Author Archives: thehackelhub

Final…FINAL Summary of Learning!

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Hello everyone for the FINAL time from The Hackel Hub,

Well…th, th, th, that’s allll folks!  Welcome to the last summary of learning of my Master’s journey.  I made one of these in my first ever Master’s class and will be concluding with one too.  I am beyond grateful for the opportunity to have shared my knowledge in this way over the last couple years.  I took learning into my own hands this class and it was incredibly empowering to see all I could learn with the support and guidance of Alec Couros!  Please enjoy a synapses of what I learned over the course of this semester…

From the bottom of my heart, thank you so much for everything over the past couple years.  I can’t tell you how much for you time and expertise has meant to me and I will go forward with all my tech knowledge and hopefully make you proud!  Take care,  stay healthy and we’ll see you soon.

Dani ❤

“Educating the mind without educating the heart,

is no education at all.” – Aristotle


Below is a list of references from the video:

Cat GIF:

Smart Goals:

Connaught Video:

Brand Ex:

Beyond Champions and Pirates:

George Couros Blog:

Online Marketing:

Marketing Site:

Marketing Information: “How Does Advertising Affect Market Performance?  A Note on Generic Advertising”



Take the Online Tour!

Hello everyone!

Take 8.49 minutes and check out a virtual tour of my Google Classroom set up specifically for online, distance learning during the Covid 19 outbreak.  I am so excited to get my kids up and running on these exciting new learning opportunities.  As much as I would give anything to have them all back at school, this chance to take their learning online and be more independent, is something that doesn’t happen as often as it should.  Silver lining?  Enjoy.


Thanks for the taking the time to watch, stay well.

Dani ❤

“Educating the mind without educating the heart,

is no education at all.”


Advertising is the Art of Making Whole Lies Out of Half Truths -Edgar A. Shaoff

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Hello everyone,

We are living in a digital world that bombards us constantly…probably more than we know.  We may think we are resilient to advertising, but are we actually?  I know I have been guilty of clicking on a Facebook advertisement for a product that was clearly placed there specifically for me.  So I wanted to find out, are we basing any of our regular practices on unfounded claims or things being suggested to us for marketing purposes only?  Is the advertising being used, influencing us more than we know?  Are we trudging along in our careers burning ourselves out to be “the Instagram queen” with the nicest decorations and most elaborate theme days?  Are these things important?  What do we need to be wary of and where do we need to put our focus in these constantly changing times?

In his blog post #BrandEd, Benjamin Doxtdator says, “I am all for teachers participating in what energizes them. But we need to ask critical questions about the ways that marketing networks shape the learning opportunities that teachers engage in, understanding the perspectives the networks do – and do not – bring…In terms of actual content, aside from talking positively about technology, there’s virtually no reference to the political times that we live in: structural racism, poverty, hetero patriarchy, able-ism, or the climate crisis.”  Doxtdator is referencing edu-celebrities, people who are putting out “educational” literature with little meat.  Short, fluffy chapters that are lacking research and come from a male dominated, “business of education” standpoint.  Doxtdator speaks of “pirate” books in his post, Beyond Champions and Pirates, that set up what he feels are narrow minded view of education that few people can fit in.  “The network of connected authors not only market each other’s book, but they market a landscape and performative identities which leaves little room for approaches to education that don’t fit the binaries they have drawn up.”   Although as I read through this post there were points I agree with, there were also points that I did not agree with – I guess his post did it’s job as it got me thinking critically about content.  I agree that we need to be extremely mindful of who’s voices we are silencing in education and who’s view point is not being included.  There are no exact formula’s that work for every school and pitting school against “learning” can be a harmful viewpoint to take.  This isn’t traditional advertising in the sense of media and product placement, but I do feel that this kind of influencing makes a big impact on teachers as we are always reading and trying to find where we belong in the system.  Doxtdator also takes a very strong social justice standpoint which I respect.  Representation matters, caring for and fostering voices that are marganilized is crucial in our profession but I am not sure that these other edu-celebrities don’t agree.  Doxtdator posts a graphic by George Couros that he was criticizing, however, it did make sense to me in a lot of ways in the sense that I interpreted it.  My pedagogy aligns with the idea that learning sometimes doesn’t fit the strict structure of school.  I really appreciated George’s interpretation of learning and the freedom and flexibility that learning gives people.  Especially in the uncertain times in which we are living, I think families are getting caught up in the idea of “schooling” and obsessing over their children missing “school” however, I think if people focused on their children LEARNING they would see that learning can happen in many ways, in many places.  Baking, walking and looking at nature, fixing a car, singing, dancing, making art, learning a new skill on the computer, knitting, speaking with a family member on the phone, etc.  The list could go on and on.  So, as much as I did like a lot of what Doxtdator said, saying that these ideas leave, “little room for approaches to education that don’t fit the binaries they have drawn up”, “When I see these charts, I see no room for myself as an educator and I have a hard time seeing where many educators concerned with social justice education would fit in.” I don’t agree with.  I think these approaches are an offer for people people to find where they fit and maybe use these guidelines to assess their ideas and views in education.  Social justice and other important issues, just because they are not explicitly written, doesn’t mean they are not there nor are they less important or not to be included.  Again, I feel like this is an offer to find your space and voice, not a tool of exclusion in the educational marketing landscape.  Doxtdator finishes his post by saying, “Ideally, I’d hope to see those who push for change in education to show solidarity with those who have fought hard for social justice by citing and lifting up their voices. Educators deserve better than having people throw up their hands in the face of this challenge as if that simple work were too much to expect.”   I agree with this wholeheartedly, I am just not 100% sure that the media and advertising of the authors he targets in this post are doing that.

So, are we being strongly influenced by these people who do not have alot of authority to be speaking on the topics they are?  I follow many Instagram teacher accounts that I feel would fit into this category.  These “influencers”, and I use that term to mean, “a person with the ability to influence potential buyers of a product or service by promoting or recommending the items on social media” (oxforddictionary)are teachers, but there first job online is to sell products, advertise ideas and show off their classrooms, theme days, elaborate lessons, etc.  Most of their content is showing off their OOTD, rather than focusing on teaching content.  I’m not condemning their content as it’s absolutely fine to have a side hustle to make extra money, I just caution following unsubstantiated claims of easy solutions to classroom problems without research and training.  I think most of these people are in fact trained teachers, they just never seem to elaborate on their circumstances that allow them to be the type of teacher they are – well funded district, partner with a good job, no children of their own to split their time, etc.  Another issue that I can identify with the “influencer” model of online media, is that we are only ever seeing a snapshot of their life and created product.  Very similar to how I feel about any standardized form of assessment, we only get a small snippet of a child’s learning and that is never enough to fully understand or assess the situation properly.  With online teacher influencer’s, we see the shiny, beautiful finished products and not the out takes and bloopers that are everyday life stuff.  Blogger Education Barnes says in an opinion piece, “Instead of doing research, teachers are out here blindly implementing stuff and failing. I went to a workshop about being culturally responsive where a teacher was in tears because she saw a lot of teachers doing fancy handshakes with students when they entered the classroom, but when she tried, it didn’t work. Building strong relationships with students has to be the foundation. Quick fixes from social media won’t always work.”  This struck me as a major issue with teachers following social media as a form of advertising.  Teachers have to remember that not everything they see is achieved over night and it’s ok if you don’t have it perfect.  If we take everything we see from these influencers with a grain of salt and remember that they could be trying to sell us product, get us to visit their Teachers Pay Teachers store, hook us up with a discount code from a clothing company, etc. we can borrow what makes sense for us and leave what doesn’t serve us.

“Compared to traditional media, Internet has offered more interaction among people which has generated a new and transparent environment where there is democratic and participatory communication.  Thus creating, organizing, sharing and spreading information have not been easy in the history of human beings up until the invention and the use of Internet an social media.” (Celbi, p. 1).

