Category Archives: Understanding and Responding to Societal Context

Design Thinking into Biohacking?

I just recently read Brian Aspinall’s (@mraspinall) blog post on Coding: Developing Rigorous Thinkers where he discusses the reason why students should learn to code – to think, problem solve, take risks, modify their work through trial and error, etc. All the competencies (specifics from Alberta Education) we want them to engage and grow as learner and it reminded me of an amazing TED Talk from Andrew Pelling where he “grows” human ears from other objects that you would never suspect.

He also recently founded pHacktory which is an independent research lab founded on extreme play, curiosity, undertaking audacious projects, taking risks and learning from failure.

I wonder how we could take Andrew’s zest for engaging in dramatic and disruptive learning and put it into our learning environments?




Give Every Child a Voice

This is such a powerful and emotion story! Grab some tissues, sit down for 17 minutes and take time to watch this video. As you do so, think about:

  • How can we design learning opportunities for students to experience a variety of different technologies so that they can communicate, create, and connect?
  • What does independence mean to you?
  • What is your definition of an Inclusive Classroom? How can you create one? Who can support you along this journey?

Make Yourself Open to Opportunity

Kare Anderson is a super story teller and brings us into her world where everyone can make a difference. Not only are we all “smart” at something, we also can connect with each other and also connect others so they can network and learn. If our stories, our ideas and/or our products/services are presented by people who are startling (grab your emotion), compelling (show you there is a way) and credible (some experience), then change can and will happen.

It’s a great video to watch yourself, but even a better one to watch as a group!

Ask yourself/group – How are we using our collective talents to create a better society? Are there others (outside organizations/people) that we should tap into to help with our cause(s)?


Pigs + Innovation?

Design Thinking

Entrepreneurial Spirit

Critical Inquiry

And many more concepts are certainly part of the education vernacular in 2016. These are not new concepts, however what is NEWer, is that schools, administrators and teachers are re-inventing the use of flexible learning opportunities by changing how the school day looks and feels. No more, ALL students should use the same No.2 pencil AT THE SAME TIME, but more time given by teachers to provide a space for students to engage in some really interesting learning.

The commercial below reminded of the amazing ‘innovative’ work that I get to see within PSD70 and via the #psd70 hashtag of engaged and effective learning!



To continue your learning, check out:



The Alberta Education system should strive to install the following qualities and abilities in our students:

  • Engaged Thinker: who thinks critically and makes discoveries; who uses technology to learn, innovate, communicate, and discover; who works with multiple perspectives and disciplines to identify problems and find the best solutions; who communicates these ideas to others; and who, as a life-long learner, adapts to change with an attitude of optimism and hope for the future.
  • Ethical Citizen: who builds relationships based on humility, fairness and open-mindedness; who demonstrates respect, empathy and compassion; and who through teamwo9rk, collaboration and communication contributes fully to the community and the world.
  • Entrepreneurial Spirit: who creates opportunities and achieves goals though hard work. perseverance and discipline; who strives for excellence and earns success; who explores ideas and challenges the status quo; who is competitive, adaptive and resilient; and who has the confidence to take risks and make bold decisions in the face of adversity.
  • Some great documentation is found with the Cross Curricular Competencies, created by the Edmonton Regional Learning Consortium (ERLC).


  • Critical Challenges found in Alberta’s Social Studies Program of Studies (password-protected). Once in LearnAlberta portal, then search “Critical Challenges” and you’ll find a goldmine of resources!
  • The Critical Thinking Consortium is also a great place for these resources. Some free but to dig into some more amazing stuff, get a membership! They also have some Critical Challenges but also so many more resources.

Come Play in the Sandbox

The Alberta School Employee Benefit Plan (ASEBP) has published a Calendar and Health Planner for the past five years. What I like about it is all the information that is packed inside. The challenges and ideas motivate me to try something new or share some of the resources with colleagues. Tips include nutrition, physical health, mental health to name a few. In November there is a fantastic Holiday Season Challenge (see weekly challenges in the image below).

There’s also a website – The Wellness Sandbox which promotes employee wellness that has some information and resources.



UDL Overview

For the first week’s work in the SOOC4Learning working and learning group that I have joined, we are to share our thoughts from a choice of tasks. I went with the focus on showcasing a UDL Overview as I work out of Division Office as the Curriculum Educational Technology Facilitator. My main time is spent with supporting administrators and teachers but I do get to work with students to empower themselves (and advocate) to have engaging, enriching and authentic learning experiences.

Planning with UDL in mind is not difficult in my opinion, however, becoming aware and understanding the variety of tools, resources and support may be daunting.

My video below was created by smashing or combining a variety of applications. Choosing three copyright free images to represent each of the three UDL principles, inputting them into the Wordfoto iOS app and gathering up to ten key words for each image really was fun for me. I then used LiPix, an iOS app to combine the three images and recorded a video which was saved into my iPads’ photo album. I then uploaded the video to my YouTube channel (added annotations and ensured closed captioning was working) and embedded it below (or go directly to the link HERE).

I am very lucky to work in an school division whose vision is “where exploration, creativity, and imagination make learning exciting and where all learners aspire to reach their dreams” and that staff are working towards it daily!


