At the beginning of this class I took a look at the debate topics and chose one that I felt very strongly about.  I fully agreed that people have become too dependent on technology and need to unplug from it at times.  Silly me…throughout the class it became increasingly more difficult to stick to my black and white opinion’s about technology.  Namely Educational Technology.  Through the interactions and listening to everyone passionately debate the importance of technology and digital citizenship, I learned that “The Big T” wasn’t something to fear and become frustrated with. It was something to enjoy, use in moderation, and use to enhance my life, learning, and teaching.  So, thank-you!  Thank-you to the people who helped open my eyes and give this thing called Tech another chance.  I was beginning to loathe laptops and Snapchat until six weeks ago.

I was very impressed with the amount of incredible resources that were shared by both our instructors and colleagues/classmates.  There are a few of them that I would like to highlight which were incredibly influential in my new technology perspective.

look up
Photo Credit:

Number 1: One of the most profound videos we looked at in this class (posted by Alec & Katia) was from Gary Turk, called “Look Up.”  This video reminded me that we can miss out on incredible social interactions when we have our noses buried in our phones.  This video also made me realize that disconnecting from technology and interacting with others, can help completely change your life path.  It is an exciting notion.


Photo Credit: Steve Kovach 

Number 2: The second video which had a strong impact on me was “I forgot my Phone” uploaded by Charstarlenetv.  This video gave us the powerful images to use in our video presentation on what it is like when you don’t have your phone and others around you (that are supposed to be spending quality time with you) are constantly on your phone.  It was amazing to see what the emotional impact can be of being ignored or having other disengage from your time together.


Photo Credit: The Hechinger Report


Number 3: Educational technology isn’t Leveling the Playing Field by Annie Murphy Paul.
This article speaks to readers about equity and technology.  Annie continually reminds us that technology itself doesn’t close learning gaps and help students in poverty reach academic levels to their peers in high socio-economic neighbourhoods and schools.  This article supports what I have been speaking about at my low SES school for many years.  We can’t just give kids laptops and assume they are learning.  We actually have to TEACH! Love it!


1970's summer
Photo Credit: Jacoba Urist & Tim MacDonald

Number 4: Hey parents, stop romanticizing your 1970’s Summer by Jacboa Urist.  Jacoba changed my thinking completely when it comes to “the good ol’ days.”  He is absolutely right in telling parents and older generations that we do not need to have our kids experience the same activities and things we did as children, but we need to realize that technology is now a part of their childhood, and we need to redefine what a “good childhood” looks like.  Although, I still say that every kid needs to experience climbing and falling out of a tree at one point in their lives.



I learned that constantly being connected and feeling the need to post on Social Media, makes me look selfish and egotistical.  I have always felt this way, but this class helped to solidify my thoughts. I think it’s incredibly narcissistic to feel the need to plaster your face and life all over the Internet for meaningless likes.  It makes me sad as well to think that the self-identity and esteem of youth is so connected to Social Media interactions.

Now I know that Social Media and technology has gotten a bit of a bad rap through this process, but I want to ensure whoever is reading this, that I do not think all technology is bad.  I don’t even think Social Media is all that bad.  I just think that it has the potential to create problems.  Just like abusing food, caffeine, unhealthy exercise, etc. all can be.  It comes with moderation and education.  And when I say moderation, I don’t mean time lines. I mean using technology when it is appropriate, for enhancing your experiences and learning, and when you are not supposed to be engaging in meaningful time with people who are physically present.  Because let’s be honest, Buzzfeed makes some hilarious videos (Men try women’s halloween costumes), but I shouldn’t be watching those videos when I should be playing with my weiner (puppy that is).


Photo Credit: Janelle Howlett


Thanks for reading.  Have a wonderful summer friends and put down those phones lest you get this guys tan!

Photo Credit: EMGN @  (22 Hilarious Cartoons that prove just how addicted to technology we really are)



Education and corporate ownership. Am I going to have to check “education prices” like I check oil prices?

Photo credit: (Buy it here) & Pranic Princess @ WordPress

“Deliverology.” What a load of crap!

Michael Barber needs a reality check about education.  Obviously, the article “For Pearson, Common Core is for Profit” – Nicholas Tampio struck a chord with me this week.  I read, mouth agape, through the entire article as Pearson Education and Michael Barber turned more from an educational business to a cult with every line that I read.

Barber published a book saying that we need to reject Pearson’s stranglehold on education, and yet offers “Deliverology” as a suggestion.  Deliverology, which states that we need standardized tests (metrics),”a field guide — or a battle plan — showing education reformers how to push ahead through all resistance and never have second thoughts.” AND this program also “instructs leaders how to respond to common excuses from people who object to education reform” and tells “reformers to stick with their plans but acknowledge the emotional argument of opponents: “I understand why you might be angry; I would not enjoy this if it were happening to me either.” Sounds like we are moving from one type of Kool Aid to another.  He talks about how we need to move away from Pearson and towards Deliverology.  Which is not actually changing who controls education, but changing who we pay our money too to change education!

free educationPhoto Credit: European Students Union

Education is a public commodity.  We are not directly charging students to come to our schools (unless you are private or charter), and we are offering the best education possible in tumultuous times.  Pearson Education is making money because it offers standardized testing and materials to school boards who are supporting and following government measures to use standardized testing as a means to measure student, teacher and school success.  The argument shouldn’t be about selling our educational souls to corporations, but why we believe that standardized testing is actually telling us how we are doing.