Looking at more traditional advertising, in 2012, Facebook was generating 82% of its revenue through advertising. (Wolff, 2012, p.70.) According to, in the first 9 months of 2019, they generated 50 billion dollars.  Advertising is essentially the main source of income for sites like Facebook and Instagram and they depend of people seeing value in their platforms enough to put money into showcasing their product on it.  Hub Stop sites that there are 2.38 billion users on Facebook and 500 million daily Instagram users – that being said, why wouldn’t people choose to advertise on social media?  There are billions of people cycling through these sites monthly that are ready to view your products.  In a study done in Turkey noted in the article “How do motives affect attitudes and behaviors toward internet advertising and Facebook advertising?” by Serra Inci Celbi, Celbi found that peoples attitudes towards online marketing changed depending on what there purpose online was.  People going online seeking information, to pass time or for entertainment generally, seemed to favour online advertisement and didn’t have a negative outlook towards it.  However, when advertising becomes invasive and begins to disrupt peoples entertainment then they take more of negative look towards it.  “Consumers perceive advertising as invasive when they feel that their private, social, and entertainment lives are interrupted.” (Celbi, p.317).  Li, Edwards, and Lee add that, “advertising may distract or irritate consumers when their goal oriented behaviours are interfered and therefore it can be seen as a common complaint of advertising.”  In the article, “How Does Advertising Affect Market Performance?  A Note on Generic Advertising” by Stephen F. Hamilton, Timothy J. Richards, and Kyle W. Stiegert, it says, “advertising firms may be attracted to industries with inelastic demand conditions, and multi-product retailers may use advertised brands as loss leaders to facilitate the sales of related retail goods.”  I found this concept interesting and relevant in particular in this strange time that we’re currently living in.  Full House Reaction GIFThis idea essentially means that advertisers would prefer to work with companies that sell products that regardless of a price change, will still sell in large quantities, as well as companies with many products in their line up so that they can put a product forward that will draw customers in regardless of margin, to hopefully purchase many products – duh!  This also gives advertising companies AMPLE opportunity to work with companies and therefore make lots of money.  In addition, it costs companies a lot less to advertise through social media outlets making it a more feasible option for smaller businesses, or businesses trying to reach larger, younger demographics.  It all seems so much more simple when you take some time and break it down!

I have been reading about a term called “banner blindness” that could potentially hinder online advertisers, people are getting so used to seeing adverts on their social media in the form of banners, that they have begun to block them out.  Celbi suggests that this could be big trouble for online advertisers if this moves into other forms of digital advertising.  When selecting the platform you wish to advertise on, you should first consider the demographics and user audience so that you are targeting the correct crowd for your product.  Below I will offer some stats I found on users of social media platforms, however these stats are moot if people are inadvertently or not, developing strategies to block out advertisements, or pieces of information they deem to be advertising while enjoying time online.  Banner Blindness is used to combat the constant bombarding that social media adverts offers us.  Blame it on multi-tasking, over stimuli, short attention spans, you know name it, but people have adapted to be able to shut out some of the constants so we can be efficient.  There are important pieces of a website or a page we’re viewing that we will pay attention to such as search bars, navigation tools, and headlines and we’ve started to ignore anything that is void of relevant information…as many advertisements truly are.  My understanding from my reading is that people have come to ignore important content if it is located in positions that ads usually appear.  A research based user experience company called Nielson Norman Group created the graphic shown here from a website study – their findings are as follows, “The heatmap aggregates the fixations of the 26 people who used this page on The text was read a lot, but the ads in the top banner and right rail got little attention. (The color red represents the areas that got the most fixations; yellow stands for a moderate number of fixations; and blue for the fewest fixations. Areas with no overlay coloring received no fixations.)”   People didn’t even appear to pay any mind to the advertisements at all – so, although this company likely did the research on which platform to put their ads, it doesn’t matter if people have grown to not even notice them.

Hub Stop says, Image result for stats“About 69% of adults use Facebook — although 25-34-year-olds make up the greatest number of users on the platform, Facebook still has the widest age range of active users of any other platform. This includes teens and seniors — in fact, 62% of online seniors, ages 65+, are on Facebook. Instagram is ideal if you’re targeting younger generations. That’s because 75% of 18-24-year-olds use the platform and 57% of 25-29-year-old’s use it. Meanwhile, only 8% of people over 65-years-old are on the platform. Twitter is a good option if you’re looking to target young to middle-aged adults with your social media ads. That’s because 22% of adults in the U.S. use Twitter. 38% of users on the platform are between 18-29-years-old while 26% of users are between the pages of 30-49-years-old. Snapchat is a platform you’ll want to advertise through if you’re looking to target a young crowd. The platform has around 210 million daily active users — about 90% of Snapchat users are between 13-24-years-old.”   Although these stats are from the US, I still thought they were relevant to Canada as many of users would likely fit into these same brackets.  I see the relevance in these stats when considering advertising and absolutely understand why someone would look into these before making decisions about where to spend money – however, the concept of banner blindness would cross my mind as a company looking to spend money.  Where could I put my ad that would hit a target audience, but also actually get some view time is what companies should likely be answering.

Image result for kids wanting a toyLastly I would like to comment quickly on TV advertising and something that I noticed while choosing to socially isolate over the past 10 days.  I always pay mind to commercials, my husband, never even looks up until the show he was watching comes back on – I suppose there are two types!  That being said, I notice the types of ads that play regularly to me on the channels we watch the most – usually sports if they are available.  The other night as we were aimlessly searching through channels, he landed on YTV, a children’s channel during the day that offers “adult” cartoon type shows in the evening.  I was completely floored at the commercials – none of the regular commercials I saw on the sport channels played once on YTV even though they cycled through repeatedly on the other channels.  On YTV EVERY ad was targeted to children – there were toy commercials, clothing commercials, video games, etc. even though it was the evening and kids would likely not be watching.  I couldn’t believe that they would be so blatant in their attempt to have children want for products however, at this point, it is likely the best option as children haven’t developed the skills to train their brains not to pay attention to them!

I feel as though I have only JUST scratched the surface of this topic – I think I could have read forever on the in’s and out’s of advertising and strategy, especially since having my own business!  I have felt lucky to have had the opportunity to start exploring this topic and I look forward to continuing it in the future.

Thanks for following along,

Dani ❤

“Educating the mind, without educating the heart,

is no education at all.” – Aristotle

The Kiddos Have Spoken!

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According to Apptentive’s user survey it says that “90% of users take app ratings into account, 79% pay attention to reviews and 4 out of every 10 people take reviews more seriously than recommendations from friends.”  Reviews are important.  In my opinion they can make or break the success of your product and children have such an involvement with technology now that they are play a large role in the process.  In a previous post I took some time and explored the apps I use most regularly in my classroom as well as some apps that I was looking forward to trying in my room as the year progressed.  I spent hours reading, learning about what each program does, as well as reading reviews posted about the product.  It was crucial for me to get a good understanding of what others thought,  sometimes people have noticed parts of the program I didn’t and made good points related the functionality of a certain program.  Much like my classroom however, I always try and go into things with a clean slate and try not to have others opinions dictate what I think so I can judge for myself.  It’s a fine line that I am still trying to explore!

For this assignment I asked my students to spend some time exploring 1 of 3 websites, Mathletic, Prodigy or Youtube Kids.  Their instruction was to look through the functionality of the site, check out the features of the website, think about what they like or do not like about the site based on their research and then google the program and read about what other people had to say.  I wanted them to form their own opinions, but still look at others as well, in particular, what other kids were saying.  Again, much like my other assignment where students were asked to work independently,  I had varying degrees of quality with my answers.  I have selected some of the most relevant to share with you today.  First, here is the breakdown of what sites students selected to explore.    The majority of students, as I suspected chose Prodigy because it seems to be a class favourite.  I was happy to see that some students went with Youtube Kids because we hadn’t explored that program yet and I was excited to see what they thought.    The next question was asking them to identify why they selected that program and answers ranged from, “because it’s a good program”, “because it’s my fave”, “because I know alot about it”, “I like Youtube and I like watching funny videos”, “cause I was interested”, “it’s a good school game” to “i don’ know why I picked it”.  Although this question wasn’t crucial to my research, I was interested in what drew kids to certain programs.  I also found it interesting that some students chose the program because they liked it and knew a lot about it already, some chose it because they were interested in learning more and some chose it because they used it and liked a function of it.

Next I asked students to share whether or not they used the program at school or at home – again, I was most curious to know how much students were engaging in the use of these programs and if they even used them without my supervision.  Part of being able to evaluate them is actually using them.  These results didn’t really surprise me as I assumed the majority of my students do not engage with “school programs” at home.

