Category Archives: learning

EXTRA EXTRA read all about it… details about my LMS that is

Hi Friends, This week I wanted to give you a bit of a run down on how I intend to facilitate my Blended Course.  These are just my preliminary ideas and are possibly subject to changes, as I find I am learning more as I go. Sarah has some fabulous ideas in her blog this week in terms of establishing boundaries and participating for her older students.  Although, I think that working with young grade 3 students there is only a need for pre-teaching about “Netiquette” and digital citizenship

how to start a blog in 4 stepsI think for student/student-instructor interactions I will implement a blog. This form will be used so that students can publish their assignments and respond to readings or video’s. I think that once students get the hang of commenting on each others posts they will quite enjoy it. Although I believe that it may be difficult to create a community, this is something that the students have to do for themselves. Elizabeth had a great point when she said “we can try to foster a welcoming, open environment in which students feel a sense of community, but we can’t ensure this in all of our classes”. Image Source 

Choosing this form of student interaction is beneficial because grade 3 students are smart and full of great ideas and they will be able to share their thoughts with their peers online. Perhaps there is a way to moderate as the facilitator so that student blogs and comments can be reviewed before being posted. I also like the idea of commenting on students post, they will see that the teacher has read and thought critically about their post.

Cute small kid girl thinking holding the head. Isolated closeup potrait on whiteWhen facilitating an Blended Classroom I will make sure interactions between students and teacher are genuine.  I believe that awarding marks for participation is a starting point for students.  By encouraging participation with marks, students will begin to explore using blogs and commenting on their peers work and do so in a appropriate manner. This is the first step in meaningful interactions. Students will gain confidence by having fellow students reading and responding to their blogs. I think that both peer assessment and self assessment have value in a blended classroom. Elizabeth mentions the importance of teaching students to use pingbacks in their blogs as it “further encourages them to read other people’s blogs at their leisure and quote them in their own. It is important for students to read other people’s work, and to know that their work will also be read. This will help them see the value and importance of blogging, and the importance of reading something over before submitting it.” Image Source

I thought that I would check out the hyperlinks that were found in the document  Mastering Online Discussion Board Facilitation for some assessment ideas.  I was very disappointed to find out that all the hyperlinks that I tried were broken.  I think that it is very important when setting up a Blended Classroom for students 3-500x254to make sure that all links are working.  By not checking for dead links an educator can run into a lot of wasted time in terms of having students refer to a link provided.

Well this is my starting point, oh yeah and rubrics.  Have you ever used a blog platform in your classroom, which one?

So little time, So much learned

This semester has been quite enjoyable for me. I am a very competitive person so being able to engage in multiple debates really motivated me to internalize the topics. There were many points throughout this semester where what I thought about certain things was challenged.


Photo Credit: thishumanepic via Compfight cc

This was great because I had to re-evaluate my reasoning for believing such things. For example, I have always thought tech in classrooms was a great idea. How could anyone to challenge that? Well after I was forced to argue the side that said tech should not be in the classroom it opened my eyes to all the barriers teachers face like the cost, and training. I still do believe tech should be in classrooms but, I now have a more open view on how it should look. This was not the only week I had internal debates about what was right and wrong? If there was a right and wrong? If there needed to be a balance what does that look like? I feel like I often exited our classes Tuesday nights at 9pm questioning. What does that mean to me and what am I going to do about it? Thus I know this class has encouraged me to think more critically about technology issues and opportunities in education. Take a look at my summary of learning.

Creating this summary of learning with Chalyn Smith was not as simple as it look. Last semester we tried using an Nawmal video, which was successful after many barriers. This was not as simple as we hoped either. There were a few ups and downs. Notice how the music cuts out half way through. We tried and tried but could not figure out how to make it loop. If you know please comment below.  I want to thank everyone for their help in challenging me this semester to think about the issues of technology in education differently.

Can We Fight the Future?



In many ways I’m disappointed that this class has come to an end.  Discussing edtech issues with fellow educators from all over the country has been a privilege.  I have definitely had to evaluate my point of view and it has undergone changes again and again.  I have been challenged to think critically about how I use technology in my classroom and I have even been presented with issues that I had not previously considered.  It was intriguing to speak with fellow educators who have very different viewpoints on educational technology.  It was very encouraging to discover that whether teachers are for or against edtech, a genuine love for students and a concentration on their needs was foremost.  Throughout the course I came to several key realizations which I will attempt to summarize here.



The first debate covered the merits of technology in the classroom and I came to the conclusion that technology for the sake of itself is a perilous venture.  Each integration of technology in the classroom must be weighed and measured for it’s ability to enhance the learning for students.  Teachers should not be scared to abandon certain aspects of their edtech strategy if it proves inefficient or contrary to learning.  Secondly, we discussed whether we should be teaching content that can be found on Google.  I came to a strong realization that there are certain pieces of information that must be scaffolded and therefore must be memorized.  However, I also am a strong believer in challenging students with critical questions and real world problems that cannot be simply searched.  Practical application and skill development are key skills for the 21st century.  When it comes to the role of technology in our health and wellness, I came away with the notion that in many ways screen time, online bullying, and the stresses placed upon children due to technology are indeed affecting our youth.  Although there are many instances in which technology can provide health benefits, if we are truly considering all health aspects including mental health, it seems as though a balanced approach to tech use with youth is warranted.  Ian makes a great point about the resiliency of kids which i think is necessary to keep in mind.   In the fourth debate we tackled the question of openness and sharing in educational settings.  I am still of the opinion that we need to do right by our students and be cautious with how and why we share on social media.  However, some of the greatest lightbulb moments in my classroom have come from making connections with classrooms and individuals from around the world.  It has truly opened my students eyes to a different worldview.



