Emily Columpsi

"The art of teaching is the art of assisting discovery" -Mark Van Doren

Archive for the category “Weekly Reflections”

Summary of Learning

As I reflect all the way back into January, I remember feeling extremely uncomfortable about using technology in teaching, learning and overall life. However, as the course continued, this feeling alleviated due to the constant help and guidance from my classmates and of course Alec and Katia. Throughout this course I definitely became more critically informed about the latest trends in technology, in education and society. Every week, our conversations and interactions in different online spaces enabled me to step outside of my comfort zone, which ultimately helped in creating my positive digital identity through the development of my online portfolio and other social networking tools such as twitter and Google Plus. This course really helped me develop a greater awareness of advanced technology-based learning resources and online professional learning opportunities. I can definitely say that ECMP 455 helped me get over my fear of technology. I am certainly more confident in my abilities and pleased with the social connections I have made. I will without doubt be integrating technology into my classroom one day so that my students can gain the capacity to further develop their own technological abilities.

I underestimated the potential of this class, however, my personal learning network is growing by the minute and I owe it all the Alec. Thank you ECMP 455.

For my summary of learning project, seven of my classmates including myself made a music video that incorporated all of our learning projects, as well as our own personal takeaways (as exemplified through our flip grid videos).

Enjoy our dance moves!


Subjects To Topics

Photo Credit: schoolux via Compfight cc

Education in Finland is hailed internationally for their extremely high educational ‘outcomes’ –or standards, as we know them to be. For many years, they have been international leaders in both numeracy and literacy. However, now the education community in Finland has decided to take on a new approach. According to this article by Richard Garner, Finland is scrapping traditional “teaching by subject” and replacing it with “teaching by topic” or what the Finns call “Phenomenon” teaching. The idea is to introduce a specific topic and then integrate all of the different subject areas that relate to it at one time. The example they provided in the article was, “a teenager studying a vocational course might take “cafeteria services’ lessons, which would include elements of math’s, languages (to help serve foreign customers), writing skills and communication skills.” With this new approach, however, comes other changes within the classroom. For instance, there will be more collaboration between teachers and students, with students working in small groups to solve problems and teachers collaborating on lessons plans. Marjo Kyllonen, Helsinki’s education manager stated, “We really need a rethinking of education and a redesigning of our system, so it prepares our children for the future with the skills that are needed for today and tomorrow.” In other words, the Finnish want to make changes in their education that are necessary for society, and according to their research, this approach shows that students are really benefiting.

I find this new approach in education really interesting. What do you think? Do you think this is a good idea? Why or why not?

What Runs The World? CODES

Coding (also known as scripting or programming) is a hot topic right now. Constantly, we hear of new initiatives to get kids coding, and in fact is it becoming an increasingly important skill to have. But what exactly is ‘coding’? Quite simply, coding is telling a computer or device what you want it to do, which involves typing in step-by-step commands (like a list of instructions) for the computer/device to follow. The world runs on code. Every time you use a mobile phone, a calculator or even a microwave, a code is being run. That being said, it is fair to say that code powers our digital world because without programmers/coders writing that code, or that set of instructions, computers would be incapable of providing you with anything –they would simply just it there and do nothing.

We live a world that is becoming more and more reliant on technology. That being said, coding is extremely important. We need coders to keep on telling computers what to do and how to perform these tasks that we see as complex, yet useful. In the end, as our reliance on technology grows, our understanding of how things work needs to ultimately grow too because computers, well they are not going anywhere.

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It was stated by our professor, Alec Couros, last week that coding provides children with some really important skills and a way of looking at the world. However, my question is, how do you incorporate coding in the classroom? As part of our discussion as a class, Alec introduced us to a kid-friendly computer programming language called Scratch. Scratch is a free programming language that allows you to make stories, animations and games. As part of our learning we were all encouraged to try out this program. I have never coded before so this was going to be interesting.

