ECI833 Summary of Learning

I’m currently completing my third and fourth classes instructed by Dr. Hildebrandt, and therefore this is my third (and fourth) Summary of Learning project. As I pondered how I could approach it in a unique way, I decided that I would take what I learned from this course and apply it… to my 4 year old. Enjoy!

The Other Side of the Door – What The Future Holds With AI

As I’m currently on maternity leave for this full school year, I’m not using AI in an educational/professional context at the moment, apart from my own post secondary education. However, I have been using it more and more for personal uses, and I’m 100% still nerding out over how cool it is.

Since I’m not in the classroom right now, I haven’t ventured too far beyond ChatGPT, but I know that when I’m teaching again, I’ll be exploring other generative AI tools that are specifically suited for education, like MagicSchool. Learning more about chatbots, however, it seems to be less about the platform and more about the prompt.

One way I’ve been using it at home is for cooking, and man oh man, it’s been a lifesaver on some of those what the heck are we having for supper nights. Being able to ask for a recipe with whatever random ingredients I have left in my fridge and pantry on those scrounging days has been a huge help in whipping something up that is half decent! It typically takes me two or three “tries” to get the type of recipe that will work for the night, but eventually, it always gets it.

Another way I’ve been using AI is for parenting help (yes, seriously). My 4 year old daughter is entering the age of making friends and increased socialization at school and other places like parks and play places. Expectedly, we’ve run into some challenges with exactly how to make friends or even how exactly to be friendly! ChatGPT has been a major help in creating social stories with June as the main character, walking her through how to initiate conversations, ask to play, or how to respond in situations that might not go as she planned. The possibilities are really endless with this one as I can keep prompting the AI tool to generate stories based on whatever situation we find ourselves in (getting a needle, first day of Kindergarten, trying new foods, etc!). All this valuable help…and all for free…at the minute I need it. Pretty darn cool.

Another AI use in the parenting realm has recently been for generating rhyming clues for an Easter egg hunt. I had high hopes for this one. However, I ended up writing the clues myself after several attempts to get ChatGPT to do what I wanted it to do. I don’t think I could get the prompt right, or maybe AI isn’t great at rhyming yet? Either way, after several prompt tweaks here is an example of what I got:


I wonder if I kept tweaking it if eventually it would have got it. Maybe? But at that point I figured the time spent changing my prompt could just be spent creating the clues myself in roughly the same time. It makes me wonder about the ability for artificial intelligence to be creative and if the human mind still has the upper hand with this one. I don’t doubt that this area will improve with time and ChatGPT will be spittin’ rhymes much better than the ones I could drum up.

When it comes to AI, the possibilities are truly endless. Which is equal parts exciting and terrifying. Something I find extremely comforting, though, is that no matter how good AI eventually gets, humans will still crave HUMAN connection. And it will always be an important part of the experience of life. So I don’t think AI will ever be able to fully replace humans. But thinking about the medical and technological advancements it could make for our world for the better is pretty incredible.

Tell me why… I haven’t always done this! – Coding and Makerspaces

This week’s presentation made me think a lot about the future of my teaching and classroom. Returning from a leave is always interesting because it feels like there’s an even “blanker” slate than the start of a new school year. I find myself thinking about what I want the atmosphere of my classroom to be like and what I want to focus on moving forward.

In terms of coding and makerspaces, I have just a bit of experience. I’ve used programs like with my grade 7 students as an additional activity, typically for those who finish curricular work and/or benefited from the extra challenge of tinkering with code. I have less experience with makerspace, incorporating it here and there but not true to its intended form. The presentation and articles this week have truly given these avenues (especially makerspaces) renewed purpose for me.

One of the points discussed in my small group during class around coding was that it is difficult to figure out where it “fits” in the curriculum. With pressure to cover the outcomes and often feeling like there isn’t enough time to even do that, how can we justify coding programs or dedicating blocks of valuable teaching and learning time to makerspaces? The rule follower in me does not  jive well with this. But, as we can (or at least should) all agree, there is more to school and learning than what is laid out in the curriculum. The value that coding and makerspaces can provide goes beyond the outcomes. This Common Sense article outlines some of these benefits of coding, including providing a creative outlet and opportunity and teaching problem solving skills, both of which are extremely beneficial when applied to basically anything in life (including curriculum outcomes). So, in a roundabout way, coding (and makerspaces) are curricular – they help provide and practice the skills students need to be successful in learning outcomes well!

Thinking about who might not benefit from learning coding, a bit of research informed me that the future of coding is going to involve more integration with AI, eliminating the need for as much human input. This means that learning more of the basic coding and programming skills might not be necessary, thus not benefiting students who do not pursue computers or programming further than this basic level. However, students who do intend to pursue careers in computers, programming, software development etc., learning the basic coding skills is valuable and a foundational building block in learning more advanced aspects of code creation and function. We don’t know where our students will end up, so providing a range of learning opportunities is critical in ensuring students have practice and experience in a variety of areas. How can they know they’re interested in something that they’ve never tried?

Over my 11 years in the classroom, I haven’t engaged in coding or makerspaces near as much as I’d like. The main reason for this is honestly time. I often feel like I have to allocate more “minutes” to math or ELA to support student learning, review tough concepts, or make up for the many interruptions that take away teaching and learning time. But I need to remind myself (and will need to continue reminding myself) that there is more to teaching than covering the curriculum. Yes, I know that legally speaking this is my job. Yes, I will do what I am obligated to do in the classroom. But I also want to find more ways to incorporate coding and makerspace opportunities as they allow students to explore new skill sets and apply them to all of their learning.

