Author Archives: Leona Stephen

A Balancing Act

Finding a middle ground feels as though it is becoming more challenging. I like to believe that I have found a balance with my use of technology both in my personal and professional life that I am comfortable with. There are days when I wonder am I alone in my beliefs or does this picture concern anyone else?

group of people in white shirts
Photo by cottonbro on

Maybe I’m old school, maybe I’m uncomfortable with change or maybe I’m simply unaware. I’m a believer of science and what it can explain to us about our mammal brain capacity. I often wonder will we eventually reach our own limits of the human brain? Will we decide 50 years from now that our addiction to the internet was detrimental to the development of today’s youth. I often compare it to the use of nicotine and how harmful the outcome was but it didn’t seem to matter early on when everyone was using it. The financial gain was more important to the tobacco companies than the health of our society. The balancing act is a fine line and it is certainly one that is hard to define and create in our lives as each person has a different lifestyle and teaching pedagogy.

When I look at my life and my use of technology I often say I’m a dinosaur not because of my age but because of my personal choices for technology use both in my personal and professional lives.

Ten years ago I would have never said that about myself because I was embarrassed to admit that I didn’t have a Twitter account or an active Instagram page, that I wasn’t jumping on the wagon with every new educational app that rolled through the classrooms. I can vividly recall my first experience with Twitter – sitting in a conference room with 300 teachers in PA – listening to Dr. Alec Couros brother George Couros talk about the benefits of technology in the classrooms. I sat there amongst all the connected teachers as they pulled out their smart phones and started tweeting…..what on earth was going on?….. was I out of touch? Did not having a Twitter account mean I was not a good teacher? Did it mean I wasn’t connected with family and friends? Since joining twitter in 2013 I have certainly taken time to reflect and think about my digital footprint.

In my classroom my morning starts with the use of EDSBY to take attendance and communicate with students and teachers. I then turn to my computer and utilize many of the google suite apps to deliver my lessons, assign digital assignments and have my students create websites. Over the years I have used severeal different digital tools (kahoot, prezzi, quizlet, menti) in my classroom to attempt to increase engagement by adding variety. I do admit that technology has made my teaching a bit easier to manage and deliver over the years. However, with that said it certainly has its faults – the days when there isn’t enough technology for each student in my room, that the data isn’t available to all, that the app or program isn’t functioning properly. When technology goes down the stress level goes up – there are days when I think my students would learn just fine with pen and paper.

In my personal life I grapple with the need to be connected constantly. As a child I have memories of spending summers on an island in Quebec with no power or running water, a place where family and friends were connected socially through the use of two universal languages. A time when we were present in our social circle – not socializing in two or three places at once. I listened to a Ted Talk in my health class the other morning and the young girl speaking said “years back we wanted to share a feeling so we called someone, now we are hoping for a feeling to come our way.” I send my own kids out to knock on neighbours doors to play and socialize face to face. I make sure I take time to put my phone on silent, I try not to post items on my Facebook or Instagram that doesn’t look like I’m bragging about my life. My vision for my digital footprint is professional, make it useful and purposeful for myself and others. Do I think my way is right – absolutely not, but a balancing act it will continue to be.,

New Experiences – New Learnings – Summary to EC&I 834

It has been a great experience from start to finish. Prior to the onset of the pandemic I hadn’t really given much thought for the need to have blended learning in our schools. However, the pandemic brought on change and BOOM a different version of education was before us. This course has given me more insight to how education is evolving and how I could certainly adapt and change my classroom. Change is never easy but it can be rewarding. Thanks for a great term, hope you enjoy the collaborative efforts of Bret, Brianne and Leona. Cheers!

A Collaborative Effort – By Three

The Final Piece  – Coming Full Circle

In collaboration with my colleagues Bret and Brianne we have come to the end of designing our blended online course. The experience of collaboration, peer reflection and self evaluation has been a success. The final goal, a finished product that is usable in our teaching whether it be in a typical face to face classroom, a blended classroom or strictly an online version. Through the use of Google Classroom as our LMS we believe that we have developed a course that is simple to follow for both students and colleagues. Our course focuses on the outcomes and indicators in the Grade 8 Life Science Saskatchewan Curriculum – Cells, Tissues and Organ Systems. If you would like to join our classroom in the previous listed link you can login into google classroom with a gmail account and use this code (hyclltn) to become a student in our course.

Designing the Course – A Team Effort

Bret, Brianne and myself decided to collaborate on this course because as the saying goes “two heads are better than one” – so let’s just make it three. We selected the grade 8 science area because Bret and Brianne are currently teaching this in their classrooms and wanted to work on a project that could be implemented into their learning spaces. When designing a course together we had to be aware of our individual teaching styles, personal strengths and weaknesses and be willing to make accommodations. We believe that together as a team we have done a good job of creating an engaging course for students at Harbour Landing Elementary. Our first step in the whole process was to create the big picture and make the course profile. Next, we looked into the curriculum and divided up the outcomes so that each of our modules contained certain outcomes and indicators. We tried to make sure that our course had good flow within our modules so that students weren’t missing any key learning concepts. Lastly, we choose to keep a consistent theme for our slides so it would be less confusing for our students. However, we did decide that it would be okay to not worry about having identical teaching methods because the variation within our modules would provide engagement for all of our learners’ needs.