Due to the fact that I was very unfamiliar with this program and coding in general, this became a very time consuming task for me. As well, I found this to be very frustrating because 1) I could not get the music to work and 2) sometimes I could not get the sprite to move the way I wanted it to. Even though I had difficulties I was able to come up with a simple code for my sprite; however, there is still no sound. If anyone knows how I can fix this please help me out! Anyways, you can watch my sprite dance (more of a glide really) and unfortunately not sing under the spotlight here. As you will see, this is not very well done, but for someone with my technical abilities this is not that bad. I definitely need to work on this coding…



Hola Senorita

This week in my ECMP 455 online class, our professor, Alec Couros, introduced us all to some ‘new’ and exciting tools, of which we all wish we had known about before. Firstly, we spent some time looking at Chrome Extensions such as, Hola, Screencastify, and Ad Block Plus. However, in order to have access to these lovely tools you need to have Chrome. I unfortunately do not have Chrome on my computer, but I plan on downloading it very soon –preferably after classes are done so that these tools, especially Hola, are not distracting me from my homework. Hola is an extension, which allows Chrome users, anyone anywhere in the world, to have access to movies and TV shows that are blocked in Canada. It functions like Netflix. Now, as Alec was introducing this extension to us he mentioned that Hola has Disney Movies. Well, I love Disney Movies. So I knew right away that if I downloaded this tool I would be completely distracted from everything.

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Last night, during my ECMP 455 class, my classmates and I engaged in another Twitter Chat; however, this time the chat was open to all educators both nationally and internationally. Those that were participating in the chat were able to connect by attaching the hashtag (#saskedchat) to the end of each tweet. I have participated in a Twitter Chat before (the one conducted by our professor, Alec Couros, a month ago) so I was familiar with the process, but this experience was entirely different since I was connecting with countless others rather then my own classmates. Now, when I say countless, I mean countless. There were so many people participating in this chat (from all around that world) that is was overwhelming at times; I couldn’t keep track of or keep up with the questions, responses, mentions and notifications.

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As mentioned above, the chat was very overwhelming at first. Not only does it go by very fast, but generally I am a slow reader, so I started to fall behind very quickly. This obviously led to some frustration because I just couldn’t keep up. However, it was like he was reading my mind, but ten minutes into the chat, Alec mentions through BlackBoard Collaborate that we don’t have to read every single tweet. Rather we can pick and choose what we want to read and respond to. This made the chat way more manageable and easier to participate in.

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Throughout the chat, educational related questions would be posed by Kelly Christopherson (@kwhobbes), in which we were all inclined and encouraged to reply to. I was in the process of tweeting my responses (by incorporating the A# into my tweets), however, the feed and everyone else’s questions and replies would easily distract me so my own tweets were delayed. It was comparable to getting distracted by a shiny object. However, I managed to get my responses out their, resulting in some insightful conversations between other educators.


Many people who have Twitter are unmotivated or reluctant to Tweet. I am sometimes this person. However, and as exemplified last night, #saskedchat is a great way to relieve that reluctance. The prompts and friendly responses from other educators are welcoming and make the environment of Twitter feel much safer that is becomes easier to Tweet and collaborate.

Check out how many notifications I received! This  includes mentions, favourites retweets, and new followers

Check out how many notifications I received! This includes mentions, favourites, retweets, and new followers!

Through this experience, I not only gained more followers, but I saw how valuable a Twitter chat can be. It is a great way to motivate, connect with other individuals and share your thoughts and ideas. As well, it is super easy to get involved. Just search #saskedchat and participate in the lively and passionate discussion among pre-service and experienced teachers. I guarantee that you will learn a lot, I did for sure! The chat opens your minds to new ideas and opinions and helps to build your digital profile in positive ways. Twitter Chat’s are a great way to connect with some pretty amazing people around the world. Even last night, individuals from India and Australia stopped by and participated. As well, twitter chats can be incorporated into your classrooms to connect with students in educational ways (whether holding discussion about educational topics or reminding them about homework).

The responses and connections are almost instant and endless once you put yourself out there. I highly recommended taking part in #saskedchat.


Coping With Grief

Last night, I was fortunate enough to take part in a workshop conducted by Sylvia Keall, on Helping Students Cope with Grief. These professional development opportunities are very important for (pre-service) teachers because you never know when something will happen that requires you to be there for your students. It is a known “fact that each year children from every school will be faced with a death of a loved one, and will be forced to cope with loss while continuing their studies.” As a result, it is important for teachers to take into account that there is no right and wrong way to grieve, and each child will show/express their grief differently depending on the context of the situation and their development level. That being said, it is essential that we as teachers, as stated last night by Sylvia, make ourselves available.

Photo Credit: OUCHcharley via Compfight cc


As part of her presentation, Sylvia provided guidelines for helping students with grief. Being available, a good observer, a good listener, patient and honest are all ways in which we as teachers can help our students in difficult times in their lives. We can’t force the student to talk; however, we can be patient and wait for the student to come to us. We need to give grieving students “the opportunity to tell us what happened and how they feel” about the situation on their own time. As well, when this time comes it is essential that we “don’t distort the truth or lie to the child about tragedy.” Knowing the truth will help children begin to heal because they have complete understanding of events.

