Week 4.2: Summary of Learning

And so we reach the end. In designing this summary of learning, I decided to practice an assessment that I would like to utilize with my students in the future: a song parody.

I chose the song Let It Be by the Beatles for two reasons: #1, the chord progression and key is simple and easy to experiment with, and #2 it is one of my favourite songs of all time so it just made sense. I used the karaoke version for ease, and I used Audacity and Bandlab for editing. For this summary and in this post you will find the following:

  • A link to the soundcloud audio of me singing my version of “ECI 833 – Foundational Technology”.
  • A breakdown of how the lyrics offer insight into what I have learned in this course.
  • Lastly, a small snippet to offer insight into how I intend to incorporate what I have learned into the future and into my classroom.

The Song

The Lyrics

ECI 833, 

let’s talk tecnology

start with the beginning: 


Docs, drive, sheets, a form,

Word excel, powerpoint, 

Are we more productive? 

Who can tell? 

ECI, 833, 

foundational history, 

Jump to the theory, 

Intro to EdTech

Postman asks us

What is lost 

in our advancement

What’s the cost?

We lose part of culture, 

But the future pushes through

Connectivism keeps it right, 

Knowledge is a fluid fight

Online space: connections 

They are made

ECI, 833, 

foundational history, 

Assessment and the web

One two three (x2)

Collaboration through the 2.0, 

Stop and pause, ask who’s who

Essentialism gone, 

Constructivist stand tall

3.0 next in flight, 

Soon we’ll self direct our own lives, 

We can learn as we go, 

Coming soon to you

Can you see?

Can you see? 

All the possibilities, 

Flip grid, quizziz, Kahoot

But be careful, yes indeed, 

Free is never really free, 

Class Dojo and it’s 

Pavolvian techniques

ECI 833

discuss accessibility

Universal design

Is a must (2 chorus)

Right to education, right to learn

As we need

Stopping ableist oppression

Teachers proceed

The world is ever-changing,

we know it’s only right to say

Inclusion is a framework

We all deserve

Power and privilege – just consider

Who gets honoured in our world

We must decide

The story we tell

ECI 833, 

maker spaces, 

Inventor story

The world is always changing

So are we.

ECI 833

We’ve just started the journey

More to come tomorrow, 

Tech is always growing

ECI 833,

Learn the foundations

and you’ll see,

You can be most any

Teacher you choose to be

Breakdown and Notes

I wanted to structure my song in the same format that the course was structured, so that the song grew alongside the content I was consuming. Thus, the song is written in primarily chronological order following the content that we discussed as a class.

The first few verses discuss the purpose of productivity suites and offers insight into the purpose of technolgoy as a whole. I ask a few questions that I have been debating since the onset of this course:

  • Are we really more productive? The use of productivity suits boasts that its purpose is to assist in the creation of content, streamline pen and paper based activities, and offer collaboration on a far grander scale. There are other benefits, but you get the general idea: Online productivity tech > paper based technology. But how do we measure productivity? Financial success? I think we cling to economic possibility of productivity because it appeals to our capitalist side. It’s difficult to take a breath away from being productive when lack of productivity leads to a stalemate in social class and economic development. This walks hand in hand for me with the idea that we are losing our mindfulness and substituting it with the constant race to accumulate more and more.
  • The second question that concerns me was something that arose from our initial class and the readings that followed: what do we lose in the advancement of technology? Postman discusses how there is always an element of culture that slips to the wayside when technology takes its place and now that I know this it becomes irresponsible for an educator to not ask themselves what culture are they empowering through their assessment techniques. We live in an era where we are called to action for postcolonial narratives to empower and revitalize our marginalized voices. Truth and Reconciliation demands that we acknowledge Indigenous Ways of Knowing and stop only honouring the colonizer methods of truth-making. If we want to move toward a narrative of post-colonization, we must actively create methods of representing that honour Indigenous Ways of Knowing. As we become more “productive”, something has to be left at the wayside and I would argue that educators can be at the forefront of choosing what we let go and what we fiercely hold on to.
  • “Knowledge is fluid” and this is both a reference to the concept of the web 3.0 and the learning theories that we touched on. The postmodern foundational belief of truth as subjective and knowledge as an inauthentic experience has reverberated into our online spaces – what we know is constantly being updated/verified/challenged across multiple sources. As our world becomes a hybrid experience between the physical and virtual realms, so too must we acknowledge and accept that knowledge is no longer static.
  • The theory of connectivism was a new one for me, and perhaps one should consider it more of an additional limb to the body of work that we are already doing in our instructional approach. It is clear that as our online spaces become more developed and we move toward heutagogy focused curriculum (if we can design it) then we will need to embrace the epistemological framework of connectivism. This was highlighted in our presentation that focused on the evolution of online classes and how they have been utilized.