Standardized Testing is an issue which has been on the forefront of educational discussions for many years, and I imagine it will continue to be discussed.  What I want to know is, how do we really “know” how well our students are doing?  There are so many variables, exemptions and inconsistent standards that are involved with the testing, I personally don’t think it measures anything but how a teacher prepared their students for the exam and how well students can write these types of exams.  It doesn’t show their skill sets or critical thinking, it shows how well the students can follow instructions and give the moderator what they are looking for.

I have many issues with standardized testing as it also doesn’t measure growth in literacy and numeracy.  It measures how well students do on the same exam from the beginning to the end of the year, but it does not show from year to year how well students are doing if they are continually failing the exam.  Let me give you an example.  The school that I have been teaching at for the past seven years has incredible societal issues not seen in the “average” high school.  We have extreme poverty, addictions to drugs and alcohol, major gang and crime involvement, teenage deaths, teenage pregnancy and incredibly low literacy and numeracy rates.  All the standardized exams tell us is that we continually underperform.  What they don’t show is how a student in grade 9 has gone from a grade 3 reading level to a grade 6 reading level in one year.  Or how a student in grade ten who has never read a chapter book, can now read at grade level and is loving literature.  That is growth!  In the article “Pearson Education – Who are these people?” by Alan Singer, he discusses how some states are underperforming, however, these states are anti-union states.  This means that teachers have little job security or protection, therefore, their scores were used as a way to fire and hire other “better performing” teachers. This is ridiculous.  It is incredibly foolish to believe that Teacher Assessment evaluations be done by a third party company, who has absolutely no previous relationship or knowledge of teachers.  Teachers will work hard if they are supported, encouraged, complimented, and working as a team.  Scores on a standardized exam do not equate to solely student performance.  There are many factors which can influence success.

standardized test

Photo credit: The Forever Theme

Take graduation rates for example.Our school has a very high transciency rate as well, which always shows that we underperform for provincial graduation levels.  However, we are constantly putting out 70% or higher graduates but because they transferred from another school during their high school career, the data shows that we “failed.”  Reality check: Saskatchewan graduation rates have never been higher than 75.6% and yet our goal says over 85% by 2020 for on-time graduates and 65% First Nations and Metis students on time by June 2020.   Are they nuts!  We are facing more economic, political, and social issues than ever before.  Let’s make better goals.  Let’s talk about students moving reading levels, or student attendance markedly increasing (without a stupid final exam incentive), and how we are engaging students in meaningful learning geared towards future success and not standardized success.  Graduation is a final goal, but should not be the only goal.  We need to prepare students with excellent linguistic, mathematics, science, health/nutrition/exercise, social, technological, artistic and citizenship skills.  Goals should be built around building and adding to a positive society versus “just graduating.”

The Ministry of Education has a big plan including HOSIN’s, but that plan has many flaws.  (I know I’m a digressing but it has to be addressed).  The overall plan has so many goals that the educational sector could not possibly complete with excellence, let alone actually attempt all of the changes.  The Ministry wants exceptionally high numbers of children reading at or above grade levels, graduation rates which are 10-35% higher than current, and “high impact reading assessment, instruction and intervention strategies and parity between First Nations and Non-First Nations students in Tell Them From Me responses in regards to positive relationships at school.”  Again I ask, are they nuts?   How are we supposed to be achieving these goals with massive budget cuts, the loss of educational assistants, decrease in educational technology and programming, cuts to elective classes? If Pearson Education has an answer for this and can save the current state of education in Saskatchewan, then I say sell it!  Sell it all!  Because I am all out of ideas and I’m not getting enough supports or opportunities to figure out the answers any more!


Let’s face it, if there is money to be made in education, from vending machines and scoreboards to textbooks and standardized exams, someone is going to find a way to make it.  I think we as educators, politicians, professors, parents and students, have to argue that the goals and focus on education needs to stop being such a global and wide sweeping focus on data and numbers, and a focus on our actual individual students.  Are we teaching reading? Are we teaching writing? Are our students becoming successful and contributing members of society?  Are we graduating students who can perform at their jobs and are competent workers?  Are we helping change social justice in the world?  If so, then we are being successful.  If not, then we have some work to do.  And a damn exam isn’t going to show me that!

Imagine what we could actually get done in the classroom if we didn’t have to prep, administer and grade all those exams?aint nobody



Thanks for reading,


Photo credit: Turtle Boy


How do we determine what a “good childhood” looks like?

When I was a child, we were outside for the majority of the day.  Rain, snow, sleet, sunshine.  (Living in Saskatchewan we could have all of those things in one day), but the point is, my childhood was spent outdoors.  We rode bikes, played street hockey in all seasons, swam, and learned new skills like skiing, camping, hiking, and picking berries.  We climbed trees, fell out of them, and did it all over again.  We scraped our knees, got slivers, and ran away from mean neighbourhood dogs.  My childhood also included interactions with my extended family.  Weekends at Grandma and Grandpa’s lake cabin, sick days at my aunt’s house, tubing with my uncles and water balloon fights with my cousins.  Sounds like fun, doesn’t it?  At school however, I was bullied.  Not just name calling, but physical confrontations, people throwing objects at me, swearing at me, laughing at me, and always making fun of my family because we didn’t have money and material goods.  I was also bullied heavily for my curly hair.  Hair that always makes the “biggest” impression.

The bullying was so bad that my parents considered moving schools multiple times.  But I wanted to persevere.  I wanted to show people that good grades, athletic ability, and being talented was more important than looks and money. But I was wrong… The bullying continued into high school and I can honestly say they were the worst years of my life so far.  It was also in high school when we got our first computer and I was able to go online to MSN Chat and ICQ.  You see, in elementary school, without technology, I could escape the treatment.  I could leave school and go home to be with my family and forget about my troubles until the next day.  But in high school, the bullying was constant.  I not only got messages of hate, but I would get pictures asking me to kill myself or showing me getting hit by a bus.  I was called every name in the book and it ruined every shred of self-esteem I ever had.  The truth is; technology made it worse.  I thought I could be someone different online, but it turns out, others chose who I would be online.  A victim… again.

