stumbling through computer science

Category: Social Media and Personalized Learning

Fostering Less Fear and Greater Confidence

Past, Present, and Future pathways of First Nations Ways of Knowing Concept Map. (CC: Hayley Atkins, 2019)

“The pedagogical challenge of Canadian education is not just reducing the distance between Eurocentric thinking and Aboriginal ways of knowing, but engaging decolonized minds and hearts.” – Battiste, M. (2002)

Teaching in the 21st Century gives educators the opportunity to extend their teaching beyond their classroom and include the global community. Classrooms should be equipped with technology to connect with professionals, educators, and knowledge keepers who may not be physically in the room. For my classroom next year, I have requested a video conferencing system and microphones for each of my students. This equipment will support computer science volunteers to instruct my students through an introduction to computer science course remotely. There will also be an option for students to complete the course with me, if they choose not to connect via the online platform. Connecting students to professionals in the growing technology industry while they are still in school will make it easier to apply for jobs, decide on a post-secondary path, and understand what opportunities exist in the field of technology. Computer skills, coding, and robotics are part of the prescribed new BC curriculum, and these topics will be explored during this computer science course. Aside from the hard skills required from the Ministry of Education, my intention of this new computer science course is to enrich the soft skills and real-life connections which are needed outside of school in the professional community. Networking, communication skills, and the ability to interact and learn from others, be it in person or online, are the soft skills which will help my students be successful after graduation and outside of school.

The students at our school do not have access to reliable internet outside of school hours. Internet and digital connectivity are an assumed right for individuals living in Canada, and our professional and education institutions have been designed around the assumption that everyone has access to internet all of the time. It is popular for schools use Google classrooms to conduct their courses, so that students can log onto their course outside of school hours to complete their projects or homework. These digital classrooms were designed as a response to the growing demand to have technology in school and reduce the issue of lost paper assignments. Where this technology falls short is for those individuals who do not have access to internet outside of school. Internet is not a right, it is a privilege; teachers need to be aware that many of their students do not have a computer at home where they can access these online platforms. A student may not have internet access due to their geographical location, economic status, cultural background, or level of family support for their learning. We cannot assume, despite which school our students attend, that they will be able to connect to internet at home. As a teacher, it is my responsibility to provide students with an opportunity to connect to the digital learning and networking community while they are in my classroom. Networking, and digital literacy are critical skills which will lead to future success for our students. Many of the jobs our students will have after graduation do not yet exist; it is our responsibility to prepare our students with technological skills to be successful in a rapidly changing global environment (Monroe, 2013).

Since the beginning of this graduate program, my perceptions of acceptable research methods and education structures have been transformed and broadened. I am learning strategies to combine my structured, Western science educated background with my current teaching position in a school which fosters culture, traditional knowledge systems, and an emotional and spiritual connection to learning.  My research project will revolve around the need for co-constructing curriculum for language and culture revitalization, drawing from community contexts to create curriculum, and teach in a way which represents all knowledge systems in BC. These knowledge systems include, but are not limited to First Nations Ways of Knowing and Western Science. I recognize that there are other forms of knowledge from other cultures and perspectives which I have yet to explore or incorporate consciously into my teaching.

Quantitative research has been my preferred method of research throughout my education. This method provides succinct, seemingly unbiased, data in a numerical form, which can be analyzed with statistics to produce a black and white solution to the question. There is a push among Western researchers to conduct quantitative research because it is perceived to be the most valid. Qualitative data encompasses interviews, story, personal connectedness, lived experience and emotions to analyze and provide insight into problems or areas of research. The data collected is not black and white, and every piece of information must be taken in the right context to understand the full meaning behind the data. While reading O’Cathain’s article on mixed methods assessment, I noticed that in order to produce meaningful qualitative research which will make a significant impact on the research community, it is common to have this qualitative data backed up by numerical findings (O’Cathain, 2010). An example of this could be a report on the most desirable neighbourhoods to live in. Researchers will conduct interviews and perspectives from the community members to produce a qualitative representation of which areas are the most desirable; this information, however, will not be as strong without accompanying numerical data such as the frequency of break-ins or proximity to hospitals to support this ranking. As a science and math teacher, I am trained to look at research from a numerical, unbiased stand-point and recognize that I am partial to data which is represented in a numerical way rather than emotion or interviews to support a claim.