It is a natural response for teachers to feel a great deal of concern for their students, since children are with teachers seven or more hours each day. That being said, school isn’t just a place for learning. It becomes a home away from home, a place in which students share their lives with other classmates and teachers. This enables me to bring up another important point stated last night, “Remember that you can be the one to make school a safe, structured place to grieve.” Ultimately, don’t underestimate your importance.

Last night was very enlightening. I personally was very thankful for this workshop because yes, dealing with death is difficult, but inevitable part of being a teacher. Therefore, it is important that we acknowledge our role as helpers and teachers who can assist students in healthy coping skills.

Grieving is a process. Therefore, make sure you are patient and give your students the time and encouragement they need.

Check out this website on How to: Help Your Students Deal with Grief and Loss. The ideas are very similar to the ones presented last night. I encourage you to take a look.


“The Infinite Game”

I have always been into TEDTalks. I find the short (18 minutes or less) conferences to be very powerful and meaningful, as the topics that are covered relate to our lives in one-way or another. I scour through different TED Talk videos every once in a while, but now that we are in a time when technology is advancing so quickly (and being in ECMP 455) I thought I would look for videos that relate to technology.

There are a multitude of videos on technology, but this one in particular stood out to me because of the title: How Technology Evolves. As I read the little blurb about the video I was intrigued in how the speaker, Kevin Kelly, was going to relate the Evolution of Technology to the Evolution of Life itself. Before watching the video in its entirely I was a little skeptical about his theory. How can the evolution of technology be related to the evolution of life? Well I was about to find out.

Throughout the video the speaker made valid points that we in ECMP 455 have already addressed and justified. For instance, technology brings us differences, diversity, options, choices, opportunities, possibilities and freedoms. Simply put, we all continue to grab at technology because we want differences, choices etc. In this way, the speaker states that technology is accelerating evolution. It is accelerating the way in which we search for ideas. This is undoubtedly true, and as Kevin Kelly puts it, creates something called “the infinite game, “ since we all want to keep playing. Technology is a way to explore and create more possibilities and opportunities. Therefore, as Kelly states, “We need to embrace technology because it is an essential part of our journey in finding out who we are as humans.”

I end this post with the question that Kelly asked in the very beginning of his conference. What does technology mean in your life? For me, I am still trying to figure that out. As well, what does technology want? Thoughts?

The Possibilities

Hey everyone,

So today I was searching through Facebook and I came across this video. It is quite long, rather 8:30, but it is definitely worth a watch. It is one of the most honest videos I have ever seen, as the narrator made very valid and important points. Humans are so attached to technology; however, sometimes we forget the possibilities and opportunities technology can potentially give us. In our ECMP 455 class, our professor, Alec Couros, constantly reiterates the potential of technology and how it can connect us in many ways: whether nationally or internationally. That being said, one point that the narrator makes near the end of the video really stuck with me, as it relates to the topics that we discuss in our ECMP 455 class. He states, “The internet gives us the power to share a message to millions around the world. Therefore, when we still can, lets use our screens to bring us closer together rather than farther apart.” This statement reminds me of the conversation we had a few weeks ago about participatory culture, and how we are now able to work collaboratively together via technology in ways that we never were able to before. The potential to share, connect, create, remix, and collaborate by the use of technology is greater than ever. The possibilities are endless, and we can’t forget that. We need to explore these possibilities to, like the purpose of this video, share a message to millions.

The narrator also mentions, “Does technology show us how smart we really are? Or does it show how lazy we have become?” This is a question that I have been asking myself over the past few years, and still the answer is a huge blank. Thoughts?

There are dozens of extremely important topics covered in this video. However, the thing is, is that people will watch this video and in five minutes they will forget that they have even seen it. Don’t forget. Remember the potential. Remember the relationships. Remember the opportunities.


Connecting or Disconnecting?

