Final Post

Photo Credit: Giuseppe Chirico Flickr via Compfight cc

As I sit and write this final post reflecting on Kelly and my course prototype, I am also thinking back to the fall of 2014 when I first started this whole Graduate Studies journey!  It is a very bittersweet feeling to know that although I will have my nights and evenings back to spend with my family and extra curricular commitments, I will truly miss the conversations and experiences that these classes have brought with them.

Kelly and I got started right away brainstorming just what we thought would be the best unit to start making into a blended course for our VAP students.  Read here to learn more about who we developed these modules for:

Here are some previous blog posts where we described the process behind choosing our LMS and putting together our prototype for a VAP Career and Work Experience 18/28/38 unit:

Submitting our prototype for a random sampling of colleagues within this class to provide feedback for ourselves was both daunting wondering how we would measure up to the rest, and equally exciting to share what we had put together!  The peer evaluations were wonderful and provided us with a lot of feedback to think on and decide how and what we might change up before using this module in our classrooms.  The first major feedback that we received and were waiting to hear about was that our module was not accessible for a couple of days after we had submitted it!  Talk about STRESSFUL!  We apologize to those that were waiting to go in and give us feedback.  Kelly and I brainstormed and emailed back and forth with Katia and Alec and long story short, had to re create our modules into the UofR Google Classroom domain.  Thank you for your patience and to Katia and Alec for replying to all of our late-night, frantic emails! 🙂  In our classrooms this would not have been noticed as all of our students are set up with RBE domain emails, but for any “outsiders,” they would only be able to log in using the Uof R account.  Kelly and I would also like to send a thank you to Kelsie and Andres for the quick replies within our Community – notice the same initials as Katia and Alec!!

Photo Credit: Ken Whytock Flickr via Compfight cc

There was a lot of great, positive feedback as well:)  Our peer evaluators found our modules to flow well, with a suggestion to add in more modules as there was just the 2 of us.  They mentioned that the LMS (Google Classroom) was attractive, easy to follow/navigate,  and our course profile was a great help as it sounded like those that provided feedback didn’t have experience teaching in a VAP classroom.  They also liked the variety in teaching methods and resources – thanks!

In moving forward, I liked the suggestion of providing a brief video or some other type of introduction to us as the teachers to allow for the students to know who their teachers are.  I like this idea, and think it would be a fun way to introduce the lesson, but all of the students should be coming to school everyday and working within our classroom.  Introductions are always nice and would be another fun way to have students use technology.  An activity similar to the one we first did on our first class in EC&I 834 would fit well.

Another piece of feedback was being sure to teach students all of these technology applications prior to assigning them.  This is great advice and something that we should maybe have spoken to in our profile.  Students are all set up in Google Drive and in some classes with other teachers, use Google Classroom.  Kahoot has been used before in our classrooms.  Blogging would be new and we would have all students create accounts at the beginning of the semester so they would be able and comfortable with the blogging assignments.  We would also look at re-doing the video in module 2 – Kelly has a house full of teenagers and needed to get to somewhere quiet…while we had a good laugh, he also agrees that he would re-do that recording somewhere else before any of the students are in the actual module!

Thank you, thank you, thank you!

Photo Credit: Daniel Ari Friedman Flickr via Compfight cc

Thank you to all of you that provided the feedback and for the opportunity to learn with and FROM so many of you techy, techy people!   I am so enjoying enhancing my lessons with these fun and engaging apps and plan on putting all content into Google Classroom for all of my classes in the fall!

Congrats to Ashley, Angela, and everyone else finishing up their degrees – I look forward to seeing you all Tuesday night!


About to Launch!

Ready to launch our prototype!!

Photo Credit: Dorron Flickr via Compfight cc

It has been approximately 9 weeks in the making and yet time has flown this semester!  Kelly and I decided within our very first class that we wanted to create something for the Vocational Program that we are both passionate about.  I teach within the VA Program and Kelly is the coordinator for and has also previously taught within.  With a heavy emphasis on Work placements to ready our students for life after graduating high school, we also chose the Career and Work Experience curriculum as our focus.

