What a journey!

I can’t believe we are at the end of the semester already! It seems like just yesterday I was seeing Katia on my screen for the first time.

I have attached my podcast to this post. I have to admit, I am known for always having coffee nearby and a good pun locked and loaded. It seemed only fitting to work on a podcast which incorporated both of these. I was sick when I recorded, so my enthusiasm level was a bit mellow. Either way, I hope you enjoy the recording (along with a good cup of coffee)!

Coffee Talk with Mme Luff

coffee, cup, table

Photo by 6689062 on Pixabay

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With great power comes great responsibility

Peter Parker’s Uncle Ben may have been talking about the life of a superhero, but when considering the immense power that AI possesses, we can make the same analogy. While AI has evolved at an alarmingly fast rate, the aspect of responsibility and AI regulation has not entered the same rate of evolution. You would think that something so powerful, with so much potential for either good or bad, would be heavily regulated by being subjected to strict government regulation in the Western Hemisphere. However, this is not what we have been seeing. Unfortunately, we see governments who are move slowly to create any meaningful regulation, attempting to create legislation for technology which evolves at a rapid pace. When the legislation finally takes place, it is five to ten years behind where our technology is today. The United States, for example, is looking at banning TikTok. This social media platform has been in existence for eight years. Regarding AI, the United States is creating procedures to evaluate the risks this technology could present. Even after the spoofing of President Biden‘s voice and its subsequent use for malicious phone calls, AI still remains relatively unregulated. This is concerning when it has the power to shift political power with a line of code. We do see moments where some are attempting to control the influence AI has on the future. The New York Times is currently suing AI companies for copyright infringement. We also see SAG and AFTRA strike a deal including regulations on the use of AI generation in the film industry. 

A female couple in profile looking at each other face to face in a romantic cinematic scene. A young girl observes her robotic avatar with artificial intelligence

While I have an understanding of the potential benefits and drawbacks of AI, I also realize that educators need to attempt to begin that conversation with students. While my students view AI as mostly good – not entirely positive – there were very few who understand the drawbacks and detriments of this technology. With student assignments, I have been able to attempt to explore these potential dangers of AI with my students. We did this with a simple AI text-to-image generation activity. We explored how quickly we can create images that are seemingly real with AI, but we also discussed the dangers of being able to create seemingly real photos and the impacts it can have on someone’s life.  It is obvious that AI is not going to disappear, so we need to prepare our students with the understanding of what this technology means and the appropriate digital citizenship we require while using it. 

However, AI can be a very useful tool. As an educator, I have used AI to create worksheets, help plan lessons and units, create permission forms, and used AI as part of student assignments. While I haven’t used AI in all aspects of my job, some of my colleagues have used AI to assess students work, create report card comments, and source plagiarism or AI generation in students’ assignments. Regardless of the regulation status of AI, I feel educators need to be educated regarding this technology. We need to attempt to disseminate some of the misinformation surrounding AI with our colleagues. It would allow for other educators to have a better understanding of the benefits and dangers of the technology that students and other educators use daily. Not only would this create an environment where all educators and students receive better education on digital citizenship, therefore, advancing the field of educational technology. This means that teachers would need to continually have a working understanding of the ever evolving field of technology. This is wildly time consuming, and simply not a practical option for most educators, nor financially feasible for most school divisions. 

This ignorance about technology is also detrimental to our profession as educators. As I have outlined above, AI has helped me be a more efficient employee. However, as AI begins to improve and evolve into a more complex technology, educators have been concerned with AI intelligence replacing them in the profession.  While these concerns are valid, education relies on the human connection, critical thought process, and creating empathetic citizens – all which AI is unable to replicate, let alone teach. That being said, sometimes we are reminded of this potential, particularly when AI is already starting to evolve its ability to understand jokes. But the truth is AI is terrible at determining  emotion based on facial recognition software. The consistent fear is that when AI is able to interpret our emotions en masse and interpret the level of comprehension in the room, educators will be removed. However, all technology articles that I have read are arguing this will never be the case. That it is actually political rhetoric and a misunderstanding of how complex the subject of emotions truly is.  However, this future problem could effect some professions. How long will it be until some professions are deemed less efficient than AI and are replaced? AI does not need to sleep, eat, have smoke breaks, sick days, vacation time, health benefits, expense accounts, etc. It simply exists and continues to work until there is a software or hardware malfunction. AI will create a new world, and some of the professions will become extinct, but that does not mean that we will be ushered into the dystopian future of the Terminator franchise any time soon.  The rise of the robot is not on the horizon any time soon. Even if CEOs of technology empires who are concerned that AI will replace them. 

