Major Project – Complete!

Hi all!

My major project is now complete. You can watch it at the youtube link at the end of this post.

For my project, I chose to combine a look at the ethical implications of AI with an experiential journey through using AI technology in my classroom. I summarized everything in a video that describes my process of “learning to love AI”. I learned so much about this new and important technology through this project and for that I am very grateful! The process of creating the video in itself was a journey and hopefully shows that as you watch!

Some of the sources I used in the project are listed in the description of the youtube video.

Thanks everyone for the fantastic semester!

Watch here!

Major Project – Update 5

Hi all,

Consider this the penultimate update to my major project! I am about halfway done production of my video on AI. Thinking through the process, I realize that I haven’t done much updating through these blog posts, but I believe that the “journey” is shown more accurately through the actual final product itself. Specifically, the concept of the video is how I am slowly learning to love AI, and the ups and downs of the roller coaster that is created by that. Therefore I hope that watching the video enables you to follow along with that journey along with me while enjoying the final product. I have seriously had a great deal of growth from the beginning to the end of this class when it comes to my learning (especially around AI). I wanted to include in this update that as I edit my video and pull everything together, I am realizing that this is far from the ending of my journey with artificial intelligence. In fact, it is just the beginning. I tried to leave the ending of my video purposely ambiguous to that effect.


Anyways, I hope to have that final product posted by this weekend!

Summary of Learning – Cole

Hi folks! Please take a look at my summary of learning at the link below.

Stop Making Sense 1984, directed by Jonathan Demme | Film review

The concept is deeply indebted to the Talking Heads concert film Stop Making Sense (as in, it’s a parody of that, lol) They are one of my favourite bands and that’s one of my favourite movies. Seeing as how I’ve already referenced them before in my catalyst video, I thought I’d keep the streak alive. (If you want to preview the specific song I’m referencing, check this out.)

I chose this song as I started this class with a pretty negative view of the digital landscape, as a “killer” of sorts. Ha. I tried to communicate through this video the change in perspective I now feel along with the questions I still wrestle with. No easy answers!

Anyways, here’s the summary of learning: Digital Citizen



Major Project – Update 4

Hi all, quick major project update here.

I am essentially completed the “script” of my major project video but have to get down to the nitty gritty of filming. This is where I start to become concerned that my eyes are bigger than my stomach so to speak and I’ve written something unwieldly that will have to be chopped down. I’m slightly resigning myself to the fact that the final product might be more ‘process’ than product and might not be exactly as I envisioned due to time constraints. I also am realizing that my technological abilities and materials don’t match my vision. Oh well! Excited to see how it turns out.

Week 9 – Fake News

It’s fascinating for me to think about how my intake of media has changed and evolved throughout my life. In fact, I think that Jordan’s sharing of the “Filter Bubble” idea and article really spoke to me and allowed me to view my media intake through a new lens. I’ve realized that as I have grown and changed, so has my filter bubble and the media inside it.

At present, when I think of the places where I get my “news” so to speak, that is essentially exclusively through social media. The only social media I actively use these days are Instagram and Twitter, and twitter (I refuse to use that ridiculous new name) in particular is a main source of news and information. Now, I realize like with everything on the internet I need to approach the things I read on social media with some healthy dose of skepticism. That being said, I firmly believe that the filter bubble I have consciously (and unconsciously) placed myself in provides me with accurate and reliable information. I have pretty consistent left wing political views and approaches to life. The content that I consume reflects that. I’m aware that puts me in a filter bubble of content that isn’t showing me other perspectives on situations, but I don’t inherently see anything wrong with that. I think there is a stigma of sorts that we should avoid being in our “bubble”. Although in our class discussion, my group talked lots about how these types of social bubbles existed long before the internet and are a very natural form of human communication. You instinctively seek others out who reflect your values. I don’t believe that all issues require us to “hear both sides”. I don’t see the value in listening or consuming violent and harmful rhetoric, so why bother?

