I think I might be addicted to change….

At the beginning of this week, I was working on one blended learning course, Calculus 30, that would be used as my prototype for #ECI834. Then Wednesday hit….and I decided why not jump right in and start a flipped classroom with my Foundations and Precalculus 10 students, I could use a little change! (And increased prep work I suppose!)

Jumping into the abyss! via GIPHY

This is not the first time I have pitched a flipped classroom to my students to see if they would like to try it out with me (I have tried several times with Precalculus 30, a HUGE course content-wise, but never received any interest) and I expected the same response: “Ummmm………no.” So what’s different this time? Almost half of my students are in band which is a “pull-out” program in our school meaning that they miss my math class once in every six-day cycle to go to band class. This same group of students missed Friday and will be away on Monday as they are in Banff for a band trip. A good chunk of these students are going to be missing for four days in April as they are going to Europe on an EF Tour to attend the 100th celebration of the Battle at Vimy Ridge. These students miss a lot of instructional time and view the flipped classroom as a way to minimize what they miss and provide them with an efficient way to catch up.

Screenshot of my Google Form

So, Wednesday night, I was creating and videoing lessons, referencing those that already use a flipped classroom such as Ashley, coming up with formative assessments, and deciding how this was going to look (check out the blog site I created here). Thursday, we watched the lesson as a group and filled out the skeleton notes I had provided them. I felt it was important to model what they should be doing at home and answer any questions about the process, I do not want them to be disengaged because they are having difficulties with the process, as mentioned by Seethamraju in this week’s reading. This process was slower than it would probably be for most students watching the videos at home, but, I feel (hope) that it was valuable to them to go over it together. We then went over the formative assessment I created on Google Forms where I have asked them to answer 3 questions so I can see if they “get it” or not. I am hoping to use this to help decide if I need to address certain students individually on their understandings or if I need to reteach something as a large group. The big test of the process will be how many students have prepared and watched the lesson in advance of Monday’s lesson…….

This flipped classroom does not have a lot of online interaction outside of grabbing the appropriate links and going (much like Nicole mentions about her Weebly page), but I get to see these students every day and I set it up from scratch in one night. If we (the students and I) agree that this is effective, I will continue the flipped classroom beyond this unit and hopefully grow it into a more interactive community.

Photo via @WeAreTeachers Twitter account

My Calculus 30 prototype does have these interactive aspects. Melinda mentions that she had not given much thought to interactions between students and with the instructor prior to the blog prompt and I find that I was the opposite. This is, in part, to the fact that I am already teaching this as a distance-ish course and have regularly received emails in the past of a picture of a question asking how to complete it. I am a big believer in encouraging collaboration within my classroom and will often direct students to each other to help them understand. One of my professors in my undergrad described that teaching demonstrates the deepest understanding and that has stuck with me and I have found that it usually is true. The image above is somewhat similar to what was shared with me so long ago.

My prototype is on Canvas and Google+ (at the moment, I’m thinking of changing that up a little) with the Google+ community where I see online collaboration occurring. I would encourage students to post questions they don’t understand or ask questions of each other and myself and come up with solutions and understandings together, instead of from the teacher who stands at the front of the room.

Photo Credit: Debbieallendale Flickr via Compfight cc

I have thought about using the discussion board feature within Canvas but my own experiences with discussion boards have been poor. I have experienced the feeling of frustration when others dominate the discussion and post so often I feel that there is nothing left for me to add that will be valuable and unique. This is a concern that arises often and needs to be addressed according the edutopia handbook, Mastering Online Discussion Board Facilitation and this is deterring me from wanting to use them. I like the more informal version of discussion we have in our Google+ Community as I feel it better encourages the development of relationships. I fear, like Logan, this is not as cut and dry as it is in the classroom, it needs more work in an online platform. Benita mentions the “5 R’s” from Schwier’s Shaping the Metaphor of Community in Online Learning Environments: “rules, roles, rounds, rituals, and ringers”. This gives a great place to start thinking about the tasks that you could assign in the discussion board of your LMS and has caused me to sit back a bit and think of if/how this changes my personal feelings about discussion boards. I’m not done this thinking process and am still grappling with how I would use it.

