Author Archives: Nancy Smith

Let me edutain you.


Congratulations to my classmates Kaleigh, Lisa, Tammy and Tarina for presenting the first session.  I thought you did a very thorough job of sharing the history and use of AV (audio visual) aids in the classroom. 

The blog prompt for this week was to evaluate a statement made by Neil Postman  who was an American educator, prolific author and critic of technology and its role in education.

Postman was outspoken about the "corrosive effects of television on our politics and public discourse" in his 1985 book "Amusing Ourselves to Death". I read this book in 2016 during the months leading to the US election and was astounded at how prophetic his thinking was and how it applied to Donald Trump. I won't go further into this topic, because I don't want this to become a political post.... however, I would recommend this book if you are interested in how the internet is affecting politics.

Postman wrote: “…We now know that “Sesame Street” encourages children to love school only if school is like “Sesame Street.” Which is to say, we now know that “Sesame Street” undermines what the traditional idea of schooling represents.”

I think Postman is right, the idea of entertainment like Sesame Street has evolved and progressed how we approach new ways of engaging students vs the traditional way of schooling. But what I don't agree with is his thinking that TV is the wrong medium for learning and education. Can you imagine what Postman would think about the rise in popularity of Youtube and the endless hours of programming available on this platform?

In our class, many have shared examples of the best teachers they have had and how they used entertaining ways to impart their knowledge. The fact that we have countless resources/videos on a variety of platforms to help us understand complex and complicated lessons and make it easier to understand is truly amazing.

The newest trend is the rise of educators using TikTok as a platform to help. While normally used for videos of people dancing, sharing memes or other entertainment, there is a rapid uptake in the popularity of hashtags such as #algebra and #mathematics, boasting hundreds of millions of views.

Do you use resources like TikTok to help supplement your teaching?

Google Chrome Extensions


My knowledge of most of the tech tools I use have come from a dedicated Youtuber, Steve Dotto. If you are not familiar with Steve Dotto, he is a passionate tech advocate who used to have a tv show called "Dotto Tech" back in the early 2000's. I used to watch it then, and always appreciated his non-intimidating approach to technology. Steve evolved his program from television and has become a Youtuber, a podcaster, and speaker who provides great value in his learning sessions. I had the opportunity to see Steve speak at a conference in Ottawa a couple of years ago, and I was completely blown away at how much information he shared in such a practical and logical way in only 60 minutes. Each week he provides a free online webinar, and if you like his content, you can join his membership to have on-demand content for further training.

Here is an example of one of his helpful videos:

Here are some of my favourite Google Chrome Extensions:

LastPass - password management tool
LastPass allows me to create strong passwords for all of the sites I want, and be able to access them by only having to remember ONE password. LastPass has a Google Chrome extension which makes it easy to recall a very secure password vs. using the same password for all sites which many people do.

Privacy Badger
Privacy Badger is a browser extension that is compatible on all browsers, but I use on Chrome. This extension is the best of the privacy trackers I have tried (I have previously tried Disconnect, Adblock Plus, and Ghostery) because it does not require any extensive technical knowledge and you don't need to customize for it to be effective.

Privacy badger helps keep track of third-party domains that typically advertise on the websites that you visit. They often track you and can keep information on you, that you likely did not even realize.

If you are not familiar with what type of information is collected on you when you visit websites you need to STOP and spend the next 30 minutes listening to this podcast immediately.

IRL - Privacy or Profit Podcast which explains why we should all be aware and concerned about our privacy online.

Here is a nice explanation of what Privacy Badger

Knowing how to protect your browsing information is an important digital literacy skill that few people know how to do. Most digital citizenship teachings focus on never revealing personal information such as your address, phone number or school name etc. But, there is so much more we need to learn, and thankfully Common Sense Media has created age appropriate and grade level lesson plans to help

Is this something you are helping teach your students?

Learning to Drive – the Theories of Knowledge Applied

 Learning Theories and Driving A Car

I am taking a different slant on this week's blog prompt since I don't teach in a traditional K-12 classroom like most of our class.

Instead, I want to apply the learning theories to a new teaching opportunity I have recently had - teaching my teenage son to drive.

It has been 34 years since I started driving.  Now that I have a teen that is old enough to drive, I realized we would both have a lot to learn before he is ready to get his license.  My husband and I decided that I would be the primary guide to help him learn the complexities of driving - not sure how that happened but it did.

It was overwhelming to think about how to teach driving to son, how to break it down and explain all of the assessments and decisions you make with everyday actions like changing lanes or parking your car.

I also knew that how I would teach my son would have to be tailored to his learning style.  Generally speaking, he is pretty cautious and attentive, but he also doesn't like to take criticism or feedback from me.  

First, I gave my son the book on the Alberta Drivers Handbook so he could learn the road rules and essential driving skills in order to pass the Learners Permit exam.  He read the book, studied the signs and rules until he felt ready to write the online exam.  (COGNITIVISM).  

Although I gave him the book at Christmas, it took several months before he had the
intrinsic motivation to actually read it. 

