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Category: 9X9X25 Challenge

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.


Perseverance – 9x9x25 Post #5

It’s hard to believe that this is post #5 for the 9x9x25 challenge.  We are past the halfway point!

Since writing (and hence blogging) isn’t my strength, I sometimes find it hard to figure out what to write about. This week I had to look around the other 9x9x25 posts for some inspiration.

If you have been reading my other posts, you will know I have been having trouble with one particular class.  In particular, they are very unfocussed.  They would rather sit and wait for me to take up a question, then attempt it on their own (even though I encourage them to work together). Most never do any homework outside of class.  They come unprepared for class (some have come to a test with no calculator!!) and then beg for more time or a second chance.  Some arrive late for class or leave early.

I am constantly searching for a new ideas I can try.  I find myself reading the other 9x9x25 posts (and other blogs) as often as I can for help.

When reading the posts from over the last week I found one that resonated with me.  Specifically, the post by Prof Melanie – “Are you teaching with your signature strengths?“.

Prof Mel talked about how she took the VIA Character Strengths Survey and how she is living out her #1 character strength (creativity).

It made me wonder what my #1 character strength was and if I was living mine out.  I decided to take the survey. (Try it yourself: VIA Character Survey)

After answering all the questions, I found out my top character strength: was Perseverance.

action adventure challenge climb

Photo by Martin on Pexels.com

According to the VIA, this is defined as “Finishing what one starts; persevering in a course of action in spite of obstacles; ‘getting it out the door’; taking pleasure in completing tasks.” (https://www.viacharacter.org/www/Character-Strengths/Perseverance)

I would definitely say they hit the nail on the head on that one.  This is true for both my personal and professional life.

I could very easily just write my “problem” group off as being not willing to do what it takes to learn the material.

I choose to keep trying to reach them and help them to learn so they can be successful in my class.

I have 7 more weeks to keep trying to reach them.

achievement adult agreement arms

Photo by rawpixel.com on Pexels.com

For some, it will be too late.

For others, I may get to them in time.

I hope that I get to as many of them as possible and am able to help them succeed.

I will keep persevering!

Dr. Evil and Mini-me

Movies and Math

I struggled to find a topic for this week.  Perhaps it was because I was ready for break week and didn’t want to think about school.

I was looking forward to going to our winter home in the Collingwood area and leaving school behind for a few days. It is our escape to the simpler life of small town.

It’s not winter yet, but it’s already snowed here which makes me look forward to ski season!

As I reflected on the past week at school, I found myself both frustrated and energized at the same time.

One class, continues to frustrate me.  Since I’ve already written about them, I will leave that for now.

In my other class, which is a level 1 foundational math class, we had some fun and laughs.  I love it when the class is positive and engaged!!

I was teaching a topic that most students learn in early high school, if not before. Many students have not seen these topics since then. For others, it’s been even longer if they have been away from high school for a while.   The topic was ratios, rates and proportions.

The nice part about this topic is that there are lots of examples all around us that help students to understand the material.

I told them stories about when I go grocery shopping and take pictures for math class.  They thought that it was pretty funny (and I am sure they thought it was geeky too).




If I can, I like bringing in clips from movies or television and use them as part of the teaching. It’s a fun way to learn math.

This week, I used a clip form Austin Powers.  I based my lesson on one created by Robert Kaplinsky. (http://robertkaplinsky.com/work/mini-me/)

Before I even started the clip, there was a lively debate on which movie the clip was from.  I guess you could say they were hooked!

I had the students first calculate Verne Troyer’s (mini-me) size compared to Mike Meyer’s (Dr. Evil) size.  At that point, the students were engaged, but they weren’t “sold’.

Then we watched the clip to see what the movie said the ratio was.

When the students heard that Mini-me was supposed to be 1/8 of Dr. Evil’s size, they were shocked.

The next task was to figure out, based on the movie and the real height of Dr. Evil, how big mini-me should be.  This got their curiosity going and they were all totally on this task!