When I think of the articles that we discussed this week, particularly Jordan’s and Kim’s I’m grateful that I was not sucked into a spiral of fake news and disinformation. When I think of the alt-right pipeline, I’m kind of the perfect target – twenty-something cis white male. I was lucky enough to have positive influences around me that made sure going down that path was never possible in the first place. I don’t mean to say that a lack of positive influence is what leads to these dangerous beliefs – I’m sure despite the best intentions of parents and other loved ones individuals still fall down dangerous rabbit holes.

I think to a certain extent the ability to separate fact from fiction on the internet is a matter of practice, like anything else in life. As someone who has grown up with the internet and certainly spent a great deal of my teenage years as an “Very Online Guy” (shout out to Alvvays), I feel that a lifetime’s worth of encountering B.S. on the internet has somewhat trained my brain to detect it better. And as many of us recall, B.S. used to be a lot easier to spot, making the training much more effective (who could forget images that often looked like this from the early 2010’s)

Has science gone too far? [pic] : r/funny

However, today’s young people are being ‘trained’ on MUCH more sophisticated B.S. Super-B.S., if you will. They are no longer being asked if this seagull with human arms is real. They’re being asked to determine whether or not footage of political figures making any statement under the sun is in fact, factual.

Experts warn 'deepfakes' videos of politicians could be manipulated | Daily  Mail Online

I worry that this in turn leads to a less developed sense of media literacy than older Gen-Z and millennial compatriots have had a chance to build. On the other hand, the fact that it takes such a strong B.S. detector to analyze images might have a more positive effect than before.

Curious to hear your thoughts!

Media Literacy and Major Project – Update 3

From working through the readings and thoughts of myself and my group members this week, I think we all have come to the conclusion that the concept of media literacy is one that is extremely difficult to define and pin down.

I think that in order to be fully literate in today’s world you have to be able to streamline information. Echo discussed in her chosen article that gatekeeping is an essential skill in the modern information age. To me, this means being able to selectively pare down the gigantic wealth of information we are bombarded with constantly. I think that a lot of the disinformation and misinformation issues we see in today’s world are the result of individuals becoming completely overwhelmed with the amount of information they are intaking, and therefore failing to completely analyze it.

From all of this, the question that has been rolling around my mind lately has been – how much does media literacy matter? That seems like a loaded question. Of course it matters, and matters quite a bit. At least at some intrinsic level, there is obviously value in being able to separate fact and fiction and engage authentically with ideas presented to us in the media.

What I mean when I ask that question is more of a ‘cynical’ take I suppose. How much does media literacy matter when our social systems seem to take no punitive measures against those extremely powerful individuals and collectives that are consistently and intentionally deceitful? In the past ten years, the concept of a “post-facts society” has become more and more prevalent. The idea behind post-fact society is simple: it is a “political culture where facts are considered irrelevant”, to quote Wikipedia. Since the 2016 election (which as noted in my reading was a pivotal moment in media literacy), the term post-fact has been used increasingly to describe the world we live in. It seems to me that we are heading deeper into this world. So this is where my question (basically rhetorical at this point) comes from. What does the ability to separate fact and fiction actually get me if “fact” doesn’t really matter anyways?

Again, of course I still see the value in media literacy. I’d like to believe there is an inherent “good” in being able to demonstrate media literacy regardless of the political culture we live in. As Jennifer’s article (Teach Them Well) points out, media literacy still has the positive potential to impact things like sexism and racism. It allows people, specifically our students, to interrogate the biases that many hold on to since early childhood.

As a major project update:

The script for my major project video is coming along nicely. I’m in the stage right now I often find myself in where I need to find a focus and narrow down my topic. I like to put a lot down on the page and then pare it down from there, so that’s what the next few weeks will be looking like. I’ve also been able to experiment even more with AI this weeks which helps me in this experiential journey. Part of my project is about opening myself up more to use AI tools as an educator. For instance, I used ChatGPT this week to quickly generate an extra practice worksheet for my science 10 class.


