Author Archives: kelsielenihan

So long, farewell…

Source: Giphy

And now that you’ve got the song stuck in your head for the rest of the day, here’s a summary of the module creation process.

Below is a link to my course profile. I’d paste it all here, but it ended up being around five pages, so I’ll save you the scrolling. Here it is.

As well, here are the links to the creation process of the Hamlet unit:

And goes and goes

You get what you pay for

I admit it. I’m biased.

Creating “Hamlet”

Full Tilt

And so it went.

Each of the blog posts details different aspects of the creation process that I went through to get to the final product. I go more in depth about what decisions I had to make as well as the rationale behind the choices I made in my summary of learning (coming soon!)

Onto the feedback.

As a whole, the feedback was positive. I received comments about how engaging the content could potentially be, as well as positive feedback on the structure/shell of the course.

One comment about splitting the video into “episodes” was really smart and I don’t know why I didn’t think of it sooner.

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Source: Giphy

It would solve a few accessibility issues: watching shorter videos means that it won’t take as long to load on slower internet, students could watch only what they needed without having to rewind and fast forward constantly, and it would give more time to digest the information by allowing students to break in between episodes. While I don’t have time to do this currently, I will be re-recording the video in the future to make it shorter.

As well, there were a couple questions about feedback and assessment and I totally get where they’re coming from. I guess, as a teacher, sometimes I think that people can read my mind because I have everything set out in my head exactly as I want it to be. Sometimes it doesn’t translate exactly from my head to paper when trying to explain what I want to accomplish with a unit or a task. In the future, when reviewing this module, I’ll definitely be adding more information about assessment.

One thing that seemed to get rave reviews was my Hamlet Bingo. It’s also one of my favourite assignments to give because it creates a sense of collaboration and competition. I usually give out a small reward to the person who comes to me by the end of Act 5 with a complete, properly noted bingo sheet.

Onto my soapbox.

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Source: Giphy

One further aspect of the feedback I’d like to address is the part of my video where I mention Hamlet dies. The reviewer mentioned that it may spoil the play for students. My rationales for indicating Hamlet dies are plenty. First and foremost, Hamlet,as a play, is over 400 years old and an integral part of English language. Hamlet’s death is a part of our shared cultural knowledge. As well, letting students know what to read for helps them empathize with the characters and their decisions. I find it heightens the sense of dramatic irony. Finally, students have been exposed to potentially two other Shakespearean tragedies (Romeo and Juliet and Macbeth). In order to teach Shakespearean tragedies, the student must understand that Shakespeare has created a society that is disordered and imperiled. For the society to become whole again, a sacrifice must be made and the tragic hero makes it.

And off my soapbox.

The feedback was appreciated, though I wish the reviewers had somehow maintained their anonymity. It is kind of awkward to be getting the code for the class and see classmates’ names.

I enjoyed the process of examining classmates’ hard work and their modules and I appreciated the feedback I received because it really informs my teaching for the future of my blended classrooms!

And so it went.

This semester has flown by unbelievably fast. I can’t believe it’s almost April, though where I am, spring seems to have forgotten us.


I’ve completed my course prototype and I think it was absolutely worth it. When Katia and Alec first described what the course prototype would be, I was excited for the final project.

via Giphy

Finally, something that I could use beyond the class ending.  This was infinitely a better final assignment than a long-winded essay on something I wouldn’t care about two days from the class ending.

Figuring out what I wanted to do and how took much less time than I feared. Because I have access to GAFE, I knew I wanted to use Google Classroom. I felt this would have the greatest impact on my future teaching because I would actually be building something I could use and reuse.

via UConn

Once I had established how, I needed to focus on the what. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to work on perfecting a class I’ve taught a million times (I’m looking at you, ELA 9) or work on a class I’ve only taught a handful of times (ELA B30 and ELA 20).

I decided that while I have time and patience (well, some of each), that I should work on a course that I don’t have as many resources for. So, my unit introduction on Hamlet began.

I used elements of the unit I’ve taught previously, but wanted to challenge myself to make it more accessible and less dependent on being in class, so I experimented with iMovie.

via Dribble

I have zero — and I mean ZERO — experience video making or editing beyond my Summary of Learning for EC&I 830. I’ve always thought video editing was too picky and time-consuming for my taste.

