Bloggin’, zoomin’, and googlin’

Photo Credit: SteveNakatani Flickr via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: SteveNakatani Flickr via Compfight cc

I think we all know that EC&I 834 (amongst other Couros-Hildebrandt classes), are special when it comes to post-secondary and graduate education. Although these courses are primarily done online, with the combination of Google Plus, the Zoom Room, and the Blog Hub, we really get a sense of community in the class. I really feel as though I get to know my colleagues’ virtual identities, and we grow together as a community in the crazy world of educational technology. 

These courses, perhaps, have given me a false sense of hope.

I was excited to create this blended learning environment with Katherine, and I really felt like we could achieve something great together, emulating the type of community that we have felt throughout our time in these online edtech classes. Although I still feel this is possible, I am perhaps a little more realistic after reading this week’s article by Richard A. Schwier.

We assume that learners will want to come together, that they will be mutually supportive, and they will be driven to learn. But it is important to realize that communities, and particularly virtual learning communities, are not inherently good, desirable or ideal. Sometimes learners aren’t motivated, they aren’t always mutually supportive and naturally collaborative, and they don’t always bring the highest standards of mature conduct into their virtual learning environments. – Richard A. Schwier

Photo Credit: torbakhopper Flickr via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: torbakhopper Flickr via Compfight cc

Oof. Harsh, but oh-so-true. We, as the educators, can’t necessarily create the online community that we have felt in our own courses. Our role, rather, is to set-up an environment in which this online community can transpire. We foster this community, we do not create it. At first I was a little disappointed after this harsh reality hit – but then I realized that, in fact, this is nothing new. It is the same in our actual classrooms – we can try to foster a welcoming, open environment in which students feel a sense of community, but we can’t ensure this in all of our classes. Everyone, and every class, is so entirely different that we will always need to take a step back at the start of the course and determine how we are going to go about creating a community, be it online or not.

So, that is what we are doing with the elaboration of this blended course. I have strongly reflected upon Bryce-Davis (2001) five critical features for building online communities (rules, roles, rounds, rituals, and ringers), and I have to reflect these in my choices for student/student-instructor interactions throughout this Social Studies blended course. Click here to access my ever-changing Google doc that describes the suggested guidelines for interaction within the following environments (inspired by the Couros-Hildebrandt exemplar!)

Photo Credit: wuestenigel Flickr via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: wuestenigel Flickr via Compfight cc

First of all, blogging will be a major part of this blended course, just like in Benita’s. We have seen the values of this first-hand with the Couros-Hildebrandt courses, and we have read about the benefits it can have for students. In regards to interactions, however, it sets the students up perfectly for different kinds of direct and indirect communication. Throughout the course, students will be assigned blog posts to read. They will be asked to comment on the blog posts they have read, and to keep these comments meaningful and respectful (i.e. proper Netiquette). Now, let’s think back to how we were in high school, and reflect upon all the possible comments – would they be entirely meaningful and respectful? If I am to be honest – no. However, when these interactions are marked, I think students would take them more seriously and would be more apt to leave constructive feedback for their peers. I understand that marking something forces students to participate in these environments and that the product, in the end, may not be “real”. That being said, I think we need to start somewhere, and once students get the hang of respectful and meaningful comments on blogs, a re-assessment can take place whether or not these comments need to be evaluated. So, at the start, they will be marked following a rubric which will focus on Netiquette and online digital identities. Furthermore, students will be taught, and subsequently asked, to use pingbacks in their own blogs, further encouraging them to read other peopler’s blogs at their leisure and quote them in their own. It is important for students to read other people’s work, and to know that their work will also be read. This will help them see the value and importance of blogging, and the importance of reading something over before submitting it. They will be working on their digital identities, something that needs to be addressed in high school.

Photo Credit: Pricenfees Flickr via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: Pricenfees Flickr via Compfight cc

The Zoom Web Conferencing tool will also be used throughout this course, and this will allow all students to interact with each other, virtually but similarly to “face to face” interactions. Students will have the choice to participate by speaking or by sharing their ideas in the chat room. Either way, this will give the students a more informal chance to connect and interact with one another. I think it is important to allow for informal as well as formal spaces for interaction in a course like this, and the Zoom Web Conferencing Tool gives the students opportunities to ask questions, alleviate concerns, or simply discuss things that they find most interesting. It also helps to feel less alone in the online world, and gives them faces to match the blogs they are reading. I know that it has personally helped me greatly throughout these EC&I courses, and something that I think all students would benefit from with this blended Social Studies 30 course. The breakout room function will be used throughout the course, giving students the opportunity to speak in smaller groups and share their understandings with their colleagues. At first, these Zoom breakout rooms will be very structured with specific questions to discuss, given out before the class starts. This will hopefully encourage a more comfortable learning and speaking environment. Assessment of participation in these mediums will be done informally throughout the course, as the teacher will be participating in every Zoom session and will pop-in on occasion into the breakout rooms as well.

Photo Credit: The Daring Librarian Flickr via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: The Daring Librarian Flickr via Compfight cc

Finally, just like Kelsie, we will also be using Google Docs for collaboration on different assignments. Google docs is great as many students can be working together on one document, and they can share ideas by communicating in the comment section on Google Docs with one another. It allows for group work, even though students may geographically be far apart. This will be a purely written collaboration space, and to ensure the interactions are meaningful, supportive, and relevant, I would ask that all documents be shared with me from the start with complete editing privileges – meaning I can go on there at any time and see who is contributing and what conversations are taking place. Knowing this, students will hopefully be supportive and stay on task in these work environments.

Students will have access to my e-mail throughout the course and will be able to interact with me at any point in time. I will also be available in all of these mediums, taking part in blog comments, leading the Zoom sessions, and checking up on the work in Google Docs and offering formative feedback for larger summative assignments.

What do you guys think? Have I missed anything? Please let me know in your comments below!

