Tag Archives: education

Now That’s PD!

EdCamp Hamilton
via David Carruthers @pluggedportable

What a fantastic end to a rough week. I had the opportunity to attend EdCamp Hamilton, coming off the back end of several heated discussions around the organization and attendance of a focus group held by Pearson last weekend. I had taken issue with the fact that some were unable to distinguish the difference between a conference and a focus group. Today, I stand somewhere in the middle.

My colleagues were at the Pearson session to share opinions about social media. They weren’t told exactly what Pearson was looking to gain from the meeting but I’m told by several attendees that it didn’t really matter since anytime Tweeps come together face to face, PD is happening. Fair enough. Members of this group have a high interest in advancing education into the 21st century and are well-meaning and forward-thinking people. Though I still take issue with the misguided use of the ontsm hashtag. It suggested that 50 educators were representing all Ontario teachers on the topic of social media. It also didn’t include Pearson’s company name in the hashtag. This led to the embarrassment of at least one colleague doing her best to smooth over the recent political turbulence with the public over education, tweeting how proud she was that Ontario educators were getting together over a weekend on their own time for PD. She did not know that this time, these teachers were being paid. Though I can’t go without mentioning that several of the same attendees of the focus group had paid for PD at the Google summit the week previously and showed up to the free edcamp event in Hamilton this weekend. Afterall, these are highly engaged teachers.

Edcamp felt like neutral ground. The uninhibited chance for everyone to freely post and select topics keeps current practice just that-CURRENT-with a capital “C”, and I thoroughly enjoy edcamp for that. The topics were also uninhibited by companies hawking their wares through sessions and trade show-like activities. Yes, there was some corporate sponsorship, but we’d be remiss if we failed to acknowledge that at least some money has to come from somewhere for an event like this. However, towards the end of the day, I overheard a publishing representative approach a colleague of mine asking for a meeting. It proves just how desperate these companies are to infiltrate the good things we have going on in education. Whether you view it as a goal to exploit teachers for profits or whether you chalk it up to simple recognition that we’re on to something big here, we’ll have to examine our relationships with publishers and educators. The line has become blurred between our meeting spaces.

I suggest that we need to take into account all the relationships that we have-with our employer, the college of teachers, our union, and our corporate suppliers. It’s time to revisit our contracts around ownership of our content in all arenas. Consider also whether you will take an open approach and use Creative Commons or whether you will go privately; corporate or as sole owner. So, the next time a company approaches you with a media release or some other sort of contract, what would it hurt to ask for it in advance and have it checked over by a board or union lawyer? Sometimes in our effort to be shift disturbers we push too hard, too fast without considering the agency of all parties. And above all, keep a critical eye open and remember that all media have commercial interests.

A Teachable Moment in Media Literacy and Global Perspective


Members of the Jeddah Kings United all-female team attend football exercise in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. AP Images

A group of grade 11 girls were showing the music video they had just finished producing for my Communications Technology class, when it occurred to me how differently the video would be perceived in some parts of the world. It was a video about three girls all doing different sporting activities but coming together at the end to high-five and yes, even chest bump each other.

I asked them to explain the main message of their video. They looked surprised, as we had conferenced over the video several times through the production stages and they knew that I knew full-well what their intentions were. I asked them again, adding “for the sake of the class”. The girls explained that the message was about the fact that even though these girls enjoyed different sporting interests, they could still be good friends. Can you read the message laying beneath their statement? The realization just about knocked my socks off, especially after reading about the recent bus rapes in India and viewing pictures on the Internet of Malala Yousafzai, the Pakistani girl who was sent to a U-K hospital to be treated for a Taliban gun attack she endured for promoting education of females in her homeland. I thought about my students. We enjoy so many freedoms in Canada. Without a global perspective who can be blamed for taking these freedoms for granted?

I asked my students to consider if and how the message in the student music video might be received differently elsewhere in the world. After some silence I prompted them with, “how about, for example, in the middle east”? They were still very quiet. After this even lengthier moment of silence I mentioned there were some countries in the middle east where girls are not allowed to go out of the home without the accompaniment of a male family member, let alone play sports. This led into a discussion about culture and the importance of becoming acquainted with various global perspectives. In the end, the girls who produced the video said they wished they had been able to make the connection earlier, but were now even more proud of their project outcome, high-lighting just how lucky they felt they were to be living in Canada and empathising with those women who will never know the joy of sport.

It’s a topic worth re-visiting and requires digging deeper, as it’s really not so black and white. Women of privilege in Saudi Arabia are training for sports amidst constant criticism, while state run schools neither have the facilities nor the approval for physical education classes. The Human Rights Watch was quoted, “Millions of (Saudi) girls are banned from playing sports in schools, and women are prohibited from playing team sports and denied access to sports facilities, including gyms and swimming pools.” The division of rights based on class is worth a discussion.

