The Screen Time Conundrum

The multi- author open letter to The Guardian in January of 2017 illuminates one of the biggest current questions in parenting in our culture:  how much screen time is too much?

The authors main arguments are that policy discussions should be had based on an understanding of the topic from an empirical standpoint – informed by research and experience rather than pseudo-science and opinion. Policy development around screen time should take into consideration context of screen use and content. An understanding of children’s health and wellbeing is complex, “affected by many other factors, such as socioeconomic status, relational poverty, and family environment” (Etchelles et al. 2017). Policy makers need to have an awareness of the difference between correlative and causal data – that time spent in outdoor play and time spent on screens is not necessarily a directly connected set of points, but rather more complex. Really, ultimately that guidelines for parents should be built on evidence.

The authors are putting forth these arguments out of concern that parents will not understand the nuances of what defines ‘screen time’ and that there will be an implementation of unnecessary, ineffective or even potentially harmful policies. Recognizing that screens are a part of life for children, policies affecting families should be guided by evidence.

Initially, I felt that this article supports my beliefs, but through more deliberation, reading it helped me recognize that I do hold a certain amount of bias. The advent of possible unrestricted screen use came about when my oldest was 11, with an iPod Touch.  As a parent, I always worked to ensure that things were balanced for my children, and that I was aware of what they were consuming through screens. For our household it was always about balance in all things, including time playing video games, watching TV/other programming, playing sports, time with family and friends, and schoolwork.  I hadn’t looked at empirical evidence around screen use in those parenting years but did what I usually did in the absence of evidence: look for moderation.

As I’ve been involved in the K – 12 school system, I’ve been witness to families that do not restrict screen time or content and seen that those children do not necessarily form healthy friendships or good relationships with the adults in their world. Being in the school context, it was clear that screen time was not the only factor in those situations but was a contributing factor children’s struggles in the school community.

This work leads me to pay attention to the reasons why I might think what I do, and to re-evaluate how I think about this topic. Projecting into possibility the idea that someone might present me with pro- unrestricted screen time evidence makes me uncomfortable. The article allowed me to recognize that I have a certain amount of bias in this, and that I’ve thought of screens as a bit of a ‘necessary evil’ in many ways, one that our children will have to navigate and find balanced and healthy relationships with.


Etchells et al. (2017, January 6). Screen time guidelines need to be built on evidence, not hype. The Guardian. Retrieved from

Rise of Cartoon Use in Education

This synthesis paper looks at the origins and rise of instructional cartoons with a concentration on early 20th Century and expansion of use through WWII. This paper is limited to animated films in North America, exploring the chronology, military and non-military studio involvement.

Winsor McCay is attributed with releasing the first commercial, non-fiction, animated film, The Sinking of the Lusitania in 1918 (Roe, 2009, p. 42). It is a “passionate and journalistically convincing re-telling of an event that had never been photographed” (DelGaudio, 1997, p. 190). Shown in theatres, it is the earliest known animated documentary intended to teach about a historical event.

Max Fleischer, inventor of the rotoscope in 1915, became involved with Bray while looking to distribute his first film. He remained with Bray until opening Out of the Inkwell Films Inc. in 1921 with his brother, Dave (Langer, 1975, p.48).

It is during his time with Bray that Max Fleischer animated what are thought to be the first fully animated instructional films, How to Read an Army Map, and How to Fire a Lewis Gun (1917) (Langer 1975, p.49). Fleischer made animated training films at Bray covering hundreds of different subjects training American soldiers on their way to Europe (Roe, 2009, p.43) prior to Armistice.

Once their own studio was established and following in the tradition of The Sinking of the Lusitania, the Fleischer brothers started exploring other themes. They created their first feature-length film using animation interspersed with title cards, The Einstein Theory of Relativity (1923). Following this success, they made Evolution in 1925 (Langer, 1975, p. 49). It is serious films like these that showed the scope of animation for illustrating events no camera can see (DeGaudio, p. 190)

Instructional animation became widely used during WWII due to US government investment. The Office of War Information established a film branch, the Bureau of Motion Pictures, intended for training films and propaganda to be produced by the Signal Corps’ Army Pictorial Service. The Signal Corps had studios in New York, New Jersey and Ohio (Birdwell, 2005, p. 204), and on the old Fox studio (Fort Fox) in Hollywood, California (Nel, 2007, para. 3). While non-military instructional animations were being made in civilian studios, many of those same studios were commissioned to make films for the US military.