While the evolution of technology has always created an uneasiness amongst the population, no technology has had the same level of potential to displace entire workforces as AI is threatening to. However, in the digital age it is easier to disseminate a lack of trust in technology and exaggerate the advanced capabilities of AI and their impacts. At this point, we keep on asking ourselves “if we can create this technology evolution”. The question really should be “ how should we create this technology evolution” or at least the realization that with this great power comes an even greater responsibility to ensure society is prepared for its impacts through responsible and timely regulation. 

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Oh Where, oh where is my coding?

When we hear the word coding, some people start to think about computer science, long lines of text, and dark dank computer labs. It is technical, detailed, and overwhelming. However, where we are in our profession, and (most likely) our level of understanding on the topic – we would not be in the same realm as this image that we have in our heads. Our students would rebel if we attempted to teach to this level from the beginning. Yet, we are still paralyzed by this idea that coding is so complicated that we are extremely hesitant to include coding in our classrooms. However, it does not have to be this way.

ai generated, programmer, hacker

Photo by deeznutz1 on Pixabay

No one expects teachers to know and teach about Java Script and Python (unless they are paying for that level of expertise). These are specialized languages. Just like any other language, you are never expected to be a native speaker until you have spent years learning the ins and outs of these languages. And yet, we never look at an adult learner of a new language, and expect them to be a native speaker or answer advanced grammar questions. We need to check our expectations, and change our approach. How do you learn a new language? Start from the beginning and build a foundation. When you start learning French you don’t start with the subjontif (unless you are having an immersion nightmare), you start with saying “Hi” and “How are you?”. It is the same concept as coding. There are many programs which allow you and your students to build a solid foundation and some confidence with basic (very basic) coding. These programs are like those really tasty recipes you use to hide vegetables from your kids. They have so many entertaining aspects that you don’t even realize you are learning coding skills.


I know that I was just as hesitant to bring coding into my classroom the first time. I had just been given my computer cart as a connected educator, and I was eager to implement as much as I could that first year. We used Scratch to program Microbits and used (I forget the name of the program now) a 3d building program to print 3d images on the Vice Principal’s 3d printer. I learned a LOT from these experiences. I learned that some students automatically think in step-by-step processes and can problem-solve when they find an issue. I also learned (very quickly) that some students are like bulls in a china shop. They run through everything as fast as possible because they want to get to the end step and play with the programmed Microbit or 3d image. The coding process did not go well for these students. They were the ones who benefitted the most from these experiences. This is because they wanted to get to the end, but had to learn how to slow down and work through each step to get there. This is great advice for them with their studies as well.

After these experiences, I got more bold and started to work on bringing Arduinos into my class. However, COVID hit, and that stopped my crusade of bringing Coding into my classroom. It was too hard to bring in these pieces of technology and wander the classroom to help all of the students with their tech problems. I hit pause and was unable to reintroduce this concept because I ended up leaving on maternity leave. Now, I am mainly trying to survive being reincorporated into the staff (in a brand new building) and attempting to balance being a mom, wife, grad student, and teacher. I am looking forward to the future when I can revisit the idea of introducing coding in my classroom again.