They calculated that Mini-me should have been 8.5 inches.  Of course, they all realized how ridiculous that was and burst out laughing.

We talked about claims, such as the one that was made in the movie, and how knowing about math topics like ratios, rates and proportions can help us determine how true they are.

It was wonderful and exhilarating to watch the students get so into math!

I am always on the lookout for resources that I can use my class. I like to use movies or pictures from real life because it helps the students relate to the material.

Here’s some of the ones I found so far:



If you have more resources that I or others might be able to use, please share in the comments below!


9x9x25 Post #3 – Math is NOT a Spectator Sport!

For the last few weeks I’ve been thinking about how to motivate my students. So many of them seem to walk out the door and leave math behind. I realize that students’ lives are busier than they ever have been. So many of them have families, full-time jobs, etc.. I try not to assign too much homework, but in math the best way to learn is to practice. To balance the homework, I try and have as much time as possible in class to work on problems. This way I’m there to help them if they need it. Either way, they need to allocate some time to learning and practicing math in order to succeed.

A majority of the students are International and I know that their backgrounds and experience with school vary and that add its own challenge.

I guess you could say I have two problems. In class and out of class.

Many of them don’t do the assigned homework questions and are constantly asking for extensions when I do assign work for marks.  I find this to be a problem for all types of students, both international and domestic.  The number of commitments that students have has increased and this makes is difficult to balance work/school.

During class, I try to assign seat work which can be an issue because a number of them don’t come prepared to write anything. No pencil/pen, calculator or paper. I’ve started printing out practice questions so they have something to work on.  Even with something to write with/on, many sit there and wait until I take up the problem before writing anything (and some still don’t write anything).  I walk around and I try and ask if they need help or prompt them to start the question by asking about it. That usually works (sometimes). Not all my students are like this.  I have some that work very hard for every mark they get.

The other issue I have in class is lateness.  I won’t spend much time on this as Denise Nielson has already dealt with this issue in her blog post: https://nielsenportfolio.wordpress.com/2018/10/11/knock-knock/.

What’s frustrating is some of these students who don’t do much work, come back at the end of the semester begging for second chances because they haven’t earned enough marks to pass the course.  Some just straight up ask me to pass them.

I’ve looked around on the web. Thankfully there are a lot of Teaching and Learning Centres who have great resources on their websites to help out. I’ve been thinking of starting a list.

I’ve tried some of the suggestions, such as adding in-class assessments at the beginning or end of class to encourage students to get to class on time and/or stay until the end of class.  I make a point of tying course material to real examples.  However, I think I will work to find better, more relevant examples to help students to make connections.

One particular class loves to talk. I am going to try cooperative learning to see if working in a group on problems might get everyone participating.

I also like to know what others have done. I would love it if you would share some of your wisdom and tips that worked for you.

Marking Madness!

I’ve been teaching a lot of math courses and one of the things I struggle with is marking. When you mark a math problem it’s not only about the final answer. The process is very important. Students could do everything right but make one small mistake and the final answer will be wrong. It’s important to recognize that a student understands the process as well as the final answer. I tell my students if they want full marks on a test, they need to show their work.  And for the most part, they are pretty good at it.

It can take a long time to mark math tests because I have to mark both the process and final answer.  I write lots of comments on my tests to help students understand where they went wrong. I know that most of them won’t read them, but for the ones that do, I want them to have the chance to learn from their mistakes. The problem is, students tend to make similar mistakes and as a result, I end up writing the same comments over and over again. When you are marking 40+ papers, that can take a long time.

A colleague of mine, Nancy Nelson told me about a program called Gradescope. She said she found it helped her be more efficient with her marking. I did some exploring and decided to give it a try. I have to say I’m sold. Rather than writing the same comments over and over again, I was able to set up a rubric with the comments I wanted to have (and associated points deductions) and apply them as I marked each question. Not only was it more efficient but it insured that I was marking consistently.

