“we participate, therefore we are”

In my relatively short teaching career (six years and counting), I have noticed significant changes in access to technology in the classroom.  For the most part, the access has improved with more devices allocated to each school as well as better programs and apps to use with students.  For example, during my internship, I still used an overhead projector and the occasional YouTube video (if I was able to book the data projector to use in class), to my current set up with Epson Interactive Projectors and integrated audio and visual technology in each classroom.

An even better example of improved technology for music teachers is a program called “MusicPlay”.  It is a Kindergarten to Grade 6 music program with hard copy binders and CDs, available in almost every Regina Public school.  Recently, the company released “MusicPlayOnline“, which allows access to the entire library of music and activities, as well as interactive games and exercises.  This program is an awesome example of innovation in the music classroom and has changed how I teach students.  It is also extremely helpful to deliver engaging lessons when overcrowding means no separate music classrooms and teaching from a cart or teaching in multiple schools.

In the Pavan Arora TEDx video, “Knowledge is obsolete, so now what?”, he explains that,

  1. Knowledge is changing faster than ever before
  2. Knowledge is growing (currently doubling every 1-2 years)
  3. Access is improving (smartphones and Internet- anywhere, anytime)

So the question we must ask ourselves as educators is, what do we teach? If the information we have to offer now will become obsolete in a few years, why even bother?  Instead, Arora gave a great suggestion of what to teach:

“We teach creativity”

He explains that teaching creativity will helps students understand how to access, assess and apply knowledge.  If we give students the information, they will figure out how to use it.  With these ideas in mind, we can begin to understand the importance of student centered, differentiated and inquiry-based learning.

I think it is also fair to highlight the need for arts education is schools.  We need to figure out ways to foster and build creativity which can be achieved through thoughtful arts integration in schools.  I also think collaborative projects and cross-curricular learning give students different ways to apply knowledge rather than only focusing on learning specific facts.  One of my dream teaching jobs would be to teach in a school that uses arts integration among all subjects.  Not only has this been studied to improve behaviour issues in school, but I think it teaches students to learn in ways that will be useful in the next generation.  The video below gives an example of how arts integration allows for deeper learning in schools. I was exposed to this video in my first year of education studies at the University of Regina, and I thought it was revolutionary at the time.  Seven years later, I think more and more teachers are using the arts to change the way students access information.

Returning the focus to social media and our course content, I think there are a few different steps educators can take to bring social networks into the classroom.

  1. Seek out approved networks by school division
  2. Review privacy guidelines and policies of these networks
  3. Educate students on safety and privacy online
  4. Use the networks as a new approach to learning

Using approved network by your school division is a good first step to help balance the need to educate children with the latest technology and stay safe online.  In my school division, you should technically only be using programs, networks and apps that have been approved by the division.  So in short, use tools that are on the approved list!  For example, SeeSaw – a network and e-portfolio to share student work with families.  Regina Public worked with this company to make sure the privacy policy suited the requirements of our division.  If there is an app or tool that you would like to use that is not on the list, send a request and the department will look into it.  In some ways, this is taking the pressure of the teacher to know what is safe online – instead get the people in a focused department to look after it! An excerpt from the Regina Public educational technology site:

Regina Public Schools strives to provide student and teacher access to quality teaching and learning tools that meet privacy and licensing requirements. Baseline apps, services, and software listed below are provided or supported by the division.
Staff interested in accessing apps, services, and software not listed as baseline, can send their request to support@rbe.sk.ca

As a good practice, I think it is still important to review privacy guidelines, terms of agreement and policies of any network you are using with students.  You may also be interested in learning about apps or networks you use at home, maybe with your own children.  StaySafeOnline has many resources, including a guide to student data privacy online.  I liked how the article gave examples of different questions to ask regarding privacy:

Examples of questions you can use to get both the conversations going include:
Does the app or software require account registration? If yes, is any personal information required? What permissions does the app need to function?
Does it need access to one’s email, contacts or location details?
Do the app developers share personal details with other parties? If so, to what extent?

I think it is probably a good idea to always be a little skeptical before you scroll quickly through service terms and click “I agree”.  This needs to be part of our teaching to students so we can be aware of how our data is shared online.

