Summary of Learning – ECI 831

Here it is folks! My Summary of Learning for ECI 831, Fall 2019. It has been a wonderful semester with all of you and I am so thankful for all of the engagement! Please excuse the end screen as I tried (unsuccessfully) to stop the video before I went to all of my screen-sharing. This was attempt #YouDon’tEvenKnowHowManyTimesItTook, so it’s the best I got :).


Also, Nevis says Hi! (this is how we are both feeling since completing all requirements for the two classes this semester!)


The Dog Days of ECI 831: A Major Project Recap

When I first selected the topic for my project (as seen in my proposal) I had a huge idea of reviewing video tools, video editing, all of these grand ideas to really “challenge” myself for this project. Little did I know that taking on training my dog was going to be challenge enough. I thought, before I even began the project, that I had failed already because I couldn’t see the possibility of making my vision come to life. It wasn’t the best way to start out on something that was supposed to be exciting! In addition, I was struggling with the concept of having a project that has literally no end point, put into a semester that absolutely does have an end point.

Some of the questions that swirled in my mind consisted of the following:

  • would anyone even care that I was blogging about my dog?
  • what if I don’t want her to be a therapy dog anymore?
  • is this project even ‘enough’?
  • can I be talking about this process in a grad-level course?
  • what have I done?

My six word story: New Dog, Totally Lost, Please Help.

Baby Nev

In thinking of how I’m going to write this recap, I know that I’m going to have to be honest about parts I left out throughout the semester because: 1) I owe it to myself to be honest, and 2) it wouldn’t be a true reflection if I didn’t take into consideration all of the positives and negatives.

Nevis and I began our journey with an initial posting of commands that I wanted to work on with her and some photographs of her working through them (at this stage I had yet to embark on the filming part).

Commands that we have a STRONG grasp on since making that first post:

  • sit
  • sit and stay
  • ‘break’
  • go to your mat (she’ll lay there once I sit down at the table to eat)
  • leave it
  • coming when called at the dog park (even under HIGH distraction level like new dogs getting to the gate)
    • one lady even exclaimed “oooh! what a smart puppy you have!” (I did physically pat myself on the back)

Commands that are a “work in progress”:

  • ‘bring it’ – she likes to make you think she’ll bring it to you and then runs away
  • lie down
  • walking on the leash – super into the whole “if I pull we’ll go faster” thought process
  • “off”
    • she gets so excited and likes to jump up at people. But I know it’s working because she will rarely jump up on my anymore, and if she does she either catches herself or immediately sits
    • she LOVES to see what I’m cooking
Her favorite little toy


My improvements over the semester in regard to the project:

  • Found in this post I improved immensely in using film:
    • use of the tripod
    • uploading videos to YouTube
  • filming sessions
  • taking photos
  • having other people involved in the training and the project

Regardless of the improvements that I made and the success that Nevis and I were having in building a relationship, I was struggling. In a post about vulnerability, I wanted to talk about the struggles I was having, the emotions I was dealing with, and the ways that I was and was not coping with the stress of not only the project, but also life in general. But, even as I read back on the post, I wasn’t anywhere near as clear as I could have been about how I was feeling.

To give some background: I was away on a trip when I bought Nevis, and she was ready to be picked up two days after I got back. I actually named her after one of my favorite hikes on the mountain called Ben Nevis in Scotland! I came home from my trip extremely dehydrated, I found out I was battling some pre-existing health issues that had crept up on me, I had this new puppy at home, and I don’t know about anyone else, but when school ends (or a long trip is over), I get into these somewhat depressive states because the routine and stimulus I’m accustomed to is gone. So this is how my relationship with Nevis started. I thought dogs were supposed to make you happy (hence the initial goal of having her be a therapy dog) but I had never been more sad or low in my entire life. I was constantly questioning whether or not I had made a huge mistake in bringing her into my life and I found myself trying too hard to find silver linings. I hate to admit it, but there had been a few times over the past few months where I thought about giving her to someone else, or how I would feel if I left the gate open and she ran away…

You’re probably thinking: ‘dear God, get this dog a new owner’. These are terrible thoughts, I recognize that now, but in the moment, they had never felt more realistic and probable. So when I had the idea to bring her into this project in the hopes that it would help build my relationship with her, I put a lot of pressure on myself because I felt like I had something to prove.

