Summary. Of. Learning!!

I find the summary of learning daunting.  Not the summary part – the creation part. The idea must precede the creation and let’s be honest, at this time of year, my creativity wanes; however, I decided I would attempt to capture my “journey” of learning in a song recreation.  I rewrote lyrics, sang and recorded and then created a video to accompany it.  It took WAY TOO LONG, but once again I learned a lot and discovered new tech, tricks and realities along the way (including that the acoustics in a classroom are different than the acoustics in a garage – didn’t think of this – oh well).  As well, I have a new appreciation for video creators, editors, and sound technicians.  Timing is everything!

I used GarageBand to download the song and record the audio.  I never did find the autotune, so what you get is what you get!! That being said, I owe you an apology for my vocal attempt at one of the greats!  I hope you can still appreciate the original.  I used iMovie along with Picmonkey to create the images (I perfectly timed my account to utilize the free 7 day trial – what a teacher move!).   I owe a shout out to google and youtube for being my saving grace as I muddied my way through using this new technology.

Thank you to Alec and Katia for creating an online community, for creating assignments that make sense for our outcomes and for all the support along the way.

Thanks to my classmates for the wisdom, the community, and the inspiration to be a better educator!  I hope to continue interacting with you!

Without further adieu, here is my eci834 summary of learning:


Ecosystems Prototype Complete!

Screen Shot 2017-04-09 at 1.06.22 PMWell, I can’t believe we are at the end!   Lindy and I met yesterday to implement a few small changes to our prototype as a result of our feedback.  What a whirlwind it has been from deciding on the topic of ecosystems for our prototype to adding the finishing touches.  Initially we struggled to decide which LMS to use for our course.  We eventually decided to use google classroom which we explained in our course profile.  It was difficult to decide how to best create our content as neither of us are experts in content creation.

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My content video

While I am not sure the time is worth the effort on a day to day basis, it was definitely a good experience to utilize new tools to create content and understand the process.  We did encounter a number of difficulties along the way, but we managed to push through.  There is something to be said for doing something yourself and feeling a sense of accomplishment at the end.  Creating our own blended course has been a very valuable learning experience.    While the course isn’t complete as there were only two of us, I feel as though we have enough vision that I am able to develop it and use it in my classroom.

Our course outline shares an overview of our curricular outcomes, lesson flow, and unit assessment.  Our course profile shares our overall vision and rationale for our blended learning course.

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We were pleased with the feedback provided for our prototype.  Overall responses indicated that the course was user-friendly, inviting, and easy to navigate.  The reviewers indicated that the course provided multiple levels of interaction between students as well as teachers.  Our goal of creating an online community within our modules was acknowledged by one of our reviewers!  Reviewers also liked that students worked in collaborative groups with a focus on one ecosystem for the duration of the unit with a culminating project at the end.

We made several changes and additions after receiving our feedback:

  • created and added blog expectations and a rubric
  • created and added pic collage assignment guidelines and an example
  • addressed EAL and low level readers
  • clarified instructions within modules
  • added links to the apps used
  • explained the use of a grade 7 unit in a 7/8 split classroom
  • further justified how our course uses asynchronous/synchronous learning

Other discussion around feedback:

Some reviewers expressed a need for teacher guidelines or an instructional guide beyond our modules and course profile.  Other reviewers noted that the course profile and outline were clear and gave a clear overall vision of the course.   If we were creating the course for teachers rather than students, we may provide an instructional guide for teachers to suggest the flow of each lesson.  Our course provides the shell and teachers are able to personalize it based upon their personality, needs of the students and timeframe.

One reviewer noted that past tense was used in the discussion of First Nation worldview and recommended present tense.  Discussion around First Nation worldview would occur with students.

It was great to have the feedback of colleagues to make our prototype better.  Thanks to those who reviewed!

Feel free to take a peek at our course if you would like.  It is a google classroom course, so you would:

While I haven’t had a lot of time to look at other courses aside from those I reviewed, I look forward to taking a peek into other prototypes.  I am constantly amazed at the skill and creativity of my fellow educators and I always learn from you!  Thank you!