Another challenge, particularly for makerspaces, is the open-ended nature of this pursuit. I’ll admit that I enjoy order and systematic learning that is clear cut and organized…though in a middle years classroom it rarely ever ends up this way anyway. Letting go of control and letting students learn in whatever direction their creations take them is hard for me, but I know that despite the mess and absolute chaos that ensues during projects like this, I can’t deny that this is where the magic happens. Sometimes it’s hard to see this in the moment past the piles of felt and cardboard and the fact that I can’t see the floor. Having a dedicated area as a makerspace, as the pictures show in this article, would provide a decent “happy medium” I think! Another to think about when I set up my classroom in the fall.

While coding and makerspaces “experts” can help provide valuable knowledge and insight, I absolutely do not believe that it needs to be taught this way. A friend of mine who taught middle school math for many years shared that growing up, she struggled with this subject. She feels like this has been an asset to her teaching now as she can better connect with struggling students and teach in ways that once would have helped her. Letting go of the idea that teachers need to be the “keepers of knowledge” is crucial in letting coding and makerspace journeys reach their full potentials. Learning alongside one’s teacher can be just as valuable (if not sometimes moreso) as having an expert dispense their knowledge.

Call It What You Want – A Look At Assistive Technology

What technology and/or methods have you used/could you use to make your instruction (whether Face-to-Face, blended, or online) more accessible to your students?

As seems to be a common theme this course, I have a lot more experience with the weekly topic than I thought! Assistive technology is not as narrow-focused as I initially believed, including many thing I’ve used in the classroom over my 10+ years as an educator. FM systems, translator apps, word processors, graphic organizers, and calculators are all types of assistive technology that I truly would not have thought of as such prior to this week’s lesson. For this blog post I want to focus on the “could you use” part of the prompt and spend a bit more time unpacking the technologies touched on this week’s presentation (thanks Ilda and Cailen!) and do some exploring of my own.

Immersive Reader

Prior to class, I hadn’t really thought of Immersive Reading Software as much more than the option to have the words on the screen be read to you. Some online texts even have this function built in, such as KidsHealth articles (see example here). I haven’t explored this technology too much, which is a built in feature of a program I use all the time in teaching – Microsoft Word! This article from RRC Polytech summarizes the many features and opportunities of immersive reading software, including some of the things that this week’s presenters showcased for us (text preferences such as font size, picture dictionary). Aside from what I feel is the obvious function of Immersive Reader (reading text aloud for a student who otherwise might struggle to decode and comprehend it) I wondered how I could incorporate it into my teaching in ways that could benefit the whole class. That led me to this article by Tech & Learning. Two of the several ways they suggested use of immersive reader that could benefit the whole class are:

  • helping students learn pronunciation of higher level (or tricky) vocabulary as the words can be correctly read aloud to them
  • using the highlighting specific parts of speech tool to have students quiz themselves (the example in the article was having student first embolden the words from a piece of text they believed to be verbs, and then use the immersive reader to highlight the verbs as it reads the text)

Something I really find useful about the second point here is that traditionally, teaching and learning about parts of speech can be rather… unexciting. This tool adds an element of engagement and interactivity as opposed to pencil and paper work that typically dominates this subject area.


This one is ridiculously easy for me to get on board with since I am quite the audiobook junkie myself. As a middle years teacher, I always tell my students,  of which the majority are largely uninterested in reading, that I was once just like them. I think I read two or three books for pleasure between grade 7 and 12. I simply had no interest, and this was even before the smartphone era. Now it feels like teachers and parents hardly have a fighting chance when reading a book is stacked up against social media, online games, and other smartphone applications. I tell students that now, I look forward to ending my day reading a bit of a novel and often put my headphones in while doing chores around the house and listen to audiobooks. Read alouds and listening to audiobooks are definitely part of my ELA teaching. I was curious about the research behind audiobooks and reading improvement, particularly in middle years. I found this blog post which highlights many reasons why listening to audiobooks can benefit students. Some of the most notable reasons include:

  • They’re portable. Students can listen to them on the go (also why I, a mom of two young children with a never ending messy house, love them)
  • They function similarly to reading text! This study shows that “reading and listening stimulate the same cognitive and emotional areas of the brain and that comprehension differences are minimal
  • They level the playing field. When I’m reading aloud to students who often range greatly in reading levels, a greater population can participate, unlike handing each of them the same paper novel.

Thinking back to myself as a grade 7 student, I did try to take to reading. I had a sister who loved reading and spent all her time in her room with the door closed and her nose in a book. I was on the other side of that door begging her to come play outside with me. I think it’s really common for students at this age to simply just not love reading. And while of course I think it’s important for students to still read and independently decode physical and digital texts, I wonder if sparking and fostering an enjoyment of books is more valuable than trying to force novels on students that many might not get much out of anyway.

Eyes Flirting GIF by Bounce on Giphy

In my search for other assistive tech and my reflection on how I have or could use it in the classroom, I stumbled upon this Wired article by Sara Hendren, and it’s a doozy! Check out this quote:

“Honestly — what technology are you using that’s not assistive? Your smartphone? Your eyeglasses? Headphones? And those three examples alone are assisting you in multiple registers: They’re enabling or augmenting a sensory experience, say, or providing navigational information. But they’re also allowing you to decide whether to be available for approach in public, or not; to check out or in on a conversation or meeting in a bunch of subtle ways; to identify, by your choice of brand or look, with one culture group and not another… [A]re you sure your phone isn’t a crutch, as it were, for a whole lot of unexamined needs?”

In short, the article challenges the whole idea of disability and encourages readers to think about “cultural assumptions” about what the ideal human form is. It suggests that altering collective thinking about assistive technology as more universal is key to developing the best tools and technology for society and claims that “All Technology is Assistive”, which is the title of the article.

