The Mikado again

And, they're off!

Category: Social Media and Personalized Learning

withdrawal (or shell shock)

I finished my final blog post, and all I could think of was, “Have I done everything? I think I might have forgotten to do something. Was I supposed to include a reference list on that final blog post? Better check the course outline, AGAIN (for the twentieth time). I’d better go back through my published blogs…let’s see, one for each class for each week, that’s 6. One presentation and one blog for each, that’s 8. One final blog post, that’s 9. Is that it? Better check again. Did I actually publish those posts, or are they still in draft form? No, I did publish them. Hmm…I guess…I’m done. Weird. Wait! I didn’t comment on enough other posts! Is it too late? Probably. Or not. I’ll do it tomorrow. Or now. Tomorrow. Maybe.”

Okay, just stop. Let it go. Get on with your summer.

Update. It’s 2am (really!) and I feel like Lawrence’s reference to HAL: I am a short-circuiting robot who is overheating from too much data and not enough storage, and my output is getting garbled. I am spitting out random words like (think old monotone computer voice…not Alexa) phenomenology…ethics…computer cat…autoethnography…inquiry…inquiry…inquiry…seamless…4Rs…breakout room…PLN…doodle poll…Trevor’s ceiling…Trellodiigohypothes.isslackzoterotwitterbluejeansfeedlywordpress…tiegrad…………..tiegr…….tie…t. Goodbye Dave.

How do I unplug this thing?

Final Blog Post…well not FINAL Final, but for the summer.

Reflections on EDCI 515 and EDCI 568: A Culinary Analogy

An illustration of how the last three weeks have gone may be seen in reference to food. That is, for twelve class sessions we as students have been treated to two complete meals (with appetizer, main course, and dessert) each day. Each of the EDCI 515 and 568 menus has followed a particular theme, distinct from each other, and each menu consisted of a variety of dishes from its theme, from hot and spicy, to savoury, to sweet, to occasionally bland (in a good way). 🙂

“Superior sushi set” by jeremydeades is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

Each day, we were treated and were asked to eat each meal, to go home to digest, and to prepare for the meal the next day by studying the next day’s recipes. At the end of each day we felt stuffed full of yummy food, perhaps wanting to let the flavours linger on our taste buds, but knowing that we had to be ready for the next day’s offerings.

By the end of the first week or so, we came to realize that we were really only supposed to sample the meals, not to eat them entirely every time. Our bodies could not possibly recover in time to eat two more complete meals again each day, so we learned to appreciate each meal for what it was, to write a review of the food, and to move on.

At the end, we were asked to reflect on how those meals contributed to our understanding of meal preparation and to look forward to how we might prepare our own meal. Would it be spicy? Savoury? Salty? Sweet? A mixture? Some already know what that meal will look like. Others have no idea, but are getting closer. Since each person’s meal will not be served for about 18 months, we have lots of time to prepare, but we are cautioned not to leave that menu item preparation until the last minute. It will take time to gather the ingredients, do the prep work of chopping, slicing and dicing, and to assemble the right utensils for the type of dish we are preparing. We look forward to the smorgasbord, and hope it is to your liking.

EDCI 515 and EDCI 568

photo used with permission – yes that’s me

The scientist in all of us likes to see positive results from our experiments. We like to put our theories into practice, to test our hypotheses and observe the effects. When it comes to education and education theories, it is no different. In the classroom a teacher may wonder, “If I try this activity, will students understand the concept better? Will it produce better result on assessments? Can I observe mastery of the skill?” and then test the theory, and track the results. If the results are not positive, the teacher may not do that activity again, or modify it to better address what hindered student achievement.

The difficulty with the scientific method is that it is not always appropriate for the type of questions being asked. If the question is “Which activity will allow student A to understand the concept better?” then the experiment and results look very different. Results may not apply to any other student, so no definitive conclusion may be made regarding the “right” activity a teacher might use.

How does this relate to me? I have my feet firmly planted in both camps. I often think of an activity, try it out in class, and decide whether it yielded the results I expected. The results further inform my use of that activity or approach. On the other hand (foot), I also guide students through the process of exploring their interests in a topic to find the connections to the course contents. One approach is not “better” than the other; they each have strengths and weaknesses, depending on what the question being asked is.