I tell you this story not for pity or for self-indulgent means but I personally experienced that the inability to disconnect from technology ruined years of my life and it has given me the ability to empathize with teens and others who are struggling with the same challenges.  Technology is creating an environment where everyone chooses to be exposed and open online.  Kids are going online earlier (as young as 8 in a UK study), and they are being exposed to a plethora of experiences which is critically altering what GenXer’s and Millennials believe a childhood should look like.  Anthony  from “Debunking the myth that children don’t have real childhoods” explains that childhood development is the same whether it’s playing Xbox or playing Under a Sycamore Tree.  I strongly disagree.  While adults tend to sensationalize their childhoods and believe that children should have similar experiences, the argument I suggest extends to the potential of technology and the Internet running childhood.  A childhood from thirty years ago can look similar to today, however, our children are constantly bombarded by marketing, social media, internet apps, sites, etc. and are being exposed to more information and images than ever before.  The choice is whether they engage in this or not.

Rebecca Sweat, in the article “Whatever Happened to Childhood?” quotes David Elkind as suggesting “our society is compressing childhood more and more to where children are not children for very long,” “Children are under tremendous pressure to ‘be mature’ and to ‘grow up’ when they have not had the chance to develop emotional maturity.” Socially, mentally, emotionally, children are not experiencing levels of development on pace as suggested by Theories in Psychology such as Freud, Piaget, and Erikson because they are being exposed to overly adult driven advertising for “clothing, entertainment and other products being marketed today to young children.” “As a result, children in the 8- to 12-year-old age bracket are becoming more like teenagers, leaning more and more toward teen styles, teen attitudes and teen behavior.” (Elkind, 2015) Children are being exposed to overtly sexual teenage characters in television, in music, movies, clothing lines, and their favourite celebrities.  Just look at Lindsay Lohan or Miley Cyrus and tell me that being forced to grow up fast hasn’t caused them issues?

Photo Credit: &

Children do not also know how to objectively view this type of media and marketing.  They don’t understand that sexual images are not impacting them, or clothing ads with adult styled clothes for kids is not ok.  Children also do not understand that their favourite movie and tv characters are years older than their characters.  This lack of critical thinking is not the fault of the children; it’s the exploitation of the companies.  And it’s disgusting.  Randi Zuckerberg in the article “Kid Complicated: Childhood Isn’t What It Used To Be” suggests that “children now live in three worlds: the real world, the imaginary world, and now, more increasingly, the virtual/mobile screen world.”  There is no separation.  No going home and getting away from the negative.  No unplugging and relaxing or forgetting about what they saw.

In addition to over exposure, Doherty discusses the implications with over scheduling children.  It’s ok for kids to have down time.  It’s ok for kids to go outside and play.  I think that some parents think that children should be involved in many activities as they think it will give them a leg up over other children, but as we learned with Montessori, it’s not always the case.  Children learn by social interactions that are unstructured.  Play time and make-believe is essential to healthy childhood development.  If it wasn’t, parenting books would be telling parents to hand your bored kids IPads instead of showing you a million crafts and activities from Pinterest.

There is no surprise then with overexposure, overscheduling, being pushed to grow up too fast, picking up the household slack for working families, and not being able to disconnect, that we see many experiencing mental and physical health issues.  “Children who are rushed to grow up before they are ready or who have too many “adult level” pressures put on them may develop stress-related health problems such as nervousness, hyperactivity, eating and sleeping disorders, and headaches and stomach problems. Children in self-care are at an increased risk for social and behavioral problems, academic and school adjustment problems, teen pregnancy, smoking, and drug and alcohol abuse.” (Sweat, 2004)  This is visible through psychological development stages as well.  Children who do not fully develop through the Freud, Erikson and Piaget’s stages will experience social, mental, psychological challenges.  If you do not interact with peers, you do not learn problem solving, communication, and interaction.

Caroline Knorr suggests five “Reasons You Don’t Need to Worry About Kids and Social Media.”  Those include the building of friendships, offers sense of belonging, provides genuine support, helps kids express themselves, and let’s kids do good things.  I agree with Caroline, but I also suggest that all of these things can be negative too.  Social Media can ruin relationships and friendships, isolate kids from others, kids suffer depression and anxiety because they are lonely or bullied, let’s kids express themselves by breaking down social relationships that are face to face or with their parents, children may also express themselves with major life long consequences or to online predators or on dangerous sites, and kids can do just as many bad as good things online.  It’s about balance and education.  Kids need to know that they are supported both online and offline.  That their friendships are genuine outside of social media and technology, and that they can express themselves and do good outside of the cyber world.  I’m not suggesting to technology cannot do good, and I’m not suggesting that it is the root of all evil.  But it takes a lot of education, practice, and good parenting to help make technology enhance childhood, instead of impede it.

Bottom line, kids need to be kids.  It doesn’t mean that they need to play the same games or do the same activities as we did as children, but as parents, we need to be aware of how much screen time and what our children are viewing can affect their health and development.





Technology does not equal education.

WOW!  I was left absolutely speechless with the debates this week.  Great job teams!  The topics of technology and equity and technology and childhood development were debated incredibly well with not only educated research but also passion.  Congrats!