The next section of the song continues to discuss the evolution of the internet and acknowledges that essentialism is a way of the past and that in this era it is constructivism that occupies and controls the pedagogical reins. Moving onto assessment, power, and accessibility a few other points are made:

  • “All the possibilities” – a reference to our second week of presentations wherein we discussed all the possible options for digital formative assessment. To say that there is a plethora of options is an understatement, but it is important to acknowledge that quantity and quality are not always the same thing. The formative options that are out there require exploration and experimentation to see if they can really be personalized to the extend that you need and if they will be worth the cost.
  • Speaking of cost, one of the key pieces of discussion that I will be walking away with from the presentation on digital assessment is the Pavlovian undertones of ClassDojo. We have a teacher in our building who religiously practices it so I look forward to speaking with her about how she uses it and what it looks like in her classroom.
  • Although I was aware of universal design before this class, I have been struggling with the notion of inclusivity and in the song I say “Inclusion is a framework / we all deserve”. Inclusivity is incredibly important to the plight of education, but I struggle to find a static definition of what inclusivity is beyond “everyone is included” – there are too many questions left unanswered in this definition: Included in what? Curriculum? General behaviour? School activities? Probably a blend of all those things is the answer, but the purpose remains vague. For me and through my work presenting on the power dynamics behind accessible/assistive tech, I would say that the purpose of inclusivity is to “stop ableist oppression” and to consider the “story we tell”. As educators, we can disencourage the notion that disability equates to an inability to learn – we just have to find the right devices to assist in the restructuring of that narrative.

In the final section of the song, I move toward looking at the future and consider the implications for both myself and the possibilities of those other educators who are exploring the field of ed tech.

  • Maker spaces: an allusion to our final class where we discussed what a maker space in a classroom could look like and how we incorporate the ideas of Seymour Papert and the notion of creating experiences with content that enliven individuals and create opportunities for space and for new stories of exploration and invention to come into existence.
  • Ultimately, the social milieu of teaching and the phenomenological awareness of what we hold onto shifts because our world is changing. Thus, it is if the educator accepts the volatile nature of technology and its possibilities then they will be able to adopt the foundations of this course and use it to create a living, enriched, adaptitive, and meaningful course of instruction – whatever that may look like.

Looking Forward

I appreciate this class in that it opens up broader areas of inquiry to consider in my daily pedagogical life. I need to remember to ask myself about the authenticity of my digital assessments, question who inherits power through my assessment practice, plan for the evolution of our virtual world in order to ready the citizens that will need to navigate through it, and never forget to embrace how vital the practice of the constant learner is in our education profession.

In addition to the thoughts I have already shared, I intend to have my students create song parodies to illustrate their learning in the future, and this was a fun way to step into how to troubleshoot what will go wrong with those assignments. I plan to bring forward the theory of connectivism to my staff as build our locally developed digital citizenship curriculum, and I plan to incorporate more of Seymour Papert’s theories in relation to my math classes.

Thank you for following in this journey.