A topic that is brought up frequently in educational assessment, is grading and assigning a number or letter to each student’s assignments. The common struggle for teachers is that they spend a large amount of time providing insightful comments and supportive feedback on a students work, but the only focus is the percent or letter grade attached. Students breeze over the comments and go straight to their mark. Trevor Mackenzie has adopted the guided inquiry process in his classroom, which looks at the process of student learning rather than letter grades. His issue with students only caring about what mark they get in the end resonated with me; I struggle with assigning a single letter grade to an assignment when my main focus is on the learning process of the student. How do we change our teaching practice to support the learning process rather than end result?

The new BC curriculum supports qualitative assessment, such as comments or feedback, rather than only a percent. The changing perspective is that education should be about supporting the students learning and guiding them through the learning process, and not the end product or report. The big ideas and core competencies of critical thinking, networking, community engagement and creating life long learners are now the priority for our students (

As a researcher interested in assessment strategies, it is important to look at the paths our students take after high school graduation. Universities, and other post-secondary institutions base their admissions on a student’s GPA. If students need certain grades to get into their post-secondary institution programs, then it is no wonder that all of their focus is on their numerical mark. Their future depends on the grade tacked onto the end of their work. If we want to make a change to how assessment is perceived, then there needs to be a change at the K-20 level, not just K-12. Trevor Mackenzie’s assessment includes a student digital portfolio, which he discusses with each student throughout the course. How would our assessment at the secondary level change if universities or other post-secondary institutions based their admissions on the wholistic profile of a student’s learning journey, rather than just GPA alone?

Post-secondary admission requirements may be beyond my scope of influence in education, but what I can focus on is changing educators’ perspectives on incorporating First Nations Ways of Knowing, non-quantitative knowledge system, into their teaching practice.

To understand why teachers are hesitant to include First Nations content into their teaching, I have organized my thoughts into a concept map to explore the different branches or rhizomes of each topic involved in this larger research question.
Past, Present, and Future pathways of First Nations Ways of Knowing Concept Map

Approaching research from a qualitative perspective was a difficult transition from the numerical and statistical analysis I have been used to throughout my education career. While reading about Van Manen’s phenomenological and Chambers’ métissage research approach, I was surprised at how fitting these different lenses will be to my research project (Van Manen, 2014), (Chambers, 2008). The First Nations Ways of Knowing is rooted in the 5Rs: reciprocity, respect, relevance, relationship, and responsibility (Restoule, 2018). When incorporating First Nations content into your teaching, it is important that it is done is an authentic way which is respectful and relevant to yourself and your students. Phenomenological research is based on wonder and lived-experience, which aligns with First Nations Principals of Learning. My research methods will be primarily interviews, stories, experiences, and rooted in emotion. It will be important to take into consideration the individual experiences of the people I talk to, and acknowledge the validity in the emotions that are felt. Chambers’ explanation of métissage as a research method demonstrates that research can be collected in a variety of ways including drawings, stories, emotions, and written accounts, which need to be taken into consideration as a whole in order to come to an accurate conclusion. My concept map includes the different rhizomes, or pathways, which are included in this topic. The link is included above and also the image of the map is at the beginning of this post. Broadening my view of what valid research is, incorporating emotion into my analysis, and acknowledging that people have unique lived experiences will be critical when delving into my research project and teaching as a whole.

The big question I have at this point in time is “How will my self-reflection and unconscious biases affect who I talk to, what I hear, and what I take away as important or relevant?”


Battiste, M. (2002). Indigenous knowledge and pedagogy in First Nations education: A literature review with recommendations. Prepared for the National Working Group on Education and the Minister of Indian Affairs Indian and Northern Affairs Canada (INAC): Ottawa, ON: National Working Group on Education and the Minister of Indian Affairs Indian and Northern Affairs Canada (INAC). Retrieved from

BC’s New Curriculum. (n.d.). Retrieved July 25, 2019, from the Government of British Columbia’s website:

Chambers, C., Hasebe-Ludt, E., Donald, D., Hurren, W., Leggo, C. & Oberg, A. (2008). 12 métissage: a research praxis. In J. G. Knowles & A. L. Cole Handbook of the arts in qualitative research: Perspectives, methodologies, examples, and issues (pp. 142-154). Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications, Inc. doi: 10.4135/9781452226545.n12

First Nations Principals of Learning. (n.d). Retrieved July 25, 2019, from the First Nations Education Steering Committee (FNESC) website:×17.pdf

Fournier, S. and Crey, E. (1996).  Wolves in Sheep’s Clothing: The Child Welfare System.  Stolen from our embrace, (PP 81-114).  Vancouver, BC: Douglas & McIntyre. Retrieved from