Ohio-born and Saudi-raised Equestrian Dalma Malhas was to have been the first Saudi female to compete at this past summer’s Olympics, but the International Equestrian Federation reported she was disqualified from the Games in late June for failing to meet minimum eligibility standards. Two other women did end up qualifying in their sports for the Olympics. Wujdan Shahrkhani and Sarah Attar became the first women ever to represent Saudi Arabia at the Olympics; Shahrkhani in judo and Attar in track and field.  Shahrkhani had to jump many hurdles in meeting both the dress code demands of her country and the Olympic rule-book. Still, one North American news outlet viewed Saudi Arabia’s allowance of the women to compete as a “sham“. Perspectives of cultures holding deeply polarized oppositional and dominant readings is certainly worth a look with students.

Saudi Arabia may be the only country still banning women from sport in government schools, but that doesn’t mean women in other countries are completely free of barriers to play. Obstacles such as war, gender-bias, and violence against women put survival first and foremost on women and girls’ lists, leaving very little consideration about sport. One only need look to the situation in the Congo where a Refugees International report says women are choosing between rape and hunger. While it’s important to consider the various barriers to women playing sports in the world, we also have to take care not to place the issue in very geo-specific areas such as the middle east.

Extensions of the topic may include a look at American perspectives of how sport enhances female power. I recommend using a Forbes article titled, “The Secret to Being a Power Woman: Play Team Sports“. How might this perspective be viewed by other cultures?

Lastly, shifting the topic from sports to the Saudi ban on women driving is worth a look as the release of MIA’s music video, “Bad Girls” is sure to get students’ attention (my personal favourite music video from 2012). At the beginning of our Music Video unit, I showed this video to students first without any explanation of the laws in Saudi Arabia, then after explaining the situation, I played the video again. At first, students had no idea what message MIA was presenting, but felt the pimped out cars being rolled on the edge was kind of cool and then a bit overdone by the end of the video. However, on second viewing and with their new learning, they were able to point out so many details of subversion including the men cheering on the women driving, women toting guns, and exposed female skin and fashions. They also pointed out that the desert was likely a whole lot closer to Hollywood than Riyadh (actually, it was Morocco).

I can’t stress how important it is to present these opportunities for critical reflection of pop culture and global perspectives, even for a Communications Technology teacher. Our students are producing cultural artefacts; snapshots of current perspective, trends, and interests of North American youth. It only makes sense that we do them the courtesy of validating their work by offering opportunities to consider the relationship of these cultural artefacts to oppositional readings, global and even generational perspectives.


Social Media Advisory is not a Policy

The Ontario College of Teachers’ release this week of a Social Media advisory takes education into the 21st century by acknowledging that teachers and students are using the medium. Unfortunately, headlines like “Teachers banned from friending students on Facebook” and online rants about teachers with pedophilia-like tendencies show several members of the media and public have misinterpreted the advisory. Advisory is “advice”, not a rule handed down through a policy. Why is this distinction important? Because it helps us define purpose. The advice outlined in the document is meant to protect teachers from potential legal ramifications that can take place through misinterpretations of text communications. It also serves as a reminder for teachers to continue to follow, as we have always followed, The Standards of Practice for the Teaching Profession and Ethical Standards for the Teaching Profession. Although, this reminder should really go without saying. Teachers have always understood that their lives are predominantly public and they must act accordingly. Online social media is much like being in public coffee shops and malls and should be an easy transition for teachers.


The advisory is directed towards teachers as its audience. Unfortunately, some members of the public and media looking in, took it upon themselves to “read between the lines”, believing the advice to teachers was laced with a hidden message warning the public to protect themselves from the misguided and predatory intentions of teachers who troll the online world. However, to be fair, the OCT writers didn’t do much to steer public opinion away from the negativity, especially by including phrases like “cellphones are the gateway to child pornography”. Such a bad call on the part of the writers. Inciting fear is a great way to get people to sit up and take notice but it does little to foster public trust in teachers. It also does little to encourage teachers who currently sit on the fence with technology to use social media in the classroom.


Parents already trust teachers with their children every day in the classroom. So, why is it that when the classroom goes online, some members of the public think teachers’ ethics change and the relationships are negatively affected? Do they really think that the technology dictates our behaviour? The public needs to give teachers more credit.


There are 60-thousand teachers in Ontario and only a few, very rare cases of teachers communicating inappropriately with students on-line. In fact, social media actually works completely against this. It encourages people to behave the same way online as they do in person by predominantly taking place in a public space. In these spaces, everyone knows that your words can and will be passed on through the community circle. That’s actually its purpose and so it serves as one of the most transparent communication platforms between teachers and students. Even private messaging doesn’t necessarily present a problem. It is just like the private conferences we’ve always had with students needing guidance on school-work and not wanting to be subjected to the scrutiny of their peers. There are many times when students are too embarrassed to ask for clarification or admit they need extra help in front of their peers.


Outlining your expectations in advance with students and discussing digital citizenship and privacy in class brings everyone in line with the appropriate use for social media in the classroom. Following this practice and modeling appropriate behaviour can only help students. And if anything inappropriate should surface, there is a textual record or paper trail.