In 1941, after the attack on Pearl Harbour, the US government gave Walt Disney his first American commission: to make 20 training films for the Navy on identifying aircraft and warships. Thousands of men were enrolling in the army and the US government needed a way to train large numbers of men efficiently and quickly to act as a unit. (Birdwell, 2005, p.203). Troops were not well educated; many were not literate. Use of simple language and entertaining films got their messages across (Nel 2007). By 1943, 94% of Disney’s output was making films for the government and military (Roe, 2009, p. 44)

Victory through Air Power, based on Major Alexander P. Seversky’s book and self-funded by Disney, demonstrated the ability of an animation to influence. Created in 1943, it was intended to persuade the US Military that they should be using long-range bombers to gain strategic advantage in the war. The film was a huge critical success, gaining the attention of Winston Churchill who recommended it to Roosevelt, who then subsequently adopted long-range bombing. With this, the US government realized the power of animation to sway audience opinion (Roe, 2009, p.52).

In 1943 Major Frank Capra (director of the Why We Fight films) proposed the Army-Navy Screen Magazine, a 20-minute variety piece to be produced twice a month consisting of training, newsreels, propaganda and entertainment (Birdwell, 2005). Because the variety shows were only going to be shown to soldiers (without civilian distribution), the films avoided the Motion Picture Industry’s censorship arm, the Production Code Administration (PCA), allowing the Army-Navy Screen Magazine to appeal broadly to the primarily male, Christian, generally white audience of soldiers with racy, rude, political films (Birdwell, 2005).

     Training films of the time (non-animated) were purported to be boring (Birdwell, 2005). Capra approached Warner Brothers to ask about making short cartoon training films. Leon Schlesinger, producer of Merrie Melodies and Loony Tunes put together five units. Each had their own style and feel, and each led by one of Fred ‘Tex’ Avery, Isodore ‘Fritz’ Freleng, Frank Tashlin, Bob Clampett and Chuck Jones. Voice acting Mel Blanc (voice of Bugs Bunny), and music was scored by Carl Stalling. P.D. Eastman and later Munro Leaf (at that time both emerging children’s book authors) were employed as writers at Fort Fox (1943), specifically working on what became known as the Private SNAFU films (Birdwell, 2005; Nel, 2007; Roe, 2009). Theodore Geisel (Dr. Seuss) was placed in charge of the output of the units, as well as being general scenarist. (Birdwell, 2005 p. 206; Nel, 2007, para. 3).

With Geisel at the head and the knowledge that the PCA would not censor the cartoons, the team drew on the Army, its bureaucracy and language to create an Elmer Fudd like character: ‘Private SNAFU’. He was designed to be a model of the worst soldier in the army, his name an Army acronym for Situation Normal All Fouled [sic] Up. (Birdwell, 2005).Opening Card of the US army WWII short animated films "Private SNAFU"

SNAFU films used simple language, humour and moral tales to educate troops about what their attitude should be towards the enemy, and skills that would keep them alive while out on the lines. For example, the film Private SNAFU vs. Malaria Mike was part of an ongoing campaign to educate recruits that mosquitos cause Malaria, and what they could do to avoid infection (Nel, 2007). They reflected the experience of the non-career soldier while teaching cautionary tales in Seussian rhyme (Birdwell, 2008).

Factors that made the SNAFU films effective are generalizable to other settings. Use of animation demonstrates Edward Tufte’s notion that envisioned information is easier to understand and retain (Roe, 2007, p.49). Animation has the ability to show events no camera can see (DeGaudio, p. 190) such as in The Sinking of the Lusitania, and Stop That Tank (1942) where the animation segues from a caricature of Hitler being cast into hell to a realistic animated depiction of the inner workings and care of the gun that sent him there (Roe, 2009, p.45). Cartoons capacity to show the as-yet unknown, like scientific theories (DeGaudio, p, 193), made the Einstein’s Theory of Relativity and Evolution effective in communicating ideas, especially through the use of metamorphosis to help the audience make mental connections (Roe, 2007, p. 47).