Tech for equity was another tough topic to tackle but due to my experiences overseas, I still had to come to the conclusion that although technology has made great strides for equity and that the bar continues to be raised, there is still much work to be done.  There are definitely many more marginalized voices being heard because of technology but at the same time, without equal access for all, it can hardly be equitable.  Social media is a huge reason why so many more people are interconnected.  However, it is also clearly playing a major role in the development of children in our society.  As previously mentioned, the sheer number of hours spent in front of screens on social media is staggering compared to even 5 years ago.  In my opinion, this is also an area teachers must approach with good modelling and a balanced strategy.  The appropriate use of social media for positivity must be a part of every classroom.  As Andy states in his summary, “with the right dosage and application, technology has the ability to enrich our lives, not harm them, but it must be used appropriately, responsibly, and we must be explicitly taught directions for use.”  If not, we will continue to see students who are depressed, overweight, stressed out, lacking sleep and unable to communicate face to face.

Lastly we discussed the corporatization of education and the role that companies now play in the future of our children.  Once again I was reminded that these types of decisions must always be made with students’ best interests in mind.  Education is a market that is ready to be tapped by many companies that would love a piece of the pie.  We need to ask ourselves, what’s the cost to our kids? and is it worth it?  I’m looking forward to discussing the overuse of technology and the necessity of unplugging from time to time as well.

In general I have come away with several key learnings from the course this term.  I’m calling these Luke’s Keys to Edtech Use.  Although they may seem simple, when applied to the issues discussed above, they have proven to be extremely good reminders when implemented in practice.  In essence, we will not be able to fight the future.  This is the way the world is headed.  What we can do is insure that students are first and foremost, that we are giving kids a balanced education, and that we are modelling what it means to live in a digital world.  Can we fight the future?  I certainly think we would be foolish to try.

Luke’s Keys to Edtech Issues

  1. Keep Kids First
  2. Take a Balanced Approach
  3. Model Model Model



In the spirit of the debate format of the class, Steve and I decided to record a podcast in which we tackled and summarized some of the issues presented in this course. We expound upon these in the following podcast.  We also researched some helpful links in our show notes to further explore these topics.  Please enjoy the debut episode of “Steve’s Wrong vs. No I’m Not”

Good intentions and what is morally just make EdTech equitable.

Equity versus equality.

Equity involves an attempt to level the playing field for all as exemplified in the picture below.

equality doesnt mean equity

Health Equity via

The importance of this concept was made more apparent in the presence of “straight pride week” posters and social media posts appearing recently in light of pride week… and people sometimes fail to make the connection that equality is not equality without equity. And despite the use of social media to spread this hate and discrimination, technology still can be used as a force for equity.

straight pride

Straight Pride Posters Removed via Worldnow



Equity, education, technology and well-intentioned actions.

Technology can be a force for equity in society. It can provide health and learning alternatives for those at risk or at a disadvantage and seek to level the playing field for individuals. These actions are practised with good intentions for helping others. Some emphasize that using these technologies widens the achievement gap between rich and poor students and that may be the case in some instances, exacerbating socio-economic divides. Well-intentioned actions (more on this next week) can lead to further issues and may place importance on skills related to certain forms of technology that may make individuals more equipped for life in another culture rather than helping them to develop their own. As it applies to education, every effort needs to be made to educate our youth to put them in the best position to be successful learners and citizens, and while there are potential repercussions, decisions made in good conscience/faith need to be encouraged while productive feedback is provided. Well-intentioned actions may be flawed, but with the students in mind and the potential for enhancement of their learning, the process of integrating these technologies is worth practising. Technology, apps, robots and devices are developed with the intention to serve a need in society and many of these needs today are to bridge gaps, regardless of the paycheck associated with it (there is a host of issues with that as well, however). Just as there are needs in society, there are needs in the classroom. Literary needs, language needs, even motor skill needs. 

Socio-economic divides, do these technologies actually help?

Technology in the classroom may not actually improve performance in classrooms. And the introduction of these new technologies when made available to all will likely only be used by those with the resources to acquire it. This doesn’t mean it isn’t worth creating or practising. By that logic, a new, expensive, potentially life-saving practice for heart disease shouldn’t be allowed or encouraged as it will further push the divide as rich people with heart disease will be able to live longer while those who cannot afford it may not be able to. Morally, all should have access to it, but is our reality consistent with this? No. And there is the potential that this technology can someday be made more accessible for all. But for now, one student, even if there are rich that has a learning disability and there is an app that helps them learn, it’s worth it. I understand the associated issues with what the creation and subsequent use of technologies provide, but what is the potential solution then? Equal/equitable access for all so that these technologies may not be privatised? Complete societal upheaval and restructuring? It’s not feasible. I don’t intend to be pessimistic, mind you, quite the contrary. The creation and use of these technologies for health and learning present an opportunity for learning and well-being… and when these occur, equity can follow and I am optimistic despite potential short-term gap widening, the benefits and morality of equitable tech casts a shadow over it.


The moral question I ask is: Is an act done with good intentions and is morally just, but has potential consequences, wrong?

