Critical Theory: An examination of School Power Structures

Welcome to my readers, old and new. Let’s begin.

Today’s readings were a real eye-opener and forced my to reevaluate my own teaching and the effectiveness of school leadership as well. The first point that really jumped out to me was from John Gatto and his article, “The Seven Lesson Schoolteacher”. The main perspective I gained from this article was the emphasis on Confusion in the classroom. Gatto states: “I teach the un-relating of everything, an infinite fragmentation the opposite of cohesion; what I do is more related to television programming than to making a scheme of order.”

Further perspective on these seven lessons can be found in the following video:

When I relate Gatto’s ideas of confusion to my own school, I think about the Government Mandated Assignments that are constantly added to the plate of teachers and students, often without any rhyme or reason. In order for schools to provide data for the Ministry of Education, teachers must force random assignments in at inopportune times, regardless of their current area of focus.

As a teacher, it can definitely be overwhelming to deal with the growing number of standardized assessments, and there’s no doubt the students feel the same way as well. The unfortunate reality is that there is not a lot that a teacher can do when the expectations are coming from Administration or Government Ministries. However, as a potential future leader/admin in a school, this is a battle that must be fought before it gets to your teachers. Leaders of school must pass the message along that the expectations on teachers and students are already so high. Government Ministries must learn to gain their information in new methods, rather than adding additional standardized tests that do nothing to achieve curricular outcomes.

Another important aspect for school leaders to consider with standardized assessments is the additional challenge faced by low-income students. The Washington Post has an article which states: “administrators at Govans, where nearly 70 percent of students come from low-income families, say the shift to online testing three years ago led to lower student scores on the PARCC than on previous paper-and-pencil assessments”. Furthermore, Towson University professor Jessica Shiller states: “Putting the test online just sets the city kids three steps back … It’s more a measure of income than skill.”

As School Leaders, we must ensure that school technology is not thrust in the hands of our students without proper training, for both the teacher and the student. If not, we are putting our disadvantaged students even further behind.

How can we improve our school?

The enlightening articles on the ISM’s in today’s society and shows a particular focus on how Cultural Genocide can be so damaging to the First Nations and Inuit Students.

For this section of my blog, I’m choosing to focus on the positive and what leaders in my school and school division are doing to help foster real growth and change.  One of the best experiences with my school staff was our participation in a Blanket Exercise.

If you have never been a part of a blanket exercise, the following quote explains it quite well: “The blanket exercise is an activity where participants explore the nation-to-nation relationship between Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples in Canada, and explore a timeline of over 500 years. Blankets arranged on the floor represent land, or ‘Turtle Island’ known by the Indigenous peoples, and each participant plays a part, by stepping into the roles of the First Nations, Inuit and Métis peoples. I added my own touches to the presentation by noting some dates, specific stories and names that participants might relate to. When people leave, they will have a new, deeper understanding of the history, like they haven’t before. The activity really ties together all of the points of things we may have heard about such as the Indian Act, residential schools and the 60’s scoop”.

What struck me most about this particular exercise, was the fact that so many people were emotionally affected in so many different ways. Some people were upset when forced to move off of their lands, while others were saddened by their death due to an infectious disease.  As the father of young children, I was particularly upset when the babies were taken away and parents were left on their own.


To wrap up, I continue to feel emotionally and intellectually challenged and motivated by the readings and blog prompts. It is clear that this class will be a departure from other’s I have taken and I am looking forward to the journey.

Any thoughts or questions, please feel free to comment.





Assistive Technology for the Future

Greetings and Salutations,

I come to you once again (and for the final time this semester) with a blog post on Assistive Technology. I do not have a ton of experience with the use of assistive tech in my class so instead I will focus my thoughts on the type of programs I would love to see more of in the future.

Digital Translations:

With the growing diversity of our student body here in Regina, there has never been a greater need for students to have a digital translation app. While the majority of these new students are attempting to learn English, it is unfair to expect them to master and apply the language so soon after arriving in Canada. Instead if they were able to access a digital translation device on their phone, it would help them understand the instructions/information being given by their teachers. While there are some apps already available, I would like to see this become more readily available for our newest students.