Posted in EC&I 834 | 11 Comments

Fluff your way to a revolution

Photo Credit: le Rat et l'Ours Flickr via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: le Rat et l’Ours Flickr via Compfight cc

There is truly an abundance of articles regarding online learning – from those explaining how it is making higher learning more accessible, to others explaining the virtues of a blended learning environments, to even more addressing the value of teaching digital safety in this new digital age. Since signing up for twitter and following several #edtech teachers and proponents, I have read a lot of interesting articles extolling the virtues of education technology, as well as ones that completely negate the apparent advantages of educational technology. So for this week’s post, I wanted to address one that speaks to both sides of this equation – one that attempts to “square a contradiction”.

Joshua Kim‘s article Why I Dislike Educational Technology, But Love Online Learning is an interesting read, as we often speak to educational technology and online learning together as a unit – to achieve successful online learning, you need to use educational technology. However, in reading the article, they do not always go hand-in-hand when it comes to what each other offer.

Our edtech tribe has consistently over-promised and under-delivered on the potential and benefits of technology – Joshua Kim

Photo Credit: Heavenbound Flickr via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: Heavenbound Flickr via Compfight cc

Wow. When I first read that statement, I began to get defensive of educational technology. Now, I know he is speaking primarily of #edtech in a higher education setting, but I still found myself immediately taken aback by his argument. Have you tried all these pieces of educational technology that seemingly have lower-than expected benefits? I wondered. Have you looked into the edtech options that help with differentiation? How can you say those are not beneficial, particularly for students who need these technological pieces to help them meet their own potential? Really, I could go on and on about the questions that came to my mind when I read the beginning of this article, and how blatantly judgmental I found the beginning statements to be.

Then I thought about it, and, perhaps – don’t hate me – he isn’t entirely wrong.

Educational technology can be great, and can be wonderfully beneficial in a lot of circumstances. However, it can also be used for “fluff” – used in circumstances where it doesn’t necessarily enhance learning, but rather just shifts it into a different space. I always think of Nicole with whom I had this conversation at the start of the semester, and she commented on the fact that we can’t just take what we have done, put it online, and say we are using educational technology and revolutionizing the educational world. Doing the same worksheets online as we did in person does not revolutionize our teaching or our learning – and this is perhaps where I can see the argument that some of the learnings from educational technology have been slight inflated. We speak o

Photo Credit: Flickr via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: Flickr via Compfight cc

f these tools, we learn new ones almost on a daily basis (Katherine shared Clarisketch just today through twitter – which I am very excited to try!), but rarely do we offer the training to follow-up with it. If we do offer the training, it is oftentimes on our own, through our own means, on our own weekends or weeknights. Although I would love to say I would participate in these trainings after hours, with two master’s classes and a new school this year, I am overwhelmed at the best of times. Unfortunately, I don’t always have the time to explore all of these things on my own. So, perhaps, to follow-through on the benefits and potential of educational technology, we need to back this up with accessible training, professional development, and workshops for teachers so they can learn to use it – properly – to really, truly, revolutionize their classrooms.

Can we move the discussion around educational technology to a place that is both more critical, and more educator (as well as learner) centric? – Joshua Kim

I do love educational technology, and I really do think that it is working well in our classrooms and can help us both differentiate and engage a brand new set of learners. However, nothing is without some fault, and if we don’t think critically about educational technology and how we use it, then we are doing a disservice to the benefits and potential it can bring about in our classrooms.

Now, I know I have gone off topic as this was to be an analysis of articles or resources for online learning, but I find educational technology to be a piece of the online learning puzzle. Or perhaps it is the other way around – online learning is a piece to the educational technology puzzle. Either way, as Kim says, “[t]he educators involved in online learning utilize the tools of educational technology”. Online learning, with all of its advantages and strengths (access, cost, flexibility) does not meet its potential either without the proper use of educational technology.

Photo Credit: professor.jruiz Flickr via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: professor.jruiz Flickr via Compfight cc

So where does that leave us? Currently, I am very much aware of the budgetary constraints  we are facing and, consequently, the fact that we perhaps can’t offer training for these educational technology tools that could potentially enhance our online teaching and learning opportunities. However, like we discussed in class yesterday, we can all learn one tool, one resource to help fully develop our online learning courses. Afterwards, we can share. Share share share. Share our knowledge, share our experiences, share our pros and our cons. My co-worker today remarked how teaching can be all about beg, borrow, and steal. Why not do so with educational technology knowledge? Then, perhaps, it can meet the potential and benefits that were extolled by edtech enthusiasts. And then, maybe, so can online learning. Without tools and knowledge, online learning or blended learning cannot succeed.

So, what are your thoughts on educational technology and online learning? How do the puzzle pieces fit together? Are we analyzing these elements critically enough, or do we incorporate them into our classrooms without fully understanding how to do so properly? What does this mean for our online learning? How can well-used educational technology help us move into blended learning environments, responding consequently to problems of access, cost, and flexibility in our classrooms? Let me know your thoughts below!


Posted in EC&I 834 | 8 Comments

You Mean You Like To Read?

Olson and Bruner (1974) claim that learning involves two distinct aspects: acquiring knowledge of facts, principles, ideas, concepts, events, relationships, rules and laws; and using or working on that knowledge to develop skills. – Tony Bates

When I think of anything related to learning, this quote encompasses a large portion of it. Learning definitely involves acquiring knowledge and then applying said knowledge to different situations. Of course there are elements of critical thinking and analysis, but this could also be considered the development of skills with the use of the acquired knowledge, which is represented in part in this quote. But how does one acquire this knowledge?


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All teachers during their training learn about the multiple intelligences of learning, and most have completed quizzes themselves to determine their learning strengths and weaknesses. Although these have been debated recently about their validity in teaching, as we see in Tony Bates’ book chapter, there are different types of digital resources (including print, audio, and video), and we all have our own learning preferences when it comes to these resources.