I had to ask for a lot of help.

I do not like asking for help. I feel weak, unworthy, incapable and defeated when I ask for help and so I took this on, on my own. I had to learn really fast that my feelings toward asking for help were a part of an unhealthy narrative I was telling myself. When I think about what this semester held for me, I can cut myself a little bit more slack:

    • 2 masters classes
    • running a dance studio in a different city
    • new dog
    • full-time teaching
    • personal life positives
    • health issues and testing
    • extra-curricular demands, professional development demands
    • **For anyone who had the nerve to tell me, “Well, at least you don’t have a husband or kids!!!” (and there were more than you would care to know) were no longer people that I discussed life’s pressures with.

I had to cut the pressure. But I think I took a little too long to do this. I had to revisit the basics and remind myself of the times I felt and knew that we were successful. So Nevis and I did two back to basics training sessions that I kept very light, very fun, and rather short so that we always ended on a high note. You can see us in Back-to-Basics Round 1 (here) and Back-to-Basics Round 2 (here). This is the moment where I knew that we had something new and something different, and that it was good. Nevis is also getting older – she’s now 7 months! (where does the time go??) and it’s making a difference in how curious she is and in how engaged she is with the learning.

My last post in regard to the project was all about the brain games that I can play with her and it was a fun way to wrap up the blog posts about her because it was all play based. Funnily enough, the concept of “play”, let alone the action of it, has been missing in my life for years. And it’s finally back! Let’s go have some fun.

So, on a happy note: we are much better together. Over the last few weeks we have a different relationship with each other than we had before. I am more patient, she is a little more affectionate. I am more calm and much less stressed when I’m home, and she’s able to feel safe in that energy. We have a lovely routine that includes going to the dog park and playing Frisbee and running around; the outdoors is the place I need to be when life gets crazy so it’s nice to have another reason to get out there. I’ve noticed my mental health has been improving, and the stress that I was feeling is beginning to ebb.

The first time she cuddled

I find myself gravitating more to Nevis to cuddle on the couch, or making more time in my day to play with her. We’re both settling into life as we know it now, and I’m much more confident that it’s going to be a good thing. It’s due in part to this project that I was able to begin by forcing myself to make the time, to now having it feel much more natural.

Our next steps:

  • we start up another round of puppy classes on Saturday mornings
  • we have a new challenge:
    • it’s puppy’s first Christmas and we have a lot of family coming into town – she will be in total stimulus over-drive and completely out of routine. But we got this!!
  • She’s learning how tasty the fake pine cones on the Christmas tree are! But thanks to our work on “leave it!” she’s better at just walking past the tree with a quick sniff.
  • And, her name is Nevis after all, so the mountains are calling! We have some hikes planned for the spring that I’m really excited to take her on!

And finally, from both me and Nevis, a thank you to all of the classmates of ECI 831 who have contributed advice, comments, pep talks, and check ins throughout the semester. I know for a fact that we could not have done this without you!

Nevis: Workin’ on that Brain Power!

I needed to take a brain break from recording our sessions – not because I was getting tired of them or anything, but because I wanted to add something new to our training: BRAIN GAMES! Nevis is a busy girl and with the schedule that I’m operating with these past few weeks… I feel like I’ve almost been neglecting her to an extent (I know I’m doing a good job with her and I’m just being hard on myself, but it’s tough to not be).

The catalyst for this part of the project was that Nevis got her spay surgery three weeks ago (hence why she’s wearing a tshirt in the videos- to protect the incision and take a break from the cone wearing). Nevis needed to be on ‘limited activity’ for two weeks. TWO. WEEKS. That was the longest 14 days of my life. The most excruciating 336 hours. The most… you get the idea. We were dog park-less: not okay (I should have filmed her reunion with her dog park pals – hilarious). All we had were long, leashed walks. Also learned that Nevis gets quite bored of things like this, too. Off leash she’ll go for hours. On a leash? We out! And so, I had to find ways to keep her head in the game (ha ha..?) and my research lead me to the world of agility, home-made games, obstacle courses, etc. Thank you to the internet GOLD MINE!!!!

