Exploring, experimenting & and sharing all things edTech to improve teaching and learning

Month: November 2018

A New Year, A New Semester

This is the last 9x9x25 post and its nice that it aligns closely with the end of the Fall term.  It provides an opportunity to reflect on the entire term as we prepare for the end of semester and look toward the holidays and some much deserved time off.

There have been lots of ups and downs this semester.  I’ve had a number of challenges trying to motivate students to not only come to class, but stay and participate. I’ve also had some great successes where I saw students actively participating and having fun with math.

I have found this time writing blog posts for the 9x9x25 challenge a great way to reflect on my teaching in a different way than I am used to.  So often, reflecting means looking at how the class went, making notes for next time and moving on.  It’s a personal process and it’s usually not shared with others.

By taking time each week to write a post, that process became a shared process, especially when others responded through comments.  I know it thrilled me when JR reflected on my post.  And this week, I found Prof Mel’s post about HyFlex (which I made sure to Like).  I am interested in exploring it at our school and should we move ahead, I know one person I will reach out to.

The only thing I wish I could have done better is reading more of the 9x9x25 posts. There are so many wonderful posts, it’s hard to read them all!

I do have one suggestion for future Challenges (and I hope there will be more).

I would like to see more interaction between participants. I am not sure how that would be accomplished.  One thought – one or two of the posts we do should have to be as a response to another? 

This has been a very interesting journey and I am glad I took the time to do it.

Now it’s time to start thinking about the next term.

A New Year… A New Term…

I’ve got lots of plans for this winter, both personal and professional.

I will be teaching my first full online course this winter. This is a course I have been working with our Online Learning Center to develop since January and it’s finally going live this Winter. I am very excited and nervous at the same time.  I’ve taught hybrid courses before, but never fully online.

I am looking forward to starting the @OntarioExtend #ExtendmOOC in January!  I’ve enjoyed taking part in the PD offerings through Ontario Extend over the past 7-8 months. I’ve learned so much and “met” (virtually) some great people.

shaping edu

One of the highlights of my term will be heading back to Arizona to meet up with the people I have been working with on the ShapingEDU project. The 10 Actions to Shape the Future of Learning that were identified last year are pictured above.  If you are interested in the future of learning in the digital age, check out https://shapingedu.asu.edu/home



And of course, the winter also brings with it – Ski Season! I get to spend my weekends enjoying the great outdoors with my winter family at Alpine Ski Club in Collingwood.

Lots to look forward in the New Year!



Life is a Balance

9x9x25 Post #8

This week’s post is not really teaching related. It’s about balance. Balancing our work life and home life so that we can bring the best of ourselves to our teaching.

Sometimes we get so busy with our teaching; prepping, marking, answering emails, lesson plans, helping students etc. that we don’t take time for ourselves.  I am guilty of doing this.

Taking the time to do something that we enjoy and makes us happy, keeps us balanced.

I’ve become very unbalanced over the years.

Maybe that’s why I decided to take this challenge. It’s making me do something new and I am really enjoying it.

thehuntpart1When I first started teaching, I always made time for my crafts, especially scrapbooking and card making.  I used to call it my right brain activity that kept my life balanced.  I teach mostly math and computers, two activities I associate with being left brain activities.

I know there’s research indicating that there is no left or right brain, but I can’t help but think there’s something more to it.  There may not be a “left” or “right” brained activity, but I do believe that activities fall into different types of categories (logical, creative, etc.). For me, when I do something that’s more creative and is different than the numerical and logical things I do every day, I feel I’m a more balanced as a person. I think it also helps me be more creative in my profession as it helps me to find creative solutions to problems in my classroom.

Unfortunately, I have gotten away from using my creative side.   Perhaps it’s because I have more responsibilities outside of work than I used to and they are taking up my spare time.  My mom passed away 4.5 years ago and my siblings and I have taken over my dad’s care.  He just turned 90 last April.  I think this (and getting older) has also contributed to an increasing stress level which in turn has created other problems.

In August I decided to start taking care of me. I still help take care of my dad and do all the other things on my plate, but now I also make time for me.  I’ve cut out processed foods, gluten, dairy and sugar and limit my wine. I feel so much better.

Screen Shot 2018-11-19 at 7.23.56 PMI’ve also decided to make a conscious effort to put creativity back into my life.  I signed up for a pottery class for this Friday, a couple of paint classes (chalk paint) and starting in January my friend and I will be taking a 10-week pottery course.


