Category Archives: pedagogy

The Media Diaries: Five Short Stories of Five Good Friends

No. 1: The Wise Old Mentor

By Dplanet via Flickr

I’m a reader. My parents read to me when I was little, and before I actually could, I would pretend to read stories from the Western Producer on my dad’s knee. I played “music” from the Reader’s Digest Christmas Songbook at my mom’s piano. When letters slowly morphed into words, and words into ideas and stories, my life changed. I would stay up late reading Nancy Drew under my covers, occasionally checking my orange leather wristwatch to see how late it was. I didn’t want to be too tired for school the next day. Yep. That’s me. I think I loved school because I was a good reader and most of what I learned there came from textbooks. Big. Heavy. Books. I survived on painfully slow dial-up, and downloadable version of the Encyclopedia Britannica until I left home for university. Text remained my wise old mentor in this institution as well. Bates argues that text “is an essential medium for academic learning,” and I definitely have found this true in my experiences. It’s kind of difficult for me to imagine that it is unlikely “that books will survive in a printed format, because digital publication allows for many more features to be added, reduces the environmental footprint, and makes text much more portable and transferable.” But I suppose all wise old mentors die eventually, making room for new teachers, though their wisdom lives on.

No. 2: That friend who keeps you company while you run errands and doesn’t stop talking so you kind of stop listening once in a while

pink-jvcMusic and podcasts are comfortable pals of mine. Music has been in my life since my grandpa bought me a bright pink JVC CD player when I was 13, and I was introduced to Podcast last year by a good friend. I have a difficult time relaxing, doing hands-on-work or exercise in silence, so these two keep me company and I enjoy listening to them, even if I drift off on occasion. I don’t find that I learn anything particularly useful or interesting when we hang out. But if Pen or Video join us, then the conversations get juicy. So, I didn’t find it at all surprising when Bates said, “that students will often learn better from preprepared audio recordings combined with accompanying textual material (such as a web site with slides) than they will from a live classroom lecture.”

No. 3: The Diva

Mr. P, my former science teacher, was a huge fan of The Diva. We used to watch The Diva’s presentations on reproduction, chemical reactions, and uranium mines. The Diva thought she was so much better than Mr. Overheadprojector. One day, she was trying to show off with some fancy singing and animation on the topic of Meiosis. And the poor thing flopped. Sighs were heaved. Tears were shed. Minutes of lives were lost. But in history later that year, The Diva shared Schindler’s List. And so, rightfully found a place back at the top as a powerful, evocative celebrity. So, Bates’s thoughts that quality, free and engaging videos may not be easy for teachers to find brought this memory of The Diva’s career “lowlight” to the surface.

No. 4: The Nerd

You know that guy who is so passionate, that he scares people away? The nerd? I recently got set up with him by my EC&I 834 profs, Alec and Katia. Since then, we’ve been on a few dates. He’s pretty deep when you get to know him; he knows so much! And he can really challenge me, which I like. Sometimes he gets a little boring when he’s quizzing me and I really just want to hang out with Music and Podcast, or even The Diva. Still, he has a LONG list of strengths. He’s pretty good looking in most styles, organized, methodical, environmentally friendly, accommodating, and patient. Unfortunately, I think many of those strengths are left unappreciated because the ladies don’t take or have the time to get to know him. And once in a while he shuts you out for no apparent reason. That can definitely be a turn off.

“many teachers and instructors often have no training in or awareness of the strengths and weaknesses of computing as a teaching medium”  – Bates

No. 5: Ms. Social Butterfly

captureMs. Social Butterfly is one of my new teachers. We’ve been collaborating and constructing together for a little while now. Within the last year she encouraged me to blog and join Twitter. To be honest, I got a tad overwhelmed by Ms. Social Butterfly and we didn’t talk for almost six months. We just needed a break. We sat down for a Zoom session just over a month ago, and discussed boundaries. Now, I’m self-directing my learning, just like Bates said was possible. She will be an integral part of my ongoing professional development, and I’m glad that she’s teaching me again.


Have you met any of these characters before? Do you have any characters to add to The Media Diaries? Would love to hear what they’ve been up to!

Transformers: The Digitizers Evolve

Wandy’s latest blockbuster hit, Transformers: The Digitizers Evolve, is set to open in theaters in April 2017. We sat down with Wandy to ask her about her inspiration for this new film.