Joke Break:

“When Mum says ‘Okay Nevis! It’s time for the vet!” and you have to put on a brave face:

The Cone of Shame (or in our case, the Cone of Serious Side Eye)

So, I’ve been researching the importance of brain games with dogs. I’ve seen things from toys, to puzzles, to treasure hunts, to hide-and-seek, etc. There are so many options out there. Before looking into this, I had also been circulating in new toys and hiding some of her older ones so that things seem ‘new’. She has this little dinosaur that was her first toy as a baby and every morning (and I mean EVERY morning) Nevis can be found licking, cuddling, and sucking on this little toy – it’s almost like a baby blanket. It’s the calmest that she is throughout the day and it’s really interesting to wonder about how this happens with a specific toy. But the more I looked into specific games, I decided to pick a couple and work with them. It’s a little bit cheaper than buying all of these crazy toys, and it helps me see/track improvements as we go through.

To add a challenge to the games process, I had my mother and sister do the games with Nevis; this allowed me to see how she listened to others (for the most part, pretty well!), and it helps me see her through a different lens when I’m not the one giving the commands! It’s also interesting to hear the tone that other people use when giving Nevis commands, and how she interacts with them.

The video below shows a “hide and seek” style of game where Nevis is in a “sit stay” command while a piece of kibble is placed under a cup and she ‘guesses’ which one it is under. What you don’t see is a lead up to the exercise where we only use ONE cup with kibble so that Nevis gets the idea that under a certain cup, is a treat! There is still a lot of work to do but she is quite curious. She gives little ‘give up’ kisses when she doesn’t get it right (super cute), but for the most part she stays on task!

First up is my sister with Nevis at the intro stages of this game.

Next up, Mum takes a go at it. She is really funny to listen to when she’s rewarding Nevis or giving commands. Nevis loves the tone of her voice and gets all excited – she’s no longer concerned about the games, she’s just interested in being loved and cuddled.

But we’re back to our cheery, energetic, and mischievous self again 🙂 …and she doesn’t hate the t-shirt!?

Nevis: Back to Basics Round 2

It has been so incredibly refreshing to go back to basics – I could feel myself rushing through training and wanting better results than I was getting with her and I knew I needed to slow down. This happened to parallel with many elements of my life that needed a little bit of a ‘whoa’ button hit. I took the time I needed, went back to ‘play basics’ with Nevis, and tried to do my best to just ‘rekindle’ my connection with her a little bit. It helped tremendously and I think that it set us up for success. I appreciated the comments that everyone made on my last “Back to Basics” post so much, it really made me think more about the ‘long term’ nature of training her and the pressure of the time constraint within this semester-based timeline. I had to come to terms with the fact that we are not going to be super solid and consistent on our training and commands by the time this project comes due, but we will be able to show the growth and improvements we’ve made over these short weeks. Looking at it this way has helped me alleviate unnecessary pressure I put on myself and Nevis, and it also helped me see these small victories as more of a success than I was giving them credit for initially.

Nevis has entered her ‘adolescent’/teenager mindset having turned 6 months old. The puppy that would follow me out the door when it was time to go outside now requires a leash to go to the backyard so she doesn’t dash and she puts up quite the fuss when it’s time to leave the dog park. She’s a little moody these days but it’s fun to watch her personality come out.

But man oh man are we crushing the “sit, stay, break” while we wait for food. *high five*!

Here are a couple of videos we took (with use of a tri-pod this time, instead of the usual ‘phone prop’). They focus on some back to basics work with “stay” and incorporate some “leave it”, and more movement from me around the house while she ‘stays’.