Perhaps, as we have seen in our look at different methodology, a mixed methods approach is appropriate for me. Or at the very minimum, using both methods independently, according to the situation. As I have noted before, with a background in psychology I am acutely aware that when dealing with humans and studies on human behaviour or thinking, achieving 1.0 correlation of data is impossible – unless it is biologically rooted, like whether humans can survive without blood. So the take-away is that even the most successful theories of education will apply to most (if that) of the population. It would be a disservice to our students for all teachers to use the same approach, regardless of what the research says. Unless that research on a particular approach to learning comes in at 1.0 correlation, it is not the answer for all. So as teacher-researcher, I must be aware that in a given time with a particular group of students, I aim to get the best out of each one, knowing that some methods will work better than others. At the same time, there will be factors out of my control, for example home life or misuse of drugs (especially in high school), that will prevent that student from engaging even if the methodology is perfect for them.

What I see moving forward is that in the pursuit of a Master’s of Education I will need to investigate research methodology more deeply first, then look to the one that best addresses the questions whose answers I am pursuing. At the moment I see qualitative study as the approach best suited to the question I am looking at right now. That is, “What role does school climate or connectedness have to play in students’ academic success or social engagement at school?”

EDCI 515

In looking at phenomenology as a research approach, I began to see my own research question framed by a phenomenological point of view. Perhaps, as I initially looked for research that produced causality, I was doing the “square peg, round hole” type of thinking; trying to push my research question into a quantitative framework that was not the right fit. As I read more and more about phenomenology, I came to understand that that was the square hole into which my square peg was fitting. However, even though methodologically this was a better fit, I am left to answer the question that my research poses: So what? Qualitative research yields results, but what do you do with that information? If hypothetically my research yields results that say that teacher-student relationships greatly contribute to a feeling of school connectedness, what is to be done with that information? That is, so what? If I decide to try to make my interactions with students better so they have an increased connection to the school, how important is that? By what measure do I consider what is “important”? Are grades important? Is attendance? Is participation? Is long-term attitude towards life-long learning? Yes, the results are informative, but again, so what? Am I researching for research’s sake? How does this inform my practice?

What may be necessary is a reframing of the question including a different demographic of subjects. Rather than looking at subjects who are in school, it may be better served to interview subjects who are in their 20s or 30s, asking them to reflect on their connectedness in high school and how that impacted their current lives. This keeps the qualitative nature of the research but tries to address the influence in the long term, outside of the direct high school experience itself.

EDCI 568

The central question that Jeff Hopkins and Trevor Mackenzie have looked at answering is, “How do we design learning around the student instead of the teacher?” For Jeff Hopkins the answer was, after trying with limited success within the system, to go outside of the system and to literally construct a school that addressed that question. For Trevor Mackenzie, the answer was to stay within the system and look at learning design within the confines of the structure that is in place. At the heart of both approaches is Inquiry-Based Learning, which gives students ownership over their process. While the concept of inquiry as methodological approach is not new (John Dewey, 1938), it has gained momentum as educators look to make learning more individualized. Given that I am a teacher in the public education system, radical changes such as Jeff Hopkins has made, cannot be made at my level; those are structural, at an administration, senior administration, or Ministry of Education level. What I can implement is at Trevor Mackenzie’s level: in my individual classroom.

As noted in the above section, like all approaches, it is not a one-size-fits-all methodology. It has its benefits, but when dealing with humans, it may work for many, but not all, or at least all the time. Given that, it is a tool to use when it suits the time and the students. For educators, it is vital to consider using this approach because it has clear benefits to student learning, and I will use this information to guide future projects in my classes.

The other major side of the course load included a focus on engaging with the digital world of education. One of the biggest take-aways from this focus was a heightened awareness of the rights and responsibilities of education online. Having taught the New Media 10 course, in hindsight I did not do my due diligence in preparing students (or myself) on FIPPA or BC’s Digital Framework as an introduction to the course.  This is not limited to the New Media 10 course, as students and teachers need to know that any assignment or project that requires their presence online must keep those guidelines in mind.

photo used with (my) permission

Regarding that last point, in my blog submissions for these courses, after seeing the dangers of overstepping privacy concerns, I made decisions not to include images or video that might identify students or staff. As a result, the blog posts look quite sterile; devoid of personality. I could add creative commons images or video, but I still regard them as devoid of personality, or at least a personal touch. So the result is a “better safe than sorry” approach that, while cautious and better than heedless, is legitimately constrained. I leave the personal touch to wearing costumes. 🙂

568 Presentation

568 Presentation and Critical Reading of One Course Reading

Reading – School Climate and Academic Achievement in Middle and High School Students


This study (Daily, Mann, Kristjansson, Smith, & Zullig, 2019) builds on previous studies on school climate and academic achievement that found a positive school climate may promote academic achievement and well-being. To look at this relationship further, the authors used a measurement called the School Climate Measure (SCM) (Zullig, Koopman, Patton, & Ubbes, 2010) to further break down the term, “school climate” into ten domains, and thus identify specifically which domain had more influence than others on self-reported academic achievement in English and Math. The student population in the study was comprised of middle and high school students in a mid-Atlantic U.S. state. Students were given a survey to complete, and answers were grouped according to the SCM domains.