Out of the digital resources Bates’ suggests, and reflecting on my own learning experiences, I would personally place audio as my least favourite, similar to Logan. I agree with Bates when he says that “audio is often best used in conjunction with other media such as text or graphics thus adding complexity to the design of teaching“. Alone, I find it difficult to remain focused when I simply hear audio – for my personal learning preferences, I have always preferred when sound has been an enhancement to videos or text. This is why radio shows, podcasts, and even music have all been difficult for me to delve into because of my learning preferences. I understand Bates’ advantages, in that audio clips are easier to make than video ones and that they require less bandwidth, but in the end, if I don’t learn with them, these advantages can’t win me over to the audio side.

Just like Chalyn, I enjoy videos and I use them often in my teaching. Videos such as Crash Course History, This Day in History, or BBC documentaries find themselves in my history classes often as I find they engage students in learning with the combination of comedy (when it comes to Crash Course), picture, audio, and, oftentimes, as Bates says, real world issues. I also agree with Bates in that videos are helpful that they can be repeated over and over again. I attach all videos I use in my classroom to my Google classroom so students can re-watch them however many times they need to, or simply replay certain areas or stop at a specific time in the video to gather more information. For my personal learning needs, it is often the video accompanied by the sound that help me understand all the concepts on a deeper level. Of course, there are disadvantages, as Bates notes. The fact that there aren’t many “high quality educational video[s] free for downloading” and that it is difficult to create original videos makes this digital resource not always practical for the classroom.

Photo Credit: Gerard Van der Leun Flickr via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: Gerard Van der Leun Flickr via Compfight cc

So this leaves me with good old fashioned text. This is actually my preferred method for learning (personally) as I particularly appreciate “manipulating” the information I am acquiring. I tend to write all over my texts, highlight key words, and write links between paragraphs, and ideas. It has always helped me to learn something when I write it over and over again myself – the repeated behaviour helps me to understand things that I did not know before. This could perhaps be traced back to my schooling, which was mostly done with textbooks, note taking, and other forms of “text” learning, just like Jessica. It is what I am used to, what I have gotten used to, and what I have most practice doing. My mind works well with the “linear sequencing of information in a structured format”, and I believe the function of text presentation “abstraction and generalization” does also help students acquire information. I do understand that text can be outdated – even as early as it is printed – and therefore does not always present the more recent information. As well, it does require high literacy skills, as Bates’ has noted, which is not always the case with all of our students. Therefore, although it may have been the “go-to” when I was learning, times are changing, and so I should perhaps as well.

So, in the end, I think a mixture of all these digital resources is best for our classes, seeing as everyone learns differently and has different preferences. In my own experience, I prefer text and video compared to audio, and most of my students seem to be particularly engaged with short videos. That being said, all of these resources have a place in educational settings, and should be used to target different skill development and strengths amongst our students.

What are your thoughts on the digital resources described by Bates? Are you an auditory learner, or more interested in video and text resources like I am? Please let me know in the comments below!

Posted in EC&I 834 | 18 Comments



Screenshot while I was editing my first iMovie

As I mentioned in my last blog post, I got my first MacBook last week and I have been playing around with it ever since trying to figure out how to use it to its fullest. After our class this week, in which we were presented with a wide variety of different creation tools, including wonderful ones I have used in the past such as Powtoon, Videoscribe, and Prezi. One that I have always seen used by colleagues and peers alike, and one that I have always wanted to try but never had the hardware that could run the program, is iMovie.

As I also mentioned last week, my previous Learning Summary for #eci833 was edited with iMovie. However, Luke Braun edited it entirely on his own, so I never actually had the chance to try out this editing software. I have only heard great things, and after reading some suggestions for use and positive reviews, I decided I wanted to attempt using this program this week as part of our blog post for #eci834. Since getting this MacBook, I had planned on attempting to use it for for Final Learning Summary for this class, and I figured trying it out this week would help me figure out any kinks and problems I could run into before creating a full seven minute video come April.

Boy, am I happy I did! After quite a bit of time, energy, and occasional bits of frustration, I was able to make the following video. I am a little embarrassed to admit it took me three and half – four hours to make a short 2 and a half minute video of my two puppies. Now, it is nowhere near perfect (I am still unhappy with some of the transitions, with the ending, and with some of the text choices), but it did allow me the opportunity to play around within the application and determine some of the strengths and weaknesses from the point of view of a new-to-Apple “client”. I have not yet tried to add music from iTunes or GarageBand (which will be something new for me to experience with my Final Learning Summary), but I did play around with the sound effects and I was able to add a few jingles as background noise. Next time, I would also like to play around with background music as well as using my own narration as a voice-over, perhaps using an app like Audacity as tried out by Amy earlier this week.

Now iMovie is a well-known movie and video creation and editing application that is available on and through Apple products. It has a variety of options for creators to use: from themes, to fonts, to built-in sound effects, to easy connections with GarageBand (another Apple application for creating music) and iTunes, iMovie is a one-stop-shop for homemade videos.

That being said, it still has its strengths and weaknesses. Now, what follows is of course my very first time working with iMovie. I am sure my impressions will improve, as will my results, and my experience grows with such an application. So look forward to April when (hopefully!) my continued experience using iMovie will yield better results!


Photo Credit: get directly down Flickr via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: get directly down Flickr via Compfight cc

  • It has everything you need to make a homemade movie built-in to its software, with the exception of the videos and the pictures that will make up the bulk of your video. This you need to import just as you would with any other movie-editing software.
  • It is very responsive.
  • It is easy to use – you just drag and drop the pictures, the music, and the text you want into the slots you want!
  • The built-in themes are nice and help give the videos a “professional” feel.
  • Once you have used a picture or a video in your movie, it indicates this with an orange bar through the image in your media gallery.
  • You can crop your pictures directly in the program.
  • It has a function which helps to edit the video for first-time users (i.e. automatically adding in transitions, adding picture animations, etc.)
  • It is extremely easy to upload to YouTube and share (which I found to be the biggest criticism and frustration whenever I worked with Movie Maker in the past).
  • You can make a video in little time with the proper experience (although it took me a few more than that… Next time will go much quicker, hopefully). It still takes me quite a bit of time, like Tony Bates mentions when speaking to the weaknesses of video.
  • You have a lot of options for your video, but I did not feel overwhelmed by too many options. It was the right balance.