Practicing ‘Stay’: Round 1

Practicing ‘Stay’: Round 2

Nevis Training: Back to Basics

A little laugh to start us off: my dad was, for quite a while, “Anti-Dog”. Before I got Nevis on July 21, Dad was known for saying the following: “do you *really* need a dog right now?”, “they tie you down and you won’t be able to travel as much”, “it’s a lot of responsibility” blah, blah, blah. All valid points…all went ignored.
Fast Forward to October: my dad and Nevis have a bond like I’ve never seen before. It’s a beautiful thing to witness – she plays with him, follows him around, cuddles with him as he reads the paper, etc. They were meant to be in each other’s lives, that I believe for sure. Here’s a little look at their ‘game time’ shenanigans:

Based on the videos and posts from last week (where discouragement was the overarching theme), I thought it would be important for both Nevis and I to go through some training that brought us back to the basics. It just served as a reminder to reset ourselves and go back to the times of our puppy classes where there were no expectations and results per class were a bonus. I had to go back to the feeling of no pressure, otherwise I think I would have struggled more.

Here’s what I learned:

  • Her and I can have a lot of fun together with this
    • I find that in these sessions we are able to connect more and have some patience with each other. Sure she’s jumping up a little bit as I’m talking and getting organized, but she is excited to get started!
  • She is SUPER engaged
    • rarely in our sessions does she become too ‘distracted’ and want to leave the session to find something else to do  – this is a HUGE plus!

Video 1: Sit, Stay, Down & Leave It

Video 2: Sit, Down, and Stay (Few Vocal Cues)
**Disclaimer: even though the title says “Few Vocal Cues” you’re going to hear my voice a lot – because this is ‘back to basics’ it’s important for me to be diligent with cues in setting up for success.

UPDATE on Past Posts/Videos:

  • Now, when I get her food ready at meal times, I only have to say “Stay” ONCE (it’s a freaking miracle – any wood to knock on???). And she leads me to her pen and sits while I am still walking over, anticipating the command. After a “stay” command at the pen, she will wait until I say “Break!” before she eats. PROGRESS!!

Nevis Training + Being Vulnerable

This training session occurred over the Thanksgiving long weekend. The Thanksgiving weekend was a tough one for me personally: coming down from a lot of stress at work, pressures of family and company and hosting dinners, combined with feeling under-the-weather and a little behind in both of my Masters classes.

  • The biggest struggle I have as a dog-owner: patience. I know, it’s not the best thing to struggle with having a new pet added into your routine. However, I’m getting better.

This was not a successful training session. I had a goal over the long weekend to have a couple family members film me and Nevis randomly throughout the weekend when they identified us having ‘teaching moments’ and ‘in the moment training’. You can tell in my voice that I’m just defeated and I’m quoted saying “I don’t know why you’re filming this, it’s not good”. In addition, there’s some laughter in the background when Nevis goes to “sit” on her own time rather than on Command. Looking back I can chuckle now too, but the other really frustrating part of training is that people who are outside looking in, don’t see the day-to-day, minute-to-minute frustrations that come with it and the laughter or ‘making light of’ can be more discouraging than anything. Am I being too sensitive? Maybe.

*I’m trying to build in more distractions as we go through these sessions, but sometimes we need to go BACK TO BASICS and that is totally okay!! There is a LOT of distraction going on during this session 1) her favorite toy, 2) it’s out of the blue, 3) we had company over, 4), there is music on, and 5) we had a ‘fetch’ and ‘bring back’ session a few minutes before so she was already in the habit for that.

Drop It & Sit w/ Distraction

Sit w/ Distraction


Nevis Training: We Have Video, Folks!

Alright, Alright, Alright! Thanks to a little YouTube tutorial and figuring out my ‘channel’ I have successfully uploaded some film footage of training sessions with Nevis over the past few weeks! Please keep in mind these are in a timeline that right now is a little all over the place so I will do better to organize them and show progress now that I have the uploading skills in my toolkit. To give some context to each of the posts, I’ve given a brief introduction of the video, the goals of that session, and what I hope to do next time.

Walking on the Leash*: this video is a reflection from our second one-on-one training session on October 2. **Disclaimer: I get cut off at the end but what I meant to say is that we got some tips and tricks that help me be a better ‘handler’ and a little more exaggerated so that she will listen to me as well. Also..I was introduced to thumbnails for the beginnings of videos which I will learn how to do. You can probably tell from my facial expression what kind of update this will be like! *face palm*

Sit and Stay while Food is Getting Ready: She is frustrated in this video and quite frankly, so was I! I was a little rushed getting ready for work and so you can tell in my tone that it’s not going to be successful. She gets to the point though! …that ‘heey–aggghhh!’ (phonetically wonderful, I know!) sound I make is called an “Interruption Cue” that I’m supposed to make when she breaks from a command and knows to go back to it.

