Super Science Saturday Summary of Learning

Carla Cooper and I decided to work together to create our Summary of Learning project. We made our plans, then spent a Saturday evening in my classroom filming. We decided to base the film style on Fun with Flags (from Big Bang Theory). We loved the contrast between an online class where we learned about so many new ways to use tech in the classroom and balancing it with the sliding chalk board summary. We haven’t had any calls from Hollywood seeking our acting skills or our film-making skills. I guess we will have to keep teaching!


Check out the full video here. It was hard to fit everything we wanted to share on the 3 boards- and even harder to talk about what we did end up writing in under 5 minutes. One of the things I loved about this course was how applicable the learning was to my classroom and how many times I ended up discussing the course content with other educators. I feel like I learned so much more, and in much more depth than this video (or any of my blog entries) were able to capture.

Hope we were able to make you laugh!


My EC&I 832 Major Project Summary

How We Connect: A look at Social Media usage among Saskatchewan Teens

For my major project I looked at how the teens around me on a day to day basis use social media to connect. I was surprisingly impressed with the insight offered on their responses.

I ended up getting 18 teens to complete the survey I created (check out a copy of the survey here). I had originally planned to go back and film some student responses to the questions, but I ran out of time. I did, however, end up discussing a lot of the topics at length with students and I am very grateful for the opportunity that this survey created. I think that the conversations ended up being better than what we would have discussed if they had been talking in front of a camera.

With the survey results I created an infographic with the results. It was my first time creating an infographic and it was a good experience; however, it did take a really long time for me to get the formatting how I wanted it. I may now be in love with infographics as I can see where short, visual summaries of information would be beneficial in the classroom.  I also want to get my students creating them. For both my Health Science 20 and my Bio 30 classes I encouraged them use infographics to summarize their Student-Directed Study projects. I can’t wait to see what they produce in January.

How We Connect

From the surveys I learned that students use social media mostly to keep up with their friends and current news. Most reported checking many of their social media accounts before leaving the house in the morning- many before they even got out of bed. The apps that were most commonly used by the students were Snapchat (by far the most popular), Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, iMessage, and YouTube. Before this class I wouldn’t have considered YouTube a form of social media- but after learning more about the personal nature of vlogs that are shared there I can see how YouTube is a social way of sharing media.

One of the most interesting discussions following the surveys surrounded the final question: How much money would it take for you to give up your phone (and all social media accounts) for: -24 hours? -1 week? -Forever?

I didn’t include the results of this question in my infographic because the results on the sheets differed greatly from what I learned in conversation with the same students. Looking at the surveys I was shocked by how little financial compensation they wanted in order to part with their phones and all social media accounts. I appreciated one students’ answers that combined monetary values with additional requests (24 hrs? $20 and a Twinkie; 1 week $100 and a hug).  Several students actually responded None to the amount of money it would take to get them to give them up for 24 hours. In response to this I asked them to give me their phones and I would return them in class the next day. I also offered $20 etc. to the ones that put those amounts. I quickly found out that handing over their devices was a lot harder than they had predicted. I offered that they could pick the time and give it to me for 24 hours- but I still haven’t had any drop off their devices!

There were also some students that readily admitted that it was simply “lots” or “Not enough” to separate them from their devices. “I can’t give it up- I’d lose my Snapchat streaks” made me both laugh and admire the genius nature of Snapchat’s programs in terms of engaging youth to use their programs more and more. I have also heard students in the past talking about how many more snapchats they need to get the next level of emojis. They were actively increasing their use of the app just to get better little images- laughable for someone like me that doesn’t use the program.

I wasn’t surprised by the survey results stating that 15/18 people said that they had never posted something on social media that they had later regretted. I think that the process of this survey lent itself to the answer being no, and that there may be more people that actually have done this.

In closing- I am glad I chose the topic I did as it opened up a lot of great conversations with students. I was impressed with the insight offered (ie. In response to how he thought his relationship with his parents had changed as a result of social media: We are a lot more quiet, we communicate over our phones. We know what’s happening in each others day by seeing it on social media, not my actually telling each other).

If I were to do the survey again I would change up the questions to create better results to share using an infographic. I also thought of a lot of other questions I would have included if I started again and how to change the questions I did have to get better responses.

Hope you enjoyed hearing about how SK youth use social media- it was a great learning experience for me.