Post war Disney continued to make educational films for corporations, including Dow Chemical, Texaco and General Motors (DelGaudio, 1997, p.190). Warner Brothers Studio moved back to entertainment-focused cartoons, but their involvement in the Private SNAFU films helped ensure that the US government would continue to make cartoon civil defense educational films, such as Duck and Cover (1951). Other companies began making civilian educational cartoons, including Bell Telephone, the Jam Handy Organization with Bray Studios. Topics included everything from on-the-job training films to “mental hygiene” and health films for school settings (DelGaudio, 1997).

The flexibility of cartoons allows for envisioning events and concepts never before seen. Use of humour, simple language, and metamorphosis holds our attention while making the unknown knowable.  Had it not been for the early contributions of McCay, Bray and Fleischer and the later investment of the US military, educational cartoons would have taken a very different path through development and implementation.


Birdwell, M. (2005). Technical fairy first class? Is this any way to Run an Army?: Private SNAFU and World War II. Historical Journal of Film, Radio and Television. 25(2), 203–212.

DelGaudio, S. (1997). If truth be told, can toons tell it? Documentary and animation. Film History; New York, 9(2), 189–199.

Langer, M. (1975). Max and Dave Fleischer. Film Comment; New York, 11(1), 48–56.

Nel, P. (2007). Children’s Literature Goes to War: Dr. Seuss, P. D. Eastman, Munro Leaf, and the Private SNAFU Films (1943–46). The Journal of Popular Culture, 40(3), 468–487. Retrieved from

Roe, A. H. (2009). Animating documentary (Doctoral dissertation) Retrieved from

The Influence of Technology in the Education Industry – Group Activity

The claim of no-learning benefit has been made and substantiated by Clark (1986). He acknowledges that media has economic benefits but not learning benefits. His theory on research and data is collected throughout many different research projects. He analyzed research that started in the 1960s and was tracked all the way up to the 1980s, but the data did not indicate how different teachers instructed.Clark (1986) also mentioned that authentic problems or tasks seem to be the most effective influence on learning. Since he believed that the media had no learning benefits, he stressed that a moratorium on further research dealing with media’s influence on learning was necessary (Clark, 1983).

Contrary to Clark’s (1986) research, the article “The Influence of Technology in the Education Industry” Dr Eliatamby (2018) says use of technology is, at its very core, blended learning. At its simplest, blended learning is “the integration of classroom face-to-face learning experiences with online learning experiences” (Garrison and Kanuka, 2004, p. 96). The use of blended learning creates space for students to actively participate in the interplay between their learning environment and their own cognitive processes (Kozma, 1994). Use of technology also allows for learning on the job or real-world learning to take place, or better generalization of student learning to real-world contexts (Kozma, 1994). This is supercritical in the age of industry 4.0.

In her article for Campus Technology, Reynard (2019) states the importance of understanding that how students’ think and learn has changed due to ongoing use of technology and talks about the integration of technology into design for learning. She falls firmly on the side of Kozma (1994) in advocating that course design should be done interdisciplinarily, setting out contextual problem-solving tasks for students, with an emphasis on the process of learning as opposed to the product (p.21). Use of technology in design for learning is not just about a method of delivering the information to the students, but also building utility with technology. Learning has to leave students equipped for the workplace, with skills that “involve thinking and processing information, including possible diversions of thought, redirection of focus and the integration of new ideas and trends,” and the ability to function within the technological world that they will be working in (Reynard, 2019).

In line with Eliatamby’s take on Technology and its role in learning Dalto (2018) adds that incorporating technology into a blended learning environment boosts learner retention.   Dalto touches on technological applications such a mobile learning, AR, VR and 3D simulated environments. Clark (1994) argued that “. . . the usual uses of a medium do not limit the methods or content it is capable of presenting”, but his argument does not consider immersive environments that did not exist at the time of his writing.  These new technologies also allow for freedom of instruction did not Clark did not take into account, these technologies “. . . provide[s] the ability to train in situations that would otherwise be too dangerous or expensive in real life.” (Dalto, 2018. p.5)

As Hastings and Tracey suggested in 2005 and even more applicable now media capabilities have changed dramatically over the last generation and the focus of the conversation should not be if, but how media affect learning. “Computers have unique, non replicable capabilities and therefore can support instructional methods that other media cannot” (Hastings and Tracey, 2005).  The most important thing about the debate is to acknowledge that the instructional methods and the delivery medium must be aligned to facilitate learning.