The study was a quantitative look at identifying which domains had the largest effects on academic achievement in English and Math self-reporting of grades. The sample size was large (n=2405) which allowed for a fair representation of the general student population. The ten different domains used in the SCM were:

  1. Positive Student-Teacher Relationships
  2. Order and Safety
  3. Opportunities for Student Engagement
  4. School Physical Environment
  5. Academic Support
  6. Parental Involvement
  7. School Connectedness
  8. Perceived Exclusion/Privilege
  9. School Social Environment
  10. Academic Satisfaction

(Zullig, Koopman, Patton, & Ubbes, 2010)


Their findings indicated that the effects are small to medium, and that for both middle (Table 2) and high school (Table 3), Academic Support had the highest effect, although it was a medium effect (13% of the SCM variance for middle, and 17% of the SCM variance for high school). Among the next highest for both groups were Academic Satisfaction (11% middle, 12% high) and Positive Student-Teacher Relationships (10% middle, 12% high). As for noted limitations to the study and the findings, one limitation as noted by the authors was that the ethnic demographic was predominantly white. The results may look different with a student population that is more ethnically diverse. As well, grades were self-reported, so the risk of skewed memory and bias needed to be considered.

Personal and Professional connection to the paper

The personal and professional connection to the paper revolves around the idea of “school spirit.” Outside the classroom there are many factors that can affect a student’s academic achievement. According to the domains of the SCM from a teacher’s point of view, the factors that a teacher may affect are “positive student-teacher relationships; academic support, school connectedness; order and safety; and academic satisfaction.” Of the preceding list, the aspects that resonate personally are the socially themed, “positive teacher-student relationships” and, “school connectedness.” While the domains are not specifically defined, what may be gleaned regarding their scope can be seen in the questions that were in the survey. According to the SCM survey, the categories broke down to the following groups of statements:


Factor 1: Positive Student–Teacher Relationships

Teachers understand my problems

Teachers and staff seem to take a real interest in my future

Teachers are available when I need to talk with them

It is easy to talk with teachers

Students get along well with teachers

At my school, there is a teacher or some other adult who notices when I’m not there

Teachers at my school help us children with our problems

My teachers care about me

My teacher makes me feel good about myself


Factor 2: School Connectedness

My schoolwork is exciting

Students can make suggestions on courses that are offered

Students are publicly recognized for their outstanding performances in speech, drama, art, music, etc.

If this school had an extra period during the day, I would take an additional academic class

This school makes students enthusiastic about learning

Students are frequently rewarded or praised by faculty and staff for following school rules

(Adapted from Zullig, Koopman, Patton, & Ubbes, 2010, Table 2)

Research Topic

School climate and its effect on student academic achievement.

While there are many theories about methods of teacher instruction and student learning that contribute to student academic achievement, this topic concerns those factors outside the classroom (which may or may not include direct contact with the teacher), that may also contribute to academic achievement. While others have focused on connectedness and student health (McNeely & Falci, 2004), this is concerned more with academic achievement.

Research Problem

How can school climate contribute to increased student academic achievement?

The difficulty in trying to find causality with these two subjects is that school climate at best, has a moderate direct effect on student academic achievement (Daily, Mann, Kristjansson, Smith, & Zullig, 2019). What is more likely is that school climate has an indirect effect, and the long term results of the benefits of school climate may not be seen for years afterward. Nonetheless, the question may still be addressed in the moment by connecting school climate with positive student attitude towards schooling, which may then lead to increased academic achievement. In the Daily et al. study, while the effects were not high, there was a significant increase in self-reported academic achievement.

Purpose of interest

The purpose of my interest in this topic is to determine whether active efforts to create a positive school climate makes a significant impact on academic achievement of high school students. This may lead to a greater emphasis on school administration and school staff working on “school spirit” as much as pedagogy.

As a teacher who not only likes to inject energy into a class, but moves beyond the classroom to all areas, both physical and metaphorical, of the school, I am interested in knowing whether those efforts have a tangible outcome in students’ lives. While the effects of wearing a costume in school may create school spirit in the moment, how does this affect students’ achievement, or sense of belonging/ connection/ community, mental health, or future attitude towards education?

Future research questions

Among the many questions that arise from this inquiry are whether it is the job of the teacher to do this work, and what factors create the greatest increase in academic achievement? What expectations should be placed on the school to monitor school climate? 