When I started my adventures in coding in the classroom, I would say that I was not the most “techie” person. I am good at working with computer programs and figuring out tech issues. If I can’t figure something out, my husband is usually my go-to for any questions regarding computers because he is an electronics systems engineer. He can answer most of my technology questions. I would have never said I was competent enough to teach a room full of teenagers how to code when I started. In all honesty, if you had told me I would do this when I was in university, I would have laughed. A lot. Loudly. I am not coding savvy. At all. It was the PD I received with my division and the support the Ed-tech coordinators showed that gave me the confidence to attempt to bring this into my classroom (in my 2nd year of teaching, nonetheless). But you better believe that I told my students that we were learning together. I would attempt to solve any issues they had, but they had to be patient because the solution might not be immediate. Honestly, I found my students were just thankful I was being enthusiastic about something other than grammar, so they were patient and helpful. I think they also liked seeing a teacher learn with and from them.

In the end, this was a valuable learning experience for both myself and my students. I would not change my decision in the slightest. I pushed the boundaries of my comfort zone, learned new skills, and introduced a new world to my students. What more could you ask for? Well… Maybe not having a global pandemic interrupt my coding journey. I guess I could ask for that.

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Assistive tech in the class – What works for one, works for all – if they buy in

During my short time as a teacher, I have had a few experiences with assistive technology. Most have not been well received. While I worked with students with ADHD and learning disabilities, the only tools I was aware of at the time was the speech-to-text and reader on Microsoft Word and OneNote. While these are handy in a pinch, they are not the most reliable, nor are they as accurate as other platforms. This is mainly because the pronunciation portion of the readers are quite temperamental and have a hard time discerning French words with an English accent. Nevertheless, I also have experience with more low and mid level assistive technology like electronic reminders (tools that vibrate on a timer), visual timers, fidgets, and digital timers to keep students on task. While the fidgets were a success, the timers were unsuccessful.  

Some of the limitations that I have come across include students refusing to use the tech for fear of being “othered”. While I reiterated numerous times in class that this tech is for all, it never became used in class. As a French Immersion teacher, I don’t have much experience with EAL students. Most students are either fluent in French or English (or both). Granted, this technology can benefit all students, and it is unfortunate that it is not as popular or known about in our side (French Immersion) of the system. I have students who were unable to get their thoughts down fast enough (as their brains moved at a more rapid speed), students who struggled with dyslexia, and those who struggled with attention while reading. Some of the tools shown in tonight’s class (ex. the Immersive Reader) would have been immensely helpful with these students, and with all of my students. Even if used at home, these students would benefit from these tools.

As some of the other teachers referenced, access to technology can be a huge issue. While Regina Catholic SD is more likely to fund educational technology, other school divisions have to focus their budgets on other essential issues. Budgetary concerns will always be the main contributor as to why this technology is not in schools where students can benefit from. Even the free online programs can be hard to use, depending on the internet connection available at the school.   

I will say it may be because I am in the French Immersion (FI) stream, or maybe we don’t have a passionate LRT like Ilda, but I have never seen any of the technology that was showcased today. The Cpen was one of the most interesting resources I have ever seen.  Now, not all of these technologies can be implemented in a FI classroom, but it is important to keep up with new and innovative trends. If we do not remain interested in innovation, a school could miss out on many opportunities to utilize new technology that benefits students. This stagnation only hurts students and increases the stress and workload for teachers.  

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Assessment is a conversation? Or is it solely objective?

When we consider the statement from Joe Bower, “assessment is not a spreadsheet, it’s a conversation”, we can see there is a disconnect between the reasoning behind assessment and its reception. While we, as educators, try our hardest to attempt to give good feedback and ways to improve student’s work; students (for the most part) stop this conversation by merely glancing at the mark and tossing the assignment in their desks without any further questions. In an ideal world, our students would be rabid for feedback and a discussion on their thought process behind their work and where they could improve. However, this is rarely the case. While assessment is meant to assess a student’s learning, the impact of assessment is assessing a student’s success. These are two very different concepts. How did we get to this point? How do we return to the conversation? Lets look at some of the supporting factors influencing the impact of assessment in the classroom. 