A common theme from this week’s posts (Melinda, Adam, and Kelsie to name a few who talked about it) has been the use of Flipgrid and, as I haven’t checked it out yet, I decided that maybe now it was time. After playing with it a little, I think this is more in line with what I would like for a discussion board, something that is more interactive and personal. So maybe my thinking is changing….but I think I need more time.

What have your discussion board experiences been like? Do you prefer the traditional typed version of a discussion board or the interactive one of tools such as Flipgrid?

Blended Learning in Mathematics, I’m not the only one doing it!

This week we were asked to explore an aspect of online/blended learning that we are interested in. As I am working on building a blended Calculus 30 course, I felt this would be a great time to read into how others are structuring blended learning of the mathematics variety. I should also warn you, this is a long post but, if you get through it, you will find my favourite definition of blended learning (thus far anyways).

Photo Credit

In my searching, I found a series of articles written by Birgit Loch, Rosy Borland and collaborative authors Liam McManus and Nadesda Sukhorukova for the annual ASCILITE conference. Their papers discuss a variety of ideas, implications and challenges around creating a blended mathematics course. In their first article, The transition from traditional face-to-face teaching to blended learning – implications and challenges from a mathematics discipline perspective (Loch & Borland, 2014), the authors discuss how mathematics is often overlooked for moving to a blended format for three reasons:

  1. Limited resources and cramped curricula.
  2. Instructor reluctance to move from the traditional “chalk and talk” as they have never experienced an alternative method of learning.
  3. The belief that mathematics is different from other disciplines and it doesn’t need to be re-invented through another method of instruction.

I have to admit, I am not going to argue any of these points but I may use them to help plead the case for blended learning. We have discussed in class about the cramped curricula and, to me, that is the ultimate reason why we SHOULD be moving to blended learning, allowing our students a better opportunity to have access to the teachers to help them with their learning. What better reason to try something new as “I’ve never seen anything else done”, I hardly think that “this is how it is has always been done” is a good enough excuse to not move to blended learning. And mathematics is definitely different than many other disciplines, Loch and Borland mention that mathematics is “complex due to the visual nature of the discipline” and recognize that the digital typesetting of mathematics can be difficult for students and instructors to communicate in short response times. With applications such as SeeSaw and FreshGrade where students are able to post pictures of their work, I’m not sure that this is completely valid, although I definitely think that timely feedback is still a challenge digitally. They also discuss the technology requirements for both students and instructors as well as a fear that by focusing on the online submission of assessments, “the development of deeper mathematical understanding that occurs during practice may be impacted as students may be ‘doing’ less mathematics because they no longer write it out” (Loch & Borland, 2014).

Micaelamolinagt, Aula Invertida, CC BY-SA 4.0

Loch and Borland go on to discuss the use of the flipped classroom and how it has developed a more active classroom, where students are able to “do” mathematics with the support of the instructor as opposed to this time being used for lecture. This allows for the concepts to be developed deeper. Within the flipped classroom, they recommend using audience response systems (such as Kahoot, Mentimeter, or Plickers) to help gauge student understanding and misconceptions but they question whether students with low prerequisite knowledge are truly capable of learning in this manner. Interestingly, they found that students that were in active learning classrooms were 1.5 times less likely to fail than those in traditional lectures (Freeman et al, 2014 via Loch and Borland, 2014).

While in the classroom, Loch and Borland discuss “board tutorials” where students work a problem together on a whiteboard, effectively “doing” mathematics together and collaboratively. This comment made me think back to my undergrad and Math 223 where we would often go to office hours and have our professor, Douglas Farenick, find us a large chalkboard to work the problem as a group. This course was one that challenged my thinking and caused me to struggle in mathematics (something that was new to me at the time) but when asked for help from a student, I look back at that and try to emulate it, as I find it was one of the most useful exercises I have done (thank you Doug if you read this).