Then we spoke in class about the need to critically evaluate programs and look for both things we like and things we don’t.  We took some time to look up app reviews together and saw that there were both positives and negatives listed and why that is necessary.  I asked students to list 3 things they loved about the app and 3 things they were critical of.  Below are some of the answers for things students liked about the apps:

  1.  it helps kids have fun while still doing the math. you can collect cute pets, vs your friends, it helps to motivate kids to fight the monsters to get coins or take them in.
  2. 1. like battles 2. getting pets 3. you can play with friends
  3. “it’s sensord,good for kids”
  4. its fun, theres lots of diffrent monsters to battle, and you have fun playing and doing work!
  5. It has 1,400+ math skills, no ads and your a wizard
  6. it helps u learn, it brings a new fun way to learn math, on online mode it lets u play with ur friends and when u do that u can choose ur level up to 1 to 10.
  7. You Get Prizes and certificates And you can customize your character
  8. Its like a video game,Its fun and addictive, And its a long game

What I found most interesting about these answers is that students liked the “gamification” of math online and most didn’t focus on becoming better at math, but just enjoying participating in it more.  They like that there is lots to choose from and that you are rewarded through characters, certificates and leveling up.  These answers, coming from a teachers perspective don’t necessarily back up my chose to use these programs in my class – students are certainly more focused on the game and less about the educational benefits.

Below are reasons students are critical of the programs:

  1. how you don’t get to pick the subject of math you want to do, that it constantly put’s a small ad after every battle, it asks you to play on home but really when you go there its just more ads
  2. its slow
  3. they don’t update enough, the graphics are crap
  4. it’s not sensored, not good for kids, can serch bad thing
  5. theres sooo many monsters EVERY WHERE and you cant go too the places you want to go with out battling a monster , there are some people that bully others , you get a very little time every day on it.
  6. prodigy is pressuring to buy stuff, PAY-TO-WIN and membership spam
  7. It dosent let me search what i want to search
  8. you have to pay and it is hard game and it is a long game

I was surprised at the answers that referenced the ads in the games.  Our next step in class is to start looking at the effects of advertising and am curious to see if kids will make this important connection to the games they play.  I was also intrigued by the students who reviewed Youtube Kids, they liked that it was censored, bit didn’t like it when they couldn’t access videos they were searching for.  Perhaps this is insight into the videos they are choosing to watch? 😉  Because of the intense, quick paced world we all live in, I was less surprised to criticism that the games were slow, graphics were poor, few updates and that it’s long.  I am shocked at our attention span so having them sit down and focus, even on a game, is a challenging task.  We spent some time reviewing the word “critical” and explored by it’s important to share things that we may not like.  This segued into asking the kids if they would recommend this program to friends – we spoke a lot about how our opinions could sway our friends into buying or participating in something so it was important that we were honest in our recommendations and reviews.

Some seemed unsure about this question – they were coming up with inquires like, “what if I say yes and they don’t like it”.  We spoke about how it would be up the person trying the app to decide for themselves whether they like the program or not, but what is most crucial for us, is being honest in what we thought and trying to give good detailed reviews so that people can then make their own educated choices.  The majority of students who selected no, appeared to have chosen Youtube Kids as their app.  When I checked in with a few students, they said they felt like it was for “babies” and that they liked the idea but were mad because they couldn’t find any of their videos.  They wouldn’t suggest it because it wasn’t for kids their age.  I thought this was insightful because they were starting to appreciate programs for their functionality, but considering their relevance to themselves and where they are at.  To follow up with this question I asked them, why or why they wouldn’t recommend the app.  For me, the important learning comes with the understanding of why we do what we do.  The answers here varied but included, “even after the things wrong with the site it still is a good website for math”, “Because they might like it because you can learn more. You need to answer a question to battle”, “i think that because if people dont know what it is they can play this. also some people that dont know how to do some math yet they can try this out”, “cause i want other kids to have fun to”, “Because its safe” and “They might like it because they can find videos they want to watch”.  Although these answers are fairly generic, I could see some glimpses of kids trying to rationalize why they would ask other students to try a site.  My goal for this question was to get kids thinking of why we choose certain sites over others.

Image result for review timeAnother aspect of this assignment was to have students spend some time exploring reviews that people had already left regarding the specific program they had chosen to research.  I wanted them to understand what a review was, how they were written and what their function was.  We looked a little bit at what companies might do if they were to have a negative review on their product and how having positive reviews might impact their success.   Blogger Takumi Kakehi said,  “Since iOS 11 was introduced in 2017, Apple began restricting app developers from implementing custom review prompts. Instead, Apple encouraged them to use their new native prompt, which only shows up 3 times max per year. Also, this pop-up won’t show up again once users leave a review. It also helps developers to implement the prompt easily, but apps can no longer ask users after major bug fixes or big feature introductions.”  I read this to the kids and they asked how it helped if people couldn’t change their mind and I thought that was a very good point.  If companies took reviews to heart and made changes based on those recommendations, and no one was given the chance to amend, how would people be getting an accurate view of the program or its capabilities?  We used this as a spring board to  write our own reviews after researching our chosen programs.  Again,  the writing ability of my class dictated the length of the responses but I truly felt like kids had a good grasp of the point of reviews.  Here are some of the reviews by kids wrote, “prodigy is a great site for learning but there is quite a few ads other than that is pretty good”, “YouTube is a good program for watching videos. I like all the funny videos but sometimes it can be hard to find the video that I want to watch”, “i wish they put a little less monsters in the game”, “It’s a good site but the membership spam I hate”, “I Like this Program And think Other Kids Would learn a lot of math stuff I would give it a 4/5” and “Prodigy is a fun good way of learning math in video game form, However, for axtra prizes or to use certain feature you need a paid membership”.  I was happy to see students referencing ad spam, loop holes with memberships vs. unpaid subscriptions and just generally taking a side or taking in media with a critical lens.

To conclude this quiz I asked kids to share their favourite app we use at school, and their favourite app they use at home – regardless of whether it was on our list for this assignment or not.  Majority of students chose Prodigy because it’s fun, game like and they can battle friends.  I had 2 students select Mathletics because you can practice math online and 2 students choose Sumdog, a multiplayer, adaptive math site.  Sumdog with a paid membership also offers spelling and language options as well.  Students said it was easier than the Prodigy and Mathletics but lots of fun and they like the multi-player option.  I found it interesting that the points students made were all very similar, describing different apps.  Apps students chose that were used outside of school included Fortnite, TikTok, Roblox, Mindcraft and Youtube.  If it were still possible this year to explore these apps and programs with the students I think I would.  I am curious what draws them into these apps, what they actually understand about their flaws and strengths and if they are being safe on these programs.  I would also like to tie these apps into the idea of bombardment of advertising for kids.

Overall I was happy with how this project turned out and the information that students got from this.  I was impressed with the fact that students had some knowledge about spam, advertising, memberships, and sharing information online.

Thanks for reading,

❤ Dani

“Educating the mind without educating the heart,

is no education at all.” – Aristotle

I “Adora’d” this week! Week #8

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Hello everyone,

I will start this weeks post by saying that I have so enjoyed being able to explore and appreciate local art of ALL kinds throughout this course.  Being able to learn the history of drag and listen to Adora Diamond share her story, reminded me of the importance of appreciating and viewing all art.  There are so many creative, powerful, amazing people in our community and I was honoured to be here tonight.    I was blown away by some of the things I have learned about drag from the readings this week and how they tied into the contemporary issues we had been learning about in previous classes, or about other art forms – I didn’t realize how competitive drag was/is in the bigger hubs around the world like New York, Chicago, and Los Angeles.  Adora was telling us that in Regina, because the scene is so much smaller, it is very supportive and performances are more about sharing your art than competing…although she did say Queens are always trying to “outdo” each other. 😉  In the A History of Drag Balls, Houses and the Culture of Voguing by Tim Lawrence it says, “Modern balls, with their judging panels holding up numbered score cards, petty jealousies among lifelong rivals, and partisan crowds booing their favourite low scores, have all the flavour of great sporting events.” (Valenti, p. 6).  We spoke last week about the idea of drama for sport or drama games, and this seems like a crossover – there are competitive roots in drag too.

Second, I was shocked to find out that Madonna didn’t invent Voguing!  That might seem silly but it tied directly into cultural appropriation and “using” a culture for financial gain only.  I was horrified to know that I had grown up accepting that it came from one place, when Queen’s had worked so hard in their scene to grow a movement.  “Madonna parachuted into the voguing scene in order to build her single and piece together a cast for the video.” (Lawrence, p. 8).  She moved in and because as we have learned, culture does not have to relate to race or location, it can be a constructed culture, she stole the pieces that she thought could be trendy and then left.  “Madonna never came back to the Sound Factory after the tour,” says Vasquez.  “She was over vogue.” (Lawrence, p. 8).