A loaded question. And while bad decisions have been made in the past with good intentions, with the right research and preparation, the moral good that technology can provide in the learning and health for some outweighs the potential gap-widening problems.

Debatable, no doubt. Thoughts?

Logan Petlak

The More We Share, the More We Have

I’ve been thinking recently about openness, sharing, and their places in education.  As technology has made its way further and further into education systems across the globe, the ability to share information has been  made vastly more accessible in recent years.  With a powerful device in almost every student and teachers’ pocket, there are limitless possibilities to how information and learning can be shared.  Teachers are using sites like Twitter, Facebook, Edublogs and Wikispaces to document and share their learning with the wider world.  Open course sites like Coursera, and Massive Open Online Courses are changing the way that information is disseminated and online collaboration tools such as Google and Mindmeister have afforded people the opportunity for amazingly creative works.  This is truly the age of open source learning.  However, open source learning without sharing is moot.

So, is sharing all that it’s cracked up to be?  We now live in a world in which sharing every minute detail of each moment of our lives has become normal.  We share photos of what food we’re eating, the shoes we just bought or the thoughts that pop into our head.  With openness comes inherent dangers as this video demonstrates.

Due to these types of online sharing in which no filter is applied, I have often asked the following questions, how much sharing is too much?  Is sharing inherently dangerous?  What is the role of online sharing in education?  Do the benefits outweigh the costs?  In my teaching career thus far I have been what I would call a cautious sharer.  I have a very detailed form that goes home to parents on the first day of school explaining the different platforms we use and allowing parents to give permission for the use of student photos.  We have student blogs but they are viewable only by parents, teachers or other students.  We also have a class twitter account but tweets are composed by myself or in conjunction with students to share what we are learning in the classroom.  Often the tweets are focused not on students themselves but on the projects or learning happening in the classroom.  Is this true sharing?  I think it’s a start. However, it is limiting in many ways.  First of all, the students’ writing is seen only by classmates and a select few parents.  Opening the blogging platform to open comments would allow more readers and therefore, more feedback and engagement.  Studies have shown that as students perceive a larger readership, their writing improves.  The connections formed with other classrooms through Twitter could be strengthened by allowing more control to be passed to the students.  So why is it so hard for me to open up our learning environment and allow deeper and more meaningful connections?


There are several factors that can tend to negate the full potential of connected and open online learning in classrooms.  Firstly, there are inherent risks involved with sharing information online regarding what students are doing.  Location services and GPS tracking in many apps can compromise the safety of students.  There are also many instances in which students need to be protected and anonymous do to court orders or protective custody.  Secondly, there must be an incredible amount of trust between teachers and students in order to allow students the control to share and connect openly and freely.  Obviously this looks different for various age groups.  High school students for example,  are often quite capable of deciding how to share their learning online.  However, this does necessitate some deeper conversations around what should be posted.  For younger students who lack the same discernment skills, this must be modelled and taught. Douglas Park School’s Aaron Warner is a great example of this mentality.  He routinely teaches and models the use of social media and online sharing with his Grade 7/8 class and eventually turns the reigns over to the students.  I believe this is one of the key components of open classrooms.

Education is not a secret, although aspects of good teaching practice can seem illusive at times.  It is a public and necessary part of our society.  I often cringe when parents express to me that they don’t know what is going on in their children’s classrooms.  With the tools we now have at our disposal, parents should have a clear and complete picture of their child’s experiences at school, even if the student themselves is vague on the details.  This was demonstrated during the debate with the short skit about what was being learned at school.  If there is something tangible and real to demonstrate, students will also be more engaged in the sharing process.  There is also a permanent record of what the learning goals are, steps taken to achieve them, and what the outcomes are.





As is demonstrated by the above sets of data, teens and young adults are some of the most pervasive sharers of information online.  In addition, the reasons why people share online are telling according to the New York Times study.  Let’s look at some of the top reasons people share online and apply an educator’s lens shall we…

1.To share relevant Information…Teachers and students should both be in the habit of sharing information.  Information is wealth and whether it’s teachers sharing lessons and resources with one another, or students sharing their successes and failures (failures?..yes I said failures because this is when true learning occurs).  Application: Teachers need to model for students which information is relevant and useful to be shared as well as who to share it with (how public?).

2. To support causes or issues they care about… This seems like a no brainer.  What a great opportunity to engage students in meaningful conversations about what’s going on in the world around them.  Students can be surprisingly charismatic, caring and engaged when it comes to supporting causes in the community or around the world.  Many times the students are the first to take action, quickly suggesting a support video for Laloche students, or organizing a bake sale to raise money for Cerebral Palsy. This is how meaningful connections are made and global citizens are produced.


Application: Let students share their passions and the things they care about.  Pick a list of causes that the class wants to connect with or support.  Discuss what it means to be a global citizen.  Challenge students to dream big and to change the world.

3. Connecting with others who share their interests… This is a great opportunity to network with other classes in your age category.  It also allows a chance to model who should be in our followers or friends lists as individuals.  Some of the best lessons I’ve used have come from connections with other classrooms in Saskatchewan and throughout the world.  As students share interests on blog sites or through Twitter, they build a wider audience and engage with the world outside the classroom.  Genius hour is a great example of this.  When we look at genius hour projects of other 7/8 classes the students up the anti.  Application: Let students explore passion projects.  Encourage students to share what they are learning or what they’ve created.  Model at first and compose Tweets or posts together as a class.

