Tag Archives: Learning Communities

Taking the Tech Out of Technology

it20students20lab20classI LOVED this article!!  I posted it on our PIDP 3240 discussion forum and it generated a lot of commentary.  Peers were intrigued, interested and totally engaged in discussing this article.  In the article, the author states that instructors who were involved in the Virtual College at his school were actually not interested in technology at all….they wanted to learn ways they could increase social interaction.  Likewise, students wanted instructor contact.  Although we get very excited about new technology and great new tools, we still need to maintain the human connection.  The author sums it up well: “A blend of teaching practices, technology, and basic human contact just might be the recipe needed” (Buemi, 2015).

I tend to agree very much so with Buemi.  Although I like the options that technology gives us, I still like the human connection, between students and instructor.  Linking back to the hybrid course delivery model, this is a great way to achieve exactly the perfect recipe that Buemi describes.  Does anyone else see the risk of technology interfering with human connection in the classroom?

“Our excitement over the latest technology has started focusing on the wrong thing. It ought to reside in the praxis of teaching, not the tool.”

Source: Taking the Tech Out of Technology


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Educational ACDC

Here’s an interesting spin on teaching!  And no, I don’t mean the band.

  • Active Learning
  • Cooperative Learning
  • Discovery Learning
  • Community

“ACDC Leadership and Consulting was created by Jacob Clifford in 2007. We are dedicated to creating student-focused teaching resources that make learning exciting, powerful, and fun. We offer teachers, schools, and districts a variety of programs, activities, and workshops. […] we have what you need to get students out of their seats and into the curriculum.” http://www.acdcleadership.com/

One example of a student project using the ACDC program is having the students create a music video using course content as lyrics.  I remember taking anatomy and physiology and wishing it could be converted into song lyrics…the terminology would be much easier to remember if I could sing through it!

Here’s another example of using movies/music to help student remember content that may be difficult to recall:  (I shared it with my nursing class and they loved it!)

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Online learning -> brain damage???

computer-evolutionThe damaging effects that screen time has on individuals has been thoroughly researched and well documented.  However, when studies recommend to limit screen time, they are generally referring to recreational screen time.  So where does necessary (work/school-related) screen time fit into the equation?

Surely our bodies suffer the same health issues whether or not we are logged in for pleasure or business.  So it is interesting to me that with the explosion of online education, no one really speaks about the health concerns associated with this kind of screen time.  I recognize that online courses are more involved than matching various candies in a row, however, our bodies are surely suffering the same health effects.  Sedentary lifestyle, increased risk of obesity, heart attack, stroke, decreased vision, poor concentration, brain atrophy, and the list goes on…  (As I sit in front of the computer typing this, I can feel my pulse rate rising with unease).

Universities need to keep up with the times and offer online learning, I get it.  Learners want convenience, flexibility, and online courses offer all this and more.  Online learning also saves the learner and the school money (no room booking fees, resources available online, etc.).  But has anyone really considered the costs… the ones we cannot put a monetary value on…?

To read about the damaging effects of screen time on the brain, click here.

“Taken together, [studies show] internet addiction is associated with structural and functional changes in brain regions involving emotional processing, executive attention, decision making, and cognitive control.”  –research authors summarizing neuro-imaging findings in internet and gaming addiction”

(Lin & Zhou et al, 2012)


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Somewhere lies the truth…

I’ve been involved in an interesting discussion with my PIDP colleagues.  There was a suggestion (backed by research evidence), that a student’s social environment can have an impact on their academic success.  Authors stated that most students who surround themselves with high-achievers improved their performance over time; the opposite was also true.  (To see the article, click here.)

But, what about John Hattie’s synthesis of over 800 studies that looked at student achievement?  I’ve discussed his idea of Visible Learning earlier in my blog, but just to review, he designed a meta-analysis and came up with a way of ranking various influences related to learning and achievement.  And where did peer influences fit on his list?  Nearly halfway down the list of positive influences.  At the top of his list is the teacher’s estimates of achievement.  So…perhaps the teacher estimates similar achievement for certain pockets of students?  If this is the case, both studies could be true…  Or does peer influence not really matter all that much?