(photo courtesy of Author: Beto Steimber, Wikimedia Commons)

Teachers as In-Service Researchers

I presented my research on teens and cell phones at an Education and Technology conference back in the Fall, outlining issues around compulsion, stress, multi-tasking versus task-switching, education, and social relationships. In the trade show exhibition room, following my presentation, I bumped into a fellow teacher colleague and asked about his experiences so far at the conference. He gave me a run down of his morning and his friend joined in and offered his opinions on the seminars he had attended. The friend mentioned that he had sit in on a presentation by a Masters student who had presented her thesis. He complained that it wasn’t anything he could use in his teaching. I noticed a slight twitch in his face as he realized that I was the Masters student (and teacher) he was talking about, and so he quickly added in, “she did a good job presenting, though”. And herein lies the problem. Teachers are still in the “tell me what tools to use and show me how stage” when they need to be at “how should these tools be used effectively, what are my expectations, and what outcomes can I project from using this technology”? Along with “does this tool help me stimulate critical inquiry and collaboration in my classroom”?


Maybe teachers expect academic sociologists to be on top of all the research so that those in the classroom don’t have to think about their selections. It’s an extremely strange and troubling stance to take, as teachers are the ones who are immersed in the classroom on a daily basis and know the way each of their students learns better than anyone in some academic lab. That’s not to discount the value of sociologists. They are an extremely valuable and necessary part of our team, rather I am working to establish teachers as valuable members of this team, as well. So does it not make sense that all teachers should become “in-service researchers” and ensure there is reflection and critical thinking in their own practice? Does it not make sense that they would share their findings with their colleagues to help support and form an effective educational learning framework, a.k.a professional development? And worse still, do teachers who want to be handed the tools actually think all of this emerging technology has been researched in advance to ensure optimal learning environments? Often what we are doing is re-purposing web applications that have been born with business productivity or entertainment in mind. There is little monetary value in developing educational applications so we are left picking through the pile of emerging apps. Again, even more reason to use an “educational filter” that calls on our knowledge of the science of learning when selecting appropriate tools.


(photo courtesy of  NASA (Great Images in NASA Description)[see page for license], via Wikimedia Commons)

TV is still a part of the texture of everyday life






Recycling Old TV by Jiri Hodan
A great deal of research went into my paper for Research Methods class. I visited the Ryerson Library after encountering some frustration with the on-line resources available. A number of books looked like they might have material on the topic but I was only able to take the Robert Kolker book out called “Media Studies: An Introduction”. The books I really wanted, “Television Studies After TV” by Graeme Turner and “Television and American Culture” by Jason Mittel were already signed out (I was able to get this last one eventually and found it an excellent resource). I took out the third edition of “Media Scapes” for two hours to photocopy and I found three good essays in it. I didn’t end up using any of them for this assignment. Frustrated with my lack of resources, I went to Brock University in St. Catharines. I found a couple of great books. Henry Jenkins’ “Convergence Culture”, Amanda Lotz’s “The Television Will Be Revolutionized”, John Sinclair’s “Contemporary World Television” and Editor, Lynn Spigel’s “Television After TV.” I couldn’t believe my luck. The Brock students must have been doing mid-term exams instead of essays. Every book I wanted was available. I even found an article by a theorist whose work I have been interested in. David Morley has an article published about the Politics of Location called, “At Home With Television.” It appeared in Lynn Spigel’s book, “Television After TV”. It had a global and historical perspective that I felt was too broad for my essay about everyday life.

I took copies of the parts I needed and got out my highlighter to get a good idea of all the main points.

I knew I wanted to write about media convergence and how that may have changed television for the viewer. I was surprised to find some authors talking about television as an interactive medium in creating on-line communities from TV shows. That got me thinking about the day Damion Nurse showed us what Global was doing online with the show, “Da kink in my hair”. It struck me that the Joycam was familiar in the way that many of us create our own vlogs to post online. The show was making a connection with viewers by playing an everyday role. I also started to think about how clever MTV is for getting viewers back into co-viewing by airing an audience participatory show that airs live right after the show, “The Hills”.

During my reading I encountered a real sense of snobbery from the British media theorists who really put down commercial broadcasters by describing North American viewers as customers of service. A pompous tone of “social responsibility” was entwined in any talk of the use of British public television. It made me realize it was necessary to look more to the American theorists for my material as their perspective would be heavily geared towards the more prevalent private broadcasters than public in North America. (John Sinclair take an air of superiority)

I enjoyed Anna McCarthy’s article about the television in public space with its installation in waiting rooms. It reminded me of a trip I had to my own doctor’s office in which TV sets were visible in public spaces. I never felt they were intrusive and was happy for the distraction while waiting. I felt that talking about how television has squeezed into new public space was important to show how its use has changed in every day life and in this way, it is more pervasive.

I also found some work from William Uricchio about “Flow” that I enjoyed. The transference of direct control of flow from programmers to the audience actively selecting content with its own “flow”.

I found it difficult to write this essay. I knew what points I wanted to make just by what struck me most in the readings. Stylistically, it was different than the essays I am accustomed to. Although there was greater freedom in the flow from point to point, I tried to go back and check that I had included proof, and comment for each Point and where possible, draw from my own observations of the mediums. As well, although I wanted to focus on the audience, I knew I had to include the industry’s involvement and statistics in order to put the focus in the proper context.