Photo Credit: One Way Stock Flickr via Compfight cc
On Tuesday our class will be exchanging our course prototypes to another (anonymous) group for feedback and critiquing.  It is a very exciting but equally nervous time!  Kelly and I are new to the blended learning module concept but after this experience are definitely thinking that it has so many benefits for the students.  For the fall I want to have all of my classes offered through Google Classroom as that is the LMS that Kelly and I used.  As Andres had also posted, Kelly and I chose Google Classroom without really testing out any other of the LMS platforms besides what Alec and Katia had shown us in class.  We both agreed that we felt most comfortable with trying out Google Classroom as there are already a number of teachers using it within our schools so in addition to this class’ online community support, there would be a number of colleagues just down the hall  that I could run to for additional support!  In our division, all teachers have Google accounts and within the school itself, most if not all documentation is done through Google (3 way conference sign up sheets, bookings for the laptop/Chromebook carts, the school van, etc).  Our students as well are hooked up with google accounts and are asked to save all of their work to their Google Drive so that they can access their work from anywhere that has an internet connection.

Once we had our LMS all figured out it came to the question of how are we going to take our CWEX curriculum and make it “blended?”  I decided I wanted to try out a video somehow but was unfamiliar with which program to use.  It came down to Windows Movie Maker and an Adobe program. I was able to download Movie Maker on my own without having to put in a request from tech services so that was appealing and again another colleague had used Movie Maker before so it was nice to know someone who I could again “run to” if the need arose!  It all turned out to be much less intimidating and frightening than i was preparing myself for!  My oldest son came along for the taping of my video and added in some cute commentary that made my day as I started the editing process!

Photo Credit: Dean Hochman Flickr via Compfight cc

Overall I am very happy with our modules and look forward to hearing some feedback from an outside group. I also am looking forward to making my own classes all blended, likely through Google Classroom, for the start of next school year although I am even thinking of posting any new assignments into Google Classrooms right away rather than printing so much off into the student’s duotangs.  This way students can catch up at their own pace after being away for whatever reason and it will make my principal happy that I am using less paper!  Its a win-win for everyone!

All or Nothing?

With less than 2 weeks left before our Course Prototypes are due (March 28th), it was so nice of Alec and Katia to allow us a bit of a break from blogging to focus more on our major projects – thank you!!  Here I am though, ready for WordPress and ready for discussion! This week we were given a number of topics or questions to choose from and I am going to concentrate on the degree of “openness” in forum or discussion spaces and the effect on authentic learning.

Photo Credit: tudedude Flickr via Compfight cc
I have had numerous conversations with family, friends, colleagues, and students about their use of online forums.  My husband, for example, follows many forums that focus on vehicles and in particular, any common problems that those vehicles may have had and uses that information when any of our vehicles are “having issues!”  Just last week, our garage door was randomly opening and is supposed to be on a frequency with a rolling code so that remotes can only open the garage doors they are programmed to open.  Again, my husband went on to the manufacturer’s website and found their forum where many other consumers have had similar experiences and shared how they fixed the issue.  Reading on here, we (he) read to use the “lock” button and now all is well except that we cannot use our vehicle remotes to open or close the door…I digress!  While this is not specifically related to what I am doing in the classroom, I am amazed at the information out there with just a quick search and that so many people are out there sharing what they have learnt to help complete strangers out!

