Category Archives: EC&&I 833

Leaping Over Coding Gatekeepers and Other Hurdles

In Retrospect

In a decade, my coding identity has run the gamut from disinterested secondary English teacher to invested facilitator.

Cue flashback (because Xennials love saying “back in my day”)…

Picture it: Wilkie, SK (middle of agricultural nowhere); the year is 2012. “Coding” is about to enter my lexicon. I teach Grade 8/9 English with minimal emphasis on computer literacy. A Grade 12 “techie” teacher from another high school presents to my class about coding. It sounds interesting, but we do not have access to 1:1 computers, and (to my young, biased mind), I wonder how I could possibly apply this to ELA. What would a classroom of future farmers care about computer programming? (facepalm!)

Fast forward: The year is 2020, right before the mic is about to drop (see: Pandemic). I am one of four tech facilitators for my division, heading to The Future of Education Technology Conference in Miami, Florida. Our purpose is to source new, worthwhile technology for classrooms, with an emphasis on coding hardware and software. After follow-up training sessions with SaskCode, I am 100% invested.

My hero, Sophia Petrillo. Copyright: Golden Girls, Touchstone Pictures

Gatekeepers and Other Hurdles

To transform a coding-resistant teacher into a tech adopter, the “in-between” must contain a series of fortunate events. In my experience, the answers were repeated exposure, courage, and experience itself.  Originally, I couldn’t connect my subject area to the relevancy of coding. I wondered how coding added value to my students, classroom, and personal pedagogy. The “buy-in” hadn’t happened yet

Another full-scale deterrent was coder gatekeeping, real and imagined. With that one “gate” came a series of hurdles, acting as my personal stumbling blocks.

Bias Hurdle One: The “stereotype of the ideal coder as innately genius rather than hard-working and well-trained has remained powerful in the tech industry”(Source). Elitism within coding restricts certain groups from leaving “Plato’s Cave.”

Stumble One: I am not inherently gifted with 0’s and 1’s.

Plato’s Allegory of the Cave; artwork by Jan Saenredam, 1604.

Bias Hurdle Two: Coding is reserved for analytical, linear “black and white” thinkers.

Stumble Two: I lean toward creative, constructivist learning.


Bias Hurdle Three: According to a 2015 study reported in the Washington Post, computer science, “more than any other field, places a premium on inborn brilliance, something considered a disproportionately male trait.”

Stumble Three: I am a cisgender female.


The teacher who first introduced coding in my classroom? A white, middle-aged, cisgender male with a computer science degree. He could cite all the tech-jargon and did so fearlessly. Our blank, confused stares did not deter him. He was there to show what he knew, not what we could learn.

A New Perspective: The Other Side of the Gate

For me to hurdle clumsily but courageously over gatekeepers, I had to knock down my misconceptions about “good” coders and apply some new, improved thinking:

  1.  Coding can be applied in every subject area. While not all students end up working in computer sciences, the skills required for coding, “thinking creatively, reasoning systematically, working collaboratively. . .are things that [students] can use no matter what” (MIT computer scientist Mitch Resnick). To begin using cross-curricular coding, educator Karly Moura suggests combining robots and maps (ELA and Social Studies), Scratch-based dictionary translation (EAL/ELL/ESL learners), creating a calculator (Mathematics), and/or writing adventure and historically accurate stories (ELA and Social Studies). The possibilities and potential are only as limited as your imagination.
  2. “Good” coders are made, not born. After watching my (then) 4-year-old son easily and happily code his first online game, I couldn’t dispute that some people (particularly astounding Gen. Alpha’s) are “born with it”; however, old dogs can learn new tricks. Programs like SaskCode use Arduino, Edison, and Robot Mouse to transform coding into fun learning experiences. From programming drawing robots to configuring epic Lego Battlebots, these programs allow learners to “take chances, make mistakes, and get messy” (The legendary Frizz). If we want students to fearlessly buy-in, “teachers must exemplify risk-taking” (Source).
  3. Coders are creative; coding is creating. In the suggested short film, “Coding Stars,” Elena Silenok, the creator of, astutely notes: “It took me some time to realize that creating things with your hands, or creating code, creating programs, is just a different way to express creativity.” To believe that coding should stay in its analytical, linear lane and leave the creating for “artsy, tactile types” is to become a different sort of gate-keeper. There are no divisions or labels except the ones we create.

    SaskCode Advertisement; Twitter (before it was desecrated).


  4. Coding is for everyone, but especially for underrepresented groups. We cannot deny the inherent bias and blatant sexism/racism/ageism/ableism rampant in the tech industry, but as educators, we have to push through these barriers for the next generation. Out of the four facilitators sent to Miami to lead my division’s EdTech adoption, four were self-identifying females. Programs like Girls Who Code, Coding Girls, and Black Girls Code are blazing a path for coding inclusivity. Successful coding is not about the exclusive, individual process of one innate genius; rather “the magic happens when we’re all on the same page, collaborating and building something together” (Gabe Newell, Creative Valve).

Representing women who code at FETC, 2020.

Facing Other Hurdles

Accessibility issues and the digital divide are equal deterrents and detractors; however, resourceful educators can implement the concepts of coding without relying on computers. Some unplugged coding activities to get those creative, problem-solving juices flowing are: Coding role-play, sequential Origami design, treasure obstacle courses, follow the leader games, “If, This, Then…Art!” lessons, loop routines, beaded bracelets….the list goes on.

Further, as noted in Teachers’ Essential Guide to Coding in the Classroom, students must have certain basic skill competencies before dipping their toes into 0’s and 1’s:

  • Basic computer skills
  • Logic (particularly cause/effect, inferencing, sequential scaffolding)
  • Perseverance (although I would counter that coding promotes and strengthens this attribute)
  • Attention to detail

The Other Side of the Gate

To reiterate my coding journey’s main takeaways: Coding can be applied to every subject, coders are born and made, coding is a creative/ constructivist/transformational process, and – most importantly – coding is for everyone.

Implementing coding in the classroom requires the same perseverance and courage from teachers that teachers regularly require from students. Comfort zones need not apply. Bias, prejudice, and stereotypes require acknowledgement but also push-back.

