, my peers Wendy, Kyla and Amy gamely advocated on behalf of a position that runs counter to a near consensus among our class. As our pre-vote showed, our class strongly feels that technology is helpful towards improving student learning in our classrooms. Nonetheless, the three of them proficiently provided us with some very effective counter arguments that, at the least, gave us some pause and forced us to seriously discuss the issue.

To begin with, I will be upfront and say that my own perception is squarely with the majority. I believe that integration and use of technology greatly enhances learning opportunities in the classroom. Anecdotally, as a Learning Resource Teacher, I also know that technology provides opportunity for students with challenging needs to participate with the curriculum.

I don’t think our lopsided post vote truly reflects where we fall, as a class. I felt that in the end, as a class, our actual perspective on the issue rested somewhere in the middle. Somewhere in the middle of a spectrum. Or somewhere in that overlap of a Venn diagram.

Our position was better captured by the variety of posts and comments on our padlet, which point to anything but a uniform, blanket endorsement of technology in the classroom. Consider:

@emaeers: “I am on the fence with this topic. On the one hand technology is a wonderful tool to make resources more accessible to students… Teachers really need to make sure that they are using technology as a way to enhance their lesson and not a way to substitute for real life hands on experiences.”

@dhackel13: “…use is absolutely everything…Teachers need to really assess why they are using the technology and make sure it is enhancing or transforming the lesson and not just a direct substitution that is not necessary. “

Anonymous: “…The fanciest, newest, coolest technology is a just a tool. So is a chalk and slate.”

@Kendie81: “...Implementation is key. How is technology being used in the classroom? Is it being used on a “surface” level…”

As is the case with most things, moderation is key. Our own personal stance will likely depend on our own circumstances, and I am no exception. As I mentioned before, I know that technology helps teachers to differentiate for student need. I know that it greatly enhances students’ ability to access curriculum, especially our most vulnerable students.

But aimless use of technology is, well, just that. Aimless. Implementing some kind of technological initiative for the sake of using technology won’t do anything. To temper my position even more, an OECD report in 201 found that heavy use of technology actually dragged down student outcomes Math, Science and literacy. The article was littered with statements that echo the cautious statements of our own class:

“Technology can amplify great teaching, but great technology cannot replace poor teaching,”

“While PISA (OECD’s Programme for International Student Assessment) results suggest that limited use of computers at school may be better than not using computers at all, using them more intensively than the current OECD average tends be associated with significantly poorer student performance.”

“The OECD report found outcomes in education only improved when technology was present if the computers or iPads helped students study or practice skills they learned in class.”

So, in the end, what does this mean…? Well, both sides of our own debate this week seem to creep towards this middle ground that recognizes the importance of the role of the teacher. If nothing else, it may be Kristen, Jana and Katie’s success in claiming that middle ground for themselves that led to such a lopsided vote.


Perhaps this also means is that we, as teachers, are thankfully not going to be mechanized any time soon. 🙂

Thanks for reading!