Photo Credit: Lucas Marcomini Flickr via Compfight cc

While I certainly see the pros to using such a space and that the authenticity is certainly there, when thinking as a mother, teacher, or student, using closed forum spaces seem much more safe, comfortable, authentic, and meaningful in those roles.  To begin, lets look at the definition of authentic , which according to, equates to a focus on teaching concepts that connect from the classroom into the real world.  They argue, and I agree completely, that students are more likely to be engaged in what they are learning if what they are learning is relevant and applicable to outside of school.  Opening up the forums allowing them to be seen and added to by the public, as Ashley had also mentioned, would likely “raise the bar” and have the students feeling a little more accountable for what they are posting, knowing that it is on the web for the world to see and either agree with or challenge.  Again though, I revert back to my mom and teacher side and think about the dangers and long-term implications that just one bad post could have on these students.  Even as a high school teacher, I think about the students and their teenage brains!  Our brains are not fully developed until we are  around 25 years old which means that teenagers’ rational part of the brain (the prefrontal cortex) is also not fully developed and teenagers then have to rely on their amygdala for making judgments, problem solving, and decision making.  The problem here is that the amygdala is associated with impulsiveness, aggression, and emotion – which are not the best combination when posting and replying to comments to the web!  This brings up another important point with online forums and that is anonymity.   While anonymity might have some students braving to to post a lot and ask questions, especially in areas that could become controversial, it also increases the amount of inappropriate or of-topic conversations and becomes a logistical nightmare for teachers if wanting to include in their summative assessments.  Students will also want to know who is posting and will help others them all to  feel comfortable knowing that it is basically a continuation of the classroom discussions.


Photo Credit: KAZVorpal Flickr via Compfight cc 

I know there will be issues with whichever route a teacher chooses in regards to online forums, and as my husband is always proving, open/public forums are wonderful when used for the intended purpose.  If I were to introduce a forum into any of my classes at this point however, I would choose a closed one for my students.  What types of forums are in your classrooms and how did you make that decision?


Communicate and Collaborate!

Welcome Back!  I hope you all had a wonderful February break!  Last class I noticed there were a few people looking a little more tanned!!  I plan on being one of those lucky people next winter!

This will be me next year!

This will be me next year!

Photo Credit: Enokson Flickr via Compfight cc

So this week is all about thinking about our students!!  Alec mentioned in class to think about how we like to learn and if we aren’t teaching that way – how do we expect our students to be engaged!?  As I have mentioned many times, I am more of a traditional type teacher where my classroom involves lots of lecture-style lessons, class discussions, small group discussions and projects, and mainly using technology to offer different ways of completing projects and accessing information for these projects.  For my ELA class, I am using our school’s Fountas and Pinnel’s LLI resources to really focus in on reading comprehension and am able to break my class up into 4 small groups using our Educational Assistants so that our groupings have no more than 4 students.

Photo Credit: coreeducation Flickr via Compfight cc

Kelly and I have been working on our course prototype and, speaking for myself, hadn’t thought a lot about the interaction piece prior to our blog prompt for the week!  Hmmmmm….

Looking at our LMS choice of Google Classroom,  there are some great resources embedded within this platform that will allow some online interaction between the students as well as us as the teachers.  Google Classroom allows for creating questions or posting an announcement that will be seen by all that log into the classroom.

Our course itself will be a blended-learning course where our students will be physically within our classroom still and we as the teachers will be there to monitor and assist as needed but allows for some flexibility when students are away ill, on a holiday, or for any other reason to be able to stay caught up with the rest of their peers and not get behind.  Whether they choose to do so or not is another question, 🙂 although thinking again about how I like to learn, I know the anxiety I feel when being away for a class now, or even being away on a holiday back in high school would almost be enough to make me ill and miss more school!

My goal for this week is to create the video or screen cast of part of the module for our prototype and through that process my students will be working together to assist in the creation of this video.  When they are the students taking part in our module, they will also be blogging which again allows for some online interaction between everyone.  Kelly and I were discussing this though and agree that based on the students that we are developing this prototype for, we will likely have them start off with putting their blog prompt into a Google Doc just to ensure that we are able to look over their responses before the rest of the world can.  For this reason, I am also looking forward to seeing the other course prototypes as I remember there are groups doing digital citizenship which is so important to teach students today.  I really feel like that teenage brain just doesn’t see the impact their tweets, status updates, snapchats, ….can have on others AND themselves – SCARY!