Another consideration is raised by Watters in a recent blog post. Commenting on the function of computers in education, Watters  quotes Weizenbaum (1995), “It is much nicer, it is much more comfortable, to have some device, say the computer, with which to flood the schools, and then to sit back and say, “You see, we are doing something about it, we are helping,” than to confront ugly social realities” (2019, para. 10). Indeed, based on Watter’s blog about Sesame Street moving from PBS to HBO in 2015 and then in October, 2019 to HPO Max echoes Weizenbaum’s observation in 1995 as this move results in restricting access due to socio-economic barriers. It could be argued that Sesame Street has moved so far from their original goal which was to, “…create a show for public (not commercial) television that would develop school readiness of viewers age 3 to 5, with particular emphasis on the needs of low-income children and children of color” (2019, para. 11) that it would appear Sesame Street has ‘sold out’. The implication being that they sold out in favour of higher profit rather than remaining accessible to its original, marginalised audience. Instead, the programming is available to only those who have the means to pay for it.

It is possible that Clark would agree that Weisenbaum is correct in his observation that computers could be used as a superficial solution to a much deeper problem. Whereas, Kozma might suggest that educators must consider media’s impact on educational outcomes while also exploring the far-reaching impacts as technology continues to advance. Regardless, the question of whether media will, or will not, influence learning is also about the accessibility of media.


Clark, R. E. (1994). Media will never influence learning. Educational Technology Research and Development, 42(2), 21-29. Retrieved from Potential_in_Higher_Education

Eliatamby, M. (2018, July 02).The Influence of Technology in the Education Industry [blog post] (2018, July 02). Retrieved from

Garrison & Kanuka (2004). The Internet and Higher Education. Retrieved from

Hastings, N.B. & Tracey, M.W.  Does media affect learning: Where are we now?  TECHTRENDS TECH TRENDS (2005) 49: 28.

Kozma, R. B. (1994). Will media influence learning: Reframing the debate. Educational Technology Research and Development, 42(2), 7-19.

Reynard, Ruth (2019) Why Integrated Instruction is a Must For Today’s Tech Enabled Learning [blog post]. Retrieved from

The Influence of Technology in the Education Industry [blog post]. Retrieved from

Dalto, J. (2018). Ar, vr and 3-d can make workers better. Ise ; Industrial and Systems Engineering at Work, 50(9), 42-47. Retrieved from 

Watters, A. (2019, October 04). Hewn, no. 324. [blog post]. Retrieved from

Explorations of the early history of animation as educational material

Lisa Gates — early history of animation in ed tech

I found this exercise to be really valuable. We had the opportunity to explore academic and other literature around our chosen topic, then to populate an Excel sheet with our findings. Reading the papers with these topics in mind helped to crystallize the information and organize it mentally. It was a good grounding in the material, and will shape the way that I prepare for the writing of future papers.

Now, on to writing the synthesis paper…

Explorations in Paneer and a web of life-long learning

By Lisa Gates and Sandra Kuipersraw paneer cut into cubes on cutting board

At first blush, looking up a recipe for paneer (a soft cottage cheese) seems like a simple task, yielding straightforward results. While finding a good paneer recipe is easy, the task is more complex and involving than simply learning how it is made. The internet is abundantly full of information: recipes, regionality, commonality with other cuisines’ soft cheeses, and the history and etymology of paneer, making it a great example of a topic for life-long learning.

To explore the idea of abundant content online, we picked the topic of “how to make paneer”. We’re both passionate cooks, and paneer is something neither of us had made before and were both interested to learn more about. I (Sandra) love to make curries, but living in Asia it’s difficult to buy dairy products. Paneer is a “rich source of high quality animal protein, fat, minerals and vitamins” (Khan & Pal, 2011), so learning to make paneer would be a great way to add a healthy source of protein to my vegetarian curries. Paneer is delicious on its own and is often used as an ingredient in other dishes. Many of the initial recipes revealed have similar ingredients and methods, and a quick look at Wikipedia (“Paneer,” 2019) will show that there are many kinds of fresh cheeses that would be similar, if not the same as, paneer but from different places throughout the world.

Inspired by the availability of recipes, I (Lisa) decided to gather the ingredients and make a batch of paneer for dinner. Making paneer ended up taking much less time than looking for information about it did. Exploring paneer had me looking at a map of India to better understand parts of the country that my students are from, to find regionally specific recipes. I chose a recipe from Punjab that I may bring to a class potluck. Taking the learning and making it relevant to my life, with real world application and emphasis on learner construction (taking information and making one’s own meaning), including the shift from theoretical to practical experience (Ertmer & Newby, 1993) plants this exercise firmly as Constructivist in nature.

