To AI or not to AI, That is the Question

It was tremendously appropriate that this weeks debate concerning artificial intelligence and its impact on education was our last. Much conversation this semester has centered on Chat GPT and its growing presence in educational communities. Its capabilities, while controversial, have quickly changed the way teachers teach and the way students learn. Only released in November 2022, school districts across the United States and Canada have already moved to ban its use in the classroom. In a January 2023 Guardian article, pundits argued that ChatGPT as a fun novelty is great; but much work is needed before it can be fully optimized for use. A general concern is that open source AI bots will be responsible for completing student homework. Educators agree that students need to learn critical thinking and writing skills and that simply regurgitating answers doesn’t do enough to enhance fundamental skills.

However, the news is not all bleak. Microsoft’s $10 billion investment into AI technologies aims to revolutionize the way we think about our daily life. The ease with which AI driven technology can produce output will optimize daily tasks by increasing efficiency. It is clear from a consumer standpoint that companies like Apple (Siri) and Google (Google Nest) have fully embraced AI to enhance search capabilities. Furthermore, we live in an age where “smart” technology is en vogue and is marketed to savvy consumers. However, Chat bots have existed in some form or another for the last five decades. While rudimentary, early iterations of AI sparked conversations about what the future would be and how humans and robots would inevitable interact. Oshan Jarow’s March 2023 Vox article examines

In 1966, MIT computer scientist Joseph Weizenbaum released ELIZA (named after the fictional Eliza Doolittle from George Bernard Shaw’s 1913 play Pygmalion), the first program that allowed some kind of plausible conversation between humans and machines.

While I do believe that AI will impact on how education is delivered and understood, I think deeming it as “revolutionary” is too contentious and neglects to consider the human impact that its unprecedented growth will bring.

Our societal fascination with science and technology is deeply rooted in the kind of literature we consume. For the better part of two hundred years, readers have escaped into fantastical stories that both captivate and critique. Authors have a penchant for imaging the impossible, only to have those ideas play out in reality. Science-fiction acts as a conduit through which society can examine itself inwardly. The themes and tropes woven therein allow readers to better understand the capabilities of humanity as a whole. The over-arching plot of so many of these stories is a pursuit for perfection only to realize that perfection inherently brings about tremendous turmoil.

As a society, we so desperately want to optimize our capacity for learning and interacting. However, in doing so, we often lose the all important human factor. Three such works exemplify this.

  • Mary Shelley’s 1818 masterpiece Frankenstein is considered by many to be the first foray into the sci-fi genre. In it, Dr. Frankenstein succeeds in bringing to life his own creation. However, his attempt to create a perfect being is quickly rejected as the “creature” is deemed “monstrous” and “hideous”. The story allegorizes the ugly side of humanity and comments on the idea of social engineering.

Frontispiece illustration from Frankenstein. Date: first published 1818

  • Orson Wells’ 1889 novel War of the Worlds deepens societal curiosity in a world beyond our own when he imagines an attack from the Martians of Mars. The eventual attack on Earth and the ensuing battle captivated audiences and forced them to consider existence beyond the confines of Earth. Like Frankenstein, Wells invites his reader to examine its own humanity. Wells is also well ahead of his time in predicting space travel and many inventions of World War I.

Alien Invasion of London

  • Finally, Gene Rodenberry’s Star Trek franchise, which dates to the 1960s allegorizes the modern plight of society. Perhaps no other science fiction title predicted technological innovations quite like Star Trek has in the decades since it first appeared on television. Star Trek has always been a universe in which technology governs so much of the characters’ day-to-day interactions. Star Trek even imaged AI search and chat technology long before household tools like Google Home. However, what Star Trek does so well is that it unpacks a futuristic world where space travel is as common as a trip to the grocery store. Star Trek, through all its species and worlds argues that interactions and conversation always win the day.

polygon hand raised with palm forward divorced middle and ring f

Each of the aforementioned titles shaped the sci-fi genre and contributed broadly to innovations in science and technology. Humans want to simplify their life but each step forward is met with resistance. In each of these cases, the monumental leap forward is thwarted by the realization that humans need real interaction to grow and learn.

This brings me to my original point that AI will not revolutionize education. Sure, AI is fun but it masks the inadequacies that exist in education. Quality learning is not merely finding efficiencies in retrieving answers. Learning is about communication, debate, and experiences.