Monroe, E.A, Lunney-Borden, L.Murray Orr, A., Toney, D, & Meader, J. (2013).  Decolonizing aboriginal education in the 21st century. McGill Journal of Education, 48(2), 317-337. Retrieved from

O’Cathain, A. (2010). Assessing the quality of mixed methods research: toward a comprehensive framework. In Tashakkori, A., & Teddlie, C. SAGE handbook of mixed methods in social & behavioral research (pp. 531-556). Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications, Inc. doi: 10.4135/9781506335193

Tessaro, D., Restoule, J.-P., Gaviria, P., Flessa, J., Lindeman, C., & Scully-Stewart, C. (2018). The Five R’s for Indigenizing Online Learning: A Case Study of the First Nations Schools’ Principals Course (Vol. 40), 125-143. Retrieved from’s_for_Indigenizing_Online_Learning_A_Case_Study_of_the_First_Nations_Schools’_Principals_Course

Van Manen, M. (2014). Phenomenology of practice: Meaning-giving methods in phenomenological research and writing (pp. 26-71). Walnut Creek, California: Left Coast Press. Retrieved from

The Unsettled Settler


This post reflects on the article The Five R’s for Indigenizing Online Learning: A Case Study of the First Nations Schools’ Principals Course and how the reading connects to our own personal and professional experiences. We then provide an overview of our proposed research question and broader topic, problems, and our purpose in choosing this topic.

A note on terminology: Throughout this paper, we use “Indigenous Peoples in Canada” and “Indigenous” to describe the First Nations, Inuit and Metis peoples in Canada.

“Our children are our future. We have a tremendous responsibility to ensure that future. The need for radical change, a complete overhaul of the education system for our people is the basis of the required change. To do this, we must look within ourselves, our communities, our nations for ‘the answers are within us.” (Kirkness, 1999, pp. 14-30)


The chosen article describes a case study of  a one-year pilot program, engaging in online learning platforms, offered to principals with the goal of becoming an accredited course from the Ontario College of Teachers. The program, titled “The First Nations Schools’ Principals Course” (FNSPC),  was offered specifically to principals of on-reserve First Nation schools across Canada. Participants included principals of on-reserve schools across Canada, and these schools were limited to those identifying as First Nations. Qualitative methods were used, specifically document analysis, surveys and interviews. Surveys were the preferred method, and involved gathering data about participant perception through online platforms. The authors first explored challenges and complexities of integrating indigenous knowledge systems into online, educational environments. They posit that due to indigenous knowledge being rooted in community, context, and the place-based nature of these experiences, traditional online environments tend to not foster these connections. The authors then offered solutions in the form of embedding the “5Rs” of indigenous knowledge — respect, relevance, relationship, responsibility, and reciprocity— as the backbone of the course pedagogy in order to address this conflict between online and First Nations learning environments.

The 5Rs “can serve as useful tools for educators going forward across a range of contexts: from those working in First Nations schools, to those designing online courses, or simply for those who are interested in Indigenizing learning environments.” (Restoule, 2018, pp. 125-143)

Defining the 5 Rs

Respect:  Respect refers to the need to recognize and respect Indigenous cultural norms and values

Reciprocity: Reciprocity should frame course design and relationships between instructor and pupil. Student voices should be actively listened to, and their needs and goals should be accommodated.

Relevance: Learning that is relevant to Indigenous culture should be based typically in community and oral communication

Responsibility:  Both the teacher and learner have a responsibility to recognize and uphold “First Nations values, practices, and ways of knowing”(Kirkness & Barnhardt, 2001, pp. 14-30). Further, personal responsibilities and relationships, such as to family members, work, or community, are acknowledged for their role in the functioning of society and the shaping of daily experiences.

Relationships: Are meant to be reciprocal on behalf of teacher and pupil, and education should foster growth of personal relationships to community. In a school setting, relationships between the students themselves also need to be fostered.

(Restoule, 2018, pp. 125-143)

Key Findings 

Online education offers enhanced accessibility and removal of geographical distances. Embedding the 5Rs not only mitigated challenges, but strengthened learning. Researchers found that the aspect of “relationships” was most successfully integrated into the online learning program. Principals commented that they had “made new connections and networks” (Restoule, 2018, pp. 14-30). Because the pilot program was deemed a success, further programs have been offered, with full enrolment and a growing waitlist. Furthermore, the application of the Five R’s will become an essential component for all First Nations schools’ principals courses going forward and is now becoming part of the accreditation requirements.