  • You need a Mac, iPad, or Apple product to use

    Photo Credit: Joe The Goat Farmer Flickr via Compfight cc

    Photo Credit: Joe The Goat Farmer Flickr via Compfight cc

  • I personally became frustrated when I tried to upload the pictures from my android – now, this can be blamed on my lack of “Apple” experience, but coming from PCs and Androids, I found it difficult to upload the pictures I wanted. It took a lot of time and effort to get the few pictures I required for my video (a lot of time – a little over 2 hours 15 minutes).  It is only after that we maybe found a solution for next time, which would be to use Apple’s Photo App to transfer from the phone, and then uploading through iMovie.
  • Some things are difficult to find within the application, like reducing the time that each picture will play in the video.
  • When adding the music, I could not figure out how to lock something in place, and so every time I wanted to insert something in between two songs already, and it was not the perfect length to fit into that space, it would bump one of the other two songs out of the way.
  • When adding text, I did not find it entirely intuitive. I had difficulty moving the text around exactly where I wanted to put it on the video frame.

What are your thoughts and experience with iMovie? Any strengths or weaknesses I missed? Or do you disagree with some of my experiences? Please fill out the poll below and add a comment in the section further down!

Until next time!



Posted in EC&I 834 | 14 Comments

To canvas or not to canvas

I have some big news fellow #eci834-ers – I bought my first MacBook and, in fact, my very first apple product this week.


Why yes, I do have a second tab open demonstrating how to take a screenshot on a Mac…

Although I’m still reeling from the bill, I’m also getting used to the operating system. I have been a PC-er my entire life – from Dell to HP to Sony Vaio, I have always used a PC for my personal, academic, and professional pursuits. I do have an Ipod Shuffle that my husband bought for me years ago, but otherwise, all my electronics and phones have been android (I have owned almost everything BUT an Apple… or a Blackberry). For my final learning summary last semester in EC&I 833, I was in a group with Krista Gates and Luke Braun and we did use iMovie to edit our final product. It seemed so easy to use and efficient, and ever since, I have been wanting to buy an Apple product to explore it further. In comes my brother – who just bought a MacBook Pro – and my husband – who was unbelievably excited when I said I would consider buying a MacBook – and, a month later, here I am with this new machine. It is lovely, sleek, and oh-so-light, but different than what I have used in the past. So, it has been somewhat of a learning curve. I still don’t know where to find the forward-slash or backslash on the French keyboard – even google couldn’t even help me find them – but I am slowly getting used to this new operating system, to this new keyboard, and to this new mouse 🐭 (I just had to add this after it became a suggestion from the touch bar above the keyboard).

I feel the same when it comes to Canvas. We were challenged this week to look at a new LMS that we could perhaps use for our project in this class. I know that I repeat this every week, but I am a Google Classroom fanatic. I just love it. So it is hard for me to look at another LMS and consider using it for my project. I just know Google Classroom so well – just like my previous PCs – and I can troubleshoot and answer questions about it without hesitation. It is easy and efficient, and most of my students have now used it in some form or another in the classroom, making it easy to incorporate in my daily tasks. However, that is not to say that there isn’t more out there – in comes the MacBook – that can offer just as much, or, dare I say, even more (gasp!).

Canvas is an LMS system that seems actually quite similar to Google classroom in some regards. Many of my peers, like Logan, Kelsie, Andy and Kyle, to name a few, looked at Canvas this week as well and summarized a lot of the key elements of this learning management system – including the discussion threads, the quiz options, the different tools you can import and export from the site, as well as many other aspects. I would strongly encourage anyone that is contemplating using Canvas to check out these blogs.

I feel as though I need more time to explore Canvas fully. I wish I had a summer where I could attempt to set-up an entire course on this LMS, and then I could give a full critique of the pros and cons. Perhaps this is because of my very slow learning-curve when it comes to learning management systems, or technology as a whole, but I just couldn’t seem to get everything that Canvas offers. I watched some of the videos above to help me understand how I could set up my course, and I was able to achieve a few things, but there is still much more to be explored before I could definitely say that this system is for me and my courses.


  • The dashboard is nice in that it can be displayed in two different ways and it is easy to read. This is similar to Google classroom, which is perhaps why I like it.
  • I also enjoy the Coming up display on the dashboard, showing students and teachers upcoming due dates. There is also a calendar you can access directly from the dashboard that will indicate upcoming due dates in a visual format. This is a wonderful organizational tool that I think would greatly help a variety of learners.
  • When setting up your course, Canvas has a Next Steps icon on which you can click and see a checklist of the things that you should be doing to complete your course. I used this a lot when looking to see what I should be exploring when trying to set up
    my new course.
  • I like the look of the website. Now, I know this is superficial, but I do believe if something looks nice, it becomes less difficult to start using it. You need a simple yet efficient look – when there is too much information on a singular page, it becomes daunting. This is, in fact, a critique of Google Classroom and of Moodle – there is long scroll of death as was described in class this past week.