Cant Hear You Nick Offerman GIF by Gunpowder & Sky on Giphy

Assistive technology offers the opportunity for people to be successful who otherwise might not be able to be. When I return to teaching in the fall, I hope to approach the idea of assistive tech not just for students with disabilities, but with the mindset that all technology is assistive in some way and making informed choices about its implementation so it benefits as many students in the best possible way.

Speak Now – Assessment as a Conversation

The late educator Joe Bower wrote, “Assessment is not a spreadsheet, it’s a conversation.” Unfortunately, however, assessment often feels a lot less like a conversation than like a series of “objective” numbers and scores. As we heard in the presentation tonight, assessment technologies can sometimes exacerbate this issue, prioritizing types of assessment that have traditionally lent themselves to technology (e.g., multiple choice, scantron, etc.). As assessment technologies become increasingly prevalent in the classroom, how can we ensure that these tools are used to support “good” assessment practices that support high levels of student learning and thinking and that address the potential negative cultural and social effects that can accompany the use of these tools?

I’ll be honest – tangible formative assessment has, at times, taken a backseat in my teaching, at least in the way that DFA (digital formative assessment) is described in this article by Ahmet Çekiç and Arif Bakla. In the frenzy of daily classroom life, I’ll sometimes just rely on discussions or passing conversations/observations to determine how students are doing with their learning. It’s not uncommon for me to use Kahoot, Quizizz or the like to review concepts or prepare for summative tests, but in terms of using tech for formative assessment including personalized feedback, I can’t add much to the conversation. Cekic and Bakla address reasons why many other teachers might also experience the same thing, pointing to time constraints and curricular demands. I’d never really thought about the value of using technology for formative assessment, but it can provide realistic solutions to these assessment challenges.

There’s a time and place for the various types of formative assessment, and success with using DFA comes with finding the right “fit”. While instant feedback in the form of showing students if the answer to their multiple choice question was correct or incorrect can be valuable in some circumstances, assessment technology that can provide near-instant personalized feedback on lengthy written assignments is a game changer! This week’s group (Cailen, Chris and Sheila) introduced this type of AI technology to me using Eduaide.Ai and it looks, quite frankly, uh-mazing.

Canadian Wow GIF By DJ Khaled on Giphy

I was interested in learning more about and from Joe Bower after reading the quote in this week’s blog post – “Assessment is not a spreadsheet, it’s a conversation.” So that led me to this medium article. What an interesting and refreshing take on what assessment really is but what it has become in the educational setting. The article, written by Graham Brown-Martin, highlights a few “gems” from a talk given by Bower (which is included below the written piece). I was fascinated by much of what Brown-Martin included, but this especially stood out to me:

“I would argue that some of the most important things that we do in schools or in life, is extremely difficult to measure and maybe impossible to measure, but that’s okay. Everything that’s important can still be observed and described. That’s assessment.”

Bryan Cranston Mic Drop GIF on Giphy

Bower spoke of the immense need to trust teachers and trust their judgement of how their students’ learning is going, considering the time teachers spend conversing with and observing their students day after day! I can absolutely relate to this and have often felt like my explanation of how a student is doing tells a lot more than the numbers or letters attached to a given assignment or test. Hence, I suppose, why parents are usually far more concerned about comments versus the actual report card, even more-so now that elementary assessment is outcome-based and, in isolation, isn’t the best indication of learning.

So how do we keep assessment meaningful with the rise of assessment technologies that lend more to traditional methods? Well… I really don’t know. And I also don’t know, as time goes on and students move through the grades, how to avoid that traditional quantitative assessment data from becoming most valued. Higher level education clearly still values traditional assessment, and it’s only logical for that to trickle down into high school and even middle school. Several times I’ve had the conversation with colleagues wondering why we do outcomes based reporting in elementary and middle years only for high schools and beyond to use percentage-based assessment. Assessment has a different meaning at different levels of education, and this just makes it all very… confusing.

Nonetheless, In elementary and middle school, I think the key to avoiding the trap of assessment as just “numbers and scores” is to not let it end there. Instead of conceptualizing assessment as an end, regarding it as a starting point for future learning keeps the conversation going. This is, of course, easier said than done, when the demands of covering the curriculum and finishing things “on time” doesn’t leave a lot of wiggle room for using assessment as a springboard to higher learning achievements. Using assessment technology and data derived from it can be positive and powerful, but it should be understood as the start of a conversation, not the end of one.

The 1 (and the 2) – the influence and impact of the web in schools and society

Watch The Social Dilemma on Netflix and comment on how Web 2.0 (the social web) has influenced our lives in positive and negative ways and how this might implicate (or has implicated) our schools and society.

I chose this option for the blog post this week for a couple of reasons. 1, I have watched The Social Dilemma before and wanted to rewatch it a couple of years later. 2, as it has been a couple of years, I was curious about how it has aged since its release in 2020. 3, taking my 4th and 5th Ed. Tech classes now, I was interested in a rewatch from a more broadened perspective on the various aspects of social media and its implications in the field of education (and society). So let’s dive in!

This documentary has a very “doom and gloom” vibe to it right off the hop with the background music and production style, and I remember this from my first watch. I tried to be mindful of this and focus on the facts being presented. And while I have about a billion thoughts after this rewatch, I will try to stay somewhere in the arena of “Web 2.0” and “schools”.