Joanna: For me, this article highlights the importance of embedding Indigenous Knowledge into my daily teaching practice. On a personal level, I have experienced online learning as a detached system accompanied by a downloadable PDF version of a course outline and accompanied readings. Assignments were emailed directly to the instructor. The layout and design was boring, I was unmotivated, and frustrated to be paying so much money for a course. I felt isolated from my peers and was unable to form meaningful connections to the instructor or my classmates. My current experience with an online learning course is the opposite: We have built a networked community by communicating in person, over video conferencing, and through audio capabilities. We have also used Whats App, Twitter and Slack to build our PLN and connect further with each other; sharing resources, relevant findings, and some very funny jokes. When I reflect on these two different experiences, I notice that EDCI 568 actively practices embedding the 5Rs into the course design. I wonder how I can successfully incorporate the 5Rs into my daily teaching practice, in order to indigenize my learning environment.

Hayley: As a teacher at a First Nations school, this article has emphasized the divide that occurs between Western education and Indigenous Knowledge systems. My undergraduate degrees are in marine Biology and Secondary Education, so I have always related learning to research reports, lectures, and analyzing data in a statistical, unbiased way. Mastering and completing an online course meant you completed assignments, followed the structured research paper outlines, and memorized the information in order to get the right answer on the tests and quizzes. In a traditional online course, there is no option to take your learning outside of the prescribed curriculum, and very few options to personalize your own learning or assignments. The most common level of personalization of the online courses I have taken included an introductory assignment, that was not usually for marks, to write a short bio about yourselves to share with other students in the course. After a year in my current school, it is clear indigenous learning is rooted in personal story, community interest, and requires conversation between people who share the roles of teacher and learner. A one-sided approach to learning, where there is a set teacher and set student role, cannot be extended to indigenous learners. I see the 5R’s as interwoven in my teaching due to the students I have in my classroom, the community in which my school is located, and the breadth of knowledge that exists from the members of my school and the surrounding community.

Research Topic

Essential Question

What are the obstacles perceived by educators when it comes to incorporating Indigenous (First Nation, Inuit, Metis) content into their practice?


The broad subject matter addressed in the project will address settler-educator set-backs involving embedding Indigenous content into their practice. This will include pre-service, established, and new teachers responsible for delivering curriculum in the classroom environment whether online, blended, or in-person. Also included in this research will be administration, schools, the ministry of education, school districts, professors in the faculty of education, and other individuals or educating bodies responsible for or influencing educational institutions and curriculum.


The problem is that there has been a call to action from the Government to include Indigenous education into the new BC curriculum. The issue that isn’t being addressed is that research suggests that teachers do not feel comfortable, authentic, or ready to incorporate this content into their practices. This could be due to their own feelings of being a settler in Canada, a lack of authentic resources, and hesitation of doing it “wrong” or offending these nations and communities. Rather than curating their own resources from their point of view, it is common to rely heavily on current Indigenous educators to be accountable for all of the knowledge and resources.

We need to do the work and gather our resources ourselves, rather than depending on Indigenous community members. In order to fully engage, we need to bring our own background knowledge into the conversation to be able to talk about deeper topics. We cannot depend on the Indigenous community to be the only keepers of knowledge; burn-out, sensitivity, and tokenism could occur if we do not do some of the research ourselves. In conversation with Shauneen Pete, she expressed her exhaustion and frustration with teachers who were not taking the time to first learn the truths of our shared history. She urges settlers to first do our own research on the topic, then come back and  engage in a critical discourse. She stresses the importance for settler-educators to form their own personal learning networks in order to talk about their fears and to make spaces that provide safe environments to express this vulnerability.


Change requires knowing the why and the how. We would like to understand how to encourage educators to incorporate Indigenous  content while acknowledging their own biases and backgrounds. To us, it seems like reciprocity is the how, and relationship is the why – each person should bring their own sources to the conversation, rather than it being a one way sharing of knowledge. Each individual has the ability to be both the teacher and the learner. Along with creating a resource bank for educators, we hope to engage in critical discourse with other settler-educators, as well as begin self-study in order to reflect upon our own biases and understand obstacles preventing settler-educators from fully engaging in this curriculum.


First People’s content is included in almost every subject in the new BC curriculum. However, many teachers are hesitant to embed this content with authentic resources. Online or outdated resources can also be a source of conflict, and can lead to feelings of self-doubt.