The more we can do to help our newest students, the easier it will be for them to show us what they truly know.  As Educators, our goal is to assess student learning, and if these apps help us do that, then I would like to see them used more frequently.

And that brings us to the end of another semester together! I have enjoyed collaborating with all of you and I hope to see you again on our educational journey.

Goodbye for now,




Technology in Formative Assessment

Greetings and Salutations once again,

This week’s blog focuses on the decision to use technology in formative and summative assessment. While there has certainly been detractors and criticisms of this decision, Sonja and her group did an excellent job of explaining how well technology can aid students when completing assignments for assessment.

While this week’s abbreviated classroom schedule did not allow me to try any new assessment technologies with my students, I do have one tech tools that I have used in the past and have been very happy with.


I would like to focus on is Kahoot. If you are unfamiliar with Kahoot, here is a video explaining the features.

One of the main benefits of Kahoot is the fact that it easily embraces the BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) that many schools now focus on.  In a high school setting, nearly 95% of the students in my classes bring a cell phone with them to class every day. For those 5% that do not have one, I allow them to work with a friend so that no one is left out. One of the main criticisms of tech use during assessments is that students will be able to “cheat” by looking up the answer on the Internet, Kahoot solves that problem by attaching a reward for students that answer the fastest.  Therefore, if you are looking up the answer you will waste too much time to try and “cheat” the quiz.

Also, it is important to make your students understand that the use of the Kahoot is for formative assessment only, and therefore there is no reason to cheat, as the purpose is only to help us learn what you know.

The final important point about Kahoot, is that as a teacher, you do not have to create the quiz yourself.  There are thousands and thousands of quizzes already established on the site.  Also, you are able to edit and change quizzes as much or as little as you like, which means you can personalize it to your classroom and student needs.

One of the great benefits to taking a class such as this is the opportunity to learn from the expertise of colleagues. After reading Amy’s blog, I am now interested to try Microsoft Forms as well. In fact, this is a week where I will be reading several blogs in order to strengthen and diversify my abilities and knowledge of technology tools for assessment.  If you have any great ones for me, I’d love to hear about them in the comments!


Education 3.0 – An Evolution of Teaching

Greetings and Salutations,

Today’s blog post will focus on the evolution of teaching on the back of the Internet’s change to Web 3.0. Jackie Gerstein discusses Web 3.0 as a more individualized online experience where “every user will have a unique Internet profile based on that user’s browsing history. Web 3.0 will use this profile to tailor the browsing experience to each individual.” While this certainly sounds promising, part of me wonders if this leads to more Amazon ads popping up all over my CNN articles, showing me products that I searched up hours before. However, in terms of Education, this leads to a more hopeful future where student learning could be adapted to personal needs rather than painting everyone with the same brush.

The following video provides a brief explanation of Education 3.0 and its promise:

Now the exciting thing about Education 3.0 is that it is not same far off ideal that is years away from being realized. The truth is, if you know where to look, that future is now. As this week’s group showed, there are numerous educational programs in place and ready for teachers to access.

For me personally, I have been working to incorporate some of Dan Meyer’s Three Act Play assignments in to my Math Class. For far too long, my math class was taught in an Education 1.0 fashion, having the students master the skills and then apply them to the test. Now, at the conclusion of each unit, the students are working in pairs on an independent research assignment, applying the skills they learned to a “real world” problem.

The more we can evolve and adapt as teachers, the stronger our students will become. I look forward to hearing about the evolutions of your teachings in the comments below.

If I woke tomorrow as an Online Educator…

Greetings and Salutations all,

This week’s blog prompt caused me to consider the following scenario, if I arrived at work tomorrow and was told I no longer taught face to face and was now an online educator, how long would it take me to adapt? And how much would my teaching pedagogy have to change?

The first thing I would fear was the fact that I would not be able to see the faces of my students as I was teaching. Especially in a math class, the level of understanding and comprehension is often written in the faces of students, whether they realize it or not. However, there is a solution for that and as Amy Bladyko mentioned in her blog, that solution is Zoom Room! Zoom allows us all to meet weekly without having to occupy the same physical space and I believe it would be a must for any online course that I would teach.