One of the NCTE literacies states that as active and successful participants in the 21st century, you must be able to “develop proficiency and fluency with the tools of technology”.  This goes along with my third idea that we should teach our students to understand privacy and safety online as part of using these tools.  Common Sense Education is an excellent resource with lesson plans, videos and infographics about how to protect students’ data and privacy online.  I think that privacy and safety should always been intertwined and constantly revisited in any conversation involving technology.  Safe access will continue to evolve as new networks and apps are created, so it is imperative to not become complacent with our understanding of privacy online.

Finally social networking is changing how we approach teaching and learning knowledge.  In the Brown and Adler article, “Minds on Fire: Open Education, the Long Tail; and Learning 2.0”, they explain that with the development of “Web 2.0”, our attention has shifted from access to information to access to other people.  This new “participatory medium” is ideal for many different kinds of learning.  With Web 2.0 comes Learning 2.0 – “passion-based learning, motivated by the student either wanting to become a member of a particular community of practice or just wanting to learn about, make, or perform something”.  Instead of the traditional “supply-push” mode of learning to build up an inventory of knowledge, Brown and Adler explain that there is a “demand-pull” approach to learning.  This “demand-pull” is based on students having access to rich learning communities that emphasizes participation.

The article explains the old Cartesian idea of “I think, therefore I am” with the new social view of learning as “we participate, therefore we are”.  This social view is a reflection of shifting teaching practices in a rapidly changing world.  As educators, it is our responsibility to be aware of these changes and find ways to balance how we share knowledge while being mindful of student safety and privacy.


“ilearn2”by Annitix1 is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0


I think it is important that we continue to teach creative ways of learning and how to apply knowledge.  What are some ways you can include this in your classroom today?  For me, it’s through arts integration and using social learning apps (from my approved division list, of course).  I am also very intrigued about incorporating Learning 2.0 ideas, like passion-based learning with my students.  Finally, I want to make a personal commitment to review the privacy policies of all the social networking apps that I use so I have a better understanding of sharing data online and what it actually means. What changes will you make to how you share student data online?

Until next time,


10 thoughts on ““we participate, therefore we are”

  1. Hi Catherine, I really enjoyed reading your post this week! Very thought provoking! I enjoyed your discussion of how the arts can provide an avenue in which we teach creativity through subject integration. I agree, this is where the passion-based learning is likely to take place via projects that require critical and creative thinking across disciplines. I also enjoyed the information you shared from SafeSchoolsOnline. The questions they provide are certainly an excellent guideline for anyone (not just teachers!) to think more critically about the tech they are using. I also use many of the Common Sense Media resources (which you mention) to teach digital citizenship in my classroom of which privacy and online safety is forefront.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for the feedback! It’s interesting to think about how we can teach digital citizenship in our classroom but also with our children.


  2. Totally agree with the integration of the arts to help students express their learnings in a creative way (way more effective that just memorizing facts – such great opportunities to internalize). I’ve been saying this on a few replies and that is digital citizenship really now a days is just simply citizenship. Can be tough to offer ]demand-pull’ opportunities in traditional classrooms. Thanks for making me think.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That’s a very good point – digital citizenship isn’t a separate thing anymore. It’s just a fact of life these days!


  3. Pingback: My Teaching Story
  4. Hello Catherine, I liked your blog this week – you had great insights! I agree that there is a great need for arts education in schools to foster creativity! In answer to your question about how to teach creative ways of learning or applying knowledge, I would comment that I am always trying to think ‘outside the box’ when teaching nursing theories and skills to adult students. I find that everyone learns in their own unique way. A couple years ago, we modified a student self-reflection activity in which historically students wrote their responses, however we added the option for students to create a picture or painting to express their self-reflections instead of writing. The students were really happy to have this choice!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I love the idea of self-reflection through art! I think that is why arts integration is so fascinating to me, because it gives students an opportunity to showcase their creativity.


  6. Thank you for such a great read! I love that you reiterated the idea of teaching creativity rather than just information. I agree with you, the resources we have now rather than 10 years ago gives us a lot more access to use that creativity. I also use the Epson Interactive Projector, and now it would be hard to live without it. As we are introduced to more software, social media, and technology, you made a good point of keeping safety and privacy at the forefront of our thinking, especially as educators. I like how you said “Safe access will continue to evolve as new networks and apps are created, so it is imperative to not become complacent with our understanding of privacy online.” Thank you for sharing the links to Common Sense Education and Stay Safe Online. I will definitely look into those and use them in my classroom!

    Liked by 1 person

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