4. Expressing self identity and feeling of involvement in the world…This is an opportunity to model the permanency of our digital identity.  Students should build an awareness of how the class is perceived online and what our digital footprint will be.  Discuss with students which parts of our identity we wish to share with the world.  How involved should we be?  Application: Extend this thinking to students’ own personal sharing.  Engage them in discussions about how they should present themselves online.

Let’s take the time and get this one right.  Let’s show our students the power of positive sharing through meaningful connections.

Featured Image Source


Start the conversation…. Sharing Matters

 If you teach them how to share it’s more than fair!

This week the Great EdTech debate challenge fell to our team.   We represented the Disagree side of the debate which focused on: Openness and sharing in schools unfair to our kids.

If you are interested here’s our opening arguments.

As I first read through the questions, I wondered is it fair not to share?  Teaching in and of itself is sharing of knowledge.  Our goal as educators is to share our knowledge of a concept in a variety of ways that encourages deeper understanding in our students.  As Wiley and Green (2012) pointed out in Why Openness in Education, we even judge educators on their ability to share and impart understanding to students (para. 5 & 6).

So sharing is part of what we do as educators…. rather it’s the what, how and where we share that we really need to think about?  If you think back to when you were growing up, some of us perhaps, didn’t have to worry about the photo someone snapped at a gathering or comment that was shared.  Our networks were smaller.  Perhaps your embarrassing photo made the yearbook or a friend actually had the roll of film developed.  The chances of widespread distribution and repercussions were on a smaller scale.  Now don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t fun if the wrong person got a hold of a photo or some how continued to share things.  It wasn’t however on the same scale as social media provides today.  So keep in mind that many of us who are now parents didn’t grow up in a world with social media or cell phones (mobile phones came in bags and you could only use then in case of emergency because who could afford the cost per minute).


Image from Meme Generator



Is the answer to attempt to remove technology from our lives and avoid any device that could capture our image so that facial recognition software can’t identify us?  I guess you can try but for the large majority of us it’s not practical; moreover, sticking our head in the proverbial sand won’t make the issue go away, but someone might make a nice meme out of it.

In my experience it’s about having the courage to step into the conversation with students and talk about what’s going on.  Is oversharing happening?  What type of images are being posted?  What if you just like or comment – does that make you part of it?  It also means that we need to model or attempt thoughtful digital citizenship the best we can.  This means that we need to know what engaged, thoughtful digital citizens do.  While we may not all have access to Digital Learning Consultants and I have to say thank-you to Thad, Kirk and Robert for their ongoing encouragement and support during my years as a teacher and consultant.  It makes a difference to have knowledgeable and reflective people to talk to about digital issues.  So as the Agree team mentioned during the debate, we live in the real world and ongoing to access to PD and support people may not always be possible; however, we do live in an age where there is ample helpful information online about digital citizenship and digital footprints. I first learned about the elements of Digital Citizenship on Mike Ribble’s website.

Mike Ribble Retweet.JPG

What about oversharing?  You know it’s going to happen and it’s like a digital tattoo.  It has the potential to fade but never really go away. How do you prevent it?  I think it begins with open communication with our children.  As educators and parents,  we have a great opportunity to talk about the pictures we take and how we share them.  When you snap that pic and post it to Facebook, do you talk to your child about where you are posting it?  Am I posting it publicly for everyone to see on my profile or am I sharing it with a select group of people in a secret Facebook group?  Think about the conversation potential that exists with our Pre-K and K teachers as they document and share student learning with parents.  I’ve seen our early learning teachers engage in thoughtful conversations about what they are sharing and who will see it.  As a parent, I really appreciate getting the updates of what my daughter is doing in class.  Plus hearing her voice as she explains it is priceless. Sharing matters.

Worried about oversharing?  It’s happening all around us and it may be impacting our lives more than we know.


On the flip side, I remember back to a time when I was co-teaching my Bio 30 class with a teacher of a grade 5 class in a different community.  We skyped everyday and each grade 12 was paired with a grade 5 student in the 1:1 learning project.  We talked often about the expectations and how we needed to be engaged digital citizens, yet a grade 5 overshared info – nothing earth shattering but enough that the Bio 30 student was concerned.  What it did do was generate a healthy discussion about what was appropriate to share in our wikispace discussions and how we can learn from the experience.  We were working in a safe private space, so it was a great learning opportunity for all of us.  One that will hopefully remind us all to think before we share.

So starting the conversation early will help engage students and teachers in thoughtfully sharing positive experiences to grow their digital footprint, which in turn helps model the practice to parents and family that may not have considered those aspects.  Kathy Cassidy shared in her video that yes what we share in social media is permanent but because of that it’s a great way to look back and see how much we have grown. She also talked about the value of modeling how to use social media and in doing so how we influence student’s understanding of the world and practice empathy.


Steven W. Anderson shared Meredith Stewart’s tweet, “If you aren’t controlling your footprint, others are.”  He encouraged readers to start building their brand – their digital identity.  You do this by sharing and creating positive online footprints, but as the Agree team pointed out – you need to watch out for bouncing.  When a photo that you have shared gets used for something else. As Anderson pointed out, not only do you have to actively build a positive identity you have to monitor it.  Alec Couros noted in our follow up conversation that just googling our names doesn’t truly include all of our digital footprint.  We need to consider the data that is tracked in all the apps that we use.

