Summary of Learning – EC&I 831

I started out the semester using hashtag to describe myself without really knowing what it meant.

It certainly is a wonderful feeling to look back and compare myself with the person I was three months ago. I feel this class opened up my world. It helped me overcome my fear and be more active on social media. I still feel that keeping up with Twitter is very time consuming and overwhelming. There are so many valuable ideas and conversations if only there were enough hours in a day to be able to read and participate in all of them.

The most challenging part of this class was to share my podcasts on Twitter. Thankfully it turned out to be a rewarding experience. I figured out how to use Anchor all by myself and was able to record the major steps of my piano learning journey. Although being a support staff often makes it hard to incorporate things I learn as part of my classes, this time I was able to create a shorter podcast for grade 7/8 students incorporating an informative, persuasive and entertaining recording as part of their lesson on the author’s purpose. The students thought it was pretty cool. Talking about students, we never know who we are going to touch through our work. One day one of my students stopped me in the hallway asking if I was a YouTuber. I said not exactly but I do have YouTube videos such as my Summary of Learning from my EC&I 834 class. This student of mine stopped me in the hallway two days later with a huge smile on his face saying “Ms. Demeter! I subscribed to your channel”. I cannot believe that he came across my video without me ever mentioning it to anyone. I’m glad though that he checked it out and found it valuable.

Since this class gave me the opportunity to experiment with both, learning a new skill through face-to-face interaction and online resources, I came to the conclusion that I don’t really prefer one over the other. I feel they both have advantages and disadvantages and they can complement each other if a significant amount of time is invested in them. I also feel that building a relationship with my piano teacher during my face-to-face classes were extremely valuable in order to have guidance, and keep me on the right track when having no sense of direction.

I am thankful for the opportunity to listen to Dr. Roberts’ (2019) presentation on Open Educational Resources, as well as the follow up discussion lead by my colleague, Dean Vendramin in his podcast.

My biggest take away this semester is that I not only learnt about Open Educational Resources but also had a chance to immerse myself by practicing building relationships through social media, co-designing learning pathways while building my personal learning network through reflection and sharing. Having the opportunity to follow my peers’ learning journeys and reflections, as well as becoming familiar with the incredible work of a number of social activists, helped me realize how important the online world is when it comes to making great ideas flourish and staying connected.

As part of my Summary of Learning Podcast – EC&I 831, I decided to invite a very special friend of mine, Brandi to be my guest. Brandi, being a piano player, a Mom of three amazing children who also has teaching experience seemed to be my perfect guest to discuss social media and open educational resources in our personal and professional lives.

I would like to thank my Prof. Dr. Alec Couros for his support and his engaging, high quality online sessions as well as my colleagues for providing me with great ideas and encouraging me throughout the semester. Without you I wouldn’t have been able to do this. I would like to invite you to meet a true gem, Brandi, through my Summary of Learning Podcast.

Thank you!

Social Media Activism

Not being familiar with the term Social Media Activism, hearing the word “activism” immediately brought back pleasant and not so pleasant memories. Just as Catherine mentioned, the term activism is often identified with protests, marches and fighting for change that was very much present in my life growing up. Hearing the story of a few great social activists, helped me see the value of social activism. As Curtis described “By people joining in on social media for a cause, brings awareness to issues that may otherwise be dismissed”. Several intentional actions, formal or non-formal movements with the goal of bringing social change prove that social activism can be effective.

Marley Dias experiencing the lack of diversity in her grade 5 classroom starts a campaign looking for books about black girls. With the donations she has received, thanks to her online campaign, her collection reached 1000 books. Her promoting diversity led to the JetBlue’s Soar with Reading Initiative targeting the ‘book deserts’ neighbourhoods in New York by setting up six free vending machines where books are available all summer for borrowing.

Martha Payne, the ten year old school girl from Scotland by starting a blog about her daily lunches served at the school cafeteria, was not only able to reform the school cafeteria meals with the help of the support she was getting from all over the world, but through the Mary’s Meal Charity, she also helped build a kitchen in Malawi where 14000 people are being fed.

In the #CHHS Lets Talk, Brett Rothery raises awareness of mental health as well as the ‘Sit with us’ app. designed by the 16 years-old Natalie Hampton as a result of sitting alone her entire 7th grade in the school cafeteria are wonderful examples of using social media as a tool to make a difference.

