Welcome (Back)!


If you don’t yet know me my name is Alex, and if you already know me, welcome back to my blog! Unfortunately, blogging is not something I keep up with as much as I would like, but I am looking forward to another semester of ECMP to get me back into the action of putting my thoughts into words.

“About the author”

I am in my second year of university in the Secondary Ed. Program; my major is Math and my minor is Inclusive Education. Some of my favorite things to do between school and work are walking my dog, playing basketball, going out for food, and scrolling through Twitter. I think the reason I love Twitter so much is because you can connect to so many different resources about all kinds of topics. Although I do use Instagram and Facebook, Twitter is definitely my favorite social media website; my own twitter account features everything from world news to Math resources for teachers to hilarious dog memes. I did not understand how to utilize twitter to my full advantage before last year when I took ECMP 355.


Me and my adorable dog, Callie after a long walk this winter


This semester I am in ECMP 455 with Alec Couros; I have taken ECMP 355 with Alec as well as Katia Hildebrandt. For the most part, I still use all of the tech tools they introduced me to. When I took ECMP 355 I was very new to a lot of the websites and resources we used, and I find I am still learning new things about these tools even a year after I took that course. For ECMP 455 I have thought of 3 goals I would like to achieve by the end of the semester:

  1. I would like to become more aware of how to create an online unit. When I was in high school I remember how frustrating it could be working on homework and having questions, but having no way to communicate with your teacher to answer those questions. I would love to learn how to efficiently use things like Google+, Twitter, Youtube, and more to be able to fully benefit my future students.
  2. Blogging, blogging, and more blogging. I think blogging would be a great place to share my world views; however, I am still a little intimidated of it. One of the best personal websites I’ve seen, and that we referred to a lot in ECMP 355, is Katia’s, so I think her Youtube videos on blogs would be a good place to start learning. I also think that getting the opportunity to consistently write and share my ideas for this class will help me become a more confident blogger (or at least that’s the goal).
  3. Becoming a strong voice for social justice is something I would love to achieve this semester. This was something I struggled with in ECMP 355 because I was always nervous about what someone else’s retort may be, or by getting trolled. However, I understand how important it is for educators to be a voice for people of minority and a voice for what is right. Social media, like Twitter, is a great place to raise these issues and to inform people by sharing articles or videos. I think that I just need a little more guidance on the best and most effective way to do this.

Altogether, I am mainly looking to broaden my knowledge of EdTech and prepare myself for my future career.

“If we teach today as we taught yesterday, we rob our children of tomorrow.”

-John Dewey

Alex’s Low Down on EPSY 324

Hello! It has been a long time since I have blogged, but in one of my night classes we were asked to do a summary of learning in whatever form we wanted, so I chose to blog. Underneath is a list of what I thought were the most prominent things I learned throughout this course. Enjoy 🙂

#1: The Four Pillars

The Four pillars of assessment definitely stick out as one of the most prominent topics I have learned this semester. “What are the four pillars of assessment?” you might ask.

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Visual of The Four Pillars


They are Norm-Referenced Tests, Interviews, Observations, and Informal Assessment Procedures. Norm-referenced tests are standardized tests that are scaled so that each score is ranked by the defined norm group is. These tests can assess intelligence, reading, mathematics, writing, adaptive behaviour, and more. The second pillar, Interviews, are for the assessor to gain more information from the child, his/her parents, the teacher, and other people that are familiar with the child. The purpose of interviews are to get a big picture of the child because everyone views things differently and a child’s behaviour and capability can change as they change their environment throughout the day. Observations which is the third pillar involves viewing the child in their normal environment. A person does this because a child might be an entirely different person outside of their comfortable surroundings. This pillar is especially important if the assessor does not already have a relationship with the child, and when doing your observations it is important to observe in many different surroundings to be able to tell what is causing a child’s behaviour to change. The last pillar is informal assessment procedures which can be criterion-referenced tests (if you are not sure what this means keep reading), writing samples, phonics tests, prior school records, etc. These informal procedures help to decide which interventions may be best suited to each child. These four pillars are very important because assessments lead to making decisions about a child’s education, and without all four pillars you do not get the whole picture of that child.