There were two really important things I got from this article, aside from the history of drag, which I loved reading, was how important allowing people to tell their own story is.  We can’t truly appreciate stories until we analyze who is sharing them.  Drag queens telling the story of Drag queens is very important – not Madonna, not mainstream cultural guru’s, but the Queen’s who lived the life.  Second, was how integral the houses were to the survival of some of their family members.  “From the onset, there has been a need for gay people to have a unity.  Being a homosexual, a lot of these kids have been ostracized, beat up by their families, thrown out of their homes.  It’s no different now than when I was a kid.  Some of these kids are homeless and struggling.  They don’t know how much talent and ability they have going on.  So, if they join a house, they can belong somewhere.  They can be part of team.” (Lawrence, p. 9).  These youth and people need one another – family isn’t always blood, lots of times it’s chosen.  The houses worked as a home away from home and I don’t think I realized their importance.


During the facilitation we had the opportunity to view an episode of Canada’s a Drag and relate it to the article about subversiveness in drag culture, “It Has No Color, It Has No Gender, It’s Gender Bending”: Gender and Sexuality Fluidity and Subversiveness in Drag Performance” by Justine Egner & Patricia Maloney.  I chose the video of Sapphoria from Edmonton who was a pre-op trans man performing drag as a woman.  It was really interesting to hear his story from a very unique standpoint.  During our discussion after having an opportunity to view our chosen video, Jacq asked me if I thought Sapphoria was an example of subversiveness in drag.  It was a hard question to answer but I said no.  Once learning about Sapphoria I think he was doing drag for the sake of himself only – he was able to explore and celebrate the things he loved about femininity, but then take it all off at the end of the day and be male as he always felt like it was.   However, I almost wish I would have answered yes and no.  I think in some ways, Sapphoria was trying to subvert systems by stripping on stage and having his pre-op body, that is not the body that people expect when a drag queen takes their clothes off…that being said, I feel that, although he doesn’t feel female, his biological form is still female and feeding into the fetishistic view of the female body.  It’s a tricky situation.  I don’t know where I stand 100% but I was grateful to explore my thoughts.   “Studying drag can present us with a unique perspective because, through examining how gender boundaries are broken, we can examine how drag performers construct gender and sexuality and thus gain a better understanding of not only drag constructions of gender but traditional gender constructions as well.” (Egner et al., p. 877).  The more we study about gender, the more we can begin to see that gender is a fluid scale that we may slide along through our lives.

It was very cool to explore the art form of drag this week.  Ru Paul said, (and I won’t get started on Ru Paul but if you’re ever interested in my view point…let me know! 😉 ) “We are all born naked and the rest is drag”.

Thanks for reading,

❤ Dani

“Educating the mind without educating the heart, is no education at all.” – Aristotle




Let the Voices Ring Out – Week #7

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Hello everyone,

This week was extremely thought provoking for a variety of reasons.  I was completely stumped with the concept of agency – who has it, who can use it?  When can they use it?  These questions are certainly not easy to answer at the best of times, let alone when you are searching for a specific definition of agency that encompasses the true meaning of the word for ourselves and our students.  Image result for agency to chooseSo, from what I could find as a proper definition on, agency is, “a thing or person that acts to produce a particular result.”  At it’s root, I suppose that is exactly what it is – someone fighting to get what they want, after deciding that, that is what they want.  Children try and do this, adults try and do this and I still don’t really know if we have agency at all…we always have some kind of higher up, whether that is a physical higher up like a boss, parent, teacher, etc. or a metaphysical higher up that you choose to subscribe to, and therefore, are we really ever free to act how we might without those constraints?  Another piece I liked about this definition was that it encompassed a “thing” as well as a person.  I was very intrigued by the concept that animals, plants and landscapes all have agency.  For sake of the argument, I am on the side that they do.  I don’t know if plants and landscapes are acting intentionally to produce a particular result, however, once the powers that be start those changes in motion, whatever the result will be…will be.  The example I gave in class was that if the polar ice cap is melting and breaking off, there is nothing we could do to stop it – regardless of the fact that we know it will cause damage.   I think in some ways, this ties directly into the “School to Prison Pipeline” idea.  The powers that be have set those kids in motion, and they sometimes feel that whatever will be will be, regardless of how they act because their agency is gone and people already have preconceived notions about who they are what they are capable of.   The concept of the self-fulfilling prophecy, why do better when no one expects anything otherwise.  It’s truth in many communities, but so heartbreaking.

Image result for relationshipsThis week I really feel like it comes back to relationships and how important relationships are to our students and their success.  Government cuts budgets, we can’t offer what kids need, it destroys relationships.  Police and heavy security are present in our schools, it shows we don’t trust our kids, it destroys relationships…with the police too!  We discredit the importance of children’s home lives, the importance of supporting families and parents and it destroys relationships.  As it mentions in the video, we are setting our students up for failure with bad environments, unclean schools and lack of nutrition in our buildings, I would argue lack of trust as well.  Although the School to Prison Pipeline video is featuring students from the United States, there are so many parallels to our students here in Regina.  Kids are building records in schools that will follow them the rest of their lives, making it hard for them to better themselves as they get older – how does this make any senses for education?  The whole point in my opinion is to have school set our kids up for success in their lives and this is literally the exact opposite – we are sending them into the world without trust, without confidence and at a deficit in a lot of ways.

We CANNOT treat kids like adults and expect a positive result, they are not adults.  In the video it drives home that punishment is not a solution as it doesn’t help people grow or change.  For our youth, that is what we want, for them to learn from mistakes or successes and grow.  Children do not understand things the way adults do and therefore we MUST approach educating youth differently.  We need to understand how important our expectations of students are and how we must always meet them where they’re at, build confidence and then show them that they can still make it over the bar when you raise it.  Relationships are key, positive school culture is key.

Poppyn reminded me how important representation is and how much language matters.  To empower youth they must be able to see themselves represented in a positive way.  If you can’t see yourself somewhere, it is much harder to picture yourself ever getting there.  “POPPYN was created in 2011 by a small group of college students frustrated with the disproportionate amount of negative representation of black youth in the local news.” (p. 80).  If you don’t like what you see, we need mentor our students and kids to change it.  Everyone deserves to see themselves in a positive light.  Later on in the article it speaks to how important language is.  We can use our words to, “build trust and amplify voices” (p. 80). or diminish and silence them.  We owe our youth more than the later.

Thanks for reading,

❤ Dani

“Educating the mind without educating the heart, is no education at all.”


Inspiration: Foster it, appreciate it and watch yourself flourish – Week #6

Hello everyone,

To start – can I say that Brad Bellegarde is AMAZING.  I found his whole talk completely engaging and really powerful.  The connections he made with Indigenous culture and Hip Hop are so apparent but did not feel accessible to me until his talk.  I snapped a very poor photo of his board because I was drawn in by how he compared cultures and spoke to the fact that culture is not just where we come from and what is associated with that, but it can be the cultures we create and choose to associate with.  The way Brad tied the circle of courage into this messaging was also really amazing – his Indigenous culture was seamlessly woven into his pedagogy and it was everything and more than I aspire to in my classroom.  You could see and hear Brad’s passion and inspiration shining throughout this entire presentation and it was really beautiful.  Brad also gave me hope that it doesn’t need to be perfect – we are all a work in progress and we can have permission to grow and change and let what inspires us, push us to the next level.  He also (and he probably didn’t realize it) but he gave me permission to allow negative things to push me forward to – when he was confronted by the reporter at the Olympics and was asked questions that he thought weren’t phrased properly, he took that fire and changed the direction of his life with it.  That is such a powerful message…not only for me, but for the kids I teach – they need to know that no matter how much negative there is around them, they need to take that as fuel to do better and be better than those negative things.  Brad was so incredibly well spoken that it truly did inspire me to go back to my classroom and tell my kids that they can follow their passions and something good will come of it.  It may not be the exact path they planned, it may not be the exact passion they expected, but they can make it work. I’m excited to show my students Brad’s song, “I Remember” and show them that dreams do come true when we hang in there and beat adversity.  Not every dream we have will come true, but we can work hard and see where life takes us and be proud of our accomplishments even when they aren’t exactly what we expected.

In the article by Kim Picard, she says, “I was still not convinced about a career in the field of fashion: I was scared.” (p. 59).  Although I recognize that we can’t tell kids that they can be whatever they want to be if they just dream it and work hard because that isn’t realistic, however, I think it’s important to fan students passions and have them approach them positively with realism.  Picard could have had someone in her corner encouraging her not to be scared and to look at all her options.  I think our job as teachers is to encourage and support our students in a safe way.  Picard says, “I always found it important to encourage young people to pursue their dreams.  This made me realize that I’d put my own childhood dream to the side.  That is when I decided to start my own business.” (p. 60).

