Author Archives: Nancy Smith

ECI 833 Summary of Learning

Summary of Learning 

Here is my final summary of learning:

I summarized our semester into a narrative that synthesized my key learnings for our class.

Although many of the tools we explored are geared towards K-12, I found learning about how you are using technology in the classroom was inspiring.  

A Fresh Start

 This week I started teaching a new session of one of my social media classes at the University of Calgary, Social Media Essentials.  As part of this blog prompt, and to apply what we have been learning I decided to try some new assessment tools to improve my teaching and the class experience for my students.

There are some limitations on what I can use as per the University guidelines, for example, I have to use the D2L tool for the online course materials etc.  However, rather than stick to the traditional - "please go to the discussion board and write an brief introduction about yourself", I provided students with a Flipgrid introduction video exercise

I have just finished watching 9 of my students videos and already see so much value in using this tool.  The ability to connect with a video of what the student chooses to share with the other students is quite impactful, you can also see and hear what they are passionate about, what they are excited to learn, or what concerns they might have about the course.  

Putting a face and voice to a name creates more of a connection too - not just for me, but for the students who will be learning together in this course for the next 6 weeks.

Flipgrid is a tool I was introduced to by our instructor Dr. Couros.  It is an amazing resource that is free and allows teachers and students to record a short video to interact with one another and create a more engaging experience.  I think it is a great tool because it is very easy to use and effective in creating a short video that can be uploaded and viewed with minimal effort.  

Another assessment tool that I introduced is I created a Student Questionnaire based on the one we complete for Dr. Couros.  I used Google Forms to collect basic information from each student that will help me throughout the course for marking the assignments such as blog post writing and Twitter engagement.  

I asked two questions that have proven to be very informative and helpful to me as an instructor:

"How comfortable are you with social media? Do you use it personally?"


"Is there anything I should know about you as a learner?" 

BOTH of these questions have provided me with very specific examples of issues and concerns several students have had.  As a result, I have a better understanding of the unique needs of those students and how important it is for me to approach the content and materials in some different ways than I normally have when I taught this material in the past.  For example, one student expressed heightened concern over privacy and social media, so I have been able to respond with some facts and articles to address those concerns.  I have already had several very positive email discussions with this student who thanked me for being open to their concerns and addressing them.  Without the Google Form information questionnaire, I would have never known these potential issues.

Using these two insights have provided me with more information about my students, and have demonstrated to them that I am listening, and prepared to help their learning journey by responding in a personalized way.  This is exactly the outcome I wanted in building a stronger connection with my students.

Although the preparation that I have invested into this course has required more work as an instructor on the "up front work",  I can already tell that this time will be very well rewarded to improving the online course experience for this session.

My Dilemma with The Social Dilemma

I watched the Netflix documentary The Social Dilemma at the start of this semester. And of course, I shared a post on social media with my opinion of the show.

The premise of the show is that social media companies manipulate the people who use the platforms with complicated and intentional algorithms and design.  The show suggests that there are many evils happening unbeknownst to the users including:

-  addiction to social media 
-  online privacy issues 
- monetization of personal data for advertisements
- concerns of an unregulated industry that has gone too far

Let's start with the positive aspects of the documentary.

Clearly, this show has created an awareness of some of the issues of social media and Web 2.0.  It has acted as a stimulus for conversations about digital citizenship, privacy, and personal data use with our online activities.  

Through the dramatization of the family in the show, it challenged how we are using technology and showed some of the issues of unhealthy habits and "addiction" to screens and social media.  Many families are concerned about how to best manage technology with their kids and the potential serious impacts of misinformation found online, unhealthy habits (lack of sleep, disconnection with "real world" friends and activities).  Personally, I really disliked this aspect of the documentary as I found it was over the top rather than factual.

I appreciated the information on the importance of finding a balance with technology and that it can not act as a substitute for in-person connection.  While our digital connection can help build and nuture relationships, it cannot be a substitution.

The information the documentary shared about political interference, misinformation and radicalization was very relevant as we approach the US election.  I have been delving more into this topic over the past few months as a personal interest, and because I have witnessed a rise in incivility and discourse since the start of the pandemic on the municipal government social media channels that I manage for my work.  These are serious and important issues that will need to be addressed in some way - either by government or managed by the social media platforms.

Spoiler Alert - I am not a fan.

Besides the over acting, which I am not a fan of, my issue with the documentary is that it did a great job of raising concerns and bringing to light many problems of the online world, but did not offer any substantial help. This was a missed opportunity to provide advice and options that can help families navigate these challenges and issues.  I did find some resources on their website on how to take action however most focus on advocacy rather than practical help.  Probably the best resource I found is a discussion guide that you can download to help facilitate constructive conversations at home and at school.  The site has a Bingo game 

Although I am not clear if it accomplishes what the heading suggests, "are you using technology or is it using you?"

I have read numerous reviews by others on this documentary that point to innaccurate use of statistics and research.  Many researchers commented that the current research shows a correlation NOT CAUSE as it relates to the impact of technology and social media on mental health issues.  Another pet peeve is the use of the term "addiction".  Excessive social media and technology use can be dangerous, but the use of the term addiction is irresponsible and only feeds the hype.  If you want a good read about this I suggest this link   

I was troubled with all of the people interviewed in the docudrama.  Many were responsible for the development of the technology that they are now condemning.  Ethically I questioned who they made their money, and are now attacking them. This presented a very unequal perspective.  I am not clear if the social media companies were invited to respond, but I did read the statement issued by Facebook (posted, where else, but on Facebook).

At the end of the day ...

I am pleased so many people are watching it (on Netflix, a paid platform that uses algorithms and paid advertising to determine what content to serve users, how ironic?!) because people are talking about it.  I am disappointed with the unbalanced and very narrow perspective that feeds on anxiety and fear.  But at least it is increasing awareness of the fact that we are living with technology and need to be aware of the challenges and issues that come with it.

What did you think of the docudrama?

Online Teaching and Higher Education


I currently teach online courses at two higher education institutions - Mount Royal University and the University of Calgary.  When I first started online teaching 7 years ago, I developed my course curriculum, added it to the LMS system and then did a synchronous session each semester with my students.  In other words, I followed the protocol outlined by both institutions.  I struggled with connecting with my students beyond the required responses on the discussion thread forums.

I was bored as an instructor and knew there had to be a better way to create a more engaging experience online like I had when I was in the classroom.  

I turned to tools I was familiar with like using Twitter to interact with the class.  Tweeting helpful resources and responding to students each week help establish more frequent connection.  Although each semester I will have at least a couple of students who are reluctant to try this tool, generally most are receptive to try using it since they are taking a course in social media! 

Another tool I have incorporated is Screencastify.  I used to simply upload my powerpoint presentation decks (like I was advised), but instead I have focused on creating weekly video lessons.  Although it has been a significant investment of my time to create the videos, I have had such positive feedback from my students that I am inspired to keep creating.  I cringe at some of my early videos but I prescribe to the saying "make progress not perfection".  

Both Universities are quite restrictive on using tools that must be approved by the institutions, so I try to push the boundaries a little and focus on how I can use those tools more effectively.  Unfortunately, in my opinion there is very little that can be done with the LMS Blackboard.  

I can use Youtube, and have been using the Creator Studio course and videos for inspiration.  I am also grateful for this course and love the format of learning from others about approaches, tools and technology.  Each week I have been motivated to try a new tool or have been inspired on how to apply for my courses.

My takeaway for this week is that having an open mind and willingness to learn is one of the best "tools" you can utilize.  If you have not watched this video of Carol Dueck and the Power of Yet, I highly recommend it

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!