Summary of Learning

When I started this course, I told myself that I would not leave the final Summary of Learning to the last minute. In fact, after the first class, I emailed our division “tech” guy and asked for some ideas that may help in my presentation. You guessed it… the semester flew by, and before I knew it, the deadline was fast approaching. Funny thing though, once I actually sat down to finish my presentation, I found it really easy and almost fun. I used “mysimpleshow“, which is a free, easy to use tool that creates (what I think anyways) really nice presentations. I became a bit of an expert as I worked through the kinks, so if anyone is interested in trying it out, I would be happy to help.

Below is a review of the product.


  • Free
  • Easy to use
  • Can add your own graphics, or use the ones they suggest
  • Can record your own audio, or use prerecorded
  • Can upload easily to YouTube
  • Visually appealing


  • It isn’t really easy to go back and forth in the editing process, if you realize you make a mistake near the end, you need to redo a whole step
  • 1200 character limit for your story
  • Graphics are all black and white
  • Only makes 2 minute videos, no way to merge them

Overall, I am very happy with the way it turned out.

This marks the end of both my EC & I 833, and my U of R MEd journeys. Until next time!

Using Virtual Reality to Promote Agriculture


While I admit I don’t know a heck of a lot about Augmented and Virtual Reality, I made an instant connection to something I heard a lot about last week when the Canadian Western Agribition was in town, a Virtual Reality experience offered by the Saskatchewan Cattlemen’s Association, aptly titled “On the Ranch”. I give the SCA credit, they capitalized on the huge Agribition crowds to give people a sense of what actually happens on cattle ranches in our province. The idea behind this was to promote agriculture by getting people on to a ranch (virtually of course). Growing up on a large cattle ranch, I initially didn’t give it much thought. But when I went to Agribition,  I realized how different my perspective would be if I hadn’t had the personal experience I do. This virtual reality technology was actually allowing people to experience something they would otherwise not have a chance to.  The SCA released this “teaser” video at the beginning of November to get people excited.

The SCA’s Virtural Reality experience garnered a lot of attention, including Facebook posts, Twitter mentions, and a Regina Leader-Post article titled, “A bit of the farm in the city at Agribition“.  The following quotes are taken from the article:

“To show people that have never been on a ranch … give them an idea of what it’s like to be right with the cattle,” said Garret Hill, a board member with the SCA.

“It’s kind of some new technology that we can take to the urban people to show them what goes in a little bit of our life.”

Now, I must admit that I did chuckle at the line, “It’s kind of some new technology”, which indicates to me that the cattle rancher (whom I know personally) didn’t actually understand the technology, only that it would somehow help to give people a better understanding of life on the ranch. From the SCA’s Facebook page, I found pictures of people, old and young, enjoying the show.


The SCA worked with Talking Dog Studios, who are local Virtual and Augmented Reality experts.  Talking Dog Studios are also responsible for the RCMP Musical Ride Virtual Reality experience. An interesting video about how this video was created is shown below.

The SCA’s use of virtual reality to promote agriculture is a timely, local example of the benefits of technology for experiential learning. Was anyone able to try out “On the Ranch”? Thoughts?

Ginger- Experiencing AT for the first time

I start this week by acknowledging that this topic was the steepest learning curve for me in EC&I 833. I realized as soon as the other group began presenting that I really had no prior knowledge or experiences with assistive technology. As I have mentioned in previous posts, the school I teach in is technologically fairly poor, and I have had little to do with assistive technologies. 

The article, Rethinking Assistive Technology by Dave L. Edyburn, Ph.D is a good starting point for understanding the basics of assistive technology, as it begins by defining key terms and ideas that are important. I particularly liked the graphic below, which “dissects” a commonly used definition of an assistive technology device.


There are a few things from this graphic that stands out to me- “An AT device is anything”- this reminded me of a post Launel shared on Google+, in which her husband’s cousin creates tools to allow him to be successful as a machinist. I wouldn’t necessarily had thought of that as assistive technology before. The article also specifies that AT must help a child stay the same, get a little better, or help them to get a lot better. I think this is really important when we consider that AT must serve a purpose, and not just be another educational buzzword. We are far too willing to jump on technology bandwagons without thoroughly considering the purpose. 