First, there is a disconnect between understanding the material, and the mark you receive on the assignment. A student can understand the concepts, but fail the assessment. This could be for multiple reasons: lack of sleep, learning disabilities, problems at home, hunger, etc. Yet, our assessments do not take any of this into account. On the other hand, the student can memorize the material for the exam, ace it, and promptly forget everything they learned. While we recognize that the best assessment is the conversation between a student and a teacher, it is becoming exceedingly difficult to maintain these conversations when focus is being placed specifically on results, and not the learning. The Saskatchewan education system has attempted to address this by instituting the outcome based marking structure in elementary schools since 2010. This allows for teachers to focus more on learning than on results. However, due to the societal structure we have created in the past with percentiles, parents are not satisfied with this type of marking structure, as they are unable to determine if their child is succeeding. Furthermore, recently there has been a focus on the falling competencies in math in Saskatchewan.  The government refuses to focus on the learning in the classes and effective assessments because they would then have to address the failing environments and structure they have created by underfunding education for decades.

Second, it’s becoming harder and harder to recognize the political influence on our curriculum when the curriculum is developed with corporations in mind and assessment tools are rapidly becoming monetized. Education is a profitable business with unbelievable influence on the future generations. Education apps and programs alone are creating billions of dollars in revenue. Production suites are vying to influence the future business of the younger generations by instilling their products in the formative years of these kids’ lives.  It is becoming essential that teachers continue their learning outside the classroom so that they do not fall prey to the ignorance of social and cultural influences by assessment and curriculum. This is difficult when considering the workload that teachers currently have, and when the burnout rate for new teachers is 30% within 5 years. This is only the beginning of the evidence of  how unsustainable the learning curve for teachers is. Not only do we have to educate ourselves and be mindful of the voices in our curriculum, but we now have to be mindful of the voices and influences in our assessments as well.  

 However, these assessment tools are not all doom and gloom.  There is a light at the end of the tunnel when we consider these assessment technologies as possible avenues for reconciliation. It is our responsibility to decolonize our classrooms and provide paths for reconciliation, not only with the course material but with assessments strategies as well. These assessment tools can now focus on the knowledge that students have, rather than the skills that they possess. For students who struggle with reading or writing, voice to text during assessments can still exemplify the knowledge that they contain. Allowing for assessments to have multiple representations, that allow for students to express their knowledge in a more meaningful fashion, only empowers the learner, and decolonizes the idea that knowledge can only be obtained and reflected through exams or writing (all of which are colonized skills). As we’ve seen in First Nations culture knowledge is represented through oral traditions. the ability to record and share their knowledge regarding a subject is logical. The idea of assessment technology being able to answer one of the 94 calls to action is encouraging as we attempt to facilitate reconciliation in education.

While most situations in society follow the concept of “the impact not the intent”,  education does not. In education, it is both the impact and the intent that are important. Teachers need to have intent and well reasoned assessment strategies in our classrooms so the impact on our students is critical of the voices and influences of the business of Education. As technology continues to integrate itself into education, teachers must be more aware and critical of, not only, the material but also the technology that we bring into our classrooms and their impacts on our students both intended and unintended.  

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Web 3.0 – A bold new adventure or a web of danger?

When looking at the evolution to Web 3.0, we can see the influence of this new technology on our students and education on the whole. As Gerstein states, “The Web, Internet, Social Media, and the evolving, emerging technologies have created a perfect storm or convergence of resources, tools, open and free information access.” This concept, while virtuous in theory, tends to be less than perfect when in practice.


When considering the advantages of Web 3.0 being integrated and advancing education, we could see a monumental shift in the way that information is shared. If we were to include VR and AR in the classroom, we could allow our students to “explore” the locations we are discussing in class. As Brianne mentioned, our classes could experience the tombs of Egypt without ever having to leave the classroom. We could recreate the world during different centuries, so people could experience the world as it once was. The level of learning through experience could be irreplaceable.