Alec discussed how facial recognition technology is now available and when he showed us how it worked with his own images, we realized just how many people there are out there that look just like him.  We have to learn how to be aware of the footprints we are actively creating, as well as those that are being created without our consent.

Should all of this scare you as an educator away from sharing? or considering the sharing of student work?  It’s important to consider the positive impacts of sharing. Rather than only relying on standardized assessments to ensure academic standards are being met. Bence asked “what if learner work were shared on a wider level so that the work could speak for itself.  She shared examples of how being transparent with what’s happening in the classroom has added “another layer of authenticity to education” (para. 4). Learners have become more active participants in their own education especially when they know the audience is more than just the classroom.  As with any online venture in education, Bence encouraged educators to check with their schools and districts to ensure practices align with responsible use.

Here’s part of our closing arguments from Tuesday night – sharing matters and it’s important to teach our children how to share.

You are welcome to check out our team’s resource list.  We’ve selected a number of articles and guides to help educators grow their understanding of sharing.

These resources are a great place to start.

What will matter in the future as our Facebook babies grow up and realize just what their parents and teachers have shared?  I can only imagine where we will be when I think about how things have evolved in the first half of my teaching career… or even in the last 5 years for that matter.

What matters today is that we start the conversation. Hopefully if we start today and engaging in ongoing conversations about digital citizenship, we will all learn to pause before we post and think about the potential ripple effect.

Regardless of social media or old fashioned information sharing asking ourselves the following question will impact how we try to live our lives.

What legacy do you want to leave behind?

Special thanks to Lisa and Haiming!  What a great team – glad to have had the chance to work with you!

As I’ve had a chance to read through other blog posts, these are a few that have stood out to me:

  • Jeremy Black  explained we all need to engage in digital citizenship education.  He suggested introducing it to parents at meet the teacher nights as a way to engage parents.  He noted that it’s also about sharing the resources we have with parents.
  • Erin Benjamin shared her decision to share student work using Seesaw and how she shared expectations with parents and students.  It’s making the time to explicitly teach the students about digital citizenship and then apply it to their learning that truly makes a difference. Learning about digital citizenship in authentic situations truly makes a difference.




What do you need to know before you Google?

Do you have to know what you are looking for in order for Google to have the answers?

All I can say is Wow!  What an intense evening of debate for our EC&I 830 class. Both teams dug into the topics and shared points that made me think twice about whether or not schools should be teaching anything that can be googled?

Screenshot of Google Search

Do you need to?

It’s an interesting question and one that deserves more than just a passing thought.  We are educators and what, how and why we teach the way we do matters to our students.  It impacts how they think about the world.  

 Both teams raised valid concerns that made me think about what we know and what we take for granted in the age of instant access.  While I still come back to the idea that it’s not about the technological tool but rather how you use it to encourage deeper learning. The points raised made me think about when automaticity is appropriate and necessary to lay the framework for deeper, critical thinking.  And just because we can google it, doesn’t mean that we should.

I have to admit I was swayed by the debate statement.  Should we be teaching anything that can be googled… but perhaps the question really is should we be assessing things that can be googled?  To me it’s not so much how you access information, it’s what you do with it once you have it.  

Heick’s article, “How Google impacts the way students think” raised several key points that made me wonder…..

  • When we are curious do we stop at the first website that google gives us?
  • How many people move beyond the first link?
  • Why do some move beyond the first link and continue to dig deeper while others are content with the first explanation?

Have you ever stopped to think about why you stop at the first link you find?

→ If I’m just looking for a confirmation of the concept then I tend to stop if the first link confirms the knowledge that I have.

→ If I’m truly researching a topic, I follow one link to the next until I feel I’ve reached my goal that or I’ve been distracted by various links along the way…. I wonder how much of my research is shaped by Google’s knowledge of me?

Speaking of which I came across this Knowledge Graph Video, which talks about how Google is attempting to make even more connections for you when you search.


map with car
Fidler Jan Morguefile



Heick also asked if we think of google as a destination rather than just part of the journey? As if Googling is easier than thinking?

Does Google as Heick suggested promote information independence as opposed to knowledge interdependence?

It takes me back to the question that students often ask….

pen and paer
Cohdra – Morguefile

If I have to cite everything I find then when is it actually my words that come through?

 While helping students and people in general understand the value of intellectual property and giving credit where it’s due, is an issue that needs to be addressed… that’s a different post.
Does googling promote the development of your own voice?
Who is responsible for weaving the knowledge connections together?
When do all those separate bits and bytes of data become knowledge
or evidence of learning?

It’s the ongoing conversation I had with students when we talked about how they could share the story of their learning.  It’s up to the student to analyze, evaluate and create meaningful connections.  The points they choose to cite, the order they share the information in and the stories they connect them to in their life — that’s what we need to learners to think about. So as one of my classmates aptly pointed out, just how much information do you need to know in your brain to actively understand all of the information we encounter everyday.

Just pause for a moment and think about all of the knowledge and skills you have stored in your brain that’s reached a level of automaticity — you don’t have to think about it you just know it….

  • Did you have to think about where the letters were on the keyboard to type your response?
  • If you see a red octagon…. What does that mean?
  • Can you read these words?  If you are a fluent reader, chances are you didn’t have to stop and think about decoding the words. You know your letters and sight words.


Do you wonder just how ingrained our learning is?