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  • Once I created my course, uploaded my syllabus, started a discussion, and prepped a diagnostic assessment, I didn’t know where to continue on in the development of my course. Even with the Next Steps checklist, I was at a loss for how to organize the rest of the class. This is perhaps because I didn’t know where I was going with my course development – which is a critique on my planning skills, and not that of Canvas – but I was at a loss for what to do next.
  • I think more time is necessary to truly organize this well. It is easy to start-up, like I mentioned in the pros, but to do it well, I think it would take time and practice.
  • There are a lot of options in the development of a course. This can be overwhelming – I know at times I was just clicking from one selection to the next, not knowing what I should do or how I should organize the course. Options are of course good in the creation of a course, but again, require time to sift through to determine what would work best in our context.
  • When I went to import content, I tried to select things to import, but I had no idea what most of the selections were. This, again, is more of a critique on my personal knowledge of technology, but also a critique in that it is not the friendliest of formats for all teachers to use


There were also comments made within our Google+ community this week and on Twitter about Canvas’ customer service. I have not yet been contacted, but their immediate response to someone registering with their website can be seen as a pro or a con – depending on your personality and your level of interest. I personally would not have minded it as I clearly struggled with certain aspects of the website, but I understand how this is not preferable for everyone.

So really, my conclusion of Canvas is that it can be a great LMS if used properly. If used poorly, it can become clunky, difficult to follow, and overwhelming. But really, isn’t this the case with most LMS? Just like Audrey Watters says in her blog, just because an LMS exists does not mean that it will entirely change our education. Sometimes, it is simply a case of transferring what we are doing online – and not changing it to fit the 21st century. Amy has a great blog post this week that addresses these concerns very well.

We often find ourselves adopting new tools that simply perform old tasks a wee bit better, a wee bit faster – Audrey Watters

What does this mean for me and my course? Well, Canvas may be something to explore – when I am not in a time-crunch. I think I may still be looking into a combination between Google Classroom/Zoom/WordPress blogging (where students can maintain their work even after the course is completed – an important thought after reading Watters’ blog) when I do my project with Katherine, but it is nice to know that Canvas is out there to try.

What are your thoughts on these LMS? Which are you going to try? Let me know in your comments below!

Posted in EC&I 834 | 6 Comments

Being Social… Online

Okay, let me precede this entire blog posting by saying that I am still at the very beginning stages of my planning for this project. It has always taken me a long time to plan something, as I tend to search for a variety of different ideas, get overwhelmed with all the ideas I have found, take a break because I am so overwhelmed, and then I start over. Pinterest has always been my planning-best-friend, yet also my time-consuming-enemy. Forty pins later, I may have new ideas for my next Social Studies or Math units, or my supper tonight, but I am still no closer to my current unit of study. So, essentially, it takes me time. That being said, I do have a few ideas and I am really looking forward to all of your feedback before I really dive in – so please don’t be shy!


Photo Credit: Sesc em São Paulo Flickr via Compfight cc

Firstly, after both our first choices didn’t have any takers, Katherine and I have talked about working together to plan a Social Studies 30 online course. I hope I am not speaking
out of turn, but we both wanted to collaborate on a course, and this collaboration was more important to us than our first choice in curriculum. So here we are!

We both teach Social Studies 30, so that is where we are headed for this course. I do not have a lot of experience teaching Social Studies 30. I have just finished my first time teaching the course, and I will start a second round in a week when our second semester starts. Although I don’t have a lot of experience, I have always enjoyed Social Studies courses, and Canadian history has always been a passion of mine. As I reflect on my first semester teaching Social 30, I would say my biggest weakness was the interactivity of the course. I was overwhelmed – again – with all the ideas I could find, and I couldn’t grasp where I wanted to go with the course. Not only that, but I struggle finding valid and engaging resources in French. So, a goal I have with creating this course with Katherine would be to create an easily accessible, ready-made program that can be offered in English or French (which may be an eventual goal, and not one for this course… we will see what we can come up with together!), and making it easier for new teachers to deliver a course interactively, all the while meeting the objectives in this (I have to say) outdated curriculum.


Photo Credit: The Daring Librarian Flickr via Compfight cc

The interactivity and simulations aspect of social studies classes is something I find can be truly engaging and helps students really understand the challenges of the past that can often be related into a current context. Although I have never done or seen an online course for Social Studies 30, I do have to wonder if the interactivity and simulations aspect is lacking because of the online nature of the course. I feel this would be a disservice to those learning the material and the outcomes, and therefore has become my goal for this online module. I hope to modify a Confederation simulation I did with my grade 12 students last semester into an online context, so no matter the course delivery, students can still be engaged in the critical analysis of historical events. This simulation would of course require pre-teaching and a post-assessment, but it would make up the majority of the activity of the course. I think it would be possible by using the Zoom Web Conferencing Tool. In EC&I 830, we did debates online using Zoom and they actually worked out quite well – proving that interactive discussions and course activities can still happen online. In addition to using Zoom, I would like to incorporate Google classroom and Google docs for the pre-teaching and post-assessment components. If you have never read my blog before, then you wouldn’t now how entirely obsessed I am with GAFE. It, essentially, has made my courses accessible at home for students who a) have lost their papers or activities or b) who were absent the day of class. Now, my courses have not entirely gone online because the pre-teaching and discussions still occur in class, so that will be something new for me to try with the creation of my online module.


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In the future, I think it would be great to have my current students help teach the course by doing the simulations themselves and posting them online. Alec suggested this idea at the end of class last week, and I just thought it was fantastic (and a huge awesome shout-out to Katia for speaking French, which I didn’t know until now – our 3rd course together!). At first, I thought the timing would work out well, but looking at my calendar, we will be doing the Confederation unit in my class around the same time this assignment is due, so unfortunately this will not be able to be incorporated for this current module. However, it is a future consideration that I think would help the learning of all students, both online and offline.