During this semester of class we had several informative conversations about creating online communities, the importance of making an online course accessible by all and explaining in our words the purpose of school. All of the conversations provided helpful insight into how we should continue to design our course shell to ensure that it became a valuable learning platform for everyone. At the halfway mark it was time to let others take a peek at our work and complete a peer review. What were they going to say? Would they think we were creating a useful course or would they think we were completely off track? Despite our nerves getting the best of us our reviewers provided us with some useful criticism and plenty of positive feedback.

Course Overview – Google Classroom

Together we developed a google classroom that allows students to be active participants in our course whether they be at home or in the classroom with us. In our google classroom we have set up an easy framework for our students to follow. Within the classwork section there are different categories the students can access. For example we have the general course information category – where they can find our contact information, a you-tube video on how to use google classroom, and a detailed outline of the course. There is also a section for each module that has been developed. Currently this course covers 3 of the 4 outcomes from the Saskatchewan Curriculum, if a teacher was planning to use the course they would likely need to complete a few more modules in order to fully complete the outcomes of the grade 8 science curriculum.

7 Signs of Strong Teamwork | LiquidPlanner

We have designed six modules that have a good flow of content knowledge from one to the next. In the first and second modules we focus on the history of the cell and its structures. In the third and fourth modules we move onto how the cell makes tissue and how tissues make organs. Finally in the fifth and sixth modules we make the connections between organs and organ systems and how they function to make a healthy human body. Throughout our modules we use a variety of different teaching methods, interactive digital tools and provide students with written and viewing learning opportunities. The modules all contain a summative or formative style of assessment where students complete a self reflection activity, a google form test, or an assignment with a provided rubric. We have attempted to find ways to ensure that there are relationship building opportunities between students and with their teacher by using a variety of digital tools and group activities to enhance the classroom community feel. 

In order to create a course that we believe could be accessible to all we designed the following course profile. In our course profile you will find a more comprehensive plan for the specifics of our course. In our course profile we go into greater detail about our target audience, the course LMS and digital tool box, our course communication options, assignments, materials and assessments to be used. Overall we were attempting to create a course that provided an education that is relevant and concurrent with the pace and needs of our digital world. We want to provide students with the opportunity to learn in a variety of ways, by learning through and with technology hopefully we can prepare them to be digitally literate.

A true pleasure to collaborate and work with great like minded professionals. Thanks Brianne and Bret, until the next time we get to work together!

A Reflection of the Review Process

A Reflection of the Review Process

An experience in the peer review process. This past week Brianne, Bret and I had our course reviewed by our peers in EC&I 834. We all appreciated this experience as it provided us with valuable suggestions on how to improve our course as well as it gave us positive feedback about the work that we had already completed.

Positive Feedback 

Let’s start here. Thank-you to all of our reviewers that noted that our course shell was incredibly organized. The three of us all take pride in our ability to maintain an organized, well thought out classroom whether it be in person or online. We are of a similar belief that if the teacher is well organized then the students will be less confused. We also appreciate the feedback that was noted around the time we put into our work. We as teachers often work very hard behind the scenes to make engaging lessons for our students and don’t necessarily receive the recognition, so thank-you for your honesty. For any of the reviewer’s who stated you would like to have our course we would gladly share, it makes us feel proud that others would want to use our work!

Course Prototype and Course Shell 

In general our reviewers were very pleased with the layout of our course and stated that it was well thought out. They felt that the LMS choice of google classroom was an appropriate choice for the grade 8 grade level. Several good suggestions were made for us and we will certainly use them to improve upon our course. The following are some overall thoughts from our reviewers.

  • Provide more student instruction on how to use google classroom 
  • Provide more student instruction for each module (pre recorded videos of the lecture)
  • Provide contact information of teachers (email, phone, etc.)
  • Provide more opportunities to have student to student interactions
  • Course Rational and Concerns appeared to be missing
  • Keep the titles of the modules consistent

A Personal Look into our Modules

Bret (Module 1 and 2)

Thank you to Chris W and Jacquie V for taking the time to check out my module and provide me with positive feedback as well as some constructive criticism – it is greatly appreciated!  I was nervous to read the feedback, as I wasn’t really sure how much to include or what format to use. I am always a bit nervous when presenting any sort of material to colleagues. Once I was brave enough to dive into the feedback, I was pleasantly surprised with the positive thoughts as well as some very constructive ideas that will help improve the module. Some of the positive feedback that I received for my module 1 was:

  • I was thrilled one of my reviewers noted the difficulty in creating an opening lesson for a unit and how difficult it could be; they later mentioned that this was an outstanding way to start a unit.
  • The YouTube video I selected (The Grand Cell Tour) was very thorough and the purpose of choosing that video was evident. 
  • Utilizing textboxes and a simple “edit” prompt so that students know they have a question to respond to or answer.
  • The flexibility of this module; being able to be easily used as a synchronous or asynchronous lesson. 