Screenshot 2018-10-07 09.33.10

Gradescope is very simple and intuitive to use.  First, scan or upload your test (or assignment) and identify the name and student number sections on the paper.  Then identify the areas on the test/assignment were each question will be answered and assign marks for each question. You can set up your rubric here, or do it when you are marking. Once you have set up the test/assignment, you can import your class list with student numbers.

When students write the test or submit their assignment,  you scan the tests into a PDF and import them into Gradescope. Gradescope matches each paper to the student number and you are ready to mark.

The one thing that Gradescope gives me that I can’t get by manual marking (without a lot of time spend doing the calculations) is data about the test; how students did on each question, the breakdown of the grades etc..

Screenshot 2018-10-07 09.34.22Screenshot 2018-10-07 09.34.02

Being able to take my laptop and mark anywhere, without having all the papers to flip through was an additional benefit. It easy to start and stop. Whenever I had some spare time and I had my laptop or tablet close by, I could open up Gradescope and mark a question.

Screenshot 2018-10-07 10.39.19

One other feature I really liked was the summary report that Gradescope produces.  It shows the details of each question and what errors were made (if any).  Students can see very quickly where they went wrong and what kinds of mistakes they made.  As their teacher, I can see if there is a pattern to their mistakes and use that to focus how I help them.

Between the ease of marking, the reports and the data, I am hooked. This was such a great experience, I plan on using Gradescope for all my marking!

Happy Marking Everyone!

For more information on Gradescope go to their website: https://www.gradescope.com/

I just found out that Gradescope was bought by Turnitin (Turnitin acquires Gradescope). Maybe like Turnitin, Gradescope will become a standard on every campus. 

The Ontario Extend 9X9X25 Writing Challenge

Over the next 9 weeks, I will “take the challenge“.  No, it’s not the ice bucket challenge.  It’s the Ontario Extend 9x9x25 Writing Challenge.  The goal is to write 9 blog posts over the next 9 weeks reflecting on my practice as an educator in post-secondary education.

I thought I would start this challenge with my motivation for doing this in the first place.

As a “mathie” at heart, I am comfortable with numbers and formulas. Writing has never been easy for me and although I have become better at it, it’s still not in my “comfort zone”.  I’ve tried journalling, but not successfully.  I always find myself sitting there, trying to think of something to write down. If only I could connect my brain to a computer to capture all those great thoughts I have when I am in the shower or driving.

This is one of the reasons why I chose to take the challenge. It’s going to take me outside my comfort zone and push me to write at least 25 sentences every week as I reflect upon my teaching practice.


A friend of mine posted the following quote on Instagram:

“Always go with the choice that scares you the most, because that’s the one that is going to help you grow.” Caroline Myss

THIS is something I truly believe in.

Some of the most rewarding experiences I have had in my life have been the ones that were the scariest.  They forced me out of my comfort zone and allowed me to try something new. I can think of many examples throughout my life – but I will only share one as it relates to my career in education.

The first time I was asked to present my peers, I thought, who me? What have I got to share? There are so many other faculty with much better things to share. Of course, it didn’t help that I was terrified to be at the front of the room in front of all my peers.  Imagine that, a teacher who stands in front of students every day worried about teaching other teachers.  The thing I learned very quickly is that your peers understand what it’s like to be at the front of the room.  They are supportive and responsive. Having the courage to step in front of that first group and offer a workshop, has lead to more workshops and other opportunities.

Screenshot 2018-09-27 22.09.51

In 2016, I applied to be a facilitator with the Southwestern College Educator Development Program (CEDP). Being a facilitator is very different from teaching. It’s VERY different from being a MATH teacher.  In a math class, the content & activities are very structured.  At CEDP, we facilitate the group and much of the content is generated by the participants.  This is very different than what I am used to.  It was very scary when I facilitated my first group on my own, especially since I was taking over for another facilitator in the second phase.  My group was amazing and we learned so much from each other.  I really love being a facilitator, meeting faculty from the other colleges and learning from everyone.  I learn something new every phase.

I am excited about the next 9 weeks to see what happens. I am already having thoughts about next weeks topic.

I am looking forward to learning from each other over the coming weeks!

Happy writing everyone!


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