The subjects of the documentary, who work in various capacities for big tech companies like Google and Facebook, spoke a lot about the responsibility or moral obligation of the companies who aided in the creation of these types of media (Web 2.0) to protect users from their psychological effects, especially for young people. This made me wonder, though – whose responsibility is it truly when confronted with a certain vice to not experience the negative outcomes of said vice? If we think about all of the things in the world that are negative or harmful to people in excess – drugs and alcohol, tobacco and related products, sugar and unhealthy food – how much of it is these profiting companies’ responsibility to protect consumers versus the consumer’s responsibility to make the choice that protects themselves? I suppose the big difference here is that today, society understands the dangers of drugs, alcohol, smoking and vaping, and make the choice to partake by individually weighing the pros and cons in some capacity. It is common knowledge that too much sugar or fatty foods is harmful to the body and this is taught in classrooms at all ages. The knowledge and understanding that society isn’t as privy to is the harmful, addictive effects of the social web, or “Web 2.0”. As a society, we are getting there – learning about the correlation between social media use and increased rates of depression, anxiety, and suicide, namely among youth, but not nearly at the same rate as technology grows and changes.

I’m not saying that I think these tech conglomerates are off the hook and shouldn’t be held responsible for their role in altering human behaviour; however, in an educational setting, it is a perfect opportunity to teach students about the effects of social media use and point out their ability to make choices and changes as individuals. The balance of pain and pleasure is referenced in the documentary by Shoshana Zuboff, an important reminder that life is not meant to be comfortable all the time. How can young people cope with the inevitable challenges and hardships that life inevitably brings to all of us if they are constantly reaching for their “digital pacifier” (43:46) in uncomfortable situations? Social media and other features of the social web should not act as a replacement for properly unpacking and working through the challenging parts of the human experience.

Some of the advice given at the very end of the documentary to help create a more balanced relationship with technology includes having limits on social media usage for young people, turning off notifications, removing devices from bedrooms at night and co-creating a “time budget” with children for how much screen time they can have. These are all things that can (and should) be discussed in a classroom setting to equip students with the tools they need to navigate an increasingly tech-infused society.


The shift from Web 1.0 to Web 2.0 took us from being passive consumers to active producers of content, or at the very least, “active consumers”. What I mean is, people now can add to the conversation or simply participate by being present in these spaces. From an educational standpoint, the importance of teaching students how to distinguish fact from fiction is significantly more important in these 2.0 times. Further, having honest conversations with students about the power of these platforms to influence is just as important, as much of the change they cause is gradual and generally imperceptive. While teaching students how to distinguish fact from fiction on the social web is of course important, so too is having open discussions about how fact and fiction can (and does) influence people.

Social media has emphasized political polarization and the followings of extremist groups, and it has made it increasingly easier for people to fall prey to various propaganda. On the other hand, the social web has allowed for sharing of helpful ideas in ways that were not possible prior to the invention of the internet. As a mom of a baby and toddler, I take to social media accounts almost daily for advice or answers to my many questions. At times I do need to remind myself, though, that what I read online is not law, and I have agency to make my own informed choices about how I parent. In the classroom, social media can provide the ability to connect with others and allow for incredible learning opportunities from a multitude of different perspectives, but navigating the depths of Web 2.0 needs to be carefully guided by teachers in order for it to be productive and positive.


There were so many things that stood out to me this rewatch, but here are a few of the quotes that really resonated:

1:17:49 – “It’s not about technology being the existential threat; it’s the technology’s ability to bring out the worst in society and the worst in society being the existential threat.” – Tristan Harris

When we try to determine who, or what, is to blame for technology’s negative impacts, it is important to remember that technology can only do so much in isolation; it’s power still lies in its utilization by people. Tech amplifies human emotion, connection, and desires, all of which can be “good” or “bad”. It’s still up to the choices people make when engaging with technology that determines the outcome and overall impact, and teachers play an important role in helping their students understand the agency and power they have when using social technology.

1:21:43 – “It’s simultaneous utopia and dystopia.” – Tristan Harris

Technology has provided an incredible world where people can connect, learn, create – all of which can be amazing! But online social spaces are not all positive and productive. It is confusing for all people to decipher what is good and bad online, not just young people. Spending time in the classroom discussing this can be beneficial in helping students build a strong foundation to be able to navigate in the online social sphere independently, respectfully and responsibly.

1:25:39 – “We are more profitable to a corporation if we’re spending time staring at a screen, staring at an ad, than if we’re spending the time living our life in a rich way.” – Justin Rosenstein

Remembering that companies like Google and Facebook set out, in the creation of their products, to make money, first and foremost. Users can get tricked into thinking that they always have peoples’ best interest at heart because of all of the beneficial services they provide. Even if creators do believe in creating products following some sort of moral or ethical code, it is still highly important for them to be profitable. Spending time away from the screen, which is proven to improve mental and physical health, is not profitable to these companies. Talking about this with students is crucial in helping them make their own decisions about their personal wellness and quality of life and recognizing when companies’ advertising tactics and addictive features are stealing them away from living their lives in the real world.

Final Thoughts

Near the end of the documentary Jaron Lanier said “it’s the critics that drive improvement.” The shift from Web 1.0 to Web 2.0 has changed education and society in both positive and negative ways. Teachers can help spark major positive change by initiating big conversations in the classroom about the kind of world students want to live in and how to be critical consumers and producers of content to get them there.

Labyrinth – Navigating the Complexities of Online and Blended Learning

Thinking of your own context, what tools for online and blended learning seem most useful/relevant and why? If you currently teach in an online/remote/distance setting, how have you/might you bring these tools into your current context, and how has your experience been impacted by the online or distance format? OR If you do NOT teach in an online/remote/distance setting, how would you feel about teaching with these tools in an online or distance education class, and how would your current context be impacted if you were to shift to an online/distance format vs. face to face?

I typically teach in a face-to-face classroom setting.

For me, the tools for online learning that seem the most useful and relevant are:

A Video Conferencing Platform
This one might be too obvious, but in order to facilitate an online class, a teacher needs a mode which they can communicate with students. This, of course, might not be necessary for asynchronous courses or those with face-to-face meeting times; however, if a student needs to meet remotely with the instructor in some capacity, a conferencing tool would still be necessary.