Along with the positives came some constructive comments about the module:

  • Provide more instructions for students to complete the cell organelle graphic organizer.  Have students work in partners and use the internet to research each organelle.
  • Accessibility for those with technology or bandwidth issues; paper copies, come to the school earlier, etc.
  • Include an overview video or instruction slide for the students so they are aware of what they are expected to complete.  There was an instruction slide in the module, but perhaps could be formatted differently or placed in a better spot for students to see earlier.

As with any sort of feedback, I am always more interested in constructive feedback (I like the positives too), but the constructive criticism is what is going to make the content better for our students.  The feedback that was given throughout the process is very much appreciated and has already been implemented in the planning of my next module! 

Brianne (Module 3 and 4)

I was very nervous to let my colleagues review my work and receive feedback. This was a new experience for me and I was unsure of how my expectations for myself compared to others. Thank you to Corrin C and Lindsey A for taking the time to review and give feedback that I can put to use.

I was given plenty of positive feedback and some constructive criticism as well. Let’s start with the positive feedback:

  • The amount of content is appropriate and the students will not be overwhelmed
  • The response to nonfiction graphic organizer was a great way to synthesize new information
  •  321 exit slip is revealing for grade 8 and is good tool to help guide teaching
  • There are many engagement pieces such as JamBoard, responding to nonfiction, 321 exit slip, and a self assessment
  • Outcomes and I Can Statements make it clear for the student what we are trying to achieve
  • The module is easy to use at home or at school

I was also given constructive criticism:

  • Consider adding voice instruction for students who have difficulty reading or are not reading at grade level
  • Add the Outcome at the bottom of the self assessment
  • Consider using the rubric function in Google Classroom (why didn’t I think of that!) 
  • Add a tool such Google ReadWrite for students who need support reading and responding

I am grateful for the positive feedback but even more so for the constructive criticism as I can apply this to what I have already created. This is such a simple way to assess and I ignored it. I will definitely use this for my next module as their perspective was different and showed me what I might have overlooked.

Leona (Module 5 and 6)

Thank-you to Leigh T and Dalton D for the positive feedback and constructive criticism that was noted in the reviews of my module 5. I appreciate the positive feedback about my content knowledge and the overall organization of my modules. I was pleased to read that my reviewers thought that my modules were not overwhelming and simple to follow along with. Online learning seems to be confusing at times so my goal is to make it more streamlined for my students, I often think “less is more”. I am so glad that one of the reviewers commented on the note taking sheet. I find that note taking has become something students are not very good at anymore. I like to create note taking sheets to help them develop better skills in that area and then eventually have them create notes of their own. Each reviewer provided me with useful ways in which I could improve my module and I certainly will be adjusting my module 5 and implementing those ideas into my module 6. Some of the suggestions made were as follows:

  • Using the classwork tab over stream tab ( I added a small video in the course section on how to navigate google classroom a bit better, also added a youtube video about using google classroom)
  • Provide more student instructions – In each of my modules I now have two slides – one for teacher instructions if I have a substitute deliver my lesson and a student instruction sheet. In module 6 I have added a short video overview of the lesson)
  • Student to Student Interactions – It was suggested that I had several teacher – student interactions but maybe was missing the student to student interaction. In module six the final project is working with a group to develop a google site about two systems of the body and how they interact to make a healthy person.
  • Private Links – In the beginning I forgot to open all the links up – I have now made sure that they are public – Well I sure hope I have.

Once again thank-you for the feedback. I do believe that peer review is a valuable process. Albeit sometimes difficult to potentially accept, however so often we are incredibly kind towards each other and that is certainly how I felt after this round of reviews.

Accessibility and Equity within our Course

Demographics and Learnings Styles

Not all students are the same, everyone has different learning styles, needs and adaptations that allow them to be successful in their own way. As teachers it is certainly a challenging job to ensure that all needs are being met. When designing a course it is difficult to plan for every consideration, however it is likely reasonable to plan for those that we are aware of will occur in our learning spaces. Before embarking on planning a course it is incredibly valuable to know more about the students that will be in your learning space. When you know what you are dealing with it is much easier to be more prepared. As Bates outlines in Chapter 9.2.1, student demographics, learning style and accessibility are crucial pieces of information that teachers need to understand to be able to know exactly who is in their classrooms. 