The resources we have compiled reflect the First Peoples Principles of Learning as well as the Calls to Action of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, including the plea to “integrate Indigenous Knowledge and teaching methods into classrooms” and “build student capacity for intercultural understanding, empathy and mutual respect.” First Nations Education Steering Committee (FNESC)

Click here for a full list of resources


First Nations Education Steering Committee (FNESC). (n.d.). Retrieved July 22, 2019, from First Nations Education Steering Committee FNESC website:

Kirkness, V. J. (1999). Aboriginal Education in Canada: A Retrospective and a Prospective. Journal of American Indian Education39(1), 14-30. Retrieved from

Kirkness, V. J., & Barnhardt, R. (2001). First Nations and Higher Education: The Four R’s – Respect, Relevance, Reciprocity, Responsibility. Knowledge Across Cultures: A Contribution to Dialogue Among Civilizations. R. Hayoe and J. Pan. Hong Kong, Comparative Education Research Centre, The University of Hong Kong, 30(3), 1-15. Retrieved from

Tessaro, D., Restoule, J.-P., Gaviria, P., Flessa, J., Lindeman, C., & Scully-Stewart, C. (2018). The Five R’s for Indigenizing Online Learning: A Case Study of the First Nations Schools’ Principals Course (Vol. 40), 125-143. Retrieved from’s_for_Indigenizing_Online_Learning_A_Case_Study_of_the_First_Nations_Schools’_Principals_Course

All Talk, All Action

This blog post stemmed from a conversation with Jeff Hopkins, the founder of the Pacific School of Innovation and Inquiry (PSII).

PSII Homepage


The Un-Learning Process

“Educational Quote: “Albert Einstein says…”” by Ken Whytock is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0

Below are my thoughts on the student transition from public school to PSII.


PSII’s core values encompass a very learner centred learning area such as Open Inquiry, Emergent Curriculum, Learning Happens Everywhere, Learning vs. Learning About, and Co-Construction of learning.

Questions for Jeff and the students at PSII

During our chat, a few thoughts came up that I would like to ask Jeff, students at PSII, or other teachers at the school.

  1. What made you decide to come to PSII? (this would be for the student)
  2. What are common paths your students take after graduation? Are there any unique paths students have taken as a result of going to PSII?
  3. What challenges do students face switching from the public school system to PSII? Challenges if they switch back to public?
  4. What level of parental support is expected for students? How to do you respond to little or no parental interest in their child’s learning?
  5. Is there a limit to tapping into free mentor support and how do you check for reliability of mentor? Does it compromise the value of education and teachers?
  6. Do you have or have you had any First Nations teachers? Students? How do you incorporate or encourage the incorporation of First Nations values / ways of knowing into students’ projects?
  7. Could a remote access student or teacher attend or teach at PSII?

 How to bring inquiry and collaboration into my classroom

 PSII values collaboration, cross-curricular, and cross-grade projects and learning; this is why the school limits the number of students each year. A smaller class size allows for more personalized learning and for students to work together in a meaningful way inside and outside of school. Throughout our conversation with Jeff, he stressed that this model isn’t very effective in public schools because of a larger student body.

This got me thinking – if we can’t change the number of students in our schools, could we change our classroom layout to increase student interaction and small group conversation?

Reimagining Classrooms: Teachers as Learners and Students as Leaders | Kayla Delzer | TEDxFargo

Why do some classrooms look the same now as they did 70 years ago? In this passionate talk, second grade teacher Kayla Delzer speaks about her mission to revitalize learning and the classroom environment.

Classroom layout

Your classroom design and layout should have a positive impact on student learning, performance, and collaboration while helping to reduce anxiety of being in a group setting. An ideal classroom should offer private spaces for individual work, and group spaces for conversation and collaboration. 

“The purpose of a design is to facilitate and enhance the enactment, continuance, and completion of activities appropriate to the setting the design exemplifies…”

“Classroom layouts should work towards enhancing the enactment, continuation, and completion of activities to reach specific educational goals.” 

(Amedeo, D., 2003) Source

Throughout the years, classroom layouts have changed very little, whereas the office space has been completely redesigned in the past quarter-century. Many offices offer private meeting rooms, hang-out areas with ping pong tables or snacks, and large collaborative space with video conferencing facilities. We have made adaptations for the changing business world, but what changes have we made in our classrooms? 

Classic Classroom Configurations


The traditional row and column style with all seats facing the front lends itself to ‘sit-and-listen teaching.’


Clusters work best for group work, where students share tasks and cooperate.


In a Socratic Seminar, students help one another understand the ideas, issues, and values reflected in a text through a group discussion format.

A Dynamic Classroom for All Types of Learning

The ideal classroom gives space for all types of learning. There should be group space to collaborate, private areas for individual work, large workspaces for projects and hands-on learning, and an array of seating, lighting, and spaces for students to work. It is important for each teacher to think about who they are teaching, what they are teaching, and how to arrange their classroom to meets their teaching needs.