Q: What inspired such a different direction for this film?

W: For the last 20 years, educators have been incorporating technology in their classrooms. The integration may be as simple as using the internet as a research tool, or as complex as blended learning as a means to achieve personal goals. I thought that a great Transformer character would be a “Digitizer.” An educator who is driven to use technology in transformative ways. They have many tools at their disposal like social media, apps, open education courses, and creative software, so they can constantly change shape to facilitate the learning needs of their students. It might be the best Transformer to date!

Photo Credit: cea via Flickr
The Digitizers in the film appear to be regular robot teachers, until they transform! With the help of coffee as fuel, of course. Photo Credit: cea via Flickr

Q: What evolution can we expect to see the from the Digitizers?

W: The Digitizers are faced with the challenge of thinking about the mere mortals, or students, around them as individuals capable of learning and creating independently based on passion areas if they have the skills, tools, and support to do so. This shift in mindset is difficult as the Digitizers have become so accustomed to protecting the young humans, that they fail to see their strengths.

Q: Fans of the franchise are excited to discuss these ideas on social media platforms. Have you been able to connect with them?

W: Absolutely! I love hearing from them, and they’ve really inspired me to push the limits of what I originally thought the Digitizers would be capable of. Roxanne Leung shared What is Blended Learning? on Twitter and that gave me ideas to get the ball rolling. Jennifer Stewart-Mitchell shared Will Blended Learning Fulfill its Disruptive Potential on the EC&I 834 Google+ Community,  which sparked lots of thoughtful conversation with other fans.

Q: What future projects do you have in mind?

W: Well, I’ve always had a passion for music, and with the inspiration of this latest film and its fans, I would like to create a prototype for a blended learning music class. There would be both synchronous and asynchronous components. I haven’t decided what type of platform might work best, but I’d be interested in getting some input from your readers!

Q: Do you have anyone to work on this project with?

W: So far, I haven’t encountered anyone else who is interested in a blended music class prototype, but I’d be interested in working with someone who also shares this passion. Maybe this interview will spark someone’s interest!

“I’d be interested in working with someone who also shares this passion.”

Q: Do you think that you will be able to transform this class with the help of blended learning?

W: Like the Digitizers in my film, I’m going to have to make sure that I reflect on my philosophy of education and make pedagogical choices that empower and engage students. Like Tony Bates says in Teaching in a Digital Age,

“What is the role of the classroom teacher when students can now increasingly study most things online?”

I haven’t worked through what this will look like exactly, but I want the change in platform to be meaningful to students.

Q: Thanks for doing this interview with us today.

W: Not a problem.

You can help Sarah choose an appropriate blended learning platform for her next project by completing the survey below.

To Speak and be Heard

As I reflected this week on the ability of my female counterparts to express themselves online, it became abundantly clear that many women and indeed people who are on the margins of society simply do not feel safe commenting in online spaces.  Depending on where you live in the world, the ease with which you may take part in meaningful conversations online will differ.  However, the differences are not simply geographical.  Those who are operating from a base of, often unseen, power will have much more social capital and therefore agency to participate in online discussion and be heard and validated without fear of reprisal.  These power bases can be socio-economic, gender-based, age-based, sexual orientation-based, race-based, class-based, and even ability-based.  Peggy McIntosh‘s work on white privilege is one example of how certain people in society operate from a base of power.  Here is another visible example of how privilege plays out in society.

Should we be surprised that people who are marginalized are experiencing feelings of fear and insecurity in online spaces because of who they are?  Not at all.  The human race has always been fearful of what is different, and for this reason, our prejudices are reflected online often times with more intensity and ferocity than occurs face to face.  Privilege exists in degrees and therefore some people will experience more while others experience less.  As shared by equity matters, it is “constructed and normalized by the established frameworks of society – narratives that have been developed based on the power struggles of history.”  As the narrative is reinforced, privilege is also further normalized. When I first began studying about this topic, I went through a variety of stages as I grappled with the reality of what I was reading.  At first, I denied it existed.  Then, I felt guilt. Finally, I realized that I could either be a part of the system or seek to change the discourse in order to foster change.  Over the past few years I have done an exercise like the one below with my students in order to get them to think about privilege a little bit.  Students at the front of the room are closer to the basket and therefore, have an easier shot than those at the back.  The comment “that’s not fair” comes almost immediately after I explain the game.  However, students soon realize the intended lesson and I have had some very meaningful discussions on equity with students who will hopefully continue to explore what privilege means in our society.