Demographic information is very valuable when designing a class and you as a teacher are trying to decide what type of technology or media to use or not. For example if there are EAL, LRT, Hard of Hearing or Blind students in your class you would work towards making your module fit all needs. In some scenarios you might need to make worksheets that are adjusted reading levels, you might need to ensure that you have access to google read and write, there might be a need to develop slides that are easily read by a reader. It would be best practice to develop the course based on the needs of the students and not use an incredible amount of your time prepping for possible situations that may not occur. Through the use of student demographic sheets teachers should take a comprehensive inventory of any disabilities or learning needs that students might require. This will allow teachers to plan accordingly and support students in the best that they can. 


Accessibility is another aspect that teachers must be aware of when they are designing their online course work. This works very closely with student demographics and most often, teachers will be able to identify students’ access to technology, media or bandwidth by understanding their student demographic which makes up their classroom. Bates again outlines in Chapter 9.2.1 two sets of questions that teachers need to answer before finalizing a course. The first set of questions surrounds the teacher’s use of technology for the purpose of teaching.

The second set of questions outlined by Bates, surrounds the expectations if students are to supply their own devices.

Bates goes on to further outline that for both teachers and students to answer these questions, teachers must be clear with why and how they intend to use technology. There is no point in requiring students to provide their own technology if you are uncertain if you will in fact be utilizing it in your class. This requires some more foreplanning by the teacher to ensure that there is not an unwarranted expense to the student families. Teachers must answer the following when making concrete decisions surrounding technology or media in their class.

As we continue to learn and develop our awareness of blended online learning it becomes obvious that it is complicated. There are numerous aspects to consider and there is no real perfect method. One of the key concepts that we continue to think about is that blended online learning requires you to be “Flexible” in order to help students succeed. Although complicated, Bates outlines that teaching and learning online can provide students more opportunities to learn while  at the same time accommodating student differences more easily. With that said, it becomes apparent that the first step a teacher needs to take with incorporating technology or media is to know their students, the similarities, the differences, what digital skills they possess and what kind of access to technology is available to them. 

A Look into our Course

Bret, Brianne and myself have been working away at creating a course for a grade 8 life science topic. We are focusing on the cells, tissues, organs and system outcomes and indicators from the Saskatchewan Curriculum. At this point in time we have all created 1 module each and have chosen to focus on synchronous delivery of our modules. Our next round of modules will have an asynchronous approach to the delivery of the modules. All of our modules are made through google slides and can be accessed in our google classroom.

Course Shell Link

Google Classroom Link

Google Classroom Code (join as a student)


Maybe if you find yourself teaching this unit you will find this a useful place to start.

Module Update – Building Community

As we continue to plan our Course for Grade 8 – Cells and Systems, Brianne, Bret and myself are looking at ways in which we can implement online tools that will help increase the interactions between those involved in the course (students, teachers, parents, community members), creating and fostering a positive classroom community, albeit online.

There are several different LMS and Online Tools that could be used within our course (Google Classroom, Google Sites, Forums, Edsby). However, we do want to ensure that the use is purposeful, engaging and that we have an authentic means of determining the students’ progress.

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The Functional Classroom Community 

In her article The Importance of Classroom Community, Alicia Ivory outlines community as:

  • A group of people who live in the same area (such as a city, town, or neighborhood)
  • A group of people who have the same interests, religion, race, etc.

With that, one could go further to define a classroom community as a common space shared by a group of students and their teacher(s). However, defining a classroom community is much more complex than just a group of students and teachers sharing a common space. Ivory goes on to outline that the classroom community is a space composed of students who feel a sense of belonging and are connected by the common goal of learning. This sense of belonging is crucial for the success of any classroom community. Those students who do not feel connected or safe will struggle working towards the common goal of the group and may struggle unifying and connecting with their classmates.

Importance of Classroom Community 

Schools and classrooms can be a scary place for students. Especially for those who may feel like they don’t belong or may be struggling with mental health, such as anxiety or depression. Ivory outlines in her article The Importance of Classroom Community, that the most important component to developing a strong classroom community is creating a space where students feel safe. This safe community must meet the needs of the students, whether they are struggling with mental health or just need a place to feel they belong. 

A strong and supportive classroom community not only improves a students sense of belonging, but has also been shown to increase participation and confidence where students feel confident in their thoughts and abilities, thus making their desire to share their thoughts increase. Finally, Ivory outlines that strong classroom communities help develop a sense of student ownership to their education as well as increased accountability. A well developed classroom community can empower students to take on a greater role in their learning.