This may may sound like a large list of requirements, but below I have designed a classroom layout which fits all of these needs.

There are group tables for collaboration, an area with computers, and lots of seating for individual work. Rugs, beanbag chairs, tables, chairs, desks, the floor, or in a cubby in the bookshelf are all work spaces the students can choose. A large kidney shaped table is ideal for hands-on activities as well as tables which can be rearranged for larger workspaces. A projector and TV allow for video conferencing between students and other people in the global community, as well as enough computers for each student. Lots of natural light and direct access to the outdoors helps students feel connected to their natural environment as well.

The Ideal Classroom Layout (CC: Hayley Atkins, 2019)

It is useful to think about how we would design our ideal classrooms, and how to best arrange each classroom to meet the needs of students and teachers. 

‘The teacher’s educational philosophy will be reflected in the layout of the classroom. The teacher should be able to justify the arrangement of desks and chairs on the basis of certain educational goals. There is no ideal classroom layout for all activities.’  (Sommer, 1977)

Questions to ponder…

When was the last time you looked at your classroom layout from a student perspective?

Do you regularly check if everyone can see and hear properly?

Does the learning activity dictate the seating arrangement in your classroom? Do you change your layout according to different activities or at different times of the year?

Can you justify your choice of classroom seating arrangement on the basis of educational goals?

Here are the main factors you should consider in your classroom in terms of layout:

  • Seating
  • Place(s) of instruction 
  • Technology
  • Storage
  • Decor/Displays
  • Flexibility 
  • Size

In reality, teachers face issues of:

  • Budget
  • Custodial Agreement 
  • Sharing room(s) with other teachers 
  • Safety 
  • Individual student needs

Resources related to classroom layout and active learning

#activemath on Twitter

Interesting EdChat conversation about classroom layouts

Mr. Meyer’s Interactive Math Lessons

The top 10 benefits of a flexible classroom

The Chair Free Classroom

The Flexible Classroom

21st Century Classrooms May Remind you of Starbucks

Action Based Learning Research


Cellphones: Here to Stay. 

This blog post stems from our discussion of Digital Literacy in the 21st Century with Jessie Miller of Mediated Reality.

(Twitter: @MediatedReality) (Website:

All or Nothing

In September 2018, Central Middle School banned the use of cellphones on school property. Students were asked to leave their devices at home, and if they brought their cellphones to school the devices would be confiscated. During my teaching program, we visited Central Middle School, and I was delighted to see how progressive and tech-forward this school was; I couldn’t wait to apply for a practicum there with the hopes of working there once I graduated. To me, this was a forward thinking, tech-embracing, 3D printing, laptop-using middle school who was ahead of the curve for progressive education. Which is why, when this announcement was made about the cellphone ban, I was shocked. What could be so bad about cellphones that they aren’t even allowed on school property?

The principal of Central expressed that the staff felt there was very little – if not any – educational benefit of students having cell phones in their hands at school.

Central Middle School’s Cell Phone Ban Article

This ban led to me to think about the pros and cons of cellphone use in the classroom. This can’t be a black and white issue. Surely, we can find a way to embrace these devices and incorporate their uses into our lessons and teaching practice?

While many parents allow children free rein of the internet at home, it’s a common debate in education circles on how—and if—digital devices should be allowed at school. Supporters of technology in the classroom say that using laptops, tablets, and cellphones in the classroom can keep students engaged. Technology is what they know. Most students today don’t even remember a time without the internet. But critics say it’s yet another distraction in the classroom. From social media to texting, allowing digital devices could hinder a student’s performance in the classroom.

Mobile devices in education, from the students perspective.

Pros of Cellphones in the Classroom

Cons of Cellphones in the Classroom

Negative health impacts of screen time in adolescents article mentioned in the recording above.

Check out this TedTalk about the negative effects that screen time, at any age, can have on our overall happiness:

Communication is Key

In my classroom, I struggle to keep students off of their cellphones. I use techniques like giving them “the look”, standing next to them while they are texting, or blatantly calling them out in class for using their phones. Usually, they respond with an eye roll, a sassy remark, but then put it back into their pocket or facedown on their desk. My classroom policy for cellphones is that the students are allowed to have their phones facedown on their desk, with their music on shuffle. If they  need to look at their phones, it is only to change music quickly. They know that if they are waiting for a text or call from their parent/guardian, their best bet to avoid having their phone taken away is to let me know why they need their phone that day. Open communication is key for me – if there is something going on in your life that you need your phone for, let me know and I am happy to let you keep an eye out for those messages.