Try the Stroop Test for a quick reflection on just how deeply words are encoded into our brain. You can try out the Stroop Test here – follow the instructions and reflect on just how much our brains are programmed to respond in certain ways.

    • While the Stroop test measures interference in the types of information your brain is receiving, it’s interesting to think about how many skills and pieces of knowledge we take for granted.

As an interesting side note, I spent Wednesday in a Diversity Education Teacher inservice and we were learning about executive functioning of the brain.  Our Ed Psych, shared that when we know our basic math facts and letters (i.e. we’ve learned them to the point of auotmaticity), when we need to access that knowledge the back part of our brain goes to work.  For learners that struggle with basic facts that aren’t automatic the brain activates parts of our frontal lobe to try and help.  Eventually students can figure it out but the costs of accessing and processing the info is much higher.


The video, How the Internet is Changing Your Brain – highlights unless we actively work with information in our short term memory it is not going to be encoded into our long term memory.  “The more we use Google, the less likely we are to retain what we see.” (para. 3). Or is it really the rise of of Connectivism.  The idea that learning takes place not only in the connections that we make with information internally in our own brains based on the experiences we have, but that “learning (defined as actionable knowledge) can reside outside of ourselves (within an organization or a database), is focused on connecting specialized information sets, and the connections that enable us to learn more are more important than our current state of knowing” (Wikipedia – Connectivism).

In the end, we know that learners today have more access to information than ever before through tools that can make knowledge acquisition almost instantaneous.  The true art of teaching and learning will be to find a balance.  As Danielle’s blog post noted, whether it’s searching online or using our memory, the task or reason needs to be purposeful if we are going to fully engage the student in making meaningful and lasting knowledge connections.  After all, it’s just data unless we actually make meaning from it.

If we are assessing on questions that can be googled or looked up in a book, are we really assessing students on what they know or on their research skills?  Is it really Google that’s causing us to have shorter attention spans and transfer less knowledge to long term memory or is it a the evolution of a connective technology that increases our access and our cultural learning practices haven’t caught up?

What do you think?….did you just google the topic:)


You have to walk before you can run.

Tuesday night it was my turn to take part in the Great Tech Debate for my EC&I 830 class. The debate statement was: Schools should not be teaching anything that can be googled. I was arguing in favour of that statement but to be honest when we signed up for the debate topics I was planning to argue against the statement. So it was actually quite interesting to try and argue against my own feelings on the topic. I can’t say that I came around and was fully convinced that schools shouldn’t be teaching anything that can be googled, but I think that my team was able to argue some valid points.

It is important to understand that although it seems that almost anything can be googled, it cannot be the be all and end all as Jeremy also noted. Google is a tool. We need to teach students how to use the tool properly in order for them to benefit from using it. We need to teach students that not everything they see online is true and how to evaluate the quality of online information. Before our students can evaluate the information on the internet, they need to have some foundational knowledge. This is where I agree with Amy in that the “cart can’t come before the horse”. Now I know what you are all thinking — didn’t she argue against that in her debate?? Yes…yes I did. But I had to come up with something to argue in favour for the statement. Isn’t this why we are taking grad classes?? To be challenged haha. Anyways, I agree that students do need to have some basics before they can jump into the whole evaluating and analyzing part of learning.

In my own little world, I would argue that the focus should be on developing basic skills but we cannot be okay with simple memorization of facts. We need students to go beyond memorizing and move towards deeper understanding and thoughts. In order to move beyond the basics, we should be trying to “google proof” our questions.  We should be working towards questions that make students think as opposed to allow them to find a simple answer online. Terry Heick describes three ways that google impacts the way students think and I think they are very valid points. Terry suggests that Google creates the illusion of accessibility, naturally suggests “answers” as stopping points and obscures the interdependence of information because it is linear. I think that the first two points are especially true. We feel like we have instant access to everything because we can use google but we have to remember that not all answers can be found on the internet. Some answers have yet to be discovered. We need students to be curious and seek to find answers that don’t exist on google. We need them to use their basic skills and knowledge to be creative and use their imagination to find the answers.

As a math teacher it is hard to say that students don’t need basic facts. Yes students can use calculators to help them, but a calculator doesn’t help students quickly remember their multiplication facts. A prime example is teaching students how to factor. Students who are able to factor easily are the students who have their basic 12 x 12 multiplication times table pretty much memorized. I have students who need to use their calculators to attempt to find the factors of an equation, but most of them take a long time to do it. For many of my students (most of which are in grade 10 and 11) who struggle with their multiplications tables, I have to give them a chart to help them out. This video hits the nail on the head when it says that some things should be automatic. They need to be automatic before we can move on to the more complex problems. For my students that have the basics down the higher level thinking questions are MUCH easier for them than their classmates. Thanks to Amy and Heidi for the great find.

I can’t argue against the fact that students do need the basics before we can move to a higher level of thinking. I think that we need to do a better job of creating opportunities for students to think outside of the box and go beyond the simple memorization of facts. We need to foster skills that will help them be employable in the future by providing different learning experiences.

EdTech in class doesn’t just enhance learning, it IS learning.

Someone once said to me (yes, “said”, this definitely isn’t an assigned question I read), “Technology in the classroom enhances learning”. My first thought was, “yes, of course it is, it’s silly to think otherwise…”


petlak couros special.JPG

“Logan Petlak reflecting” via Camera of Samsung Galaxy S5

Then I reflected on it a bit…






nothing changed.