Looking at assistive technology as a whole was too big a concept to tackle in a single blog post, so I decided to focus my efforts on an AT that was of interest to me. As a middle-years ELA teacher, I was interested in learning more about the AT Ginger, which I first read about on Teach Thought. My goal this week was to learn more about this program, and to see if I could justify recommending it to some of my students and possibly my administration team (the big downside: it is not a free program).


Ginger is an app that has several features that can help students who have difficulty writing (which in my experience is a surprising number). Ginger can help students who have dyslexia, dysgraphia, dyspraxia, and other learning disorders with writing. It is also designed for speakers of languages other than English, which is a huge benefit in a province with increasing numbers of EAL students.

Ginger has 6 main features:

  1. Grammar checker: this feature doesn’t sound like anything new, but in addition to finding obvious errors, Ginger can also recognize  commonly misused words like “there,” “their” or “they’re” and “to”, “two”, “too”.
  2. Sentence rephraser: this is one of my favorite features, it’s tagline being “express yourself in better ways“, where students can enter their original thoughts and the program will help them tweek it
  3. Translation: 40 different languages
  4. Dictionary with contextual definitions and synonyms
  5. Text reader: text to speech tool
  6. Personal Trainer: unique to each student, it helps them to learn from their own individual mistakes

After learning more about Ginger, I have decided to speak to a number of my students and parents about the potential of getting it set up on their devices. I can see the potential for enormous benefit in their confidence, and the quality of their written work. The disadvantages I see are the financial cost, and the availability of the technology to run the program.

I am extremely interested to know if anyone has had experience with Ginger- please share!



Quizziz- “Get Your Students Excited About Learning”


I first came across Quizziz when my group and I were planning our presentation. We had originally planned to begin the presentation with some sort of pre-test, and wanted to use something other than Kahoot. Disclaimer: Kahoot is a fantastic tool, but we wanted to be able to showcase something that everyone hadn’t seen before. I did a Google search for “tools like Kahoot”, and came up with Quizziz. As shown in the screenshot above, the tagline for Quizziz is to “Get Your Students Excited About Learning”, and in my experience with it, it is true- my students LOVED Quizziz.

In terms of technology, we are not a real wealthy school. We have 2 desktop computer labs (which are booked 3/5 periods a day) and a class set of Chromebooks in a charge cart. Despite years of request, we don’t have any iPads. We also have a fairly “old-school” staff who are more likely to put a school-wide ban on cell phones than to allow BYOD. So our students don’t have a lot of exposure to tech in the classroom, and any/most/all is Web 1.0. My students loved Quizziz, but maybe those who have more experience with technology in the classroom wouldn’t.

When you go to the Quizziz main page, you have 4 basic options: Get Started, Help, Log In, or Join a Game. If you want to try it for the first time and create your own quiz, you will need to “Get Started” by creating a free account with a user name and password. If you just want to see what it’s about, you can browse quizzes that already exist without an account. Once you have an account, you are set up to create quizzes. One downside is that, similar to Kahoot, you can only ask multiple choice and true or false type questions. You can have up to four possible answers. You can include an image with your question, which I found helpful. One thing I wish I would’ve known when I created my first quiz was that you can actually search for questions that already exist and add them to your own quiz. For a common topic like Ecosystems, this was a huge time saver. I made my first quiz as a comprehension check for a folk-tale we had read in ELA 8, and they went wild! They absolutely loved it, and asked if we could do it every day.

A couple of negatives: similar to Kahoot, there is a scoreboard, so there were some kids who got discouraged (but most of it was healthy competition) and kids who are slower readers are definitely disadvantaged. Another challenge is that if students choose an obscure nickname, it is hard to make use of the data. I learned this the hard way, and eventually I told them to use their real first name. The students loved the random avatars and the memes that appear between each question. It is interesting, because what is on the teacher’s screen is not the same as what is on the student’s screen. The teacher’s screen displays a running tally of correct and incorrect answers, while the student’s screens show the question they are answering. Another nice feature is that the questions are scrambled, so even if students are sitting close to one another, they aren’t answering the same question. In addition, you can set the time length for each question, so the possibility to include some higher level questions is there. Probably my favorite feature of Quizziz is the ability to create reports. Once the game is done, results are exported to MS Excel and displayed in a way that is neat, organized, and easy to read. On the spreadsheet, you can see areas students are strong in, and areas they need to improve upon, as well as accuracy %.