Once we find ourselves on the other side of coder gatekeeping, battered but wiser from trial and error, we must not become gatekeepers ourselves. Rather, it becomes our job to swing-wide the gate to ensure coding truly is for everyone.

Point to Ponder

  • How comfortable are you with coding? If proficient, how did you become so? If hesitant, what prevents you from learning more?
  • Are there certain students you believe do not benefit from coding?
  • How do you address a student’s coding frustration if they exhibit limited perseverance?
  • Do you believe coding is promoting the next generation of office labourers or innovative creators?
  •  When playing with Hour of Code, what activity did you explore? Would you recommend it? Why or why not?

Assessment Technologies’

Assessment Tools are devices in the shape of methodologies that pinpoint a student’s academic ability and expertise in a field. It helps in formulating plans for strengthening students’ academic fluency and learning experiences. They support educators and teachers in building effective teaching strategies for students. Tools for assessment are not only limited to subjects but can also be applied in contexts. It helps identify people’s learning, behavioral, and reaction tendencies. It should go without saying that assessments are essential for determining where students are on the learning curve. Assessment tools are crucial for determining the adjustments that the learning process needs. These methods must be straightforward, goal-oriented, and highly cognitive.

Awesome learning for the entire family with Kahoot!+

A game-based learning and trivia platform called Kahoot! The fact that Kahoot! can be utilized outside of the classroom and in social situations makes it popular with people of all ages and contributes to its greatness. As a result, some parents might also be familiar with Kahoot! Kahoot! is accessible from any device (through the website or the app), making learning enjoyable and accessible for all ages in all situations. By inputting the game code on their smartphone or device, students can play multiple-choice games created by teachers that are connected to the course material. Kahoot! provides a wide range of additional game types that are pertinent to the curriculum and can make learning entertaining. Many educators love Kahoot! Learning is made “fun” by the eye-catching graphics and fluid style. It’s much better than showing a PowerPoint and asking multiple-choice questions. I’ve utilized Kahoot and similar programs in the classroom since I frequently thought they are fun review resources. Since playing Kahoot will help to break up the routine of the typical school day, many children are eager to participate.

Use of Kahoot in the classroom: Teachers can use the KAHOOT platform to design quizzes and trivia that are unique to their lessons. I can choose from a range of question formats using Kahoot, including Multiple Choice Questions. Open-ended inquiries Whether-Or-Not Questions Puzzle Poll. I usually include graphics, links, and videos when I make a quiz since they help in the student’s understanding and memory of the material. When reviewing for a test or exam, I typically utilize Kahoot! The option to study information in class using games is popular with students. Because it is presented in an engaging and enjoyable way, Kahoot! helps in their retention of the information. Every game may be played more than once, so I always play it again to help students understand why their prior responses were incorrect.

Kahoot App Brings Urgency of a Quiz Show to the Classroom - The New York  Times

Advantages of using Kahoot

The advantages of Kahoot! in the classroom are numerous. Kahoot! is adaptable enough to be utilized in a variety of areas, including physical education. Because it emphasizes social learning and makes it enjoyable, Kahoot! is an excellent tool for keeping students interested. Because players don’t need to register an account and it runs on any device, it is very easy to use. Most importantly, both teachers and students can use it for free.

  • Kahoot! is the answer you’re seeking if you’re searching for a fresh approach to reinforce course material or keep your students interested. Using Kahoot! will help your students look forward to going to class and is sure to raise morale during those hard moments of the semester, such as test preparation.
  • Kahoot has an extremely high rate of student participation. Because Kahoot is visual, quick, and distinct from the typical daily tests, students enjoy playing it. Due to the high level of student involvement, teachers may more accurately assess student mastery of the information covered through quizzes and questionnaires.
  • With Kahoot, teachers may assess the entire class at once in a formative manner without putting the students under pressure.
  • Students can be kept interested and inspired to have fun with peers they would not ordinarily talk to by adding some friendly competition.
  • Kahoot’s layout enables instructors to monitor student’s progress in real-time and provide them with quick feedback.nadiahjune


  • To take part in Kahoot, students must bring their own personal devices. As a result, it might not be appropriate for some schools with limitations or without electronic gadgets.
  • Kahoot needs an internet connection to access the app’s functionalities. Thus, many students may be denied access to Kahoot’s endearing characteristics.
  • Students can also be attracted to Kahoot’s gaming environment
  • Additionally, the use of usernames by the students in the game makes it more difficult for the teacher to monitor the growth of his students.Blind kahoot for enhancing HOTS( higher order thinking skills) and le…

In remote teaching and learning, Kahoot! is used as a formative evaluation tool to increase student engagement and motivation. Additionally, as shown by students’ positive attitudes toward Kahoot! as a platform for game-based learning, using it offers the opportunity to remediate prevalent knowledge gaps.  Kahoot use helps students perform better overall. Additionally, the usage of Kahoot! give students the chance to participate actively and collaborate in a community of practice. In order to enhance students’ academic experience in higher education, it is imperative to take use of the pedagogical opportunities offered by game-based learning platforms like Kahoot! Game-based learning systems in particular can be used to demystify abstract scientific concepts. Kahoot! is a tool that stimulates and inspires students’ learning because it can assess their understanding, recite key ideas, and assist in information retention. Additionally, it gives teachers the power to foster more in-class discussion and student participation.

A Villain’s Tale: The Monetization of Assistive Technology and Other Barriers

On a Professional Level

In my third year as I teacher, I transferred from teaching A.P. Grade 12 English to teaching SUCCESS, an elementary inclusivity program for students with special needs. One of my students had Stage 5: profound hearing loss. With no prior experience addressing this need, I asked my new administrator what accommodations and technologies were available. I will never forget the advice I received.

“When you are speaking, make sure to look directly at them and really enunciate.”

That was it. My mouth forming words slowly was the pinnacle of our so-called inclusivity program for this student. It did not sit well with me. Fortunately, in the two years I continued in that role (and in my roles since), improvements have advanced more rapidly for students needing assistive technology (AT).