Image result for kim picard indigenous artistKim says, “By studying the patterns, colours and techniques used to make these (the designs of her people) clothes, I gained knowledge that would one day help me to realize one of my dreams: to revive the clothes of my ancestors by giving them a contemporary form.” (p. 62).  This quote inspired my final project with my art class for this term.  We can use art to bring things unseen to life.  I know my students have so much to share about themselves and no outlet – what if we gave them a contemporary form to put it in???  Our lives inspire our art whether we are conscious of it or not.  “We all have predilections, depending, I think, on the time of our lives and the things we experience at the present.” (p. 64).  Kim says her ultimate goal is to connect the modern world with that of her ancestors – my goal for my final project is to connect my students and I’s outside world, with the one we have going on within.  Kim encourages us to “look with the eyes of the heart” (p. 70). and I loved that.  We can see and feel with our heart and that is potentially the most incredible part of art.  Art (in any form) gives us the ability to see it with so many more facets of ourselves than or eyes.  I think it’s important for kids to understand that they can look for inspiration and drive in the positive and negative  things they endure and to stick with their passion – even if it turns out to be a hobby in their spare and not their main job.  We deserve to do things we love.

I also chose to read the article, “Flipping the Misogynist Script: Gender, Agency, Hip Hop and Music Education” by Evan S. Tobias.  As I read through this article one of the main points that jumped out at me was the section on women in Hip Hop.  My question, why do we always put or pit women against each other???  “When it comes to females they make it seem like there can be one and they try to put as against each other.” (p. 55).  “I already have enough going against me in this game.  I don’t need other females also hating.” (p. 55).  I struggle to understand why we continue to do this to each other.  What is stopping us from enjoying each other, from celebrating each other and for the love of god, just being a little nicer to one another.  Later on page Keyes (2002) says, “female rappers perform in ways that refute, deconstruct and reconstruct alternative versions of their identity.”   Although Keyes goes on to say that it often appears that women rappers are performing in response to men, it doesn’t account for the other issues they are choosing to portray and the space they create in which to share them it still has me thinking, are we missing out on the true appreciation of the art of women rapping because we are seeing the response to men first?  Is that the art form that women rappers would choose if not always having to combat and answer to a male dominated, misogynistic world?  It made me think of the conversation we had when Jill and Tessa facilitated, what would art look like if Indigenous people didn’t create artwork for white people or for social justice reasons.  I see many parallels here similar to those and similar to the ones that Brad was drawing in his presentation.  Rapper Ranking Ann says I am, “critical of the women who just ‘step into the men’s shoes’: all they’re doing is getting into the mic and chatting the typical male lyrics in a women’s voice.”   This view indicates a need to move beyond gender norms or expectations within the Hip Hop world.” (p. 56).  This point echos that of allowing Indigenous people to step beyond the role of educator, facilitator and make art they love for any reason they choose.  Female rappers should feel empowered by the rap community to share their truths and stories in any way they choose and be shown respect.  MC Lady Luck says regarding being labeled, “I don’t like being put in a box.  I don’t like being called a rapper.  I don’t like being called a battle rapper.  I don’t like being called Black.  I don’t like being called a lesbian.  I just want to be Luck…I don’t like a title.” (p. 59).  So why we do we label everything??  Is it a need for control?  Is it that we can’t accept art for art sake and making decisions because we believe in them?  I don’t know.  I just know that we need to acknowledge our differences, acknowledge that we all have power and acknowledge that we need to support each other so that we can succeed and be happy however we choose to exist.

Thanks for reading,

❤ Dani

“Educating the mind without educating the heart, is no education at all.”


To App or not to App – that is the question.

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Hello everyone,

“Educational” is a very wide spanning term – what I feel as a grade 5/6 teacher in a community is relevant and useful is WORLDS away from what I would have chosen last year, teaching grade 2/3 in a more affluent community.  What one person deems educational, another can find childish and not worth the time.  Some apps claim one thing and then you download them and it’s something completely different – especially in the context of school.  Also, my main question is – are they worth the time we invest in them in the classroom?  When I started digging around looking for curated lists of educational apps I noticed most websites were put out by sites such as,,, and  Think twice before you form opinionsNot that these aren’t necessarily trusted sites, but I do question what authority some sites have to put out a list of educational apps when they are not affiliated with the educational world in a teaching context as that is my lens.  I value what parents think, I often do value and read reviews of larger companies – however, I don’t know if I am ready to set up my classroom technology time around their opinions.                                                                                                                 Image Credit  Holly

I started by exploring the top 10 list of a website I recognized, Common Sense Media.  Common Sense Media claims to help parents and teachers by vetting technology so families and teachers can feel good about what they use with their kids.  They claim to support education by “empowering the next generation of digital citizens”.  They have a digital citizenship curriculum and say, “Schools everywhere rely on our free curriculum, expert advice, and edtech ratings to help kids thrive.”  Sounds like something I would want to be a part of…well, I tracked down the “Best Apps for Kids” list and chose the “Big Kids” section for kids aged 8-9 as those were the closest age level to my class, and truly, around what most are functioning at, if not lower.  Another piece I loved about the Common Sense Media site was that they also took time to break down apps and sites into categories, offer reviews, and even an always updating “Top Picks” list.  Along the side of the app reviews there is also suggestions for how to integrate the topic into your class, STEM videos and teaching ideas.  Overall, I was quite happy once I starting to dig through.

  1. Book Creator                                                 6.  The Social Express II
  2. Flow Free: Bridges                                        7.  Stack the States
  3. INKS                                                                8.  Threes!
  4. Marvel Hero Tales                                         9.  Toca Hair Salon Me
  5. Monument Valley 2                                      10.  Zoombinis

The next site I chose to look through was Elearning Industry.  They claim to be, “a network-based media and publishing company founded in 2012. It is the largest online community of eLearning professionals in the industry, and was created first and foremost as a knowledge-sharing platform to help eLearning professionals and instructional designers connect in a safe online community where they can stay up to date with the latest industry news and technologies, and find projects or jobs.”  Although I didn’t recognize this site, it titled their list, “Top 10 educational apps for kids” and I felt like that was missing from Common Sense Media.

  1. Class Dojo                         6.  Science 360
  2. Duolingo                            7.  Crossword Puzzles
  3. Dragon Box                       8.  Flow Free
  4. Quick Math                     9.  Spelling Stage
  5. Youtube Kids                   10.  My Molecularium

Image result for buried under a pile of appsI now had 20 apps to look through and to be honest, I had only heard of 3 of them, Dojo, Duolingo and Book Creator.  This didn’t make me nervous, it just made me question some of the apps I have been using in my classroom as only one of them appeared on either of these lists, and many of the other curated lists I had explored didn’t feature any either.  Before I get into the reviews of apps I have selected for my classroom, I will share what I found generally about the apps that appeared on these lists and if there are any that I will trying in my room as I move forward.

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Comedy Central Win GIF by Lights Out with David SpadeNot to be negative (thanks Giphy!), but I’ll start with the things that I was least impressed with, 1.) Most sites required you to purchase something in order to either access all the materials, or simply have students access ANY material.  I realize these companies need to make money,  but in school, we don’t have a lot of expendable cash so we have to make sure everything is worth while.  2)  Many of the apps are American which makes it very hard to register, focuses on American content only and uses American money to purchase anything in app, meaning costs go up.  3)  Lots of the apps that      were featured on these sites were not super educational – yes, they featured math or spelling and the content when it was available seemed ok, but the majority of the app was “play” such as designing an avatar or exploring worlds and  game spaces.  I don’t mind any of the above, however, if I am going to be paying for an educational app for school, this would not be my main focus.  And lastly, 4) majority of the apps or programs on these lists require you to download software and that is not possible on my division computers without having our tech crew do it.  If you were interested in an app, you have to fill out a LENGTHY application, state every reason under the sun why you feel it’s worth while and educational, then it can take months (wish I was being dramatic!) to get the app put on to your IPads or other devices.