A digital age Troll Hunt

I first learned about trolls last fall when taking EC&I 831.

No- not that kind of troll. The online variety.

I learned about trolls last year and I have seen contributions from them in different places: Twitter, News Articles, Facebook- but after seeing Katia’s Twitter post this week about being trolled about a white privilege article she shared I decided to check out some trolls.

Katia Tweet

Katia Tweet 2.PNG

Check out Katia’s article here.

I started my troll hunt looking up @Nero on Twitter and finding a lot more of him with a Google search. I can honestly say he is not what I expected to find. He is arrogant (expected), racist (expected), a misogynist (expected), but he also seems to be very charismatic- which explains the 118,000 followers. He was the one that shared Katia’s tweet, but he never actually commented on it. This reminded me of Justine Sacco’s experience of having her tweet shared by another individual with a much larger number of followers.

Looking through his feed I noticed that he shared the same article over and over (about how birth control is making women crazy and unattractive), so I eventually clicked on it- just to see. I laughed when I realized the article he was sharing over and over was written by himself. To me it just looks like a crazy person rant. In fact his whole feed looked a lot like a crazy person rant to me. It is obvious he has a mission to bring down Shaun King because he has obviously offended Milo (@Nero) in some way.

In my short search looking at Milo Yiannopoulos I have discovered my Troll #1 (although possibly not a true troll himself in this situation, just an enabler of trolls- but definitely a troll in other posts I saw) was partially educated, spoke well enough to sound educated, and was charismatic enough to gather a following. He did, however, strike me as mentally unstable and seemed to have a ranting fixation on several topics that seemed to consume his feed. It was time for me to move on before I got angry enough to comment.

The second troll I looked at was more what I expected to find: right wing extremist views focused on gun rights and anti-feminism (with plenty of anti-muslim humour tied in). @TheAnyello has made me wonder what these trolls do in their offline lives. What kind of a job do these people have? Do people they work with know about their extremist views? Do their families know? Or do they hide behind fake names and profiles to keep their views in Twitter space and not have to face up to them offline? A Google search turned up little additional information on Anyello Dei (or whoever he really is).

Google Image Search

My other troll searches turned up more of the same. Right wing extremist views, muslims are bad- keep them out of America, Obama is useless, feminists are sociopathic liars and crybabies, gender inequality doesn’t exists (actually a debate that @Nero takes part in, etc.) I got bored pretty quick with the unintelligent rants I found and my troll hunt made me extremely grateful that I don’t live with that kind of hate everyday. It also reminded me that the internet can be an ugly and unforgiving place- many of whom are completely oblivious victims.

My kudos goes to Katia for standing up for herself and her views without taking the bait and engaging the troll army in a battle that will never be won. My thoughts here go back to Kirsten’s quote about “Being the internet that you want to see” and focusing on all the great things out there.

My shortlist for things you should see on the internet:

  • Humans of New York (I follow on FB- warms my heart)
  • A Mighty Girl (I also follow on FB)
  • TED everything (including TedEd)


Ciao for now!



EC&I 861 Reflection

EC&I 861 has taken me on a self-guided journey exploring where and how financial literacy is being taught. I also looked at some of the research surrounding the teaching of financial literacy and personal finance topics and its effectiveness. My learning journey took me in a direction that I didn’t expect to travel.

When I chose the topic of financial literacy for this course, and my thesis, I didn’t choose it because of a personal passion towards the subject, but instead an observation of a need for education in the area. As it is a topic out of my area of specialty it took me awhile to figure out where to go with my interest and what the proper terminology was for some of the things I was interested in.

Starting my research I was impressed with how much literature I found on the topic and how many other provinces/countries have already implemented mandatory financial literacy education. I came in to the course with very idealistic expectations about what effect mandated financial literacy education would have on student’s future financial health- but the research quickly brought me back  down to Earth. I found myself questioning whether it was worth it to teach financial literacy at all when so much research is showing that it isn’t effective anyway, but still holding on to my gut feeling that there is a need for the education in our society.

The main points of my research told me that there wasn’t a large difference in performance on financial literacy tests between students who had taken personal finance courses or been schooled in states with financial literacy mandates. There was also a lot of discussion about the nature of learning behaviour-based practices and the complexity of decisions to be made in the constantly changing finance world.

