Category Archives: Networked Learning

Open Education?

I am a strong believer in sharing. I am not just saying this because it is the topic of the week. I have truly ALWAYS shared my resources.

New teacher who needs some resources? I got you! I need an intern gift? Give me a USB and take everything. Sharing has always been my love language.

Some teachers, however, are very apprehensive about this. I’ve never fully figured out why, but I hear a lot of concern about copyright laws or a deep connection to the metaphorical blood, sweat, and tears that go into creating resources. Or sometimes teachers just feel it is a right of passage for new teachers to struggle, which just seems downright wrong.

When it comes to creating my own resources, I have never, I mean not once, created something from scratch. And I would, with almost 100 percent confidence, bet no teacher has. It is a simple concept – everything is a remix:

My best lessons came from other resources. And why wouldn’t I want to share these lessons with my fellow colleagues to hopefully allow them to use them in their own space when they worked so well in mine?

This is where the concept of open education resources (OER) comes into play.

According to Open Source, Open education is a philosophy about the way people should produce, share, and build on knowledge. Proponents of open education believe everyone in the world should have access to high-quality educational experiences and resources, and they work to eliminate barriers to this goal. Such barriers might include high monetary costs, outdated or obsolete materials, and legal mechanisms that prevent collaboration among scholars and educators.

Prior to this course, I had never heard of open education, but man am I on board! As I explored this concept more, I realized that I have actively been utilizing open education resources for the majority of my career through sources like TedEd and Kahn Academy, but as I explored I learned about many more:

  1. Complexly: “The world is not simple. And that can seem like a burden sometimes. The reality is, the human species will never fully understand itself or its universe, let alone any individual. But instead of seeing that as a failing, we’d like to suggest that the process is as powerful as the outcome. The more we understand, the better we get at being humans, and that is one of the only worthwhile goals out there. We are a group of people who make stuff to help that process along and reflect our own excitement and enthusiasm for understanding and imagining things complexly.”
  2. Project Muse: “Project MUSE offers open access (OA) books, journals, and digital humanities works from several distinguished university presses, scholarly societies, and independent not-for-profit academic publishers. Through our open access hosting programs, we are able to offer publishers a platform for their OA content which ensures visibility, discoverability, and wide dissemination. These materials are freely available to libraries and users around the world.”
  3. Project Gutenburg: “Project Gutenberg is an online library of free eBooks.Project Gutenberg was the first provider of free electronic books, or eBooks. Michael Hart, founder of Project Gutenberg, invented eBooks in 1971 and his memory continues to inspire the creation of eBooks and relate content today.”
  4. Library of Congress: “This page features items from the Library’s digital collections that are free to use and reuse. The Library believes that this content is either in the public domain, has no known copyright, or has been cleared by the copyright owner for public use.”

Of these resources, the one that I found the most interesting was Complexly. I am a HUGE John and Hank Green fan. I mean I’ve got a signed Crash Course poster in my classroom? Clearly, I love them. So I was a bit shocked to find out that they had an entire website, and organization, dedicated to OER. On the Complexly website, you can find a video range of shows that are produced by the organization to help others gain knowledge. Of course, this included the more well-known Crash Course videos and the Anthropocene Reviewed podcast, but I was shocked (again, huge fan here) to find that there were a number of other resources under the same umbrella as Crash Course and the Anthropocene Reviewed:

  1. Life’s Little Lies: “The things you should know about how the world works, but probably don’t. With a mix of life hacks, consumer psychology, and economics, hosts Hank Green and Michelle Barboza-Ramirez share information on how to navigate life decisions whether they are big — like buying a house — or small — like ordering dinner.” (Complexly)
  2. Origin of Everything: “Origin of Everything is a show about under told history and culture hosted by Danielle Bainbridge that challenges our everyday assumptions.” (Complexly)

And honestly, the list quite literally goes on, but this feels like the natural stopping point. I had no doubt that I would be a strong proponent of OER, but after further exploration, I feel like this has become my new life mantra: OER! OER! OER!

And really, the benefits are endless. According to the University of Adelaide:

  1. Immediate and continued access: Students can access OERs anywhere in the world, at any time. This includes both before courses start and after courses end.
  2. Enhancement of regular course content: You can use different types of materials, including multimedia, to help engage students. OERs can be useful supplementary material when students need background information or are interested in extending their knowledge.
  3. Adaptability: You can add, remove and edit content to suit your needs. If you’re using an OER textbook you don’t need to worry about using the whole book to justify the cost to students.
  4. Increased diversity: You can use a selection of resources to include a wide range of perspectives, such as Indigenous voices, and/or edit resources to ensure language is inclusive and relevant to your students.
  5. Continual improvement: OERs can be quickly improved through direct editing or via feedback and any mistakes can be corrected without needing to wait for a new edition or going through a lengthy review process.

