Category Archives: Teaching and pedagogy

Something is in Sight…Is it the end?

Although it may be the end of this class, it is not the end of the learning.  Here is my summary of what has struck me so far…  Watch, listen, enjoy, and feel free to comment.

Learning Summary for ECI831

Here is the youtube link as well.


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Putting It All Together

As I have been exploring a variety of different themes in eci831, I have been questioning how I can weave this altogether.  For my final digital project, I decided that the best way to do this would be to create a digital storytelling project with my students.  Enter Alan Levine and his fantastic session on digital storytelling last week.  See 50 ways to tell a digital story for your own great ideas.

For anyone  who hasn’t read my previous blogs, I have been looking at ideas around social justice, technology, and narrative education.  I have taken these courses separately for my Master’s degree and was wondering how I could use this course to create connections to what I have learned previously.  I want to embed all these ideas into the curriculum, not just touch on them as random lessons where I can fit them in.

With my students, I have spent the first part of the year discussing social injustice.  The students are very aware of how unfair the world can be.  I want them to expand on this idea and start questioning where they fit into this.  So far, the students seem a bit removed, thinking “this is too bad, but it doesn’t affect me; it’s not my fault; and there’s nothing I can do to make a difference.”

I am hoping that the digital storytelling project will help my students to expand on these ideas and start them thinking about their own personal responsibility for creating change.  In writing, we have been learning about narrative as a writing form.  So I created a google document outlining the elements of a narrative and added a few ideas around orientation and problem to start them thinking.  We also watched some digital stories such as Mike Wesch’s A Vision of Students Today and elder Mike Pinay speaking about the importance of hair in First Nation culture  (thanks to Racquel Biem for sharing this in her blog). The students started identifying labels that they have been given by teachers, parents, and other students.  We used this as a jumping off point to create our video.

I am looking forward to working out the digital aspect of this to create the final piece to share with both my students and this class.  Or I’m very afraid.  Not sure which.


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The Dance

Last week, our ECI831 class listened to a presentation by Stephen Downes that explored the changing role of the teacher.  He argued that these many roles would eventually be divvied up among educators who are experts at only one role.  To me this seemed too much like an assembly line business model of education that denies the fact that teaching is an art, rather than an acquired skill.  Certainly, teachers are continually honing their skills and working to improve education; yet it is not necessarily something that can be explicitly taught. There are many people who have acquired specific skill sets and know a lot about a particular concept or idea.  This does not always mean that they are good teachers.  Anyone who has sat through a 100 level university lecture can attest to this.  Although many profs are passionate about their subject area, they are not necessarily passionate about how students learn their subject matter.  An expert teacher focuses on teaching the whole child; this takes the whole teacher.  As educators, we are able to balance these many different roles and sort out which role needs to be given attention at any given time.  Teaching takes heart, body, and soul: these cannot be divided.  For more around this idea, I would direct you to the article, “Teacher as Rain Dancer” by Simon Hole (1998). In this article, the author explores the idea of how tension is created in the classroom when trying account for the needs of the student, the needs of the class, and the needs of the teacher.  He uses the metaphor of “teacher as rain dancer”.  Just as a rain dancer does not know when the steps are perfect and it will rain, a teacher does not know what steps will create perfection in teaching.


Hole, Simon. (1998).  Teacher as Rain Dancer.  Harvard Educational Review 68: 413 –421.


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Where I Went: the narrative piece

Through taking a class on narrative (EC&I 804), I discovered some great resources for the classroom: The Meaning of Respect and The Elders are Watching by David Bouchard and Shin Chi’s Canoe by Nicolla Campbell are some excellent resources that address stories from a First Nations perspective.  Of course, there are many books out there that can serve as wonderful educational resources.

The true power of narrative comes from personal stories, starting with your own and branching out into the stories of others.  I read an excellent article, “An Inescapable Network of Mutuality: building relationships of solidarity in a first grade classroom”, by Epstein and Oyler (2008).  Although on the surface it seemed like a pretty basic premise: a former child-labourer who is now a maid is invited into a classroom to speak about her experience.  Through her retelling, the children are inspired to write and perform a play to help raise money for child-labourers around the world.  For me, the most powerful part of this article was how someone who traditionally has not had much power (a minority member working as a maid in New York), was now given power through the telling of her story.

This became very prevalent to me this fall when I started teaching at a new school.  This school is in an area of high SES.   Having never taught at a school like this, I have spent a lot of time questioning what I bring to the table.  What do I have to offer these students?  It seemed like they had already read all the novels I had planned as doing as a novel study, already done similar art projects to the ones I had planned, and already knew the math that I was teaching them.

I was encouraged to access all of the wonderful community resources available.  Many of the  parents are university professors, teachers, and business owners.  However, I just felt that by only accessing these resources, the students would be hearing stories that they had heard many times before.  These are the stories of those in power who fit in with the mainstream.  I am working to access other resources through immigrant and First Nation interviews.  It is my hope that my students will begin to see a different perspective through this process.

Any thoughts?  How do you teach students to understand that: a) there are different realities out there, and b) those realities might have something to offer them?


Epstein, S. E. & Oyler, C. (2008).  “An Inescapable Network of Mutuality: building relationships of solidarity in a first grade classroom.”  Equity and Excellence in Education, 41 (4), 405 – 416.


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Where I Went: the technology piece

Mythinformation: the almost religious conviction that a widespread adoption of computers and communications systems along with easy access to electronic information will automatically produce a better world for human living. (Winner, 1986).