P.S. – Does anyone know if it’s possible to move an entire google classroom (this project) over to my current account??  That would just be so lovely!


The Final Frontier

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My husband would be appalled at my title for this blog post as I know nothing about science fiction or this film. As such I am probably doing some injustice to the movie; nonetheless, I feel as though I am in the final frontier with regard to our course prototype. Please feel free to comment below if I have offended you (I did link the title to the film.  Does that count for anything?!?) …


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Lindy and I spent a good deal of time putting together the final pieces of our prototype today.  We spent time last week on our course profile and outline assuming that it wouldn’t take a lot of time to put the finishing touches on our unit.  We needed to make a few changes, put together a couple rubrics and then upload everything to google classroom.  Well – wonder of wonders, we experienced some technological glitches.  When Lindy tried to upload her mysimpleshow, it changed the name of her video to something entirely different. What?!?  When we tried to import her PowerPoint, it didn’t transfer sound.  What?!? When we tried to join google classroom as a student, it wouldn’t let us join.  What?!? There wasn’t an option to “make a copy for each student” on the google doc. What?!? Needless to say, the final frontier had a few more pitstops and hair-pulling incidents than anticipated.  I think we’ve ironed out most of the kinks (not the google docs – insert eye roll), but it’s a good reminder not to do things at the last minute with technology.

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Google classroom screenshot

As far as our platform, google classroom has mostly worked well to meet the needs of our students.  I still appreciate its accessibility for both teachers and students as far as viewing, submitting and collaborating on assignments.  However, as I’ve mentioned previously I find the scrolling/stream option a bit limiting – meaning that the last thing you add is published at the top of the screen.  We had to populate our unit in reverse order in order to make it appear in the correct viewing order.  I feel as though google classroom is a bit limited in its organization in this regard.

Overall, I am very pleased to have put so much effort into something that is valuable to me in the classroom.  Having to utilize new tools (explain everything, iMovie, edPuzzle in this module) certainly increases my knowledge as well as my use of different forms of technology in the classroom.  While I’m not sure I would create my own content in the same way (SO MUCH TIME), I do think my interaction with these tools increases the likelihood that I will use them again for myself and my students.  In addition, meeting and working with someone new (Lindy!) is always a great way to learn, build collaboration and create new relationships.

I look forward to viewing and hearing about what my other classmates have put together for their prototypes!



Audience is key to authenticity

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My experiences as a learner utilizing an open online space are limited to EC&I 833 and 834. Within these classes, I have the opportunity to share my thinking and my insights for an audience beyond my instructors.  Blogging, commenting and creating/receiving pingbacks create a community and a purpose for my writing.  In addition, twitter (this little friend who is growing on me) allows me to connect and share ideas.

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Now when I think about who my audience is for this blogging and tweeting, I would state – the members of the EC&I 834 class; however just recently, I have had several people (outside of this class) randomly come up to me and tell me they are enjoying the tweets that I share or some of the writing in my blogs.  My immediate reaction: Wait!? What?!  Oh yes.  That’s right.  I am sharing this information on this little dealio called the world wide web.  My audience extends beyond a mere “classroom”.  How does this change my perception/intention?  Well… this audience creates a deeper sense of thought, more intentional writing and a different “voice” in my writing and communication.  Ultimately, it creates more authenticity for my work.

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Nicole mentioned the importance of audience related to authenticity.   I know this to be true for me and I can see this with my students as well.  When they know their work will be seen beyond the walls of our classroom, they are more invested and care more about what they say and produce.  I’ve always told my students that knowing their audience is a key to good writing.  But what if their peers and I are the only audience?  If I know quality and depth increase if an audience is proposed, why have I not provided more opportunity for this open online learning/communication in my classroom?

In the past, I used Kidblog within my middle years classroom, specifically related to Genius Hour.  Within this setting, similar to what Nicole described, students read and commented on each other’s blogs and parents had opportunity to read (but rarely to never did). Students weren’t invested.  Not to mention, I moderated all their writing/comments and it took forever.  Does it matter if they have spelling mistakes?  Should  I be working with them to edit everything?  Megan and Benita talked about the importance of scaffolding the process of open online communication – I don’t think I did this well despite the fact that I know the importance of modelling.  The audience I provided extended beyond me, but it wasn’t authentic.  If I could create a larger community and teach my students how to work together to edit and publish, then I believe they would be more invested and engaged as they saw their audience increase.