Now it’s time for my two cents…

I found myself gaining the same passion I saw in the presentations this week as I was reading the articles and watching the prep videos by Alec and Katia.  One article in particular got my skin crawling in relation to technology and literacy.  John Ward, authour of Digital Technology is a Game Changer for Education Worldwide, quoted the  British tech investor and founder of e-learning company Epic Group, Duncan Clark saying “that mobile phones will be “the single most important factor in increasing literacy on the planet.” As he explains, “Every child is massively motivated to learn to text, post and message on mobiles. The evidence shows that they become obsessive readers and writers through mobile devices.”

WHAT?  Just let that statement sink in for a moment and as educators let’s talk literacy and technology.  I would argue that literacy levels are being negatively affected by technology in many cases.  Texting, posting and messaging does not equate proper language development and skills.  What is this man thinking?  Students do not learn how to effectively use proper spelling, grammar, punctuation, etc. through texting their friends.  What they learn is how to insert abbreviations into their homework.  Right? LOL, BRB, LMAO, OMG, ROTFL, WYA, C U Min.

shakespeare Photo Credit: Sana Sattani – Is texting killing the language?

Student literacy levels may increase if students are using programs that help with language semantics, spelling, grammar and more, but I strongly disagree with raising literacy rates due to “curious mobile device users.”  SMS language is teaching us something though.  The ability to decode. Which, will be extremely important for the next generation of workers who will be decoding want ads often because they do not have proper literacy skills to make a resume or have the communication skills to keep a job.

In addition to commenting on literacy rates, John Ward, also quotes Andrew Dunnett, director of the Vodafone Foundation about technology and equity.  Dunnett states that “there are over 50 million refugees and displaced people worldwide,” writes Dunnett. “Half of the world’s refugees are under the age of 18 and are displaced from their homes for an average of 17 years with little or no access to education.”  The Vodafone Foundation has created a project for 15,000 student in Kenya which they call a “school in a box.” This school gains laptops and tablets with educational programs pre-installed for the kids.  While I love the idea that there are foundations that are trying to better communities who are socio-economically struggling, I find it a disservice to people who are in refugee camps or third world countries to send technology instead of aid or materials to help with aid.

Photo Credits: Boston Review – Kentaro Toyama – Can Technology end Poverty?, The Rosetta Foundation and Bill Leak 

You may disagree; and I hope you do.  However, maybe instead of laptops and IPads, we send water bins, agricultural materials, infrastructure materials, and teach children and families in these countries how to survive and rebuild versus play spelling and number games? held a talk discussing Immigration, World Poverty and Gumballs.  The speaker talked about how constantly removing the best and brightest from struggling countries actually causes more poverty and inequity in countries and what we should be doing is helping people rebuild and re-establish their homes, businesses, education centres, and lives in home countries.  We cannot simply hand a child a computer and expect them to survive.  We need to teach them the skills to thrive, grow, think, and live, not surf.  Internet may be a basic human right, but it doesn’t mean we all need it.  What we need is proper food, clean drinking water, access to affordable health care and medical treatment, human rights, employment, positive family units, safety and security.

Sunny Freeman with Huffington Post in the article Canada’s Digital Divide Persists, CIRA Report, explains that “in remote northern communities, the digital gap is even more pronounced. Canadians in Nunavut, a region with just 36,000 residents spread across a landmass nearly three times the size of Texas, have the worst levels of connection. Only 27 per cent of communities in that territory have internet access.”  Annie Murphy Paul in Educational Technology Isn’t Leveling the Playing Field explains that “while technology has often been hailed as the great equalizer of educational opportunity, a growing body of evidence indicates that in many cases, tech is actually having the opposite effect: it is increasing the gap between rich and poor, between whites and minorities, and between the school-ready and the less-prepared.”  However, as research shows, the gap is actually widening due to the Matthew Effect.  The Matthew Effect sees early skills and knowledge multiplying and growing over time.  This Effect means that students who all get a laptop at the same time do not learn and will not development with the same skills and knowledge.  It is the knowledge and skills that the students have coming to the laptop or technology that will help develop over time.  “Slogans like “one laptop per child” and “one-to-one computing” evoke an appealingly egalitarian vision: If every child has a computer, every child is starting off on equal footing. But though the sameness of the hardware may feel satisfyingly fair, it is superficial. A computer in the hands of a disadvantaged child is in an important sense not the same thing as a computer in the hands of a child of privilege.”  As Sean Coughlan (2015) writes, “computers do not improve pupil results.”

I love the quote “Education is still the key to eliminating gender inequities, to reducing poverty, to creating a sustainable planet, and to fostering peace. And in a knowledge economy, education is the new currency by which nations maintain economic competitiveness and global prosperity. …Closing the achievement gap and closing the opportunity gap is the civil rights issue of our generation” by US Secretary of Education, 2010, Arne Duncan, as it succinctly states that Education is key NOT technology.  We as a society need to stop believing that technology can save everything, and we need to remember that education comes in many forms and by educating people, we can solve problems.  Educators and politicians and educational planners need to stop believing that Educational Technology is “the fix” as Aubrey Waters explains.  “Education technology will close the achievement gap; education technology will close the opportunity gap. Education technology will revolutionize; education technology will democratize.” (Aubrey Waters, 2015)

“And yet the dominant narrative – the gospel, if you will – about education and, increasingly education technology, is that it absolutely is “the fix.” – Audrey Waters, 2015

This returns to our debate about teaching students skills that can be Googled.  We need to stop simply relying on technology to educate and assume that technology = education.  Technology does not equal education.  We see time and again that technology is creating a wider gap and creating more inequity than ever before.   Education is enhanced by technology and technology is enhanced by education, but they are not synonymous.  All children and citizens have a right to basic knowledge and skills to survive and thrive in their environments.  This means teaching kids how to cook, clean, sew, fix basic mechanics (ie: change oil, change a tire/battery/wiper blades), pay bills, do taxes, use maps, and the list continues.  Just because someone can Google HOW to do it, does not mean they CAN do it.  Clearly I am incredibly passionate about this, but our developing world has placed too much emphasis on technology in education and we forget that there are skills that Google won’t always be around to teach.