A Learning Management System
Having a “home base” where all learning materials can be organized is pretty essential for successfully facilitating a class, in my opinion. Even in blended classrooms, utilizing an LMS is extremely beneficial in providing opportunity for students to take ownership of their learning from any place, any time.

A Blog
Blogs can help bridge the gaps that fully online classes can create between students who are physically isolated from each other. Blogs and online discussions with frequent commenting and participation builds relationship between students which otherwise does not exist.

Free Woman in Pink Shirt Sitting by the Table While Smiling Stock Photo
Photo by Julia M Cameron on Pexels

If I did teach in an online, remote or distance setting, I think the biggest change would be the inability to teach students how to use the tools in person first. This would mean being even more thorough and detailed in instructions via whatever learning platform we are using, or including a screencast of myself using the tool, etc. However I went about it, it would have some challenges that are more easily tackled with students face-to-face.

Reliance on the learning management system in a fully online class would increase as in-person instruction and interaction would no longer happen. The importance of communication during video conferences would also be crucial as this would be the only means of conversation and opportunity to ask questions in real-time.

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Photo by chenspec on Pixabay

Of course, utilizing only these 3 tools would be a pretty bare-bones version of an online course. There are many other tools that could take a web-designed course from good to great, including some of these:

Especially relevant for courses delivered online asynchronously, teachers don’t have the opportunity to pause videos they are showing to discuss them or ask questions. Edpuzzle gives instructors the ability to choose a video they’d like their students to watch and to add in questions at specific points, inviting learners to further engage in the material and allowing the opportunity for assessment. Lumi is another tool that provides a similar function.

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Photo by Memed_Nurrohmad on Pixabay

Assessment Tools
Since students don’t have the opportunity to physically complete assignments or do exams, an online assessment tool is helpful to gather information on student learning. As Jashandeep and Honey touched on in their presentation, some assessment tools include Kahoot, Quizizz, and Google Forms.

Engaging Activities
In an entirely online format, the ability to engage students becomes a bit tricky. You can’t set the tone of the environment because learners are all participating from their own locations, some of which might be pretty gloomy, like a downstairs windowless office room, or perhaps just at the kitchen table with other siblings running amuck, making it difficult to focus! Tools like Socrative, which incorporate game-based learning, can be especially helpful in sparking interest and enjoyment in online learners.

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Photo by OpenClipart-Vectors on Pixabay

Reflecting on this week’s topic, I decided to reach out to my aunt, Kathy Grad. Prior to her retirement in 2022, she was a Personalized Learning Coordinator/online teacher for six years with the Sun West Distance Learning Centre (DLC), now SaskDLC (July, 2023). She worked with grade K-9 students specifically, but the DLC offers the opportunity for students to complete their Kindergarten through grade 12 education in a home-based environment, providing supports based on individual needs. I was curious about her perspective and insight on this week’s blog prompt. Here are my paraphrases of some of the (many) thoughts she (very graciously) offered:

  • Emphasis on an initial encouraging discussion about online learning is very important in setting students up for success. Being honest with students that this type of learning is different than in class learning and will require them to find their unique “learning rhythm”. Being positive, realistic and fostering a fun learning atmosphere is also important.
  • Choosing and using the right LMS can be a make or break situation. The LMS should be user and facilitator friendly, allow for needed functions (timed tests, etc.) and be properly supported by whatever device the student is using to access it.
  • In fully online contexts, there should be clear guidelines that are explained in detail by instructors as there is no physical supervision of conversations and other goings on. Acceptable norms should be established early on for forum discussions, blog posts, comments, etc. and reviewed frequently.
  • Online courses are becoming more popular and learning how to be a successful student is an essential skill to master.

As a teacher in an in-person teaching environment, I think the biggest impact for me would, perhaps selfishly, be the loss of standing in front of a room full of students who were physically there with me. I don’t believe the connection that humans can have with one another can be fully replicated through a screen (hence why pandemic lockdowns were so difficult). Undoubtedly, moving to fully online contexts of teaching and learning, for reasons that might ultimately help the student be successful, would perhaps just come at the cost of that human connection that comes from being physically together in the same space. In any case, weighing the benefits and drawbacks is key, helping choose the right path to individual student success.

I’m Only Me When I’m With You – Productivity Suites, Presentation Tools and their integral role in education today

Visit any classroom today, and you are likely to see the use of productivity and presentation tools in some form to aid teachers and students in the learning process. I’d bet that the class is also actively using some kind of platform to store and access materials digitally, such as OneDrive, Google Drive, Seesaw or Edsby. I’d increase those chances if the teacher is 10 years or less into their career, who probably grew up in some capacity using these technologies themselves. As an educator, I can hardly see myself teaching without these tools and platforms. Without them, I feel like I’d be starting at square one because they’re so integrated into the way I currently teach. Truthfully, I haven’t really considered the implications of using these suites and tools, which is worth thinking about due to their increased prevalence in classroom life.

man and woman sitting on chairs
Photo by Kenny Eliason on Unsplash

It was quite fascinating learning about the history of productivity suites as my part of the presentation this week. From VisiCalc to Lotus 1-2-3 to Microsoft Excel to the birth of the first office suites of productivity tools, there is always someone (or something) benefiting from its success and popularity. Reading about the evolution of this tech stream over time was also pretty interesting, especially when it came to early 2020 when COVID turned the world upside down and sent everyone home to work. Businesses that weren’t already utilizing productivity software to collaborate on tasks, or ones that were only “kind of” using it, had to essentially frantically adopt the technology. Cue major opportunity for the giants already dominating the industry. Had Katia not talked about it in class, I wouldn’t have known that both the Google and Microsoft suites we have adopted in schools weren’t originally intended for that purpose and that the shift to remote learning had these companies creating and modifying existing tools on the fly to meet the needs of users. As a Microsoft Teams user post pandemic, I never would have thought of it as not super user-friendly. I did a digital book club with another grade 7 class at a different school and we hosted all of the content on Teams. At the time, I thought it was pretty slick! Now, prompted to explore beyond what programs my division offers and promotes, I’m seeing what Katia means when she says that Microsoft Teams isn’t all it’s cracked up to be for classroom use.