I feel as though I have now moved past that discouraged stage and discovered many of the reasons why the research is producing such discouraging results. While I believe that countries, provinces, and states have great intentions when setting mandates surrounding financial literacy education, I think it is the implementation of these mandates that have left student results falling short of the desired outcomes. I think the number one issue is that teachers left to teach these complex topics are not properly trained to do so- leading to things being taught superficially, or just plain incorrectly. I think the 5 essential strategies suggested by the SOTS for advancing financial education are important (except #2) and should be considered if/when we mandate financial literacy education in SK. They are as follows:

  1. Introduce financial concepts early and continue to build on them through K-12 years. It is encouraged to make a stand-alone financial education course a graduation requirement for high school students.
  2. Include personal finance questions on standardized tests.
  3. Provide K-12 students opportunities to practice money management through hands-on learning opportunities.
  4. Provide opportunities for teachers to complete financial education training.
  5. Encourage parents to discuss money management topics at home and provide them with the tools they need.

I think that most important if/when SK moves towards mandated financial literacy education should be properly funded teacher training and a stand-alone course for concepts as well as integrating them in to other courses. I think we need to avoid a blanket approach of a broad-based mandate where already busy and overwhelmed teachers easily overlook the importance of the content (and are likely unqualified to teach it anyway).

This class has also taught me that Canadian financial problems are far more complex than simply  cognitively understanding how finances work. I have realized that financial literacy is not the answer on its own, but instead an important starting point for dealing with financial issues currently faced by our society such as high debt levels. It has also taught me that financial literacy has some important, elementary basics: spend less than you earn. It is possibly to be financially healthy with less money that most of us make- we just need to adjust our expectations and our spending in line with our income.

As a final step for this class I read Predictably Irrational by Dan Ariely. It was Lauren Willis who suggested that if you can predict something you can change it. I love how beautifully this concept fits in with the title of Ariely’s book- suggesting that humans act in a predictable way, even when it doesn’t make rational sense.

Ariely also played a large role in influencing my opinions towards what needs to be taught. I started the course thinking about personal finance as mostly a Math-based course, but I now appreciate how much more complex financial literacy is and how much marketing and social science needs to be understood as well.

As effective marketing strategies continue to increase our levels of consumerism I think the need for good financial literacy/personal finance education here in Saskatchewan continues to grow. We need to not be discouraged by the research suggesting that financial literacy education is ineffective and instead use the knowledge learned to guide HOW we teach it.

I had an incredible learning journey in EC&I 861 and I hope that I was able to communicate my learning experiences for you. I look forward to moving forward with the topic of financial literacy education in Saskatchewan as I start my Thesis learning.

Facing the Truth (and Lauren Willis)

Sometimes in life we side-step around the things that we don’t want to acknowledge.  We seek out resources that confirm our beliefs and avoid the ones that challenge our thinking.  For me this has been avoiding Lauren Willis’ article Against Financial Literacy Education.  One reason could be that it is a long one, but I think that deep down I don’t want to know her arguments as she likely has good reasoning for views opposite my own.  Despite inconclusive evidence that I have explored so far I have still managed to hold on to my view that students need to learn about financial literacy and have personal finance education be a requirement to graduate.  My pre-reading predication is that I am going to meet evidence in Willis’ article that doesn’t align with my current views.


Post-read I have managed to hold on to my views that financial literacy education is still needed- but we may need to modify the way we are doing things. Willis discusses whether it is plausible to expect financial literacy education to create a free market and increased consumer welfare, concluding these are not realistic goals.  She starts out her article establishing that what is being done to teach financial literacy currently is not working. She even emphasises the fact that “for some consumers, financial education appears to increase confidence without improving ability, potentially leading to worse decisions”.  I think that the most important message I am taking away from the Willis article is that we cannot expect knowledge alone to change future financial behaviour.

At this point in my study of the research I am starting to question all of the results surrounding the effectiveness of financial literacy education. I have had to split education effectiveness in to 2 categories in my mind: effect on knowledge and effect on behaviour.  Willis points out that many studies in the area rely on self-assessment and participant self-assessment is not known to be accurate.  Willis tells us that “people overestimate how much they have learned and how much their future behavior will change”; which can contribute to the inaccurate results provided on self-assessment studies. It is also hard to expect accurate results from optional-response studies as the individuals likely to respond usually possess certain traits and individuals who believe they are doing better in financial planning are more likely to respond.

