So Long, Mr Cronkite.

Gone are the days of the “Most Trusted Man in America“, Walter Cronkite.

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Photo Source: Socio-Economics History Blog

No longer do media consumers have someone who they trust as the voice of the news. Media outlets increasingly are subject to their own bias, due to parent companies’ agendas, of which, there are fewer and fewer (ahem, PostMedia).

The world of media is also becoming increasingly complex. Students are having to create new skill sets in order to combat the deluge of untrustworthy news. There is a greater push for students to recognize fake news when they see it: CNN, Globe and Mail, The Wall Street Journal, and NPR (and many more) report initiatives undertaken by schools and governments to educate children on what they consume via media.

Photo Source: IFLA

There are numerous ways to to analyse a “news” article from various media and educational sources: BBC, IFLA (International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions), How Stuff WorksCommon Sense Media, and interestingly, AARP (an American  business for those 50 and older).

In her blog, Shelby Mackey wrote about the importance of research in the B30 classroom. This is a key idea, because the entire B30 curriculum is based around analysing global issues in an in-depth manner. Students need to be familiar with how to research and how to evaluate.

Photo Source:

In one of my classes, Theory of Knowledge, we’re looking at how to tell if something is scientifically verifiable and the concept of peer-reviewed research.

For all of their experience researching (and by this point in their high school careers as IB diploma kids, they’ve done a lot), the term “peer reviewed” was foreign.

This was slightly frightening to me, as these students are expected to produce university-quality research papers quite regularly.

The easiest way I’ve found to examine fake news is to look at wildly imaginative examples of scientific claims:

Photo Source: Goop Psychic Vampire Repellent

We look at the website source (it seems legitimate: high-powered Hollywood actress, recognizable name brands, shiny website). It passes the test of credibility on first glance.

Next we look at the product more closely (ingredient include: Sonically tuned water, rosewater, grain alcohol, sea salt, therapeutic grade oils of: rosemary, juniper and lavender; a unique and complex blend of gem elixirs, including but not limited to: black tourmaline, lapis lazuli, ruby, labradorite, bloodstone, aqua aura, black onyx, garnet, pyrite and nuummite; reiki, sound waves, moonlight, love, reiki charged crystals)

Wait. What?! Sound waves? Moonlight?

And so we begin a discussion of looking underneath all of the shine to find the scary. Granted not everything is fake. But enough of it is.

Photo Source: BBC (Viewing habits of children influenced by parents)

Ryan Wood brought up a really good point about how scary the world has become in raising our own children. It has now become a matter of teaching our own children about “fake news”. My family used to have cable and watch news every night, like Ryan’s family, but we cut the cord. CTV, CBC. Global were all trusted beyond any doubt and now, I need to carefully screen what we view as news. My son is becoming more and more aware of what is happening in the world (case in point, we were driving home, and the CBC news came on. They were explaining the bombing in Somalia and my son worriedly asked about the 2783 people who were injured or killed). My job as a parent has changed from what I anticipated it would be, even four years ago.

But, for better or worse, that’s the way it is.



Moving Backwards

This past week has been interesting. Wednesday afternoon I had tendon surgery on my (non-dominant) left hand. This has left me a bit immobilized but made an opportunity to see how good Read&Write is (spoiler: SO much better than Siri).

So, this week our question is about our concerns about teaching in a digital world. This was particularly of interest to me as there are going to be vast changes to how we are able to use Google Apps for Education in the very near future. Essentially, our use of GAFE is going to be severely curtailed to the point of non-use.

The concern is student privacy. Google gathers information to disseminate to others for money: data mining. I’ve talked about this in a previous blog for this class and more in detail for a previous class. To me, this is not a new issue.

Photo via: Kelsie Lenihan

But this connects to the question of our “moral imperative” to teach children, but to also protect their privacy. How do we ethically curate an online presence within a classroom, when we are bounded by so many obligations from our board, which ultimately dictates our parameters?