Social Justice in the Classroom: A 21st Educational Perspective

Teachers as Curators and Guides

Schools are spaces of inclusion that endeavor to address sensitive topics by teaching students critical thinking and problem solving skills. Students need these important skills because they aid in navigating an often difficult and confusing world. From a young age, students will engage in conflict. This conflict begins to play out in social settings where they will move from the safety and comfort of the home to places like daycare and kindergarten. While not something that we want to enter into on a daily basis, conflict is a natural part of life. Inherently, conflict is neither good nor bad, it just sort of is, and exists in all we do. Coworkers may find themselves engaged in healthy discourse surrounding an upcoming election, or parents may be challenged by their teenage child who wants to borrow the car to head to a party. Whatever the scenario, it is important that we prepare our students to participate in healthy discussions that allow for the sharing of different ideas and opinions.

conflict resolution strategies on napkin

Students are learning in ways unfamiliar to many of us. The advent of social media and a 24 hour news cycle has drawn attention to issues that might have otherwise gone unheard or unnoticed. Students are exposed to controversial issues and must be offered opportunities to learn about them and formulate an intelligent, informed, and coherent understanding. Educators can act as curators of information and use current events topics to teach students how to sift through legitimate and valuable information and disregard outdated, exclusionary, and intolerant beliefs.

Perhaps one of the strongest criticisms of social media is how it makes misinformation widely accessible. The idea of fake news was not invented by Donald Trump, but it became a widely used catchphrase of his campaign and eventual presidency. More recently, the revelation that China influenced the 2021 Canadian federal election refocuses the discussion around truth on the internet. While people’s political beliefs run the spectrum, divisive rhetoric does little to promote a decent and thought-provoking conversation. More than any time in recent memory, emotionally charged topics dominate headlines, and in many ways it is near impossible to ignore these issues.

A Matter of Professionalism?

It is important that educators adhere to their professional mandate to teach students without intertwining their personal views. In doing so, students are able to formulate their own ideas and opinions and become well-rounded and informed citizens. However, the polarizing nature of the world and the advent of social media make doing so much more challenging. The issue of teacher neutrality is a century old debate. As Lawrence E. Metcalf discusses in his 1952 article, Must Teachers be Neutral? it is difficult for teachers to be truly unbiased concerning matters of personal belief. He sees this dualism as a perpetual conflict in which teachers attempt to walk a tightrope between their personal and professional life. Taryn Bond addresses this in her article suggesting ways to remain neutral in the classroom. She offers that teachers can talk about controversial subjects, remain neutral, and offer students critical thinking skills. Teachers cannot be afraid to turn it back to students and ask probing questions, especially when they give controversial responses.

Social Media and Professionalism

Complicating the matter of politicizing classrooms, is the debate around public professionals and their expectations on public forums like Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook. Professionally speaking, teachers are teachers at all times of the day and in all spheres. However, what does this mean for possessing a personal identity outside of traditional work hours. Teachers are human too and partake in the odd adult beverage, some may partake in use of marijuana considering its legal for consumption, should moments like these be documented? Conversely, some may take to social media to But how much is too much to share, and when should teachers get called to question? Torrey Trust responds to some of these questions in a short but thought provoking article in which she argues that educators should forge a social media presence. This might be a scary thought for some but ultimately allows for knowledge attainment and greater engagement with students and their interests.

Ultimately, teachers have professional standards to adhere to. Active participation in the profession requires teachers to check their personal beliefs in favour of unbiased learning. However, this does not mean that the classroom is not a place in which civil debate and discourse can take place. Contrarily, classrooms need to be places where students have opportunities to engage with real world issues- some of which may be controversial.

The Social Justice Classroom

In her article Teaching Social Justice in Theory and Practice Caitlin Clarke posits that classrooms need to be safe spaces where students feel empowered to share their thoughts and ideas on a topic…even if it’s controversial. One way she offers that teachers do this is by setting guidelines and rules for engagement in which students have space to share ideas in non-judgmental ways. Teachers can model responses so students hear how thoughtful commentary enrichens discussion.