Quizziz can be used for formative and summative assessment. I assigned it as homework (an option on the site) for my Science 7 class, and they used it to study for an upcoming test. I didn’t assign a mark to it, but they could use it to see the areas they need to improve upon. In ELA, I used it as a summative assessment for a read aloud novel, and have also used it as a summative assessment in Science.

In my limited experience, I have found Quizziz to be a really useful tool, and would highly recommend it.

If you have experience or suggestions from your own experience, please share! If you are willing to give Quizziz a try, please let me know how you make out.

Web 3.0: Are we ready?

I did a lot of research in preparation for our presentation last week, and I was only able to skim the surface in my allotted time, so I chose this as my platform to talk more about this thing called Web 3.0.

Trying to explain Web 3.0 is not an easy task. Web 3.0 is “under construction” so to speak, and as such I found it quite difficult to wrap my head around this emerging concept.

What is Web 3.0?

Overall, it very hard to define and explain, but I will make these points:

    • Evolution/Extension of the current Web 2.0 OR
    • An entity all it’s own; based on connective intelligence
    • The idea that it is possible to edit information in such way that machines process it and link data.
    • Often called “The Semantic Web” (Wikipedia)
    • The semantic web might be described as an effort to make the internet more automatic and “smarter” in the way it interacts with humans
    • Semantic web is about bringing customized information to the user, rather than having the user have to go out and find it

The Internet of Things

More and more physical objects are linked with IP addresses. This is the idea of the Internet of Things (IoT). 

    • everyday objects are connected to the Internet, allowing them to send and receive data.

The video shown below (although from the European perspective) gives us a glimpse into what our future might look like.


How does Web 3.0 work?

  • Content generated by community: we see the start of this with web 2.0 and things like Facebook and Wikis, but this is more. As more people and devices become connected, opportunities to generate content are endless. So what do we do with that content??
  • “Teaching” computers how to make meaning out of data
  • We will have to “teach” computers meaning, so relationships and connections can be made (the programming of this is touched on in the TED talk we included, but in addition to words, computers have to programmed to understand grammar and logic and relationships as well).  
  • Interchange of data vs interchange of documents
    • Based on metadata → contains details concerning the relationships between pieces of information
    • Intelligent linking of data→ arranging information, classifying, interpreting

Examples of Web 3.0

  • Bing Reference Search: I am not a fan of Bing, but apparently the reference search “shows the natural language capabilities of their semantic technology.”
  • Twine: open-source tool for telling interactive stories, looks like it can also be used to create games, you can post anywhere, use it how and when you want, operated by different people in different locations.
  • Google Squared: Dead, 2009 Google project→ first significant effort by Google to understand information on the web, information was presented in a spreadsheet
  • Google Physical Web Project, “everything is a tap away” The Physical Web enables you to see a list of URLs being broadcast by objects in the environment around you. Any object can be embedded with a Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) beacon, which is a low powered, battery efficient device that broadcasts content over bluetooth.  Crazy!
  • Nest Thermostat – “learns what you like”
  • Fitbit
  • Apple Watch

What will be made possible for teachers?


Photo credit


 Education 3.0

  • Faster and more efficient access to info
  • Search engines able to search for the actual individual user’s interests
  • Extends the network
  • Collaboration, connection, personalization


  • Difficulty of incorporating into existing web→ there’s already a lot out there, plus it involves additional work
  • Honesty of people → authors have to provide correct meaningful keywords; using tags to improve search engine rankings
  • Describing relationships→ not always easy
  • Censorship → the more that is out there, the more there is to censor.
  • Increased privacy and security risks→ it’s easier than ever  find out other people’s likes, dislikes, hobbies (advertisements)
  • Web accessibility, Digital Divide→ as the Semantic Web and IoT develops, the gap between those who are connected and those that aren’t widens.
  • Readiness of the users → are we truly ready for such a seismic shift?

So, what do you think? Are you ready for Web 3.0?

Distance Education


Photo Credit

I couldn’t resist the urge to begin this post with some humour. If you need a good laugh, check out others at Lazy College Senior Memes.