As we continue to explore the idea of Web 3.0, we need to describe the dangers of decentralization and putting our faith in blockchains and end-to-end encryption. While it sounds safe, because of the community network that is built, there are many workarounds and codes embedded to decrypt and infiltrate your system. There is also no recourse if there is a data breach. Currently, if a company has a data breach, there are backups and insurance which fund the (inevitable) lawsuits for data loss. If we decentralize this information, it is possibly “more secure” but the data breaches could be more devastating; not necessarily in the information sector, but also in the financial sector.


There is a benefit to the idea of teacher-created blockchains and networks that could be catered to the students, providing them access to not only other peers around the world to learn from but also professionals and experts in the field of focus for each subject. Creating a specialized network for the students (which focuses on their interests) could deepen and enrich their education. However, I would be remiss if I did not mention the dangers of creating echo chambers with these networks. As we saw during COVID when people only listen to the subject matters and beliefs of those whom they find interesting and relevant, we begin to isolate and (for a lack of a better term) indoctrinate these views and beliefs. With the increased anonymity of Web 3.0, misinformation and malevolent intentions are near impossible to identify and address.  The importance of a global community with free speech and centralization is that all opinions are expressed. The concept of individualization of global communication could lead to radicalization and indoctrination in a much larger, and easier facilitated environment.


I may begin to sound like a Luddite for this opinion, but Web 3.0 reminds me of the conspiracy theorists who claim your money is not safe in a bank, and hoard their wealth in their mattresses. It feels like the idea that nothing is safe unless you have control over it. Absolutely, we should have control over our data, but is this really the way to go about creating that control? Is it truly safer to hoard your data in a house that can be broken into or burned to the ground?


This evolution in technology and education will initially only be available to those schools that can afford the technology to purchase the materials, subscriptions and professional development seminars for teachers. Eventually, the goal of Web 3.0 is to become less expensive as more and more users become a part of the network, but it fails to discuss the cost to the users. Nothing is free and school divisions’ budgets are not infinite.


This user-driven learner sounds good in practice, but have you met a 14-year-old? They want to play Minecraft, play basketball, not shower and chat with their friends. For many, they would rather eat Brussels sprouts than read or do math. Gerstein’s article has the hallmarks of an intellect explaining what children need, without understanding what children are like. I get that the world is changing and we need to change with it, but there has to be some level of educational foundation for these kids to build upon.  I feel that Web 3.0 has no place in elementary school, or at least it is guided and not entirely “user-driven”. In the end, these are still kids and they need guidance, structure, and routines.

Furthermore, the idea of the educator becoming a guide, cheerleader and resource enabler doesn’t sit well with me. I feel like this is the conservative dream; to create a situation where educators no longer have a specialized role in the classroom, and can be filled by anyone. Even Gerstein hints toward this future, “The educator has more life experience, knows (hopefully) about the process of learning, and has more procedural knowledge about how to find, identify, and use informational resources and social networking for learning purposes.” The inclusion of the word “hopefully” infers there is a place in this reality where teachers are no longer the professional they were once before.


While I can appreciate the sentiments of Gerstein regarding the shift from a fixed to a growth mindset, the reality is that we do have other authorities that we are responsible for. The passive comment of “the learner needs to be central to all teaching endeavours” is the root of our pedagogy. However, we have professional expectations that we are required to meet, or we are fired. The spirit of the last paragraph, while I believe the intention is to be inspiring, comes across as flippant and a blatant disregard for our profession and its standards.

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Productivity suites are producing more than you think

The purpose of education that is discussed in the New York Times article is an age old question; is school a place to create educated and engaged citizens, or is it a place to create workers. If you were to ask the education philosopher John Bobbitt, he would tell you that schools create workers. According to Bobbitt, public school students should focus on skills that they would use in the “real world”. He goes on to state that a rich curriculum that includes sciences, math, language and art are a waste of time. Granted, he is a philosopher from the 19th Century, but his arguments are as poignant as they were then. The discussions surrounding the use of technology and productivity suites in classroom revolve around the question “what skill sets are necessary for the future?” While the discussions surrounding digital literacy do include critical literacy, it is continuously overshadowed by the discussion of technology’s role in the workplaces of the future.