The article is summed up with seven questions that the authors feel need to be further researched:

  1. What can we do to ensure students engage with both online content and classroom activities?
  2. How can we encourage school leavers enrolled in first year mathematics units to self-regulate their learning?
  3. How can we build in redundancies, eg. enable students to recover if they have not watched a video beforehand or have not attended class?
  4. What technology is needed to enable effective online communication and collaboration to support learning in Mathematics?
  5. What technology is needed to support deep learning of mathematics? What new technologies might be on the horizon? What impact can learning spaces have on student engagement?
  6. On a departmental level, what is the best approach for supporting teaching staff (including sessional staff) to develop and implement innovative pedagogy approaches, promote digital content creation and use technology to enhance learning and teaching outcomes?
  7. How do we measure the success of a flipped classroom?

The second article by these authors, Implementing blended learning at faculty level: Supporting staff, and the ‘ripple effect’ by Borland, Loch and McManus (2015) discusses question #6 above and the supports needed to implement blended learning at an institutional level and discusses many of the common themes that come up in our #eci834 discussions such as cost, accessibility, and professional development. What really jumped out at me from this article was the definition of blended learning that they chose to follow:

“an understanding of blended learning as being an approach which increases opportunities for students to engage with content and resources online in order to make more time available in face-to-face classes for active learning” (Borland, Loch, & McManus, 2015)

This definition really resonates with me, I value the face-to-face connections that I make with students and I like that their focus was to increase the effectiveness of this time, taking the lecture out of the face-to-face sessions and focusing on the student and their needs.

The third article, How to engage students in blended learning in a mathematics course: The students’ views by Loch, Borland and Sukhorukova (2016) addresses questions #1 and #3 from the above list, and do so from the perspective of the student. They state that students in blended learning courses need to be self-directed and self-regulated learners (they could use the skills from Twana’s post on online learning success strategies). Students in this study stated they like the face-to-face sessions because they were able to ask questions and gain further clarification on topics and it was found that students reacted positively to interactive and technology-enhanced classrooms where they were able to contribute in discussions with their peers (Donovan & Loch, 2013 via Loch, Borland, & Sukhorukova, 2016). Students were also honest, stating that they do not always watch as many recorded lectures as intended or even never watch them at all, students cannot be forced to engage in teaching activities of any sort if they do not want to. I appreciate this very open, honest, and abnormal statement in the article as too often we focus on being able to reach every child when, we know deep down, some are just not ready to be reached.

via GIFY

An aspect of a blended course that I did not think of until reading this article was the ability for the instructor to incorporate additional information on the “why” we are learning this, with students in the study stating that they enjoyed being able to get deeper into why we focus on a specific concept and its general use outside of the grading scheme for the course. This is a common question in my classroom and I like that blended learning provides a non-mandatory platform for students to pursue their interests in this way to gain a deeper understanding.

In discussing the motivation for watching videos ahead of class time, a variety of ideas were provided. The one I disliked the most: providing marks for watching the videos. Signing in to watch the videos does not mean that students are actually “watching” the videos, they can hit play, mute, and walk away, never gaining the understanding they should and receiving grades that do not reflect their understanding accurately. The one I like the most: recap the content at the beginning of class, using one or maybe two examples, and provide a plan for each class so that students know what they are missing if they have to. Recapping with a couple of examples helps instructors know where their students are in their understanding and allows for further instruction, if necessary, before the daily task is started.

via GIFY

One major fault in blended learning as addressed in this article is that math is very hierarchical, constantly building on the content previously learned. If, when watching a video example, a student does not understand an early step, the entire video is lost, as is the time dedicated to it. This is something to consider in making videos for a blended learning course as you need to ensure you are being detailed enough that the weakest student in the class will be able to follow along, an perhaps may need to provide a review of prerequisite knowledge to help all students ensure they are confident in their solutions.