World Day of Social Justice on February celebrated with colored stones

Approaching social justice issues is daunting especially in small Saskatchewan towns where ideals are deeply engrained in the community psyche. Racism, sexism, LGBTQ+ rights, socio-economic disparity, bullying, dating, addiction, etc. are heavy topics, but in reality, these are issues that affect all of our students and preparing them to engage in informed ways is vital to promoting social justice rights outside of the classroom. It is our responsibility as educators to use powerful tools like social media to draw attention to hard topics. We don’t have to compromise our professionalism but we can create learning environments in which students learn to interact and communicate in appropriate ways.

The Importance Teaching Digital Citizenship

This weeks debate considered the role of teachers in leading students through their development as digital citizens. The complexities of navigating digital spaces are exacerbated by an ever increasing societal reliance on technology. Students are developing a digital footprint earlier than ever and the paradigm altering effect of social media has completely reshaped the way families interact. Today’s educational landscape does not resemble that of mine as a student. As I discussed in a previous post, many of us remember our childhood as a simpler time and one tinged in a nostalgic ere of whimsical imagination uninhibited by the glow of a screen. The topic is challenging because it asks us to consider our own relationship with technology and how we can best facilitate learning about 21st century citizenship.

DIGITAL LITERACY concept blurred background 3d render illustration

Kudos go to the debate teams of JR & Laura and Rahima & Jessica for a tremendously well-argued debate. Both sides offered well executed introductory statements and followed with concise, thoughtful, and logical rebuttals. Heading into the debate, I considered the topic a no-brainer and so clearly assumed that teachers should be expected to teach students digital citizenship alongside subjects like ELA and math. However, Jessica and Rahima proved formidable opponents and created a compelling argument as to why that expectation is not so apparent.

Digital composite of Eye scanning a futuristic interfaceWhile incredibly rewarding, the profession is hard. Teachers are pulled in so many directions and the compounding effect of year-over-year budget cuts increases stress. Essentially, teachers are asked to do more with less. Finding time to complete subject specific curricula, manage the needs of diverse classrooms, and run extra curricular activities leaves little time in the day to simply eat lunch. Many teachers are not tech savvy and lack the technical know-how necessary to navigate online spaces. As eloquently argued in the debate, there is an inherent belief that teachers in 2023 have a strong fundamental understanding of technology. However, many educators are now resisting this notion, and argue that some responsibility be levied on parents and caregivers to offer their child lessons in social responsibility which includes monitoring their digital presence.


With that said…I do believe that teachers bare the brunt of the responsibility in developing digital literacy for their students. As we become more deeply engrained in a tech-centric world, it is imperative that teachers embed digital literacy and competencies into their pedagogical practice. Education extends beyond textbooks and curriculum. All teachers want to guide their students towards becoming better, well-rounded, and informed individuals. The core tenants of citizenship like kindness and generosity go beyond face-to-face interactions. Increasingly, students are immersed in digital world and must learn how to extend their citizenship.

In her TedTalk, Keegan Korf unpacks the role educators have in helping students establish their authentic self in digital spaces. Much like Korf, early in my career I considered the daunting ramifications of the pictures I posted and the comments I made. Prior to entering the profession, I aspired to be a police officer (a career even more heavily scrutinized than teaching). I vividly recall attending an information session for interested recruits. While I wanted to learn about the rigorous application process, the majority of the time was spent fielding questions about social media and hearing a resounding “we don’t want you to have a social presence.” This was during the infancy of tweets, likes, and shares, but it was interesting to consider that only a decade ago institutions and organizations were policing (pun intended) how people presented their authentic self online. However, many of these organizations are relaxing their stance on their employees’ digital presence. Many educators have demonstrated how social media can enhance their reach and use it to engage in meaningful discourse.

Korf’s message is incredibly powerful because it resists the idea that online mistakes are catastrophic to future success. Instead of students using social media for good, they are more concerned with the negative fallout from one bad picture or one bad comment. As she mentions, the frontal cortex of the brain does not fully develop until a person is 25. This is significant because the actions and behaviours (negative and positive) of teenagers can be attributed to their immature brain development. Teachers do not have to be the most tech savvy individual to offer resources around tech-etiquette (cyber-bullying, sexting, political discourse etc.). Ultimately, we want our students to graduate high school possessing a level of competency so they can make informed and rational decisions concerning their interactions online.

Tech Equity: an Issue of Economics

I’d like to thank Kennedy and Ummey for challenging Graeme and I during this weeks debate. They both came prepared by offering an excellent introductory video and sound counter-arguments. I would also like to thank the class for a good discussion regarding technology and its impact on social equity.