This post marks the midway point of the semester of my very last Master’s course!  As I sit here, I reflect on my experiences with distance education tools and the impact they have had on my learning. I actually have a fairly long history with distance education. I grew up in the very small town of Earl Grey, SK. Until 2004, we had a K-12 school with about 100 students. We were always double-graded, and course offerings were limited. We would travel to the neighboring town for Home Economics and Industrial Arts, and classes like Calculus simply were not offered. We did however, have French instruction from K-6, and this was of interest to me. In Grade 8, a friend and I decided we wanted to continue learning French, and enrolled in French 8 through correspondence school. What a ride that was! The course modules arrived in large, bubble-wrap lined envelopes. Each module was complete with a package of information, a workbook, and a cassette tape (yes, a cassette tape!) to listen to audio recordings. Even though my friend and I were both very good students, this was the hardest thing I have ever tried to do. We had attempted to learn something so new and so challenging without the help of a teacher. We gave it a good shot, but in the end we decided that correspondence school wasn’t for us, and lost the $150.00 deposit we had paid!

Fast forward about 10 years, and I had my next experience with Distance Education. I was enrolled at the University of Saskatchewan and living and working in Luseland, SK, nearly 3 hours away. After a semester off, I wanted to get back into my studies and enrolled in a distance education 100-level geography class. As I look back, not a lot had changed in 10 years. The modules still came in the mail, and assignments were sent back and forth via “snail mail” to be graded. On occasion, I would fax an assignment if it was really close to the deadline- that’s a techie as it got! Exams still had to be written on-site at the University.

After I completed by BSc and my BEd, I began teaching in rural SK. I accepted a full-time continuing Senior Science position and realized I wanted to be accredited. This meant I needed 3 more university Chemistry courses. After looking at my options, I elected to enroll through Athabasca University– well known for it’s distance education programs. Again, little had changed. Course materials (including very heavy textbooks!) were mailed and returned via mail, and exams needed to be written at an accredited invigilation centre, which in my case was an hour away.


When I enrolled in the University of Regina Master’s program in Winter 2012, I was looking primarily at online options. I have 2 young children, and live almost an hour from Regina. That semester, I took one course on-site and one online. It was EC&I 830– Seminar on Curriculum & ICT (*Note: this course has since changed to Contemporary Issues in Educational Technology). The course was online, but it wasn’t very interactive. It was asynchronous, and we never actually met (either face-to-face or through web cams) our professor or colleagues. The course was primarily written communication– hundreds of threads and responses. We even needed to purchase a paper textbook! To be honest, it sort of made me hesitant of taking an online course again!

And then along came Alec… In the fall of 2013, I enrolled in EC&I 831– Social Media & Open Education. Alec had a very different approach to distance education. The course was synchronous, which I really enjoyed, and was much more interactive. During classes, we interacted via web cams and chats, and outside of class we used Twitter, email and Google+. The “vibe” was easy-going, modern, and educational. I remember during that course, we would be able to see Alec, but he would not be able to see us. Zoom has changed that!

My most recent experience with online education is this course. There are so many things I like about the design of this course. Having the face-to-face meeting to begin the course was an excellent idea. I think that as humans, we have a desire for human interaction, putting a face to the name so to speak. This meeting also allowed us to alleviate some of the fears we may have had about the course.  This course meets synchronously, and while sometimes the schedule is a bit of a pain, having the opportunity to actually meet at the same time outweighs this. The other thing I really like about this course is the platform we are using, Zoom. This technology is easy to use, and makes virtual meetings effortless. We have used this technology for our group meetings as well. The one thing I don’t love (sorry Alec) is Google+. I can’t exactly put my finger on it, but it just isn’t my favorite. The only thing I can think of is that to me it seems like a Facebook wannabe, and I just like Facebook so much better!

I would you feel very comfortable teaching an online class, in fact it is a direction I hope to go in my teaching career. My experiences with distance education have made me aware of what I would, and would not, want to include. It always bothered me that I would miss the engagement and relationships with students, but this course has made me believe that this is possible.

Would you agree or disagree that this course has shown that engagement and relationship-building through online courses is very possible? 

Tabs are a Metaphor for Life

“If you asked me the last time I just did a thing… and just did it… and wasn’t also trying to do something else… I wouldn’t be able to tell ya…”

Wow, did that strike a cord with a me! Life is busy, and in the struggle to “get it at all done”, the pressure is there to do more than one thing at a time. But is this multi-tasking helping or harming? Has the Internet helped to make us more productive? Or is it a colossal sucker of our precious time??

