Transforming Teaching and Learning in a Knowledge Society


image from microsoft clipart

It’s amazing to think that a year ago, when I started my graduate diploma, (on my path to an Interdisciplinary Med) I hadn’t written a paper in over 20 years since my first degree.  Even though our first on campus course was in the same building, it looked very different from the place I spent many hours in during the early 90s.  Computers, wifi, projectors, laptops – technology was everywhere.  In my first degree, I took a course about technology that basically taught us to program a little turtle that moved around called Logo.

20 years ago, I did not imagine school/university would look like this.  What will our classrooms and education look like for students in 20 years?  How can we prepare our students for jobs that have not yet been created?  What skills do we need to teach our students in order for them to become strong, creative and critical thinkers? 

A shift from thinking about technology as something to “teach” to technology as something to assist our learning has occurred.  In our summer course, Brenda Dyck came as a guest speaker and quoted Dr. Judy Harris who said, “please remember it’s not about how we use the TOOLS, it’s how we USE the tools.” In further learning TPACK was introduced.  Punya Mishra has written about what teachers should think about when planning. Content Knowledge, Pedagogical Knowledge and Technical Knowledge and the importance of thinking about all three areas when planning for learning experiences.

This generation of students have been referred to as  “digital natives” by Marc Prensky.  These young people have never grown up without technology, they have had access since they were very little.  Although we might assume their skills should be strong with creating content, researching and manipulating photos, many of these students are lacking basic skills within these areas.  One area I have found my grade 5 students are lacking in is digital citizenship.  Throughout our spring course, my understanding and knowledge of digital citizenship grew immensely.  Mike Ribble defines it as, “the norms of appropriate, responsible behavior with regard to technology use”. (2013) For most students, this topic needs to be directly addressed as they are working through projects that utilize technology.  One area I have lots of work to do with my grade 5 students is around copyright and using photos they find on the Internet.  They have not yet grasped the idea that these graphics and photos were created by someone who needs to be acknowledged.  I will begin our year in September working through Ribble’s Nine Elements.

People now have access to information wherever they are.  Many of my students have mobile devices that they bring to school regularly.  Our school board has opened up a section of wifi that allows them to log in while at the school.  BYOD has allowed our school to purchase more technology to support those students that do not have their own.  Students are more familiar with their own devices and often ask to use them to document their learning.  They are able to quickly research an answer to questions they have ‘anytime, anywhere’. 

What will future technologies bring to our learners? How as teachers can we prepare our students for their future?  What skills and knowledge do we need to make sure they are gaining?  How can we make sure they leave our classrooms being critical thinkers, inquirers, and problem solvers? 

I still have many questions; this group of courses has caused me to reflect on not only what my students currently need, but also how to adequately prepare them for a future of unknowns.  My practice has changed as I routinely think about the TPACK model when planning for upcoming projects and curricula.  I look forward to my new set of courses which I am sure will also challenge my thinking about program and how best my students learn.


Alberta Ed BYOD information: Alberta Education (2012). Bring your own device: a guide for schools. Retrieved from

Prensky, Marc.  (2001). Digital Natives Digital Immigrants. On the Horizon, 9(5), 1-2. Retrieved from:,%20digital%20immigrants%20-%20part1.pdf

Ribble, M.S, Bailey, G.D, Ross, T.W., 2004, Digital Citizenship, Addressing Appropriate Technology Behaviour., Learning & Leading with Technology, 32(1).

TPACK information:



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Storytelling in the 21st Century


Photo from Microsoft Office Clipart

Storytelling has been around since the dawn of time.  People have always shared stories with each other.  Cave drawings, oral storytelling around campfires and during family time, writers creating stories with written word, now, people are moving into using digital mediums to share their stories. 