Photo Credit:

The online attacks on marginalized society members who are brave enough to speak up are a sad commentary on the state of society.  Racism, bigotry, sexism and hate are everywhere.  This is clearly evident in the amount of comment pages that have been shut down by news and media sites over the past few years.  Due to the fact that there is really no accountability for what is said online, it becomes challenging to receive justice in these cases.  Therefore, it becomes extremely difficult to know how to respond when attacked online.  Many countries do not have express laws addressing online harassment.  In addition, because it is often the marginalized who are the victims, there are few resources available for support in these situations.  In a 2014 PEW study, women and minorities experienced online harassment far more often than others and young women in particular were also experiencing more severe forms.


As Kristy Tillman’s article in the New York Times stated, “anonymous communication certainly has its place on the Internet, but it is important to understand how our social ills are exacerbated when users are not required to be accountable for what they say, and how that disproportionately affects some individuals more than others.”  There are crucial steps that can be taken together in order to change the discourse and allow all members of society to feel the freedom of expression that is guaranteed in the charter. The first step is for those with agency to continue to lend their voices to the conversation.  The role of those with agency is thus crucial in addressing the issue of privilege and harassment.  If there is silence on this front, we are unequivocally signalling a surrender of equity, decency and respect for the human spirit.  Secondly, it is imperative that educators continue the slow and painstaking work of teaching about privilege at all levels.  To build on Justice Murray Sinclair’s words, education will be the key to changing the narrative and ensuring a disruption of social “norms.”  As we begin to recognize and do away with pieces of discourse that serve to divided us as people, there can be progress.

However, as Justin Ford explains, the best way forward does not come from pointing out the ills of society or playing the blame game.  It starts on the individual level.  It starts with me.  By recognizing the ways that I interact with privilege everyday, I can begin to, through small actions, equalize the playing field.  This may mean examining the way I treat women.  It may mean examining the way I treat minorities or my attitudes towards those with disabilities.  As I engage in these small daily exercises, the privilege will be recognized, confronted and dealt with.  It will not be easy.  Giving up something that gives you power or advantage is never easy.  Neither is learning to read or do math.  We model reading and mathematical strategies to students all the time.  Isn’t it time we started modelling examination of privilege as well?


What’s the Big Deal About Blogging?


I recently did some reading about blogging in educational settings both as a tool for students to access a greater audience but also as a tool for teachers to access knowledge and engage in reflective practice.  This is my first foray into the blogging world personally although my students and I use Kidblog frequently to journal, compose and respond critically to the written thoughts of others.  I have been relying on Twitter to expand my PLN and give me access to other educators for quick tips, short discussions and easy access to resources.  However, the 140 character limit on Twitter is somewhat limiting in the sense that it becomes difficult to engage in more in-depth reflection both personally and professionally.

In his blog post, Do Educators Really Need Blog Posts, Tom Whitby highlights several key points that outline the merits of the use of blogs by teachers.  Firstly, as Whitby states, blogs offer a sense of voice to teachers all over the world who can at once be contributors to, and participants in, meaningful conversations with regard to best pedagogical practice.  Therefore, we have moved beyond merely consumers of information.  Teachers can now meaningfully interact with content in an open forum.  We have instant access to the authors of this content and can readily add our voices to the conversation.  Starting in ECI 831 has given me the motivation to start expanding my own voice online in a more meaningful way.  To become not merely a consumer and disseminator of information but also a valuable contributor.

Whitby goes on to highlight the importance of blogs as a way to maintain relevance in an increasingly changing world in which information flows swiftly.  If we hope to continue connecting with students and teaching them how to navigate this raging river of online information without losing their footing or sacrificing ours, teachers must be willing to embrace these types of platforms.  The freedom to create, explore and respond to new ideas related to the teaching profession should be seen as both a privilege and an obligation.  A privilege because of the opportunities that exist for teachers and students alike. An obligation because this is the digital world in which our students are growing up.  We owe it to the future.