Now this is something everyone should get behind! Parents, educators and administrators included.

Using content/topics discussed in class this week, write a post around the topic of open education and the culture of sharing. I’d recommend watching one or more of the videos shared above to include in your post. You may want to consider how these topics relate to your own personal/professional context. 

Social Media Activism

During my time in university, I was constantly bombarded with professor after professor that instilled the fear of social media in us future educators. I remember time after time, sitting in a lecture hall and being told horror stories of a teacher who got reprimanded for having social media profile pictures that showed them with an alcoholic drink in their hand or teachers who were fired for posting their political stance online. At this point, I became apprehensive about using social media in any form. I started to private my accounts and delete anything and everything that I felt was unnecessary.

social media activism blm lgbtqia+
Social Media Activism

But this was hard for me. I am an active social media user and quite politically engaged. Now I was never outwardly stating my opinions online nor would I pick a fight with a comment section, but I had no problem sharing news, links, and stories that clearly demonstrated my political leaning. I understand that the university was trying to protect young educators like myself, but it did truly instill an unnecessary fear of the online world. Over time, however, and mostly as I became more comfortable with my position as a teacher, I began to rejoin the political world of social media.

Que 2020.

During the Covid-19 lockdown, I began to become actively engaged with the political and social world of Twitter. It was during this time that I realized the massive impact social media activism can, and does, have on the world around us. It was during the Covid-19 lockdown that George Floyd was killed by police in Minneapolis. I followed the events that were unfolding across the border and it became clear quite quickly that social media was a powerhouse for change as hashtags like #blacklivesmatter began to take off.

Three months of quarantine taught us to live online, so it’s perhaps unsurprising that it was what we saw online that sent us back onto the streets. On May 25th, the circulation of video footage capturing George Floyd’s murder by four Minneapolis police officers quickly incited local protests. Three nights later, our feeds streamed with live images of protesters burning Minneapolis’s Third Police Precinct. In the course of June, uprisings expanded at unprecedented speed and scale—growing nationally and then internationally, leaving a series of now iconic images, videos, and exhortations in their wake. Every historic event has its ideal medium of documentation—the novel, the photograph, the television—and what we’re witnessing feels like an exceptionally “online” moment of social unrest. –

The Second Act of Social Media Activism- Jane Hu

The mass social change that came from the killing of George Floyd was astronomical, and dare I say unprecedented. Millions upon millions of people were drawn to the streets through connections via social media to right the wrongs. Many argue that protests do nothing, but this is simply not true. The social media frenzy that was caused by the killing of George Floyd resulted in massive social change:

Of course, the murder of George Floyd and the ensuing social media frenzy was not perfect. One particular moment that was highly criticized at the time was #BlackoutTuesday. The movementslacktivism gained immense traction with millions of people posting a black image on their social media in solitary for the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement. However, the issue with the movement was twofold: the hashtag drown out posts from the BLM movement and it was a form seen by many as a form of slacktivism. Over the last number of years, there has been a rise in performative action on social media with many critiquing others for only doing the bare minimum to elicit change. This performative activism was very much on display during the George Floyd movement and it shaped the opinions of many people as many saw this as a way for the privileged and white to wash their hands of what occurred.

Despite this, I truly believe that the change that came from the George Folyd movement was meaningful and worthwhile. Conversations on social media were centred around how to elicit change, end systematic racism, and how to reform deeply ingrained social institutions. From these conversations came systematic change not only in the United States but across the globe. And most importantly, it reminded people that change can happen when people come together.

Early on in my career, as I noted above, I was very hesitant to actively engage on social media in a political sense. But as I have grown in my place as an educator, I feel quite the opposite. It is from movements, like George Folyd, that it becomes clear that as an educator I have a unique position to influence social change. It is easy as educators to be worried that we are pushing the social boundary too far as much of our role is based on presenting a positive image to the public, but I do think that this image can include acknowledging our beliefs.

It takes just a few minutes on social media to see that teachers across the world are engaging with social media activism in a positive and constructive manner:

Teachers hold a unique place in the public eye, but that place should be used to elicit positive social change for all students.

Interested in discussing social media activism in class? Learning for Justice has a great introductory lesson to the topic.

Can online social media activism be meaningful and worthwhile? Is it possible to have productive conversations about social justice online? What is our responsibility as educators to model active citizenship online?

Tweet, Tweet

I have been an on-and-off Twitter user since 2012. I joined the Twitter-verse for a Spanish 20 project where we had to compose tweets in Spanish to demonstrate our comprehension of the language. At that point, I was a relatively active Twitter user, but by the time I hit my mid-twenties, I mostly stopped using it on a regular basis.