That quote is the opening line from the video below. This was shared with us by Alec on Twitter a couple weeks back. If you haven’t seen it yet, it is definitely worth a watch. The guy in the video is hilarious, in an awkward-unintentional way. 


“To be fully present… on the Internet… at any one moment… is a very rare thing.”

Whenever and wherever you are reading this, chances are that it isn’t the only thing you are doing. How many tabs or apps do you have open? It seems totally ironic to me that I am writing about whether the Internet is really a productivity tool or merely an endless series of distractions whilst being endlessly distracted by the multitude of tabs I have open on my laptop, not to mention my phone dinging every minute or two. First, I just needed to finish off my attendance for the day on Maplewood. Then, I needed to update my Planbook for tomorrow (great program by the way), book a sub for Friday on Aesop, check the Weekly Schedule for EC&I 833, research “Tabless Thursdays“, and respond to timely emails. Oh, and write this blog post.

“Tabless Thursdays… it’s when you don’t really use the Internet in a traditional way… you just open a tab and you use it… Tabs are a metaphor for life” 

I must admit that I was unfamiliar with #tablessthursday when I sat down to write this post (anyone else see tables instead of tabless??). Thankfully, a quick Google search gave me all the answers that I needed. Well maybe not all the answers… but 6,210 of them! #tablessthursday is a response to our societal “obsession” with multi-tasking. While the video focuses on Internet mult-tasking, I see evidence of this in all aspects of my life. Our society has glorified the idea of being busy, and it almost seems like a competition about who can be busier. How and why is this a good thing? Articles such as this one on “Why being too busy makes us feel good” show that this issue of busyness is on the minds of many. How do you deal with being busy? You multi-task. But maybe that isn’t the answer.

“Am I developing the inability to focus because I never focus on things?”

The Internet has created a world of ‘multitaskers’ who don’t accomplish as much as they could have without it. Proof- last year I did a 24-hour no technology challenge with my Gr 8 students. I was never so productive as for those 24 hours. No Facebook, no Snapchat, no Instagram, no email. I cooked, I cleaned, I picked up a book, I played outside with my kids. And I was much more focused on each of these single activities. Does this mean I want to give up the Internet? Not a chance.

“Kids & Those Darn iPads”

I was inspired to write this post when I was cooking supper the other night and I overheard my son, who is 5, counting to 256. For those of you who don’t have kids, or teach young kids, counting to 256 is quite an accomplishment for a 5 year old! Now if it sounds like I am bragging, I will say that I take zero credit for this accomplishment. He didn’t learn these numbers by many hours spent practicing or doing 100 charts, all the credit here goes to his beloved iPad.  On this particular night, Jaxon was playing his new favorite game (I say new favorite, because downloading apps seems to be more fun for him that the actual playing of the game) and was scanning to see how many levels this particular game went up to. As he scrolled from screen to screen, he was recognizing the numbers and saying them aloud. I asked the elementary teachers in my school, and while I had a hard time getting an official, it was decided that number recognition to 256 isn’t in our math curriculum until Grade 2-3. Here he was, recognizing 3 digit numbers, without anyone actually “teaching” him. Hmmmm…

As mentioned in previous posts, I grew up in a household that was rich in experiences and poor in technology. I am 36 years old, and I still remember having a telephone party line and 3 channels of television. My parents still refuse to “buy-in” to the idea of cellular telephones, and my dad can’t understand how a person can check their e-mail from anywhere (he thinks it is something like regular mail, where messages are delivered to a specific computer). They have recently got a laptop, but it sits in one spot on their counter. They seem oblivious to the fact that one of the benefits of laptops is that they are smaller and more mobile than desktop computers! So needless to say, there is resistance to technology in my family. Last Christmas, my kids had one thing on their list- iPads- and Santa delivered (literally). The title of this post, “Kids & those Darn iPads”, has been muttered by my dad on more than one occasion since. Fast forward a year, and I am looking at the educational value of iPads in the teaching of my own children.