Daily, S. M., Mann, M. J., Kristjansson, A. L., Smith, M. L., & Zullig, K. J. (2019). School Climate and Academic Achievement in Middle and High                      School Students. Journal of School Health, 89(3), 173–180.

McNeely, C., & Falci, C. (2004). School Connectedness and the Transition Into and Out of Health-Risk Behavior Among Adolescents: A                                   Comparison of Social Belonging and Teacher Support. Journal of School Health, 74(7), 284–292.                                       1561.2004.tb08285.x

Nye, B., Konstantopoulos, S., & Hedges, L. (2004). How Large Are Teacher Effects? Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis,26(3), 237-257.                        Retrieved from

Zullig, K. J., Koopman, T. M., Patton, J. M., & Ubbes, V. A. (2010). School Climate: Historical Review, Instrument Development, and School                             Assessment. Journal of Psychoeducational Assessment, 28(2), 139–152.


568 Week 3

Monday July 15

ReadingsDive into Inquiry (for the 6-12 educator) & Inquiry Mindset (for the K-5 educator)

GuestTrevor MacKenzie

Reflections – Trevor presented a good overview of Inquiry-Based Learning and its practical uses in the classroom. That he is both a Master’s student and a classroom teacher brings some level of solidarity to his talk. I have not read his Dive Into Inquiry book yet, but again, with someone in our cohort having the book already and referencing it lends more credence to its everyday use. This is not to say that other books are not useful, but knowing someone who has read the book and found it useful is a powerful statement.

“IMG_1047” by Lindy Buckley is licensed under CC BY 2.0 

I have done guided inquiry with success in the classroom, and will continue to explore how I can use it in other ways, especially in Japanese. As Trevor and most other instructors have pointed out, well-done Inquiry projects are guided, leading to free. There still needs to be checks and balances to keep students to a standard. At the same time, many assignments can incorporate elements of inquiry that allow students choice and acknowledgement of, and nurturing of, their passions.

Tuesday July 16

ReadingsThe Five R’s for Indigenizing Online Learning: A Case Study of the First Nations Schools’ Principals Course by Tessaro, Restoule, Gaviria, Flessa, Lindeman, & Scully-Stewart (2018)

GuestColin Madland

Reflections – Our two guests – 515 guest, Shauneen Pete, and 568 guest, Colin Madland – provided interesting perspectives on two issues connecting aspects of the Truth and Reconciliation report. As Dr. Pete pointed out, her call to action has been 30 years in the making. Her life’s work has been to change how the educational system, mostly centred on post-secondary, has not allowed for a substantive shift in incorporating Indigenous ways of teaching and learning. Colin Madland’s research and interests lie in bridging the gap between Indigenous ways of learning versus Online learning. Both guests are asking the question, “How can this be done?” At the heart of both perspectives is the acknowledgement that Indigenous ways of learning are different than the dominant settlers’ ways of learning. This does not mean “less than,” or that because it is different, that in a win/lose situation, that the Indigenous ways must bow to the dominant culture’s ways. So the challenge for Colin Madland is to find a way to blend the venn diagram in a way that keeps the Indigenous ways intact.

Wednesday July 17

Readings – In Public: The Shifting Consequences of Twitter Scholarship by Stewart (2015)

Guest – Bonnie Stewart

Reflections – On the one hand, there are many examples of Twitter gone bad; on the other hand, there are many examples of positive Twitter interactions. The reality is that all social media platforms have their positive and negative aspects. What all users of social media (and commenters of social media) must come to grips with, is that the power is in the hands (or fingertips) of the user. I can’t remember who brought up the TV analogy, but those who use or grew up with TV, got used to turning the channel until they found a program or station that they found to their liking, skimming over the “garbage” – or content that they disliked. One may argue that Twitter (and all social media) poses the same problems of navigation. Twitter scholarship can get very divisive and heated, but with the right people and attitude, it can be uplifting and full of growth.