So that is essentially all I have thus far! A Social Studies 30 unit – Confederation – with a focus on actual participation during a Confederation conference that would eventually lead to the development of the 72 resolutions, making up the Canadian Constitution, forging the official Canadian nation in 1867. This unit is not only an important part of the Social Studies curriculum, but it becomes the culmination of years of Canadian history, which students really need to comprehend to truly


Photo Credit: Barrett.Discovery Flickr via Compfight cc

understand how Confederation came to be. Not only that, but it is a starting point which brings us into the 20th century as a nation. The value of Confederation cannot be undersold – nor can a true comprehension of it. Both online and offline courses should offer ways for this unit to be engaging and interactive. By modifying simulations to be offered for online courses through the use of Zoom, Google Classroom, and Google Docs (perhaps even blogging!), I think it can be a success.

What are your suggestions? I am always stuck in that I absolutely love history and I could listen to somebody talk about history for hours on end – something I know is not common for our students. Do you have any feedback so far? Anything that should be taken out? Please let me know your thoughts!

Posted in EC&I 834 | 22 Comments

Lost track after three…

My name is Elizabeth Therrien, and I am a French Immersion teacher at Campbell Collegiate. Currently, I am teaching Math 9, Social Studies 10, and Social Studies 30. This is my first year teaching at Campbell Collegiate – I taught middle years at Wilfrid Walker Elementary School for the past four years, teaching French, Math, Social Studies, and Science. As can be seen in previous posts, technology is not my strength, but I am feeling more comfortable and at ease with it thanks to these classes. So, for those who are feeling overwhelmed right now – fear not! It does get easier, I promise. Also, as an ex-twitter-skeptic, I can say without hesitation that Twitter can be wonderful for developing a professional learning network. It is definitely worth the learning curve!

Personally, my hobbies and interests include playing volleyball, reading, and most importantly, travelling. I absolutely love to travel the world, and coming up in February, my husband and I will be travelling to England and Scotland for the first time – so if you have any suggestions of things to see or visit, please let me know! I am also one of those crazy dog-moms. I have two dogs: Atticus (a labrador-rottweiler cross that we got from the Regina Humane Society) and Tifa (a labrador-husky cross that we got from Ccrezqs). They are both still quite young – Atticus will be two in March, and Tifa will be one – so we are still in the ‘eating-your-house-and-anything-within-it’ phase. That, just like #edtech, is a continual learning process.


Just like Ashley, in my introductory post on our Google+ community for EC&I 834, I too lost track and said that this would be my third class when, in fact, this will be my fourth #edtech class with Alec (and my third with Katia). I have subsequently corrected it, but, really, I blame it on the fact that it becomes easy to lose track of these different courses because they go by so quickly. I do occasionally still feel like a newbie when it comes to educational technology. Yes, I am starting to feel more comfortable with educational technology in the classroom, and yes, I have started to incorporate more technology on a daily basis through the use of Google classroom, Mentimeter, and PollEverywhere. However, there is still a lot of learning that needs to take place. So, my goals for this class will be to still learn and grow within the context of educational technology. More specifically, they are:

  1. To try (at least!) one new educational technology app or website in my class during the duration of the course. I always fear trying new things in my classroom without fully understanding how to use them, which consequently limits what I do use because of a time constraint. So for this course, I hope to use some of the new things I will learn and apply them in my classroom – and learn all the ins and outs of this tool with my students, instead of always before them.
  2. To continue to develop my professional learning network on Twitter. You can never get enough Twitter – or at least, I haven’t yet. I continually learn new things simply by reading through my feed on a daily basis. I look forward to connecting with all of you through these blogs and through Twitter this term – feel free to follow me @liztherrien22 to start connecting!
  3. To include more interactivity in my blogs. I have become more comfortable writing my blog posts and adding hyperlinks and pictures, but I would like to include more pingbacks and, in particular, more videos to enhance the interactivity for my readers. This will also – hopefully – help me develop my professional learning network with the pingbacks towards my colleagues.

I am sure these goals will change and develop over the term, but I hope that the main idea remains the same throughout. In any case, I am looking forward to learning with all of you over this semester!

Posted in EC&I 834 | 9 Comments

We’re already done?

After yet another whirlwind of a class, we have reached the end of EC&I 833 and that means it is time for a video representation of our final summary of learning. Below is the summary of learning I completed for this course with two of my colleagues, Krista and Luke. We had a lot of fun filming this, so we hope you enjoy it just as much as we did!

I have to say, although this final summary of learning addresses the main ideas we have learned so far this term (those ideas that we found to be most important), the impact they have had on my teaching have been immense. Before this class I used Kahoot quite often, but now I am using a wider range of different media and software to enhance engagement in my classroom, such as PollEverywhere, Mentimeter, Aurasma, Google Cardboard, and Recap – and those are just the ones that I have had the time to make an account and try out. I intend to use so many more that have been suggested in the class thus far, which is one of the main things I appreciated about this course – the practicality. Yes, we went through the theory and the historical backgrounds, which helped us to understand where we are today, but we also delved into different apps and technologies that are progressing Educational Technology and making history as we speak. For once I feel as though I can actually be ahead of the curve in Educational Technology, and I can help other teachers in my school learn more about these apps and websites and why we need to use them in conjunction with our curricular outcomes. I can be a leader in this field because of the knowledge I have garnered throughout this course.

This, of course, took one ‘ah-ha’ moment for me to realize that I needed to completely dive into the use of educational technology in my classroom, and this happened early on in the course with Katia‘s presentation on the history of audio-visual technologies in the classroom. There was a time when people thought that they were being spied on through their television sets, and that radio, the walkman, and the telegraph were all dangerous tools that kids shouldn’t be using. Ridiculous, right? Well, we know that now, but we didn’t back then. Just like in the present – we aren’t sure that all these new technologies are safe for our students to use. However, I don’t want to look back at my own history and say to myself – well that was silly, why did I think that? Why didn’t I take advantage of the technologies that came about to help my students learn and grow in our 21st century? Anything can be scary, and truthfully, dangerous, if it is misused. That’s why we, as teachers, need to learn how to use them and how to apply them in the classroom meaningfully. That is one of the biggest takeaways I have had from this course : that it is essential for us to face our own fears, to move out of our comfort zones, and to try new things for the sake of both our students’ education, and our own. It may be difficult as I have never been knowledgeable in the area of educational technology – or comfortable with using it – but it is important and therefore needs to happen.