    I want my son to be a good and safe driver.  But there is alot to learn, including:
  • Knowing the law and the motor vehicles act
  • Understanding the inner workings of a vehicle and how your car functions
  • Identifying the rules of the road, and important signs 
We started slowly to build his foundational knowledge and skills.  At first, I would model my driving actions and choices while I drove and he was in the passenger seat "Now, I am shoulder checking to see if the lane is clear before I change to it".  

Once he passed his Learner's exam, he was given his permit which allows him to drive with an adult. This encourages the student to practice the skills required to successfully learn how to safely operate and drive a vehicle. 

The first time that he would sit behind the driving wheel he was fearful of whether or not he could actually drive the vehicle (BEHAVIOURISM). But we took it slow,  and we had him practice in a large empty parking lot.  This helped reduce stress, and nervousness so he could focus on the task before him.  We made slow and deliberate turns to become familiar with the feel of the vehicle.  (CONSTRUCTIVISM)

We progressed from the large parking lot to practicing on the streets of our neighbourhood.  (TRANSFER OF KNOWLEDGE). He was able to transfer his practice from the parking lot to the streets he is already familiar with.  The transfer of his knowledge was automatic and applied to a familiar situation to that the differences were not that challenging.

My son was eager to get behind the wheel, and had a serious case of overconfidence and ability.  As his teacher/driving instructor we came to an agreement that he would listen and follow exactly as I instruct him to do.  I provide immediate feedback such as "great job turning into the right lane" or "you are going to fast, slow down".  These are examples of classical conditioning using positive and negative reinforcement.

When we are practicing driving and he attempts something new such as merging onto a busy road, or parallel parking he gains confidence in his abilities as a driver and this is an example of operant conditioning as he has learned a new skill that rewards himself.  It was 

  • He has learned that if you turn the wheel left, the car goes left. The car going left reinforces the behavior of turning the wheel left.  The behavior of turning the wheel left when he wants to go left increases.
  • He has learned that when you press on the brakes, the car slows down. The car going slower reinforces the behavior of pressing the brakes.
He tells me he is very comfortable driving because of the years he played "Mario Kart" on his Wii video game console.  (CONSTRUCTIVISM).   One thing I have become acutely aware of his that now he is invested in learning to drive, he looks to how I handle myself behind the wheel.  What I do and say are modelling what is ok and what is not.

Wish me luck as we navigate the next phase beyond our own neighbourhood and onto the busy streets of Calgary!

ECI 830 Summary of Learning

Here is my Summary of Learning:

Each course I try to use a different video editing technique to expand my knowledge.  For this video I used Canva to design my slides, and then recorded my video within Powerpoint.  This is also the first time I have appeared in my video - I was inspired by Mike Wesch and tried to become more comfortable being on camera.

Thank you to everyone for an excellent course!

Debate #6: Openness and Sharing in schools is unfair to our kids

Our debate topic for this session was focused on openness and sharing in schools.  The two teams were  Altan and Melinda (FOR) and Sherrie and Dean  (AGAINST)

Altan and Melinda prepared a compelling argument:

Three key themes they focused on included:

Privacy: language barriers, social media, input from children and "sharenting"

Openness: digital etiquette, digital rights, digital literacy, digital divide

Cellphones: digital communication

Sherrie and Dean focused on (in my opinion) a more realistic approach to this argument.  I think Sherrie could be approached by the CBC to replace Rick Mercer for her "rant" - prairie style. Simply put, the Sharing with Sherrie segment was outstanding.  She was realistic and pragmatic with her "rant" and it really resonated with me.

It was valuable to hear the insights from Dr. Varena Roberts and the positive examples she shared of age appropriate social media use by school including some Kindergarten age ones.  I have heard other students share other examples of positive use of social media from the different grades they teach too.  I am left with the perception that it is feasible to do, and with careful and thoughtful approach it isn't unfair for social media to be used in the classroom/schools.  Dean & Sherrie provided an extended video interview with Dr. Roberts that was incredibly insightful.  I think she was spot on with her question of 

 "WHO are we sharing our online presence to, who are we opening our minds to?" 

They discussed practical examples of how teachers can implement openness and social media in the classroom.  It isn't something that can be implemented with a flick of a switch, it is something that can be nurtured and developed.

There is no question that we need to evolve our thinking to be realistic with how society uses technology and not try to isolate how some schools isolate this issue.  I value the opportunity for our kids to learn from other perspectives and to access global resources to enhance their learning.  Growing up, I was fortunate to be able to travel extensively and see people from other cultures, beliefs, backgrounds, races and religions first hand.  This provided me the opportunity to gain a broader perspective on life and appreciate that the world is much broader than my own community.  Today, and especially during this pandemic, international travel is not an option.  But it is critical for us to hear and explore world events and to be aware of what is happening.  We need to embrace how we can make a positive contribution to the digital space and not be overly concerned about controlling what our kids see/experience.  