Week 4.1: The tension between theory and inclusivity

I have always been a fan of Bandura’s social learning theory – we model the behaviour and then we see that desired behaviour reciprocated.  I have always attempted the practice the socially reconstructive classroom that emphasises the power of stories, and recently I have moved toward an adoption of the ethical space of engagement that Willie Ermine discusses.  Sometimes I think it would be more valuable for my classroom to adopt the curricular approach of Maxine Greene and emphasize wide-awakeness/consciousness and making learners that are designing a world meant for Society 3.0.  Then I consider the work of Peter McLaren and the implementation of critical pedagogy to spark active globalized citizens who stand, who fight, and who teach the world around them to do the same. In reality, my classroom is at best a blend of all these things (at best).  I learn upon reflection, rewrite the script, sometimes throw out the script, and try the whole process again the next day.  

The apex of this struggle is trying to think of how to apply these theories to inclusivity because often it feels like I am just playing catch-up to try and get my students who require more intensive support included in what we are learning. 

I know the kind of teacher I want to be – the impassioned anti-oppressor, and I suppose that that is a good starting point.  From there I can say that I design my assistive tech around the student, the parents, and around the concept of partial participation – get the student to do as much independently as they possibly can.  

If you were to ask me what the purpose of assistive technology is in my classroom then I would say it is to provide learning opportunities for students who may not have access to those learning opportunities without it.  A disability or difference is not a prerequisite to requiring assistive technology – Google read and write can help more than one kind of student.  Similar to some of the other issues that we have discussed in this class, there are many options and the market is constantly updating and expanding – how can I be sure that I have supported my student with the best tech available? 

Eli Clare (2001) discusses in their article Stolen Bodies, Reclaimed Bodies the relationship between the inaccessibility of one’s body and the oppression that one feels outside of their body – specifically for individuals with disabilities. In the article, Clare poignantly writes: 

Irrevocable difference could be a cause for celebration, but in this world it isn’t. The price we pay for variation from the norm that’s defined and upheld by white supremacy, patriarchy, and capitalism is incredibly high. And in my life, that price has been body centered. I came to believe that my body was utterly wrong.

Eli Clare (p. 362)

In the years of my evolving inclusive practice, I have been considering the ways in which I promote difference as a cause for celebration – how have I contributed to supporting and creating an environment that celebrates the needs of the individual?  Have I supported the body of the individual and affirmed that through our constant shifting landscape of meaning making that the body of the this or that individual is never wrong, just different?

I hope so, but I don’t know if my intention has always been to support the difference or to try and conform the student in order to ease the learning process for everyone else and the instructional process for me. Making someone look like they are doing what everyone else is doing does not necessarily teach them anything.

Cranmer (2020) writes about the lack of research in inclusive ed-tech and about how we are missing out/failing to meet our inclusive goals because we simply do not know enough about the assistive tech possibilities.  I would argue that we do not know what we are actually trying to do. In my building, inclusivity means creating an opportunity for the student to work on content and engage in activities that are similar to what the rest of the class is doing.  There is no provincial or division mandate, there is only the assumption that we (teachers) have a functional definition of inclusivity and will implement it accordingly. How do we measure our program’s success? Where is the inclusivity rubric? You cannot really create quantitative data around the question of inclusivity because it is such an intrinsically emotional experience.

Schools need to improve technical provision and provide further opportunities for children to improve their skills. In the longer term, schools need to enable teachers to increase awareness, knowledge and skill to develop inclusive digital pedagogy

Cranmer (p. 327)

What we do know is that using assistive tech creates more opportunities for success.  That being said, Cramer highlights how there are frequent issues between teachers using the correct tech, the frustration involved with using the tech, and the prevalence of social stigmas associated with using assistive technology.  So perhaps a better way of phrasing it is that we know that using assistive tech in coherence and connection to the teaching philosophies and pedagogical beliefs of the impassioned educator will create more opportunities for success and learning. 

Week 3.2: Digital Assessment

Let me preface this by saying that I have a deep appreciation of every teacher who uses digital formative assessment in order to “expedite their ability to provide student feedback in real-time” (Nu-man and Porter) – I’ve never found that digital tools expedite my formative assessment process, it expedites the feedback my students offer each other and creates new opportunities for summative assessment.  