Some Beneficial AT (from my teaching experience):

  • For students with ADHD and/or Autism: High-tech small, hand-held word processors (with built-in text-to-speech and speech-to-text) and mid-tech desk bikes.
  • For students with Dyslexia and/or Dyscalculia: High to mid-tech computer-based learning programs, spell-checkers, and Smartpens.
  • For a student with Cerebral Palsy: High-tech eye-tracking communication device and mid-tech gait trainer.
  • For students with visual impairments: High-tech apps, text-to-speech, and video magnifiers. Low-tech large printed font, books in braille, and handheld glass magnifiers.
  • For students with hearing impairments: Augmenting devices like Personal FM Systems and Soundfield Systems. Transforming services like captioning and continued 1-1 student-teaching conferring.

Slide provided by the Department of Developmental Services

On a Personal Level

It’s been almost 5 years since my world unilaterally fell silent. I went to sleep with “perfect” hearing and woke profoundly deaf in my left ear. After weeks of medically advocating for my condition, an ENT finally told me I had sudden sensorineural hearing loss, an inner ear disability that affects roughly one to six people per 5,000 annually. From being able to hear a student’s inappropriate whisper across a rowdy room to abruptly being unable to localize questions, sudden hearing loss had an extreme impact on my teaching ability and practices.

It would take me a full year to seek AT support in the classroom. The Oticon tinnitus cancelling hearing aid (HA) I required cost over $6,000. What?! Living as a disability-free Canadian for 30+ years, the cost knocked my ableist glasses right off my face! STF benefits cover HA costs up to $1200 every 4 years; my husband’s benefits are the same. You can do the math. That leaves a personal cost of $3000 for assistive technology every 4 years. While we are fortunately able to absorb that cost, the initial bill made me pause. How did my (now former) students, the majority from challenging socioeconomic backgrounds, navigate such a financial blow? As accessibility champion, Jane Velkovski, so eloquently outlines in the Ted Salon: The Life-Changing Power of Assistive Technologies, over 1 billion people require assistive technologies but 90% do not have access to “reach their full potential.” If AT plays the hero in our global story, the villain is blatantly the inflated monetization of these technologies.   

Making peace with my new reality

Crossing the Barriers of Assistive Technology

Looking on the bright side, we all know the transformative power of assistive technology. On a personal and professional level, these advancements have improved my life and the lives of so many of my students. As Velkovski says,

“This chair is my legs; this chair is my life.”

Despite its extraordinary potential and capabilities, AT comes with a wealth of limitations and challenges.

In the research article, Childhood and Assistive Technology: Growing with Opportunity, Developing with Technology, Botelho outlines that children (in particular) face a number of barriers, but “the most important of these barriers are lack of awareness, governance, services, products, human and financial resources, and the inaccessibility of most environments.” I will now discuss a few of these barriers:

  • Lack of awareness: When my administrator advised that I slowly enunciate my words, was there truly no better tech available at the time…or was it a lack of awareness (as I concluded)? Before becoming partially deaf, I took for granted our highly sound-dependent world. People continually believe that my hearing aid, or a student’s HA, returns our hearing capabilities to 100%. Unfortunately, that is not a reality….yet. In my case, my HA allows me to localize sound (necessary in a classroom full of chatter and questions), partially cancel out irritating tinnitus, and avoid feeling like my head is split in half. At best, my left ear registers sound like a muffled radio broadcast. For someone with a cochlear implant and/or bilateral deafness, the experience is entirely different. Complete awareness of various needs is almost impossible unless experienced first-hand; however, it’s essential we continuously consider these needs for our students and society. Whenever I enter a building with stairs and no assistive tech, I am reminded that my reality is not everyone’s.

  • Governance: It seemed telling that out of our class’s plethora of experienced Saskatchewan educators, many of us (definitely me) seemed uncertain about current SK accessibility legislation. In my weekly research, I learned that on November 15, 2022 (coincidence???), The Accessible Saskatchewan Act was introduced in the Legislative Assembly. If it passes, it will help to prevent/remove accessibility barriers. Seems long overdue!
  • Human and Financial Resources: As previously noted, I am grateful for my personal and professional access to AT; however, the effort and advocacy necessary to access it are often overlooked. On a personal level, if I had not relentlessly self-advocated, I would not have received a correct diagnosis, steroid medication and aural injections, hyperbaric oxygen treatment, or a HA. Similarly, in every student accessibility case, countless specialist and IIP meetings, grant applications, research and training sessions occurred before access became a reality. What would we do without Special Support Services Teachers? For many of my (former) community school families, literacy rates remain low while financial barriers remain high. With reports of over 34 million deaf children worldwide, and Canadian hearing aid price-tags ranging from $1000 to….who knows where inflation caps…..the monetization of assistive technology hinders its life-changing capabilities.

Final Thoughts

How can we put a price on moments like the following?

And yet, our world sets that price-tag high all the time. With Community-Based Rehabilitation (CBR), AT can become the hero it was intended to be: “This approach involves everyone, from parent to teacher, physical and other therapists, community health worker, organizations of persons with disabilities, and others, in awareness-raising, training, service provision, and resource allocation, to each according to their role, but always with the needs of the family and child at the center.” (Source)

As Botelho so aptly notes,

“It takes a community to include a child.”

Despite the barriers, we all must play our part in helping our students fully access their learning potential.


Points to Ponder

  • What other barriers have you experienced in providing/implementing assistive technology?
  • As educators in SK and elsewhere, how is AT provided and introduced in the classroom? What training is provided, if any?
  • If you have been teaching for 5+ years, have you noticed a shift in AT access?
  • In your opinion, what should an educator/administrator’s response be to students misusing AT? For example, a student continuously uses an iPad to take unsolicited pictures of classmates. Or a student uses text-to-speech to recite inappropriate words.

Pear Deck: Test-Driven by a Fangirl

Will reiterating my love for Pear Deck sound like a broken record? I had nearly forgotten this love when Tuesday’s class reignited the spark. Kudos to Group 5!  In my previous life as an Online Learning Consultant, I completed the Pear Deck Institute training to guide divisional implementation in the classroom and online. It was a hit! The aside to that success, however, is that my 2.5 years online prevented me from actually testing it in a physical classroom….until this week. Too often we hear consultants and facilitators label EdTech as “teacher/classroom-friendly” without test-driving it themselves (whoops!); it was past time to take Pear Deck for a spin myself.