Remember, having technology does not automatically make you smarter.  Knowing how to use it, makes you smarter.  But in the case of the lady below, all may be lost…

yellowstone dumb

Photo Credit: Drew Salisbury – Dumb Yellowstone tourist can’t stop taking selfies with bison, getting gored. 


Well, TTFA,  2DLoo and TTFN,



To post or not to post? That is the question…

Facebook diary

Photo Credit: Pinterest @ Someecards

I found this week it was difficult to talk about the topic of sharing online, because it encompasses so many different avenues.  Sharing as a parent, sharing as a child/teen/adult, sharing as a teacher, sharing as a student, sharing as an animal (which, I would argue Crusoe the celebrity dachshund has an amazing life according to his blogs and videos and he always posts with upstanding citizenship).


However, I want to focus on teaching students and adults how to think before they post.

There is a growing sense in our world that people only stay in contact via pictures posted online. “If I show you my vacation, I feel like you know what’s going on in my life and we don’t need to actually talk.” But I also find that posting online has become a platform for people to express their political/economic/social views without actually having to “show their work” (as a teacher would say) or back up their opinion.  I can completely understand and respect someone who states an opinion online with sufficient arguments and information.  However, I cannot stand someone who posts a Confederate Flag with the saying “Redneck Pride” and nothing else.  I digress…

Digital citizenship has become a thorn in the sides of many educators and parents.  It is almost as fun to teach students about digital citizenship as it is completing your WHMIS training every three years for the public school system.   But it is our duty as parents and educators to step up and accept responsibility for educating young children and teens about positive digital spaces and sharing.

I have attached a great video for younger children to help them think before they post.  It’s from a company on YouTube YouTube called FlocabularyFlocabulary, and it talks about oversharing and ten rules for posting online.  Check it out.


Photo Credit: FlocabularyFT

There are many things that we as parents and educators can do to help develop digital citizenship.

  1. We need to talk to our kids (our own or our students) about posting positive information online which ADDS to the Internet.  Think: Do people really need to know what I’m doing every five minutes?
  2. We need to have a conversation about the image we put out in the world.  Think: What would my Mom/Grandma/Employer think about this picture or post.
  3. We need to think about our safety and the safety of others.  This includes turning location services off on our devices, not telling people where we are headed, with whom and what time, and stop posting holiday pictures and statuses WHILE YOU ARE AWAY.  Hello robbers, there is an empty house right down the street!  As a parent I would be mortified if my child was telling the world we weren’t home and wouldn’t be for days.
  4. We need to have the conversation about respect for others.  This includes being a teacher/parent/friend etc.  How would someone else feel about being in your picture or information?  This can also be a safety concern as well.
  5. Think before you post.  This will be online forever and with increasing technologies, even your privacy settings may not save you.  So think before you post the shot of your shenanigans online.  🙂

I want to leave you with one of my favourite TV shows, The Simpsons!

Check our Season 27 Episode 10.  (I would post it if I could, but Fox would hunt me down)

This episode sees Lisa Simpson learning how to write code with a group of women (and one “token man”) and they create an app which previews your online posts before you post them and tells you what the consequence would be for posting it.  Then users get to chose to post or not to post.  If only we had Conrad!

The Girl code

Photo Credit:

Double checking I’m not breaking my own rules on Facebook,



Is Technology Making our Kids Unhealthy?

Kids eating tech

Photo Credit: Ian Riley -Technology is Consuming Us

YES! Well sort of…

Technology itself does not have the ability to make kids unhealthy, but it does have a lure that will make kids drawn to using technology instead of going outside or being physically active.

AtariIt wasn’t so long ago that I was a child (ok, it was a little longer than I like to admit), but there was strict ‘no-videogame” rule in our house.  This rule at the time was a horrific error in parenting (or so my brother and I thought), but it was in essence the rule which caused my brother and I to get outside and play.  This play lead to finding passions for basketball, skating, street hockey, biking, tree climbing and much more.  Not only were we not allowed videogames, but our parents also joined us outside.  So it wasn’t a situation where there was a double standard it was out parents that were being positive, healthy role models for their kids.  Photo Credit:

Hay dayI would also say that the time before current technology was a much happier and active time for me.  Now I find myself sitting with my Ipad on my lap playing endless hours of Hay Day instead of going outside and doing the things I used to love as a kid.  It isn’t that Hay Day is so completely engaging that I can’t break my concentration, it’s just that in a fast paced work world, I find technology the gateway to feeling like I’m doing something, when really I’m just creeping all my friends pictures of Facebook.

Photo Credit: Hay Day

I think kids are the same.  They have been raised on the other side of the 90’s era where technology is a replacement for activity and not something used in moderation.  Parents are often too busy running errands, working multiple jobs, or rushing from one activity to another, that a phone or ipad gets tossed to a child to keep them occupied while the errands of life continue around them.  And it’s not just running errands.  It’s sitting at a sibling’s basketball game where a child plays on a phone instead of watching, learning and supporting their sibling.  Or watching movies in the car instead of playing eye spy or singing songs.  This lack of relationship building and social connection is what troubles me the most.  Our kids are finding social interactions online instead of with one another.  And the online environment for socialization is often the most fake.

Profile pic vs reality




This is my profile picture…..this is what I usually look like!



No wonder technology is causing increasing rates of depression and anxiety in youth today.  Amit Chowdrhy suggests that “research links heavy Facebook and Social Media Usage to Depression” and that Lui yi Lin, 2016 adds  “it is possible that people who are depressed use social media to fill a void.” Lui yi Lin further suggests that “the exposure to “highly idealized representations of peers on social media elicits feelings of envy and the distorted belief that others lead happier, more successful lives,” says the study. People that engage in activities of little meaning on social media makes them feel like they are wasting time. Spending more time on social media increases the exposure to cyber-bullying, thus causing feelings of depression. And social media fuels “Internet addiction,” which is considered a psychiatric condition linked to depression.”  This Internet Addiction is causing not only mental and emotional health challenges, but is also causing physical challenges as well.  In order for depression to be diagnosed in a person, the patient must exhibit five or more physiological symptoms for a two week period or more.  Most often these physiological symptoms include weight loss or gain, changes in appetite, prolonged sleep or inability to sleep, etc.  These physiological changes tend to increase the intensity of the disorder.  While many find solace and support in online communities of people struggling with similar challenges, the continual reliance on technology and social media only enhances the addiction and can prolong the disorder.  It’s a very difficult situation.  While many argue that online support communities have helped heal, many have also argued that online communities have only increased worry and exposure to negative information.  For example, kids who may have suicidal thoughts and feelings may further isolate themselves socially from peers and family and may find information and videos to support their suicidal choices.   Or kids who are struggling with eating disorders may find support in online healing sites such as the case with Molly Mirhashem, but may also find negative influences in the same.

The impacts of technology on health can extend to dietary and physical fitness habits as well.  Prolonged exposure to technology does not simply impact kids mentally and emotionally, but being a heavy user of technology can also lead to weight gain, poor dietary choices, sedentary lifestyles, and sleep interference.  These physical problems lead to more physical problems.  Sedentary lifestyles for example lead to obesity, heart problems, poor circulation, sore muscles and joints, sleep problems and more.  Many suggest that this is the opposite with many websites and devices like My Fitness Pal and Fitbits.  However, it all comes down to choice.  Inevitably, the connection between health and technology comes down to the user’s ability to make positive choices.  Kids can choose to spend countless hours on social media and the Internet eating unhealthy and being sedentary, or they can choose to go outside and use their Fitbit to get in 10, 000 steps and track their healthy eating habits.

The role of teachers and parents is to educate kids on the connections and safety of technology regarding their physical and mental health.  Just as it is the role of teachers and parents to educate about sexual health, drugs, alcohol and addictions, citizenship etc., it is our role to guide our kids through the world of technology as well.

So let’s teach our kids about proper technological use BEFORE it becomes a problem.


Sitting in front of a computer instead of walking the dog,


Janelle Henderson

Google: Friend or Foe?

Photo credit: Forthea Internet Marketing

This past week’s debates enhanced an issue in teaching and learning which has been burning and churning in my mind for many years.  Is it important for students to know and learn the basics of reading, writing, mathematics, etc. through memorization and drill and practice, or should schools eliminate teaching information which can be easily Googled?  There is a panacea of information on this topic and I was incredibly surprised at the quality and excellence of the articles and videos.  Great job teams!

In regards to the topic at hand, I tend to fall on the side of the debate that students should be taught the basics and should have a bank of knowledge that will help guide them through their youth into adulthood with information that they have and can share without having to look it up.  In the debates, I suggested that this information needs to be transferrable and suitable to daily living.  Some of the skills and knowledge would include basic math (including memorization of multiplication tables), fractions and temperature conversions, how to read a map/directions, basic reading and writing skills, as well as, the ability to use a dictionary, thesaurus, etc, and many more skill sets such as kinetic skills, cognitive problem solving, and seeking out sources of information in times of stress or challenge.  Ben Johnson, author of “When Rote Learning Makes Sense” suggests that “the total emphasis on critical thinking has it all wrong: Before students can think critically, they need to have something to think about in their brains.” (2010) This means that as teachers, we ignore the “misplaced angst against memorization” and use it as a starting tool. (Ben Johnson, 2010) The glob of clay, if you will, that will be molded into the minds of our students.  Johnson (2010) further states that “the brain is a learning tool. This might seem obvious, but the brain is not a passive sponge. It requires active effort to retain information in short-term memory and even more effort to get it into long-term memory.”  We, as teachers, have to remember that through practice of skills and information, we will have students who retain and can recall information much better.  It is truly simple science.  When practicing skills we connect via neurotransmitters in the brain.  The more we practice the more solid those pathways get.  Ie: building a bridge with a myelin sheath.  The stronger the bridges become, the easier it is for students to recall information to help problem solve.  The more bridges we build, the easier bridge building becomes.  Sounds simplified to bridge building, but use this explanation to your psychology students as I do, and they understand why studying isn’t just “reading their notes” and why disorders such as depression and anxiety are not simply treatable by trying to “be happy” and “not worry so much.”  It also helps us empathize with our elders and grandparents when we see them struggling to remember or battling dementia or Alzheimer’s disease.  I digress with these statements, but I firmly believe that training the brain to think is much more important than training the brain to search via the Internet.

Student’s always ask me to teach them how to study.  Click the image to check out some great study tips!

How to study  Photo Credit: Danny Kerr 

Adding more science to this, Academic Earth suggests in their video “How the Internet is Changing Your Brain,” that when researching information, the prefrontal cortex of the brain is engaged but does not transfer the information to short-term memory; therefore, not transferring the information to long-term memory, unless it is further practiced and repeated.  This stimulation of the prefrontal cortex leads to the brain registering the information as only trivial and easily forgotten.  Therefore, creating what researchers and Academic Earth call “Google Amnesia.”  More often than not, before Google learners sought out the information from others in their learning community.  This interaction paired with emotions and socialization formed much stronger learning pathways than simply Googling the answer.  As all teachers know, learning in context has a much more profound effect on students.