In the case of making paneer, online instructional content appears particularly well suited for short procedural tasks, such as a cooking recipe. Paneer can be made in 30 mins to 1 hour, something we didn’t know before starting this activity. The short duration of the learning process, as well as relatively few steps involved, suggests that using an online source of instruction would likely have a high degree of success. We wondered if longer more involved learning process may not see the same level of success, given the possibility of missing a step, or misunderstanding an instruction.

Our research into how to make paneer suggests that the availability of content online is a boon for life-long learning. Weller (2011) emphasizes that “learners need to be able to learn throughout their lives and to be able to learn about very niche subjects” (p. 228). In the case of learning how to make paneer, the abundance of content online makes it easy for someone interested in expanding their culinary repertoire to learn a new cooking process. They could be a professional looking to continuously improve their craft, or an individual interested in replicating their favourite dish. In each case, the availability of content outside of a formal learning setting enables individuals to engage in “innovative explorations, experimentations, and purposeful tinkerings” (Seely-Brown & Adler, 2008, as cited in Weller, 2011). These opportunities for informal exploration support the pursuit of life-long learning by providing just-in-time instructional content.

The knowledge of how to make paneer could be thought of as human knowledge, rather than academic knowledge or corporate knowledge. It is thought to originate in the Kusana and Saka Satavahana periods AD 75-300 (Khan & Pal, 2011), and may have begun as an oral body of knowledge, passed from family to family. The wide availability of recipes for how to make paneer online reflect this human origin: there is no copyright or patent that could be applied to this knowledge. We would confidently label this as “abundant content” based on Weller’s (2011) characteristics of a “pedagogy of abundance” (p. 229): content is free, abundant, and varied; sharing is easy and socially based; and content is user-generated. However, and abundance of content doesn’t guarantee success in learning.

Abundant content online can also be overwhelming. Weller (2011) expresses that an “excessive abundance constitutes a challenge” (p. 234), and requires different teaching and learning strategies. Learners facing an abundance of content need the skills to search and evaluate the material they find, such as general digital literacy skills and the ability to gauge the relevance of information found in searches. Basic digital literacy skills involve navigating the online environment, including the generation of relevant keywords for searches. Information evaluation, while not particularly challenging in the search of paneer recipes, can prove extremely important in other realms such as learning about science, geopolitical issues, or other life-long learning topics. The ability to discern real, well researched,  peer-reviewed information can be paramount to one’s ability to navigate and understand the real world recognizing and avoiding the rabbit holes of conspiracy theories and junk science. Anderson and Dron (2014) emphasize that “there is a concern that ‘popular’ is not necessarily equal to ‘useful’”. They state:

 Content is often curated, mashed-up, re-presented, and constructed or assembled by those in the network. This is a wonderful resource when seen as a co-constructed and emergent pattern of knowledge-building, but without the editorial control that a teacher or guide in a group provides, it can lead to network-think, a filter bubble in which social capital rather than pedagogy becomes the guiding principle. (p.140)

In our exploration of abundant content, we were easily able to find recipes for how to make paneer, and were even successful in creating a batch of paneer from scratch. However, throughout this exploration, we remain conscious of the different types of knowledge available online, and the possible pitfalls of abundant content. Some learning, such as short recipes and step-by-step instructions, may be better suited to online instruction than other types of learning. Our findings in this activity suggest that it’s important to understand Weller’s (2011) “pedagogy of abundance” (p. 229) when approaching learning online, and not make the assumption that abundant content automatically leads to successful learning. 


Anderson, T., & Dron, J. (2014). Teaching Crowds: Learning and Social Media.

Ertmer, P., & Newby, T. (2013). Behaviorism, Cognitivism, Constructivism: Comparing critical features from an instructional design perspective. Performance Improvement Quarterly, 26(2), 43-71.

Khan, S. U., & Pal, M. A. (2011). Paneer production: A review. Journal of Food Science and Technology, 48(6), 645–660.

Weller, M. (2011). A pedagogy of abundance. Spanish Journal of Pedagogy, 249, 223–236.