Statement still is accurate.

Why do I think that?

Well, I would argue that technology in the classroom today is learning. Regardless of the mechanisms students use to grasp the content embedded in our curriculum, technology plays a role one way or another. Be it delivering the students to educational institutions, how they get their nutrition for the day, or utilizing apps, programs, and devices to foster learning. Don’t get me wrong, there are problems within its use and a need for doubt, as Greg Toppo reminds us about humanity’s tendencies, “we always fret about technology”. We need the doubt to continue to grow and check ourselves, but we can’t deny the importance of technology and the learning inherent within.

The learning extends beyond simply curricular content. Technology is a force for connectedness in the modern world. When considering the circle of courage below, I could connect it to each of the dimensions of it connecting to Digital Citizenship. Belonging through social media, independence through responsible device use, generosity with commenting and sharing with others, and mastery in the procurement of curricular knowledge and outcomes.


Circle of Courage via

“using technology promotes sense of belonging and interactive participation in the classrooms for children with learning disabilities”  – Bryant and Bryant, 1998

The above quote speaks to me as a student advocate and reinforces the connection to the circle of courage. Developing that sense of belonging is consistent with it and is a critical part of development for all youth. And this belonging occurs in technology in the form of social media today.


Devil’s advocate: For the doubters.

Now I know there may be student advocates or doubters thinking… “But Logan, what about the students who are in the classroom who don’t have access to phones in BYOD (bring your own device) settings?” Fine. Devil’s advocate? Yes, some students will not have devices and this raises questions of further increasing the wealth and technology gap in the classroom. And yes, BYOD can exacerbate that, but in province-wide school divisions facing cutbacks or lean spending models being approached, can it afford purchasing devices for all, probably not, but some, be it through donation or purchase for need in the classroom. We are obligated as educators to keep students educationally literate and up to speed on current learning (technology, by extension), and we can minimize education spending whilst teaching students to use their own tools or hand-me-downs from another to stay connect an learn. If anything, the arguments against BYOD enforces the importance of devices in the classroom, the students need to at least learn about it here if not at home. Fact: Inequity will always be present between student in our schools… so as educators, rather than blanket money spending for every single student, follow the example of modified, adaptation and differentiated instruction and simply provide necessary tools to those that need it, and adjust instruction accordingly. And this doesn’t even consider the adaptations with technology, as Justine puts it, “all of the different technology can lead to equity for students in the classroom.”

But, Logan, what about ___________________”.

“The need more PD (professional development) for using EdTech” “Most teachers want to learn to use educational technology effectively, but they lack the conceptual framework, time, computer access and support necessary to do so”. I have a hard time agreeing with this. Arguments can be made both ways, but for me, my biggest point of contention is “time”. One of the benefits of technology in terms of knowledge acquisition is that it takes less time looking online than travelling to a library or accessing a textbook. Maybe the information on how to use it isn’t there, however, so logic would denote there should be professional development for this. Interesting idea, but at what cost? And what aspect of technology do you target? Phones? Apps? Computers? Programs? Existing PD on working with language learners may utilize this technology anyway (if not, plan accordingly). Not to mention, if EdTech PD isn’t a perceived need in the entire division, is it worth making a specific priority? If most PD’s themselves incorporate tech, then this should happen unconsciously and simultaneously and not require increased spending (in tight budgets, as referenced before).

“Technology reducing performance” – Comparing “performance” in the critique of the use of technology, and what I fail to see is the assessment means… is it consistent with the circumstances in which learning took place? Same content, different written/technological delivery, same written assessment? I have a hard time seeing an immediate correlation without explicit details on the assessment means.


Final thoughts

As I said, we need doubts about what technology involves. But the fact is that learning and working today requires technology, and to ignore that or avoid it as an educator does a disservice to our students… especially if they come from a device-free background.

What are your thoughts? New technology can have new detriments or roadblocks to learning? But is it just the struggles of our times? Comment!

– Logan Petlak


Who really enhances learning in the classroom?

Is it really technology in the classroom that enhances learning?

Or is it

the people and how they use the technology that makes the difference.  It’s like saying that any social media tool is inherently good or bad… the code itself isn’t bad … it’s how we use it that impacts our learning and the experiences of others around us.

What or rather who is it that enhances technology in the classroom?

I think in the end it’s not so much about the technological tool that you have in the classroom it’s about what you do with the technology you have.  As I listened to the debate and reviewed the shared articles, our technology discussion reminded me of a motivational workshop lead by Rick Lavoie.  He reminded us that we are among the first generation of teachers that didn’t grow up in the same world as our students.  Yes we still attend schools that resemble the traditional brick and mortar schools of years gone by but life has changed or maybe it’s that we have added a variety of ways to interact with others that has changed?

How many educational tools have come along since you were in high school or even university?

Click on the question above to share some of the technological changes that stand out for you.  Check out the responses here.

Today’s students live in a connected world in which interaction happens in a variety of ways (face to face, online or through social media).  So how do we prepare ourselves for our connected world filled with technology that has the potential to change how we learn?  Lavoie cited Alvin Toffler,

Source  ―  Alvin Toffler

Those 3 words – Learn, Unlearn & Relearn –  have stuck with me.  So how do we as educators refine our learning environments and strategies to challenge students to think about how they learn, what digital tools enhance their learning and to make meaningful connections to their learning?