IMG_0907I am also looking forward to dusting off my DSLR camera to get some great winter shots up at the ski hill. I could write a ton about how much joining Alpine Ski Club has meant to me and my family (https://alpineskiclub.com).  But that’s another post for another day.


I find when I take the time to do the things I love, I feel better, I am more positive and I think that helps me be more positive with my students

There’s lots of research about the benefits of crafts.

According to the University of California, Berkeley, a few of the benefits of crafting include:

  1. Reduce stress
  2. Improve mood
  3. Head off cognitive decline
  4. Empower women with eating disorders
  5. Help people cope with chronic pain


Who doesn’t want to feel better and keep their mind sharp?   Being more creative doesn’t have to be limited to knitting, crocheting or sewing…There are lots of ways to de-stress and head off cognitive decline.

“There’s promising evidence coming out to support what a lot of crafters have known anecdotally for quite some time,” says Catherine Carey Levisay, a clinical neuropsychologist and wife of Craftsy.com CEO John Levisay. “And that’s that creating — whether it be through art, music, cooking, quilting, sewing, drawing, photography (or) cake decorating — is beneficial to us in a number of important ways.”  (https://www.cnn.com/2014/03/25/health/brain-crafting-benefits/index.html)

If you are interested, here’s another great read: https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/arts-and-health/201512/creativity-wellness-practice

Why not try something new today?

Go to Class or Study? 9x9x25 Post #7

So, what am I going to reflect on this week? Good Question.

Last week, all was fairly quiet in my teaching world.

One class spent the week doing review for their test next week.

The other class was quiet, but only because it had very poor attendance.  The students were quick to tell me that they had two tests that day and because of that, many of the students were not attending so they could study.  I thanked them for choosing to come to class.

Perhaps that should be the focus of this week’s blog post.

I had 25% of the students show up for that class this week. Yes, 25%.

I think the ones that attended class came because they clearly recognize that skipping one class to study for another doesn’t help. They knew that they would get behind in the course material and end up playing catch-up.

Unfortunately, most of the students that skipped the class are the ones that are already struggling and needed to be there.  Because of this, I made sure that I posted a notice outlining what we covered and gave direction on how they could catch up and be ready for next class.

I even posted a video covering the material so they didn’t have to try and learn it themselves.

I emphasized that because they missed class, they would need to catch up on their own and that we would be moving to the next topic on Tuesday.  As an incentive, I told them we’d be having an in-class assignment on last week’s material.

I’m not sure how many of them will actually do the work. That’s the bigger problem. If they can’t manage their time well enough to be prepared for a test (and have to skip class to study) are they going to take the time to do the work to learn the missed material? At the time I wrote this, 10 people had gone to the page with the video link. That’s 25% of the class. Most of them were in class that day and were obviously using it to review.

So how do I get those kids to understand that skipping class is not a good idea AND that THEY are responsible for making up the work?  

Those that attended already get it so saying anything to them is pointless.

I did some quick research (Google) and it was interesting that many of the posts I found about skipping class were written by students.  One article I found on Students.org, (“Is It Worth It To Skip Class To Study?”) was a first-person account of skipping a class to study.  The author made some great points.  She said it herself: “Skipping class meant missing out on a lot of knowledge I’d need for future tests”. She went on to talk about the anxiety that goes along with trying to make sure she got the notes and anything else she missed. Her conclusion: She doesn’t recommending skipping class.

This is what I try and get across to my students, but so few of them believe it.

Skipping class has become an epidemic.  When I first started teaching, students rarely skipped class. It was a small percentage. Now, it seems even in-class assignments aren’t enough to entice students. I know things have changed.

Many students have too many competing priorities. For example, they take on too many hours at their jobs. Instead of a part time job, they’re trying to work 30-40 hours and go to school full-time. The sad part is, some of them end up failing because they can’t put enough time into their schoolwork and end up paying more in the long run.

I think the other problem is that some of the students are just not mature enough to realize that attendance is important. I can’t count how many times I have heard “Did I miss anything important?”.   Really?