Photo Credit: Marc Wathieu Flickr via Compfight cc
I look forward to seeing all the many tools everyone is incorporating into their prototypes as I am truly amazed by the options out there – and have obviously only seen a spec of what is out there!  How will your module protect the safety and privacy of your students if using something similar to a blog?

Howton How To

This week’s task given by Alec and Katia, was to explore more and blog about blended/online learning using an article or post, app, or mode/format for blended or online learning.  When I initially read this I thought well that will be quick and easy!  WRONG!  There is so much to see and read that I spent most of my afternoon yesterday just reading and going from article to post to app, over and over again.  While I learned lots and enjoyed just hanging out online all afternoon, I was still stuck on just what to blog about!  How does that make any sense!?

Photo Credit: theloushe Flickr via Compfight cc

After going back to some of the articles, I found “Turn Your Classroom into a Personalized Learning Environment” that relates well to my teaching pedagogy.  I appreciated how Howton spoke about  “personalized learning” as that is a phrase that fits well within my Vocational Alternative classroom.  All students have different needs and abilities and some have their own tech devices through the school board, lots have their own personal tech devices like a personal tablet or cell phone, and some have no access to technology other than what they can access at school.

Photo Credit: Sean MacEntee Flickr via Compfight cc

Personalized learning takes instruction, assessment, and modes of learning and tailors it to each students specific needs.  Personalized learning also accesses our students’  almost instinctual ability to use technology, however doing so in a purposeful manner rather than just playing around on their phones, laptops, or other personal electronic devices!   Howton then outlined 5 steps to get started in how to create this way of learning in any classroom.

Step 1 – Learn from others.  I like this step as I feel that this is exactly where I am and why I am enrolled in this class!  Howton discusses honestly about the “bumpy” ride at first trying out new blended learning ideas and how some went really well but others didn’t because of choosing the wrong delivery method or technology failures, but that instead of giving up, Howton continued to research blended and personalized learning.

Step 2 – Use your own technology.  This is often a complaint from us as teachers as we never have that perfect 1:1 technology to student ratio and Howton says that you need to take what you have and adapt to that.  Just as many of us have spoken to, allowing students to use their personal devices like cell phones, or ipads will help out here.  Also, choosing a Learning Management System such as Schoology as Howton uses, or Google Classroom which is what Kelly and are using for our project, is easy enough for students to access from any device at any time.  Period.

Photo Credit: oyajimbo Flickr via Compfight cc
Step 3 – Let students make choices.  Last night I read Jorie’s blog about how her amazing grade 2 students took charge of their You Matter Project for Staff/Teacher appreciation week.  Such a prime example of what students can and will do when given the opportunity – even at grade 2!  Howton also credits having the complete unit available right from day 1 so students are able to work a their own pace and ability and choose the pathway that works best for each student to complete the assignment.

Step 4 – Choose the best content delivery method.  This was where I had to re-read it a few times as I feel I would start right where Howton did and I would like to be able to skip past that frustration level, if possible, and feel that this step will allow me to do so!  Howton talks to how blended learning should be more than just adding technology.  Using videos or screen-casts allow students to hear your voice and rewind, replay, fast forward at their own pace to be able to better understand each lesson.

Step 5 – Assess as you go.  Howton suggests keeping assessment ongoing just as should be done in any classroom, instead of just having final assessments at the end of each unit.  Using tools like Kahoot make formative assessments quick and fun for the students and teachers get the necessary feedback to know if what and how they are instructing their students is being effective.

I found these steps to be very practical and valuable for both what I want my classroom to look like as well as my project.  What do you think?  Is there something you disagree with or think Howton has overlooked?

Meeting Everyone’s Needs

The assignment for this week is to reflect on  Bates’ chapter 7 which discusses pedagogical differences of media, as well as consider our own experiences and preferences with learning through digital sources.  After thinking about this for a while and taking another look at the article, I began to think back to my journey with technology…

This was cool back in 1985ish!

This was cool back in 1985ish!