Technological advances have revolutionized the way we work and play. The internet has globalized our world in ways that never seemed possible. Access to information has never been so fast, abundant, or accessible, which has shifted the educational paradigm. Today, students and educators experience learning and teaching through screens, apps, and web searches. However, in considering the question of equity, technology has significantly widened the gap between the haves and the have nots. Furthermore, our heavy reliance upon technology has adversely impacted those who lack proper infrastructure like access to devices and reliable internet connections.

Early Computing

Retro 1990s style beige desktop PC computer and monitor screen and keyboard. 3D illustration.When personal computers entered the consumer marketplace in the late 1970s, they were marketed towards non-technical users and were seen as a giant leap away from the large-scale processors used predominantly in universities. A 2019 CBC article reflects on the boom that occurred at the start of the 1980s. While the goal “of a computer in every house” was noble, an oversaturated market led to a sharp decline in tech companies by the middle of the decade. With personal computing quickly becoming a staple of home and business, many economists signaled warnings that a digitized society meant drastic consequences in an already unstable economy.

Cost has always played a significant role in the accessibility of technology. According to IBM, their first PC retailed for around $1600 for a base model at a time when the average (American) household income hovered around $21000 annum.  The inflation problem and interest rate hikes of the 1980s (which somewhat mirror our current situation) caused families to reevaluate their needs and many felt that a PC was a luxury that they could not afford. However, today, as society is more deeply engrained in a tech-centric world, not having a device spells near disaster.

Closeup financial chart with uptrend line candlestick graph in stock market on blue color monitor backgroundThe rising cost of living expenses and the frequent turnover of devices make it difficult for many Canadian families to provide adequate technology at home. This is especially problematic for traditionally under-represented Canadians, such as Indigenous peoples, members of the 2SLGTBQ+ community, racialized people, recent immigrants, and people with disabilities who are at greater risk for not accessing technology. For instance, lack of adequate technology, faulty connections, and underfunded broadband projects contributed to nearly 65% percent of households on First Nations reserves not having access to the universal service objective of 50 megabits per second (Mbps) download and 10 Mbps upload internet speeds in 2019, according to the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission. 

The Economics of (In)Equality

Alyvia Bruce’s Harvard Political Review article, “Bridging the Technological Divide in Education” addresses the ever-present issue related to tech-equity: economics. At several junctures this past week an argument was raised that technology is a game changer for equality because it provides users an equitable chance to attain knowledge, communicate, and process work. However, if a student does not have access to said technology, how is he or she expected to compete against those that do have access? Bruce argues that market forces of the 1980s created an unprecedented economic divide because wealth disparity suddenly correlated to sharp increases in executive salaries. By the early 2000s executives steadily outpaced workers in earnings 10:1. As companies strive to remain profitable, low-skill workers become disposable as their jobs become automated. As more jobs become automated, workers either remain unemployed or take jobs at lower salaries. In essence, this becomes a perfect storm for inequality because ones concern about remaining up-to-date with technology is minimized as they struggle stay afloat with mortgage payments, bills, groceries, etc.

soft northern lights aurora show over sparse spruce trees and wind blown snow driftIn Canada, the issue of economics is even more polarizing. Our sparse population creates challenges for internet service providers because they are unable to oversee an infrastructure that brings low-cost, reliable, high-speed internet to every Canadians. A 2022 Deloitte report examined the growing divide. The comprehensive report found that the Covid-19 pandemic exacerbated many existing problems regarding access. Price is an important factor in this disparity, with Canada having the highest prices than other G7 countries. Canadians making less than $40000 a year cited cost as a significant barrier to access. However, it is not only rural communities that are impacted. In large urban centres like Toronto, 38% of all households and 52% of low-income households in 2020 had download speeds below the CRTC-defined minimum. 

Educational Disparity

Research suggests that early adopters of technology, especially those in pre-school and kindergarten will find greater long term success when immersed in technology. Conversely, those students that start school having had minimal exposure to tech will be outpaced by their cohorts. Abdullah Masmalli argues that, “as education becomes more deeply immersed in technology, it is essential that schools take steps to provide equal access to devices.” He notes that many educational institutions are quick to digitize learning; however, many are not equipped to support the sheer volume of devices required and many lack a strong technological infrastructure.