#2: Criterion-Referenced vs. Norm-Referenced

Before this course, I had never heard of criterion or norm-referenced tests before so when asked what the difference was between the two I had no idea. Norm-referenced means the results of a child’s test are going to be compared to what is considered normal for that child’s age, grade, or class. Criterion-referenced does not involve comparison to any other student. It simply means that the results will be given by how much the student got correct out of how many questions they were given in total. We watched a very helpful video in one of the classes (start video at 1:19 for information just about criterion-referenced vs. norm-referenced).

#3: Bias and Culture Fair Tests2b1c53ea0bd3c358c9dc33f392c569fc.jpg

One thing I believe to be an important topic is bias. There has been speculation about the validity of norm-referenced assessment because students of minorities tend to do worse on these assessments. Students from lower economic standing and students that are not from a western culture often are at a disadvantage from the beginning when it comes to these tests. The reason this affects the validity is because the test is not truly norm-referenced if students with an average IQ are scoring lower than they should just because of the vocabulary in the test or because their culture/social standing put them at a disadvantage. In an effort to overcome these biases, Culture-Fair tests were created. Culture Fair tests are defined as tests that attempt to provide equal opportunities for success for students with different cultures and life experiences.

#4: Don’t Drive Without A License


No good can come of getting behind the wheel of a car with no license, and even with a license you aren’t gonna jump on a Harley having never driven a motorcycle. This analogy is a lot like doing assessments. To do an assessment you have to be comfortable and you also have to be prepared and have the right credentials depending on the assessment. Some assessments just require a class to use their test while others require you to be a registered psychologist. However, even with the correct credentials you should also be well prepared and feel comfortable administering any type of norm-referenced assessment.

#5: Intelligence Tests:

For the chapter presentations my group presented on Intelligence Tests and Adaptive Behaviour Scales. I learned a lot about what the different intelligence tests assess, what the results mean, as well as how they can be very beneficial to students. For our presentation, we met with a school psychologist (Tanya) who gave us a lot of information for our presentation. The one thing that really stuck with me was how to communicate the results to the family. Tanya said that on top of her entire report she writes she also likes to include visuals. For a lot of parents the language these assessments use is not very accessible for them. Providing visuals helps them to see the results instead of just reading them.

#6: Definitions:

To finish off my list of the important things I have learned in EPSY 324 I wanted to share some definitions I think are important from this course:

Splinter Skills: behaviour developed in isolation from related skills

Developmental Scales:  checklists of behaviour arranged by skill area in chronological order

Intelligence: A trait or construct associated with cognitive or intellectual capacity and directly to the potential or ability to learn

Adaptive Behaviour: The conceptual, social, and practical skills children need in their daily lives to function and to adapt to changes

Informant : Usually a teacher or parent who knows the student’s typical performance in real-life settings

Norm-Referenced Score – Compares student’s performance to others. Compares individual score to the average of the norm. The norm includes a wide range of students (cultural, ethnic, geographic, economic backgrounds).

Criterion- Referenced Score – describe what a student can do. If test items accurately reflect the instructional content the test score is sound. (Teacher made tests)

Although taking this course at the beginning of my teacher education was a bit intimidating, I am happy I have the knowledge of assessment to carry me through the next two and a half years of my degree and well into my teaching career. I would like to thank my prof, Carrie Dutkiwch, for her charismatic and intriguing class. This is one of those classes I know will give me the framework for much of my profession.


How Learning Hair has Changed My Life

For those of you that have not been following, for my learning project I decided to learn a variety of hairstyles to do on myself. I chose this skill to learn because (A) I knew that there were tons of online resources for it and (B) it was never something I could master on my own so decided to take advantage of having the opportunity to finally learn it through online resources. The hairstyles I learned were:

  1. The classic French Braid
  2. The French Braid Headband
  3. The sock bun
  4. The Mohawk-French Braid
The other weekend when I did the sock bun for my friend's 19th birthday

The other weekend I did a sock bun in my hair for my friend’s 19th birthday

The most challenging piece I learned was the mohawk french braid, but it is also the one that I am most proud of. I think it is important when learning something new to set goals that are attainable but also challenging. If something does not challenge you it is hard to grow and move on to bigger, more complex tasks. The hairstyle that I have done to most since I initially learned it is the sock bun. I love the look of this hairstyle and I feel I have it mastered so I am really confident when I wear it. I think the style I will not continue in the future is the headband french braid. This is because I was least happy with the result, and I think that it is a tad outdated for how poor mine turnout.