As many people tend to focus on the future, the underlying theory proposed by Bobbitt remains the same. In a world where education is continuously being underfunded and told to find efficiencies, education becomes more efficient and streamlined. The skill sets that the traditional curriculum focused on begin to become less of a focus and more “practical” skills are focused on. The questions we ask as teachers becomes more synonymous with the idea of “how do we prepare these students for the workforce?” or “what skills will they need to be functional members of society (or citizens)?” As if to allude to the concept that function and productivity are the imperative indicators of a “good” citizen. In education today, the argument between the importance of including Shakespeare vs Coding is mainstream. Some believe that Shakespeare teaches nothing, while coding and digital literacy allows for 21st Century skill growth set. Others believe there are numerous benefits (Literary appreciation; intellectual growth by tackling complex, moral, and philosophical questions; Cultural influence, etc.) for including classical literature in schools. Granted, literacy is ever-evolving, but who dictates which is more important?

If we consider the profit which can be made from education, we begin to see the evolution of what is dictated as important. With the introduction of technology in classrooms, the future margins of the information processing powerhouses are astronomical. The battle for domination between Microsoft and Google focuses on the lifespan of the student. With each productivity suite, students will create accounts which are directly tied to the use their services. The hope is that students will become so ingrained with these companies that they will continue to use their services for the duration of their lifetime. Furthermore, this influence can potentially boil over into the families these students will create later on in life. For example, I was a part of the initial launch of Gmail. I now use this platform and have created a Gmail account for my one year old son (for online booking profiles). While my employer uses Microsoft, I continue to use whatever aspects I can from Google. My students also prefer Google to Microsoft. Many of these students already have accounts with Google and consistently voice their displeasure with the programs we must use at school.

Unfortunately, these educational technology policies create disparate situations for students. Increased inclusion and emphasis of technology has highlighted the economic differences between students in a way that no other technology has. While students from affluent households will have access to and knowledge regarding technology, the students from the poorer demographic do not have the same skill set or exposure. Furthermore, the increasing use of technology ignores students’ accessibility to technology. For some, the only technology they have access to is at school. This privileged oversight was highlighted during the virtual learning which took place during the pandemic. Many students were not able to take part due to the lack of technology or internet service at home.

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The past, present and future of AV technology in schools

While I understand the implications that Postman makes in this statement, I have to argue some of its implications. If we look at the media of that era, there were many concerns surrounding “Sesame Street” and its impact on children’s programming. At the time, Mr. Dressup (a TV program focused on simplicity, creativity and imagination) was worried that “Sesame Street” would kill their viewership and label them obsolete. Yet, after the first season of “Sesame Street”, they did not kill other children’s programming. In fact, “Mr. Dressup” remained equally as strong, if not surpassing the ratings of “Sesame Street”. Just because a new program creates a different, and more seemingly engaging experience, does not mean that it can (or will) replace that which came before them. 


The same can be said for education. While the “Sesame Street” concept undermined traditional schooling, the traditional schooling – or the “Mr Dressup” concept – is still essential (at least in this day and age) to the foundations of education. Unfortunately, you cannot substitute the fundamentals of education. Does this mean that we can only use the “Mr. Dressup” or “Sesame Street” concept towards education? Absolutely not. I feel the greatest growth comes from a place where the “Sesame Street” and “Mr. Dressup” concepts meet and work in tandem with each other. The “Sesame Street” concept is dynamic and a multisensory experience, but we also need to work on basics, including the simplicity, imagination, and curiosity of the “Mr. Dressup” concept.  


Nevertheless, there is a place for a “Sesame Street” concept in schools, when used with intention and forethought. AV technology allows for a broader world to enter the classroom and provides a more immersive and multisensory experience. AV technology has always allowed educators and students to explore the world, connect with others, and deepen learning by exploring authentic material which would not be available to them otherwise. As we saw in the short film used in class last week, the importance of library material in the classroom allowed for the students to visually experience a topic, instead of merely reading about it. Today, for example, we are not held to learning about the Egyptian pyramids from a textbook. We can explore the passageways and the tombs of the dead pharaohs by taking a virtual tour provided by museums and universities. We can talk to astronauts in space, watch animals be born, hear the voices of those long passed tell their story, and explore historic documents as if they were right in front of us.