No Strings is educating children in the form of a puppet show. The main reason for these wonderful puppeteers getting together was to open up new ways of thinking and help children deal with critical problems, such as staying away from landmines in Afghanistan. Today there is a wide variety of topic addressed in the form of puppet shows translated into different languages, demonstrating kids that there is hope.

Craftivist Sarah Corbett led a gentle protest with hand-embroidered hankies helping the retail employees working for M&S get higher wages, by reaching the goal of receiving the “Living Wage” accreditation.

As we see through the above mentioned social activists’ actions, they all met their goal of bringing social justice. In my view, having online conversations can be more productive since it gives a chance to reach people from all over the world. Although the online world has the power to provide support, the success doesn’t always come without a price. Social activists often face controversies and negativity that can escalate to higher levels, such as loosing a job.

When it comes to our responsibility as educators, I feel it is important to model to our students how to be digital citizens, by becoming personally responsible, participatory, as well as justice oriented citizens. We also have to teach them that freedom of speech does not mean freedom of consequences. In order for them to become successful up-standers, it is crucial to teach them to take action in their community, as well as do research and build knowledge. I think it is important to teach students about the existence of negativity in the online world, such as doxing, as well as ways to deal with it if that ever becomes the case.

How OEP is affecting me as a teacher and student

I often wonder where I would be, regarding my English language knowledge, if I had access to Open Educational Resources (OER) growing up. If I think back, most of my schooling in Romania, with extrinsic motivation playing a big role, always focusing on the grades, was mainly based on “surface learning” (Roberts, 2019). Comparing my previous experiences with my EC&I 831 class, I clearly understand the difference between “surface learning” and “deep learning” described by Dr. Roberts (2019) with the latter based on intrinsic motivation. In the learner centred environment of EC&I 831, I am given the opportunity to learn something that I am truly passionate about, leading to “knowledge-creation” through a high level of intrinsic motivation.

I feel fortunate to have the opportunity to learn about Open Educational Practices (OEP) through the eyes of both, a university student as well as a teacher. Through my piano learning project, I am experiencing the four stages of Open Learning Design Intervention (OLDI) described by Dr. Roberts (2019) which helps me better understand the steps of my own learning and the value behind each step.

I didn’t have any doubts regarding my learning project since I felt I was part of a safe learning space with my supportive professor, Dr. Alec Couros and peers by my side. I also felt that the abundant world of OER is hard to use for a number of reasons. For me personally, the hardest part was to find high-quality, user friendly resources. It is challenging to decide if the resources are quality materials or not, especially when the topic, or skill is completely new. To overcome this barrier, I decided to find a piano teacher for co-designing and scaffolding purposes along my piano learning journey. Building and sharing my experiences and knowledge in the form of a podcast and on Twitter made me feel quite vulnerable. Overcoming the strange feeling of being outside of my comfort zone and recording every step while taking risks and making mistakes, literally in front of the world, help me see my own growth within my learning path. After overcoming the fear of being judged, sharing also brought me the gift of interactions, positive feedback, collaborations, and connections leading to learning from one another. Reflecting on the “multiple people, spaces, perspectives, experiences and nodes of learning” (Roberts, 2019) combined with an open mind and willingness to learn helped me build a Personal Learning Network (PLN).

At the end of the day, as a support staff, I find it quite challenging to incorporate OER and OEP. Beside the major drawback, which is lack of time in my case, Dr. Verena Roberts discussed in the podcast hosted by Dean Vendramin that we need to have open readiness as well. Having no digital literacy skills can make the OEP quite hard to happen. Lori Thibault also names a number of drawbacks in her blogpost, such as finding reliable, age-appropriate resources, having limited access to devices, programs, applications, low internet speed, lack of technological training and adequate amount of preparation time. At this time, I am focusing on building a safe space for my students as well as expanding the learning environment beyond the classroom walls by finding, creating, remixing and sharing my learning experiences through social media, blogging, and podcasting.

the power of sharing

Diving into the world of technology for the first time, I felt terribly scared. I was so stressed out from this overwhelming world that I literally felt dizzy. I got through my first ed. tech class (EC&I 834) with my head barely above water, since up till last January, I was doing things in a way I was comfortable with. All of a sudden everything, I mean everything became brand new to me. I had a hard time following the classes because I had to google almost every term. But with the help of my Prof. Alec Couros and my colleagues’ support, I was able to get through it and I learnt an enormous amount. So, I let things rest till September, when my second class (EC&I 831) started. Today, I feel a lot more comfortable and I got to a point where I am enjoying what I’m doing. I absolutely love the idea of the learning project and I get to experience on my own skin, how interest and engagement can help you get over your own barriers.