a close up of a cell phone with icons on it
Photo by Ed Hardie on Unsplash

Looking at the suggestions for questions to consider for this week’s blog post, the two that really peak my interest are:

How have productivity suites been integrated into educational settings at different levels (K-12, higher education, etc.)? Reflect on their accessibility for students, teachers, and institutions. How do these tools address or exacerbate issues related to digital divide and equity?


Explore alternative approaches to using productivity suites in education. Are there open-source options or other technologies that could serve similar or better purposes? Speculate on the future of productivity tools in education and how they might evolve to better meet educational needs.

The first question regards accessibility issues and if productivity suite use in education exacerbates the digital divide. Needless to say, six-year-olds and 18-year-olds are not using productivity suites or tools the same way. Students in grade one, for example, may use platforms like Seesaw to take pictures of their work, maybe narrate a bit of a reflection, and even complete basic assignments right in the application. on the other hand, grade 12 students might be using Microsoft Teams, or Google Classroom for the majority of their courses, utilizing cloud storage, collaborative, participation on assignments and projects, presentation software, email, chat and video chat features and more recently artificial intelligence in a variety of ways. Integration of this tech stream naturally increases with age as students become more proficient and experienced with the software, and more is expected of them (with less instruction) as they carry on through the grades. Students who lack adequate infrastructure and opportunity outside of school certainly have fewer chances to keep their skills and proficiencies sharp with these tools, thereby putting them at a disadvantage when they enter higher grades and teachers expect them to know how to use certain tools and not need to be re-instructed. This definitely begs the question – should teachers be so heavily reliant on web based software when there will also be expectations for students to complete work from places they do not have adequate access?

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Photo by Jonathan Kemper on Unsplash

I do believe, as seems to be the answer to so many of life’s conundrums, that balance is key. Teachers are doing a disservice to students if they do not, at least in some part, give students the opportunity to build digital literacy in using these tools to aid in the learning process. However, relying too heavily on available tech within the walls of the learning institution provides additional challenges to students without those opportunities available to them at home. As we are well aware, each new year brings a new group of students with their own unique set of circumstances. As teachers, as we spend the first couple of weeks getting to know our students, we should be paying special attention to the prevalence of inequity and how to plan modes and methods of learning to best suit that particular group of learners.

The second question asks about alternate options for productivity suites in education. From what I discovered in my research and preparation for our presentation this week, full suite options outside of Microsoft and Google are slim. This Forbes article about the past and future of productivity suites supports the notion that these two market giants will continue to dominate, and that other software companies will have the most success proving independent tools that can be seamlessly integrated into the existing software. That being said, it’s doubtful that we would see a new (or existing) open source office suite rise up to the level of Microsoft and Google, especially with individuals and businesses already so deeply entrenched in one of these platforms. The quality of tools that a smaller suite could offer would also simply not measure up, and in the classroom, this would of course impact the quality of teaching and learning. As for the future of productivity tools, AI has got to be the common thread among them. It’s the thing that can do all the things, after all! In terms of how they might evolve to better meet student needs, I struggle to see how any productivity software, no matter how incredible, can meet the need of a student who is on the wrong side of the digital divide.

It will be interesting to watch AI integration into productivity suites and presentation tools play out over the next decade or so. I think what we can say for certain is that it will drastically change the way we think about education and how we facilitate learning.

Undermines? You Need to Calm Down.

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.” In a blog post, unpack the implications of this quote, particularly the idea that Sesame Street undermines traditional schooling. What does Postman mean here, and how might we extend this idea to the broader effects of AV technologies in schools, from the earliest AV technologies all the way up to the current culture of smartphones and the push towards BYOD and the integration of smartphones in classrooms? What are the grander implications of the array of AV technologies, from film projectors to apps and interactive educational shows to personalized devices and tools like YouTube (Khan Academy, Crash Course, etc), when we think about the format of schooling? How do AV technologies change the way we might think about school?

Yesterday, while I tried to squeeze in a workout while my baby napped, I put on an episode of Sesame Street for my 4 year old. She happily obliged and enjoyed every minute of the episode, which was titled “Cinderella’s New Shoes”. It features Lucy Liu as Cinderella and focuses on kindness throughout the scenes and songs with the beloved characters. It’s safe to say that screen time is a point of contention for most parents, but shows like Sesame Street makes plopping your kids in front of the TV for a while feel more… purposeful. This particular episode taught about the letter “s” for “shoes”. In contrast to some of the other content out there, Sesame Street feels like a great educational option for those times that you (or your kid) needs some down time.

Free Elmo and Cookie Monster Mascots Stock Photo
Elmo and Cookie Monster Mascots photo by Matthis Volquardsen on Pexels

As I began to reflect on Postman’s quote about Sesame Street (see above), I wondered what the traditional idea of schooling really means. This Wikipedia page describes that the primary purpose of traditional education is “…to continue passing on those skills, facts, and standards of moral and social conduct that adults consider to be necessary for the next generation’s material advancement.” I suppose also that the traditional environment of school is a room filled with students of similar age in desks with a teacher at the front, perhaps using a chalkboard or textbooks to aid in a lecture about a given topic. Postman says that “Sesame Street undermines what the traditional idea of schooling represents”. With the incorporation of catchy songs, fun characters, bright colours, and engaging storylines all wrapped up in an audio-visual format, I’d have to agree with Postman. If educational content is being delivered this way versus it’s traditional counterpart, it most definitely challenges these original and foundational methods. I can guarantee that if I had tried to stand in front of my 4 year old and lecture her about the letter “s”, it would not have been nearly as well received as it was from the show.