People are using the internet to share their stories in a variety of ways; writing blogs to share with family about their children, writing blogs to share ideas, tweeting, updating status’ on facebook, creating videos on youtube and websites, using various software products to create stories with photos and videos.  The use of Web 2.0 tools and other software to tell stories in a multimedia format has been growing and will continue to grow as software makes it easier to create.  Alexander and Levine, state, “web 2.0 storytelling is a useful composition platform whenever story- telling is appropriate”. (2008, p. 52)


The students in my middle school class enjoy incorporating photos and videos to enhance their stories.  The students chose events in Canada’s history that were important in a specific region they were studying.  They wrote scripts and found creative commons photos.  They used Garageband to record the scripts and then added the photos.  The project was very rewarding to them and gave them a different sort of outlet to share the information they were learning.  Currently they are working on iMovie’s about a favourite field study trip they have taken this year.  Some are approaching it as an interview, others as a travel advertisement – I can’t wait to see the results!  I plan to share them with my next year students as we are planning some of our field study trips. 


Reading a couple of articles this week about place based storytelling has given me something to think about over the summer.  Dyck, 2005, defines place-based storytelling as, “as adaptation of digital storytelling that combines digital mapping tools with the power of the narrative”.  In our school, where we are out of the building a minimum of 2 times per month with our students, we spend a fair amount of time in the community where the school is located.  She spoke about using the Community Walk Web Site to create a story using a map, photos and stories about certain locations.   I think it might be interesting to start a story about our community that others in the school could add on to as they are out and learning. 


Have your students begun to use digital storytelling to help tell their stories yet?



Dyck, B. (2005) Using place-based storytelling to teach geographical thinking. Retrieved from

Bryan, A., Levine, A. (2008) Storytelling: Emergence of a new genre. Retrieved from


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Connected yet alone?

Tclipart from: microsoft clip art gallerhis is the second or third time in our set of four courses that I have come across work by Sherri Turkle.  I have watched her ted talk, read her opinion based short articles, watched the Front Line story and should most likely read her book.  While I do agree with some of her ideas, others are harder for me to swallow – maybe I am one of those people she is speaking about.

According to Loveys (2011), Turkle “claims that the technology is threatening to dominate our lives, making us more isolated and ‘less human’.”  Turkle (2012, pg 1) has concerns about families, people at meetings, out for dinner “sitting together, texting, reading email”, spending time together but not really.  She claims that

“what I’m seeing is a generation that says consistently, “I

would rather text than make a telephone call.” Why? It’s less risky.

I can just get the information out there. I don’t have to get all involved;

it’s more efficient. I would rather text than see somebody face to face” (2009).

I suppose if she were interviewing me (who is of an older generation), I would also answer this question exactly the same way.  I am somewhat of an introvert.  I like spending time alone, I would way rather text or email someone a question than make a phone call.  I prefer the time to think about what and how to say something that texting/emailing gives me.  When having a voice or face-to-face conversation, I have to quickly think on my feet, and I almost always (upon reflection) think of something I should have said but didn’t. I think that the ability to email and text people has actually increased the number of interactions I have with people on any given day.

I share a classroom with another teacher (we each teach 2 or 3 days a week) and we are constantly using texting to ask each other questions, touch base about an assignment, etc.  I can do it when the thought strikes me as opposed to forgetting about it and having to have a huge conversation later.  We love the time we have face-to face to talk, but our mobiles devices offer us something we find as value added as opposed to taking away as Turkle seems to believe.

Do you believe that our constant internet connections are taking away from your relationships and ability to have a conversation?


Loveys, K. (2011). Online backlash: Facebook and Twitter ‘make us less human and isolate us from the real world’ Retrieved from:

Turkle, S. (2009) Transcript of Interview from Digital Nation. Retrieved from:

Turkle, S. (2012). The Flight From Conversation. Retrieved from

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Digital Citizenship is so much more

When we begun our class three months ago, I thought that digital citizenship entailed Image retrieved from Microsoft clipart gallerymaking sure kids knew about safety on the internet, copyright and “netiquette”.  Now, I understand that it encompasses so much more.  As Ribble, Bailey, & Ross state, “Digital citizenship can be defined as the norms of behavior with regard to technology use.”  They break it down into 9 elements; etiquette, communication, education, access, commerce, responsibility, rights, safety and security. (2004, p.7)

As I reflect on what we have learned and discussed I have come to a few conclusions:


  • Although we need to start teaching our children as they begin to explore with technology, I think that grade 4-6 is the perfect age to really dialogue with students about digital citizenship.  They are really starting to show interest in communicating with each other, they are beginning to play more online games with each other and they are using the Internet more often for the work they are doing in classes.  According to Pacino & Noftle (2011), “The proliferation of social media networks requires learners to become savvy consumers of technology. As educators who prepare citizens for a global, digital age, we must find new ways of teaching in a world of digital, multimedia literacy” (p. 478).  This week in my class, I introduced my students to their “new” gmail accounts (our school board switched all student mail accounts recently to a google account).  They were so excited and many thanked me, because now they could sign up to play games, contact their friends, etc.  It is now my job to teach them “netiquette” and the “right” way to use this tool.