High school students, remote workers, and people with disabilities have different technology needs. A mobile device might be sufficient for a senior who only occasionally uses the internet, but a student who only has a mobile device will be at a severe disadvantage when attending a virtual class or completing an online assignment. Teachers are tasked with nurturing student success in all areas including technology. However, a lack of standardized curricula and resources leave educators feeling overwhelmed if they lack sufficient digital skills themselves to effectively teach digital literacy and technology (Deloitte).


It is impossible to dismiss the benefits of technology. However, the stark reality is such that society is not more equitable. Economic disparity remains the most important factor in considering access. High service costs and frequent hardware turnover act to create a more deeply rooted divide. Schools receive less year-over-year funding and education systems struggle to equip classroom teachers with the skills they need to teach tech. The sudden shift during Covid-19 assumed that everyone had the capacity to learn and work online. However, the difficult reality is that many were left behind. Most deeply impacted were students from low-income families who returned to school having experienced even less engagement.

Anti-Social Media?

Whether you refer to yourself as a gen y’er, millennial, or digital native, many in ECI 830 navigated childhood in a way our parents and children will never know or understand.

For us millennials, we are the inter-generation between analog and digital. Part of our life was spent navigating a computer for the first time, while the other part is a fully immersive digital experience driven by unprecedented communication and access to information . Our childhood was a calming blend of typical childhood experiences like spending time outside with friends and playin video games.

I was in grade 5 when my family bought our first computer, grade 8 when we got the internet, and grade 11 when I received my first cellphone. I remember rushing home from high school to jump on MSN and chat with my friends while I was “doing homework.” Today, it is not uncommon for students in grade 2 to have an iPhone with computing power that far exceeds the massive personal PC’s that ran the heralded Windows 95 software.

Whereas my parents lamented that technology was a cause of many social ills and nostalgically reflected on their childhood as one of playing road hockey and riding their bike until the streetlights came on, I now find myself doing something similar. I look back on my childhood and compare it to the experiences of my students. I wonder if we have gone too far and created a paradigm of extreme digital reliance? Students seem less engaged, more tired, unenthused about sports, and certainly lack social skills. An interesting phenomena that has emerged in recent decades is Nature Deficit Disorder. While not officially recognized by the DSM, the term was originally coined by journalist Richard Louv who observed an increasing number of youth who were going outside less frequently.

This weeks’ spirited debate considered the oft discussed issue of social media’s effect on children. More specifically, Valeksa and Bart offered insight as to why social media is beneficial for children and how it has completely transformed the educational landscape by creating engaging platforms for students to connect and share resources. Conversely, Brendon and Brittany countered by suggesting that that the rise of social media over the last fifteen years has adversely affected childhood because it presents dangers and distractions which in turn reduces engagement and increases mental health issues.

Childhood has never been an easy experience and one fraught with anxieties around fitting in and adopting the latest and greatest fads. Rebecca Sweat’s 2004 article, Whatever Happened to Childhood, is poignant in this conversation because it considers the ramifications of children desperately wanting to delve into an adult world. With reference to (now) dated technology, I found it interesting that Sweat frames her article around a group of affluent second grade students in Chicago that come from a school where cellphones, pagers, and Palm Pilots were common place. The article pre-dates Facebook’s public explosion by two years, but addresses rising concerns about technology’s affect on young people. Similarly, Sean Coughlin’s 2013 BBC article, Modern childhood ends at 12, argues that children younger than 12 are pressured into growing up at a rate never before experienced thanks in part to social media’s influence. Ultimately, it is easier than ever to access explicit content which can be confusing and difficult for young people to understand.

Group of kindergarten kids friends arm around sitting and smiling fun

Social media is here to stay and some consider its benefits. Students now have an opportunity to engage in learning in a truly globalized world. Teachers are creating real world lessons that prepare students with the skillsets required to thrive in the digital world. As Jacqueline Nesi proposes in her article, “The Impact of Social Media on Youth Mental Health: Challenges and Opportunities” research concerning the mental health effects of social media have increased steadily. Many researchers are considering more poignant questions like why and for whom social media is more problematic. This deep work is important because it accepts that social media does have an impact but endeavors to find proactive methods for channeling it for the benefit of students.

Having considered the positive and negative elements of social media and its impact on children, one of the most damaging articles this week was Freya India’s Social Media is Destroying an Entire Generation of Kids.