Looking forward to hear your thoughts.

Major Project – Update 2

I’ve been reading a LOT about the ethics of AI this week. This is something that I am deeply interested in and referring back to my last post, why AI makes me so uncomfortable in theory. The most fascinating of articles has been this one from Mark Ryan (2019). Essentially, Ryan discussed how AI by definition CANNOT be trusted as it “does not possess emotive states or be held responsible for its actions” (Ryan, 2019). This is a fascinating position to me and I think if it is to be believed throws much of the contemporary thinking around AI into question.

In addition, I chuckled when I read the first line of the abstract to this paper on AI and ethics this week: “one of the main difficulties in assessing artificial intelligence (AI) is the tendency for people to anthropomorphize it” (Ryan, 2019). Oops. Anthropomorphizing AI is going to be a large part of my final product.

Major Project – Update 1

For my ECI 832 major project, I’m exploring the world of Artificial Intelligence. I’ve picked this topic for a variety of reasons, but chief among them is the fact that for the most part, I am incredibly resistant to AI and it’s consequences. While I certainly don’t consider myself a technophobe, since the surge in popularity of AI over the last few years, I have felt nothing but discomfort following this technology as it develops.

Through this project, I want to dissect, challenge, and analyze where these feelings come from by exploring and researching AI tools and concepts. To begin, I’ve started by playing around with AI tools in my day to day life, including in my teaching practice (for example, using AI to translate exams and assignments to other languages). I’ve also begun research on the ethical considerations around AI technology.

The working title of my project is “Learning to Love AI”. I’m not sure if that will be the end result, but already through this process I have learned much more about how AI works and the ways it can be utilized. I’ve started on a basic script as I hope to create a 10-20 min video as a final product. I’ll be posting on here more frequently now that I have really gotten the ball rolling!

Week 6 – Identity

I used to think about digital identity every time power went out.

I know that doesn’t make much sense, but let me explain.

Many moons ago, I worked on a variety of SaskPower ad campaigns for an advertising firm. In one of these such campaigns, I featured in a video entitled “When The Lights Go Out”, in which I stumble my way through an explanation of how SaskPower works to get things up and running again when the power goes out.

Thus began a multiple year period where I was texted, called, and shouted at every time the power went out around the city. SaskPower would push this video onto their outage map webpage during large outages, and the influx of people checking the map led to a lot more of my friends and colleagues seeing this video than I had anticipated. Once, during a power outage at school, a student of mine looked up from the outage map they had pulled up on their phone in horror. “MR. NICOLSON?”

Of course, this is a relatively harmless and positive example of digital identity. However, it is a constant reminder of the pervasiveness of an online persona and my often complete lack of control over that identity.

I’m 27 years old. I’ve often felt that my micro generation of those 25-30 right now were born on the ‘cusp’ of a turn in digital identity. A transition zone between those who lived very little of their youth online and those who are currently living quite a lot of their youth on the internet. Yes, I have most certainly posted things I regret on the internet when I was much younger. However, many of my most vulnerable and sensitive growth years were not lived as strongly in the digital realm. This is not something I think we can say the same for our current wave of students.

In recent years, I’ve felt myself withdrawing more and more from my digital identity. Of course this has to do with multiple factors including getting older and being more aware of the responsibilities of this profession. However, I think that another big part of this is a gradual realization that (at least in my mind), the internet is not “real”. At least not in a way that makes sense to me.

This is a difficult conversation – especially because of discussions we’ve had in class around how things that happen online can be very real, especially for young people. And I don’t think I have my thoughts straight on all of this in a way that would make sense enough to defend my position. However, I don’t believe that this sense of digital “reality” is an inherent part of digital identity. I think what we are currently seeing more and more is a vision of the internet that is only superficially about things like “connection”. At a much deeper level, I feel a retreat into the online world only serves to foster a greater sense of isolation across class, racial, and sexual lines. The greatest dangers to the ruling class are community and organization. While these things can be fostered through the digital world, I feel that real-world, actionable connections are where true progress lies.