Now to get on with the positives, I found a few apps on these lists I would like to highlight before moving into the apps I currently use in my classroom.  YouTube Kids [node:content-type] Poster ImageThe first, Youtube Kids as I am constantly combating my students questionable choices on Youtube during free time at school.  Sometimes I don’t think it’s intentional, it’s just what they are used to watching and it’s not appropriate for school.  Youtube Kids is essentially a pre-vetted version of Youtube that turns off the ability to deliberately search for inappropriate content.   Upon reading further into the functionality, I found that the system Youtube uses is not perfect and inappropriate adverts or profanity get through.  I have also read that the amount of advertising in this app is high – which I have pointed when you are having younger children access your program.  They are going to be influenced by what they are seeing and directing large amounts of advertising as a trade off for monitoring content seems shady.  However, I think there is certainly the potential to be safer than accessing content on the regular Youtube page.  I know without a doubt that my students WILL NOT rate this app kindly – they don’t like to be treated like babies and I know they will feel like that if I were to implement this.  I believe this is one app that I will have students review.

The next app from the list I am looking forward to trying and having students review is Book Creator.  I had heard of this site, but never tried it out and I was very impressed with its functionality after I starting reading about it.  It seems easy to use, well laid out and well connected to Google Chrome which is important as that is what our computers at school run.  The point of this site is to be able to create and publish short stories and comic books with illustrations, voice overs and text.  I love this versatility as I have such a wide range of students, the different layouts and options for sharing your ideas are very important.  Another piece I love is that students sign up for our “classroom” using a code, similar to Google Classroom so I can access their work, and they can save their work to a classroom library so other students can look at it too.  I also really like how there are so many options for sharing and printing work once it is complete.  I think kids, regardless of age, want to take things home and share them with their families – it’s nice to have that capability as some free programs do not.  My pedagogy around writing is that students have to feel confident and they have to feel like writers.  This year, my students are neither, and writing is hard.  Having the option to write and be creative online is a wonderful intensive to encourage writing.  In the review and explanation on Creative Education they also offer educators a list of 50 ways to use Creator in the class.  I am looking forward to trying this out and seeing what my class has to say.  If I had to guess, I think they will like this app.

We know what I want to try…but lets look at what I am already using and what features I find successful or not.  My hope is to have my students review Mathletics and Prodigy as well as we use these frequently. The main apps I run in my class are Raz Kids (for my struggling readers only), Mathletics, Prodigy and Class Dojo as a tool to post photos and communicate with families over anything else.  Raz-KidsLet’s look at Raz Kids first – right off the hop, this app is expensive.  You can access a 14 day trial, but to purchase it costs $115.45 USD for 1 classroom, for 1 year.  The positive, you receive 32 spots, which hopefully would be enough to accommodate your entire class if you choose.  What does this get you?  Essentially Raz-Kids is an online levelled reader program that gives kids access to hundreds of short books at their individual reading level.  They are usually followed by a comprehension quiz to test if the student understood the book they read at a basic level.  Teachers can choose from 29 different levels and have access to results on a fairly easy to use dashboard.  Another positive, this app can be translated into French and Spanish which is good for a dual track school like Connaught.  The app can also be used on a laptop which is great as senior classes in our division do not have access to IPad’s readily.  There are also short videos and games accessible to students through Raz.  Previously, at Lakeview School all of my students received a Raz Account and time to use it was built into our Daily 5 time.  Mostly the books would engage a 7 or 8 year old enough that they could spend a 15-20 minute chunk of time on the program.  The games and videos could be distracting, but overall it served an ok purpose.  However, in my 5/6 split this year at Connaught, I would never spend the money to have all my students on this program.  Upon looking through it again, although they offer books up to the level Z, the content of the books in the higher levels, in my opinion would not be engaging to higher level readers.  The content is fairly primary and again, in my own opinion, would not be interesting enough to keep engagement.  I do have 6 students who are at least 2, if not more grade levels behind in reading and comprehension and they are accessing Raz during a set 30 minute block of specialized reading support and it is going well.  They get a chance to read at their independent level without judgement.  Each student receives their own login information and can login to their account, not seeing what anyone else is up to.  I think that is important for older readers who are behind and reading books that appear more simple to those of their peers. Building confidence in reading is half the battle and I think Raz has the potential to do that when used correctly.

Image result for mathletics logoNext up – the all high and mighty Mathletics.  This program has been praised at every school I have attended for its curriculum ties and engaging approach to classroom/online math.  Yes, I like Mathletics.  Do I think it’s accessible to everyone?  No.  The cost for this program is very high and without outside support, usually from our parent council, we would not be able to purchase this program for use within the school.  For one child, without a classroom or better yet, a school subscription, it can be up to $100 for a year.  Costs go down the more children you add.  I believe our cost for Connaught School is still around the $8 mark per child which adds up in a school of 550 kids.  What is Mathletics and what do they offer?  First, one feature I love is that I can customize programming for each student even if they are registered in grade 5 or 6.  I have students that are working on math at about a second or third grade level, and with Mathletics I can choose content at that level without the program appearing any different.  I think at a middle years level, this is so important as students start to become more concerned with what other students think and they can develop self confidence issues.  I can create groups so that students with like ability are together and I can program accordingly.  I also have a group of 5 students who go for specialized math support and Mathletics has made it possible for them to have “Work on Math” time independently at their own level while the support teacher is working with a small group.  Mathletics has data driven reports.  Mathletics gives me the capability to see all my students compared against one another, and their scores on individual assignments.  I actually do appreciate this feature.  I can keep tabs on whether or not they are actually working on assignments as sometimes when we get the computers out with this group, they tend to stray.  The data collection shows me how many times children have attempted a task and if their scores have improved after instruction.  I also use this feature to help me see where the majority of students are requiring help or review.  All that being said, I can also use other cheaper means to evaluate students and see where they need assistance and where they are excelling.  I would never print any of these reports for families or share specific scores so this is solely for myself.

Next up is the part I am sure most of my students will say they like the best out of any part of Mathletics.  The avatars, games and ability to collect money to purchase items within the game.  The majority are gamers outside of school so the idea that it’s “gamified” is a bit of a sell.  I don’t love this feature in some ways because they give you 2 options, either students must finish all assigned work and then they can work on their avatar, or you can have it open and they can access it whenever.  I have some students who will be working on assigned work forever for a variety of reasons, and would never have the opportunity to have “fun” so I am always tempted to turn off the restriction, then however, I have students that will take advantage of this feature and spend all of their time here and not work on anything that has been assigned.

Mathletics also offers paper work to supplement their online work, videos and tutorials and the option to mark in real time.  Generally speaking I haven’t used this function often, however, given this time to actually sit down and explore the program, I have been missing out!  The printable work books actually have very relevant, well laid out information separated by grade and content.  They are split by student, teacher and solution booklets. There are also enrichment activities which is amazing because often I struggle more with finding activities for fast finishers and students who grasp concepts quickly than I do with students who need support as I have lots of resources for that.    There is also a section that we can access specific to critical reasoning and logic based on topic and specific outcome.  Students can be assigned a single question they need to work through step by step.  They can record their answer by typing, writing using a mouse or explaining it verbally.  This is such a wonderful feature because I have varying levels of language usage in my class as well as a student with severe dyslexia – having these options allows them all to be more independent and confident during math as they can show what they know in a way that is comfortable for them.  Not to mention, with this feature, I can also assign specific grade level work to each student.  I am grateful to have had the chance to look through!  There are lots of pieces in this section that I am going to utilize.

Mathletics also tries to sell their program specifically to kids with the following features – the ability to show yourself off with your customizable avatar, constant updating of new and exciting games, mathletics live, achievement certificates to take home, and just generally a wide variety of activities to choose from on the program.   This is where I struggle with Mathletics – they really do a good job advertising to kids and taking advantage of the fact that kids will harass their parents to keep the program even with a high cost.  Mathletics live is a cool concept and I like that students can see where in the world their opponent is from, however, the content is often repetitive.  For my lower level learners, this is wonderful as repetition is key, but for my higher level learners, it’s a waste of time.

Image result for prodigyLast but certainly not least, and by far my students favourite program to play on in my opinion – Prodigy!  That being said, I will be curious to see what the students have to say when they review this program – I’m wondering if my perception is accurate and if it is, what makes it better than Mathletics or any other site we use???  First, Prodigy is FREE!  Yes, you read that correctly.  You can access the full program, 100% free all the time – no trial periods.  This is wonderful for schools with our budgets being so minimal.  However, Prodigy does offer upgrades to students for payment to get extra in game outfits or avatar modifications although Prodigy assures users that the payment portion does not affect the educational aspects of the game and therefore you don’t have to pay to get the biggest benefits of the program.   They claim on their website, “Students practice math and learn new skills as they navigate a fantasy world packed with action and adventure. Built to captivate students and motivate learning, Prodigy brings math curricula and custom assignments to life in a world where success depends on practicing and mastering more than 1,400 key math skills.”   I will say that from my observations, my class enjoys this app.  It seems to be engaging and motivating to them.  They like to win upgrades, defeat characters and build up their “homes”.  That is a huge win in a class that is tough to engage.