Does technology in the classroom make a difference?
I believe it all depends how you use it.

Perhaps it’s committing to be a life long learner, doing the best you can with the technology you have and learning from the students as you go.  Although that is sometimes easier said than done.

It’s about what you do with what you have….

  • Siegal & Kirkley remind us that the internet gives us 24/7 access to massive amounts of information or data and note Roszak’s comment:

You cannot mass-produce knowledge, which is created by individuals minds, drawing on indvidual expereince... Making valude judgements.-

(Web Based Instruction, p. 263-264)
(Image created with Canva)

The source is old 1997, but the comment still raises a valid point.
It’s just information unless we do something with it.

I have to admit.  I’m a firm believer in the value of integrating technology into the
classroom, but with that comes the acknowledgement that technology is just a tool.  


Unless you know what to do with the device, it’s not going to be an effective or productive learning tool.  It’s really about educators taking the lead and demonstrating how technology can be a useful tool.  It’s about how teachers integrate the tool into their classes, so that ultimately we don’t talk about the pencil and the eraser as these special tools to help students learn.  It’s about learning and choosing the technological tools that best support your learning needs. Pen, pencil, laptop or mobile device. 

As an interesting aside….
The “Does Technology enhance learning debate” isn’t particularly new and thanks to Dr. Marguerite Koole in a recent conversation for sharing the pencil and eraser example.




While we take for granted the fact that most pencils come with erasers, it was at one time a revolutionary idea; however,

“school teachers feared an increase in carelessness in children’s work due to the extra appendage on the pencil.  This may have been true but it seems that the ability to work faster and being less nervous about making an error has only increased productivity, and the pencil has become one of the world’s most useful and popular writing tools.” (Phillips, 2010)

As I was reading through the blogs this week, I think Kyle summed it up well in his post, “The concerns about these distractions are certainly real and we as teachers must be mindful of them.  However, with proper training and education, the benefits of technology are so vast.”


So how do you know what to do with the technological tools you have?

Like Kyle mentioned,  along with the disagree side of our debate, purchasing the physical technology is only one part of the equation. Supporting thoughtful, relevant, ongoing PD is not the norm.  What type of implementation model is being used to support the people part of the process?  Alec Couros shared that a 50/50 split of spending on devices and PD is recommended, while Carlson (2002) encouraged a 60-40 split. Ongoing discussion comments revealed, not surprisingly, that the other half of the budget is not spent on PD.

How often is technology related PD sustainably built into the implementation?

How often do we considered a model of instructional design such as ADDIE  to help guide and process our thinking?  The ADDIE model encourages us to Analyze the needs, the audience and our learning goals.  Purposefully DESIGN a structure, method and strategies that we can DEVELOP into relevant, timely training.  Next we create a strong path to implement the training and EVALUATE the effectiveness so that necessary updates can be useful.

What about Assistive Tech?

This model could help us purposefully integrate Assistive Tech into student learning.  As I work with teachers and students, there are many instances in which Assistive Tech can aid the learning of a student.  Whether it’s learning how to use a communication switch or a helping students access the supportive features of Google Read Write having access to the tech is only one piece of the equation.  Both students, teachers and supporting professional needs to consciously integrate the tool into the student’s learning plan regardless of whether it’s a formal IIP (Inclusion and Intervention Plan) or simply a tool that students can use in the classroom.  The effectiveness of the intervention is inextricably linked to the people in the student’s environment.  Teachers who are supported by professionals and school staff are more likely to purposefully scaffold the use of the tool into daily student learning.  It takes time to build the skill set and the environmental conditions in which a student can independently use the tool to aid learning and Adebisi et al’s article reminded us of a variety of Assistive Tech aspects to consider.

My only side note from my personal experiences with supporting assistive tech usage is to ensure you include the student and family in the process.  Because in the end, if the student refuses to wear or use the device…  it’s hard to effectively integrate it.

How has technology impacted my learning?

When I was teaching in my 1:1 hybrid classroom…

    1. The connections that my students were able to make to the concepts, how they were able to encode their learning and the ways they were able to share their ideas opened up. 
    2. Did they have to use technology in my class? The opportunity was there for them but the most important part was making a decision about what tool worked best for them to learn. 
    3. Did I encourage them to try out the new app, website or device?  Yes, I think you have to try it out before you can tell me that it doesn’t work.  It’s not so much about the tool as learning to think about how you learn (metacognition) and why you as a learner choose different strategies. 
    4. It changed the playing field for my students.  In the informal data that I collected through surveys and reflection questions, one key point resonated with me.  A shy, student explained that when we were online, people actually listened and responded thoughtfully to her points.  She explained that they saw her ideas… they saw beyond their assumptions.

Personally, technology  has played a significant role in my personal learning.

Without technology, completing my masters two hours away from any university would be very challenging.  Not impossible but it would most certainly have affected my decision to start the program.  So for me it not only increases access to education but provides a way to actively participate and build a personal learning network. 

Audio books…

A rather simple technology has changed my travel time into PD time.  Life’s a bit crazy with a young child, a full time job, a home based business and masters classes.  The ability to access podcasts, books and online training as I drive turns traditionally lost time into learning time. 

So does technology enhance learning.… certainly can if you purposefully choose to embed it into the learning …. maybe one day we won’t talk about the technology… just the learning.



Interesting Articles that I came across during the creation of this post: