Category Archives: A. Auto e-graphy

Anyone remember Oregon trail?

My earliest well-remembered memory of using a computer in school was when I played Oregon Trail. I can’t even remember how long ago that was, but sometime in elementary school. Only those students that finished their assignments were allowed to play this game. I remember loving it, and didn’t even consider it an educational activity at the time. Looking back, this shows how gamification is a really effective pedagogical tool and I would certainly like to delve into the theories behind gamification and how it could be used effectively in math and science education.

Wheel of Fortune

My first experience with technology was when I was around 8 years old.  My uncle brought home a old computer from his work and set it up for us. The only game that the computer seemed to be able to handle as well as the only one that interested me was wheel of fortune. In regards to Mathematics and Science I’ve found that there are many programs that focus mainly on rote skills rather than application.  I received a program grant for my class from explore learning to allow my grade 4s to practice their math facts.  As a result, this has opened up some time for me to focus on more problem solving and applied skills. As far as Science is concerned, last year I got a subscription to the Big History Project. This site allowed me to combine the grade 7 socials and science curriculum into one class.  One struggle I’m having with the grade 4’s this year is that they just don’t seem to be as techy. It’s much more challenging to get them to explore options outside of a math app. I’m wondering how I can get them to be more innovative and be less afraid to take risks when using educational technologies.

Kings Quest

I remember when my dad brought home the first computer my family ever owned.  It was a Tandy.  It took about an hour to boot up, and seemed like a box that I knew had a lot inside it – things I didn’t have the knowledge to access.  We learned the little tap-dance of command prompts to play games like Kings Quest (run on the big old floppy discs that we had to continually shuffle at the prompting of the game).  When my dad wasn’t home, we would play the copy of Leisure Suit Larry that he didn’t know we knew he had.  I thought it was so scandalous!

Most of the time, though, I felt illiterate when using the computer.  I was constantly messing up the command prompts and felt locked out.

Now I am considered a bit of a techie by my peers.  I find it a bit funny, though…I think that it is more the work of many years of improving software design, user experience design, and layers of user friendliness that have made it possible for me to use computers with some modicum of success.

The 7 year old kid is still in there – the one that knows that there is way more to this little box than I am able to access.  I still feel a little locked out from time to time – the computer and I can talk a bit more easily now, but I it is in translation, and our jokes often go over each others heads.


The first time I can remember using a computer was in Grade 5.  Every Friday, our class would go downstairs into the computer lab and we would use a program that I just remember being called Turtle.  A cute little green turtle, navigated around the screen by the commands that we entered.  The turtle would form cool shapes, such as a square or even a star.  I was mesmerized that I could make the turtle move so effortlessly using basic commands.  To this day I remember anxiously waiting for Fridays, so that we could head to the computer lab to perform “magic” with the turtle.

The Selection Process

floppy disks

Having both my parents as teachers growing up exposed me to much of the technology being implemented into schools at the time. When I was younger I remember us having an Apple 2E. I recall my parents sitting down in our home office and taking turns typing out their report cards and being so excited that they could type them and correct their typing before printing the reports out. Next, we got a Macintosh desktop computer; however, that did not last long because shortly after schools got labs of these computers they quickly got rid of them because no one was trained to fix them and programs were not compatible between Mac and PC (remember having to select CD-ROMs that were specifically Mac or PC? Or receiving both versions in a program package?). Fast forward to the present day where compatibility has been solved in some ways but become more intricate in others (I REALLY like that all of my Apple devices sync up with one another and am probably a long way from purchasing another brand of device primarily because it would now not sync up with my others). When thinking of the evolution of devices that I have seen in my life and storage of information from floppy disk to 3 1/2” disk to CD/DVD to memory stick to cloud, my questions include:

  • With the speed of technology device advancements how can we (in schools) keep current while still utilizing previous hardware that has been purchased? Or, how do we make smarter purchases with technology at a school level?
  • How can we integrate cloud storage effectively and abide by FIPPA in Canada using mainstream technology (i.e. GAFE, YouTube, etc.)?

The demise of my “Practice Marriage”, Pokestops and Minecraft

Marrying my high school boyfriend at the age of 20, was not a mistake, even though we called it quits after five years. As with every experience that may end, lessons are learned, personal growth prevails. When James came home having purchased 1 Gigabyte of memory for his computer for $2000 back in 1994(?), I was not impressed. We were broke students; pasta was eaten multiple times per week.

My top CP Pokemon.

This was not the cause of the break up, however.  We had simply grown apart.  I was married to someone who preferred video games, over human interactions. (I’m sure he had his issues with me, as well, to be fair!)

Today, I observe my own relationship with technology morphing into more of an addictive nature.  When waiting for a dental appointment, what do I do? I check my email, my social media and see if there any Pokestops nearby. With my children, Minecraft and YouTube Videos of YouTubers playing Minecraft, are their favorite things to do.  When I kick them off screens, it is sometimes not well received (insert sarcastic, down playing tone).