I should probably inform on my context before going further: I teach a grade 7/8 split, 30 students in total.

So, I have this problem with formative assessment technologies: I know what they are and how to use them, but I very rarely do because I find that the majority of my formative work comes from conversations with students.  I’ll start with math, I do not use paper and the tech I do use are tools that enhance the concrete learning experience; for example: great math tool and calculators. My room is covered in whiteboards, and by the end of September every scrap of my floor has been covered in math (and poetry).   My regular lesson structure is 10 minute group teaching, and then the rest is guided inquiry through small student groups (3 students in a group max). We emphasis problem solving, listen to Disney soundtracks, and most days Math lasts for two to three hours.

For the majority of my other subjects, I focus on project based assessments wherein I typically utilize a program that students will keep track of their progress, be able to present it on-the-fly, and I can offer quick feedback through conferences.  Even when we went online, I scheduled conferences via zoom to check in and ran my formative work that way. 

What are my epistemological beliefs and assessment values?  I’ve always been drawn to story – the qualitative aspect of teaching.  I understand that assessment websites develop engagement, but I’ve never been a 5 minute fill out a quiz kind of learner.  I utilize programs like Kahoot, but my questions are frequently outrageously sarcastic and have very little do with the content because a) I don’t rely on the kahoot to tell me where they are at and b) I find that my students couldn’t care less about a digital assessment that asks them authentic learning questions because they are going to randomly click anyway.  

An example of how my own Kahoots amuse me.
They just randomly click anyway.

Thomas (2019) in her article writes: “No matter which tools you select, make time to do your own reflection to ensure that you’re only assessing the content and not getting lost in the assessment fog”. There are so many options out there and they do a variety of things which is wonderful, but there has never been a time where I have purposefully chosen a formative digital assessment over having a conversation with a student one-to-one.  

Now, all that being said I will return to my previous statement about the expediency of students offering each other feedback.  In my class before any piece of written work is submitted, it must undergo 5 edits, and 5 revisions (editing is for mechanical errors while revision is for thematic and conceptual conversations).  This may sound like a substantial amount, but by December my students get upset if I do not allow time for these discussions.  Technology has streamlined this process because they can comment and edit through whatever productivity tool that they utilize – if even a choice though they would still prefer to sit in a small group and converse face-to-face (or via zoom).  In the future, I would like to partner with a separate school and assign feedback groups that way so that perhaps it is more meaningful to use the commenting and editing features that way. 

Sometimes I feel like there are just too many options, and they all basically do the same thing. In order to combat the constant evolving flow of technical possibilities, I tell my students that if there is a different method of product or process they want to create, they just have to tell me.  I find students are better at finding ways of digitally representing their knowledge than I am.  

I love technology and I love having my students utilize it, but I’ve never been able to build a relationship through a digital formative assessment the same way I have in performative and conversational assessment through story.

Week 3.1: The internet evolves, so too does the teacher

Ultimately, the transition from Web 1.0/2.0 to 3.0 (to 4.0 to 5.0) is indicative of humanity’s desire to continually make tools function better.  Of course as has been discussed in the presentation, and what we have talked about in previous classes – functionality becomes weaponized in the wrong hands, and it isn’t the tool’s fault.   We have to keep evolving the tool because the demands and consequences of reality are exponentially increasing – the internet in that regard is a metaphorical representation of our classroom evolution.  When I started, I worked in classroom 1.0, then through patches and updates I managed to work my way up to version 2.0.  Some people complained about the complexity and how the interface was not user friendly, so a more collaborative effort amongst other classrooms started and my room was streamlined to a fully functional 3.0 update.  Some years I got stuck in 2.5, sometimes it was from lack of support, sometimes I just needed to get out of a rut, but regardless – change is a resounding certainty and so I adapt.

The comparisons that Gerstein draws about the evolution and philosophical positions of education underscores the fact that education has to evolve alongside tech.  Technology has become our primary source and gate to knowledge; it makes sense that our first instinct is to utilize the essentialist theoretical framework and situate learners outside of that knowledge – I would argue that it is the easiest approach because it shifts the role of teacher into the role of gatekeeper, it is easier to withhold knowledge from students than it is to walk alongside them in the accumulation of knowledge.  