Bored Monsters Inc GIF by Giphy

I think that what Postman means here is that the power that a show like Sesame Street has, which represents any well-crafted media delivered through AV technology, to engage viewers is untouchable by previous methods of teaching or communicating. 21st Century AV references numerous times in this article that AV tech engages the senses in multiple ways, thereby more deeply immersing the learner in the process. So yes, Sesame Street certainly does undermine traditional modes of educating, which simply don’t have the capability to engage the senses in simultaneous ways the way that AV technology can.

The term “undermine” here also implies that schooling or education has a format that is not supposed to be messed with. More historically, education was a luxury only available to those in higher, wealthier social classes, and the opportunity to obtain education was a privilege. Education would have almost had a prestigious element to it since only certain people could access it (if we dig deeper into that idea, there are still ways that this poses a problem, largely now related to digital equity). To undermine, in a sense, would be to take away some of that prestige and exclusivity. As schooling of this nature gave way to public and open education, more people could learn and learning became more common. What once was a privilege of a select few became an expectation of pretty much everyone. And with that shift, plus that of the digital revolution, morphed the traditional “version” of school in a drastic way.

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Teacher Tablet Math Illustration by HtcHnm on Pixabay

This article by REGENERATIONMUSICPROJECT outlines the evolution of AV technology in entertainment, education, and communication. It discusses the transformative power of AV tech to ultimately help more students learn and to help them learn better. Isn’t this what we all want?

“Undermine” carries a rather negative connotation. To undermine something means to “gradually weaken or destroy”. But if programs like Sesame Street have undermined education and traditional schooling, I struggle to see this as negative. Interactive learning, immersive experiences, and increased engagement are just some of the benefits AV technology has brought to the educational table, not to mention things like maintained connectivity when the whole world shuts down. As technology continues to improve, and things like AI and VR develop and dip their toes into the classroom environment, I can also see how the scales can be tipped too much in an undesired direction when wanting to maintain the goal of teaching and learning. These extremely innovative and engaging technologies, while they can provide educational opportunities far beyond what ever could have been imagined before, could arguably distract from the end goal of passing along information, if that is indeed what the goal is.

There is no denying that the development of AV technologies from their earliest introductions in the classroom have elevated learning and continue to do so. Reflecting on my own teaching, incorporating AV tech has been incredibly helpful, and in some cases, crucial, to help students learn. How could I have supported my student who only spoke Ukrainian without the help of technology with translation capabilities? How could I justifiably describe so many curricular concepts without the help of videos and animations? I mean, I could, but… it would’ve been a lot more difficult and a lot less effective.

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Translate Translation by Mohamed_hassan on Pixabay

Aptly put by 21st Century AV, “the role of AV technology in classrooms extends far beyond mere tools and gadgets; it represents a transformative shift in education”. The once teacher-driven approach to education becomes student centered in the realm of AV technology classroom integration. The argument could be made for technology and the digital world distracting from or undermining traditional education in some ways, but at this point in history, it’s evident that AV technology has a strong an lasting hold in the classroom. Call it undermining if you wish, but I’d say it’s a bit irrelevant at this point. I’d argue that a better term to use would be transforming what traditional schooling represents, which is probably due for a transformation, anyway.

Shoutout to Michael and Graeme for the great presentation last week!

Theories of Learning and Ed. Tech. – Not Forever or Always

Blog post prompt #2 – Considering the readings and our discussion in class, write a post addressing the following: Which theories of knowledge and/or learning underpin your own teaching philosophy and classroom practice? How have your beliefs shifted or changed over the course of your teaching career thus far?

I have to say, I thoroughly enjoy being a student. I genuinely love sitting back and listening to a lecture on a topic, and I think this is because as teachers, we are the ones facilitating the learning, and it’s a nice change of pace to be on the receiving end. I’m not even currently a practicing teacher and I still feel this way. It’s almost…relaxing. If I went back in time and told my undergrad self this I would think I was a little nuts. But here we are, feeling like my 2 classes this semester are my peaceful reprieve from real life as a parent of two small humans.

Schitts Creek Crying GIF By CBC

This week, Katia introduced and explained some of the prominent theories of learning and their origins. While I’ve heard of these before, I’ll be honest – I’ve never thought too much about them in regards to my teaching philosophy or practice, but I can see now how valuable this can be as an educator. As I reflect on my personal beliefs about teaching and learning, these are some of my values in simplest terms:

  • Each student comes to class with a unique set of values, beliefs and experiences
  • One size (of teaching) does not fit all
  • My role is to facilitate the learning and environment so students can do the learning, as opposed to “pouring” knowledge into them as if they are empty vessels
  • There’s a lot more to teaching and learning than what’s in the curriculum

How do these fit in to different theories of knowledge and learning? During Katia’s lecture, she mentioned that likely the best approach is to employ some combination of many learning theories in order to reach the most students. And considering what we believe knowledge to be is helpful because it ultimately shapes how we teach.

Below, I’ll outline each of the 3 main learning theories and consider the classroom practices I’ve used that “fit” into each.