Here’s a neat infographic depicting Hattie’s results:

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james-stevenson-i-m-sorry-rhett-but-now-i-don-t-give-a-damn-new-yorker-cartoon_a-g-9179761-8419447Well, this is an interesting teaching concept, excerpted from Teaching Naked (Bowen, 2012), but actually referenced from another book I have previously blogged about, Bain’s What the Best College Teachers Do (2004).

In short, the professor writes WGAD (who gives a damn) on the whiteboard each day.  Students can interrupt at any time during the class with “WGAD!”

No, the instructor isn’t supposed to get all flustered or offended.  The instructor couples this motivating offer to debate anything with the expectation that students keep an open mind and honestly debate both sides of every WGAD objection.  Another aspect of this technique that I like is that it really helps learners make relevance of the material.  Adult learners especially need to know why they need to know something.  Allowing them to ask WGAD helps them to make this connection.  technical-communication-futurist-by-scott-abel-25-638

I am teaching a “nursing fluff” kind of course.  Or at least, that’s how the health promotion course is perceived by the students and even by some senior faculty.  And it’s true, even without taking the course the students would probably turn out to be good nurses.  However, if I offered the WGAD opportunity, perhaps they would value the content of the course and discover how it can change their views of nursing.  It would also be a good challenge for me to be able to think on my feet and make connections between course content and nursing practice.  I’m not sure I’m brave enough to try this technique on my first time through the course….but maybe next semester!?


Bain, K. (2004). What the best college teachers do. Massachusetts: Harvard University Press.

Bowen, J.A. (2012). Teaching naked: How moving technology out of your college classroom will improve student learning. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.


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My first infographic!

It is well-documented that instructors must receive and respond to feedback in order to improve their teaching practices.  As instructors, we ought to seek out feedback from our students and our peers (self-directed learning).  One formal way of doing this is by using a Critical Incident Questionnaire.  I chose to design an infographic for the digital media project in PIDP 3260.  I had never made an infographic before, but I’m pleased with how it looks.  Next up is actually using the CIQ in the class!

CIQ Infographic

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March 13, 2016 · 4:22 am

Team Teaching

“As teachers we all bring different gifts, and handicaps, to the table” (Brookfield, 2015, p. 102).

This quote originates from Brookfield’s (2015) chapter on teaching successfully in diverse classrooms. He suggests that no matter how much effort an instructor makes on meeting the diverse needs of each learner, he or she will never be fully successful.  Brookfield proposes the idea of team teaching – where two or three instructors with “different racial identities, talents, and personalities form a teaching team” (Brookfield, 2015, p. 102).  Having a team of instructors teach a course will generate more opportunities for the varied learning needs of students to be met.  One instructor who wrote an article on her experience with team teaching stated, “we magnified each other’s successes and minimized each other’s failures” (Tomlinson, 2015, p. 90). 

Sounds wonderful, doesn’t it?  So why aren’t we seeing it in our classrooms?  Most likely because of the budget.  It’s an unfortunate but true fact that post-secondary education administration is more focused on budget than on learning.  And of course they need to balance the books.  But we’re doing a disservice to our students when we don’t make “maximizing learning” the primary focus in every aspect of adult education.

Although I don’t foresee team teaching due to fiscal constraints, I can still try to help meet the diverse needs of learners.  I am obligated to try to offer the variety of teaching methods that students would receive if they had multiple instructors. Bain (2004) tells us that outstanding teachers conduct class in a multitude of ways: sometimes visual, other times auditory, individual and group work, learning sequentially and globally.  This would require a real commitment to self-reflection and making changes that may be challenging but would increase student learning.  And what Bain (2004) and Brookfield (2015) both agree on, is that the best teachers do whatever it is that helps students to learn.