Perception vs reality and impacts on education:

The perception of iPads is that they will be used (with strict limits of course ;)) primarily for educational purposes. The reality is that they become time-fillers, babysitters, and screens for Netflix! I had planned to set strict limits on screen times, and to only allow educational apps, and I blinked and it all went out the window. The reality is that kids are really, really good using iPads. And they are good at using iPads without anyone teaching them- they just figure it out. In the video below, this baby (not even 2 years old) operates and iPad amazingly well.


The video is a good example of just how quickly, and efficiently, young children can learn to use touchscreen devices.

This video reminded me of a morning this fall when I was telling my kids to get dressed for school. Karlee (7) yelled out from her bedroom, “Is it going to be a nice day out?” Jaxon (5) came running out to the kitchen, grabbed my phone, put in the passcode, opened The Weather Network app, and yelled back,”Sunny and 22!”

The ability for kids so young to be able to effectively utilize this technology has a lot to do with the touch screen sensitivity, something that was accurately predicted by Nicholas Negroponte in his 1984 TED talk. I have friends who have babies that almost instinctively swipe anything that looks like a phone or a tablet.

It seems to me that we almost have an entire society that has become proponents and adopters of iPads (and iPods and iPhones). You would be hard-pressed to find a student in our high school who doesn’t own one or more from that list. From toddlers to grandmas, people love their portability and capability. They are easy to use, easy to move, and capable of so much. Opponents of these technologies, like my dad, tend to be “old-school” thinkers who feel that technology is inherently bad and should be stopped. Other opponents are those that just don’t like Apple products!

This article, from the “What to Expect” people, does a good job of examining the pros and cons of letting young children use iPads. The pros they list include: increased vocabulary and math skills, increased language use, as well as having less negative impacts than television because of the interaction. Cons of iPad use include: children who have difficulty occupying themselves, decreased physical activity, and children who have difficulty with face-to-face interactions. The final verdict, which I agree with, is that balance and moderation is key- even though it is difficult at times! #busymom #longdrives


Undermining or Augmentation?

If this clip doesn’t put a smile on your face, I’m not sure what will! I remember this adorable video circulating on Facebook awhile back, and I knew that this post would be a perfect excuse to watch it again, and to share it with all of you.

Postman wrote: “…We now know that “Sesame Street” encourages children to love school only if school is like “Sesame Street.” Which is to say, we now know that “Sesame Street” undermines what the traditional idea of schooling represents.” The full quote, from Good Reads, is written below. I found it helpful for my understanding to read the lines above in the context in which Postman wrote them. 

“Parents embraced “Sesame Street” for several reasons, among them that it assuaged their guilt over the fact that they could not or would not restrict their children’s access to television. “Sesame Street” appeared to justify allowing a four- or five-year-old to sit transfixed in front of a television screen for unnatural periods of time. Parents were eager to hope that television could teach their children something other than which breakfast cereal has the most crackle. At the same time, “Sesame Street” relieved them of the responsibility of teaching their pre-school children how to read—no small matter in a culture where children are apt to be considered a nuisance…. We now know that “Sesame Street” encourages children to love school only if school is like “Sesame Street.” Which is to say, we now know that “Sesame Street” undermines what the traditional idea of schooling represents.”

I grew up watching Sesame Street, so it was interesting to view one of my childhood staples in such a different context during last week’s EC & I 833 class with Katia Hildebrandt. I remember vividly many mornings as an eager preschooler sitting in front of the television watching episodes of Sesame Street and Mr. Dressup. Always excited to gain knowledge, I loved learning about letters, numbers, and relationships on both of these shows. I  can say with absolute certainty that in my 36 years, I had never once considered Sesame Street to be undermining traditional schooling. So to begin this post, I asked Google what it means to undermine. The response- undermine is to damage or weaken (someone or something), especially gradually or insidiously. Is it possible that Sesame Street had somehow undermined the value of traditional schooling? For me, the answer is no. If anything, Sesame Street caused me to love learning at an early age. I never once felt as though I didn’t love school because it was not like my beloved show. The show, and newer ones like Dora the Explorer and Magic School Bus, educate a different age group of kids, and often about things that aren’t even taught in school. Undermine, no. Augment, yes.