For a rising number of Gen Z teens and pre-teens today, their memories will be eerily different. They will be of sitting alone indoors, of soaring screen times, and increasingly, of self-harm and suicidal thoughts.

The most disturbing trend is the correlation between smartphone usage, social media, increased screen time, and suicidal ideation. While Freya acknowledges that, “correlation is not causation”, she does argue that the statistics are undeniable. Suicide rates are steadily increasing amongst boys and girls and in 2011 suicide outpaced homicide in teen deaths. The moodiness of teenagers is attributed to wild hormonal swings; however, general socialization and peer-to-peer interactions help normalize behaviours. Freya attributes social media and smartphones to a growing trend in pubescents spending more time isolated and in front of their screen. She furthers by saying that students who socialize face-to-face are 20% less likely to claim unhappiness.

Unhappy bored little african american kid sitting in the park. The boy showing negative emotion. Child trouble concept.

The difficulty of teaching in 2023 is compounded by distractions like smartphones and social media. Students have always found ways to avoid their work; however, the anxieties brought upon by our instant gratification society only work to compound this issue. I do not envy the teenagers of today. Gone are the days when kids can be kids and can find reprieve from a world that impresses upon them an idea of who they should be. Kids need time to be outside with friends and to develop a sense of identity and independence. While the numerous benefits of social media are apparent, they do not outweigh the very scary reality that it contributes to poor mental health and stagnates neurological development.

Technology in the Classroom: Enhancement or Hinderance?

Undeniably, the integration of technology in the classroom has transformed the educational landscape. Education in 2023 exists in a world driven by a digital presence and readily accessible information, yet one in which student apathy is at an all time high. The widespread use of social media has created a society of instant gratification driven by likes, retweets, and immediacy. Students are transfixed on devices and have access to a plethora of distractions. Teachers often comment that these competing forces cause them to perform a near vaudevillian act to keep the attention of students. However, an oft debated topic centres on how beneficial technology actually is in the classroom.

Commendations are in order for last weeks debaters. Will and Mike created a compelling argument that technology in the classroom is essential and an integral component to learning. Alternatively, Janeen and Catrina countered by arguing that technology itself is not inherently beneficial; rather, how a teacher integrates it into the learning dictates its usefulness. Admittedly, I was torn on this debate. As a digital citizen, I consider myself fairly tech savvy and rely heavily on technology in the classroom. However, as a teacher, I see how distracting it has become and the pitfalls that exist in a society so deeply entrenched in technology. I don’t want to be a proverbial fence sitter, but I do believe this is a deeply nuanced debate that does not have a clear answer. Ultimately, the extent to which technology is useful is not the essence of the question. Instead, I would like to draw upon the idea presented by Janeen and Catrina to consider the context in which technology is used and how educators play a vital role in preparing students to be savvy and responsible digital learners.

In his TedTalk, Scott Widman approaches the issue of technology in the classroom in a pragmatic way. As he discusses, he is both wowed by technology (when students are inquisitive and using it as directed), and disappointed (when students are off task and unengaged). However, his argument is simple, in that it is the responsibility of educators to guide and direct students to achieve a level of competency so that they are comfortable engaging with various platforms in meaningful and respectful ways.

The abundant availability of and access to information has redefined the role of teachers and learners. Whereas 10 to 15 years ago teachers were still regarded as knowledge keepers, today they are facilitators of learning equipping students with 21st century competencies by relying on inquiry-based and methodological approaches to enhance engagement. Learning management systems (LMS) such as Google Classroom are now a vital tool in classroom design as they maintain learning continuity as demonstrated during the Covid-19 pandemic. Social media platforms like Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube are seemingly more common that traditional textbooks and their capacity is constantly being explored.

Nonetheless, a growing concern amongst ed tech adopters is how beneficial technology in the classroom actually is. Technology does not redefine learning nor does it fix preexisting learning behaviours. Technology, like anything, is a tool, and only as useful as those with the knowledge of how to make it work to their advantage. Natalie Wexler’s Forbes article, “Why Technology Hasn’t Boosted Learning—And How It Could” suggests that, “Ed tech is just replicating existing ineffectual approaches to teaching, and sometimes making them worse.” The transactional approach to teaching is not sustainable by today’s standards. Students DO want to learn but the methods of teaching do not adequately meet their needs. We hear from students who express that they want to learn in relevant ways that allow them to draw upon their experiences as a student and to build critical thinking competencies. This does not suggest that integrating technology will fix the apathy problem.