During my last online meeting with ECMP 455 we talked a lot about the negative impacts technology could have or is having on our youth. It is scary to think that children are being born into this new digital age where there is such a high increase in cyber bullying, inappropriate use, and exploitation among children online: whether intentional or not. Last night we had conversations about and touched on Chat Roulette, Tinder, Catfish and other technological forms of exploitation among children and teens. For those of you who do not know, Chat Roulette is an online chat website that pairs people randomly from around the world together to take part in webcam based conversations. At first, this website could be seen as a great way to communicate with others and build relationships. However, very quickly, as mentioned last night, Chat Roulette started to receive major backlash to its inappropriate content; in particular with respect to the distasteful, obscene or pornographic material that some users were exhibiting. Instead of connecting people together, it quickly started to disconnect them. As a result, we were talking about how parents should keep their children off the site; however, that is easier said than done as many children under the age of ten are abusing the site. Chat Roulette and Tinder could be used for communication and relationships but people are completely abusing it in negative ways.

These conversations led us to the following question, as prompted by our professor Alec Couros — How do we make students/children understand the problems of technology before they come across them? Nowadays, children as young as ten understand how to work a computer; therefore, they have the potential to come across or participate in this inappropriate content. Collectively as a class we stated that we should deal with it before something happens, before they get involved, rather than waiting for something negative to happen. Parents and teachers should be having conversations with children about the negative potentials of technology and certain websites and why they should not participate. However, as teachers how can we just bring these conversations up in our classrooms? How can we make students understand the problems before they come across them? One of my fellow classmates stated teachers could place a question jar in the room in which students could write down questions anonymously. This was a great idea, as keeping anonymity with technology questions and related issues private among students will prevent any further damage or negativity coming from other classmates. I actually conducted the question jar when I was volunteering with the Go Girls Program two years ago and it worked great. The questions that the young girls wrote down were personal and private so keeping it anonymous was essential. However, some girls did not take it seriously and wrote down irrelevant questions like, “Do you believe in unicorns.” Some found it to be a joke while others found it purposeful and educational.

The bottom line is that technology is almost seen as a necessity to survive and flourish in this age of advancement. However, with this advancement comes the potential for great harm and damage among our youth. That being said, parents and educators alike should educate students and children, and inform them before they get involved.

Technology as an Innovation

Last night, in my ECMP 455 class, we discussed the concept of “living and learning in the digital age.” Basically, how can we live and learn with technology in ways that add authentic value to our lives and to the world. We explored and discussed the evolution of technology as an innovation and as an increase in complexity. Ultimately, one of the major points that I took away from last night’s class is not only how far technology has come, but that technology continues to push educational capabilities to new levels. In looking at where educational methods and tools have come from to where they are possibly going in the future, technology’s importance in the classroom is evident now more than ever.

It is amazing to see how far technology has come: it is evolving at a high-speed, but almost dangerously fast, pace. Everyday we learn about new web tools, apps, and devices that make our society that much more complex and innovative. This development and increasing access to many different technological devices, especially the Internet, makes us a part of something called the participatory culture, as discussed last night. Ultimately, people are able to work collaboratively, generate news, connect, consume, create, remix and share in many ways. We have been able to mix and remix things that we never were able to before. Eric Whitacr’s Virtual Choir is a perfect example of connecting, creating and sharing. This connection between people is awe inspiring and majestic. Eric says in his TED talk “individual souls, each on his/her own private island, sending messages in a bottle to each other.” No words can describe this really, just watch.

This TedTalk is another example of this participatory culture that we are all becoming a part of.

His last few statements really resonate with me, “this went from being a joke to something that we can all be a part of because we do not just enjoy now, we participate” (5:10).  By participating in someone else’s idea or creation we feel a strong sense of social connection. It ignites a fire within to know that we have shared and connected with millions across the world.

With this found participatory culture; the question is how do we take these engaging tools and bring them into the classroom? Technology is certainly driving the way teachers teach and students learn as technology is already integrated in nearly everything we do. Teachers nowadays have unlimited access to new and improved educational apps, SMARTborads, Mimios, tablets, Smartphone’s, and coming from a mathematical point of view, graphing calculators, mathematical web programs and games. Technology ultimately enhances teacher instruction and deepens student learning as the communication and connections can continue outside the classroom. Furthermore, technology is centered primarily on collaboration and sharing, which encourages student interactions with peers and more opportunities for authentic learning experiences. It is ultimately about building rich connections. That being said, technology continues to push educational capabilities to new levels the more and more advanced it becomes. As a result, as I said before, it is more evident that we integrate technology into our classrooms to enable rich learning opportunities and connections with other students whether in or out of the classroom. What are your thoughts? How do you think teachers can bring these engaging tools into the classroom? For me it is easily to state why we should, but I am still struggling with the how as I am still learning about technology and all its advancements.

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