The winds of change…


I have always been comfortable with change, maybe it is because I have moved quite a few times in my youth. I have written about my “addiction” to change in the past. As we are experiencing an unusual time in human history, I have not only adapted to teaching in a quarantined, homebound method but have also been learning in this way. I am excited to also announce here that I am making a career change and have accepted a position with a new school division. When things get crazy in teaching, it seems I only like to make them crazier!

When schools were closed in March, teachers and students sent home, it was weird. I am someone who is quite “techy” but without direction as to how/what/who we would be continuing to teach, I will admit that I was nervous and I found the type of change that I do not like. I am usually a “roll with it” type of person but this was on a whole new level. As we worked through the details, I can say I’m happy with some of the lessons and content pieces that I created but some were definitely not my best work. I made Youtube lessons for my students, used Flipgrid, but also had fully worked notes for those whose internet connections would not allow for streaming video at home. I felt defeated some days by seeing how few views my videos were getting, how few students were submitting their work for feedback. Some days were amazing when I could connect with a student in my office hours and just chat about what they had been up to. I missed my students more than I can describe and I learned for myself, I don’t think I could be a strictly online teacher. I wrapped up the school year with my co-homeroom teacher and I hosting a Virtual Camping Trip. We invited our students to join us in a video chat from their tents, campers, or blanket forts, talked about memories, each had a special snack at home, listened to ghost stories, and played a Kahoot. We only had about 8 students attend to our trip but it was awesome to see them having fun and being silly for each other.

Coming to you live…from my blanket fort!

During COVID, I was contacted for an interview with Regina Public School Division. I had a Zoom-based interview. (Note: Deciding what to wear for an online interview is a whole new ball game. The top I wanted to wear blended almost perfectly with the walls of my office, I did a pre-chat with my mom to ensure that how my outfit looked on video was how I wanted to present myself and had to make a change!) Then I sat back and waited. At the end of May, I was offered a position teaching middle years with Regina Public School Division and I accepted. This is a HUGE change for me, I have worked with Prairie Valley Schools for 9 years and have had amazing opportunities and growth through my roles developing online courses, sitting on the QVDA, joining the Administrative team, and teaching in three different schools. It was a hard decision to leave the well-known for the unknown but moving also presented me with new challenges, new opportunities, and the possibility for new types of growth. I’m sad to say goodbye to my colleagues but know that I have made many new friends who are amazing educators and have areas of expertise that I will likely be drawing on in future years, just as I expect them to reach out if there is something that I can help with. I think this is one of the reasons why I love teaching, at the end of the day, teachers are truly just one big family, supporting each other in whatever ways we can!


July hit and I jumped into a French immersion course with La Cité for two weeks in the mornings. I have been wanting to brush up and improve my French language skills for years however, living a distance from the city, it was a challenge. I loved meeting and talking with my classmates and feel as though I am no longer as rusty as I was before in terms of my grammar although my vocabulary continues to need work. I cannot count the number of times I would be searching my brain for a word I knew but could not figure it out. I finished my course at a “B1 strong” level and am starting to look into programs for next year, or even potentially the Winter semester to continue my language acquisition. One of our assigned conversations was to discuss a goal we want to achieve in the next 5 years, I chose to be bilingual in English and French. I am putting this out here to help keep myself accountable.

As we approach the end of July, I continue to learn. I have a stack of professional development books to read (a bonus of COVID is many publishers had sale AND free shipping!!) and planning to do for the new year. I am excited and nervous to be going back to school in the fall, there are many things that are unknown about how this is going to play out and how we are going to protect those that are returning to schools. All in all, this is just another change, another shift, another adventure and I know that my family of teachers will support each other in whatever ways that we can as we move through this!

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?