The SAMR model considers how technology is integrated into learning and a generally agreed upon idea is that technology for technology’s sake is ineffective because it transposes the pre-existing problems without addressing new solutions. Many teachers are not equipped to offer technology through the lens of modification or replication. Perhaps one of the greatest downfalls of technology in the classroom is that teachers lack the knowledge, either by inclination or ability, to provide students purposeful opportunities to engage with technology. For two decades, teachers have heard how important it is that they include technology in the classroom and that students will benefit from its use. However, if teachers do not have the knowledgebase how can we expect students to use technology effectively?

Supporting Student Digital Identities

Following Dr. Couros’ presentation on digital citizenship, I found myself engaged in several timely discussions concerning the roles and responsibilities of teachers in shaping student digital identity. While the discourse was professional and engaging, I walked away feeling as though many colleagues harbour a resentment towards technology. In speaking with fellow practitioners this week, I was met with many familiar comments about the overuse of cellphones, the constant disengagement from learning, and a seemingly greater concern with social media than school. The usual suggestion to ban phones outright was followed by a decree that “things have never been so bad for us teachers” and “students just don’t want to learn”. Perhaps both statements are true, retrospect alone will judge that, but we must not resist the opportunity to promote  ethical, safe, and responsible online usage. The reality is, technology isn’t going anywhere and we must capitalize on it to draw students back into learning.

If Charlie Brown saw anything that was mean of humiliating he wouldn’t retweet it, he would fill people’s buckets, or cyber buckets

– Marialice Curran

Marialice Curran analogizes Charlie Brown as the ideal digital citizen. In her TedTalk, she suggests that Charlie Brown is emblematic of a student who takes the moral high road and does what is right regardless of the space that he occupies. Impressionable students can fall into a trap of presenting themselves as one way in person and another online. Teachers must find ways that build empathetic communities that operate parallel to their in-person classroom.

A common assumption regarding lack of engagement centres the notion that students just don’t want to learn. I refuse to see this as pessimistically as some and suggest that a multitude of reasons contribute to engagement issues in the classroom. Students arrive in our classrooms with personal stories that are traumatic, emotional, and sometimes neglectful. For many, digital spaces offer reprieve and gives them a sense of belonging and identity. In this sense, it becomes so closely tied to who they are that their immersion within totally disconnects them from the real world. For me, as an educator, I am curious about three overarching questions:

  1. Why are students preoccupied with their digital spaces, so much so that their reality is impacted?
  2. How can we educators better understand the nuances of technology to best engage students in learning?
  3. What does a healthy digital-literate learning environment look like?

As an aside, I don’t have a magic answer to any of the aforementioned questions, but I hope this post acts as a conduit for curious minds to consider the reality that students face a complex series of external stressors that significantly impact the way in which they engage with technology.  that it is not a crucial responsibility to create nurturing and safe environments in which students flesh out their digital presence.

While educators embark on their own digital learning journey, it is important to remember that we are integral in shaping our students’ digital identity. Educators are tremendously influential in the lives of students and must be cognizant of how conversations around digital spaces are approached. In considering this, I am reminded of the as the advice imparted to a young Peter Parker by uncle Ben, “with great power comes great responsibility.”

Teaching in the digital age as complicated. On the one hand, it is exhilarating because students are afforded learning opportunities that alluded many of us when we were in school. Access to information has never been as fast or as readily available as it is today. Furthermore, the advent of technology has shifted the role of teachers wherein the focus is less on content and knowledge keeping. Alternatively, we resolve to act more as facilitators of critical thinking. In this sense, educators pose questions and guide students through problem solving and offer the skills necessary to navigate the digital world.

However, for as much wonderment as the digital age has ushered in, its ethical and legal parameters are of constant concern. Increased screen time, digital relationships, social media, cellphones, cyber-bullying etc. bring forth emotionally and socially detrimental effects. Our students struggle to navigate authentic online spaces because they are inherently bombarded by unattainable or unrealistic representations of who they should be.

For any generation, the journey through puberty into adulthood is one fraught with anxieties, insecurities, and self-doubt. But at least students twenty-five years ago had some reprieve when they went home. Today, the globalized world combined with the dopamine-induced instant-gratification society driven by social media severely limits the amount of time our students have to themselves. Empowering students to establish boundaries with digital spaces requires risk taking because it challenges the modern paradigm. Creating safe and inclusive learning environments extends beyond the walls of a classroom into a digital sphere..