No cellphone jails in my classroom! (Hayley Atkins, 2019)

Jails, Boxes, Shoe Racks…

I have seen other classrooms and schools create cellphone jails, boxes of shame, cellphone cubbies, or even just a tub where phones are to be dumped before class starts. You can check some of them out in the link below:

Cell Phone Jail and Other Classroom Tips

I would not want to be responsible for all of these expensive devices, use class time to collect all of the phones, or have to communicate with parents/guardians who may disagree with this “cellphone jail”. For me, building relationships, trust, and communication with the students around my expectations for cellphones is how I manage cellphone use in my class.

Twitter: @ddmeyer


Cellphones are here to stay, and the more schools try to fight it, the more difficult it will be to get students off of their screens and back into the classroom. There is a place in school for cellphones, but if digital devices are permitted, there should be guidelines and rules in place.

Digital literacy and digital citizenship should become part of the new BC curriculum. Right now, the only place I see where it can fit is into Computer Science, Career Education, and ADST? I would be curious to start an EdChat on Twitter regarding where these issues could fit…

There are lots of resources for teaching the concepts of digital literacy / citizenship. The International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) has comprehensive standards for students to be successful in the digital world. A resource I would recommend trying in your class is a digital citizenship game developed by ISTE and Google called Interland. This games shows kids how to manage their digital footprint and avoid hackers, phishers, oversharers, and bullies online!

If the students are going to become digitally aware and literate, it is important that the administration and staff become tech-literate as well. In order to incorporate digital literacy/citizenship in the classroom, teachers need proper support in training, professional development, and curriculum implementation. I believe most teachers want their students to be safer online, but are quite busy with the other demands in their classroom to really follow through with developing their own lessons around this topic. For busy teachers, like myself, a great place to start for curriculum and Pro-D resources is Common Sense Media. To effectively use the resources on this website, it is important that teachers take the time to collaborate, plan, and create a meaningful lesson about digital devices in their classroom – this would be a great Pro-D day topic!

Digital devices are great learning tools to embrace our ever changing, increasingly online world. In the classroom, devices are utilized best when there are specific goals for their use, focusing on student online safety, digital citizenship, and critical thinking.

I would like to explore the comparison between cellphone use in gym / sports and in the typical classroom. Would changing your classroom layout and activities reduce screen time and temptation? Is there a place for Movement Based Learning in the math classroom? Also a great #BCEdChat topic..

5 Useful Blogs, #s, and @s

Twitter – It’s a big expansive place, with lots of resources, but who has the time to sort through it all?

Here are a few useful #s, @s, and blogs to help you get started.

5 #s:






What’s missing? I am still on the hunt for a First Nations Education Chat… 

5 @s:






5 Blogs:

Resources for new CS Teachers 


The New Value of Education

Admittance: At What Cost?

When it comes to student access, High Tech High took a stand and opened their doors to those students who are classified as being the lowest on the education and economic scale. A school that looks like a top of the line, “Google-esq” establishment, is actually a free public school. The school’s selected students are those who come from rough backgrounds and low-income areas. This helps to reduce the barrier of attending progressive “tech” schools which would normally only be attended by wealthy students from upper class neighbourhoods and backgrounds.

Google Office… or High Tech High Classroom? “” by Marcin Wichary is licensed under CC BY 2.0

As the reader/viewer of this video, I raise a few issues of selecting students only based on their parents’ income:
  • Why should it be based on the salary of parents, when these children who may benefit from attending High Tech high are now not able to attend because they come from a higher income family? Reducing a barrier for those of lower income actually creates a barrier for others.
  • It is common for those higher income families to want their child to be successful in school, no matter what cost. Some wealthy parents are willing to pay for whatever tutoring, laptops, or learning aids their child may need so that they can achieve As and be accepted into their alma matter. While their grades may reflect success, many of these students may not have learned very much because of this sheltered system. What they show in book smarts, they lack in street smarts and perseverance. I wonder who would deliver more grit? A student who has only known how to use the support of others, or the student who has never been able to afford a tutor? It would be interesting to compare the success of each type of student at High Tech High.

As a teacher, we need to think critically and holistically about who our students are and what their backgrounds are. We can’t assume that the students who come from wealthy families are going to be inherently successful. While in the same thought, we can’t assume that the students who come from less-wealthy families will come with grit and determination. I understand that economic status is a common and efficient way to categorize people, but I would be curious if there is another way to assess which students would truly benefit from attending High Tech High.