Bain, K. (2004). What the best college teachers do. Massachusetts: Harvard University Press.

Brookfield, S. D. (2015). The skillful teacher: On technique, trust, and responsiveness in the classroom (3rd ed.). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Tomlinson, C.A. (2015). Teaching in tandem: A reflection. Educational Leadership, December 2015/January 2016, 90-91.

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How Not To Be A Jerk: In A Lecture

I came across this entertaining blog post – some good tips for students!

How Not To Be A Jerk

ImageOne of the main features of university life is sitting through seemingly endless lectures. In most degrees, lectures are going to be a pretty major part of the learning process. Some will be the kind of lecture that you look forward to, either because it’s a great topic that you’re super interested in, or because you fancy the lecturer. Unfortunately, it’s much more likely that lectures will be a chore that you feel happy to skip should you sleep in an extra 10 minutes and realise that coffee beforehand is no longer an option. Considering how most lectures are already going to be tough, I’ve put together some tips on how to make each one a little bit better for all of us. To do this, I’ve used my vast experience in attending the first three lectures of any given subject I’m supposed to be doing.

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Program accreditation = the dreaded visit whereby strangers visit your workplace, look at and ask for random information, and then decide the fate of your workplace/program’s reputation.

Although accreditation happens on a regular basis, and the criteria is known in advance, universities still struggle to meet its demands.  Look at McGill University – in Feb. 2015, their prestigious medical school was assessed and found to have not met several of the criteria set out by the accrediting body, and was subsequently put on probation.  It was noted that some of the issues were administrative, and also that some of the problems were due to the fact that they were in the middle of changing to a new curriculum.  Regardless, McGill’s dean of medicine, David Eidelman admits, “There’s no excuse for being on probation, so any explanation is not an excuse […]”. 

It’s interesting, when I read through the actual report, so many of the issues were simply a result of poor communication between the department (policies, instructional inconsistencies, administrative factors) and the students.  For example, the report indicates that “the majority of students interviewed were not aware of the overall education program objectives”.  How does this happen!?  Policies, objectives, course requirements, etc. are all important elements in a program guide.  Not only does this information need to be given to the students, it needs to be reviewed with them.  And the instructor should ensure that the students understand the information (maybe a little formative evaluation would help?).  I’m sure that students in the medicine program are just bombarded with information, especially when they are just beginning the program.  And I’m sure the expectation is that they  read through the documents independently.  These are adults, after all – and future doctors, at that!  But it’s pretty obvious that this isn’t working.  There are certain things that need to be specifically reviewed with the students…I’d suggest that if McGill wants to maintain it’s accreditation, they not forget about these “little things” – because that could cost them their program.

To read the article: http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/montreal/mcgill-s-medical-school-put-on-probation-by-accrediting-body-1.3117241

The accreditation report: https://www.mcgill.ca/medicine/files/medicine/2015_june_-_mcgill_-_full_survey_-_accreditation_letter.pdf

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Accept the Challenge (but don’t be too disappointed at failure)

So what about this?

How can we meet the diverse needs of our students?  Or can we?

I think that in general, students need to learn to adapt to the expectations set out for them in the world of adult education.  Similarly, in the workplace, they will be expected to abide by the workplace rules.  Brookfield (2015) reassures us that we can never fully address diversity to the satisfaction of all of our learners.  “There are just too many variables, to be accounted for, too many choices, too many contradictions” (p. 108).

Successfully addressing diversity in the classroom will never happen.  Instructors can’t meet everyone’s needs all the time.  We are bounded by our own personalities, abilities, knowledge and experience.  As well, we cannot change curriculum and course requirements on a whim.  But, we do what we can.  If our goal is to help students learn, we must be willing to constantly change our activities in response to what we discover about the diverse students we are working with.

Reference:   Brookfield, S. D. (2015). The skillful teacher: On technique, trust, and responsiveness in the classroom (3rd ed.). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

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