Check out these videos for students on memory and processing.

How we Make Memories – Crash Course Psychology #13

How we make memories

 Remembering and Forgetting – Crash Course Psychology #14


William R. Klemm Ph.D in his article ,“Memorization is Not a Dirty Word: Some Old-Fashioned Teaching Ideas Need to be Revisited,” further supports the practice of memorization for learning by giving the example of “experiments [which] show that students routinely over-estimate how much they remember and under-estimate the value of further study. In many situations, it is not practical to look up what you need. Ever try to read or speak a foreign language where you have to look up most of the words? Ever try to use computer software where you have to repeatedly refer to the instruction manual?

Memorization of facts doesn’t have to be boring and Klemm suggests that students are mentally lazy, but memorization can come in the form of simulations, guessing games, songs, trivia challenges, graffiti boards, etc.  There are a number of ways that teachers can scaffold information to include memorization that doesn’t resemble the age old picture of a teacher and students practicing multiplication tables with a ruler and fear. 🙂

Facebook addiction

Not only does reliance on technological devices for basic information affect wiring of the brain, it also impacts our ability to socialize appropriately with others, hinders the structure and causes spinal injuries, creates blemishes if used on the skin, has been found to lower sperm count in men, causes text claw, eye strain,       headaches, sleep problems, loneliness, withdrawals, depression and anxiety.  Of course, looking up how many millilitres in a litre isn’t necessarily going to cause depression, however, our overall dependence and almost addiction to technology (as the above photo shows – Photo Credit: Alex Noudelam from his article “10 Ways Social Media Negatively Affects your Mental Health) is causing such a plethora of problems, where we then rely on technology to solve them.  This is something that I will be talking about in the next debate blog, is technology making our kids unhealthy?

Now, I’m not suggesting that Google is not an exceptional tool for learning.  It contains a wealth of knowledge at our finger tips that helps us gain a better understanding of our world, each other and our history. However, I am suggesting that Google be used as a tool, not simply “the tool” of accessing information and then it is the job of a teacher to use Bloom’s and SAMR to integrate this technology to enhance learning for students and to create an environment where these tools are used for critical thinking and extended learning.


Thanks Google for the facts, now I’m going to teach the story!


Yours in Education,

Janelle Henderson

EdTech: Does it really enhance learning?

ChalkboardTechnology in the classroom is not a new concept as Greg Toppo suggested in his TedX Talk “A Different way to think about Technology in Education.”  From chalk and slate to handheld devices, technology in the classroom has evolved to become more readily accessible, individually adaptive, and multi-purpose.  The challenge (among many) however, is to find technology that enhances learning versus sustains or distracts from learning.                                                                                                                                                     Photo Credit: Randy Glasbergen

In the article “Using Assistive Technology in Teaching Children with Learning Disabilities in the 21st Century,” Adebisi, Liman & Longpoe (2015) suggest that educational technology is incredibly important for student with special needs. (p.14)  Whether it is to assist in functions such as translating, speech to text, word processing and grammar/spelling, all the way to basic communication between teacher and student for non-communicative students.  “The use of technology present many children with disabilities the necessary tools to be more successful in school, at work, and at achieving independence in daily living.”  (p. 14)

Technology can be an essential component to student learning where there is communication and processing deficits.  However, the authors do suggest that the focus of EdTech should be of assistive technology and not distracting technology. Greg Toppo further supports this point by suggesting that EdTech needs to be used to enhance learning, not simply the “look” of learning.  Allan (2015) in the article “Using Assistive Technology in Teaching Children with Learning Disabilities in the 21st Century” by Adebisi, Liman & Longpoe (2015), suggests there are seven characteristics of successful EdTech implementation in schools (specifically with students with disabilities):

1) Assistive technology can only enhance basic skills, and not replacing them. It should be used as part of the educational process, and can be used to teach basic skills.

2) Assistive technology for children with disabilities is more than an educational tool; it is a fundamental work tool that is comparable to pencil and paper for non-disabled children.

3) Children with disabilities use assistive technology to access and use standard tools, complete educational tasks, and participate on an equal basis with their developing peers in the regular educational environment.

4) The use of assistive technology does not automatically make educational and commercial software/tools accessible or usable.

5) An assistive technology evaluation conducted by a professional, knowledgeable in regular and assistive technology, is needed to determine whether a child requires assistive technology devices and services and should be specified in the children’s instructional plans.

6) Assistive technology evaluation must address the alternative and augmentative communication needs, that is, ability to communicate needs and change the environment for children with disabilities.

7) To be effective, an assistive technology evaluation should be ongoing process. (p. 15-16)

These seven points are great places to start when considering what needs to be in place for EdTech to be successfully implemented in classrooms.

Furthermore, when introducing EdTech to the classroom, Sean Coughlan suggests in his article “Computers ‘do not improve’ Pupil Results” that there are gaps in research which find student achievement improved by technology. He suggests that the study shows “there is no single country in which the internet is used frequently at school by a majority of students and where students’ performance improved”.  Mr Schleicher is quoted in the article stating “one of the most disappointing findings of the report is that the socio-economic divide between students is not narrowed by technology, perhaps even amplified.”  Schleicher suggests this is not to say that the report findings should not be used as an excuse not to use technology, but implementation must be used to close gaps in student achievement and skill.  Coughlan further states that student achievement is seen usually in student bodies of higher socioeconomic status and achievement is lower in students of low socio-economic status.  I suggest that these findings are consistent with the varied literacy levels of the students in low-socioeconomic communities.  Often these low literacy levels can be attributed to poverty, past trauma due to living conditions, transiency, or other indicators associated with lower income neighbourhoods.