Test Subjects and Challenges…or Challenging Test Subjects

The majority of my Grade 7’s are tech gurus with daily “comfortable to seamless” digital classroom implementation. A handful can easily bypass my division’s firewall settings…a fact that both frightens and impresses me. Trialing Pear Deck on them didn’t seem challenging enough. Enter the vastly less tech-confident Grade 5 class at my current school. With the permission of their more-than-happy teacher, I created a science lesson on “Forces” to review with the 5’s.

First Challenge: The Grade 6 and 7 classes at my school are privileged to have 1-1 devices in the classroom. The K-5 classes scrounge for the remains of Chromebook and Dell rejects shunned by the upper grades.

Second Challenge: Tech focus and stamina take practice. Through repeated lessons….and full-out nagging lectures (truth-bomb), my 7’s have mastered the art of staying on-task 95% of the time. This cannot be said for the 5’s, due to their lack of access (see first challenge).

Third Challenge: Typing. Prensky once called my generation (and younger) “digital natives” but the art of typing and not texting appears to have died with the invention of the iPhone. 30 Grade 5’s typing Pear Deck into the browser and then the phonetic log-in code took more time than I want to remember. All the Right Type, why have you forsaken us?


Fourth Challenge: Heavy reliance on Smartboard or TV casting for instructor-paced activities. Another truth bomb, the Grade 5 classroom Smartboard is wretched! I would toss it in the garbage for the classroom teacher if I could!

Fifth Challenge: My premium subscription has loooooong since expired, so certain engaging features like LIVE dashboard, draggable, draw, and audio would be unavailable…unless I accessed a new premium trial from the Grade 5 teacher’s account (shhhhh!). Much as I love these features, do I want to shell out an extra $150 for them? Ummm no, I’ve seen current gas prices, thank you!

But Despite These Challenges…A New Fanbase Emerges

After the plethora of challenges on my Pear Deck “test-drive” you’d think the lesson might have been a loss, but the 5’s loved it so much they asked for more! Google Slide presentations for Generation Alpha have become commonplace. We know the drill. The presentation is shown on the glorified projector…I mean Smartboard. Questions are asked. The same 3 kids raise their hands. EVERY. TIME. It was true before Smartboards and Google Slides; it’s still true today. With Pear Deck, the students loved their anonymous ability to interact with the slides and view videos without leaving the Pear Deck (also handy for teachers worried about students staying on task).

Assessment Verdict

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it once more, Peardeck is an excellent formative assessment tool. The suggested reading, Section 4: Measuring of Learning, discusses the importance of embedded learning and real-time feedback, components fully provided by deeper-level thinking Pear Deck prompts. 

“Through embedded assessments, educators can see evidence of students’ thinking during the learning process and provide near real-time feedback through learning dashboards so they can take action in the moment.” – (Source

The Pear Deck instructor dashboard allowed me to see the Grade 5’s overall and individual comprehension. From these real-time insights, I was able to adjust my lesson pacing and suggest to the regular classroom teacher possible 1-1 conferencing for struggling students.

“Embedded assessments have the potential to be useful for diagnostic and support purposes in that they provide insights into why students are having difficulties in mastering concepts and provide insights into how to personalize feedback to address these challenges.” – (Source)

Despite my Pear Deck and EdTech fangirling, I hesitate to use the majority of digital tools for summative assessment. Google Slide extensions like Pear Deck or platforms like Mathletics allow teachers to quickly highlight student strengths and struggles, but nothing – in my opinion- trumps the potential for 1-1 student-teacher conferring. Human interaction/dialogue remains the epicentre of my assessment practices.

Weighing the Pros and Cons


No EdTech app or assessment method (digital or not) is without flaws. For the sake of not repeating my “challenges” section or the T-Chart Jamboard above, I will instead focus on where Pear Deck falls on the SAMR (Substitution, Augmentation, Modification, Redefinition) model, created by Dr. Ruben Puentudura.

Image copyright 2012, Dr. Ruben Puentudura

Does Pear Deck redefine new tasks, “previously inconceivable” or provide significant task modification? No, whiteboards displaying individual student answers could easily accomplish the same tasks. Rather, Pear Deck falls precariously between Augmentation and Substitution. I would argue on the side of Augmentation, as Pear Deck does – in my opinion – provide functional improvements to standard classroom prompts or Google Slides. The draggable, draw, audio, and built-in video options, as well as the teacher dashboard (displaying individual student answers), are welcome additions that provide engaging and interactive lessons. Pear Deck takes Google Slides and makes them functionally better and, dare I say, more fun.

Final Verdict

After 2 and a half years of recommending Pear Deck, I finally took it for a classroom test drive…and I wasn’t disappointed. As far as Google extensions go, Pear Deck is a worthwhile add-on. While it requires a “basic to comfortable” level with technology for students and teachers, Pear Deck can seamlessly be used in the classroom to enhance embedded learning, real-time feedback, formative assessment data, and student engagement. My next test subjects will be my 7’s, a much tougher crowd to please. I’ll keep you posted…

Points to Ponder

  • Digital or not, what do you believe constitutes authentic, best-practice formative and summative assessment methods?
  • Can you think of any digital assessment tools that can be summatively, but not formatively, useful? And vice versa?
  • Do you believe digital assessment tools add more work for teachers or less?
  • Who is left out of the digital assessment narrative? Do online assessment practices generate or alleviate assessment anxiety? Do digital tools cause less savvy teachers to resist technological advancements?
  • What guides your standards for successful technology integration?