I started using Twitter again after I got my first teaching contract in 2018 so I could interact with other teachers and stay up to date on the world of education. Again, I wouldn’t say I was the most active and I was never able to amass any sort of large following, but I did enjoy composing the semi-regular tweet to highlight my classroom space and to see what other educators were doing. I found this particularly useful in my first year of teaching since (as I am sure we all know) I was just trying to keep my head above water and any advice was valuable to me.

It wasn’t until 2020 that I became a chronic Twitter-user – to clarify, a chronic Twitter-scroller mostly. The Covid-19 pandemic was a large factor in this. I found myself staying up until the wee hours of the morning doomscrolling on Twitter then the killing of George Floyd occurred and the scrolling only got more intense.

At this time, I wasn’t tweeting all that much, but man did I spend a lot of time on the app. So eventually, I forced myself to take a break from the Twitter world.

I didn’t make my grand (the second if you’re counting) return until 2021 when schools reopened. I again tried to maintain some sort of presence on the platform and even received a thank you from admin for highlighting the school in a positive manner. This, however, made me somewhat responsible for tweeting about school events I would be at. On quite a few occasions, I’d get an email saying something along the lines of:

Hey Mariah, can you tweet about career day? Don’t forget to add some pictures. 

I did ask if this included a raise, but alas, it did not. And I would say this is where I am now. I would say I identify as a semi-regular Twitter user with a lacklustre following. There is a reason that I have always returned to the platform and it is because of the connections.

The beauty of Twitter is global connectivity. Users are able to interact with a vast network of professional and like-minded people and this is what I have found to be the most beneficial. I follow a number of accounts that regularly Tweet content that is connected to the field of education:

It is through these accounts that I have been introduced to a wide variety of different pedagogical approaches that were absent throughout my undergraduate studies. Organization Facing History has helped me create lessons and units that dispel bigotry and hate while DiscoveryEd has taught me numerous (and I mean numerous) lessons through their weekly EdTech News Roundup:

Beyond actual teaching practices, Twitter has also calmed me down too many times to count. A bit ironic I’d say since I am known for having to take a break from the platform because of doomscrolling, but that’s neither here nor there.  While I love my family, friends, and partner dearly, sometimes they just don’t understand how draining the job can be at times, but the Twitterverse is home to a number of educators that fully and wholeheartedly understand where I am coming from and this has saved me more times than I can count. While I follow a number of people I find Brad Johnson to be a big saving grace throughout my career. Daily, he is providing uplifting, and sometimes not so uplifting but realistic tweets about the field, which I have found keep me sane:

Over the coming years, my main goal is to develop my PLN using platforms like Twitter.


With the classroom changing every single day, I feel that platforms like Twitter are one of the few places where I can stay up-to-date and relevant as a teacher. I think we have reached a point where we can no longer pretend like social media doesn’t exist and having a presence as a teacher not only helps build relationships with students, but it most certainly translates into a classroom that more accurately reflects the realities of the 21st century.

In your post this week, please reflect on your experiences with Twitter thus far.  If you already used Twitter prior to this class, talk about how you have used it. If you’ve just started using it, think about what Twitter might look like in your future classroom or as a professional development tool. In what ways do you find Twitter to be a useful/not useful tool? If you are a reluctant user, tell us why! If you have participated in a Twitter chat, you can reflect on that process as well.

Tik Tok on the Clock

Over the last two weeks, I have been exploring TikTok. I have been using TikTok since the early days of the pandemic when there was not much else to do, but I have only ever been a TikTok lurker. So I figured now was the perfect time to step up my TikTok game.

Tik Tok Logo

Before I started working with the platform I decided to do a little research into the giant that is TikTok. It is undeniable that TikTok has a major influence not only on teenagers, but global trends, news cycles, and in the case of education, the classroom. But why?

Interestingly enough, TikTok was one of the first social media platforms that curate the main page for the user:

“The “For You Page” (FYP) was designed to share content with users based on what the TikTok algorithm has learned to be the most relevant and of the highest interest to them. Within minutes, FYP feeds are personalized to our interests, beliefs, curiosities and passions just by passively watching entertaining short-form videos.”

It really started to make sense why TikTok quickly became one of my favourite social media platforms.