Thursday July 18

Viewing – Education as if people mattered TEDxTalk by Jeff Hopkins

Guest – Jeff Hopkins

Reflections – I appreciated Jeff Hopkins coming to talk about PSII and his background. As I reflected about his talk over the next day, I came to a realization. This is not about the importance or relevance of the school he has set up, because it clearly has exceptional educational practises. This is about how humans receive information. Based on an understanding of human psychology, it is easier to change behaviour than it is to change beliefs. That is, it is easier to change what one does, than what one believes. In light of that, when anyone – and in this case, an educator – talks about a better way to do things, the approach is as important as the information itself. The person receiving that information can absorb the content in one of two ways: one, as a reflection of what he or she does, which can, without much effort, be changed quite easily; or two, as a reflection of who he or she is, or what he or she believes, which strikes much deeper, and is much more difficult to change. If the implied message is, “You are doing things wrong,” and the interpretation of that message is about what one does, then the response may be, “I will change my behaviour.” However, if the interpretation of that message is about who one is, or what one believes, then the response may be, “I must defend my core belief that I am a good person/teacher.” This is a protection of the ego, and it puts people on the defensive. Having said that, this is not an indictment about the worth or credibility of PSII or of Jeff Hopkins as an educator, but rather how he may broach the topic of changing the educational system, especially to teachers who are in the system. His information is valuable and necessary for growth, but as he acknowledged himself, he couldn’t affect wholesale change from within the system, which is why he got out. Of course there is no doubt we all came away from his talk with ideas on how to improve what we do.


My apologies for the post with nary an image or video (well, one). I am getting there (I searched the creative commons images and attributed the image! 🙂 ) but my energy mostly went into organizing my thoughts in time to post.



568 Week 2

Monday July 8

ReadingTwitter Use and its Effects on Student Perception of Instructor Credibility by DeGroot, Young, & VanSlette (2015)

Guest – Alec Couros

Reading – I have pulled the first paragraph from the blog post I made on that day:

This article brings up many questions, and foremost has to do with the constantly changing face of social media.  Any studies that reference social media platforms risk that information to be seen as either invalid or unreliable, since the shelf-life of a particular platform is quite short, supplanted relatively quickly by something else.  Given that the study was published online in 2015, that is already a lifetime ago in social media terms, since the data would have been collected earlier than 2015 as well.  Since this article deals with college students from likely 2013-2014, the use of Twitter may or may not apply to 2019.  That in and of itself would be needed to affirm its reliability.  Another complicating factor is whether this information can be extrapolated to apply to younger students, such as in high school.  In that case, the difference between the relationships forged between a young adult and a college professor and that between an adolescent and a high school or middle school teacher is very wide.

The “Bring Out Your Dead Services” meme was tragically funny.

Guest – I must admit that with all of the people and information that we have been given thus far, I cannot visualize Alec from our linked feed. I did take notes and remember some of the visuals he displayed, like the graphic SAMR page, but even in googling his name and seeing his face, I cannot quite retrieve the memory. Of course I did comment on my own observation about going full circle with my teaching material (a comment about the “photo math” video he showed).

Reflection – As I have mentioned in class, having taught the new English 10 curriculum, and especially the New Media 10, I became acutely aware of the moving target that is current media.  In prepping students for readings and assignments, I had my own cut-off of three years for articles about media. Too many articles were about a different media landscape, and thus were not useful. An example was of a great lesson plan by a site called, “” There were some great ideas and lesson plans, but one as an example, was for students to make a Vine. Although Vines have recently been resurrected and there are still archives of them, the platform largely is gone, and certainly does not have the popularity that it once did. It was gimmicky, and like many pop culture fads, came and went. So the course has a shelf-life of about one year, as not only does the content change, but the way it is integrated and received also changes. While I love the topic, I see the prep as extensive and perpetual. One may argue that all courses are like that, and to an extent that is true, however with other areas the knowledge is relatively static; the ways to learn and teach may vary, but the content mostly does not change (at least not in one year).

Tuesday July 9

ReadingsFIPPA & BC Cloud Computing Guide; Privacy Education for Kids by OPCC; BC Digital Literacy Framework

Guest – Jesse Miller

Readings – FIPPA is a very technical, legal document that cannot be read easily or quickly. It is made for use in legal proceedings when freedom of information is an issue. This is useful, but a cumbersome read for someone who is not a lawyer.

The BC Cloud Computing Guide is laid out in a format for the layperson (advice column style of questions and answers). Information is accessible. This article is written for those public bodies whose information is on a cloud service. One of the general themes of EDCI 568 is about how much information people are willing to not only share, but store, online, and this is covered in the guide.

Privacy Education for Kids is a resource page on the Office of Privacy Commissioner of Canada webpage. There are resource links for teachers and parents on the web page. There is also a link to a reading resource for kids in graphic novel or text format. The graphic novel, while geared towards high school students, is more at a middle school level. The information is relevant, but the style and writing is young.

BC Digital Literacy Framework is a document from the Ministry of Education. It sets out the curricular connections for digital literacy in BC schools K-12. The document is written in a format similar to the old Integrated Resource Packages.