While there are other fears associated with teaching Math in an online setting, there are certainly tools to aid in that.  My research led me to the following article, 10 Virtual Tools for the Math Classroom.

Of the ten tools listed, the most interesting one I found was DragonBox, which teaches many different types of foundational math skills in fun, easy to play games. The video below gives a brief tutorial of the possibilities:

The final point I want to mention is that if I were to become an online teacher, I would miss the relationships forged with the students. As Katie says in her blog, “truly feel relationships are a vital component of student engagement.” There will always be students who feel more comfortable in a classroom and require that face to face student-teacher engagement and I hope to continue to be there to provide that for them.


Internet Distraction and Reliability

The major question emanating from the video was this: does the Internet distract us more than serve as a fountain of information? Well as I prepared to write this blog post I opened the video, only to find an ad playing for the video game Red Dead Redemption 2. Instead of skipping straight to the video, I found myself watching the entire trailer.  So my early answer is yes, the Internet can certainly distract you from your goal.

The (very entertaining) video makes an important point:

As I currently write this blog post, I have Facebook open to chat with other distracted people at work, Twitter up on a different tab to keep up with the news (FOMO!!!) and finally I am also checking Instagram to see how many likes I have on my newest photo (13 so far!)

While some may argue that this is too much distraction and only serves to lengthen the amount of time I need to write, I would disagree. As this Psychology Today article states, “all is likely not lost if interrupted by the occasional text message.” I find the social media distractions allow me a momentary brain break, while I decide on the next point I want to write about.

The final point worth I need to discuss is how the overreliance on technology can backfire and leave your scrambling for cover. Case in point, was our group’s presentation on Tuesday. After a flawless run through at 6pm, we found ourselves presenting only to find that the videos would not work.  While we did our best to hide our frustration, we were truly concerned because our videos were a great source of entertainment and education and I worried that our presentation would be lacking without them.  But yet, a funny thing happened on our way to panic, our presentation ended up going great. In the end, four well-educated and successful teachers were able to rely on the knowledge they had learned and explain it successfully to our audience.

And that is where the most important point lies, as teachers, technology is an incredible source of information that serves to capture the attention of our students.  But technology is no substitute for a prepared teacher holding the attention of students.  If we can create that level of engagement with our students, then the technological aspect only puts us over the top.

You know, unless all of Youtube crashes…


Until next time,

Kyle Ottenbreit

How does Technology change the Classroom?

The first time I watched a John Green Crash Course video, I was hooked. I had recently been assigned to teach a Social 9 class that I had never taught before and was outside of my teaching area. I needed to teach the class about Ancient Egypt and wanted something more interesting than having the students copy notes off the board.

Here was a guy who could explain the information in a more entertaining method than I could, and it was so easy to access with just a few clicks on the computer.

This had me wonder, is this information really worth teaching and having the students “memorize” if access to the answers is only one step away?

This questions takes us to the crux of the issue, for this class and education as a whole, what should we be teaching to our students?

At the base level, teachers have to teach outcomes from the curriculum. However, the methods of teaching that information can be left up to the professionalism of the individual. Therefore, the preferred method I would like to move towards exists in the Redefinition of the SAMR Model.  In my opinion, the age of having students memorize facts for a test is dead. The knowledge is lost as soon as the students finish the exam, because it holds no importance in their lives. Why remember something if Siri could give you the answer in 8 seconds? Instead, we must strive to find ways to give the students the information and have them APPLY the knowledge, rather than just regurgitate it.

This application of knowledge can best be accomplished using the technology that is available to teachers in most classrooms. As Kyla Ortman says in her blog post, “We have the power to lead and show students a variety of technological apps and resources to help benefit their learning.”

But these benefits and efficient uses of technology will not come together easily. In order to reimagine the best type of learning for our students, we must put in the work to create meaningful assignments and will be willing to abandon the trademarks of our past assessments. Only then can we become the teachers we hope to be.