If educators don’t feel they play as important a role in guiding students in digital citizenship, where will it come from?


AI and ChatGPT: the Future of Education?

I was initially introduced to Chat GPT by my brother Dr. Matthew Barrett in early December. He sent me an email with screenshots of his prompts and the corresponding responses. He provided a cursory explanation of how it worked, but I was most intrigued by the speed and general accuracy of results. Naturally, with my curiosity peeked, I gave it a whirl. I married my love of Seinfeld and Shakespeare and asked the generator to produce, “an episode of Seinfeld but Shakespearean”. While a fairly rudimentary prompt, the result yielded an episode entitled “The Taming of the Shrewd” in which the characters speak Early Modern English and Kramer declares his new found hobby of Shakespearean acting, but the premise follows the story arc of Taming of the Shrew (not perfectly, but pretty well). I was impressed with the quick response and the layers of meta humour that were embedded.

In the weeks since my exploration, news outlets and education forums have been abuzz with talk of the benefits and the drawbacks of AI in educational spheres. Interestingly, as I write this post, my phone notified me of a Globe and Mail op-ed discussing ChatGPT’s capabilities while evaluating its limitations. Regardless of where people stand on the debate, there is little evidence suggesting AI driven technology will go away. In fact, societally, we have to find ways to embrace it for good.

For as much as educators want to believe they are forward-thinking classroom leaders, it is very easy to fall back on tried and true pedagogical practices. While we have every intention of producing engaging lessons that embed technology, the reality is, many find it daunting or are skeptical of its benefit. In recent weeks, the paradigm shifting effect of ChatGPT has left many educators feeling even more wary of technology with many suggesting that the comprehensive AI platform will completely undermine the authenticity of student work. A recent CNN article explained how ChatGPT managed to pass law and business school exams. The initial response, rightfully so, is condemnation. However, upon further consideration, is it as problematic as appears?

I believe that the AI technology driving ChatGPT will only strengthen and will become more intuitive as it becomes more widely adopted. It is understandable that teachers will raise an eyebrow when students can seemingly produce unauthentic work so quickly and easily. However, as discussed in class this week, early adopters are incorporating AI technology into the classroom and are using it to reverse engineer argumentative essays. AI is a powerful tool, akin to a calculator or a translator. Teachers must not resist AI because students have an opportunity to explore in an ethical and honest way. The results yielded from ChatGPT are only as good as the prompts and questions offered by the user. The ensuing results are not flawless and do not replace the insight of human intuition and emotion. However, the results are a starting point for discussion and debate, and provide students a stronger depth of knowledge in subject areas and argumentative competencies.



Introducing Myself

Hi everyone, and welcome to my blog for EC&I 830. My name is Jeff Barrett, I employed by Living Sky School Division, and I am the principal of Cut Knife Community School. This is my third course in the Teaching, Learning, and Leading program through the University of Regina. I serve as an executive member for the Battle West Athletic Association, coach volleyball, basketball, badminton, and track, and officiate.

I consider myself comfortable with technology and have adopted it in my practice since I entered the profession in 2013. I completed my Bachelor of Education at Ontario Tech University. The focus of my B.Ed centred on emerging trends in educational technology, how to best apply technology to pedagogical practice, and how to utilize technology to reimagine educational institutions. While I found technology in the classroom an interesting topic, it was not until the pandemic when I used this time to explore the capacity for technology in the classroom. However, advancements in assistive technology, the universal reliance upon social media, and AI technology the landscape of EdTech has complicated the educational environment. Whereas, Google Classroom and its suite of collaborative tools has made it easier to engage students and close learning gaps, the aforementioned technology also presents issues around equity, privacy, and authenticity. A recent New York Times article outlines the steps that some universities in the United States have taken to combat the ease of which students can create essays and work.

As a 21st century learning practitioner, I strive to engage students and staff in technology trends. As a school leader, I find collaborative tools like shared folders, document templates, and Teams the most accessible tools that allow for idea generation and problem solving. I use social media, but not to the extend that I would necessarily like. I am amazed at the content creators in education like John Spencer who utilize social media and virtual spaces to engage students, parents, and staff.

I look forward as we use our blog spaces and class meetings to enrichen our collective understanding of issues related to educational technology.