I started by experimenting with the trailer function of iMovie and found it ridiculously easy to use. So, I started putting together my video for the Hamlet introduction by creating a presentation with all of the information, screenshot (screenshotted?) all the slides and put my video together.

I really learned a lot about the editing power of iMovie as I had to make sure my voiceover matched the length I had chosen for my pictures and how to make them equal.

I think I’ve found a new love in iMovie.

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via Giphy

This process has really made me think about how I’m presenting content in my class: how easily is what I’ve asked my students to do translatable to other mediums? Can a word doc become something more? Can a lecture become something else? How hands on is my content? Are there opportunities for revision?

All in all, I’ve enjoyed this final project more than any other one I’ve encountered in my grad studies because I’m able to use it right away and it is something I created for myself for my practice rather than for a professor and their practice (sorry, Alec and Katia). A highly selfish project, but also the best project.

Full Tilt

NOTE: my gif isn’t showing up, and I think it’s because I’m on mobile. When I get to a laptop, I’ll fix it.

It’s most definitely nearing the end of the semester.My blood pressure is always an accurate measure.

// GIPHYWorking on blog posts, summary of learning, and the module is definitely keeping me hopping.

Last week in class, we had the breakout sessions to discuss potential criteria for our final project. One of the comments from Bill Cook really got me thinking.

How is authenticity affected by the degree of openness? Is it possible to support “authentic” learning in a closed forum or discussion space? Is authenticity guaranteed if we open the conversations to the online world?

Bill wondered about identity and how we, as educators, can guarantee that who we’re teaching is who we’re supposed to teach, specifically related to assessment.

How do we know that what we’re getting is actually from the student whose name is on it? In a strictly face-to-face class we can assign in-class assessments that we can monitor. With online classes, there’s a greater degree of trust on the part of the educator. Teachers, notorious control-freaks, must relinquish power and control.

However, it is concerning  just how can we tell if what a student has done is actually their and  not a sibling or a former student? This is an honest question. I don’t know. Maybe that’s an argument for blended learning rather than strictly online?

This is a puzzle that I hadn’t considered but I’d like to hear what others think. I don’t know why this hasn’t occurred to me previously.

I think this is going to change how I proceed with assessment in my final project as well.

What do you think? How can assessment in a strictly online class be monitored for authenticity?


Creating “Hamlet”

Today’s blog post will attempt to answer the questions posed by Alec and Katia about the authenticity of interaction in my course prototype.

As I discussed before, my prototype will be about Hamlet. Shakespeare is unique in that the curriculum mandates a Shakespeare play be taught in ELA B10 and ELA B30:

TGS: Teacher Guided Study, IS: Independent Study

b30 Therefore, a student in ELA B30 will study Shakespeare as a teacher-guided text, but it is up to the individual teacher as to which of the four plays to study.

Before I discuss interaction between students/instructors, I want to elaborate on my hypothetical student body.

My “class” would comprise of many students with many needs: high absenteeism (due to whatever reason: home life, vacations, sports etc.), a significant EAL population, students with diagnosed and undiagnosed LD for which they may or may not be receiving extra support, and a “middle of the road” population. These categories may overlap (an EAL student who is absent and has an LD). To me, this is a typical classroom at the school I teach at.

My course prototype/module is an introduction to Hamlet, which is the context for the play, a character overview, and a plot overview through a video, which will be posted on a Google Classroom (when I actually teach the class. For the purposes of this class, it will posted to my blog)

For the interaction portion of this module, I want to start with a Flipgrid set, which scenarios related to the play for students to pique interest in the play and themes (for the specific questions, you’ll have to wait for the module!)


Furthermore, students will split into groups for a theme presentation project, for which they’ll use Google docs/slides to collaborate.

If I were creating the entire unit on Hamlet, there would be integration of quick Kahoots for comprehension, various selections from hereHamlet bingo (if you’re interested in what this is, let me know and I’ll send you the doc), and the culminating assignment of a comparative essay.