I don’t think you’ll still find a teacher that upholds the essentialist perspective in their classroom, it doesn’t really make sense to uphold that perspective in a world where our knowledge is fluid and challenged.   Web 3.0 is an entity that embodies an evolutionary step in humanity’s stance about knowledge:  it is an interconnective experience that coalesces perspectives into a deep representation of humanity – the constructivist, connectivist, and social constructivist.  Gerstein summarizes this role concisely: “Education 3.0 is self-determined, interest-based learning where problem-solving, innovation, and creativity drive education” (p. 90).  

Now interest based learning is a wonderful concept, but the implementation is something that demands attention.  Even if you get all teachers on-board or if you force them and even if you have enough access to technology where students are able to access learning, how do you develop curriculum that is purely self-guided?  How do educators assess outcomes related to freedom of topical selection and inquiry based methods? From a financial position: how do you assess reading levels and funding decisions if there is no single uniform curriculum?  How do those outcomes correlate to postsecondary prerequisites? I don’t intend for these questions to imply a disconnect for me from this concept; rather, I wholeheartedly agree with the movement toward heutagogical theoretical framework, I just think that the questions offers some insight into the timeline for moving toward web 3.0. 

Consider for a moment the outdated curriculum that is still in practice, or the way that curriculum and pedagogical movements are being shut down and attacked.  Take Alberta’s recommendations of updated curriculum: Education experts slam leaked Alberta curriculum proposals, or the United States intense fear of Critical Race Theory being used in the classroom: July 2, 2021 • 33:29 The Debate Over Critical Race Theory.  If the internet is evolving quickly it is because in many ways its’ anonymity and freedom circumvents the traditionalist power structures prevalent in our political lives – education is victim to traditionalist structures and we have not figured out how to step away from it. 

From the curriculum position, the only way I can see Education 3.0 working is if we accept broad provincial and federal outcomes connected to reading (not necessarily a standardized assessment) and then allow for locally developed outcomes to exist within school division and communities.  This process has its issues, but I think the fluidity of it offers opportunity for success.  

In reference to privilege, Web 3.0 privileges the same students and teachers that Web 2.0 privileged – by extension the same privileges that exist in the regular classroom without the web: those in a socio economic position where they can easily afford tech and wifi, and teachers who are willing to teach themselves or pay to be taught.  Part of me fears that the continual use of the internet, and the push to use it in newer and better ways will just deepen the divide between those who have access and those who never had access to start with.  What happens to the marginalization in the updated Education OS?

What about schools that cannot afford the devices or the internet that they require? Web 3.0 poses a threat in the form of pervasive advertising and creating a world wherein the classroom becomes a sponsored advertisement for a specific device or tool (you could argue that we’ve been doing this the whole time). Gerstein addresses my fears by suggesting that it is important for educators to have a growth mindset and to rid oneself of the defeatist attitude, and I agree with the idea that small changes begets larger systemic transformations. Gerstein writes:

“The bottom line, though, is not is what is in the best interests of the teacher, the administration, or the politicians. It is what is in the best interests of the learner.”

Gerstein (2014, p. 95)

Beautiful bottom line, and totally accurate in the micro-examination of the individual classroom and schools – but I think it fails to acknowledge that there is a system in place that reaffirms dominant discourse and hegemonic narratives. Unfortunately, my guess is that we will accept Web 3.0 on the macro level when there is certainty of dominance being maintained.

Week 2.2: Online Spaces, keep it distant

I was fortunate during the pandemic, I was already paperless and my students were already well versed in being successful in the online space.  The new element was using zoom – this took a few sessions to get used to, but my students and I designed it so that there included recess times where they could pick a game and treat our zoom as a lobby and continue chatting. For those who required additional time, I created breakout rooms and they could wait until I was available to offer assistance.  Building a community through an online space is difficult – those kids who have already utilized online spaces recognize how easily it becomes toxic, and those who have no digital social skills take the first step on a steep learning curve.  