Additional Information Sources:

Additional Information Sources:

Step-by-step Videos

How To Make Paneer At Home – YouTube

Personal recipes

How to Make Paneer (Easy Step-By-Step Guide) | Healthy Nibbles –

Professional recipes

How to make and use paneer | Jamie Oliver –

Discussion forums

Indian paneer – English Forum Switzerland –

Social media hashtags

#paneer hashtag on Twitter –

#paneer hashtag on Instagram –

Peer-reviewed Articles

Khan, S. U., & Pal, M. A. (2011). Paneer production: A review. Journal of Food Science and Technology, 48(6), 645–660.

Paneer Wikibook

Cookbook:Paneer – Wikibooks, open books for an open world –

Historical articles

Paneer and the origin of cheese in India – The Hindu –

Activity 4 – Reflections on my theoretical and pedagogical stance

Through reading Ertmer & Newby’s article Behaviourism, Cognitivism, Constructivism: Comparing critical features from an instructional design perspective, it became clear that I am working primarily from Cognitivism as my theoretical centre when teaching online and more from a Constructivism centre when teaching in the classroom.

Declaring an alignment with a particular theoretical stance for all of my work is not really possible because my work occurs in a variety of different contexts, for a variety of reasons.

I instruct and facilitate in Human Services programs, teaching primarily support strategies courses in the classroom and interpersonal communication online. The classroom work is dynamic, students have full access to each other and are encouraged to bring their own wisdom and experience to bear on the activities we do. Human Services is messy, unpredictable work, and students are given many opportunities to research, understand, discover and practice the skills that will be required in a variety of real-world scenarios (Ertmer & Newby, 2013, p. 57). The work is relational, so teaching a cut-and-dried set of procedures will not help students once they are in the work force. In order for them to be best equipped, I give them messy, ill-structured problems and as that they work individually and in groups to understand their relationship to the problem, their possible solutions, and how others might solve the problem differently, but with equal validity. Students are regularly asked to reflect on how they came to the conclusions they did, to examine personal experiences and biases that brought them to those conclusions, and the cultural context in which it all occurred (Ertmer & Newby, p. 56). Students complete their credential with practicum placements, which firmly places the learning in the realm of Constructivism.

The interpersonal communication course that I teach online has very different parameters. This is somewhat due to the constraints of the LMS (Learning Management System) we are working within, somewhat because of the constraints of working within a standardized course. There are several different instructors teaching this particular course and we endeavour to have some consistency (standardization) across all the classes and delivery methods. The constraints of the LMS make it difficult to have students practice their interpersonal skills with each other (curricular things such as eye contact, and open body language), and the institutional constraints make it difficult to introduce other applications for this practice (video conferencing software) as we are cognizant of privacy laws and student use of 3rd party applications. Within this course, I structure the environment of the course to have explanations, demonstrations and examples to guide students. We talk about how learners encode information, and work with a variety of study skills that are designed to support their learning through activating their prior information, connecting the new information to it, practicing or demonstrating this new information, and ongoing rehearsal of the information as a way of ensuring that it is encoded in memory (Ertmer & Newby, 2013, p. 52). Students are expected to demonstrate that they can apply the new information in a variety of contexts (transfer) through different assignments and class discussions in the forums. Coaching the students to use appropriate learning strategies is in line with a Cognitivism theoretical base (Ertmer & Newby, p. 52).

Due partly to the different contexts of the courses I teach and the different expectations of the courses, my role in the classroom is much more of facilitator (which I see as in line with Constructivism) and of instructor online (more in line with both Behaviourism and Cognitivism). Students in my online courses will all come away with the same set of skills and information, but the students in my face-to-face classes will come away from the course with learning that is meaningful to them.


Ertmer, P., & Newby, T. (2013). Behaviorism, Cognitivism, Constructivism: Comparing critical features from an instructional design perspectivePerformance Improvement Quarterly26(2), 43-71.

Activity 3: Application of readings to my context

Lesson from the past that I can apply to my work:

The quality of media use matters. Reiser (2001, p. 58) identifies that much of the reason that instructional television began to lose its momentum as an educational media was that the instructional quality was poor. Poorly designed materials are poorly designed materials, no matter how expensive, interesting, modern or cutting edge the delivery method is. Shoehorning poor pedagogy or andragogy into a new delivery method will not make a good lesson.