There is also, of course, the learning theories that I just simply can’t forget. I went to Campbell’s musical on Friday night – The School of Rock – and all I could think of when the one student was so driven by receiving a gold star for doing good work was Foucault’s behaviorism, behaviorism, behaviorism. That’s not all! Every time I am planning a lesson, a unit, or even just an activity as part of a lesson, I think to myself what kind of theory am I promoting? I aim for constructivism, social constructivism, and connectivism through my lessons, but that is not to say that I don’t have elements of cognitivism and even behaviorism permeating through my work. This is perhaps because of habit or because of ease and comfort which, again, leads back to my initial takeaway from the course – that I need to push myself to try new and exciting things that promote different ways of learning.

In the end, it was also all the questions that my peers posed that kept me thinking every week – how can we use assistive technology with everyone in the classroom, and not just those with a specific diagnosis?; what kind of assessment practices are best to use with the different technologies and apps that we have seen throughout this course?; what applications do we have for virtual and augmented reality in the classroom and how can we access these applications affordably?; how much of our educational system is controlled by technology corporations like Google or Sony and what can we do about this?; when and how can we incorporate social interactions within online and distance learning?; and how can we meaningfully use educational technology in the classroom without just using it for the sake of using it? I think back to that first class and Neil Postman’s idea of technology being a trade-off – we need to consistently be aware of this. I still don’t have the answer to all of these questions, but they keep me reflecting upon my own theories of and beliefs about education and what more I should be doing in my classroom, while still working towards the goal of students building upon their knowledge to grow and develop into the social and digital citizens they need to be in the 21st century.

So thank you to all my peers, to Alec, to our guest speakers Katia and Jade Ballek, and to my two teammates for the final summary of learning for everything that you have taught me throughout the course. I have thought a lot about my own teaching practice, and I have come out with different ideas and notions that I need to incorporate into my own teaching. The theory and the practical have been woven together so well in this course that I know it has, and will continue to have, a great impact on my learning and growth.

Until next time, EC&I 833-ers.

Posted in EC&I 833, Summary of Learning | 15 Comments

In the Virtual World of Education

Just like my peers – Erin, Jayme, Heidi, just to name a few – I had no idea what augmented reality and virtual reality were, nor what their applications in the classroom could be. When I first saw the topic during our first class this term, I too quickly glanced at it and then didn’t give it a second thought – it wasn’t something I was interested in pursuing. Just like Benita, I though these realities were for gamers, which immediately sent me in the other direction.

Boy, was I wrong.

Bill and Logan presented both virtual reality (VR) – a digitally projected world and reality – and augmented reality (AR) – putting something on top of the world we live in already – this week in class. The applications and integration possibilities are endless for the classroom – hands-on training for trades, simulated training, guided tour of the human body, field trips that wouldn’t be possible otherwise, interactive language-learning, and driver training practice, just to name a few. Just as Todd Nesloney and Drew Minock wrote in their blog post Augmented Reality Brings New Dimensions to Learning

(P)rofound learning occurs when students create, share, interact and explain

AR and VR create the environment in which this can happen fruitfully and seamlessly – it all comes down to how creative you can be in your planning and lesson development. These realities present opportunities for authentic inquiry and active participation in the classroom, and align well with both situated and constructivist learning theories.


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This does require us to wrap our head around what possibilities can be presented with these realities, and forces us to push open the box in which we normally find ourselves in the classroom. After having experienced both SkyView and Aurasma in class, and been presented with other VR and AR apps like Blippar and Anatomy 4D, it is easier to grasp different ways we can use this in the classroom.

Being a Social Studies teacher, my first thought was to travel the world to help students understand more clearly our past to truly comprehend the present. Wouldn’t it be great to see the Colosseum, the Acropolis, or Pompeii when you learn about them in Social 9? How about Florence, Versailles, or Paris when you speak of the Renaissance and the French Revolution in Social 10? How about visiting somber places of remembrance like Auschwitz or Juno Beach, or other historic monuments like the Berlin Wall when studying World War I, World War II, and the Cold War in Social 20? Let’s not forget how much impact it could have to see monuments like those at Vimy, Ypres, or Passchendaele when studying Canadian history in Social 30? It is not in the realm of possibility for most students to visit these places in their lives – and yet it would be much more powerful if they could, to truly understand our place in history. AR and VR bring this realm of impossibility to the forefront and change the way we view teaching in our schools. Just like Ashley shared in her blog this week, incorporating programs like Google Expeditions into the classroom could make these things happen – as well as interdisciplinary opportunities. While she could incorporate it in her technology classes, I could in my social studies lessons. The possibilities are endless.

Or so it seems.


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What really gets me down is the cost. Although Google cardboard runs for about 20$, it still requires a device for it to function. Other companies selling AR or VR experiences, like Sony, HTC, and Oculus Rift run anywhere from 550-1150$. This really widens the digital divide we are already seeing in our classrooms – and makes it more difficult to develop AR/VR experiences in the classroom. In the post When Virtual Reality Meets EducationElizabeth Reede and Larissa Bailiff speak to Pioneer Expeditions, an educational initiative from Google. In this program, schools will receive a kit for a virtual excursion for one day. These kids include smartphones, a tablet, a router, Google cardboard viewers or Mattel ViewMasters, and over 100 virtual trips for the taking. It is a fantastic opportunity for schools to experience an AR/VR tour, but as Adam remarked in his blog, it is expensive. It is not practical for a classroom to use consistently throughout the year. Wouldn’t it be great if this kit were something that could be repeated whenever the opportunity fit well within the curriculum and not simply for one day? I understand that one day is better than nothing, but it is disappointing that such a great educational endeavour becomes limited because of the cost and the requirement of resources. It is yet another demonstration of how education – a right in Canada – has a cost.