Online learning is beneficial for students who excel, those who do well will do well in spite of the pandemic and instead of facing a screen for many hours a day. It is easy to enrich and employ different materials for those kids because they are self-guided and it is through discussion that they grow.  For students with no parent buy-in, or with learning disabilities, or other exceptionalities in their lives – they struggled and struggled; those kids got through it, but it was just too disconnected.  The danger with online classes is that we can very easily undo the work that we have done in the classroom – sense of belonging is tied to place and the physical environment.  There is power in telling someone this is your desk, this is your space, these are your books, and this is where we learn. 

Online spaces are evolving, and I think there is the possibility of it housing more authentic and meaningful interactions that foster community and creativity.  Education, specifically being a teacher, is a political act – we are not stationary objects in the social landscape of the online world. Valcarlos et al (2020) summarizes the possibilities of meaningful transformative online spaces by stating: 

Through these [anti-oppressive] pedagogies, the educators valued students’ experiences and emotions as legitimate ways of knowing, attended to and centered students’ cultures and backgrounds, provided opportunities for personal and critical reflection, established expectations for critical awareness, and sought democratic participation.

Migueliz Valcarlos, M., Wolgemuth, J. R., Haraf, S., & Fisk, N. (2020). Anti-oppressive pedagogies in online learning: A critical review. Distance Education, 41(3), 345-360

Good teachers will teach well regardless of the space they are forced to utilize – we are problem solvers and we thrive on it.  As we become more globalized, so too do the methods we employ and the structures that we utilize to be successful.  We are naturally reflective beasts, constantly seeking for ways to reinvent and improve the wheel – online spaces has become our new victim.

Relationships shift in purely online spaces.  Sage Francis, both spoken word artist and musician, performs a piece titled Best of TimesIn this homage to the nostalgia of youth, he philosophizes: “Technology made it easy for us to stay in touch while keeping a distance, til we just stayed distant and never touched. Now all we do is text too much”.  Online spaces are successful when they close and break the barriers of communication, and only if the educator whole heartedly leaps into the struggle of building relationships through a webcam.

Week 2.1: Is productivity really the question?

James Hamblin, states: “the Internet mimics real life” – that perfectly encapsulates what the internet has become and perhaps what it has always been.  Take for example something as creative as the website asofterworld.com – a beautiful collection of absurdist, surreal poetry.  This is the side of the internet that we love reflected, beauty hidden amongst the abundant meaningless search results.  Jump on the other side though, and it is very easy to find something like theuselessweb.com where the intent is to just click and jump into the void of attention grabbing meaningless content  – it’s wonderful and frequently funny.  

The internet is what you make it. I absolutely love reading fantasy and science fiction, but I also love reading educational texts.  Sometimes I need one more than the other.  Bo Burnham, the comedian and performer, in his exceptionally lonely special entitled Inside, perfectly surmises the intention behind the internet:

“Apathy is a tragedy, and boredom is a crime”

Bo Burnham, Welcome to the Internet

We have made boredom into a crime because for the digitally privileged there is never a moment in our lives where we don’t have access to something that can entertain us – and if ARE in that position it is because we have left our homes in order to have that techless experience. 

Which leads to the second piece that requests address: are we more productive with the internet and productivity suites? Probably, but first we have to discuss is how do we measure productivity?  I have typed more than I ever would write on paper, but quantity and quality are two separate things.  If we were to measure productivity based on the development of desirable human characteristics we should ask the question: have we become kinder (or better)?  Not really.  Anyone in a League of Legends chat can attest to the quality of our humanity as global citizens.  Of course there are glimmers of hope – in fact there are whole tidal waves of transformative change that comes through the internet.  Take for instance the Black Lives Matter movement and the integral role that social media played in informing and planning those events.  We have become more vocal and less docile for better and worse because every web page can become a platform if you type loud enough and anonymity is reassuring.  Spell check is a comfort and the whole world is a stage. 