Sit and Stay w/ Food + “Break!”: this is a bit of a shorter one where I finally remembered to use the “break!” command for her to eat, instead of saying “okay” – because I use that word too much in a daily basis for her to know that it means something to her!

I was going to add a couple more videos – but they’re a little vulnerable for me right now so I will leave them for another post. I don’t like not being good at something – I know…get over it, Jessica!!! So, it’s in draft form right now and I’ll work up the courage to post it. It is a learning process after all, and no matter how slow the progress is, it’s still progress.

Goal for Next Week: do a “time lapse video” (with some edits of course!) focusing on “go to your mat”, “caught me being good”, and “off!” commands during #eci831 class so I can track how well she does over the course of the two hours – that’s a long time for a pup, so we’ll see how it goes!

If anyone knows how to make these MONSTROUS videos a little bit smaller on my blog so that it’s a little more aesthetically pleasing, please let me know!

‘Never Nervous Nevis’: An Update (Week One & Two)

I am panicking. Totally falling behind in this project and my updates for it on the blog, paired with the ‘regression’ of Nevis’ skills lately – she’s teething like crazy (lost 3 teeth this weekend alone!) and is close to the time when she’s to be spayed so she’s all up in the hormones. Never thought that these updates would be playing such a major part of my training processes, let alone my project for this Masters class, but here we are!
Please beware, this is a long post! I’m trying to get caught up! Sorry folks.

Neighborhood Watch

My fearless companion has been quite the challenge when it comes to approaching this project. She has been deemed ‘Never Nervous Nevis’ in my family for her ‘fearless character’ and ‘bravery’ – sounds so honorary…but let me tell you, she’s a rascal. She could be a *little* bit more nervous if you ask me!

I work with a trainer in Moose Jaw one-on-one which has been really helpful. It’s also made me very mindful of how much to share when the training methods are considered Intellectual Property, and I feel like I’ve been toeing the line a little bit in this post when it comes to what I’ve shared.
I find it very interesting that our training sessions have more to do with training me, than they do training Nevis. I’m not a person for small talk, nor do I engage in a lot of random conversations and it is glaringly apparent through my training with Nevis. I also live alone and am not in too much of a habit of talking to myself out loud (…very much). What does this have anything to do with training my dog, you ask?

Well, I’ve been told by the trainer that I don’t praise her enough. I know, right? What does ‘enough praise’ look like? And what should it sound like?
Well what I’ve learned about “Praise” is:

  • it is important in phasing out the food rewards as we continue training
  • it can sound as ‘baby talk’ as I’d like (which is also really hard for me!! – I actually struggle to say “oh you’re such a good girl, yes you are!” or even think about saying it – so I’ve had to come up with other phrases I can use with enough inflection in my voice that equates it to praise)
  • it should occur during the “Caught Me Being Good” times (as mentioned below) every now and then in place of the food rewards

Here’s what I’m finding:

  • when the camera comes out Nevis is SO distracted by it that the training she had been excelling at ‘off camera’ falls away almost immediately – I’ll have to come up with a ‘sneak attack’ way to go about it
  • I find it incredibly hard to film the ‘every day’ moments that she has been doing (which is what we are working really hard on)
  • I was struggling to add videos to my posts (as I said in my proposal) but then I remember seeing on Slack that with this free wordpress version it’s impossible – so I created a YouTube channel and can hopefully embed from there (thanks for the help, Alec!!)
  • Nevis responds very well to using only kibbles in her training and for the most part is still excited about them as a reward (I am incredibly lucky for this because one of my biggest fears was ‘over feeding’ her but she has so much energy I really don’t think that is going to be a problem!).
  • We have moved up to using little bits of cheese when we start something new so that she is excited about completing the task again!
    • I have a strict ‘no people food’ policy with Nevis
      • some of you may think this is mean, or a little ridiculous, but I’ve seen what it’s done to dogs in the past and I just don’t want to create any issues in the future that I can avoid through action like this

Here are the skills we are working on lately (you will see some examples of these in the films below – please excuse the lack of editing, I can only do so much! But it’s something I want to work on!)