Even though I started sharing my piano learning journey in the form of a podcast embedded in my blog, I felt awkward when I had to share it on Twitter. Putting myself out there makes me feel terribly vulnerable. I also grew up in a world where it was not cool to talk about your own self or the things you did. So, I literally had to force myself to post and share through blogging and Twitter. I was hesitant regarding the value of sharing for quite a long time. But the fact that I was learning something new every time I read my colleagues’ blogs and tweets, and attending George Couros‘ sessions as part of the RTConvention2019, help me see each and every day the benefits of sharing. Beside providing a rich medium with support in ALL areas, it also builds human connections giving the feeling that you have people around you whom you can count on. The biggest question is, as Dean Shareski puts it in Sharing – the moral imperative, do we take the time to share meaningful and valuable information to teach beyond, not only the students in the classroom?

Today, I feel very thankful for people sharing. George Couros showed us the unique way Sophie’s dad chose to capture her childhood. Emailing his daughter the most memorable events of her life, made me want to go back in time to be able to do something similar for my own children. Thanks to sharing, I know about this amazing idea and I guess it is not too late yet, having an eight and ten year old. I also feel that if I share this with other people, they might still have a better chance to surprise their children or grandchildren with such a precious gift. What an amazing way to capture memories and emotions.

Kaia and Room 10 is another great example for expanding interactions among people from different parts of the world with different cultural background. Starting out in Jakarta with a dad sharing pictures taken by his daughter arranged into an iMovie, led to sharing stories worldwide.

Dean Shareski shares another remarkable story closer to home. This is a wonderful event that took place in an elementary school in Alberta, where the principal, George Couros gave his students and staff the opportunity to share one thing they were passionate about during Identity Day. Being an English as an Additional Language teacher, I see the true value of this event, giving each and every member of the school the gift of feeling unique and important. During the RTConvention 2019, George Couros also demonstrated examples of very simple ways of sharing, such as giving ideas regarding teaching different concepts, as well as communicating with parents in a fun and easy way using Twitter to share the highlights of the day or week instead of writing long newsletters.

Looking at people share, I also feel it is a form of kindness. Providing resources, advice, tools, or just simple entertainment help people move towards a growth mindset.

Alan Levine’s Amazing stories of openness also prove the power of stories and sharing by providing valuable information and support. Scrolling down the abundance of the amazing stories, I was very excited to come across my Prof. Alec Couros’ work, The Networked Teacher Diagram.

Experiencing the amazing value of sharing, I do feel that it is our ethical responsibility to take part and embrace the culture of sharing, since “the benefits of a shared idea can be golden to someone” (Dean Shareski, 2010).

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If you see power in sharing, could you describe it in one word what SHARING brings to your life?

Thank you for reading my blog!

Teaching in a changing world

How do you take up teaching in a world where knowledge is becoming obsolete? What steps should/could we as educators take in relation to bringing social networks into the classroom? How do we balance the “moral imperative” to educate children to succeed in a rapidly changing world (see the NCTE definition of 21st century literacies) with concerns around student safety and privacy? Your response should take up one or more of the readings below (or other readings that you find on this topic).

The recommended readings and videos of this week really stirred up my thoughts and my emotions. Similar to Nancy’s experience, growing up, the education system I went through was the perfect example of one-way conversations lead by knowledgeable teachers. At that time, I could only rely on my awful notes and my textbooks. And I am saying “awful” because I could not write as fast as my teacher was talking. I felt frustrated trying to memorize things without being engaged in the majority of my subject areas. Actually, that was the reason of me becoming a teacher. I always felt there must be another way … It was when I moved to Canada, as part of my Education Program, when I started experiencing the effectiveness of participating in study groups. As Richard J. Light believes that it is a determinant of student success, I feel that through learning together, collaborating, connecting and sharing experiences and knowledge with my peers really helped me stay engaged and have a better understanding of the material I was learning. I was happy at the university and I truly felt that I was learning. But that was over ten years ago and since then things have changed. When I hear that “knowledge is becoming obsolete” I feel scared. I am working every day on transforming myself, as a teacher to become a “knowledge-able” person. I think this is a big job for the educators of today’s society to shift their worldview and depart from the knowledgeable educators towards becoming more meaningful, engaging knowledge-able educators who will teach students how to connect and collaborate with the world. Viewing our education system moving towards collaboration, I see lots of walls that need to come down, so our students can benefit from the values we all bring with ourselves. The traditional view, “my classroom, my students” mentality is something that will have to transform into a more collaborative, open environment where the existence of a network is possible. Watching Michael Wesch’s presentation and listening to Pavan Arora’s TED X, I would agree that a knowledge-able educator teaches students “creativity”, teaches them how to “access, assess and apply knowledge” (Pavan Arora) and often times learns together with the students. This is certainly the hardest, feeling vulnerable while being the facilitator while learning together with the students. It is crucial to teach students about online safety as well as giving them guidelines that will help them become self-confident individuals who do not have to fear our changing society. 