Because this will be on a Google Classroom, students will have the opportunity to interact on assignments with both myself and others through forums. There will be reflection questions based on the current portion of the play. Students will not have to discuss every prompt; they will be numbered and assigned a specific set of prompts and are required to interact on their prompts only. For the purpose of the assignment, prompts/discussion will take place on my blog for accessibility.

Because my hypothetical class would have in-class time as well as components online, there’s a mix of in person and online interactions.

Using Schwier’s chart, there are elements of mutuality in the group assignments and using technology that’s generally available or can be shared (i.e., school laptops, cellphones).

As for assessing student interactions, on the Classroom will be formative assessments (comprehension of the question and the thoroughness of their response). The summative assessment is the culminating essay, which students will be able to use ideas developed in their responses. Essentially, the questions/responses on the Google Classroom will act as pre-writing.

As well, students will be assessed on their thematic presentation, which should be completed in a collaborative space, such as Google docs/slides.

I really didn’t mean to write so much and I hope this is understandable and not as stream-of-consciousness as I fear.

Any suggestions for further formative assessments would be greatly appreciated! I’m looking for ones that show a general comprehension level (such as the Kahoot or Menti) and ones that show individual comprehension (like exit slips)

Spark a movie?

This week I decided to look into something that has been talked about a lot in class: iMovie.

I know, I know. How original. I’ve never used it before and didn’t know I had it on my iPad. On a whim, I looked through my apps and lo and behold, I had iMovie.

So I decided to give it a go:

I tried to replicate the video on Adobe Spark (using the app on my iPad) and was instantly frustrated. I have nothing to show for my half hour attempt at using the app. Maybe it just wasn’t meant for doing that? I’ll have to try it using a different idea.

I found iMovie incredibly easy to use, though I just used their trailer function. I think it created a polished, cohesive product that was quick and intuitive to do.

I think I can use iMovie to create my module, though I don’t think I’ll use the trailer aspect, but create from scratch.

Fingers crossed it works!

I admit it. I’m biased.

Those colds I wrote about last week? Through some bizarre twist of biology, they’ve morphed into stomach flu. 0/10 do not recommend.

Source: Giphy

I am approaching this week’s blog entry with a large amount of bias: I am an English teacher. I teach “text”.

But, as I tell my students, text means a whole lot of things. According to the English Language Arts Curriculum, a text is:

…any form of communication, whether oral, written, visual, or multimedia (including digital media), that constitutes a coherent, identifiable unit or artefact (e.g., poem, poster, conversation, model) with a definable communicative function. It refers to printed communications in their varied forms; oral communicating, including conversations, speeches, dramatizations; and visual communications such as illustrations, video, and computer displays.

So when Bates classifies “text” as simply print media, I’m working against my prior knowledge.

Source: QuotesWave

However, I am intimately familiar with text, as Bates describes it. My first love is reading. I have read thousands of books, stories, poems, plays. Books are my one true love (sorry, Nathan). Books are the reason I pursued an English degree and am currently teaching English. What better job is there than to teach what you love?

To hear my mother describe it, I began reading at two years old. Apparently, I had Dr Seuss’s A Great Day for Up memorized.

But that creates an interesting juxtaposition: I had memorized through audio rather than print. Hm.

Source: Momfilter

My first “real” chapter books were my mother’s copies of Nancy Drew and Trixie Belden, which introduced me to all kinds of colloquialisms like jalopy and dungarees. These were quite frequently mispronounced by me, which created never ending laughter for my parents. Again, the juxtaposition of audio and print. Hm.

As for auditory, I’ve begun listening to podcasts while on maternity leave, just to have some noise and other adult voices. Stuff You Should Know is a current favourite of mine. Lots of interesting things to hear, but like Sarah, I find I don’t learn anything. It’s too easy to tune out because there’s no reinforcement of the material, as Bates discusses. Sure hearing about the origins of quinoa is interesting, but do I remember anything from it? Nope.

Another juxtaposition of audio and text. I’m noticing a pattern…

Source: Open Clip Art

So then, what about video? I love video. I’m a frequent purveyor of YouTube, Netflix, Amazon Prime Video etc. But what I find is that more often than not, I have subtitles turned on. I find it easy to understand what is going on when I can see and hear what is happening. Maybe that speaks more for my advancing age than anything else, but another piece of the pattern: audio and visual and text. Hm.