Photo Credit: Pat Hawks Flickr via Compfight cc

My first computer, or I should say the first computer in our house was a Tandy 1000 I believe, complete with an actual floppy disk drive!  Us kids didn’t really use it all – I don’t remember there being any games or anything fun for us to do with it but whenever mom or dad went on it we would come watch to see just what this thing was!

In my elementary and high school days, I would definitely describe myself as a visual learner,

Photo Credit: London Permaculture Flickr via Compfight cc

Learning Styles

Learning Styles

similar to how Jayme described her school days as well.  I preferred videos and print over audio.  Whenever I have had to study for exams, it helps me immensely to write out study-notes.  Once they are written down I can often visualize the page in my head while writing the test.  Even now, when wanting to remember something, I will write it down using a pen and paper.  If I am putting things into my phone I will have to set up an alarm to remind myself what I have to remember otherwise it will be lost!

Continuing on through university, I continued to learn best through lecture style while taking notes and taking notes from text book readings.  In the only Bio class I had, I really enjoyed the lab component.  It was hands-on learning at its best, being able to see an manipulate what it was we were learning about.

Now in my own classroom, I have many students that require assistive technology to meet their learning needs.  This is a mixed blessing as these devices have not always been super “user friendly” but have definitely gotten better.  I still teach through a lot of lectures, PowerPoints, and videos.  I am trying to incorporate more exciting technology such as Plickers and Kahoot into my classes as the students are instantly engaged.

Playing games in class :)

Playing games in class 🙂

Photo Credit: Luigi Mengato Flickr via Compfight cc

I primarily enrolled in this class to expand my technology horizons to further my learning as well as ensure that my students are learning in the best way possible while also being engaged in the process!

When reading Bates’ Chapter 7, I found her 5 critical questions to ask yourself in order to select the best technology.  I had never considered before reading this, that the type of media chosen will portray the information differently from the other types.  Bates discusses how using different media sources will give different kinds of information.  I totally agree that using text, for example, is very beneficial for structuring linear sequencing where as audio would be better suited when focusing on the spoken language.  For example, I think back to learning the french language and how hearing different pronunciations of words would help more that just reading them as the letters would take on different sounds.

Have their been any tools you have used in your classroom that have been hugely beneficial to you and your students?  Do you find that students are needing more technology incorporated into their daily learning in order to remain engaged?

Graphics Galore!

Tuesday night’s class brought even more cool technology to incorporate into my teaching 🙂 Learning about and watching a few examples from Vlog brothers, Crash CourseSmarter Every Day, and maybe even a few others had me taking notes on where to check them out and in which classes I think they would best fit.

The assignment for this week is to check out and play around with an app or site that is listed on our schedule or another one that we find on our own.  The only one on the long list that I had ever experienced before was Animoto!  I love that app as it is so easy to use and free and I ended up with these beautiful little themed slide shows complete with music in a matter of a few minutes, all from my phone!  If you have never used it before, I would highly recommend it!

I was first interested in Smore, which is a flyer creator and as I got exploring around on there, I came across 

I was instantly interested as I am currently teaching Social Studies and we are looking at timelines. I saw this and thought the students would be likely more engaged to create their timelines on something like this rather than just using paper and markers!

The old way of doing timelines!

The old way of doing timelines!

Photo Credit: petmyrhino Flickr via Compfight cc has over 2 million templates to create or adapt to make your own customized graphic organizer of any kind.  You can take ones that are already created and customize font, colors, or move things around to make it your own, or, you can clear off all that is on the original graphic and completely create your own graphic.

Getting set up was fast, and free.  At first, I wasn’t sure on how to change the text in existing graphics but went over to YouTube and found many how-to videos like the one I’ve posted.  There is also a free E-book found off to the side of the main page, so I found the site to be quite user- friendly overall.  I made some changes to text and graphics of an existing timeline and was very happy with how it easy it was to be able to save and show the start to my own timeline here in my blog.

As a teacher, I plan on using this tool right away in my classroom as I think it will quickly engage my students as they get much more enjoyment playing around with new tools rather than doing the same old paper and pen activities.  How might others incorporate this into their classrooms?