Really this is very relevant in my work. As instructors, we need to remember that the first thing in the 1994 Association for Educational Communications and Technology definition of field categories for Education Technology is design. Taking time to first design a lesson, prioritizing the learning outcomes over the media through which we are working with students is paramount to finding ways to use technology effectively. My current strategy is to think through, “what are the things I need the students to come away with?” Then to look at the educational media tools at my disposal to see which one best delivers the information and allows for student input and feedback.

Lesson from the past that conflicts, contradicts, or causes problems with my work:

Reiser (2001, p.59) talks about how the early work done in computer-assisted instruction from the 1950s did not change the way the information was being delivered to students, and that education practices remain the same – just that tech has become the media through which that teaching happens. I’d like to see that, at my institution, we can move beyond replicating the classroom experience to the virtual realm, to do more than videotape and post lectures. I am currently part of a committee that is developing a course, and much of the suggestion has been around filming in-class to create video lectures, enabling us to translate the course from a face-to-face setting to an online setting. My concern is that there is no room in this model for student feedback and relationship to the material. There is a prevailing attitude that putting it online is easy, that additional development does not need to be done. I would argue that 1950s attitude about what educational media can do for us and our students is still prevalent in my post-secondary institution today.


Reiser, R. A. (2001). A history of instructional design and technology: Part I: A history of instructional mediaEducational Technology Research and Development49(1), 53-64.

Introducing Martha Burtis and Jim Groom

(A note at the outset – I started writing this post about Jim Groom, only to realize how important Martha Burtis’ voice is to the story of ds106. I elected to write about the two of them to ensure that her voice is not lost.)

I would like to share a brief overview Jim Groom and Martha Burtis’ work around Digital Storytelling 106 (ds106) with the University Mary Washington (UMW) in Fredricksburg, Virginia.

Ds106, originally written by Jennifer Pollack, was restructured and delivered in an experimental ‘Open’ way in 2011 by Jim Groom and Martha Burtis. Faculty at UMW had, the year before, received their own domains and had started writing blogs, experimenting with open community and network building. Groom had been teaching ds106 face-to-face and suggested opening it up to the World Wide Web, allowing open participation. Burtis agreed, and the phenomenon of ds106 was born.

They taught different sections of the course – the first of its kind. It combined a real, practical understanding of ‘Open’ as an education concept and successful implementation. Ds106 is remarkable for several reasons: students received their own domain with which to demonstrate learning (something that later evolved into Domain of Ones Own, or DoOO), all the domains were syndicated into the main site so that they could be viewed by categories and tags, creating a connected, online community of students. Students were given the opportunity to submit assignments for themselves and other students to do, allowing them to choose an assignment a week from this democratized assignment bank to complete and post for others to view, give feedback and comment on.

This short introduction does not capture the seismic effect that this course delivery model had on Ed Tech in general. The after shocks of ds106 are seen in our own program, with each member of our cohort having a blog to publish to and network with, our syndication through Feedly, and the use of the RRU WordPress site to house the bulk of our teaching materials. Our blogs are open to the Web, meaning that anyone can view and comment on our work.


Martha Burtis is currently Learning Teaching Developer at Plymouth State University. She has blogged for many years at The Fish Wrapper, and currently muses about Ed Tech, teaching and more at Beyond the Wrapper.

Jim Groom is currently an owner operator of the web hosting company Reclaim Hosting, founded in 2013 that specializes in hosting for Higher ed. He continues to blog about Ed Tech, Edupunk topics, media, and his personal life over at Bava Tuesdays.


Groom, J. (n.d.). About – Reclaim Hosting. Retrieved September 20, 2019, from Reclaim Hosting website:

Friend, C. (2016, August 19). Making and Breaking Domain of One’s Own: Rethinking the Web in Higher Ed. Retrieved September 20, 2019, from Hybrid Pedagogy website:

University Mary Washington. (2019). About ds106 [Course Description]. Retrieved September 20, 2019, from

Musings on the History of Education Technology

Cave Painting - Paleolithic, Cantabria, Spain painted 20,000 years agoGetting an understanding of the history of education technology really relies on the definition given to the word technology. Is technology defined only in what might be considered a modern way? As a mechanical or electronic gadget that mediates learning? Or can we look back to see that carving marks into stone (cuneiform script as early as 3200 BC in Mesopotamia) or tying knots into string (going back to the first millennium AD in Andean South America) could be considered technology used to pass on knowledge (to teach)?