Photo via: McGraw Hill Education (also a really interesting article)

I think my questions are stemming from a growing frustration: I see the direction the world is moving and I am trying to teach students to move within it. The video by Michael Wesch about how connected everything is and how “ridiculously easy” it is to connect and share speaks very closely to my classroom experience. It is so easy to connect, but we seem to be moving backwards in our rush to protect the vulnerability of our students.

Sharing will become locked down and inaccessible as our students’ privacy versus our students’ growth in a modern world becomes paramount. We are required to teach critical thinking skills, which Wesch referred to as a filter, but critical thinking skills are not enough anymore.

There is an atmosphere of control emerging as administrators and those in power grapple with the impact an online presence can have on a student’s future. This is compounded by the issues of privacy and the fact that no one truly knows where information is going.


Photo via: Education Next

To me this means that education is going to take a massive step backwards: I’m going to have to go back to pen and paper in order to make my students untraceable. Nothing will be shared, no footprints online.

I believe this is doing our students a huge disservice and is reactionary rather than being proactive. I think that before this edict is handed down, education about our role as educators online needs to happen for teachers and information about students’ online presence needs to be given to both students and parents. The only term I can put with this is frustrating.

As Google may be on its way out, thank goodness for other options. I’ll be exploring how to move my Google Classroom onto Canvas.

A Whole Can of Worms.

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Source: Giphy

This idea of posting online is such a can of worms in elementary and secondary teaching. There are so many implications, both obvious and more subtle.

Photo via: Heart Sisters

Posting class achievements and online work online is a way to show the world what educators do, which often occurs behind closed doors. Educating students can be a very isolated event and teachers can sometimes feel maligned by various interest groups. Teaching is an emotional labour and showing the fruits of that labour can feel really validating. It proves that teaching is an essential job and that students are learning things, despite it not being in a traditional fashion, like perhaps their parents and grandparents learned.

Photo via: Getting Smart

Students can feel value in their learning by seeing its applicability to the outside world: they can see immediately the impact what they do has on others and see other’s responses to their work.In this way students are exposed to the wider world, beyond their closed classroom doors. This prepares them in many ways for life after high school.

Photo via: Steven Smith

The world of work is in many ways about how you connect and to whom you connect. Being able to more easily through the internet and understand the trail you leave is now an essential skill. Networking is no longer just circulating at a cocktail party in your hometown; you can now wander the globe, making contacts literally everywhere.

In my context, a high school English teacher, the task is to get them to understand the power of their words: not just in the sense of what they say, but how they say it. Being articulate and using proper conventions is important when trying to get your message out. Being able to sound like you know what you’re talking about is almost half the battle. Spelling and grammar have not disappeared. Sure we have spellcheck, but it doesn’t do everything. Proofreading is still an essential skill.

However, there are issues when it comes to blasting the internet with your latest literary essay.

Infrequently, but still enough times for me to pause and reconsider my practice, the issue of custody appears.

This happens in two forms: custody of the materials I’m posting and physical custody of the child.


Who owns what I’ve posted online? Do I own it because it was turned into me? Does the student own it because they created it? Does the school or school board own it because it was created using their materials/technology? If it were to generate an income, to whom would it be paid? The person who uploaded it or the person who created it or the entity that provided the opportunity?

The second potential issue is with physical custody. There have been situations in schools where there has been an acrimonious breakup and there have been protection orders issued. A child’s safety may be compromised by putting their artifacts online, which can be traced with a little bit of tech wizardry.

This letter from the Peel District School Board and this one for British Columbia teachers gives some guidelines for teachers to follow regarding what to put when. By providing protections for both staff and students, the online world can be explored.

Freedom and Choice


Hi! My name is Kelsie Lenihan and this is my 9th Master’s course in Curriculum and Instruction. This is also my third Alec course.

I was initially a little hesitant to sign up for a social media course because 1) our lives are so dominated by social media, do I really want to add another layer on top of it? and 2) I’m not the most active on social media.