Also, if used with intention, AV technology can be a tool which provides further advancement of students’ understanding of the material. These tools can help those who struggle and provide a challenge to those who are bored. It provides instant feedback for basic skills. However, there are limitations to AV technology. It is essential to not assume that every student has equal access to technology at home. This can hinder homework assignments and the options for students to receive this individualized help at home. On the other hand, for some students (from my experience with middle years) it sometimes has nothing to do with the medium used to transmit the material, but everything to do with the material itself. Some refuse to participate in the lesson regardless of how engaging the tech is.


Education and learning are not bound by the four walls of a school. While the potential learning can be acquired from technology, it is important to remember not to become completely reliant on this technology. This is particularly relevant in schools where access to technology can vary drastically between schools. Remaining up-to-date with technology is hard for school divisions’ budgets. Facing deficits, the first things that are cut are those items that are non-essential. One could argue that AV technology is essential to the evolution of the classroom. However, the reality is that there is shared technology in the school that, while it may be beaten and battered, functions to a level that is acceptable for student learning. Even then, some useful programs (particularly those that are free) are blocked from school devices due to the potential risk of downloading malware/ransomware. It becomes even more dire when dealing with failing budgets which limits photocopying, yet internet outages are frequent. While AV technology holds boundless potential, our main restriction will always be cost.


ransomware computer virus cyber attack screen cool illustration


So, does this “Sesame Street” concept successfully undermine traditional schools? Yes and no. It exemplifies that AV technology and student engagement allow more exploration and engagement with the course material. However, we do see a need for fundamentals which enable this “Sesame Street” concept of education to exist. While all that is flashy is not always the best, it can provide a more enriched understanding of the topics due to its engaging nature. However, it does not completely undermine the traditional idea of schooling. The foundations of our learning and society are still focused on the “Mr. Dressup” approach. Today’s technology (mainly referencing AI) is in its infancy, and wildly under-regulated. Our laws and justice system are unable to keep up with the rapid evolution of technology. It only took one incident involving a major pop icon for governments to begin to talk about regulation. How many other people were destroyed by a similar incident (AI face or voice spoofing), and yet nothing was done? The power that AV technology wields is monumental. Our conversations in the classroom regarding AV technology must acknowledge this and include a significant discussion surrounding ethical usage and legal ramifications.

Smartphone screen showing phone call from bank with Vishing alert message. Phone call scam or phishing attack asking for bank details concept. A classy and gorgeous mestiza woman in a student uniform with bow tie. Serious pensive look in her eyes. Outdoor scene.



Sidenote: Postman was American, so his exposure to the Canadian children’s show was most likely non-existant. While one could compare Mr. Rogers to Mr. Dressup, as they shared similar philosophies, they did not provide the same impact.

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Whose learning style is it anyways?

When I started out into the realm of teaching, I was not prepared for what I was about to encounter. We are taught theory and best practice. However, these are all confined within a realm of a non complex classroom. The idea of differentiation and classroom management are essentially impossible to teach in a university classroom setting. They must be learned on the job. When we did touch on differentiation, the reality of what we would find in the classroom was conveniently left out. They mentioned one or two in a class. My first year teaching I had 7 individual learning plans. The following year I had 10. Needless to say, the theories that I first identified with as a first year teacher has changed drastically during my career.


While coming out of university, I was tiptoeing in critical theory; my main focus was formed by cognitive theory. I honestly believed that we all had a specific “way of learning” and that I should vary lessons and assignments to encompass these learning styles. While it was evident that this was not entirely going to work after my first year, I needed to further research and reflect on the other theories which may better explain and, therefore, inform my pedagogy. I began to see that my teaching was leaning to more of a critical theory approach. While important to understand learning styles, doesn’t account for the underpinnings of social justice issues and the conflict that we see in society and its institutions. As I searched, I began to find the idea of constructivism (not by name, but by description).