Regardless of how successful each hairstyle turned out there are a few specific skills and pointers I have taken away for myself. I have been able to apply these to all hair styles no matter how simple or complex they may be:

  • Brushing my hair and getting out all of the knots always helps
  • If I am learning from tutorials:
    • Videos are more beneficial than written directions for me
    • I cannot rely on my hair to act & look the exact same as the person from the tutorial
  • My hair is easier to work with a day after washing it rather than the day of; it is too soft the day of and often comes out loose and sloppy
  • Having hair products and accesories such as the teasing powder I used for the mohawk braid and the donut I used for the sock bun are worth the purchase

Recently I read an article that talks about three specific apps students can turn to when they need to learn how to do something. I wish I had read this three months ago, because before this project I never thought that using things like Youtube and Wikihow to learn things would be so beneficial. As a teacher I look forward to encocuraging my students to turn to these and other resources when they are faced with problems or need to learn a new skill.

In a Better World // Digital Storytelling

Storytelling is something that has existed for generations. The stories of the Greek Gods and Goddesses are still taught in school today, along with many Indigenous peoples’ stories. Today many people use the internet to share their story through blogs, Facebook, Instagram, and other social medias. When we first talked about digital storytelling in my online class, I kept thinking of Humans of New York, which is another way of sharing your story through the internet. Along with giving someone a voice, digital storytelling can also go hand in hand with learning; whether it’s demonstrating your learning through a story, or creating your own story for an English class.

As an introduction to digital storytelling, I had to create my own story using Five Card Flickr. I was given five random pictures that I then had to create a story about. Here it is:

Five Card Story: In a Better World

a Five Card Flickr story created by Alex Taylor

flickr photo by Intrepidteacher

flickr photo by Serenae

flickr photo by bionicteaching

flickr photo by bionicteaching

flickr photo by bionicteaching

Every Sunday I take my normal seat in the fourth pew just off to the left in front of the choir, and I pray. This is my safe haven, where I go to reflect and also to escape. As the choir sings its final hymn I put my coat on leave. As I leave the church, there is some sort of protest happening. More people unhappy with the government I suppose. I walk past them with no desire to learn more about their cause and head to what has been my home for about two weeks now. The last ally I was taking residence in was raided and trashed by the police, so I had to relocate. I try to fall asleep to avoid the growing ache for food in my stomach. I dream about water, and how long it’s been since I have been able to take a hot bath. I suddenly wake up to yelling. It’s another raid. The city police doing their diligent duty of cleaning up the streets I suppose. I grab the few possessions I have managed to keep and walk back to the church. The lock on the door tells me they have already closed it for the day. With nothing else to distract me, I decide to grab a donut and coffee with the little money I have. As I sip on my coffee I can’t help but to think of a better world.

There is no such thing as the “innocent” bystander

In school, children learn about bullies and are taught about the different aspects of bullying. There is the bully, the victim, and the bystander. Learning about social media and its relation to social justice, I have been thinking a lot about bullying and the how the role of the bystander is just as significant as the bully. When I see people using Twitter, Facebook, and even Instagram to post unjustified remarks towards a specific group of people is it my responsibility to reply? Do I use my voice to stand up for those whose voices are silenced? Am I a bystander if I do not use social media to expose the injustices in the world?

All of these questions ran through my mind when I clicked on a tweet and made the regretful decision to scroll through the replies. The tweet was a link to an article by CBC’s Rosemary Barton about how Canada’s plan to let refugees into Canada will be limited to women, families, and children. I was shocked and dismayed to see all of the hateful replies this news article received. On one hand, I wanted to reply to every single tweet I saw but on the other hand, a part of me knew that if someone could tweet such hateful and ignorant words to begin with, my one reply would not get through to them. I concluded that by not doing anything I would be a bystander to the bullying that was happening so I did tweet. In my tweet, I stated my support and included #refugeeswelcome in hopes that even just one person would see it, explore the hashtag, and be a bit more enlightened.