Guest – Jesse was very personable and knowledgeable about online privacy (hmm…an oxymoron?) and the risks involved with having an online presence. While I found his presentation to be informative and valuable, he speaks very quickly, and it was almost impossible to keep up with all that he had to share. Having a powerpoint or pdf to share might have made it easier for reviewing after the fact.

Reflection – In day-to-day personal online interactions we put our private information at risk constantly. There are countless news pieces on what we sign away with the accepting of terms and conditions documents with the check of a box. As is pointed out, most people not only don’t bother to read all of the conditions, but they are written in “legalese” to dissuade those non-lawyers with enough temerity to attempt to read them. When, on top of that, you are a teacher, the issue of privacy, both of your own and that of your students, increases tenfold. In my school emails, it seems to be common practice to only use student initials in the subject line. While the body of the email may contain the student’s name, the subject line is supposed to safeguard their privacy. At the same time, there are email services that not only give the receiver the subject line, but also the first few words of the body of the email, so any mention of a student’s name in the first few words will appear in the preview.

This is an issue that will only become bigger, not smaller, as more and more of what people do is and will be online.


Wednesday July 10

ReadingsEvolution of my PLN; TwitterEDU Guide

Guests – Christine Younghusband, Ian Landy

Readings – Related to Christine being a guest speaker, Evolution of my PLN is her blog entry. As she describes in her blog post, Christine has found that through Twitter, she has found a number of people with whom she can make connections on a professional level. This group of people from all over are able to share ideas and grow through social media. The ability to make these connections sometimes without ever meeting face-to-face, highlights the “social” part of social media.

David Truss’s Twitter EDU Guide is a humourous, yet informative guide to starting on Twitter. David’s approach, while heavy on the persuasion, is also grounded in the reality that readers of the guide would be skeptical of Twitter. While he doesn’t shy away from promoting its use, he is aware that for many people, there may be misconceptions about the usefulness of Twitter. Maybe this comes from Donald Trump’s perceived overuse and misuse of Twitter.

Guests – Christine and Ian were both patched in remotely, and this reinforced the message they were espousing. Both guests shared a good sense of humour as they gently ribbed each other. Christine talked about the experiences she had because of Twitter, namely her involvement with the core Competencies Ed Camp in in Richmond. At one point, Christine and Dr. Val had us divide into the groups we had established before, and answer three questions and add to a google doc of Twitter hashtags, handles, and blog addresses. My group did not complete our tasks in time, although we did have fruitful discussion.

Reflection – While I am not a Twitter user, I am always looking to learn new things. If Twitter does half of what I’m being told it does, it will be very useful for me, and I should start following the Twitter EDU Guide. At the same time, at the moment, my head is swimming with the number of applications, websites, social media sites, blog-writing information, etc., that I must master quickly, so I can afford to wait to get a Twitter account. I can still read and follow on Twitter, and that will have to do for now. 🙂

Thursday July 11

ReadingMaking Reflective Practice Visible: Supporting Shifts in Practice Towards Personalized Learning by Tanya Ross

Reading – This paper is consistent with the direction that education in general is going – that is, towards a more personalized learning approach. In previous class discussions, we talked not only of students’ personalized learning, but of the approaches used to create the personalized learning, such as inquiry, problem, and project-based learning. As Tanya points out, BC’s new curriculum stresses a different approach to teaching and learning. At the same time, there is both autonomy by the teacher, and Learning Outcomes that are used to maintain a minimum standard for that grade level. The combination of new curriculum and a shift in pedagogy is key in this paper.

Reflection – Anecdotally, most of the teachers that I know are not satisfied with their approach to teaching. Not one waits for a Professional Development day to work on improving, but rather is always developing. I call it, “teacher brain,” because an idea can strike at any time, anywhere. The teacher brain never turns off – I might be in the middle of a grocery store and think of a new way to teach something. Recently, I was driving to school in the morning when I came up with a great idea for teaching poetry. As soon as I arrived at school, I wrote it down and started to make a lesson plan. I am never satisfied with my teaching and am constantly looking to be better than the day before. I don’t see that as extraordinary, but very ordinary.

Teaching using a personalized learning approach is not difficult, but it takes a lot of work to redefine one’s lessons. As well, very dedicated teachers spend much of their time both in and out of school on their students’ “success.” As I mentioned earlier about making Shakespeare more “human,” I would say that teachers must allow themselves to be “human,” and occasionally take the easier route of facts recitation and worksheets because, well, they are tired. This should not be met with derision, but with encouragement about getting through the day, or week. The reality about teaching is that some days we are flying high and are ready to tackle anything, and some days we want to just mail it in. Students are the same. Come to think of it, that is also life in general.

experimental and control group

As Joanna and I chatted before class began today, we joked about how these classes would be great subject groups to study technology in the classroom, at least at the post-secondary level.  The struggles and trials and tribulations of getting a master’s cohort on educational technology to work through assignments using educational technology is a built-in experiment.  Of course that is not lost on the professors in charge, but it made Joanna and me wonder whether our movements were being tracked and we were in one giant experiment!  I would guess we would be the control group, and the online group would be the experimental group?