And we reach computing. It seems to be the amalgamation of all of the above media: “it can combine the pedagogical characteristics of text, audio, video and computing in an integrated manner” (Bates, 2015, 7.5.4). Seems like the perfect solution, no?

Yes and no. I do spend a lot of my (non-maternity leave) days on a computer, interacting with audio, video, and text, whether researching content for a class, modeling, or just exploring. However, using a computing method of teaching/learning requires due diligence and constant double checking.

Is that awesome website still up? No?!

Finally, social media. Ah, yes. The boon and bane of my existence. I use social media for, well, everything. I crowdsource questions, communicate with my parents who live 3000km away and keep up with the news (today’s Reddit is tomorrow’s Facebook). I really enjoy the collaborative atmosphere of social media and it combines a lot of the previous media. It almost seems a culmination of the other media.


Again, it has its drawbacks, as it can be a time suck and disseminate false information as truth (fake news), as well as create hostile spaces. It takes a bit of teaching and learning in order to use it well and effectively.

But that’s the same with any of the other types of media: they take time to learn thoroughly.

So, to conclude, all of these types of media are intimately linked together, through one way or another. All of that validates the definition of text from the curriculum: it is all this and more.

Source: Giphy

If you’ve read this far, thanks.


I leave you with a question: how do you decide which type of media to use?

Crash course in Crash Courses

I’m writing a little later in the week than anticipated (thank you, cold. Everyone, even the baby, is sick. It’s truly a magical time) but I’m so glad I did!

Source: Imgflip

Reading through classmate’s blogs has been super informative this week. I especially appreciate the blog posts on the creation aspect of this past week. It really helped alleviate my (usual) procrastination about end-of-semester projects.

Liz looked at iMovie, which I have been contemplating for my project, as I’m on leave and don’t have a laptop, but I have my own iPad. I really glad to see the pros and cons of using that program.

Twana and Stephanie both blogged about Adobe Spark, which is another program I’ve been wanting to try out, potentially for the summary of learning. Their reviews definitely convinced me to try it out.

This week, I didn’t focus on the creation part, but the learning part. Like Andrew, the Crash Courses intrigued me.

In doing some cursory research, I found out that Crash Courses are actually partnered with PBS and Khan Academy.

Screen Grab: PBS
Screen Grab: Khan Academy

Which is kind of cool, because it adds validity to their content because it has presumably been vetted by these partner companies.

I decided to watch a couple videos on Hamlet as that’s what my module will focus on.

I found the videos really informative and accurate, which is good for students looking to confirm their knowledge and to expand on information about the play they were unsure of. As well, the production value is WAY beyond my budget, both talent-wise, time-wise, and money-wise. But that’s good. It’s much more entertaining than I can be (some days).

Source: Vancity Buzz

But, I found that it went so. fast. Like super fast. I was looking for the subtitles and the rewind button constantly. I feel that a script or watching (and re-watching) segments would be the best way to tackle this as I found it too much to ingest all at once. I would feel that I am also really putting my EAL kids at a disadvantage because of the speed.

Source: Vancity Buzz

Overall, though, I really like the format because I think it appeals to students, especially after they find out he’s the author of The Fault in Our Stars (Okay? Okay.) (and many more)

Source: Vancity Buzz

And yes, that’s good.

You get what you pay for

Source: PC Mag and Google, edited by me

This week I decided to try and work with Canvas as an alternative to Google Classroom as some of the accessibility issues were brought up in class (fun fact: I had my first international discussion with someone on Twitter about how to get more public access! I was impressed with my ability to connect with the wider world. Thanks @AliceKeeler!)

So, onto my review of Canvas.

Source: Giphy

After I logged in for the first time, I was struck by the similarities between Google Classroom and Canvas. The layout of how classes are grouped was similar.

But, upon further investigation, the differences started to stand out. And that’s not necessarily in Canvas’ favour.

As I worked through adding information, assignments, discussions, and a syllabus to Canvas, I was struck by the fact that I had no idea of what my class would look like to a student and I wasn’t sure how I would check.

This is what I see as a teacher:


Is this what students see? How can I find out? If this is what students see, I’m unimpressed. To me, it looks cluttered and intimidating. There are almost too many options. For a student, I’m not sure I would know what to do without very specific instructions and modeling.