Anyone with a belief in conspiracy theories would love Willis’ point that many of the supporters of financial literacy education are companies that profit from consumer delinquency (suggesting that they support financial literacy education to create a false over-confidence that leads to worse financial decisions and more profit for themselves). Perhaps I have too much faith in these corporations, but I don’t think that this is a completely valid point. I think that companies in the financial services world fund education on financial literacy in order to create more informed consumers of their products rather than intentionally trying to create overconfident consumers that will ultimately pay more in service fees.

Willis also brings up the concern that financial literacy education is chasing a moving target that it will never be able to reach because by the time we have educated our students the target will have moved and the financial market students are living in will be different. I think this isn’t an indicator that we shouldn’t be teaching financial literacy to our students, but instead that we need to change HOW we are teaching it and what skills we are focusing on. As with any area of education students need to be taught to be critical consumers of information and learn the basic knowledge pieces of that area of study.  As a science teacher I am keenly aware of this.  Science, like personal finance, is an ever-changing world, but there are some scientific basics that my students need to learn to create a foundation of knowledge they can build upon in the future.  Students also need to be able to be educated consumers of scientific (and personal finance) information using their base knowledge to evaluate new information and consider the validity of it by looking at its source.  Students, both in science and finance, need to think critically about where the information they are consuming has originated from and consider what the intent of that publisher was.  For example, they should learn to be critical of low introductory rates on credit cards, mortgages, etc. because they are designed to make money from consumers once that introductory rate has expired. Students need to learn to be critical of things that are ‘too good to be true’ because they often are. I also think there are basic financial literacy skills that stand, even in an ever-changing financial market. Our students need a strong foundation in these basic skills in order to learn future information about changing financial products.


Willis spends much of her article discussing how complex the finance world is and uses it to justify why she thinks we shouldn’t be teaching financial literacy in schools.  My argument for Willis is how can we ever possibly expect students to understand these things if we don’t teach them the basics and give them a scaffolding of knowledge to add future knowledge to? She may say that we don’t need to teach it to individuals, but that they should instead trust a financial planner, but I think that both need to be used together.  I think a better goal for society is to have educated individuals working together with an affordable, independent financial planner to plan their personal finances and work towards planned spending and realistic financial goals. Within the article Willis bring up the concern that a readability assessment of credit card holder agreements are written at a fifteenth-grade level or higher despite the fact that almost half of the adults in the U.S. are unable to read at above an 8th-grade level.  To me this says that we need to be teaching these skills rather than leaving individuals to learn by reading and comparing products on their own (and possibly that there are still some serious concerns with reading levels in the U.S.- but that is an entirely different concern I will not address here). I also think this point brings to light the need for companies to ensure the information about their products is accessible to its users.

Being that we are now in the midst of campaigning for the next federal election it has made me think about finance skills beyond the personal level.  Who is educating our politicians in finance skills? Is it any wonder that we have federal budgets continuously running a deficit when we have households with similar results? When we live in a culture that doesn’t address finance skills until post-secondary education it seems like we are doing too little too late to try to teach complex behavioural skills. I feel as though our whole approach to money management in our society needs to improve and these conversations need to be started in grade-school.

The final thing I would like to address from Willis’ article is the concept of information overload.  When consumers are presented with too many options they are unable to clearly understand what they want and what they are looking for.  She states that consumers choose not to engage in financial decision making when there are too many options.  I can completely understand this as I recently sat down with my sister-in-law to help her make a decision about which health insurance plan was best for their family as they own a family run business and no longer have health coverage.  She had been looking at the different plans for many months and had been unable to decide on which one was best suited for their family’s needs for the lowest premium.  One of her main concerns for what she needed in a plan was ambulance coverage to bring her to the hospital to give birth (as she was pregnant at the time and lives in a remote community). It turned out that she took so long to decide that the wait time after starting a policy to have ambulance coverage wasn’t going to be long enough to meet her due date.  She had spent so much time comparing plans that she would have been ineligible for coverage for one of the main things she had been considering.  I do agree with Willis that information overload can lead to indecision when there are too many options/variables to consider or decisions that lead us to comfortable products- not necessarily the ones that are the best for us.