I found post that listed the top 5 reasons why students skipped class (as tracked through their social media posts)

  1. Hanging with Friends:37 percent of the Twitter posts referenced skipping class to spend more time with their friends.
  2. Too Tired:32 percent of students tweeted that they were sleeping or too tired to go to class.
  3. Recreation:17 percent of students indicated a specific recreational event or activity that took precedence over attending class. There were a vast number of specific events mentioned, including sports, watching television and playing video games.
  4. Studying:11 percent of students mentioned being too busy with other school work to attend class.
  5. Weather:three percent of students’ posts cited the weather—whether too beautiful or too unpleasant—as the reason they skipped.

Source: https://www.class120.com/press-release-college-students-reveal-why-they-skip-class-in-140-characters-or-less/

The article went on to say: “Studies show that class attendance is the number one predictor of grades in a college course, outranking time spent studying, studying skills, high school grades or standardized tests. Despite this clear connection, even the most optimistic academic studies find that nearly one in five U.S. college students are skipping on any given day—with absentee rates reaching up to 70 percent for some large classes at major state universities.”


Although they didn’t list where those studies came from, results from my own classes have shown a similar thing.  Below is an example from one of my previous classes. Some of the students in this particular class who don’t show up initially, never showed up.  However, the graph does show that as attendance goes down, the average grade on the tests have also gone down. I show the students this chart every term in hopes that it might make them think twice before skipping class.

Attendance and grades are linked.

How do we get students to understand this??



Blending the Blended – 9x9x25 Challenge #6

This past week I had a student come to me within issue.  Let’s call her “Jane”.  Jane was not going to be able to make class today and wanted to find out what she was going to miss.  Jane’s a good student and I know it was bothering her she wasn’t going to be able to be in class.  I told her that if she had any problems, she could email me an we could either meet or do an online help session.

I do online help sessions using a variety of different programs.  I have recently started using Zoom. It’s easy to use and since I have a Surface Pro which has a touch screen, I can share my screen and write out the problems in OneNote for students to see while I am explaining them. Jane has attended my online help sessions before, so that gave me an idea.

I asked Jane if she wanted tryout an experiment with me.  Just before class started, I opened a Zoom session (https://zoom.us/) and invited her to login.  I shared my screen with her and taught the class as I would normally.  Jane could hear everything I was saying and was able to follow along with the lesson as I wrote on my laptop.

Normally during an online help session, I would have students post questions to the chat area. In this case, my screen was being shown on the projector.  Since I didn’t want to have Jane’s comments broadcast to the entire class, I needed a different tool for questions.

I use Remind (https://www.remind.com/) to send quick text messages to students.  This has come in very handy when I can’t get access to the LMS and need to get a message out quick. I can easily send a quick note through the Remind App.  It’s a great tool that I have been using for over 5 years.  One of the new things it has added over the years is a chat function that allows students to text their teacher without giving away either’s phone number.

For this lesson, we used the Remind App for questions.  She could ask questions (or answer questions I put to the class), but I could also ask her if things were working well from her side or if she had any questions.

Everything worked well and she was so happy that she was able to follow along in the class while she was at home.

Source: https://www.onlineuniversities.com/blog/2013/01/the-hyflex-learning-model-online-eds-most-customizable-idea-yet/

I got the idea to try this from an article I had read about HyFlex Course Models.  According to an Educause report, “HyFlex is a course design model that presents the components of hybrid learning (which combines face-to-face with online learning) in a flexible course structure that gives students the option of attending sessions in the classroom, participating online, or doing both.” (https://library.educause.edu/~/media/files/library/2010/11/eli7066-pdf.pdf )

In a very rough way, this experiment what is a HyFlex delivery model.

In the past, HyFlex required expensive technology and a special set up in the classroom.

With advances in wireless accessibility, software such as Zoom and Tablet PCs which allow writing on the screen, HyFlex isn’t as expensive a venture as it used to be.

The beauty of HyFlex is that it gives students the ability to choose which model works for them.

For some students, being in the physical classroom is the best way for them to learn.  For others, online, whether it’s in person or watching a video, works just as well.

Given that the lesson can be recorded, students have the opportunity to review the material if they are still confused or just want a refresher.

I’ve spoken to a professor who used this model and their experience was that  1/3 of students come to class, 1/3 students are online and 1/3 watch the video later.  The professor was quite pleased with the HyFlex model.

I believe those that disagree with HyFlex cite that students will just not come to class and some of those students do not have the study skills to do the work at home.

I don’t disagree. Unfortunately, many of those students don’t come to class anyway. At least having a recording gives them an option should they choose to use it.

The following are different types of HyFlex implementations:

I definitely plan to explore this model further.


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