That being said, after experiencing Aurasma in class this week, I have been inspired to use it in my classroom in the coming weeks. At Campbell, every teacher has a CAP class – the Campbell Advisory Program. It is essentially homeroom – teachers have a group of students for fifteen minutes a day, every day, for four years. These students come from different elementary schools and are following completely different programs in high school. They do not know each other very well, and sometimes don’t even have another class with one another. So how can they get to know each other? Well I have taken pictures of every one of my CAP students and put it up in my class. I would love for them to record a short video describing themselves and their hobbies – similar to what we did at the start of this class with FlipGrid. These mini-biographies could be attached to their photo through the Aurasma app, and then other students could use this app to learn about their peers in the class. They could change their videos occasionally throughout the next four years, continually adapting their biographies to share with their peers. Additional information could be added throughout the year depending on our upcoming events – for example, we will be having a non-denominational gift exchange prior to Winter break. Students could share a list of things they would like to receive in the gift exchange in a short video that can be seen via Aurasma. A great way to limit paper usage but to share information consistently and continually throughout the years. I would love to try this in coming weeks – here’s to hoping it works!


Photo Credit: Barrett.Discovery Flickr via Compfight cc

What are your thoughts on AV/VR in the classroom? Have you used either? Do you think it widens or diminishes the digital divide in our society? Please let me know your thoughts below!

Posted in EC&I 833 | 3 Comments

Empowering the world – one inspiration at a time

This week’s presentation by Heidi, Holly, Allison, Launel, and Benita focused on assistive technologies and their use and purpose in the classroom. After their wonderful presentation (bravo team!), they challenged us to think about our own experience with assistive technology and what we find could be potential strengths and limitations within these experiences.

Just like Tyson and Benita, looking back at my own education, I too do not remember using assistive technologies in the classroom. Now that I am ‘on the other side’ – the teacher – I look back and think that maybe I didn’t realize the existence of the assistive technology because I never personally had to use it, or maybe I didn’t realize the tool I was using at the time was considered an part of assistive technology. Even now, just like Nicole and Amy, I think I use more assistive technology in the classroom than I am aware of using on a daily basis.


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The first one that comes to mind – one that was addressed by Rochelle during our class and by Roxanne in her blog – is Google Read and Write. This is a great tool that can be added to Google chrome which allows for Google to read documents for the students in a variety of languages and accents, as well as write what students are saying. It can also be used to help students correct their own work; it can correct the spelling of certain words and help with grammar during the writing process. I used this tool last year in conjunction with Google Classroom for a variety of assignments and projects, and saw some success with those students who struggled with French reading and writing. It particularly benefited those students who struggle mainly with French spelling, because it would help correct their work as they were writing their rough drafts. Combined with BonPatron (a website that corrects French work for students by explaining what the mistakes are in the text and what needs to be changed for it to be correct), these two tools improved writing significantly in my classroom. I found, however, that the speech-to-text recognition of Google Read and Write in a French as a Second Language classroom was not easy to use. It would often not recognize the words that the students were saying – perhaps because it was their second language and every learner has a different accent, or perhaps because Googld Read and Write has limitations with this aspect of the program. Furthermore, I didn’t know how to fix the problems my students were facing because I had never taken any training for Google Read and Write. Just like Dave L. Edyburn suggests in his article Rethinking Assistive Technology, it is incredibly important for teachers and other educational personnel to receive training on the resources available to truly understand the assistive technology they can use in their classrooms to help their students succeed. Perhaps with this training, I could have better helped my students when they faced difficulties within the Google Read and Write program, and consequently, I would have been more confident to use it more often with these students. Without this training, I feel as though the assistive technology we have in the classroom cannot help the students as much as it potentially can, which is both discouraging and disheartening knowing what assistive technology can do for students who need it.

This is but one example of the assistive technology I have used in my classroom. Earlier this week, Krista shared a list of 15 Assistive Technology Tools and Resources for Students With Disabilities in our Google Plus community, many of which I would love to try in my classroom to help my students in need. Technology can help bridge the gap for students with disabilities, which is why it is incredibly essential for teachers to be aware of what exists and how they can use these tools in the classroom. I fortunately have had the opportunity to both work and volunteer at the Neil Squire Society, which offers wonderful programs that empower people with disabilities through the use of technology. The short video below shows a brief history of Neil Squire Society in Canada, as well as the many different tools they have used to help people with disabilities complete daily tasks that otherwise would not be possible.

My mom manages the Neil Squire Society Regina location and for years has been an advocate for the use of assistive technology in everyday life – and has gotten me involved in these discussions as well. In the past, I have helped participants in Neil Squire Society’s programs use a variety of assistive tools, such as the Dragon Naturally Speaking, Kurzweil, and ZoomText. What can be accomplished within this organization, with theirs programs, and with the assistive technology tools they offer is amazing. In the end, it is the result and the opportunities created that is the most inspiring. When you see a student – who before may not have had the ability to use a certain program or type their ideas up on a computer – that is now happy, empowered, and feeling as though he or she can accomplish what he or she has always wanted to do, it is one of the most amazing things to see in this world.

That, to me, is what assistive technology represents, and my experience in using these tools reinforces this view. Although there are advantages and disadvantages to all types of programs and tools, in the end, assistive technology is bridging a gap that exists in our society. Little by little, organizations like Neil Squire Society and classrooms like those of my peers are helping to bridge this gap as well by using the tools at their disposal to empower people with disabilities in ways they never thought possible. If anything in this world represents equity, I think it would be assistive technology.

Have you had similar experiences with assistive technology in and out of your classrooms? What is your favourite resource and tool to use with your students? Do the advantages outweigh the difficulties, in your opinion?

Your thoughts and comments are always well-appreciated below!

Posted in EC&I 833 | 3 Comments