If you are still with me, congratulations, this has been a very long post and I am not quite done yet. In reading this, I am inspired to change not just my Calculus 30 course but by other mathematics courses as well, although I will wait until the fall semester to ensure I have had the time to adequately prep and organize my ideas in a meaningful and effective manner. In general, this is how I think I would like to set up my classes:

  1. Flipped classroom: Students are required to watch video of the examples with notes to follow along with before coming to class (such as how Ashley has described she runs her flipped classroom).
  2. At beginning of class, have a Plickers activity to determine how students are doing. This will require them to tell me if they are confident, need some clarification, or have no idea what happened.
  3. One to two examples on the board, so I can gauge where my students are. This will be followed by students asking specific questions on their current misconceptions.
  4. Group “Board Work” where students will be given a enrichment question and will need to come up with a solution collaboratively. I would like to play around with a presentation method similar to the interactive notebooks that Andy uses in his class, with some modifications.
  5. Work time for an practice questions. Or more time for enrichment. I am a firm believer in not everyone needs the same amount of practice to understand a concept and therefore do not require them to do all assigned textbook questions.

Well, I think that is it that I have to share, what do you think about this set-up for high school mathematics classes? Have you done something similar to any of the parts? What do you think of the findings of the articles? Let me know in the comments!

Feeling Alone on Audio- Island

This week, we were asked to reflect on Tony Bate’s chapter on the different types of media that can be used in the classroom. Initially, I thought I was right on board with many others such as Kelsie, Ashley, and Liz and that I prefer and learn best from text but as I was reading through the various other posts by our eci834 classmates, I realized that maybe I learn better through audio than I had thought.

A Song of Ice and Fire via Flickr user Jemimus

I would like to address what Bates calls the unappreciated medium of audio. I love audio, and not just of the musical sort. About 2 years ago, I was encouraged by my sister-in-law to listen to the podcast Serial (Season 1) and I was very tentative to jump on board, I didn’t think that I would like just the audio. I had always had text in front of me before, I was sure I wouldn’t want to just listen to someone talk. The long, and uneventful drive from my home in Kipling to Regina that I was making at least once a week for classes was the reason I decided to try it out…and I LOVED IT! Now, it is a very interesting, even addicting, story (you seriously need to listen) which probably helped keep me interested but it made me think that this might be a good way to stay more up-to-date on my growing “to read” list. So, I downloaded Audible and decided to tackle a massive series, A Song of Ice and Fire by George R.R. Martin, all 201 hours, 41 minutes of it, and my love of audio was fully confirmed. Since finishing what has been published of that series, I have started to listen to some of the more classic works on my list, The Prince by Niccolo Machiavelli, Frankenstein by Mary Shelley, and I am just about finished The Divine Comedy by Dante Alighieri.

My love of audio goes further than just listening to content. I find I focus better when I am listening to something, even if I am trying to read. While reading Bates’ Chapter 9 for this week’s class, I was listening to Spotify’s Intense Studying playlist., it helps keep me focused and minimizes the distractions around me.

Academic reading process Photo Credit: Nina A.J. Flickr via Compfight cc

Even though I enjoy audio, when I comes to what may be considered more academic reading, I still think I prefer text. Andrew‘s approach of which medium is the best for him is probably closest to my overall views of media. It depends on mood, topic, and the quality of the resource. Liz mentioned that she often writes and highlights all over text that she reads and I do the same. Last semester I took EADM 814 and found that I had notes, questions, and definitions jotted everywhere to ensure that I understood the cases we were studying. In this course, I struggle not to print the textbook readings so that I can make my notes in the sidelines. Luckily, I have found that Evernote is helping me break free of my not so eco-friendly habits.

Video is, of course, an amazing media to use when teaching as it can incorporate the audio and the text features along with visuals. Angela and Chalyn describe the way that video integrates all of these mediums.