As my research continued it became harder and harder to find information on the social media giant. Every time I typed something into Google (i.e., “TikTok news”, “TikTok 2023”, “TikTok as Social Media”) nothing came up except for Tik ok itself. I found this quite interesting. But I did come across one article entitled TikTok: What It Is, How It Works, Why It’s Popular that had a lot of useful information:

  • Launched in September 2016 by the Chinese startup company ByteDance, it’s known there as Douyin. 
  • Launched in its present form in 2018, TikTok joined the ranks of social media giants in record time. It had about one billion active monthly users worldwide by September 2021. A 2022 marketing report by (formerly App Annie) predicted that TikTok will break three billion downloads worldwide as well as users spending $3 billion across iOS and Google Play by the end of the year.
  • ByteDance was reportedly worth up to $140 billion by mid-2020, based on the private sale of a small stake in the company. TikTok alone was said to be worth about $50 billion.

The biggest takeaway for me was that TikTok is HUGE and it has no sign of slowing down.

Exploring the Platform

As I mentioned, I am an active TikTok user, I guess. I don’t follow anyone except for a few close friends, and I most certainly have never made a TikTok. I never had an issue with not following anyone as the algorithm is spot on and my TikTok page is always tailored to my needs and wants – almost in a scary way. But nevertheless, I figured I’d start by following some people that reflect my interests. I began my search by looking for TikTokers that were connected to teaching, reading, history, and hiking. The number of accounts I could follow was astronomical, so quite honestly I just started following and interacting with people that caught my interest. See some recommendations below:

Then I figured it was time to try and make my own TikTok. I am not the most camera-ready person so this seemed like the perfect time to introduce my cats to the world wide web. I will admit the process of making a Tik Tok was actually quite hard. I ended by watching some videos to help me get started:

Recently, I have been seeing the “p is for papas” trend on TikTok and I knew this is where I had to start. Overall, making the TikTok didn’t end up being terribly hard, but the overall quality is entirely my fault and Schmitten can take no blame:

No cat was harmed in the making of this video and they were compensated fairly for their time and labour.

Editing the TikTok was simple enough with some nice features that allow you to crop and adjust the sound. I did find it crazy that certain hashtags like #fyp:) has 15171.1 billion views (yes you are reading that right). So who knows, maybe I will be Tik Tok famous before I know it. Fingers crossed.

Overall, I have been on TikTok in some form since April 2020. I have never seen anything offensively graphic or concerning, but rather my experience on TikTok has been quite educational in the sense that I owe a great deal to TikTok and what it has taught me (as embarrassing as that sounds).

Educational Opportunities for Teachers and Parents

Over the last two weeks, I have seen that there is a multitude of positive benefits Tik Tok has both for teachers, parents, and the world of education as a whole. It is undeniable that Tik Tok is now a part of life and embracing it is in the best interest of everyone, but particularly the students.

I was able to find many (and I mean many) interesting reads on the benefits of Tik Tok in the classroom and I was I could list them all here, but alas I cannot. The most interesting bit of information I learned was about “micro-learning”, in which students learn new information in small chunks at a time. Microlearning sessions are under ten minutes and can take as little as one minute to complete.

And according to TikTok & Education: How TikTok is Transforming Education for Gen Z:

#LearnOnTikTok has over 282.8 billion views. In a wider context, the popularity of TikTok’s education content fits into a trend towards micro-learning. Microlearning is 17% more efficient than traditional, longer-duration courses and distils topics into digestible, small chunks. Gen Z strongly prefers it. Virtual learning environments and online video tutorials are also a big yes for zoomers. This makes TikTok the perfect delivery vehicle for micro-learning. It’s in their favourite format: video, and on their preferred device: their phones.”

The research points to an undeniable fact – students want to learn quickly and I am here for it.

Issues and Concerns

If you have been on the internet for any length of time this year you will likely know that there have been major concerns over TikTok:

As your average citizen and TikTok user, I don’t think I am all that concerned, but I have been wrong before. I will say that the deeper you dive into the topic of TikTok the scary it gets. I found myself on some pretty interesting corners of the internet with a TON of conspiracy theories.

On a less global note, I have seen the negative influence TikTok can have on teenagers in the classroom. Throughout the school I work at, there has been a clear increase in the number of students posting inappropriate videos on TikTok from fights to filming teachers. Last year, the “devious licks” challenge became popular and caused a wide range of issues from harmless fun to serious vandalism. The trend cycle is so quick now that this challenge went out faster than it came in, but I fear it’s only a matter of time until the next big trend.

Overall, I have no intention to stop using TikTok. While there are negative aspects to the platform, I believe this can be true for all forms of social media and the positives of TikTok seems to vastly outweigh the negatives in my opinion.

Choose a social media tool that you would like to know more about. Create an account (if you haven’t already), spend some time learning about it (from resources or via conversations) and experimenting. Report some of your observations related to the tool (e.g., features, function, positives/negatives) and its impact on users (especially kids). Contemplate whether or not there are educational opportunities for the tool and/or what teachers or parents should know.