The Social Dilemma

The Social Dilemma, a new documentary from Netflix, aims to shed light on how digital titans have played with our psyche to shape our behavior. In the documentary In The Social Dilemma, social media is portrayed as an unstoppable force that is causing unimaginable damage to society. By deploying data mining and monitoring technology, the creators and owners of such sites rely on their unsuspecting consumers. Young people’s mental health and addiction can be negatively impacted by the way that various social media platforms are designed. These days, it’s difficult to avoid becoming obsessed with social media and technology since they are so widespread in our culture. It is practically hard to get through a full day without using it in the state that our world is in right now. It is used to complete studies, communicates with loved ones, and stay up to date on current affairs. It keeps people entertained and avoids awkward social situations. The world has benefited greatly from social media, yet every action has a corresponding and opposing reaction. Addiction is the economic model of using social media, not just a side effect. Algorithms are developed by observing our behavior, including the things we do, how we do them, and how long we do them. The more it learns, the more material it can provide that is tailored to us. Social media is a technique for advertising to buy our attention so they can make money because if we don’t pay for the product, then we are the product. We accept the reality of the world with which we are provided, making it challenging to accept alternate realities, as stated in The Social Dilemma, which used a statement from The Truman Show to make this point. Additionally, algorithms can affect our personality and psychology by learning it. Because of the frequent exposure to doom, fake news, and societal constraints like beauty standards and others, we’re increasingly sad, worried, and suicidal. Our minds can only adapt so much to the exponential growth of technology.

The Social Dilemma — HUDS+GUIS

Negative Effects of Social Media

  • Social media can cut down on the amount of time spent studying.
  • Youth that uses social media may experience low self-esteem due to the “perfect life/body” photos.
  • Online bullying has become more prevalent and is more challenging to detect and address.
  • Anxiety and depression cases are steadily increasing. There are clear connections that social media is somewhat to blame.
  • Social media is available 24 hours a day, and young people may lack the maturity to switch off, which might cause them to lose sleep.
  • Social media does have a substantial impact on how much people exercise. Social networking is now frequently used for “hanging out” with friends.12 Negative effects of social media on youth - Careerguide

Positive Effects of Social Media

  • Connections online with people who share common interests, such as faith, culture
  • Interactive experiences and organic collaboration
  • Increased bonding with long-distance friends and family
  • Personal learning and celebrated talents (YouTube tutorial)
  • job opportunities
  • Social media allows people to share their voices and create awareness.
  • People are able to put themselves out there, share their own stories, and take ownership of their own narratives.
  • These platforms can empower marginalized youth and connect them with successful role models.
  • Representation is crucial.  Social media enables people to find news and information that is overlooked by mainstream media. 

Positive Effects Of Social Media - Steph Social

The best way to support the positive use of social media is to learn how to use it responsibly.

We must help children understand the impact of their online and offline identities Children must be taught how to use social media responsibly.  When children learn to swim, we guide them, we teach them how to be safe and we ensure they know the risks. It takes many years to learn to swim, and almost an entire childhood to be trusted to swim alone.  Yet for some reason, we give children access to ‘the greatest amount of information the world has ever seen with very little supervision or training, and then we blame the tools.  We would never argue that swimming pools are ruining children even though we know that without supervision and guidance, they could be life-threatening.

Children need guidance and support when learning to navigate digital waters. We must:

  • Set limits, boundaries, and expectations and provide necessary supervision
  • Educate youth about bullying and cyberbullying
  • Learn and teach digital safety and security adequately
  • Learn to recognize the signs of depression and anxiety, and talk to children daily about mental well-being and social & emotional learning
  • Educate children about the effects on self-esteem and body image
  • Ensure opportunities for face-to-face interactions
  • Find online and offline peer support and adult support.
  • Push for laws to protect our youth online
  • Model balance to promote well-being

Both positive and negative effects of social media have been seen in a variety of sectors. There are also numerous bad repercussions including cyberbullying, hacking, and Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube addiction. Social media use, therefore, has a lot of positive qualities, but it should be used properly to avoid becoming dependent. We need to maximize the positive effects of the propagation of false information, polarization, and mental health while limiting the negative effects on these platforms’ mechanisms and organizational frameworks. But the tech sector alone cannot resolve these problems. Promoting cross-disciplinary collaboration will be a key strategy for reducing these effects.

Online learning and digital tools

Digital technologies are a potent tool that can enhance education in a number of ways, including by making it simpler for teachers to create instructional materials and by giving individuals new ways to study and communicate. With the Internet’s global reach and the proliferation of connected intelligent gadgets, a new era has begun. Therefore, it will be up to instructional designers and educators to take advantage of the promise of cutting-edge digital technology to revolutionize education so that accessible, high-quality education is available to everyone, everywhere. These technologies have a significant impact on how education is delivered. The recent COVID-19 Pandemic has strengthened the legitimacy of using digital tools in education. Before covid, I was not used to teaching online with the help of various digital tools such as zoom, and Google classroom but the importance of online learning increased after covid. Moreover, A paradigm shift in the entire educational system has been brought about by digital tools. It serves as a knowledge source as well as a mentor, assessor, and co-creator of information.

Digital Tools for Your Classroom

Students’ lives have become simpler as a result of technological advancements in schooling. they now develop presentations and projects utilizing a variety of software and tools rather than writing things down by hand. In order to educate children outside of the classroom, technology has continued to be crucial. Digital learning encourages creativity and provides students with a sense of accomplishment, which motivates them to learn more by straying from the norm. It is impressive that all countries have been able to embrace remote learning techniques using a combination of online, radio, television, and mobile platforms. These make information easy to obtain, easy to remember, easier to save, and easier to convey. Education has become more interactive, easier to share knowledge, and has raised excitement for learning participation, all of which contribute to a dynamic, sociable, and enjoyable learning environment.

I’d like to start by talking about some tools I’ve used in the past and some I haven’t used before but I am excited to try. I used Canva, Mentimeter, Kahoot, google classroom, and zoom. I’m excited to try out a lot of new applications such as Flipgrid, Quizlet

 Mentimeter  Mentimeter provides a hub for in-person and online learning interactions by combining the digital tools of quizzes, polls, and word clouds. In essence, this is an incredibly effective presentation tool for instructors and students. with the help of this technology, presentations can be made with immediate feedback.  students, I used it in presentations for graduate classes and I want to use this to engage with students using live polls, word clouds, quizzes, and multiple-choice questions and to track learning and understanding by asking questions and downloading results.