What do I use when I teach? I use a blend of all three. I agree with Jannae that in teaching math, especially at the high school level, there is a need for text in the form of mathematical symbols. But I also describe what I am doing in each step of my work as we go through examples and I encourage my students to do the same. Bates references this stating that “explaining or ‘talking through’ materials presented through text, such as mathematical equations, reproductions of paintings, graphs, statistical tables, and even physical rock samples” can be “particularly ‘potent'” (Bates, 2015, 7.3.2). At the end of a concept, I try to incorporate a video that is well done and applicable. Much like Logan, I think I integrate both the text digitally on my SMART Board and the audio in the form of lecture and video.

It seems I am a part of a very small group of audio-lovers. Are you tentative like me to jump in or have you had a bad experience? Would you consider it for the “right” topics?

Yet another on the Canvas….

I am jumping on board the Canvas-wagon along with many others in ECI834 such as Carla, Sarah, Nicole, and Andy. (I would love to say that was an intentional pun, but I didn’t realize what I had done until after I had typed it….).


All enthusiasm for making this decision aside, I am not feeling 100% confident with the choice as I am not sure it will be as interactive as I would like it to be. When we were first given the assignment to create a blended/online course prototype, and seeing how our course was set up in Google+, I was excited to try and set up my course in a similar fashion. Then, after being inspired by Carla’s post Inspired by Something New, I decided to look at Canvas…and now I am torn.

What to do…. via GIFY

I have had some time to “play” in Canvas and have set up a REALLY rough course (I’m talking, the text/content is along the lines of “asl;dkgal;skdfha;” and not even a nice lorem ipsum) and I have come to the following conclusions:

Photo Credit: The Daring Librarian Flickr via Compfight cc

1) I like the Calendar. I am a big fan of planning using a calendar and, if you were to see my long-term planning for this semester’s Calculus 30 course, you would see I have every class planned as to what I will be covering. This does not mean that there is no flexibility but it is my way of ensuring that I cover the entire course, and I like to give students an outline of when all of their exams will (likely) be the first day of class, especially because it is essentially a distance course.

2) The Modules allow for easier navigation than what I was thinking Google+ would provide. This is probably one of the more important aspects that is driving me towards using Canvas as I feel my students will use it ONLY if it is easy to use, I plan to set up my units/outcomes as my modules so that students can easily find what they are looking for.

3) The Quizzes feature allows for more detailed feedback than a right/wrong. Kyle discusses this further in his post this week. Because of the content and delivery method this course has typically had for me, I only grade the unit and final exams to determine the students’ grade. (I know, not the “best” but this was actually a request from the students as assignments were “too much course load”). I would like to use the quizzes as a way to bridge the gap between the students that REALLY want the assignments and feedback and the ones that have enough on their plate with their daily practice.


4) I can post the Outcomes right within the course….although I am not sure about the rubric/grading yet. Until I have a little more time to figure that aspect out, I probably will not use it extensively but I look forward to be better at it. I also like that you can connect/link these outcomes to specific assignments. Although I did not find the Saskatchewan Curriculum outcomes, this is something that can be added.

Overall, I find the platform to be easy to navigate and use. I am not done experimenting with some of the aspects and look forward to having it “in-action” with my students like Sarah, and Carla are intending to do and, much like Carla, I have a group of students that will not be shy in letting me know if something isn’t quite right.

“The Learning Management System. The LMS. Or in the UK, the VLE. The Virtual Learning Environment. Even though the latter sounds much less foreboding and controlling than the former, I confess: it makes no difference. I am not a fan.” – Audrey Watters on her blog

After all of my experimentation, I then read Audrey Watters’ post Beyond the LMS. As stated in her post, the LMS is about management and not about the students. Students (and teachers) often lose their work after the course is complete and are no longer able to access what they have created. This takes me back to Google+ and creating a space where the students can continue to be connected AFTER the course is done (if they choose), and maybe even help each other as they move forward into various post-secondary pathways.

So, back to square one. In all reality, I think that I am going to use both. Canvas to house the “meat” of the course, and Google+ to encourage the interactivity between my students and as a quick place they can go for answers. Or maybe, with the right convincing, I will be bold enough to leave the Canvas behind and go Google all the way…..

Leaving… via GIFY