I like the idea that we’ve been using all of our technologies to teach each other since the dawn of time, that the only real differences through history are the technological tools we use and the types of information that we convey. I do graphic recording and illustration and think of the power of mark-making as one of the most powerful tools that humans possess to convey information. With this, I think that education technology has been used since the first person went from teaching through oral history to teaching through image and mark making, perhaps by using a stick to draw on the ground during a conversation, and later through the use of pigments to make images on stone and in caves.

Wandering through the research and different perspectives was interesting. The Rosetta stone is the earliest known written translation between languages. Early religious teachings of the contents of holy books were done through paintings (in religions that favour use of images of god), and through illuminated manuscripts in the early centuries AD. The boom of literacy that came with the invention of the printing press in the 15th Century AD was unprecedented and opened up a new era of education, creating a mechanism by which information could be distributed on a mass scale. The next largest boom in terms of mass access to information was probably late last century, with the wide adoption of use of the World Wide Web.

Between the printing press and the adoption of the web was a time rich with ongoing growth in education technologies. I’d not heard of desktop sandboxes for practicing the alphabet (1806), or hornbooks (1450) but remember my grandfather talking about use of slate in his Prairie one-room schoolhouse. As a child, I learned a lot from watching Sesame Street and The Electric Company on our little black and white television. I look at our K-12 and post-secondary settings today with their use of electronics for everything from creating and distributing digital print documents to the use of richly multimodal teaching materials, ones that are interlinked with as much (or little) as a student might like to know.

I’m excited to be stepping into history at this point in the stream, having the opportunity to look back and learn more about what has led us to this point, as well as to squint into the future to see what new ways of teaching and learning it might hold.

Thoughts from a virtual Q&A with George Veletsianos

It had the distinct pleasure of meeting George briefly several years ago at an Open Textbooks conference held at TRU at which he was keynote speaker and I was graphic recorder. I was impressed at the time at his understanding and use of social media as a means to communicate with his students, and at his understanding of how contemporary students communicate, and what it takes to meet people where they are at.

Our group asked him about snowball sampling – something that was completely new to me.  My parents are both scientists. Growing up, my family looked at things from a very quantitative angle. My anecdotal understanding of research was that it was always large study groups, wide-ranging, random subjects, and that everything could be boiled down to numbers in tables. My Dad referred to human services as ‘soft sciences’ and pointed to the problems that qualitative data had, in his opinion, inherently, such as difficulty with self-identifying mental or physical states. He would ask, “how do I know that my 3/5 pain is the same as yours, or someone else’s?” His view on this has always stayed with me. I’ve really always thought of quantitative data as ‘hard’ data and qualitative data as ‘soft’ data, and that ‘soft’ was not in a flattering way, not like real science.

This course has challenged a lot of biases that I wasn’t aware that I had when it comes to research and data. It has been useful to move through the course and unpack each of these little internal resistances that I’ve felt as we’ve moved along. While I still have a long way to go, it was helpful to have a mirror held up to my ways of thinking, to allow my horizons to expand around this.

Our group’s question was:

Do you find that using snowball sampling allows for a varied enough sample group for the types of research you are doing? When is it more or less appropriate to implement this as a way of finding participants?

George described snowball sampling as identifying participants who then identify further participants. He shared with us that it is appropriate when looking for groups of subjects who share certain characteristics. This makes sense with the type of research he is doing, where he is looking to speak to a specific demographic of people about their experience.

I had to do some work around his answer – are data valid if they are from a narrow demographic? The answer, of course, is yes! It was my bias that was keeping me from seeing how this way of finding participants has value.

This all connects so beautifully with the way he answered the question asked by Team Four regarding biases – that to work in a team is an important part of the research. He said that other people in the team are there to help challenge each other’s biases. I like the idea of working in a team of people that have strong boundaries set and are comfortable enough that they can challenge each other’s biases without jeopardizing the work relationship. I see, too, how this ties back into the teamwork we are doing in an ongoing way in our cohort, having the opportunity to practice these skills, over and over again.

I’m looking forward to having dinner with my parents later this week, to talk about some of the things that have come up during the course, to learn more about their experience in research, both in their work and when they were in University. I’ll share with them the discovery and exploration of my own biases and hope to explore some of their thoughts and experience around biases, too.