  •  Another area I know my students need information about is copyright and accessing other peoples thoughts, photos and ideas from websites and articles.  Students are already using images to make the backgrounds of their accounts more interesting; they often seek out and copy pictures to add to their presentations. Copyright law protects the creators of works.  Recently, the Canadian copyright laws were changed.  It has also created ‘fair dealing” rules.  (Copyright Matters, 2012)


  • Students have begun to bring more and more of their own mobile devices.  Our school board has created a wifi area that allows them to connect while at school.  Students have a better understanding of these devices because they are their own, they often take better care of them, and the practice allows schools to better provide resources for those students who do not have their own devices.  “The student who owns it typically invests time, thought and energy in customizing the device, in setting it up to optimize communication, productivity and learning. As a result, the student is typically quite proficient with the device and will use it anytime, anywhere to learn” (Alberta Education, 2012, p.5).  As teachers we need to make sure our students are well aware of the Acceptable Use Policies within our schools and how to keep their own devices safe while at school.


Digital Citizenship is a large topic, it doesn’t only apply to our middle school-aged students, but to everyone from young children using their parents phones and tablets to adults ranging all ages.  All of the stakeholders (children, parents, teachers) need to work together to ensure they are following general citizenship rules, as well as have an understanding of the risks and benefits of utilizing technology in their lives.




Alberta Education (2012). Bring your own device: a guide for schools. Retrieved from


CMEC (2012). Copyright matters. Retrived from 

Pacino, M. A., & Noftle, J. T. (2011). New literacies for global, digital learners. International Journal Of Learning, 18(1), 477-485.

 Ribble, M.S, Bailey, G.D, Ross, T.W., 2004, Digital Citizenship, Addressing Appropriate Technology Behaviour., Learning & Leading with Technology, 32(1).

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Can technology bring about environmental stewardship?

This week in our class we have been reading about and discussing contemporary environmental concerns.  Many years ago when I was vacationing in Hawaii, they were working on passing a bill about plastic bags.  When they showed photos and video from the dump, all you could see was a large amount of plastic bags that were whipping around in the wind, many blowing out and possibly ending up in the ocean.  They have since passed bills banning against stores using and giving out plastic bags.  Has this made a difference?


When I was on Vancouver Island a couple of weeks ago, one of our instructors talked about picking up trash on the beaches and that sometimes the garbage had Japanese writing on it, this plastic has travelled all the way across the ocean, in salt water and sun, and still has not broken down.  The STAP report (2011) reports, “Because of their buoyancy and durability, plastic items can travel substantial distances. Plastics from cargo lost from ships have, for example, been reported over a decade later more than 10,000 km from the point of loss” (p. 7).

One lab we did made a huge impact with me, it was about Sea Birds and Plastics.  We learned about certain kinds of birds, and recorded data about what was found in their stomachs when they were found dead on the beaches in the area.  There was so much plastic in some of those birds stomachs!  The birds see it shining in the water and think it is plankton and so eat it, filling their stomachs, but giving them no nutrition, eventually killing them.  Prior to going on our trip I had watched this video: Plastic swallowed by Albatrosses in the Pacific Ocean – Hawaii: Message in the Wave.  It came across on my facebook page.  Being a huge bird fan, I was outraged and the visuals have stuck with me since.


Can we begin to use social media, and other technology to make others more aware of environmental concerns in the world?  What is the best way to utilize our networks and work towards a better world?  Global issues can be passed around the world in seconds and minutes, photos, video, writing so quickly.  Can technology help to move the world to a more sustainable future?  I think awareness is the first step, and utilizing technology can easily spread this.