Screen dependency, instant gratification, and the limited occurrences of the face-to-face interactions in today’s world would be topics where I would like to spend more time with, either in this class or a future one.


Math Practice Time Anyone?

Eleven years ago I started working with distance learning students whose families had chosen to teach their children at home. Many of these families were barely comfortable sending an email, and as an educator, I was figuring out how to use technology to meet the needs of my students. We were all at the beginning of a huge learning curve.

Specifically related to mathematics, I sought out online resources with hopes to provide opportunity for students to practice learned math skills in a varied process using such tools as Mathletics, CTC Math, and IXL Math. Although all well-developed resources, typically only about twenty percent of my students would readily engage in these types of online activities at any one time; most families would much rather work with hands-on activities or paper-based curriculum. These math practice sites are mainly skill and drill based, or contain step-by-step problems that require formulaic processes. I wonder if a more problem solving, inquiry based technology tools such as Dragonbox were offered, if students would be more eager to participate?



  1. For my younger students, mathematical resources have been considered as supplementary to a core curriculum. At a higher level, could mathematical concepts be effectively taught and learned solely through an online tool, or is the need to verbally discuss, visually represent and use tactile exploration a required aspect of fully understanding mathematical skills and concepts?
  2. What inquiry mathematics apps and online resources are available to encourage students in creative problem solving and inquiry based learning?

Christmas 1989 and a Tandy 1000

My earliest computer-related experience took place on Christmas 1989, when my siblings and I unwrapped our first home computer, a Tandy 1000 from RadioShack (640 KB; 8/4 MHz – my dad keeps good records). In addition to my six family members all vying for computer time, my parents had strict rules around any screen time, and did not approve of games they did not consider educational. They did, however, allow “Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego” (considered educational) and “The Colonel’s Bequest” (less educational, but allowed because my dad attended Tulane University, as did the main character, and lived in New Orleans, where the game takes place). My siblings and I still look back on these two games with fond memories, and it is interesting to me just what an impact even relatively limited use of a computer had on us.

The questions that come to mind when I think of my own computer experiences are often related to the educationally sound debate that follows many of the digital technology initiatives in classrooms. Based on the upbringing I had, I think I tend to shy away from using much digital technology in the classroom because of the amount of screen time I automatically assume students have at home (I recognize class screen-time is different, but my bias, unfortunately, is hard to shake). My questions are: How do I decipher which digital technology applications/initiatives are beneficial and which are not in terms of preparing students for their futures? How does an increased use of digital technology in the classroom affect students’ development in other areas (i.e., the haptics of writing, hands-on experiences with manipulatives, etc.)?

From MacPlus to BYOD in the grade 6/7 classroom

One of my first experiences with computers was in grade 6 and 7 when my teacher would take us to the school computer lab outfitted with brand new Macintosh Plus computers.  I was under the impression that computers were primarily used as fancy typewriters because all we did was practice our typing with cotton placemats over our hands.  At the time, students who were “good” at computers were those who could type more than 35 words per minute.  Fast forward 20 years and I am now the teacher of a grade 6/7 split classroom after starting my career teaching senior math and science.  It was great to see that the computer lab has morphed into laptop carts and that my district has fully adopted Bring Your Own Device programs throughout its schools.  I was amazed that in a class of 27, all but one brought in a personal device to school each day.  These 11 and 12-year-olds were already familiar with Google Apps for Education (something I had just learned a few years prior) and they could acquire, interpret and present information to an astonishingly high level.  There were still the usual frustrations- student’s forgetting passwords, wifi deciding to stop working…- but these students were using technology beyond my wildest dreams of 20 years ago.  I wondered, beyond not being taught cursive writing anymore, what other skills are this demographic of learners not being taught in place of developing their skills in technology?  What are the consequences of such an early adoption of devices in the classroom?  I will admit, I am a huge advocate of technology in the classroom and strongly believe we need to keep working towards greater accessibility to computers but I am also wary of any unintended consequences that will undoubtedly arise.

Excessive Print Job

When I was in grade 3 or 4, my family had a computer in the basement.  It ran Windows 95 and my parents installed a handful of games on it that I would like.  I loved the exploration games.  I also loved to research.  One evening, I decided I wanted to learn more about our beautiful country, so I decided to print an article from Encyclopedia Britannica on Canada.  What I didn’t know how to do yet was to find out how many pages a document would print.  It turned out that the document was over 100 pages long.  As the pages poured out of the printer, my dad came downstairs.  I was in a minor panic mode at this point, afraid that I was going to be in trouble.  It turned out that I wasn’t in trouble, and he took the opportunity to teach me how to copy and paste sections into another document, how to check printer settings, etc.  I learned from my mistake and never repeated it.  My dad’s patient approach to the situation turned it into a positive experience for me.

Questions that this memory brings to my mind at the moment are:

  • When we have multiple students working on multiple devices simultaneously, how can we as educators best capture teachable moments for technological literacy?
  • Do we inadvertently discourage students from experimenting with technology when we focus on cost of supplies and efficient use of resources in the wake of seemingly ever-decreasing budgets?