Logan mentioned some really pertinent points about the integration of “revolutionary” tools. There really aren’t any, proprietary or otherwise. Yes, it has Google Drive access and Twitter integration, but it lacks finesse with those tools.

Audrey Watters’ post about LMS really challenged the way I was approaching the content and the structure.  A big plus to Canvas is the openness of it and the ability to leave the course “open” so students can access it beyond the course’s technical end date. In this way, students are more central to the learning occurring. It seems the Watters’ post had a significant impact

Picture Source: SheKnows, edited by me

HOWEVER, I’m not sure I’ll be using Canvas in the near future, due to the fact that my division subscribes to the Google Apps for Education. That fact simply cannot be surmounted. I have access to all kinds of tools and my students are “walled” into the Google Classroom through the division’s purchases.

As my title suggests, in this case, I get what I (my division) pays for. Canvas looks similar to Google Classroom, but with further investigation, I find myself drawn back to Google’s monopoly of apps and programs. I just cannot get past the fact that Google offers more helpful tools for teachers through Google Docs and parental/guardian access.

So, I enjoyed my sojourn through different LMSes and have a couple more that I want to explore (thanks, Amy!), but for now, Google is king.

Source: Lazy Grace

And goes and goes

Ahhh. Silence. One child is sleeping and the other is out with his father. I finally have time to work on this class. Coffee in one hand, mouse in the other. #momlife

Source: Google


So I started setting up my Google Classroom and was almost immediately overwhelmed with the possibilities for my class, students, and parents. I’ve begun to explore all of the options in setting up a classroom that can be effective for all learners I may encounter in this class. I think I’ve resisted setting a Google classroom for so long because I thought it was just another iteration of a classroom blog, like the one I had already set up.

My rationale for the classroom blog was multiple: trying to reduce paper waste by not photocopying extra handouts (my mantra was “did you check the blog?”), providing copies of handouts for parents and tutorial teachers that were accessible anywhere, and assisting students who had missed class.

Google Classroom, on first glance, seems to be this and oh-so-much more.

Like, much more.

Source: Relatably

Looking at Google Classroom, I knew I’d have to pick a subject and topic with which I was familiar, as tackling Google Classroom already seemed like a ginormous mountain.

So, like Nicole Brown and Kyle Ottenbreit, I’ve decided to tackle the beast that is Shakespeare.

Ah yes. Everyone has fond memories of Shakespeare, right? Everyone loves to learn about iambic pentameter, rhyming couplets, and theatre in the round?

Sigh. An English teacher can only wish.

Because, honestly, I do love Shakespeare. I really, really do. I think he’s funny, bawdy (what teenager can pass up a good fart joke? Shakespeare sure couldn’t, and honestly, if you actually read Shakespeare, even the tragedies, there are so. many. dirty. jokes), timeless, adaptable, and relatable. Yes, all of those things.

For my final project, I’ve decided to create a fully formed unit on… drumroll please…

Source: Giphy

Hamlet. Hamlet is required for English Language Arts B30 and is one of those plays that has influenced our language in so many ways. There are many lines from the play that have made their way into everyday speech as truisms.

For example: “Neither a lender nor borrower be” (1.3.76) or “to be or not to be” (3.1.57).

It’s also Shakespeare’s longest play (and my blog entry is unintentionally reaching Hamlet-esque lengths. My apologies) and the only one I can think of that has been Disney-fied.

Source: Wikipedia

And so, this marks the beginning of my semester-long attempt at making Hamlet accessible, relatable, and most importantly, FUN in a blended learning way.

My challenges in working with Shakespeare is trying to make the learning “personal“, as Stephen Downes discusses. As well, the Oblinger/Hawkins article echoes that sentiment: “Learning occurs as a result of motivation, opportunities, an active process, interaction with others, and the ability to transfer learning to a real-world situation”. Students will have to first get on board with the why of Shakespeare before they can make the learning their own.

I’m very excited to start on this adventure and really hope that I can produce something that I can use when I return to teaching.

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Finally, if anyone has experience with Google Classroom, I’d be very grateful to hear your pros and cons of using it! Forewarned is forearmed.