So when it comes to the transhumanist approach discussed in this week’s class, I tend to disagree that integrating ourselves even more fully with the “machine” is a solution or will somehow lead to enlightenment. Curious to hear more thoughts on this from you folks.

Week 4 – Balance

Reflecting on the 9 Elements of Digital Citizenship this week, the importance of synergy between the 9 elements became crystal clear. Without implementation of all nine elements, the entire system falls out of balance.

This being said, my focus for this week’s blog is how difficult it seems to be for educators themselves to utilize the nine elements in a way that best suits their own unique situations. It often feels as if the teacher autonomy necessary for full implementation of all nine elements is taken away and many aspects of digital citizenship are dealt with at an administrative level. The ability for educators to make professional decisions regarding these crucial nine elements is severely limited – and leaves very little room for professional autonomy and working with the diversity of student needs in our classroom.

“Digital Access” is one that comes to mind most immediately in my world of education. Ribble defines digital access as equitable distribution of digital technology and resources. My school division has recently announced their interest in conducting a rollout of 1-to-1 student devices in the division. In other words, a division laptop provided to every student. After some of our discussions in class this week, this initiative is beginning to sound very familiar…

One of our greatest difficulties and therefore lessons from pandemic teaching was of course digital access. The lack of access to technology (which at that time was absolutely essential to participating in the school process) was extremely worrisome for many of the students at my school. This lack of access certainly disproportionately affected our marginalized groups of students. For these reasons, I definitely do see the benefits that a 1:1 student device initiative would have.

At the same time – I have discussed with other colleagues in the class in the blog comments the seemingly increasing problem of “throwing technology at the problem” within our education system. Without the proper structure and motivation, these initiatives seem destined to end up in a similar position to the “One Laptop Per Child” program discussed in the link above. It is also a hard sell for teachers – we are surrounded by swelling classrooms, crumbling infrastructure, and ever-growing pressures. It might be difficult convincing educators that this type of policy is where our money is best spent. I’m not sure exactly where I fall on this divide, but I do think it is important to recognize that educators themselves are the best consultation on something like this. Talk to the people on the ground floor!

One last piece on this laptop initiative – going back to Ribble’s original definition, he calls for equitable distribution of digital resources. Not equal, but equitable. Is providing a division-mandated computer for all students an equitable distribution? Food for thought.

Defining: Equity, Equality and Justice | Achieve Brown County

Thinking about these elements being implemented in my classroom, I come back to this focus on teacher autonomy. One way that I see Digital Access, Etiquette, and Health and Welfare all wrapped up into one tangible and very pertinent example is with school cell phone policies. These policies often range from teacher to teacher, school to school, and division to division.

For me, these policies are another example of how implementation of digital citizenship is moved from the classroom to the board room. Our division implemented a division-wide cell phone policy last year, with the idea to standardize practice across all schools. Interestingly, the justification that they provided for this policy mainly revolves around studies linked to digital technology and student mental health and well-being. Our division policy essentially states that cell phones and devices should be parked away from students at the beginning of class time. Teachers have the authority to allow access to devices for educational purposes.

What intrigues me about this policy is the wide range of reactions and levels of implementation between teachers. Some teachers praised this policy as a god-send. Others decried it as taking away student freedom. Some teachers follow it to the letter of the law. Others can’t be bothered.

My main thought is this – what implicit messages (good or bad) are we sending to our students through our implementation (or NON-implementation) of this policy? How does the removal of access foster digital citizenship? For me, it seems as if a policy such as this removes one element (Digital Access) in the hopes that other elements (Etiquette, Health and Wellbeing) can be improved. This seems contradictory – I began this post by recognizing that a balance of the elements is what’s needed to foster citizenship.

And finally – how does the creation of these policies that come from a higher level authority affect the professional life of us as educators? Lots of questions, not a lot of answers. Looking forward to hearing from you.