During this week’s debates, the teams successfully argued that there are ways in which technology can be incredibly beneficial in the classroom.  However, I believe that there were many more detrimental aspects of EdTech that stuck out in my mind following the conversations.  The disagree side suggested that there are many issues with availability of hardware, constant connectivity to school Internet and WiFi, appropriate usage by students, lack of basic skills from students, lack of teacher training, lack of student engagement and too many distractions, and the list goes on.  Personally, I have found all of these issues (and more) to be a large deterrent for using technology in the classroom.  In the public system, especially in my particular school setting, we have increasing gaps in student ability to use technology, where the lesson content and curriculum are usually only minimally touched by students, and if using the SAMR model, technological implementation is only at the Substitution level.  Teachers in our building collectively cringe when asked to have students’ complete tasks on the computers let alone use EdTech consistently and for more high-level activities in the classroom.  Personal devices have also become a bane in teacher’s’ existence.  Clay Shirky had it right, in “Don’t give students more tools of mass distraction” when he discussed the number of ways that technology actually leads to a reduction in cognitive work, long-term effects on declarative memory, and inadequate ability to multi-task.  Cell Phones have become a distraction so much so that students’ believe they do not need to listen to or participate in instruction, as long as they have the ability to Google the information later.  This turns the teacher into a circus performer trying to compete for attention between all social media platforms, games, texting, etc.  And the struggle increases when there is little administration support or parental support to rid the classroom of handheld devices when students are not using them for the task at hand.  This is a battle that will not be won by the teachers alone.

8450835587_65266bd688_nPhoto credit: PSM via Flickr

Lastly, I want to touch on the issues of teacher training and skill acquisition.  The majority of teachers’ at my school have very limited experience of technological implementation for the classroom.  There are many reasons for this such as availability, confidence using the hardware, software issues, funding, etc. , but the main issue is teacher training.  Teachers are simply not given the time and instruction on how to use EdTEch effectively to enhance student learning.  We are often given thirty minute or hour long sessions on new GradeBook or PowerSchool applications, but we are never given the tie to sit with technological professionals and create lessons with technology.  Not only is this time consuming, but it is also a very arduous task when teachers all come from various backgrounds of technological knowledge and skill.  Sam Carlson suggests in his article “Missing Link in EdTech” that teacher training is the significant hurdle of authentic technological usage in classrooms.  He suggests that it is simply not skill acquisition either that teachers need, but that EdTech should incite a change in pedagogy, be encompassed with lifelong EdTech learning, and have constant mentoring and sharing amongst professionals.  This sounds like a wonderful idea, but he further suggests that this be done through modular training up to two hundred hours per teacher.  WHO HAS THE TIME?  Teachers barely have the time to feed themselves during the day, let alone study EdTech in their prep time or outside of school hours. Not only this, but the current Board of Education would never fund this type of training to all teachers, let alone a few, and there would never be the professional PD time allotted for teachers to be out of the classroom learning while substitute teachers were in their rooms.  It simply would not happen.  Not only this, but Carlson suggests Administration and support services should take the same training so that they can support teachers.  IS HE CRAZY?


Gif Credit: BuzzFeed

Sounds like a utopia I would like to be in.  He suggests that one of the main hurdles would be teacher motivation, but I suggest that the main hurdle is reality.  We don’t have the time, money, structure, or support in Regina Public Schools to teach teachers how to instruct with EdTech.  So instead we buy cheap hardware which connects fifty-percent of the time to the Internet, where only some students can ever log in and only a handful can ever print but copy and paste from Wikipedia just fine, and we then continue to tell the public that we are using “technology” in the classrooms.




The Big “T” Word


I am Janelle Henderson.  I am a high school Social Sciences teacher who works at Martin Collegiate and Academy.  I have been at my current school for just over seven years and have taught everything from cooking and sewing to Grade 12 English and Psychology.  (Only one of those subjects I know a little something about)!!  I have coached girls Jr & Sr volleyball, badminton, and have been involved with graduation, academic awards, Grade 8 feeder school visits/tournaments, the Martin Car Show and our schools Gay-Straight Alliance (GSA).  One goal with this class is to create an open environment to connect with other GSA’s in the school division where we can plan events and the students and teachers can be supported from school to school.

My interests include travelling, outdoor adventures in all seasons,

“I’m named after a condiment.”

concerts, reading, and spending time with family and friends.  I have many loves in my life most noteable my husband Chris who is a professional musician and former English teacher, and my four year old Dachshund Relish (Reli for short).



This is my ninth class and is an open elective in the EADM route. I couldn’t be happier to be 2536115479_768a75eb38_zseeing the light at the end of the tunnel.  My experience coming back to school has been incredibly wonderful and exhausting all at the same time.  My husband explains to people that he will get to meet his wife again by December 2016 when I am scheduled to finish my last class.

Photocred: tapasparida @ Flickr

The relationship I have with technology is very akin to love-hate.  I spend the majority of my time using basic functions on the usual sites including Facebook, Twitter, Hotmail, and many Microsoft programs.  It isn’t like I’m afraid of technology; we’ve just never really agreed with each other.  I find it complicating and time consuming in a world where technology is supposed to help make life “easier.”  However, I am excited for this class as I have recently started a business called JByrd’s Essentials and would like to use new information and programs to promote my products and help engage my classes in more technologically advanced learning.

I have recently returned to Twitter after an-extended separation.  It was mutual.  Come check me out @JByrdsEssential or my personal Twitter @JByrdHowlett

Looking forward to getting to know you all!