As the researcher/creator of High Tech High, the main issues this school aims to address are those of social inequality and social differentiation. Social inequality is the unequal distribution of resources within a society. Social differentiation is the idea that people can be categorized based on characteristics including race, income, education and geography. Social differentiation is a key for fuelling social inequality; who you are and where you are from can have a large impact on the privileges that you have. High Tech High is focussing on limiting the social inequality that income and wealth can have on the accessibility to fair and open education, and ultimately lifelong success.

Influence for this analysis came from:

Power Privilege and Oppression – Graduate School of Social Work -DU Licensed under CC

Does Sacrifice Equal Dedication?

Teachers at High Tech High are hired based on subject need and specialization; their contracts expire each year and they are paid less than the average American teacher. As a reader/watcher of this video, I applaud these teachers and have respect for their passion as educators. They are willing to sacrifice their job stability and have a lower wage because they are committed to the work that High Tech High is aiming to accomplish. The teachers see themselves as part of the greater good, rather than how they are being treated individually. As a reader/watcher, I can admit to myself that I would not be comfortable with this uncertainty – but does this mean that I am not as dedicated a teacher? The research does acknowledge this feeling of uncertainty these teachers feel, but its main objective of creating a project-based-learning and needs based school justifies this feeling of professional insecurity.

Behind the Scenes

High Tech High uses a completely self-directed, unstructured approach to learning, which enables full student autonomy. There are no standardized tests, and projects are used to “grade” and assess student learning.

From the researchers point of view, this is a progressive new model focusing on the shortcomings of the traditional way of learning and testing. The researcher highlights how standardized tests can be inaccurate, cater towards one style of learner, and do not reflect a learner’s overall profile. This researcher’s view would correlate strongly with the reading “Teaching for Meaningful Learning,” where Dr. Barron and Darling-Hammond argue that the focus of learning and education should be about knowledge growth for the individual and collective group. From a reader/watcher’s point of view, High Tech High’s unstructured learning approach emphasizes engagement and collaboration to develop collective knowledge. What I noticed is that the content and background knowledge on robotics, woodworking, or other skills needed for these projects, was not included in this film or part of the “researched” content. This challenged my belief and comfort level of a teacher that students need to have the core skills and content to be able to take this project based learning into their own hands and apply these skills to larger ideas and into a broader context. An example of this from High Tech High, is how did the students know how to physically build the large cog wheel, if the teacher did not explicitly show them how to in a traditional way? Was there direct instruction happening between the students and teacher behind the scenes? I wonder if the researcher decided to not focus on the traditional note-taking or direct instruction that may happen at points throughout the day, and instead emphasize the project based learning that happens after those instructions.

Social Butterfly vs. Wallflower

Walking through the hallways of High Tech High, it is easy to get carried away looking at the artwork, robots, and other visually intriguing projects that fill the halls. It was fascinating to watch the students painstakingly piece together the intricate cog, or set up the best lighting system to showcase their play, but is this just an illusion of the success of project based learning? It is no wonder that project based learning gets showcased in social media more, because it is a more interesting process of learning to the audience/reader. People are more interested in watching a class build a robot battle arena then watch them master complex algebraic equations – but which group is learning more? Is the flashier learning more valuable than the intrinsic problem solving?

A “Boring” Perspective of Learning “Home Work” by Sam & Sophie Images is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0


Flashy, “Social Media” worthy learning! “P1030079” by __andrew is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0

In my own classroom, I am hesitant to post on Facebook the “boring” photos of students completing math worksheets, or solving word problems, because I fear I will be labelled the “boring” math teacher. I know that these worksheets are building foundational skills of fractions, long division and algebraic equations so that we can then work on projects dealing with slope and velocity of racecar tracks. Why am I only showcasing the flashy work at the end rather than celebrating the internal process that happens before those projects can even develop?

These thoughts about flashy vs. unflashy lessons and work lead me to want to explore the perception of Project Based Learning from the teachers point of view when it comes to the amount of lesson planning and effort it takes to teach in this way…  Can Project Based Learning Lead to Lazy Teaching? Another blog post to come!

This blog post explores the documentary, Most Likely to Succeed and related readings, Why Minimal Guidance During Instruction Does Not Work: An Analysis of the Failure of Constructivist, Discovery, Problem-Based, Experiential, and Inquiry-Based Teaching by Paul A. Kirschner, John Sweller  & Richard E. Clark (2010), Teaching for Meaningful Learning by Dr. Barron & Darling-Hammond, StanfordU, and 

© 2023 Techtrovert

Theme by Anders NorenUp ↑