Creating Classroom Community 

There are many ways that a teacher can create and foster a positive and effective classroom climate. By taking the time and putting in the effort to create these communities, teachers can have a major influence on their students’ learning.  As in any community, relationships remain a constant pillar of success. If students struggle to develop positive and meaningful relationships, they may also find it difficult to connect within their classroom community.  Ivory outlines in her article,  The Importance of Classroom Community, some ways teachers ensure that their classroom community is strong, safe, inclusive and welcoming:

  • Help students build bonds with their classmates –  students who feel a sense of belonging and support from their peers may be more empowered to engage and connect with their classmates.  This can be done in a non-formal way utilizing ice breaker activities.  Teachers can use collaborative activities within their classroom to help continue fostering the bonds between classmates.
  • Ensure a positive environment – teachers have the ability to create a positive environment as soon as the students arrive at school.  They should be visible and greeting students as they enter the school or classroom; this will also help establish routine which many students require to be successful.  These routines help build a sense of trust within the classroom as well and in turn will also aid in developing the positive climate.
  • Promote inclusivity – every student needs to feel that they are seen while they are at school.  By ensuring students feel safe sharing their views and opinions is one way to establish and build a positive environment.  When students know that they are seen, they will also feel that they are a valued member of their classroom community.  Students who feel valued will have a much more positive experience at school.
  • Develop relationships –  teachers need to spend the time early and often developing relationships with their students.  Students need to know who their teacher is and a good way to do this is having a “Get to Know Me” presentation with question and answers where students are able to ask questions about their teacher.  This will help instill a sense of trust and respect with their students.  

Many of these aspects discussed above can be completed in the face to face or virtual classrooms.  The setting of the classroom does not matter, but developing a strong sense of community within the classroom is essential, ensuring students feel safe,included, and see themselves as a valued member.  The importance of building positive communities should not be downplayed.  A positive classroom experience will help students succeed beyond the walls of their classroom and outside of their school.  

Selected Community Interactions within the Course 

In order to develop community in our classroom we have decided to implement the following online tools: 

  • Google Sites
  • Mentimeter
  • Padlet
  • Chat while in Google Classroom Meet 
  • Jam Board
  • Edsby

By doing this we feel that we will create a respectful, engaging online classroom where everyone feels connected. When making connections in our classroom we would like to find ways to facilitate connection between students, between students and instructors, as well as between students – teachers and the community. 

Several different discussion forums were chosen including Mentimeter, Padlet, Chat Option in Google Classroom while on Meet, and Jam Board. Students will be able to engage with each other and the teacher in real time while in Google Meet using the Chat option. Students will be able to process and craft their responses to each other and the teacher when using Jam Board, and Padlet. These options are more reflective and will allow students more time if needed. Menimeter will be used for instant feedback regarding the class as well as an assessment tool.

Justification for Student Interaction Tools Chosen

Google Sites

We have chosen Google Sites for a few different reasons. Firstly, Google Sites is a part of Google Education it connects easily with our chosen LMS of Google Classroom. We believe this makes it easy and streamlined for the students and teachers to communicate with each other without too many hassles. Secondly, students are familiar with many Google Apps already. Many of the functions within Google Sites are similar to that of Google Docs and Google Slides and because of this our students will spend more time working on the quality of their work and less time on the functioning of the program. Lastly, as teachers we have control over whom we can allow to see the students work. If we want other students and or parents to have access to the work we can make that choice. Being able to view each other’s work will allow students to practice editing and providing critique before making a final submission for marking. Also, it allows the teacher to make suggestions along the way for improvement and for the parent to see the final work of their child.  This collaborative approach can be beneficial in developing and maintaining a positive and inclusive classroom community. 

Discussion Forums

Many tools we have chosen to use in our course may not be traditional type discussion forums; however, we feel that they will provide the opportunity for students to make suggestions and give input into the class without feeling intimidated to speak up. Many of the options listed above are quick access, meaning that responses can be immediate on phones and we do not need to take time to book a laptop cart. For those students without phones participation can still occur with pencil and paper or with a classroom computer. The tools are a great way for students to express thought and share ideas appropriately in a group setting which allows a teacher to determine if they need to review content or if they can move ahead with new content. These options are more reflective and will allow students more time if needed. 

Google Classroom

Google Classroom is a good option to keep the course organized. Posting of material and assignments can easily be done. This allows students that are absent from synchronous lessons to maintain contact with the class.  Also for those students that struggle to keep up with note taking during class time they can always have access to the course material. This also gives parents access, when they accept the invitation to Google Classroom, so they can see what students are learning, and what assignments need to be completed. Students can message each other in the stream about assignments or ask each other questions. The teacher has control over the stream and can delete comments or questions that do not follow the code of conduct set by the teacher and students.


We have chosen to use Edsby as a tool because we all work with Regina Public School Division and this is our new LMS that we are trying to learn. This is a great way to communicate with parents about student progress and update them about their child’s learning. Students can also message teachers directly in this LMS. Teachers can easily message parents and students regarding assignments. Teachers are also able to Broadcast messages to the entire class, including parents at one time. Parents or students can then respond privately. 

Joint Classrooms

There are many valuable learning experiences we can encounter by sharing. There could be opportunities to combine classrooms within the school, at another school or with community members as guest speakers. We feel this will help broaden the students’ sense of community. As well as help students learn how to seek out knowledge from a variety of sources. We will use Joint Classrooms to implement programs from our community partners such as the  Science Centre, the University of Regina EYES program,  or guest speakers to reinforce teachings within the course.