Productivity suites are not stationary or neutral players in the social discourse of our lives.  From the article, How Google Took Over the Classroom, author Natasha Singer (2017) writes: “Google captured these next-generation users so quickly by outpacing its rivals in both educational product development and marketing.”  Now, if you ask google then they will tell you that they don’t track data within productivity suites, and truthfully they don’t need to – they track the data from your user account in all other corners of the web.  See, when you insert a specific productivity suite into a school, you are essentially creating accounts related to that business and providing input for future consumerism.  Take for example my classroom, my school division has created google accounts for students.  Their data for all google and microsoft productivity suites are hidden in a unique server –  the problem with this though is that every website has a “Sign in with Google” option.  Once they insert their student accounts onto other websites, they don’t know what they are signing up for.  Suddenly, Google becomes your over intrusive neighbour who starts suggesting where you should go to buy new furniture.  Or Google becomes your quiet neighbour that watches from a distance and learns all the nuances about who you are until they are officially invited over for tea. There is no escape.  

The reality is that there is no way to remove ourselves from productivity suites, and it doesn’t matter which one you use because at the end of the day they do very similar things.  It probably sounds like I am anti-google or anti-microsoft, in truth I use both and both work well.  Preference is not something I struggle with.   It is a political decision to allow a productivity suite into a classroom, and that act gives those tech companies a seat at the table when we talk about the landscape of education.  Do we need that?  Do we need to give them that exceptional level of power and ownership over our profession?

Week #1.1 – Technology: What is it?

Are people scared of technology? - GIF on Imgur
It can be rather frightening. Taken from https://imgur.com/gallery/pPBMBii

Before this class started I had decided – without being too critical about it – that the definition of technology should be tied to its purpose; meaning that originally I envisioned technology as a device/utility/application that streamlines a specific task or makes a task easier.  Educational technology then is a device/utility/application that should make learning more accessible and easier; upon reflection, this definition fails to notice some of the dangers and possibilities associated with technology. 

After reading the article by Neil Postman (1998), the idea of technology threatening and ultimately discarding a piece of culture resonated with me.  This thought is echoed in Tony Bates’ timeline referring to the loss of certain elements of culture that is then replaced by newer technology.  It becomes clear when examining that timeline, however, that it is ignorant to push away technology in the fear that it will do away with the facets of westernized culture – we still have to develop and evolve our thinking.  Ultimately, western culture defines itself by its use of technology and is defined by the technologies it refuses; take for example something like the vaccines and how many people have come to define themselves as vaccine deniers.  Technology kills elements of culture and simultaneously divides and offers life to others.

I think Postman’s and Bates’ work can be blended alongside the postcolonial and post-structuralist (postmodernism) lens to have a closer examination of what technology really does do a culture and then build a definition from there.  Perhaps it is not so much that technology does away with a piece of culture; rather, in the act of (re)establishing dominance through the means of technology western culture prevents the rehabilitation, revitalization, and restoration of marginalized cultures. Technology is not inherently evil, but I would propose that the current embrace of technology without critical thought is to either consciously or unconsciously further divide power dynamics between those in positions of power versus those with marginalized and oppressed voices.  

When considering colonization, many of the Treaties were signed with the promise of an expansion of technology – both agricultural and educational.  We know that those promises were not kept and in the small quantity where they were kept, it served to continue the divide or new technologies were developed by those in positions of power to maintain dominant discourse. In reference to post-structuralism, we exist now in an era where “truth” becomes weaponized through the means of technology, it played a huge role in the 2016 America election and continues to make its rounds through our political ecosystem.  There doesn’t exist a universal truth because the individual doesn’t exist – truth serves the hegemonic and dominant. If educators interrogate the dominant discourse, “regimes of truth” become challenged and empowerment can become grounded in the production practices that “underwrite the appropriation of the labor of the many by the few” (McLaren, 2007, p. 210) – there is hope for systemic change. Without teaching critical literacy and actively troubling conversations about technology and its classroom use then all we do is create new customers with specific brand preferences by the time they leave our buildings.  