Let’s dig in…first, I love that it’s curriculum aligned.  When you are setting up your account you can choose the area you’re in so that programming is fairly accurate to outcomes you may actually be working on.  This makes this app more appealing to me as it’s easier to justify having the technology out when you are meeting or at least addressing outcomes in the process.  I love that Prodigy’s programming, much like Mathletics, is customizable.  There is a placement test that kids take when they get their account set up and it chooses, using specific algorithms, which grade level they start at.  That information is not shared with them, just with me so they can’t compare with one another – which I feel is important.  Throughout their use of the program, smaller assessments ensure they remain on the right path and that gaps in their knowledge or weaker spots can be readdressed throughout the game.  Although I couldn’t find much information about the specific algorithms used to create Prodigy, from what I have observed, questions seems fairly accurately aligned with students skill level.  One negative I have found about Prodigy is that it is a United States based company and therefore the push for standardized test prep is huge and a lot of the data collected supporting the site focused on that.  In Canada,  because this isn’t as big of an issue, it takes more time to vet the data and decide how it would correlate with our curriculum and content.

Next, much like Mathletics, there are so many ways you can view reports in Prodigy!  It breaks down student assignments into grade level questions, how many questions they answered, how long it took them to complete assignment and the percentage of the questions they got correct.  Although I don’t focus on grades alone, it’s nice to see the level of work students are being placed at independently and where gaps are so I can fill them in in class.  Prodigy is always an additional option – students receive one hour of technology time and Mathletics or Prodigy take up at least half of that time.  There is no such thing as too much extra practice.

Finally, with Prodigy, I feel like questions are  not all just math fluency based, meaning quick adding, subtracting, multiplying or dividing – they sometimes have multiple parts that students have to solve which take time to work through.  When they are stumped, prompts and hints appear but only for work they are struggling with so it doesn’t get used as a crutch.  I really appreciate this about the program, kids feel supported but it’s making work so easy that it’s a waste of time.   In a study Prodigy completed (keeping in mind this study was completed by the company who is reporting the data and therefore could be skewed) it showed the following information:

Students at school were answering an average of 11.5 questions in a 14.5 minute session.  As much as I know the kids appreciate the “extra” gaming style of Prodigy, it’s nice to know that they spend the majority of time on content and not building or modifying characters, houses, etc.

Image result for class dojoThe last app that I use regularly that I wanted to review and look more closely at is Class Dojo.  My initial reaction is that I have lots of problems with this app. I began using it after trying Facebook and Seesaw with my class unsuccessfully.  There was zero parent buy in and I was wasting my time posting content daily for 1 or 2 parents.  Class Dojo is widely used in my building and therefore was easier to engage families.  Many families were already signed up and their connection just rolled over to me in the new year by simply putting in a new code, or me sending them a request through the app by entering their cell phone number.  That was the easy part and what had me buying in, in the first place – I have 19 families out of 26 signed up, not all check the app and updates but they are on there should they choose to login.  I post things like photos of our day-to-day activities, notes, calendars, permission slips, spelling words, etc. knowing that sometimes paper copies don’t quite make it home in my room.  Class Dojo allows for messages to be translated into over 30 languagees instantly which I also like for families who don’t speak English as  first language at home.  Class Dojo has many other capabilities that I will touch on, most of which are the reason I haven’t been crazy about this program.

Class Dojo describes themselves as, “a school communication platform that teachers, students, and families use every day to build close-knit communities by sharing what’s being learned in the classroom home through photos, videos, and messages.”  There are some positives that I have stumbled across while researching, they have a teacher toolkit that allows you to make fair groups, play music, use a noise monitor, instruction display function, morning meeting app, timer and a think, pair share app.  Before this I wasn’t aware of these choices as I had only used the app for sharing information or contacting families.  Upon looking at them, I will absolutely use some of these during my day.  It’s a great feature to have them all in the same spot and accessible through the cellphone app or desktop version.  Another capability that I like but wouldn’t use with my class this year is the student portfolio section.  Students can use a letter/number code or QR to upload work, pictures, or stories to their personal page.  Family members can sign up to receive notifications when something is posted under their child’s name.  Sounds fine and dandy until you students aren’t responsible enough to make good choices as to what to post, although I can vet them first.  I have a Google Classroom and we struggle not to post silliness to the classwork chat.  In a different setting, I would love to use this function to empower students to be proud of their work and share it.  Maybe next year!

They also have a platform that can be used to award students points for positive behaviour that you outline, such as, completing work, being on task, being kind, etc. or remove points for negative behaviour that you outline such as being disruptive, not working, etc.  I started using this function when were struggling in class with behaviour/focus because I thought it would encourage change and give us a common goal as a class as they points are banked.  Other staff members could access our class and therefore add or delete points as well.  Notifications can be sent to families when students receive Dojo points and when they are taken away so I thought perhaps this might encourage positive choices too.  The kids could not login in independently and were only privy to their points by asking, having me show the whole class or asking their parents if they were on the app.  I gave a selection of prizes that students could choose from when we did “Dojo Store” if they had earned the points.  I did this all with serious reservation.  I take issue with publicly displaying student success and “failure” for all to see.  I have concerns with students mental well being in the sense of building up or destroying self confidence.  Students can be sensitive whether they like to show it or not, and seeing classmates surpass them, or losing points daily can be discouraging rather than encouraging.  I don’t believe everyone deserves a participation medal for showing up, however, my concern is that when kids have a tough life and MANY factors are impacting their day at school, there is more to behaviour than I we can imagine.  With Dojo, mistakes seem more permanent and I always focus on a clean slate everyday.  Although the capability of this section of app is valuable, well laid out and organized, I have not kept up with using it.

Overall, I don’t feel terribly about any of my choices.  Once I was sat down and dug through, I found some really positive things in each different program and gave some thought to some of the pieces that didn’t fit my personal needs.  I think what is most important to remember is that we need to be critical of what were using the classroom and why we’re using it.  With my student this year, using technology is an excellent way to encourage engagement and I value many aspects of the programs I use for that reason.

Thanks for reading this very long post and for allowing the time to explore some of the apps I have been using for many years with little research…it makes such a difference to take the time to read the fine print, look at the functionally and make sure it is serving you!

barack obama mic drop GIF

Signing off.  Thanks giphy!

❤ Dani

“Educating the mind without educating the heart,

is no education at all.” – Aristotle


Duality: The Unbearable Likeness of Being – Week #5

Featured Imagine Illustration by Nitya Chirravur

Art is powerful.  Art is trans-formative.  Art is in us.  As Sara said this week, “I can’t imagine a world without art”.  Me either.  I loved in the “Verbing Art” article by Monique Mojica it says, “My mother recently told me that I was born an artist and that was how she knew she had to nurture and support what she recognized in me.” (p. 15).  Imagine if we all had this unwavering support to be who we are.  I think the world would be a lot more peaceful. Image result for peace It comes back to the question, “what if Indigenous Art wasn’t affected by colonization?”.  I think art would be more peaceful – not passive, but peaceful and joyful and for themselves.  You wouldn’t have to create art as a defense, because you wouldn’t have anything to defend – it could just be.

Art is being used for healing.  Mojica says, “living as an artist has required me to be fearless in search of cultural recovery and to reclaim those missing pieces.” (p. 16).  “As an Indigenous artist, I feel it is my responsibility to do so.”  We can find those pieces of ourselves and try to heal.  We can embody our art.

“As Ngugi (1998) explains, [decolonial] art arms silence with voices that, even when the bodies that carry them are crushed and ground to powder, will rise again, and multiply, and sing out their presence…art in this sense is silence that screams.” (p.28).   This analogy makes me picture a phoenix rising from the ashes.  When I was searching online, I came across this beautiful painting by Sioux artist Maxine Noel from Manitoba.  Image result for indigenous phoenixBeauty and strength can be formed from nothing and I loved how the painting showed someone transforming into the phoenix, looking strong and confident.  When we were having the conservation in class, and the question is was posed, why do you make art?  What does it mean to you?  Well, I think this quote really speaks to why many Indigenous people make art – to have their voices heard.  Jaq and I were saying that Indigenous artists have the ability to say things in their art that Indigenous activists would have a harder time saying.  Art screams in silence…but it can say SO much in that silence.