As a pre-service teacher, I am starting to learn what it means to be an educator. My students will constantly be learning from my actions, and what I choose to teach and discuss is what they will deem important. By staying silent about injustices in the world I am telling my students that they don’t matter, and this goes above and beyond the classroom. My professor, Katia Hildebrandt, summed this up perfectly in a blog post titled “Edtech…for social justice?:

If we are online, as educators, and we remain silent about issues of social justice, if we tweet only about educational resources and not about the release of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission report in Canada, or about the burning of Black churches in the southern United States, we are sending a clear message: These issues are not important”

So I guess going back to the bullying comparison I ask: As teachers if we are idly using our social media for personal use are we any better than the bystanders on the playground?

If it is our responsibility to teach students not to be a bystander than it is also our responsibility not to be that bystander.

The Votes Are In

You guys voted, and the votes are in. It was between two french braids (“boxer braids”) or a french braid that looks like a mohawk; the majority voted for the mohawk. I must admit that I was hoping for the boxer braids because I have already done a french braid and thought two side-by-side braids would be less complex than the mohawk style. I will still do the side by side braids because there are different skills to be learned with that hairstyle. Here is the video of me doing the Mohawk braid.

I apologize for the abrupt end to the video, I had to go grab a hair elastic because I forgot to grab one before I started. I wanted to also add that the reason I record the hairstyles is because in addition to sharing the videos, I also like to look back on the video and review what I do with my hands and the parts I struggle with. Before I did this braid I reviewed the video of me doing my very first french braid.

What I took away from this style was that volumizing powder really helps to stiffen and control the hair; at the beginning of the video I am running the powder through my hair.

The volumizing powder I used

The volumizing powder I used

At first, I tried doing it without powder and just backcombing for volume but I found that backcombing made my hair very knotted. I have found that using tutorials is great, but I will always need to modify steps to what suits my hair and what I am capable of. For example, a Missy Sue tutorial I watched said to separate off the bottom half of the hair you are not including in the “mohawk”. I did not do this because I found my hair too thin to do that, and it also restricted me to which hair I could use which led to a lot of frustration. I also decided to watch a video on how to do this hairstyle on another person (the video used a mannequin). This video suggests backcombing which, as I already mentioned, did not work for me and the tutorial also separates the hair into sections like the first linked video. I did like that this video was gave me a new perspective. Up until this point, I have only been watching videos of people showing how to do hairstyles on themselves, but seeing someone work on another person gave me a better understanding of how to position my hands.

I completed this hairstyle with a half up messy bun. I was so happy with how it turned out that I did it again a few days later for work!

My next challenge: Boxer Braids

Actually, Scratch That.

My first time coding was a frustrating but rewarding experience. Before writing this blog post, I read the article “What is coding and why should I care?”. The article talks about how parents often think their kids or even themselves know everything there is to know about technology. Even I was guilty of thinking that I could use my computer to its full potential. My confidence was soon shut down the moment I made my own account on the coding website, Scratch.

The frustration soon set in when I couldn’t even remove the default Sprite (computer graphic that can be manipulated) the website provides.

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My archnemesis a.k.a the default sprite

I would like to tell you that I was able to, through trial and error, become an expert coder; unfortunately, that is not what happened. I did, however, create a semi-mediocre pong game. I created this game with help from a step-by-step tutorial the website had. The tutorial was definitely helpful with getting me started, but I modified some if the steps they along the way so that it was, in my opinion, easier to play. Instead of starting the game by clicking the green flag, I decided to start the game with the spacebar because that way you could have your mouse in the right position to control the paddle. I also modified the paddle. Originally it would move anywhere your mouse went, but I decided to lock it to a y-coordinate so that the paddle would only move horizontally. Additionally, I went with a basketball theme simply because that is my favourite sport to play.


This experience has really opened my eyes to the importance of teaching coding in school. I wish that I had been taught these skills in school instead of having to learn them now on my own. The use of technology is only becoming more prominent in everyday life which means more and more people will need to know how to program it. Ideally, this will be something everyone can eventually do instead of just experts. What would life be like if we didn’t have people that know how to code and make our phones, tablets, and computers do everything we need them to?