Experts in Field

The classroom instructor likely shouldn’t be the limit to our knowledge. Experts in their field are able to provide enrichment and expertise to our content. When we don’t know the answer let’s go looking. By using social networking communities like Twitter we will tap into other sources of knowledge. Our students will be encouraged to find and reach out to Experts in the Field using their own Twitter or social media accounts to speak to the class, interview or guide through demonstrations. Fellow teacher Jason Howse reaches out on Twitter often and is often successful in bringing authors, scientists and other experts into his classroom community.

Assessment of Learning Through Online Tools 

Using Google Sites will provide an opportunity for students to share and express their knowledge gained in a creative way. By using the comment function within the program the teacher has the ability to provide formative feedback or critique as the student works. Once the final product is complete a more summative assessment can be completed with the use of a possible rubric like this.

A variety of Discussion Forums will be utilized for individual brainstorming and whole group discussion. As well the above listed online tools will be used as a check in by the teacher to gauge the students comprehension specifically to the science content covered during class time. Best practices will be used to assess students’ work in the online forums, including graphic organizers, concept maps, checklists/rating scales and rubrics.

Google Classroom will be utilized as space to provide instruction of content, view a video or posting of material, assistance through video chat to small groups of students that require adaptations, and students communicate difficulties with assignments. All the above provide the teacher with ongoing formative assessment throughout the course.

Edsby will be used to record student achievement using Gradebook. As well, Edsby will be used to communicate with families/caregivers about student progress, highlights, items to work on and missing assignments. Students may also post work they are proud of in their Learning Story on Edsby.

Online Guidelines for Effectiveness within the Classroom Community

Students will need to follow online etiquette or netiquette rules while posting on each other’s blogs or discussion forums. The University of Potomac outlines netiquette rules that we expect our students to follow as well.  

Protocols for Etiquette in a Google Meet will need to be set in place to establish a respectful classroom community (camera’s on, etiquette on the chat, appropriate backgrounds, dress, volume control, hands up to speak).

When using brainstorming type discussion forums such as mentimeter or padlet students will need to use their first or last name to identify themselves when logging on. Reminders of appropriate language and ideas should be addressed prior to use, we want the experience to be beneficial to our learning. 

As a teacher it would be beneficial to lead by example by posting regularly in the discussion forums and commenting on student blogs. This is a positive way to demonstrate to students how to comment using constructive criticism, asking questions that are relevant to the post and practicing netiquette rules.

Thanks for Checking it Out!

Leona, Bret and Brianne

An Opportunity for Engagement

Technology, Engagement and Student Learning

A YouTube Channel hosted by Sam Kary, Ed Technology Platforms is a fabulous support that I came across during my search to learn more about online teaching tools. Sam says the options for Ed Tech are endless, however the time to explore and learn as a teacher doesn’t feel endless. Most days I feel too short on time to really dig deep into all the options of Ed Technology that exist. Then when I do find the time, that tool is old news and a new tool is in its place. The second challenge of online learning is having the feeling of being an inadequate teacher if you are not keeping up and utilizing all the technology in your classroom. Lastly it feels like there is a requirement that at all times your classroom be engaging by having students use technology on a regular basis. This requirement feels somewhat overwhelming when resources and time are not up to standards in most school divisions. How does one decide what’s engaging, useful and worthwhile? How does one deliver and meet expectations when resources and internet access are not always adequate. Is it possible that this could be a shared experience and we let the students become the experts and we as teachers the facilitators of their learning. Show them the tools and let them explore in order to potentially create self-sufficient learners that are engaged in their own creativity and learning. Possibly a shift in our pedagogy is needed to establish effective online learning communities that utilize a wisely selected array of online tools. This weeks reading from Bates work in Chapter 8 reflects on the rise and fall of online tools. How some tools come and go so quickly because we get excited about them but soon realize the impracticalities of the tool quite quickly. Bates expresses that most new teaching technologies go through the “Hype Cycle”, seen below.

When we understand the intent for selecting our media for teaching and learning it is possible that teachers will select the more valuable online tools. Ones that are long lasting and truly a benefit for the learners within our schools. Tools the support growth as a young person and tools that provide students with essential skills for the future. Bates discusses the pedagogy around media and the questions that we need to ask ourselves as teachers before we select an online tool to utilize in our classroom. One of the critical questions Bates suggests we ask is – “What are the unique and educational characteristics of each medium/technology and how well do these match the teaching and learning requirements?” With that said lets move on and take a look into a new online tool, its practically and usefulness in a high school classroom.