I find Willis’ suggestions to improve the financial world in her conclusions a bit off the mark.  In her article she insists that financial education is not effective and focuses her solutions on regulation of the products available and how they are used in the market.  While I can agree with some of her points, such as the benefit of having affordable, independent financial advice, I do not agree that there needs to be excessive government regulation of financial products.  She argues that in order for consumers of financial products to be successful we need to simplify the products being offered to them to reduce the choices.  Maybe I am biased as an educator, but I don’t think this is the case. I think that if individuals have a general knowledge of the range of products out there the average citizen can navigate a successful path through the world of personal finance. Willis really seems to take the responsibility away from the consumer and place it upon the companies offering the products and I think there needs to be a balance of responsibility with both.

Willis also suggests the general public cannot understand the complex world of finance, but fails to consider that the financial world is seemingly complex due to the fact that we offer so little education in the field.  We don’t talk about finances and thus the terms and concepts remain a mystery to most.  If we build these concepts in to our education at every level then the complex world becomes accessible. I am not naïve in thinking that all of society will be able to understand all of the details of complex calculations, but I do think it is possible to give the average Canadian (American) the tools needed to be their own financial advocate and teach them where to seek additional financial advice. We need to build the scaffolding in grade-school that they can use to build knowledge and change their own future behaviour.


“Financial literacy provides the foundation to build wealth and fully participate in the economy…. By understanding basic financial principles and putting them to use, you can be on the road to improving the lives of your household and your community…”  – NAACP Financial Empowerment Guide



The price of a participatory culture

The past 10 days has really had me questioning the value of a participatory culture.  When we originally talked about participatory culture in the context of remixes and bottom-up creation and sharing I viewed the concept with rose-coloured glasses. Giving everyone a voice is a great idea, right?

Since the Paris attacks I have become bitter every time I log in to Facebook and I see ignorance and misinformation shared so vastly. On Facebook anyone can voice their opinion and likes & shares are what give validity to a claim, not actual truth. This has really made me look critically at the bottom-up model of reporting/news sharing and realize it’s not all beneficial for society.

Brad Wall’s letter to the Trudeau government stood out to me as an example of how the medium is more important than the message. I didn’t necessarily disagree with the content of his letter this week as much as I disagreed with the medium through which he shared it with it’s “intended recipient”. It is the response, sharing, and comments that have come with his letter that make me frustrated with just how willing to share their uneducated opinions our society has become.

I believe that we, as a society, haven’t learned the skills of critical thinking and being good digital citizens in order to keep up with the online world and I have a new, more balanced, view of what it means to have a participatory culture.

The timing of these events couldn’t have been more appropriate as we discuss the moral and ethical issues surrounding social media.


Major Project Update: I have changed my project to be a survey of students about their social media use rather than interviews as I feel that they will likely be more open and honest in a survey and won’t be as affected by the stressful environment interviews, especially recorded ones, will create. I hope to go through the surveys an ask individual students to record their answers so I can create a summary video.  I also spent a lot of time recently getting the permission form finalized. I am feeling very behind in this project and I need to actually get some forms completed. I can’t wait to see what students say for their most used social media and how much $ it would take for them to give up their devices and all their social media accounts.



Social Learning in an Online World

This week we looked at Albert Bandura’s classic work on social learning theory showing us that we observe and mimic what we see.

Knowing that our children are spending more and more time online and in networked publics I believe it is important to understand behaviours that are considered acceptable in these places as they will influence what our youth (and we, ourselves) accept as ‘normal’. Are behaviours in these online spaces the same as what can be expected in offline spaces?

I have also been looking at fringe media over the last couple of weeks and that led me to look at a site called Chatroulette where people are randomly paired up in video chats. I came across a site that shared humorous screenshots of conversations from this site, such as the ones below.

Chatroulette 1

Chatroulette 2

What struck me in looking at the 21 examples shown was that there were 3 that requested to see boobs. When we consider social learning and the fact that our youth are spending more and more time in these spaces, I think it is so important that we are creating responsible digital citizens so that requests like this aren’t the norm online when they wouldn’t be offline. Exposure to these questions routinely will convince young boys and girls that this is an acceptable question/demand.

Chatroulette 3

Don’t think that I am being alarmist and a digital dodger in saying this. What I think is important is that we prepare our students properly to be good online citizens instead of expecting them to learn it just because they are in online worlds.  Education in digital citizenship is essential for youth developing their moral compass at the same time they are exposed to far more than we were as youth.