But I dove in. I want to learn more about how to use social media effectively, both personally and professionally. It seems like a big job to curate your online presence in a way where you control the message sent to the world about you.

As well, I have two young sons. I want to know how to make the social media world inviting and safe for them by helping them create their online identity early.

On the first day of class, when we were assigned the task of learning something new through exploring online help, I was stymied.

Source: Giphy

There were just so many avenues and options. This is a huge opportunity to do something — anything — that you’ve always wanted to try but never had the time. Here is the time. You need to do this.

So I started asking around. Everyone had a different opinion. My art teacher friend insisted I learn how to paint, because she saw how “well” I did at a Paint Nite. I thought about cake decorating but that got a hard “no” from my husband, who would most likely have been responsible for the eating of the cake.

Finally, it was my three-year-old who made the decision for me.

He’s been starting to get together his wish list for Santa Claus (thank you, Costco, for having Christmas decorations out before Hallowe’en). One of the things he’s been after is called a Code-a-pillar. It’s a way to introduce coding to preschool children.

This started me thinking about why I would want my child to learn how to code at such a young age. It came to me that this is about 21st century learning — about preparing him for jobs that don’t yet exist and to get him familiar with technology so that he’s confident using it and can adapt to the massive shifts in learning that are happening right now.

Computer science is no longer just for nerds. It’s become part of the core curriculum rather than a hobby.

Because my children will probably have coding for homework, I want to be able to help them.

I know nothing about coding. Quite literally nothing. I am starting from ground zero. Well, not quite ground zero, because I’ve got Twitter.

I’ve got a place to start from, but I’m still struggling with the end product. Backward design is ingrained in me, so I am trying to figure out what success will look like. Do I want to learn to code for Apple (I’ve got an iPad and iPhone) or for Android (much more open)? What do I want to code? A game? An app? What is being too ambitious? What is not being ambitious enough?

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Source: Giphy

If anyone out there has experience about coding, I’d LOVE to have your advice of where to start.

Effect on Stakeholders

Source: Mike Cornelison

The immediate impact on stakeholders is obvious: there would be less money all around to distribute to other areas such as transportation, building maintenance, staffing, or professional development opportunities. I cannot say whether or not the Ministry would allocate any funds in order to offset the costs of implementing a new system. Considering the current economic climate I would assume not.Therefore, the impact on students and teachers cannot be taken lightly.

Source: Regina Public Schools

I have searched through the budgets posted on Regina Public’s website to see if I could determine the approximate cost of the implementation of PowerSchool to compare it to the quote I received from Alma, but I was unable to find out where in the budget this would be. It did not look like there was a massive increase in operational costs in the years I associated with the start of Regina Public’s use of PowerSchool.

A change like this cannot be undertaken in one year. A school board must ensure that there is enough of a contingency fund to offset the extra costs this would have. There must be a plan for any unexpected costs arising during the school year that had not been budgeted for.

Because this would be a gradual process, impact on stakeholders would be distributed over the course of years rather than months.

As discussed previously, buy-in from stakeholders would take place through surveys, forums, and participation in working committees. Hopefully by eliciting comments and suggestions from staff members, this change can proceed with little resistance.

Failure in this endeavor would look like a refusal to accept or acknowledge that PowerSchool could be problematic because of its genesis and corporation.

Source: Abundance and Happiness

The report to taxpayers would have to be thoroughly detailed indicating that all possible outcomes have been analyzed. The case for social justice would have to be made in very clear, concise terms so that it is obvious why Pearson-developed software is problematic. Unfortunately, in this conservative province, this is potentially the source for the biggest backlash of the change. The general public does not appreciate change in education for a variety of reasons, mostly due to the cost. I would anticipate that board meetings would have open forums to educate people on the change proposed. School trustees would be tasked with communicating to their constituents the dangers of Pearson and what makes Alma the more positive choice for students and teachers.