There were many inspiring pieces that Hannah Claus presented at the “trade – treaty – territory” exhibit at the Dunlop.  Once I had some time, to think about it, what I took away most from the exhibit was the idea of duality.  Mojica says, “What has not changed are the power dynamics and our ability to have control over our image, our cultures and our history when we are performing within mainstream institution.” (p. 23).  There is a sense of duality here as well – the want to tell your own stories while battling with settlers who either miss-tell them, or use power that isn’t there’s, to speak them louder.  First, the Wampum belts – what a beautiful idea.  This was duality in such a powerful, positive way.  Two people coming together and creating together to show commitment to the promise they are both making.  Whether you are agreeing just to inhabit the same space and nothing more, you are coming together as one.  Next was the cups and cedar leaves.  This was the most direct representation of duality to me – Hannah was represented the duality within herself.  She is English and Indigenous, both being shown at this exhibit.  I loved how she chose to to melt the wax, I read that as her two sides melting into one although still standing on their own.  Duality isn’t necessarily a bad thing, it just highlights two or more sides of ourselves.  The blankets titled “Invaders” shows the painful, dark duality that Indigenous people face in Canada.  Indigenous people viewed trade as ceremony, something beautiful and sacred, and settlers took it as an opportunity to sabotage Indigenous people.  Blankets were given to Indigenous people covered in the Small Pox virus and it wiped up communities.  Indigenous people went into trade with a pure heart, ready to “polish the silver and keep it untarnished” and this was how they were re-payed.   Settlers were, and are still not putting in the time and care to keep our relationships shiny.

Finally, I saw duality in the map series “the route that ocicahk preferred” (2017).  This piece was literally the overlaying of dual views.  One of the settler, and Hannah choosing to portray ocicahk’s over top of it.  I think we often feel this push and pull of direction and truth.  “To destabilize the pervasive mythology of colonialism (and its aesthetic) is to re-constitute and re-narrate spaces beyond and elsewhere.” (Martineau, Ritskes, p. 111).

My favourite idea of Hannah’s was bringing rebirth to lost art by using the pictures of the beaded skirts and dresses to create the hanging piece.  This is a powerful way to pay homage to those that came before us in a modern way.  If we can’t have the original pieces on display (keep fighting that fight) then this is an option to let lost voices be heard.  “Art is a defense and an action.” (Mojica, p. 27).  The “I Art” poem at the end of the “Verbing Art” article was profound.  There are so many reasons we art and there is no right or wrong way to do it – we were asked at the end of our class facilitation to write our own “I Art” poetry and I have included mine.  I art for lots of reasons and I am so grateful to have the opportunity.  So many people do not have the avenue to have their voices heard and I recognize my privilege.

Thanks for reading,

Dani ❤

“Educating the mind without educating the heart,

is no education at all.” – Aristotle


Kids Say the Darndest Things.

Featured Image

On Thursday February 8th, I completed the survey about assistive technology with my grade 5/6 class to obtain feedback on their feelings around being given or using assitive technology in the classroom.  We completed the survey online using Google Classoom. To honest…it was a little ironic…a little frustrating…and a little heartwarming?  Can it be all of those things at once?  With my class being full of INCREDIBLY diverse kiddos I received a very wide range of answers.  They included those of kids that don’t really care to participate and just wanted to use their computer time for something else, to kids who were really interested in understanding why they had certain tools in the class, to having to sit with kids to read them the questions, re-explain them and help them answer even with their assistive technology…hence the irony.  Overall however, I was intrigued by the information I received.  Grab the popcorn, folks and settle in for the fun!  go on what GIF by Originals

Below are the questions I asked.  I don’t intend to share all of the answers, but a summary of either the most popular answers, or answers that hold pertinent information to the study.  I should also preface this by saying that for the majority of my students, this amount of writing is a daunting task so any response, short or not, was appreciated and celebrated…except for the first one…I was hoping we could all nail that one! 😉  Unfortunately, I actually received the dreaded “idk” for that one too.

1.What is your name?

2. Assitive Technology is anything you use to help you learn! Your own computer, a pencil grip, a different chair, a fidget, quiet headphones, etc. Do you use any of these things to help you learn? If so, what?

3. If you didn’t have those things, do you think you would be as successful?

4. What do you like about our class adaptations? (How do they help you)

5. Have you ever felt uncomfortable using these adaptations?
6. If you answered yes or sometimes on the last question, what was uncomfortable? (Did you feel like you stuck out? Did you feel like it was so too primary? etc.)
7. What do you like most about our classroom? (how it’s set up? etc.)
8. What is the worst part of our classroom? (the set up, the structure, etc.)
9. What can I do to make the classroom a more comfortable place for you? What adaptations would you like to see? What would you like taken away?
Question 2:  On account of the conversation we had prior to the survey, the kiddos had a pretty good idea of the things that could be considered Assitive Technology.  The majority of the answers included their personal computer (11/25 have assitive technology assigned from our division), wobble chairs or alternative seating, fidgets and talk to text through the use of headphones.  They also had the option of including anything else they thought aided their learning.  I didn’t have anything extra typed into the survey but a student added, “teacher help” which I thought was interested.  Can a teacher be considered assistive technology?  They said it was because, “they needed our help to finish work.”  I thought this was an interesting concept that I hadn’t considered in the past.
Question 3:  This is the one that really, really surprised me.  52.4% of students that answered said that they would be just as successful without the assitive technology.  2 students whom I was essentially having to spell every word as they typed as well as read the questions, said they would be as successful without it.  This told me that kiddos in my room are struggling to understand what helps them learn.  This tells me that I should potentially spend some time working on learning style and the importance of advocating for yourself in a building that wasn’t necessarily designed with Universal Design for Learning woven in.
 Question 4:  Responses varied from, “it’s nice I guess”, “they help me learn” to “i don’t know” to thoughtful answers that addressed the specific adaptations children are using in the room.  Some of the responses included, “Fidgets help me focus”, “They (wobble chairs) Make It so I Can Move In My Seat”, “Blue paper helps me read, before I had the chair I used to lean back really far, my computer helps me with multiple things- the voice to text helps with writing”.
Questions 5 and 6:  I had high hopes for this question as I was really interested in how my practice was affecting my students.  I love this job so much and only want to do right by my kids.  One female student who uses alternative seating shared, “Sometimes The swivel Makes Your Back Hurt Because It Has No Back Soport”.  She took the question literally, however, it is something to consider when asking your students to use adaptations long term that could be more focused on short term corrections.  I had only really ever considered whatever I was trying to correct, I hadn’t given much thought to the effects that these adaptations had on other parts of their schooling.   I had one student who is new to Connaught this year, sum it up for me in my current context.  This student is dyslexic, has no peripheral vision and has diagnosed but untreated ADHD.  He uses Google Read and Write as well as all his paper work is photocopied on blue paper as he reads/sees best on blue.  He said, “Not as much at this school because lots of kids have computers but at my old school kids would question why I had it. I feel weird using blue paper because other kids don’t use it.”  My classroom has so many needs, that students who have adaptations do not feel as though they stick out because they are part of the majority.  Although I am glad to read this, I am so saddened because it brings to light the amount of kids that require support in a variety of ways, and the truth of the matter that these resources are becoming harder and harder to obtain for students full time.   M’s blue paper made him feel isolated because he’s the only one.  Looking into this theory, his comments backed up what I thought might be the case – if you have a classroom of students with average ability and only a couple students requiring adaptation, it can be an isolating experience even though they require it.  Often times too, students don’t have the language skills to explain why they need the adaptation and it makes them feel worse.  I know this student doesn’t want to share about his dyslexia so I always just say, “M needs this the same way you need ______.  Don’t worry about it.  I will make sure you always have what you need.” (glasses, your computer, a pencil grip, etc.)  My next goal is to sit down with the 28.5% of kids who responded “yes” or “sometimes” and see what made them feel uncomfortable that they were unable to share in the survey.
I am glad I did this activity even though some of the participation wasn’t where I was hoping.  There is a lot to be gained by what students say…and honestly, by what they don’t too.  My goal moving forward is to be mindful of when and what I am giving students as adaptations, but also, to be cognizant of how I set up my classroom and lessons to move more towards the idea of Universal Design for Learning.  By doing so I would hope that the 28.5% of kids who even sometimes felt uncomfortable with adaptations in the classroom wouldn’t even be able to distinguish that they had them in comparison to someone else.
Thanks for reading,
Dani ❤
“Educating the mind without educating the heart,
is no education at all.” – Aristotle