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I teach a tricky age as my students are grades 7 and 8 and range from ages 12-14 throughout the year.  Many popular social media tools (with the exception of twitter – which my students dislike) require a minimum age of 13.  I know that students would be even more invested and engaged if they could use a tool that was familiar to them (and let’s be honest, they are already using them despite age regulations).  While I do think you could do some great open communication with these tools, they are less easily monitored and could turn into a whole other can of worms for a classroom environment.  So until someone lets me in on the magical secret to using Snapchat in my classroom, I will stick with something more structured.

I think I would like to reintroduce blogging in my classroom.  However, for middle years, I think they need a more open forum and variety in what they are writing about – how to do this is the tricky part.  They also need a wider audience.  A wider audience allows for more accountability and greater preparation/investment (for most – let’s be realistic). I think it will also provide a platform to discuss digital presence and their digital footprint. I know I see a shift in engagement and investment when an audience is introduced because I believe the task becomes more authentic.

Wouldn’t you prepare and invest differently for an ever evolving audience of 100 versus a repetitive audience of 1?  Let me know your thoughts…


Learners determine community?

“For a community to emerge, a learning environment must allow learners to engage each other intentionally and collectively in the transaction or transformation of knowledge. It isn’t enough that material is presented to people and they interact with the instruction. It isn’t enough that the learners interact with instructors to refine their understanding of material.” ~ Schwier

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The reason I truly love my job is the relationships I build with my students.  If I took that away, I’m not sure I would teach.  So I would suggest that community isn’t important, it is everything.  I would be bold enough to state that I know how to forge relationships and community within my face to face classroom, but I’ve never been forced to think about fostering an online community.   How does this translate online?  I agree with Schwier’s quote stated above and I think online learning requires even more intentionality to create community than f2f environments.

When thinking about creating community, the following quote stopped me in my tracks:

… ultimately it is the learners who will determine whether a virtual learning community emerges. Learners have control over the quality of collaboration that happens online, and if they reject the invitation to elevate their engagement with each other, we will be left with something less—a cohort, not a community ~ Schwier

Whew!  This is a bit daunting when you think of facilitating community, but it does make sense.  Alec alluded to teaching two different sections of the same class with the same content and having very different communities emerge.  So while he maintained the same expectations, the only difference was the students.  From experience in this class (and ECI833), as Andrew and Elizabeth also alluded to, Alec and Katia do a great job of establishing community.  But from this quote, I guess as students, we (ECI 834) are also invested in the collaboration offered to us.  So knowing this reality, how do I encourage authentic engagement and quality collaboration to create community amongst my students in an online environment?

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I’m not sure there are hard and fast rules to achieve community as each community is so unique. My course will be a blended course so many relationships will be established due to the reality that we also exist in f2f land.  So the actual question I need to address in establishing community is how do I establish engagement and collaboration so that my students are learning from each other and their engagement is authentic?

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As Lindy alluded to in her blog, our prototype is for middle years and this age group has many idiosyncrasies.  So we will keep their strengths and weaknesses in mind as we design interactivity.  (Strengths and weaknesses are terrible terms, but I couldn’t think of any other??)

  1. Strengths  – love to visit, love to be engaged online, like change, need variety, generally want to do well, seek relationship, like choice
  2. Weaknesses – like to complete tasks quickly, feel vulnerable, not always sure what to do, easily off task, want to look cool and not stupid

Here is what we propose to allow students to be engaged and build community/collaboration:

  1. Blogs – We will use individual student blogs throughout.  These blogs won’t be exclusive to the prototype but used generally in the classroom as well.  Within the blog, students will be required to post, comment, and create pingbacks to facilitate interactivity and connections.  Elizabeth did a great job in her blog of laying out how students need to be taught how to do each of these components.  In order to experience success, students will need models, guidelines, expectations, and encouragement to understand how to effectively use their blogs and create quality interaction instead of just completing an assignment.  I think they will love to insert videos, links and photos to further represent their ideas.  I believe the use of blogs allows students to truly learn from each other and see that they have original ideas apart from the teacher.  The teacher can take a step back as students encourage and learn from each other.  Teachers will also take on a role of commenting on their blogs at times.
  2. Collaborative projects – Throughout the course, students will be working in groups on a common ecosystem that they’ve chosen.  When each concept is taught/presented, students will refer to their specific ecosystem to pursue the concept.  In the end, groups will work together on a project related to their ecosystem.  Lindy discussed that we may use Explain Everything as an app for their project creation – though I believe we will still provide choice.  Collaborative projects allow students to make their own choices and develop their own ideas while working alongside peers.  Students are able to focus on their strengths, discuss options and create their own learning and understanding which I hope allows more investment and engagement.
  3. Other interactions – We are using google classroom which allows students to comment on specific assignments to ask questions or make comments within the modules.  In addition, within our individual modules, we may use other interactive options such as flipgrid (although I’ve just recently introduced this and my students are hesitant – there’s that hidden”I feel vulnerable and don’t want to look stupid thing” – we’ll see how it goes) or google docs to allow for collaboration as most middle years students like to work together and want to see what their peers are doing.  It also allows for change and variety.
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Ultimately, I think community begins with me – my ideas, my guidelines, my planning and my excitement and energy.  However, the extent and depth of that community is determined by my students as they determine their level of investment.   Hopefully I am setting up an environment where community can thrive.  Do you have any other ideas or suggestions? Any ways to engage and encourage collaboration within this ecosystem prototype?  I’d love to hear them.




Blended Learning- So.Many.Questions.

So I love the idea of blended learning.  I love that students have the ability to navigate their own learning but still have access to a teacher and opportunity to collaborate with their peers.   In EC&I 834, we’ve talked a lot about the fact that blended learning has multiple facets and models.  A few of these models are discussed the following video:


Because blended learning is so vast, I know that I fall somewhere within the spectrum of blended learning as I utilize technology within my teaching for the purpose of enhancing the learning of my students.  However, like Amy discusses in her blog this week, I’m not really sure what blended learning should look like as a specifically designed course in my middle years classroom.  Beyond utilizing technology, I find it difficult to know how to create a fluid pathway of blended learning.  How do I move between face to face and an online portion beyond what I’m already doing?  How do I create a program that allows for individuality as well as collaboration?  Is this all specified within the LMS I’m using?  Lots. Of. Questions.

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While I researched blended learning this week, I found that as with all things, there are companies who are invested in promoting and providing resources for blended learning.  One company that specializes in math discusses how they assess students, build an individual, personalized program for the day, provide a daily list of what teachers and students need to do for the day, pump out the necessary lesson plans and online resources and then reassess and build a program for the next day.  Parts of this sound ideal and parts sound robotic, but either way… think of all that work for one subject and it’s done by a computer!! How can I, as a lone human, create a blended system that works, think about that many elements, and not die in the process?

Thankfully, I came across an article by Fischer that stated:

Like the light bulb, building a successful blended-learning environment for students is a process of innovation, not an event.

To create and do something well, it will never begin perfectly, but begin it must.  So based upon my professional judgment, knowledge and needs of my students, knowledge of the curriculum and understanding of my access and limitations with technology, I just need to make the best decisions at this point regarding blended learning and then change and innovate as I go … just like I always do.   This is how I always teach – implementation, analysis and then reflection and change for improvement.

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I came across a site that laid out a framework with different steps and considerations for designing and implementing blended learning. The colour palette graphic is clickable within the site and gives different questions/thoughts to consider for each step when designing a blended learning environment.  In addition, there is a video and worksheet to give further guidance for educators for each step of the design process.  I found elements of this process helpful as I think about how to navigate my own course prototype.

Ultimately, the needs of my students must drive my prototype design.  I still have questions about how to merge face to face and the online component, but I know at some point I just have to make some decisions, jump in and try it and then make the necessary changes to make it better.  This course prototype is not just an assignment or an event.  It is real life learning.  It is a process of innovation.  It is not finished once it is implemented.  It is just beginning – awaiting refinement.  With this perspective, I feel a little more free to design my blended learning prototype.

How about you?  How are you feeling about blended learning or your prototype?



Oh, Mr. Bates…

Oddly enough, I’ve never really considered my own learning preferences related to digital resources.  I’ve often considered my choice of digital resources when it comes to teaching, but not necessarily when it comes to my own learning.  So when I sat back to think about it, I realized that my choice of digital resource both for my learning preference and my teaching preference usually comes down to the same thing …. purpose.  What am I trying to learn?  Why am I trying to learn that?  What am I teaching?  How might students learn that best?

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Initially, like Ashley and Kelsie, I would’ve indicated that my preference for learning was text. I visualize in text.  Sometimes, I actually visualize words and punctuation when people are talking – weird, I know.  In addition, memorizing has always been fairly easy for me as I can see the original text on a page so I’ve always assumed that I have an affinity for text.  However after some careful consideration and the following quote from Bates, my thinking has evolved. (An aside … I am one of the few who is just now watching Downton Abbey and every time I write the name Bates, I think of the valet for Lord Grantham, for whom I have a soft spot. Anyone else?!?  Downton is also the reason my blog is posted today and not yesterday, but I digress.)


Media differ in their ability to handle concrete or abstract knowledge. Abstract knowledge is handled primarily through language. While all media can handle language, either in written or spoken form, media vary in their ability to represent concrete knowledge.

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If I am learning something particularly philosophical or academic, I prefer text.  I like to be able to read and reread and go back to reference particular sections.  I would find it endlessly frustrating to have to rewind video or audio to locate a particular idea.  As well, I can interact with and annotate text more easily.  So to process something, I need text to develop my ideas, even if that means that I am responding in written text to different media (such as this blog).  I process abstract concepts better with text.

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However, if I am going to teach a new Phys. Ed. skill, I find text is often convoluted and wordy. Video is often much better as I can see progressions and what needs to happen in order to teach the skill. Rewatching/rewinding isn’t difficult as I’m looking for a visual, concrete image instead of a particular phrase or concept.  In this regard, my preference would be video.  So, I suppose I agree with Bates (the author, not the valet) that media differ in their ability to handle concrete or abstract knowledge.  The choice of media I prefer depends on what I want to learn.  That being said, I rarely choose audio to learn (okay, never) – unless I am watching someone speak.  I just start daydreaming.  I must have a need to “see” something which is implied by a preference for video and text or an actual speaker.

After analyzing my own learning, I considered what digital media I use most frequently in my classroom.  Of course, I use text in almost all subject areas at some point or other. However, I use a lot of videos to teach both abstract and concrete ideas as I believe students prefer it.  I think video allows a different type of interaction as there is audio and visual (and often music) which engages people in different ways.  In addition, I have a variety of reading levels in my classroom so video levels the playing field as far as taking in information.  Also, the ease of access to video is another draw for using it in the classroom.


I wonder if my assumption that video is the popular choice for my students is actually true. Is it actually what they would pick if given the option?  I guess I should consult them.

Ultimately, I choose media for my classroom depending on purpose.  Am I teaching the students a skill (audio/video)?  Do they need to see it (visual)?  Should they create their own visualizations (text/audio)?  Do they need to interact and develop their own ideas (text/audio/video)?  Andrew wrote a great blog this week about the value of different types of media for different purposes.  He often has students utilizing multiple media at the same time based upon their preferences.  This is something I aim to try despite the limitations of access to tech.  How can I allow/teach my students to access media in a way that best meets their learning needs/preferences?  How do I facilitate that type of environment with middle years students and still achieve my purpose?

Well-designed media can help learners move from the concrete to the abstract and back again, once more leading to deeper understanding.  – Tony Bates (still the author)

Quality media leads to quality learning Andrew Foreman

So, choosing purposefully and choosing quality media leads to richer, deeper learning. How do you choose media for your students?  Do you use multiple modes at one time?