Google Classroom is a collection of online technologies that give teachers the ability to assign tasks, receive student work, grade assignments, and return them to students. It was developed to enable digital learning and get eliminate paper in the classroom. To enable the teacher and pupils to more effectively share material and tasks, it was first intended for use with laptops in schools, such as Chromebooks. As more schools have shifted to online instruction, Google Classroom has seen a significant increase in usage as teachers swiftly adopt paperless instruction. I used google classroom when I was teaching in India and during covid google, and classroom was one of the ways for me to provide feedback on their assignment.

 Zoom Throughout COVID-19, Especially when parent-teacher conferences weren’t an option, the zoom was one of the best ways for me to engage with children and parents online. The representation of an in-person meeting using Zoom makes talks more intimate and meaningful while enabling simple and accessible communication between two people. Zoom is deserving of its spot as one of the top digital teaching tools for me because of how widely used it has grown in education.

Kahoot I want to use Kahoot to teach students.  The first time I used Kahoot in my presentation and I find it to be a very interesting digital tool. I would like to use Kahoot to teach students. It is a website for education that uses games and quizzes as its foundation. I can use this application to make surveys, conversations, or quizzes to enhance academic lessons. Students answer questions while simultaneously playing and learning while the information is presented in the classroom. Kahoot! encourages game-based learning, which boosts student engagement and fosters a lively, social, and enjoyable learning environment

 Quizlet is a tool utilized by all grades in numerous educational programs and institutions that enable kids to learn the material in a variety of ways. One of the best digital teaching tools available to teachers is this one, which includes flashcards, multiple-choice questions, and even memory games. I want to use it because it makes teaching learning  more interesting because I can create multiple, custom question sets and Question sets will help students prepare for tests and exams Students can have fun with studying by using the game formats that Quizlet has to offer

Flipgrid is a social learning platform that enables teachers to ask a question via voice or video recording, to which students can then react via voice or video recording. On movies made by teachers or students, students can provide comments on Flipgrid. A knowledge-sharing and knowledge-creating online community is established by this web of discourse. I would like to use this tool because it is convenient and flexible for me to use for the assessment of students Because the speaking is recorded on video, I can decide when and how to assess your students’ speaking. Moreover, It encourages students to reflect and self-evaluate. Video recording includes students in their learning process by allowing them to view their recordings and identify their speaking strengths and areas to improve.

Students can get ready for lifetime learning with the help of digital tools in the classroom. These digital tools give students access to a virtual world and the flexibility to access digital content in accordance with their preferred learning techniques. Students can learn at their own pace because of the custom teaching and learning methods offered by digital content development tools. The digital classroom integrates technology into education by using electronic tools and software to instruct students. . With the help of modern tools and technology, students may learn more quickly and monitor their progress. These technologies will be successfully incorporated into education in the coming years to improve the learning environment and performance of the students online but it is very important for teachers to have a fundamental knowledge of using internet forums. Government should make investments in teacher training to teach them the use of digital tools in the classroom.

Multitasking Vs. Single tasking

We now have access to some incredible communication methods. The Internet is one such medium that performs as a potent and captivating technology. More people are educated as a result of the Internet’s invention. With information literally at our fingertips, we use the Internet to share ideas and keep up with current events. The internet is a technology that is continually adding new features to make use of it more convenient for users. People now live simpler and more pleasant lives thanks to the internet. Moreover, Students have considered using the internet as a tool for learning. For students, in particular, it can be the only area outside of books where they obtain knowledge relevant to their study. In truth, the internet has a huge impact on students’ life, whether directly or indirectly. Digital gadgets are widespread in society, on school campuses, and in classrooms. Examples include computers, tablets, and smartphones. Pupils using technology

Not only this, Higher education has benefited greatly from the prevalence of these gadgets in many ways. Students can now answer instantly online surveys, work together in real-time on written assignments, and interact with a variety of media more freely than ever before. We all know, though, that using digital gadgets may also be a hindrance to studying because they allow students who are easily distracted to believe that multitasking won’t hinder their ability to learn. On the other side, I believe it may distract the students, especially when they are looking for material for a project or a report. It’s incredibly simple to get sidetracked when you have several tabs open, as the video “Single-tasking is the new multi-tasking” advised. Even adults frequently struggle with maintaining self-control when it comes to staying on track. It is virtually impossible to focus on one task when using the Internet due to the continual notifications. According to studies, switching between tasks frequently makes us less productive and increases our risk of making mistakes, especially when the activities are complicated and demand our active attention.

Multitasking vs Single-tasking - Traffic sign with two options - concentration and focus on one task and activity or effective and productive performance because of concurrence and simultaneity

Virtual students are particularly sensitive to multitasking because they are surrounded by digital temptations. Students who attempt to multitask while studying sometimes fail without even realizing it. According to psychology professor David Meyer, “Under most circumstances, the brain simply cannot do two difficult activities concurrently. Only relatively simple tasks and tasks that do not compete with one another for mental resources can cause this to occur. But each of these hard tasks—such as listening to a lecture while texting or doing homework while browsing Facebook—uses the same part of the brain, the prefrontal cortex. The fact that the brain cannot perform two difficult activities at once must be made clear to students. The majority of students think they can multitask, but in reality, the brain cannot keep up. Students should only concentrate on the task at hand if it calls for information retention. After 10 minutes, students who are not paying attention will not be able to recollect what they learned. When moving between tasks, the brain gets worn out. Though they may not seem complicated to students, texting and scrolling through social media actually engage the same brain region as listening to a lesson.

it is very important monotasking should take priority over multitasking. Imagine what you can accomplish when you focus all of your effort, attention, creativity, and thought on just one task. Not only is your brain more wired for this, but it also makes sense. Put your phone on silence and leave it somewhere out of reach or in another room. You should disable desktop notifications. Email browser windows and other tabs should be closed when not in use. Put on a set of headphones that block out noise. Nothing concentrates the mind like a deadline. Choose your project, give it a window of time to be finished, and start the timer. Some people choose 25-minute bursts, while others favor up to 45-minute segments. Keep an eye on the clock. Your focus will get better as the deadline draws closer. The most well-known productivity strategy is the Pomodoro Technique, which is based on timing tasks. It suggests working for four periods of 25 minutes each, interspersed with quick breaks of 5 minutes. You are entitled to a lengthier pause of 20–30 minutes following the fourth successive burst.