This transition to a more constructivist mindset was gradual, as I was interrupted by a global pandemic. It was due to this pandemic that my transition became more solidified. I noticed that no matter the approach I took with the lessons, if there wasn’t a relationship between the students, material, and myself. The importance of the material became moot. I can’t say that this transition has been a complete success, seeing as my students still complain that learning equations with fractions and algebra are useless and they will never use it. However, there are small victories. I have now changed my approach to my classroom material to include topics they would like to learn about and guide them through the acquisition of skills they desperately need (ie. debating with facts). I found that the engagement increased within my classroom (and sometimes engaged even the most apathetic student) once I included social influences, choice, and projects. I am not a huge fan of exams, but, instead, projects where students can explore topics that interest them, and then discuss these topics with their peers.


Does this mean that I have solidified my pedagogy for the rest of my career? Of course not. The wonderful thing about teaching is that you are never done learning and growing as a professional. I will continue to research about theories, reflect on my pedagogy, and continue to fine tune my approach in the classroom.

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The disconnect between technology and Ed tech

Technology, and more specifically educational technology (also known as ed tech), can be a double edge sword. It can be a useful tool which provides enriched and meaningful learning (with a hint of fun). It provides an environment of engagement with material and learning new skills. Ed tech can also be a distraction from the lesson, and provide no meaningful addition to the information being learned. It is flashy, does very interesting processes, but ultimately has the same nutritional value as sugar: none.  It can also be wildly problematic in the hands of those who are unaware of the drawbacks and dangers technology can pose. The onus is really on the teacher, and their pedagogy, as to the success educational technology has within their classroom. As we saw in The 100 Worst Ed-Tech Debacles of the Decade, there have been many well meaning attempts at creating useful technology for the classroom. However, in Postman‘s article “Five things we need to know about technological change”, there is always a tradeoff between advantages and determents with technology. It is essential that not only the developers, but also the teachers, remain cognizant of this lesson.

What I find rather interesting is there are several things on The 100 Worst Ed-Tech Debacles of the Decade list that are still readily used in classrooms today. I have seen (and been sent) many TedTalks used in classrooms, Class Dojo used in a majority of classrooms, emails regarding the Hour of Code, and the use of the “flipped classroom” to name a few.  While well meaning, understanding the underlying purpose is always important. With the insane level of data that advertising complies due to your online habits, it is prudent to think about our data footprint that we create with our students. Not only this, it is important to remind everyone that privacy is difficult to maintain unless you are prudent. Furthermore, being cognizant of the ideology of those who own and run these platforms is important. This can help identify problematic information, absence of specific voices and areas where critical analysis is essential. While Twitter was an environment of connection and collaboration at one point; it has become a swampy marsh land of trolls and questionable morals. TikTok, while connecting the world, has horrible privacy regulations. The use of ed tech (and social media) in the class is only as safe and useful as the user is up-to-date and critical.

At the same time, teachers should be excited about the advancements in technology and their place in the classroom.  AI is a prime example of this. ChatGPT has taken the world by storm, and our students are no exception. What I find important is that we meet the students where they are and not dismiss the idea of new technology completely. At one time, computers were the demonized technology. It was foretold that computers would be the downfall of education. As we can see, this was not the case. However, (and this is a big caveat) while AI is new, it is important to remember that it is untested. The lessons we learn, the ROI on learning, and the implications have not been studied in any meaningful matter. It is important to remain critical regarding its use. As Postman would say, AI is already becoming mythic. We must be aware and objectively critical regarding its potential benefits vs its potential determents. It should not become a main source of ed tech until there is further research on the matter.

As the world evolves, our pedagogy and engagement with technology should evolve with it. It is important to remember that while technology is beneficial, there are many factors to consider before its inclusion in the classroom. It is an exciting time in the ed tech realm, and I am anxious to see its advancements within the next few years.

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