In my first few years teaching, I felt a very strong push for technology use at the board level.  However, I got my back up because I felt that we were just ‘told’ that we had to do it and not given the reasons why it was better.  Through taking EC&I 830, I was given an opportunity to learn about different technologies and how it could be used in the classroom.  But, even after taking this class: I was still not on twitter; I stopped using my delicious account; and I only used computers in my classroom as either a research tool or glorified typewriter.  This would be a clear example of a CMS.  However, is EC&I 831 a PLN (see here for more information)?  I know that it depends completely on me.  That being said, I am not sure how much I will continue to expand and change my PLN once this class is over and so many other things get in the way.  I have never wholeheartedly embraced technology.  I spend time with it because I have to and it does make my life easier.  But I still have no desire for a smart phone, a data plan, or even an updated cell phone.

Now when I plan projects, I look at what I want to teach and then try to use technology to support what I am doing.  Enter delicious accounts for research, google docs for student/teacher sharing, and student-blogging to ask questions, share ideas, and create conversations.  This is not without its problems though.

I am currently working on a social studies citizenship project with my students.  They are exploring Canadian history from three different perspectives: First Nation and Metis, Francophone and Quebecois, and immigrant.  Students need to have a timeline, a map of their culture, an interview with a relevant resource, a field trip related to their topic, and a presentation for the class.  I went to the library to gather print resources for each group.  One day, the students did not have the computer for the first half hour of class and had to use only print resources for research.  Many of the students seemed to go through major withdrawl while waiting for the computers to arrive.  Once they had access, their gaze resembled that of the girl in the photograph: engaged, mesmerized, hypnotized, entranced…  addicted?

“The proliferation of images of children gazing at computers with wide-eyed wonder has much to do with the creation of this aura of multimedia innocence.  So too does the frequent juxtaposition of …technology and happy children, typically within the context of blatantly utopian environments, unfettered worlds in which youngsters are encouraged to give free reign to their creativity, ideas, and imagination” (Rose, p. 47).

I am curious for insight on this.  We seem to continue these stories by bragging about how early our children are exposed to technology and by how quickly they pick it up.  Do these stories need critical evaluation?  Or is it just the accepted (and wanted) norm?


Rose, Ellen (2000).  Hypetexts: the language and culture of educational computing.  London: The Althouse Press.

Winner, Langdon (1986).  The Whale and the Reactor: a search for limits in an age of high technology.  Chicago: The University of Chicago Press.


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Where I Went: the social justice piece

On my last blog post, I set the stage for where I was coming from.  Along the way, I was always gathering resources: educational for my classroom and academic for my papers.  Although the academic did prove for some interesting (and not so interesting) reading, it was the educational resources that were more relevant to my every-day classroom instruction.  With my new-found zest for everything relating to social justice, technology, and narrative; my resources were undeniably being grouped into three specific, yet separate, themes.  The first theme I explored was social justice.  Perhaps you can use the resources in your own instruction; but more to the point, I am hoping that you can help me with mine.

I have found three excellent resources for viewing assignments related to social justice.  The first is a documentary called Mickey Mouse Monopoly and Generation M that questions the messages that Disney sends and whether or not Disney has an obligation to change its message.  I have included a brief video that describes the documentary, but I would also recommend the full version.

The second video, Tough Guise, questions male stereotypes and how our society creates a culture of ‘tough’ men.  I like this video because it is rare to see a documentary that questions male stereotypes instead of female stereotypes.  The following video is an excerpt (part one of seven).

The third video that I show is a VHS tape that I borrow from a teacher.  She was lucky (or unlucky) enough to be involved in Jane Elliot’s blue-eyed brown eyed experiment when it was brought to Regina, SK.  In the video, she is part of the brown-eyed group who is given special treatment and privileges.  All of the brown-eyed people in the group are of Aboriginal descent.  During the video the ‘brown-eyes’ are given the opportunity to treat the ‘blue-eyes’ the way they have been treated in the past.  During discussion, the ‘brown-eyes’ explain why they were unable to treat the ‘blue-eyes’ so poorly.  Having been on the receiving end of racist treatment so many times, they were unable to treat others in the same way.

I really like this video because it makes students recognize that racism is just not an ‘American’ problem or something that happened in the past.  Students are exposed to ways that racism is perpetuated today and in their own community.  They also know one of the participants in the experiment so are able to make very real connections to the video.

Every time we view a video, students must complete an accompanying response assignment.  It is through their responses that I can gain an understanding of their awareness of and connections to the issues being discussed.  But, this is only one piece of the puzzle.  With these activities, I understand that social justice is not necessarily embedded in the curriculum.  Instead, I have a collection of random videos that show three different perspectives.  I still need to make connections to technology and narrative.  Plus, what about curriculum?

Now, you’re probably wondering why I chose to put a picture of a nail at the start of this post.  Besides the obvious reason of me demonstrating that I can post a photo through creative commons (thanks eci831), this picture tells a story.

“A Child’s View of Exploitation” – by Augusto Boal
People in Lima, Peru were asked to take photographs of exploitation.  Some adults thought of pictures of slaves or of poor people being badly treated by rich tourists…One child took a photograph of a nail on a wall.  Few adults understood it, but all the other people were in complete agreement that the picture expressed their feelings in relation to exploitation.  The discussion explained why.  The simplest work boys engage in at the age of five or six is shining shoes.  Obviously, in the barrios where they live there are no shoes to shine and, for this reason, they must go to downtown Lima in order to find work.  Their shine-boxes and other tools of the trade are of course an absolute necessity, and yet these boys cannot be carrying their equipment back and forth every day between work and home.  So they must rent a nail on the wall of some place of business, whose owner charges them two or three soles per night and per nail.  Looking at the nail, those children are reminded of oppression and their hatred of it.
Excerpted from The Theater of the Oppressed, Pluto Press, 1985.


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