The Bluebird of Doom’s Social Dilemma

The year is 1999 and I am a digitally naïve 16-year-old about to experience my first Web 2.0 dopamine hit. My friend has dial-up on his family’s computer, we’re having a sleepover, and he introduces me to the uncensored, anonymous world of Java chat rooms. Anything goes. Anything can be said. Everything is said. Who’s to know? Who’s monitoring us? Much like the test subjects in Sugata Mitra’s “hole-in-the-wall” experiment, we are left unchecked. We giggle as we type words we’d blush to say out loud.

What were chat rooms like in the 90’s? – A thread on Quora

Fast forward to what, technologically, seems like an eon. It’s the end of 2021, and “doom and gloom” social media scrolling has left my mental health in tatters. A 6 month “cold turkey goal” begins to formulate. Zero social media contact. No lapses, passes, or “there’s an app for that” denial. A digital detox while acting as an online learning consultant for my division (there’s irony afoot). Netflix’s The Social Dilemma, a 2020 American docudrama directed by Jeff Orlowski, only spurs me to untangle myself from the Interweb.

Reflecting on the tail-end of my social media detox, the list of pros and cons cited in The Social Dilemma seems apt but finite.

Momma Always Said to Look on the Bright Side First

Let’s review some positives:

  • Streamlined communication (For example: content creators with followers)
  • Communication accessibility to those with (dis)abilities
  • Instantaneous and expansive access to NEWS and information
  • Digital accountability for words and actions
  • Self-expression, collaboration, connection
  • Former Firefox and Mozilla employee, Aza Raskin posits that Web 1.0 and Web 2.0 were intended for “humane technology,” despite current deviations.
    • Worth noting is the questionable number of retired tech gurus interviewed for The Social Dilemma who proclaim their original honourable intentions while forever laying blame elsewhere…but I’ll save my judgment for another time.

Which of course leads us to…

But My Momma’s Nickname is the “Bluebird of Doom”

The negatives appear in spades:

  • Political polarization and radicalization (I won’t link anything because I don’t want to give anyone more “hits” than they deserve)
  • Fake news, misinformation, disinformation (great link to Civix for student lessons on these topics)
  • Early online exposure and social media addiction
  • Increased rates of youth body dysmorphia, anxiety, depression
  • Information overload (this one hits personally)
  • Targeted algorithms and “people as products”
  • Loss of authentic connections and life skills

To name a few…

The Big Picture

But what do all these positive and negative bullet points, discussed in The Social Dilemma and our EC&I 833 class, mean for our schools and society? How has this affected us on personal and professional levels? I doubt WordPress contains enough bullet points to summarize the impact. As educators, we know the influence of social media has been palpable in the classroom. From more benign trends like bottle-flipping and TikTok dances to malignant teen incel rallies, social media has changed the depth and breadth of our educational interactions and responsibilities. What happens in the classroom can be broadcast globally. What happens digitally outside of school hours can be dramatically dragged in with the bell.

Despite inheriting my mother’s doomed bluebird tendencies, and my social media self-extraction, Web 2.0’s future is not entirely bleak. A wealth of information and engagement remains online for students to consume and create. Using social media, students can hear diverse perspectives and rally for social justice causes like never before.

In Marc Prensky’s journal article, H. Sapiens Digital: From Digital Immigrants and Digital Natives to Digital Wisdom, he explores the duality of our digital evolution. Prensky’s hopeful “digital wisdom” perspective outlines the potential for increased data accessibility, deeper analysis and insightfulness, streamlined planning, and greater exposure to diverse perspectives. As Neil Postman would argue, however, each of these so-called gains results in losses elsewhere (sorry, “bluebirding” again).

Bluebird on a wire Picture provided by Adobe.stock

A Bluebird’s Final Thoughts

It’s the ebb and flow of these gains and losses that highlight social media’s nuanced nature. At its best, in the hands of aware and empathetic digital citizens, social media can be used to learn, connect, and collaborate. At its worst, weaponized by hatred and bias, social media morphs into “the enemy.” The tool reflects the user.

As stated in The Social Dilemma, “something needs to change.” Ethical design, corporate accountability (cough cough…blame-shuffling Meta), and legislative reform are needed. In the meantime, awareness and accountability must begin with us and extend to our students if we wish to create “digitally wise” future generations.

Even this Bluebird of Doom hopes for that…

Points to Ponder

  • What are your earliest memories of interacting with Web 2.0? Did you first use it educationally, mindlessly, or somewhere in between?
  • Have you ever taken a social media hiatus? How do you navigate staying informed while protecting your mental health?
  • Do you see social media as an agent for good/harm? Simply a reflection of the user?
  • If you’ve seen The Social Dilemma, how would you rate it? Does it expose the web’s dark side….or not explore deeply enough?
  • Do you agree with Prensky’s concept of digital wisdom? Is it possible?

O Online Learning, Parting Was NOT Sweet Sorrow

This week’s topic – tools for distance and online learning – strikes a personal cord. Memories of my last 2.5 years as an online learning consultant cause an odd mixture of melancholy, anxiety, aversion, and pride to roll through my chest. Anyone in education over the last 3 years might feel a similar twinge. Love it or lump it, the need for distance and online learning -exacerbated by the pandemic – caused a shift in digital EdTech that will be studied for decades. (Am I being too dramatic if I say centuries?)

In Tyler Dewitt’s TedX Talk, he notes the inevitable push/pull factors of online learning and digital tools, but concludes with a quote from his father:

“The focus of education should be learning, not teaching.”

Similarly, the purpose of distance and online learning tools should be to incite authentic learning opportunities for students. From my ISTE training and the last few years online, I have learned that relevant/purposeful EdTech tools are more than just the “flavour of the month” or novelty items.  Digital tools require careful consideration of sheltered instruction, cultural responsibility, graphic design, and accessibility.