  • ‘Caught Me Being Good’:
    • Essentially this is a reward for doing nothing.
    • Quite simply, it rewards her for being quiet and lying down in the kitchen while I’m cooking, lying on the couch without tearing up the leather, etc.
      • A reward for doing nothing?! It’s her favorite kind
  • Walking on the Leash
    • I did make a video for this but I’m having trouble uploading it to YouTube and then to here. I’ll keep trying and I’ll update the post when it’s successful!!
    • She did really well with the trainer and then again with me. I try to have her walk on the right hand side of my body (that way she’s away from people as we walk on paths, etc)
    • How do I know it’s working?
      • Every now and then on our walks she will correct and reset herself to walk on the right-hand side without me having to tell her to.
  • Sit and Stay while Food is Getting Ready:
    • How I know it’s working:
      • she will even anticipate the ‘sit’ when I walk to her food container and will head to her ‘spot’ once the dish is full
  • “Break!”
    • this is the command for ‘ending’ another command.
    • For example, if she does “sit stay” while food is ready, I’ll set it on the ground and say ‘break!” and she will know it’s over and can now eat
    • I’ll admit that this one is tough for me to remember to say – there are so many ‘commands’ and I have to be better at bringing them into my dialogue with her so that it’s better associated with certain behaviors
  • Go to Your Mat:
    • We are making HUGE progress with this command.
    • I have a mat by my second door in the kitchen and this is where I’ve been training her to go while I work, mark, cook, or am eating at the table.
    • How do I know it’s working?
      • If I go into the kitchen and approach the counter, she will stay near her mat and wait for food.
      • she will shy away from affection in the kitchen and go closer to her mat because she knows if she does this, she gets food instead
  • Coming when Called in Distraction: WORK IN PROGRESS!
    • How I know it’s working?
      • When we are at the dog park, she does little ‘check ins’ where she will run over to me, no matter how far away I am (which I give an immediate food reward for so that she doesn’t think the only time I call her is when we’re going to leave)
      • She will be playing with 2-5 dogs at the dog park and as I walk away and call her to ‘come!’ she has only a slight hesitation before coming to me

In my next post I hope to do more of a ‘vlog’-style update to eliminate the amount of text and continue to experiment with my Youtube uploads and editing skills!

All this final project stuff is hard work! Nap time. She loves to cuddle her toys in protection.


Explain Everything: A Review

For the assignment this week I decided to take a look at “Explain Everything“! It is a ‘whiteboard video’ tool that has been around for a little while based on what I can find. It combines my love of screencasts (it has audio and screen capture capabilities) with user-friendly platforms for making presentations.

Take a look below at a quick overview as well as an example of something I played around with to use as an artifact for my learning project.


Why I chose it? 

  • Heard about it before, but have never used it! 
  • I saw a lot of people use a platform like this for final projects in previous classes but I was a little intimidated by the technology at first!
  • It was brought up in a class discussion in #eci831
  • Oftentimes if I can find something that the students haven’t seen (rather than using one of their loved apps and ‘teachering it’ (that means ‘ruin’, I’ve learned ahah) then they are a little more receptive to using tech in the classroom 
  • Explore our levels of patience while testing it out and learning through trial and error 

Review of the App/Tool 

  • You can sign in through Google which is helpful for a “google school” with significant use of Chromebooks and Google Drive 
  • It has a ‘drive’ of its own where all of your projects are stored 
    • The Free subscription has quite a bit of memory for a few projects 
    • Obviously the premiums allow for more tools to be used within the app 
  • Free download in the app store 
    • User friendly on the iPhone (that’s my only experience with it, other than a laptop computer)
  • Very fast and easy ‘tutorial’ of how to use the basics of the program while allowing you to explore the more advanced options as you become comfortable with it 
  • Access to microphone on the computer for audio and visual (screen capture and voice over for presentations)
  • Each project has a ‘code’ that it’s given for easy search access and sharing preferences 