Book Creator Overview 

Book Creator is an online story book creator that has both free and paid versions. It is a web based tool that allows students to create blank canvas books or choose from a theme. Teachers and students can easily sign up for the free account with an email and utilize many functions within the program. Like many online tools the paid version simply gives you more access to different functions. The free version allows teachers to create libraries and invite students to join the library once they have created an account. The library allows teachers and classmates to view each other’s books in a code protected space that is provided by the teacher. The website also allows you to publish student work to the online forum where anyone with an account or access to the internet can view the book. 

Book Creator Critique

Strengths Weaknesses
– Simple to Use – Very few buttons and tabs to navigate.
– Free Account has several functions. 
Teacher Certification Programs that take less than 1 hour of time.
-Teacher Code allows students to access – choice can be given to allow students to view, edit and publish online.
– Interactive and engaging for all ages K-12.
Training embedded in the website for new users.
– Has templates for students that struggle with creativity.
– Record your story for students that struggle with typing and for classmates to listen to.
– The ability to embed content from other media sources.
– The variety of images, symbols and shapes that can be added.
– Collaboration on the same book is only available with the paid version.
– Can’t  be used on Ipad 13 or higher, not able to do on phones.
– Difficult to find how to change the font size
Many of these comments came from my Grade 9 – Career Class

Teacher Content Creation Tool

As a content creation tool book creator could be really useful to primary teachers…..when they have some time on their hands. A teacher could easily make a book that is tailored to the curriculum and to the content that they would like to match their lesson to. I also feel that there is an opportunity for teacher librarians to create online libraries that would be simply viewed by classrooms. For example I have a colleague – Pam Wenger that has invested time in creating online libraries during COVID. Her goal was to support literacy during the pandemic. I envision Book Creator having a similar look as Pam’s Online Library – except it doesn’t go to audiobooks on YouTube it would go to audio books created and read by the classroom teacher. My one last thought on Book Creator as a Content Creator – Can we flip the process? Do the teachers always have to create the content or can we engage students to write and share with their peers. Remember the buddy system in elementary schools where the little kids read to the big kids – well what if the senior students wrote and illustrated the stories and the primary students got to read them. How fun would it be if that was reversed – the little make the books for the bigs – so cute!

I’m thankful for this week’s assignment. It has allowed me to focus my time on something new and this new has given me an exciting opportunity – this week I pitched Book Creator to my grade 9 career class as a way of displaying their Manifesto Final Project and five of them were hooked. If only these five try it I’m happy. Happy because it was just what the needed to make the assignment meaningful for them.

Course Profile Planning

Design a blended online learning course was the task given to us this past week in EC&I 834. Select an LMS, collaborate and develop a blended online course with potential synchronous and asynchronous components. In collaboration with Brianne McFetridge and Bret McMann we have put together an overview of a grade 8 science course in – Cells and Structure.

Course Development Profile

A. Course  – Life Science – Cells and Systems

This course will follow the Saskatchewan Curriculum guidelines for the Grade 8 Science – Life Science – Cells, Tissues, Organs and Systems – Focusing on outcomes CS8.1, CS8.2, CS8.3 and CS8.4.

B. Course Outcomes and Indicators

The outcomes of this course are prescribed as per the Saskatchewan Curriculum and a variety of indicators will be covered throughout the course. 
CS8.1 Analyze the characteristics of cells, and compare structural and functional characteristics of plant and animal cells.
CS8.2 Demonstrate proficiency in the use of a compound light microscope to observe plant and animal cells.
CS8.3 Distinguish structural and functional relationships among cells, tissues, organs, and organ systems in humans and how this knowledge is important to various careers.
CS8.4 Analyze how the interdependence of organ systems contributes to the healthy functioning of the human body.

C. Course Guiding Questions

1. What makes a cell a living organism?
2. How does it function?
3. How are single and multicellular organisms different from each other?
4. What does it mean to have selectively permeable membranes?
5. How do diffusion and osmosis transfer liquids and gasses in cells?
6. How do you use a microscope effectively to observe cells?
7. How are plant and animal cells different from one another?
8. Why are cells the basic unit of life?
9. What is cell theory?
10. How are cells used to create the other portions of the human body?
11. How do systems function together to make the multicellular human body function?
12. How do the systems of the human body react to internal or external stimuli and change?

D. Target Audience and Timeline

This course is intended for students that are in a Saskatchewan based school at the middle years level. Specifically students that are in a grade 8 or 7/8 split classroom. The course will span over a four week period where adaptations and flexibility can be utilized at the teachers discretion based on the needs of the classroom.

E. Course Format 

This course will follow a blended model with face to face and online components. Students will be able to access this course synchronously from school or asynchronously from home. The synchronous component will be school based with hands-on science components (labs) and potential group work. The asynchronous component will have prepared video lessons by the teacher or the use of you-tube supported material.