I was even more acutely aware of the “experiment” as Matt from the library came to talk with us.  At the end of his tutorial, which left a lot of us in his wake, there was a check-in with the online folk.  To be sure, as quick as Matt was, he fixed all of the problems that arose in the room (save for those who could not download Zotero without admin access).  Trevor chimed in that he got stuck fairly early on, and after that it moved along faster than he could keep up.  This to me highlighted the advantage of being in the room with Matt, as well as my proximal neighbours.  There were times when I leaned either to the left or the right to ask Heather or Clay about some part I had gotten stuck on.  As well, when I told Matt I was stuck, he ran over to get me back on track.  These interactions either occurred spontaneously and quickly (maybe 5-10 seconds) or spontaneously and drawn out (until my problem was solved).  The online folk (except the Fort St. James group) did not have either the advantage of someone literally beside them to ask, or the troubleshooting presence of the instructor at their immediate beck and call.  Those online folk would have to have unmuted their mics and then shared their screen with Matt for him to see where they were stuck.  Of course that was not impossible, but it would have lengthened Matt’s time with us, and his time was limited.  Even for us in the room, the information came at us at warp speed, but we clung to our seats so as not get thrown into the abyss.  In the end, Trevor asked Matt whether he could contact him later to straighten out where he got stuck, and that was fine with Matt.

So it made me think about how things may proceed in the Fall and beyond, as we are ALL going to be the “experimental” online folk.  Hmm…certainly connecting with a few others for support, both moral and intellectual, will be key.

Twitter use and Instructor Credibility

This article brings up many questions, and foremost has to do with the constantly changing face of social media.  Any studies that reference social media platforms risk that information to be seen as either invalid or unreliable, since the shelf-life of a particular platform is quite short, supplanted relatively quickly by something else.  Given that the study was published online in 2015, that is already a lifetime ago in social media terms, since the data would have been collected earlier than 2015 as well.  Since this article deals with college students from likely 2013-2014, the use of Twitter may or may not apply to 2019.  That in and of itself would be needed to affirm its reliability.  Another complicating factor is whether this information can be extrapolated to apply to younger students, such as in high school.  In that case, the difference between the relationships forged between a young adult and a college professor and that between an adolescent and a high school or middle school teacher is very wide.

As for social media platforms, in terms of use, I would anecdotally say that at the moment, Instagram is the platform of choice in 2019 of those in their early 20s and younger.  How would this different platform and its use affect college students’ perception of instructor credibility?  What about at the high school level?

In the Results section, it is reported that of student responses to the Open-ended questions, “Improving student-instructor relationships” was a theme that arose in student responses.  This may be more of an indication of the current generation’s preferred mode of communication with everyone, rather than just the instructor.  The follow-up to this may be about Twitter, or other platforms’ affect on everyone’s credibility.  As well, a control group of an equal number of students who talked with their instructors face-to-face might show the same results.

In my practice as a high school teacher, I went through the wave of Facebook mania about 15 years ago.  As facebook gained in popularity, so did the number of students who wanted to be “facebook friends.”  Some of those students were just “collecting” friends to bump up their numbers, which was a status symbol.  Many just wanted to connect in a way that was less teacher-student oriented.  When dealing with minors, this melding of professional and private personas was, and is, fraught with disaster.  The BCTF warns all teachers to be very careful about those kinds of relationships, and as a union rep, I have had to work with teachers who were pushing the boundaries of professional and private interactions online.  As a compromise, I created a facebook account and accepted only students on that account.  As well, I rarely posted or commented, but used the account to acknowledge a student’s desire to reach out, and left it at that.  The flurry of requests died down, and in the last five years, as facebook has lost its shine with the younger students, I have only been sought out a few times.  At the same time, as Instagram’s popularity has increased, a student has created a fan account on me.  I do not have an Instagram account myself, but this is the new way for students to reach out.

So where does that place us at the high school (and lower) level?  I believe that students’ perception of instructor credibility at the high school level looks very different from that at the post-secondary level.  This may require an equivalent study as DeGroot but with high school students as participants to fully know.

Musings on Social Media and Personalized Learning

First, a response to the readings; then a reflection on the applications to my experience.