Using the tool personally

  • I have added it to my list of things I want to incorporate into my project! Especially for little introduction videos 

Using the tool in instructional situations 

  • Giving instructions, making ‘how to’ or ‘step-by-step’ videos for any process task, instructional videos, etc 

Using the tool to document learning and growth 

  • Start with an initial project using the tool at the beginning of the year, use it in the final product assignment as a reflection of growth 
  • Contribute to it in developing a digital portfolio through sharing preferences 
  • Students can create a presentation with meeting the ‘strands’ of ELA (speaking and listening) even if they are not comfortable speaking in front of the class 
  • The options are endless!!

Here’s a quick snapshot of a video I was in the process of making as I experimented with the app. I hope to have the final version of it on my “Learning Project Week One” update that is coming soon!!


Ps. I used to Google ‘how to screenshot on a Mac/PC whenever I needed it but after using Chrome Extensions so much more, I stumbled across Lightshot! SO user friendly – I’d suggest checking it out!

Knowledge is Obsolete – What does that mean for Education?

On a daily basis I hear myself tell my students: “if you can Google it, I won’t ask you that on a test”. This poses quite a few challenges for me; 1) there’s a lot of privilege in that statement (as was brought up in a class discussion a couple of weeks ago), 2) you can Google just about EVERYTHING – even if it’s not a specific answer, it’s looking at things that will inform your opinion, 3) what is my role as a teacher in this kind of world now?, 4) how do I find a balance between the ‘traditional forms’ of education and the ‘new-age’ / ‘prepare-them-for-the-ever-changing’ pressures that education has today? 

If I’m being honest, I have answers for none of these questions. So where does that leave me? I found Pavan Arora’s TedTalk: Knowledge is Obsolete a refreshing take on the ‘technology in education’ debate. He states that “If knowledge is growing faster than ever, it’s expiring faster than ever, and it’s more accessible than ever, then what do we teach our children?” 

I find this question circling in my head as I contemplate what I have planned for my lessons for that day. How is what I am doing today, preparing you for the world of unknown tomorrows?  

There is a beauty in teaching a generation so in tune with technology, so ready to try new apps, explore new opportunities, and who, for the most part, see a value in what they do in the classroom each day. With that, as Arora alludes to, no matter what we toss at our students as ‘new’ or ‘innovative’ they will figure out how to master it to meet their needs within mere minutes and become experts in the task before we know it. Some teachers may feel threatened by this and maybe that’s why technology isn’t being implemented – for fear that their ‘place’ in the classroom, much like knowledge, will also soon become obsolete. But I think that this is actually really exciting – a room full of new teachers (our students) with new skill sets, and talents that they can pass onto their peers. And we are there to witness and help facilitate this growth. 

On the flip side, I feel a lot of pressure to ‘get through’ curriculum – there is so much to do, so many adaptations to make, finding a balance in the reading and writing dominance of ELA to allow for the other strands to be practiced and assessed. So where in this mess can I fit in technology? Of course it’s easy to say ‘everywhere, Jessica!’ but it can be overwhelming to attempt this. The advice I like to follow is ‘a little bit a time’. For the last few years I’ve challenged myself to revamp one unit from each class I teach in order to incorporate more ‘social network’ and ‘Web 2.0’ capabilities and increase student-choice in final products. This, so far, has been well-received by my students and it’s encouraging for me to see that the students are a little bit more engaged than they usually are in class. 

Another element of Arora’s talk that I agreed with is that he is right in stating that our students are going to enter a workforce in which we have no vocabulary for – how am I as a teacher helping this transition!? He suggests that ‘what we need is the kind of quantum leap that Steve Jobs gave us’, in order to create solutions that meet the needs of the world around us. We need to teach our kids to ‘deduce, not memorize, to experiment and experience rather than listen and take notes’; while we often feel limitations from budget constraints, the four walls of our classrooms, etc. it’s important to remember that it’s technology that actually opens the doors to so many learning experiences that our students may not have received before. Arora’s closing remarks ring true throughout all systems of education: we are experiencing and teaching the most creative and productive generation of our day (if only they have the opportunities to embrace this).