This theory argues that humans learn through reinforcement and punishment. Desired behaviours are acquired through conditioning. A relation to ed. tech. is B.F. Skinner’s teaching machine, which was the first of its kind to provide immediate feedback to learners. This was a form of adaptive teaching. In this Medium article briefly outlining Skinner’s invention, Abhishek Solanki writes that “[a]daptive learning or also known as adaptive teaching uses algorithms to give constant feedback, make observations and deliver customised resources which address the needs of individual learners. In behaviourism, knowledge is absolute and doesn’t leave much room for doubt, making it quite a “comfortable” type of learning. It employs a “one size fits all” model in which learning in largely passive.

In my own teaching, things like tests with multiple choice questions or clear-cut behaviour management systems such as Class Dojo are so tempting; they take the guesswork out of teaching and learning and provide tangible assessment data. But how meaningful or “accurate” is this data? In a profession which our role as educators is in part to report on if students reach outcomes or objectives, it is hard not to fall into a trap of largely behaviourist idealogy. Either students get it, or they don’t. This is very “black and white” thinking, however, in a world that is, at least somewhat, inarguably grey.

I do believe things like multiple choice questions or programs that provide immediate feedback (such as Knowledgehook, Mathletics, IXL, Kahoot, etc.) can help students learn, but of course, not everything can be learned through these mediums. If the goal is to have students arrive at the correct answer to say, “8×3”, sure – these modern types of “teaching machines” could help. But do they take into account a deeper understanding of the correct answer or why it is 24? Are there better ways to build that kind of foundational knowledge?

Since Skinner’s invention, with the rise of technological advancements and creation of the internet, educational technology has shifted from individual growth to group growth, thereby shifting the learning theories that technology “fits” into. Fortunately, tech is now being used in the classroom with different goals in mind than Skinner’s learning machine was created for – connection and collaboration.


In contrast to behaviourism, where little attention is paid to the mind, cognitivism focuses largely on how the mind participates in learning and how learned information is stored. Rather than being a passive vessel, the learner is an active participant. The mind is like a computer, where knowledge is stored in a very systematic way. Jean Piaget proposed the 4 stages of cognitive development and argued that learning means constantly altering and adding to one’s schema. In this theory, knowledge is also absolute and mechanical and does not account for individuality. We see this in the classroom with things like graphic organizers and Venn diagrams. It also includes things like problem solving where the learner is prompted to activate prior knowledge and apply it to the task at hand.

Each year in our division, our students complete a writing assessment. The style of essay depends on the grade level. Students are allowed to choose their topic, though some teachers will provide some guidance or boundaries for this. In administering this assessment, we are encouraged to use graphic organizers to help students organize their thoughts. For other essay-style writing throughout the year, I also have students map their writing on an organizer beforehand. What’s interesting is that some of the best essays I have read tend to push the boundaries of these rigid templates because they show creativity beyond what the organizer would allow.

Reflecting on past experiences and recalling prior knowledge from students’ memory is a valuable skill, especially since grade school is largely set up this way. We see this in subjects like math, where knowledge is purposefully scaffolded and concepts become more complex, building and developing as students move up to the next grade.


This theory involves learning as constructed or created by the learner. It involves schemas that are changed and altered through social interactions and experiences. Constructivism encourages teachers to provide stimulus and ask questions, such as through inquiry-based learning. Lev Vygotsky and Albert Bandura were two supporters of this type of this theory, crediting learning to social interaction, play, and observing others.

This learning theory emphasizes the learner as a unique individual, which behaviourism and cognitivism generally fail to do. Of course, this is helpful, since each student that enters the classroom has a unique set of beliefs, values, learning styles, and life experiences.

In my own teaching, I’ve facilitated a number of inquiry-based projects, as I’m sure most teachers also have and continue to do. As touched on before, however, true inquiry, or constructivist teaching, is difficult when the obligation of a teacher is to help students master a scripted set of outcomes (the curriculum). In this case, knowledge is absolute, or rather, the knowledge that is focused on in a classroom setting is absolute. I’ve seen students get so excited about inquiry as their discoveries take them on tangents that they (or I) didn’t expect. And while it is incredible and inspiring to witness students have passion for learning, it can also cause educators to feel disorganized and frazzled because the demands of “covering the curriculum” and “meeting outcomes” don’t really allow for tangents on a schedule.

That being said, I would argue that the most meaningful and memorable learning probably occurs under a constructivist umbrella, where students are the ones actually constructing their own learning. But I’m not sure how this can be married with curriculum in an educational setting.

Free vector stem education model. learning program, basic fields of study, school subjects

Learning Theories and Educational Technology

In chapter 2 of his book, Tony Bates states that “…there is no one best way to teach that will fit all circumstances, which is why arguments over ‘modern’ or ‘traditional’ approaches to teaching reading or math, for example, are often so sterile.” He also explains that “the choice of or preference for one particular theoretical approach will have major implications for the way that technology is used to support teaching.” In this ACRLog blog, guest bloggers Candice Benjes-Small and Alyssa Archer note that “providing an optimal learning experience does not boil down to the instruction method. There are many different variables that impact learning”.

This all being said, just as teachers probably shouldn’t subscribe to just one learning theory, they also shouldn’t be limited to one type or way of using technology in the classroom. This is much easier said than done, of course, as it’s so easy to get comfortable with a certain way of teaching. Providing meaningful education using technology, though, doesn’t really allow for one to get too comfortable, as it is always evolving and changing.

Looking back over my eleven year career so far, I feel as though constructivism has guided my teaching practice the most, but I have certainly employed various strategies and methods that would be considered behaviourist or cognitivist as well. Reflecting on this, and looking to the future, I hope to be more mindful of the theories that underpin how I choose to teach and to think critically about if they lead to the desired outcome or result. Based on this week’s lesson as well as the readings, a combination of learning theories, in practice, is the best approach to teaching and learning. The same can be said for the use of technology in the classroom; it should be used in a variety of ways to best support learning.