Our conversation during class, and several of the articles that were shared as the annotated readings focused on the parents responsibility for not oversharing or "sharenting" too much of their childrens lives online.  Is there a real or perceived issue of children's privacy being violated?  Initially, when I signed up for Facebook in 2008 I found it to be a wonderful way to connect with my family and friends and share the growth and development of my son who was 3 years old at the time.  My mother lived in Mexico for 6 months of the year and my two older brothers don't live in Calgary.  Facebook acted as a connection for us and continues to do so today.  Now my son is 15, and like many other teens he now has his own online presence.  He doesn't often like me to post photos anymore, and now I ask his permission.

I am hopeful for the future implementation of intentional openess and social media in the classroom based on the rich discussion our class had during this debate.

Debate #5: Should cell phones be banned in the classroom?

I was really disappointed to have missed our last debate due to my work.  The topic was whether or not cellphones should be banned in the classroom.  I watched the class recording - and clearly I missed out on was the opportunity to participate in our lively chat :)

Both teams presented excellent videos.  I especially liked the editing of clips from videos including the Simpsons and Saved By the Bell ...

Skyler and Alyssa focused on the argument that  cell phones in the classroom are a positive addition to Educational Technology. They approached this discussion from a more moderate viewpoint, which I think was very smart.  They defined what a "ban" is - and suggested it was too extreme and advocated for restricted use that is controlled vs. outright dismissal.

The opposing team, Jill and Tarina focused their argument on banning cell phones from the classroom because they are a distraction to students and their ability to learn. 

A very interesting point that was raised that I had not considered was the positioning that school devices are safer for students to use than the personal ones.  This is for several reasons including firewall protection, the responsible use agreement that students must accept as well as the opportunity for teachers to review the search/browser history.

The class discussion focused alot on my classmates experience teaching - and this was so insightful!  I was surprised to hear that most of my fellow students were not opposed to devices in the class.  They stressed the need for focusing on digital citizenship and a recurring theme of the increased need and emphasis to be able to teach this throughout the school years is needed, but not happening.  Many also stressed that parents MUST be a part of this important learning and it can't be a "one and done" conversation.

I wanted to share a couple of additional resources I have found to be very helpful as a parent trying to navigate how to raise a kid using tech responsibily:

Devorah Heitner  her website Raising Digital Natives, and her book "Screenwise" were one of the first POSITIVE resources I found on the topic of digital citizenship for kids.

Here is a link to her Ted Talk, and although it is from 2014, it is still relevant:

Another resource I really like is Anya Kamenetz, her book "The Art of Screen Time

Lastly, if you were looking for a training program for your class - here is one I highly recommend for younger grades, it is called My Life Online 

But I digress ....

One thing I really appreciated about this week's debate was how logical both arguments were.  I did not find the debators to be as polarizing as previous ones, and I have to admit, I was rethinking my position throughout the discussion.

In the end, I maintained my stance that cell phones should not be banned.  However what I found most interesting was hearing from my classmates who did change their vote.  Listening to Melinda explain how essential devices are in her practice of teaching ESL was truly fascinating to me.

Debate #4: Is Social Media Runing Childhood?

I was really looking forward to this debate, as I knew it would be a HOT topic.  Tonight it was Laurie & Christina vs. Amy & Dean arguing for and against, and it did not dissapoint.

I was happy to be a part of Amy and Dean's video to share my own personal experience as why I believe social media isn't ruining childhood. I don't think anyone was surprised to hear that I am a proponent for age appropriate use of social media as it allows for communication, connection and creativity. Dean and Amy emphasized many of the key points I also advocate for - each generation has had their own "villan" that is blamed for ruining childhood. They shared several great examples of positive use of social media and how it connected kids so that they are less isolated and with similar interests.

Their supplemental reading included a very interesting blog post by Jennifer Casa Todd which was written as a response to an article that demonizes social media for middle schoolers.  Her response is enlightened, foward thinking and one that really resonated for me.  She dispells many of the common myths associated with social media use and teens.

Laurie and Christina focused on how social media has changed childhood - and not for the better.  They called social media "the evil enemy" and shared many reasons why they believe this to be true.  They focused on the harm that it can cause to mental health including depression, anxiety and suicidal thoughts.  They explained how teens succumb to FOMO, and are driven to do things based on how many likes/comments they will get when they post online.  They talked about inability to focus and poor attention spans as well as cyberbullying as critical issues social media have caused.

I can't argue that the points they raised aren't true.  In fact, the only thing that surprised me was how many of my fellow students were in agreement that social media is ruining childhood - over 50% of the class feels this way.

It makes me want to understand more of the pain points that adults have with social media.  Why is the perception skewed so negatively?  More research needs to be done about kids and social media too.  How would they respond to this question?  Instead of the polarizing ends of the debate - I want to know more about the "middle ground"

Every kid is unique and their ability to make decisions and use social media responsibly will vary greatly.  As parents, we need to ensure we are honoring the terms and conditions of social media sites (not allowing access before the age of consent which is usually 13 years old), being aware of how our kids are using social media, teaching how to "disconnect" and maintain open communication so kids feel safe about talking to you when things may go wrong.

Here is a helpful graphic from St. Alphonsus Primary School that outlines some key points to consider.

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