Even though I consider myself young(ish), I grew up without cable or satellite TV. We lived on a farm, and had 3 channels- CTV, CBC, and STV. Cartoons were on Saturday mornings and that was it. Movies? Sunday evening. No other time. I used to love going to my grandparents in town so I could watch cable. I remember clearly one of my high school teachers talking about TLC, and I asked him what those three letters stood for. He told me that it was The Learning Channel. He would often reference programs from TLC in his teachings of Science & Biology. Flash forward many years to when I had personal access to cable and satellite TV. I remember looking at TLC and wondering- how in the heck is this considered The Learning Channel?? In her article, What Happened to Educational Television: The Story of ‘The Learning Channel‘ Audrey Watters essentially asks the same thing. Watters introduces the topic by talking about some of the most controversial TLC “celebs”, like Josh Duggar and Honey Boo Boo. Now, don’t get me wrong, I am super guilty of watching both of these train wrecks unfold, but in what world could they be considered educational programming? Unfortunately, money (and ratings) talks, and these are the things that garner viewers. True educational programming cannot possibly gather ratings like these shows do.

What are the grander implications of the current array of AV technologies, such as apps and interactive educational shows, when we think about the format of schooling? I think the biggest implication is that there is an overwhelming attitude that school should be ‘fun’, entertaining, and game-like all the time. People (kids and adults alike) have shorter attention spans and desire instant gratification. The article I found on a parenting blog Why are our children so bored at school, cannot wait, get easily frustrated and have no real friends? is written by a parent who is also a teacher, and it touches on many of the implications we see in the classroom. Another huge implication of these AV technologies is that Apps and interactive educational shows are also only available to a certain (read: wealthy) demographic of our population. Our poorer, and most at-risk, aren’t afforded the same opportunities.

One of the educational goals of Sesame Street was based on the idea that “if you can hold the attention of children, you can educate them.” While the technology may change, I think the basic tenets of this quote remain true. Thoughts?


Continuing to Learn Something New Everyday!

It was a journey down memory lane when I revisited my blog for the first time in 3 years. Sadly, I have neglected this site since my  EC & I 831 class with Alec. As I revamped my “All About Me” page, it was with both happiness and sadness that I changed the age of my kids from 2 and 4 to 5 and 7, and the status of my Master’s program from half done to 90% complete! This post links well with the theme of my blog- Learning something new everyday.

Life presents us with many big questions, most of which have no easy answers…

What is knowledge?

Can we ever totally understand something?maxresdefault

Why is the sky blue?

How do we KNOW the sky is blue?

What is truth?

What is learning?

Being presented with these questions forced me to (re)consider my own beliefs about teaching, learning, and education as a whole. The answers to these questions, and the philosophies behind them, directly influence my life everyday, and yet they are not things that I consciously consider on a regular basis.

So was Plato right? Is it the job of informed to lead the ignorant out of the cave and into true knowledge? As a teacher, am I “informed” while my students are “ignorant cave dwellers”? Its not an appealing visual, but yet a fairly accurate description of the traditional teacher-centered model of education.

Or is Aristotle’s Empiricism a more accurate descriptor of how we acquire knowledge? As a natural scientist, I have always been taught to seek and accept only empirical evidence, information that can be gathered through observation or experimentation. As I watch my young children learn and grow, I see them acquire knowledge through their senses each and every day.

Maybe it was John Locke who had the right idea and we are born as blank slates, just waiting to be “written on” by those who can give us knowledge?

As I worked to try and articulate what it is that I believe, and how it drives what I do as a teacher and a mom, I considered how it is that I have come to know what I know.

I know my name, I know where I live, I know how to name chemical compounds, I know how to ride a horse, and I know that evolution is the correct explanation for the existence of modern humans. All very different, but all things I would say that I know. Some of you reading this know that creation is the correct explanation for the existence of modern humans. How can we know different things? I know that evolution is the correct explanation for the existence of modern humans because I am personally convinced of its truth. You may not be.  This means I consider this statement to be true. Does this mean all other explanations are false?

When I think about all the things that I know, there are two ways in which I have come to know them- through experience (as Aristotle would suggest), or by someone telling me (more Plato style).

I learned to walk and talk and ride a horse by experience. I learned to balance chemical equations and write APA by someone telling me. I allow my kids to experience things that help them learn everyday, but yet I also tell them many things. Certain things I don’t want them to experience- like if you stick the knife in the toaster you will get a shock!

I am not sure I am any closer to answering many of the questions I asked in the opening of this post, but the journey has begun.

Till next time!