I think for my students who are English Language learners, having access to this powerful network is simply amazing. Schools or classrooms can connect online to do novel studies, share ideas, publish student work, as well as having pen pals. There are a variety of tools, such as Seesaw, Flipgrid, Kidblog that the students can use to improve their language skills as well as organize and publish their work. These opportunities are building blocks for them to become active participants of this powerful network where they can express themselves freely with the help of retakes in case they are needed. Retakes are the best friend of an EAL (English as an Additional) person. It is like having another chance, as many as needed to correct pronunciation and grammar mistakes or reform sentences to sound more native like until things are “right”. Both my students and I can relate to the individuals from An anthropological introduction to YouTube , who had a hard time talking and recording themselves in their YouTube videos feeling that “everybody is watching yet nobody is there”. Talking to the unknown, not knowing who is listening, watching and what they are thinking can make people feel very vulnerable but at the same time it gives the opportunity to show your true self. From all the readings and videos my main takeaway is to focus more on exposing students to the benefits of technology, to give them tools to connect and collaborate which will empower them to believe in themselves and be proud individuals in different kinds of environments. 

Effects of Social Media on my life

I was 11 years old when communism ended in my home country, and I know what it feels like living in complete darkness.

Photo Credit: <a href=””>mauriceweststrate</a> Flickr via <a href=””>Compfight</a> <a href=””>cc</a>

Even though my relationship with social media can be described as limited, I am thankful it exists, since I feel it opens up the world. It gives people the opportunity to connect with others from all over the world and provides access to an incredible amount of information. 

Between 1980 -1989, T.V. time in Romania was limited to two hours per weekday and 4-5 hours during the weekend including high political content programmes. The highlight of media were the Brazilian soap opera: Escrava Isaura and Dallas. The great thing about that was that we were able to hear foreign languages which was music to our ears and a breath of “fresh air”. 

When we compare that time with today’s abundance of social media, the lack of privacy seems to be present, just the format has changed. Having the secret police listen to all the phone conversations forced people to more frequent face to face communication. People were constantly in fear of what to say and how to say it. Even today, on social media, you have to be extremely careful since nothing is forgotten just as it is described in the (Digital) Identity in a World that No Longer Forgets.

Living in such darkness for a long time, after the end of communism, we needed time to wrap our heads around technology. It took a much longer time for technology and social media to get to our homes mostly because the majority of people could not afford devices. If a friend managed to purchase a VCR, big crowds were spending Friday nights watching Dirty Dancing.

Beside the Internet Café, where in the unbearable smoke, people were trying to catch up with their Yahoo accounts, MSN messaging was also a hit.

Fast forward to 2002. I found myself living in Regina which was the loneliest time in my whole entire life until 2008, when my parents bought their first laptop, which made Skyping possible. Even today, I am thankful for Skype. I think everyone who has family living far would agree with me. When I get to see my Mom and Dad who live several thousand kilometers away daily, if I wish, is pretty amazing.

In my very limited social media world, Facebook is another great tool to keep in touch with old friends. I have definitely noticed that it is starting to become a bragging site.  Beside Facebook, YouTube is present in my everyday life. It has affected both my personal and professional life in positive ways. I agree with Matteo who described YouTube in his blog as a “hub of education”. I absolutely love TED talks, finding information regarding teaching English, recipes, workouts, sky is the limit. 

Thankfully the Masters’ Certificate Program in Educational Technology is helping me move out of the unknown. I was literally afraid of technology and social media, when I pushed myself into this program. Since my EC&I 834, I have my twitter account. I like twitter for its opportunities to connect with professionals from around the world. I also feel it is the most overwhelming and demanding social media tool in my life. It is very fast, always giving me the feeling that I cannot keep up. I think social media can be used very effectively if taught how to use it the right way and I am very thankful for having my Prof. Alec Couros and my peers guiding me on my journey.

Thank you,

Melinda 🙂