Emerging Technologies – Promise and Peril

Promise and Peril intro

Today, I had the opportunity to sit and learn with people from across North America, the UK, Finland and Australia from various sectors of education, health, research, police, trades and government.

This is a time of infinitesimal technological change where we all need to understand the immense impact of the digital environment has on our health and well-being.

I had the honor to facilitate the thoughtful conversations that occurred between keynote speakers at my table. This blog will reflect my personal thoughts, table thoughts and that of the main group attending the research colloquium.

The intended goals were to:

– consider the extent to which technologies are (re)shaping the minds and bodies of children and youth

– identify the issues, perspectives and contentions emerging from current North American research

– generate key questions to guide policy decisions and future research on emerging technologies, learning, teaching and the well-being of children and youth


Dr. Michael Rich

Dr. Michael Rich, Associate Professor of Pediatrics at Harvard Medical School and Associate Professor of Society, Human Development, and Health at Harvard School of Public Health, Boston, United States Full Bio

Centre on Media and Child Health – Explore Dr. Rich’s extensive work on behalf of Children’s Hospital Boston, Harvard Medical School and the Harvard School of Public HealthCBC national panel discussion on Youth and Technology (February 2014)Ask the “Mediatrician” a question

Dr. Rich took us on quite a journey:

–         The average 8-18 year old uses media for 7 hours and 38 minutes per day

–         Kids are getting less sleep because they are using their devices during bed time which means less sleep = less consolidation of learning (the brain cannot process the days learning since it isn’t in full REM long enough or deep enough)

–         Those students who are heavy users (16+ hours/day) have poorer grades, are twice as likely to get in trouble and have low personal contentment.

–         What we feed a child’s mind is as important as what we feed their body

–         There is value in boredom – do youth have time to be bored anymore with the large amount of time spent with media content?

–         ¼ of 8-9th graders say that video gaming gets in the way of their studies

–         Video games are set environments and conditions where players direct, rehearse and are rewarded for behavioral scripts

–         Kids don’t understand that when they set up their profiles in various social media sites that advertisers are already connecting their products to those profiles

–         58% of cyber bullied victims do not tell adults for fear of losing access to their media. Many youth stay online in self defense as they fear of missing out.

–         Social media is neutral; human nature makes it the promise or peril

–         A lot of characteristics of drug addictions are consistent for addictions to media/technology

–         Take a digital Sabbath – 24 hour period once a week where you turn off your devices.

–         The following news items are great to share with parents or in school newsletters. For even more check out and

online happenings


–         Use media with your children in their digital space, talk to them about the experiences and don’t use time limits on screen time, rather, prioritize their life with rich and diverse activities

kids want tech

–         Kids with severe health issues are able to connect online with their clinicians

–         Embed media literacy with the curriculum through mindful reception, critical thinking and thoughtful responses


Panel Information

Catherine Adams, Assoc Prof from University of Alberta

Nicole Sherren, Director, Norlien Foundation

Michele Jacobsen, Assoc Prof from University of Calgary


–         Technology as pharmakon – it can be seen as a remedy and as a poison. Too little and it doesn’t work, too much and it is poisonous

–         Technology not only affects the individual but the entire system

–         Neural circuits are developed from the bottom up. The brain strengthens the circuits used most. Positive builds positive.

–         Executive function helps kids navigate their world n succeed in life + based on cog, social, emotional competencies

–         AB Family Wellness Initiative  – fantastic site w/brain resources

–         Stress shapes brain architecture – types: + (brief acts, required), tolerable (serious but temp), toxic (prolonged, damaging)

–         New research: 78% of 12-17 yr. olds have mobile phones, 47% have smart phones.

–         If we value our kids, they can acquire AND contribute ideas to shape their society

leverage tech

issues tech

Dr. Valerie Steeves

Dr. Valerie Steeves, Associate Professor, University of Ottawa, and principal investigator of the largest Canadian research study on children & teens’ online habits. Full Bio

Cyberbullying: Dealing with Online Meanness, Cruelty and ThreatsOnline Privacy, Online PublicityLife Online

–         99% Cdn students access internet outside of school, 62% use tablet/mobile device

–         Children’s’ internet use is highly gendered

–         25-33% students post digital content, but only 4% do so frequently. 50% search for info/current events

–         students’ frequent online activities – gaming, downloading, reading SM posts, Twitter following n posting

–         content creation focuses mainly on students social lives

–         The idea we can throw tech at kids and they will instinctively innovate does not appear to be supported by research

–         Top sites for Cdn Kids – YouTube Facebook and Google

–         Over 50% of Canadian grade 11 students report sleeping with their cell phones. 20% of grade 4 students report the same thing

–         kids who choose 2 go offline – spend time w/friends/family, quiet time, outside sports

–         Besides the gr8 resources, Media Smarts has an informational edtech blog 

–         Influence of photoshop and girls images of themselves

–         Who do kids say they learn digital literacy from? 45% say from parents 41% say from teachers

–         Cyberbullying – big range of behaviors – mainly drama-based from kids points of view – they say adult standards are unreasonable

–         Internet filters & blockers don’t build trust with students. How do we create avenues of trust when we’re putting up barriers?

reality bytes


– it’s about the relationships both online and offline

– marketization of the online environment – children’s data being used by companies

– we need to unplug but need some solid “how much”/core direction to move forward

– talk to children/community about when and how much screen time is appropriate