The optimist in me likes to think we are beginning to use technological advancements alongside traditional ways of knowing and representing in order to create an equitable approach to recognizing and understanding knowledge.  Instead of furthering power divides, the act of interrogating technology and its expansion upon traditional methods that students care about, allows them to think “and act in ways that speak to different societal possibilities and ways of living” (Giroux, 1983, p. 202).  From this critical disruption, students develop civic courage. By recognizing the danger and risk that technology poses to silencing traditional methods of knowledge representation we can invite new perspectives and allow students to juxtapose different worldviews against the truth claims that each of them makes (Giroux, 1988). But I realize that this definition and using technology with this purpose in mind implies that the educator is already practicing the learning theories commonly associated with the anti-oppressive educator.

So my definition shifted slightly upon the first few readings, and as I considered the historical implications about what has been lost and has been gained through the advancement of technology.  My reconsidered definition is something along the lines of… technology is an expansion of a traditional methodology associated with a certain task or labour (e.g, word processing). And then, alongside this definition, written in bolded letters: It is important to remember that the expansion of technology can impose a cultural loss onto a marginalized or othered group if the technology is widely adopted.  Then perhaps in Italics: Of course, his definition fails to acknowledge technology as a cultural commodity or artifact; for example, graphic design, electronic music creation, etc.  

So, technology should be used to interrogate power dynamics rather than reinforcing them.

From the readings and classroom material, the learning theories that fit this mantra for my technological use in the classroom is a blended approach between Bandura’s social learning theory, and Siemens connectivism. Starting with Bandura: frequently, I find that modelled behaviour acts as one of the greatest determiners in student academic success. The majority of educators have interacted with modelling in the traditional means of an “I do, we do, you do” – and this is a practical method to ensure we have done everything to model the desired outcome for academic purposes. I have always been a fan of the idea that we can translate that modelling of “I do, we do, you do” into the tumultuous landscape of our social (virtual and “real”) communities.

One of the biggest issues I have found with utilizing Bandura is that I constantly ask myself if I really have the authority, or maturity, to attempt and model appropriate social behaviour. Perhaps this self-doubt is a good thing as it demands I continue to self-reflect and consider the implications of the social behaviours I am reinforcing. I find Bandura’s social theory is most suitable for the digital age in the classroom because as we become a more dynamic globalized virtual world, we must transfer classroom digital citizenship into authentic realities. As Ertmer and Newby (2013) highlight, in the [social] constructivist classroom “transfer can be facilitated by involvement in authentic tasks anchored in meaningful contexts” (p. 56). Discord lobbies and Twitch for entertainment are the norms and have become authentic. We have to show students how to navigate those shifting social environments because I would argue that the social skills practiced in person are not always transferable to those new environments. More importantly, we have to show students so that they can show one another.

If the authentic context changes into a virtual space, then that means that it will require a deeper level of collaboration amongst educators and a level of technology comfort that for many is only attainable with a “tech mentor” – as my admin calls it.  This is where we run into the usefulness of Siemens’ theory of connectivism, because as he states, “We derive our competence from forming connections” (p. 4). I am inclined to agree with Siemen’s assertion that chaos is a standard landscape when diving into knowledge and it has become more pertinent to educate learners in their ability to find patterns or create them in order to establish new methods of thinking.  Connectivism feels very similar to me to the concept of communities of practice (Hoadley, 2012), but rather than emphasizing community focus on a specific task or trade, the practice is establishing metacognitive strategies and expanding it into a virtual world to continue adding members and infusing it with a diversity of voices.  It is still important to model how to create those communities, and that is where Bandura and Siemens walk hand-in-hand.

In summation, technology reinforces power structures and we have to actively interrogative the norms around it to prevent pervasive threats to our epistemological systems, not doing so reinforces hegemonic beliefs and dominant discourse.  The learning theories most consistently practiced in my classroom in relation to digital citizenship are Bandura’s social learning theory and Siemen’s concept of connectivism.