July 3

Response to the readings

Re: Why Minimal Guidance During Instruction Does Not Work: An Analysis of the Failure of Constructivist, Discovery, Problem-Based, Experiential, and Inquiry-Based Teaching by Paul A. Kirschner, John Sweller & Richard E. Clark (2010)

The key word in the article and in the title is, “minimal.”  The premise is that students are not successful with an approach that presumes that they will “figure out” a solution to a problem that they are given.  With minimal guidance, it is difficult for some to come up with a solution, or the time and effort required to find a solution does not benefit the students in their learning.  This approach can work, but only when students have enough prior knowledge or experience that their ability to independently problem-solve is high.  As noted in the abstract, “The advantage of guidance begins to recede only when learners have sufficiently high prior knowledge to provide ‘internal’ guidance.” (p.75)  Independent, autonomous problem-solving works best when there is a basic level of competence.  An example may be seen in the trades.  An apprentice does not get sent out on his or her own to work on a job, but rather is paired with an experienced worker to guide and model what is to be done.  Once that apprentice has been on the job long enough to see and try, he or she is sent out solo to work and solve problems independently.  There cannot be instant success by the worker being “thrown into the deep end and being expected to swim.”  Certainly a worker will eventually figure out a solution, but without guidance, the path to the solution would likely be inefficient and possibly ineffective.

Perhaps the interpretation of the data may be at the heart of the argument.  That is, those who promote unguided or minimally guided instruction may be looking for different outcomes.  It may be that what they are measuring is creative and innovative solutions to problems.  With minimal or no guidance, the variety or breadth of solutions increases because the direction is not prescribed by the instructor (the “right” answer).  The focus may be less about the result as it is the process.  In that case, minimal guidance would produce more creative approaches, even if some or many are not efficient or successful.  If the goal is not to have the most efficient or successful solutions, but rather to have “different” solutions (or attempts), then minimal guidance would be seen as superior to guided instruction.  In the end, a proponent of unguided instruction might argue that one innovative method may work out more efficiently and more successfully that the prescribed, guided method.

In the article that follows, the description of problem-based versus project-based is significant.  Problem-based, as described by Drs. Barron and Darling-Hammond, includes traditional instruction (“Teachers also offer instruction in more traditional ways, such as lectures and explanations that are crafted and timed to support inquiry.” p.5)  This description may negate Kirschner’s argument and assertion against problem-based learning.

Re: Teaching for Meaningful Learning by Dr. Barron & Darling-Hammond, Stanford University

The first statement that stood out in the reading was, “Interestingly, students who may struggle in traditional instructional settings have often been found to excel when they have the opportunity to work in a PBL context, which better matches their learning style or preference for collaboration and activity type (see, e.g., Boaler, 1997; Meyer, Turner, & Spencer, 1997; Rosenfeld & Rosenfeld, 1998).”  I would like to know if the opposite is also true; that is, whether students who struggle in PBL settings find that they excel in traditional instructional settings.

If, in Barron and Darling-Hammond’s description, that problem-based learning includes the teacher’s use of more traditional instruction, such as lectures and explanations, then it is not an either-or proposition.

Reaction and reflection

Kirschner – In my mentoring of student teachers over the years, I have often counseled with the same message when they have asked about trying an activity with the students: try it.  No matter what I think, you won’t know how something will work until you try it.  This unguided approach was purposeful because I did not want my bias to influence the student teacher’s thinking going into the activity, in a positive or negative way.  As well, a student teacher typically (if it is his or her first practicum) has no prior knowledge about the probability of success for doing activities in class, and this makes it more nerve-wracking from the student’s perspective, but is a necessary component of real learning-by-doing.  So unguided learning has a place.

Barron and Darling-Hammond – Like most teachers, I have done many problem-based and project-based learning activities.  In English, for the past two years, my school has done a version of CBC’s Canada Reads, but at the school level (Wendy, from your previous cohort, hatched the idea).  This includes having classes championing a book, and culminating in a presentation to the student body about your chosen book.  The carrot at the end was to have your class’s book chosen either by the judges or the students as the book of the year.  My class worked on a guided approach to making a 2-3 minute presentation.  How books were presented was up to the teacher and class, so some did PowerPoint, one did a rap song, one did a dance, and my other class did a narrated, dramatic stage presentation.  This class chose to do a news report-style video.  It was an amazing success (we won the student choice award).  We certainly could have made a documentary about the process, because it would have played out just like the Most Likely to Succeed video.  This, in a “traditional” school setting.  So does a school need to completely alter itself to incorporate inquiry-based projects?  I would argue, “No.”  But also, to be clear, this did not work for every student, so it is not the method of learning for all students, all the time.

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