BBCEarth (10/29/2009). Plastic swallowed by albatrosses in the Pacific ocean – Hawaii – Message in the Waves.  Retrieved from:


Scientific and Technical Advisory Panel. (2011). Marine Debris as a Global Environmental Problem.  Retrieved from:

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How can we support our students to “Be the Change”

This week, we have been reading about students around the globe that are learning to use socialImage media and Web 2.0 to interact with, learn about and begin movements with others from around the world.   A project started in Costa Rica, called the Deliberative Capabilities in School Age Children project hoped to explore and learn about children’s capabilities by linking to children’s exercise of their participation rights and explore the use of digital technologies in the process (Fonseca & Bujanda, 2011).  The project was created with strong methodology and connections to curriculum.  The results were that the children had, “less fear of speaking and interacting with others, increased interest and commitment toward community, increased ability to listen and participate in dialogue, and increased ability to relate and cooperate with others” (Fonseca & Bujanda, 2011, p. 254).  In some Asian countries, with more regulated media and political environments, the findings suggest that some youth, may be utilizing the internet as a alternative civic space ( Lin, Cheong, Kim & Jung, 2010, pg. 852).  People around the world are using twitter and facebook to organize into groups to work towards change. 

This week’s readings made me reflect on how to support children in gaining the necessary knowledge and technological skils in order to allow them to move forward in this area.  I teach mostly Science and Math, so my students and I do not delve as much into politics and the need for change.  I suppose looking at climate changes and environmentalism might be a starting point for me.  Do you have any suggestions in how to begin working with my students to become better global citizens?

What skills and abilities can we help to instill in our students to enable them to be part of the revolution for change?  Will the open access allow them to better understand the worldwide climate and figure out globally how to work together to make it better?



Fonseca, C., & Bujanda, M. (2011). Promoting children’s capacities for active and deliberative citizenship with digital technologies: the CADE Project in Costa Rica. Annals Of The American Academy Of Political & Social Science, 633(1), 243-262.

 Lin, W., Cheong, P., Kim, Y., & Jung, J. (2010). Becoming citizens: youths’ civic uses of new media in five digital cities in east asia. Journal Of Adolescent Research, 25(6), 839-857

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Engaging our Learners… Looking out for the Future

ImageStudents in the 21st century require many skills for heading into the workplace.  As educators we need to support students in gaining the necessary abilities to be self driven, collaborative thinkers.  “As our students head into a fast-paced, technically-driven, innovation-demanding, global work environment, they will need to be fully-engaged, creative, adaptive learners” (Parsons & Taylor, 2011, p. 8).  In a fast paced world with learners that are surrounded with technology, how do we ensure our students are truly engaged in their learning? 


Hopefully the days of teachers lecturing in the front of the classroom, “downloading” information for students to take in and regurgitate.  As quoted in engage, 21st Century Skills, research shows that “..students learn more when they are engaged in meaningful, relevant, and intellectually stimulating work” (Newmann, Bryk, & Nagaoka, 2001, p. 10).  Today’s students should be challenged with tasks that allow them to work in groups, think critically, and represent their knowledge in numerous ways.  If students are presented with choice in their learning, they are often more engaged.


I was blessed this past week to spend time with our grade nine students at a marine science centre on Vancouver Island.  Even though the days were long, the students were very interested and highly engaged in all the activities we took part in.  As the research of Dunleavy, Milton and Crawford shows, “Students want to experience work that is meaningful, not easy: they want to work with ideas that matter, solve real problems, learn from each other, people in their communities and experts in the subjects they are studying…”(as cited in Parsons & Taylor, p. 48).  On our trip, students learned from experts, worked on groups researching ideas about sustainable seafood, conservation and climate change.  They presented their findings to each other and shared their learning via a blog to their families and friends back in Calgary.  The days were long and the work was not always easy, but still, the students were engaged in the topics fully.  Challenging our students to use information and find solutions to the problems they encounter now, and those they might in the future will help to keep them engaged in learning.




Metiri Group (2003). enGauge 21st Century Skills: Literacy in the Digital Age. 1-88.

Parsons, J., & Taylor, L. (2011). Student engagement: What do we know what should we know? University of Alberta, 1-59. Retrieved from:

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