Indiana University’s Teaching Online MOOC

My Tickle Trunk of Online Tools

Using Miro, my favourite collaborative online whiteboard (for staff and students), I have outlined my gold-star, most-used online tools over the last few years. While I use and appreciate many of the tools discussed in class and noted in the suggested readings, I tried to include a few lesser-known tools that also hit ISTE online standards. Many of these tools were Godsends while working online, and now that I have moved back to the classroom, remain relevant learning tools for students.

Click to interact with Miro Mindmap

  • Edsby: As more Saskatchewan divisions shift toward Edsby, I have the unique vantage point (for better or worse) of being the Edsby SK “guinea pig.” When the pandemic hit, my division accelerated its Edsby implementation and I have spent the last few years training teachers and students to utilize Edsby as our division’s main lesson, assessment, and communication hub. Edsby is not without its faults, scoring particularly low in ISTE standards for accessibility; however, it remains relevant as a multi-purpose learning centre.
    • Back in the classroom: Edsby continues to be my main source for student/family communication, secure online student learning portfolios and chats, lesson planning, and resource/link sharing. I’ve become so accustomed to Edsby, I’m not sure how I’d work in a classroom without it now (and yes, I see the danger in that sentiment).
  • Peardeck: I was pleased to see Peardeck mentioned in Prodigy’s The 20 Best Tools for Virtual and Distance Learning.  Used as a cloud-based Google Slides add-on, Peardeck seamlessly transforms or creates interactive slides that promote student learning and engagement. Synchronous and asynchronous options like free response questions and drawing grids allow for streamlined, individualized formative assessment.
    • Back in the classroom: The asynchronous features were highly beneficial when online teaching, and back in the classroom both asynchronous and synchronous options remain relevant. Rather than having one student verbally answer while I present from Google Slides, Peardeck ensures all students can digitally answer. Student answers can be identified on the teacher dashboard, and then highlighted for further classroom discussions and/or conferring.
  • Mathigon: With an interactive polypad filled to the brim with math manipulatives, Mathigon allows all online students to interact with math. Online math assessments can lead to accessibility issues and 2-dimensional thinking; however, Mathigon provides equal access, and opportunities for authentic and collaborative numeracy engagement.
    • Back in the classroom: While my current placement allows for privileged access to 1-1 computers and a plethora of math resources, my students enjoy the creativity and experimentation Mathigon provides for their numeracy tasks. In-school students who need to complete homework are able to use Mathigon to continue their learning and collaboration outside of school hours.

Honourable Mention

  • Google. Period.
    • Google Jams, Slides, Forms, Docs are the most highly used tools I have used online or in the classroom. A majority of Google’s “arsenal” comes with assistive technology functions (ex: text-to-speech and proofreading) that allow diverse learners to gain confidence and independence.  Disclaimer: 😉  I am not affiliated with or endorsed by Google; I just think they’ve done some amazing work.

One Caveat…Ah, there’s the rub!

All of these online tools – mentioned here and elsewhere – can be extremely beneficial to student learning when students have equitable access. My quick shift to online quickly highlighted that the digital divide in Saskatchewan (let alone the rest of the world) is alive, well, and growing! Inequitable access does not negate the beneficial aspects of many of these tools, but these unfortunate realities cannot be ignored either. We must always ask who is being served by these online platforms and tools. The companies and shareholders? As discussed in class, EdTech companies appear the clear winners, often at the cost of our digital privacy. Students in emergent nations with privileged digital access equally benefit from these technologies. Until we can say that all students benefit from the plethora of distance and online tools, our work as educators and compassionate citizens remains unfinished.

Despite learning a great deal while working online, I will not be writing any Shakespearean odes to it either. Experience tells me I can shift from classroom to online to classroom with general ease. My desire to do so again remains doubtful. While I often deep-dive into the latest digital possibilities, I’m certain nothing can replace the human connection found between teachers and students learning together.


Points to Ponder

  • Do you have any lesser-known favourite online tools to recommend (that have not already been mentioned)?
  • How do you identify/separate purposeful EdTech from more “flash in the pan” options? 
  • As noted by Neil Postman, who do you believe are the “clear winners and losers” in EdTech? Who is not being served by these digital offerings?


“My Mind is Like My Internet Browser…” Productivity and Presentation

If you’ve ever come across the well-known internet adage –

“My mind is like my web browser: 19 tabs are open, 3 of them are frozen, and I have no idea where the music is coming from.”  (Anonymous)

– I’m confident the author was describing me. Regardless, it seemed an apt quotation for our debate questioning the internet as a productive friend or distracting foe.

One of the suggested readings – Online Presentation Creation Tools. (2014) – outlined the merits of Prezi. Despite my dislike for Prezi’s dizzying presentation features, it seemed a suitable representation of the distracting spectacle we once called the World Wide Web.

Points to Ponder Section can be found below the video. Please drop me a line and tell me your take on digital distractions, multitasking, and productivity tips.

Some Resources From the Video

My Final Thoughts…(for now)

As I watched the assigned video, I was bombarded with texts, emails, browser tabs, and the full digital arsenal of our modern world. Was it distracting? Certainly! Do I often long to disconnect in a far-away wilderness cabin? There’s no doubt. Was I able to multitask in a sea of multitaskers? No, as the term is deceptive. There are no multitaskers, only people who have successfully or distractedly learned to switch their concentrative powers at a fatiguing pace. Despite these electronic hiccups, presentation and productivity tools – like those presented on Tuesday – demonstrate an array of creative and collaborative possibilities. The internet is far more nuanced than simply being our friend or foe, and as educators, it should be our goal to teach students awareness and proper application.

Points to Ponder

  • When researching/preparing your blog post, how often were you interrupted by outside digital distractions?
  • If you completed the multitasking exercise (in the above-shared youtube link), how did you do? Can you actually multitask?
  • If you’ve been teaching for an extended period of time, do you notice increased student distractibility?
  • How do you manage your own productivity online? What are your favourite apps/extensions to use for yourself and/or your students?