F. Course LMS and Toolset

Throughout this course Google Classroom will be utilized along with a variety of online tools to deliver content, practice skills, provide a variety of learning opportunities to engage all types of learners. The following are examples of possible student tools that will be used throughout the course:

Google Workspace for Education
You-Tube Videos

G. Course Communications

The classroom teacher can decide which method of communication will be most suitable for the students and parents to be connected with the course. Suggested options for quick communication between teacher/student and teacher/parent could be as follows:

EDBSY – for messaging daily or weekly short announcements about due dates and reminders to students about resources to bring to school for the course

School Board based teacher email for larger concerns about student behaviors or help needed by teacher

Google Calendar for due dates of course assignments and the suggested learnings of the week.

A Google Meet or Zoom to have synchronous online teaching and class discussion. 

H. Course Assignments

Students can access all assignments, assessments and due dates using Edsby and/or Google Calendar.

If students will be absent for long periods of time, students will be able to access course material through Google Classroom and can complete all assignments independently.

Students can submit all assignments and assessments using the turn in tab once they are completed.

Assignments and expectations will vary for each module. As well, assignments will vary depending on students’ needs.

I. Course Materials

The course will utilize a variety of materials in order to reach the variety of diverse learners in the room. It is advised that students have access to the following materials both at school and at home.

Pearson Science 8 – Saskatchewan Resource is available online through school division access and in classroom provide by school division library services.

Access to devices both in the classroom and at home that are able to connect internet service.

Access to Headphones for in classroom work with videos.

Access to lab equipment while in class learning

J. Course Assessment

Course assessment; both formative and summative assessment will be completed virtually and in class. Students will work through summative assessments such as labs, research and express understanding through blog type activities in addition to a culminating course Summary of Learning. As well students will work through various types of formative assessments like Menti, Kahoot, Google Forums, Entrance/Exit Slips, and unit quizzes/tests.  

Hard copies will be provided for those students without regular access to technology and internet outside of the classroom.

K. Course Attendance

As per government law attendance in school is mandatory whether in person or online via zoom or google meets. Flexibility can occur when students aren’t able to attend for various different reasons that are approved by teacher, administration and parent.

L. Course Concerns

With an learning scenario there are always concerns that will need to be addressed. The following is a reflection of the potential areas of concern for delivering this course.

1. Internet and Technology Access can be assured during synchronous learning, however uncertainty lies with asynchronous learning at home.

2. EAL Learners will be encouraged to use Google Translate for words and phrases they do not understand. 

3. EAL learning will be asked to record a glossary of terms in English and their native language.

4. Student awareness of LMS use and Technology Skills to complete this course will be pre-taught to ensure student success.

5. Lack of engagement from the students – desire to interact on camera during class discussions.

6. Maintaining structure and flow of lessons if students are sometimes face to face and other times online.

M. Rationale For Design

This course was designed to effectively engage and meet the needs of all learners. As we continue to evolve in education we recognize that there can be adjustments made in our teaching methods and strategies. Students deserve an education that is relevant and concurrent with the pace and needs of our digital world. By providing students with the opportunity to learn in a variety of ways, by learning through and with technology hopefully we can prepare them to be digitally literate.

Slowly Evolve, Rapid Pivot and Embrace Change

Not So Long Ago

Slowly Evolve

A traditionalist early on in my career, the overhead projector displayed my well thought out transparencies to go along with my lecture. The hands on science activities brought the classroom alive with movement and guided discovery. Pencils/Paper and the use of textbooks engaged the students for a period of time as they wondered about science. An advancement in classroom technology changed my ways from transparencies to google slides as a way to teach my lessons to my students. With practice my lessons became more visual, videos played and the learning became more interactive for the student with the use of an interactive projector. Alas the final piece the connection for students with the technological tool in their hands, freedom from the pencil, but strapped with not enough to go around. Excitement when the laptop cart rolled into the room, disappointment and less engagement when they had to share with a partner. Technology had become a part of education and were weren’t turning back to the age of transparencies.

“Technology on its own is not enough.”

Steve Jobs
A Realistic Thought on the First Day of Class

A week into E&CI 834 and I wonder so if the above illustration is a decent working definition of blended learning, what on earth does that really mean? What does it look like? How do we know we are accomplishing this model of teaching in our classrooms? As an educator I have brought in what I believed to be a variety of different teaching practices that have incorporated technology into the classroom but has that truly been a model of online learning or simply a method of design. As I read through the course reading by Bates, this week I have discovered that it is more likely that I am adjusting my design rather than implementing a model of learning within my classroom. In order for my learning space to be considered a Blended, HyFlex or Full Online classroom the method in which I implement the course along with the strategies of design would significantly have to change.–a-descriptive-view

Rapid Pivot

A drastic change from face to face – teacher/student daily connection into an online learning model that was not planned for or understood by many. A place that felt disconnected, boring and uneventful throughout the day. In March of 2020 the challenge was forced upon us as educators to create an online learning space where students were engaged and connected with classmates and teachers. However, this new place of learning was not thought out, time was not given to develop a plan or allow students time to practice and establish routine, nor was time given to improve our knowledge base of particular Learning Management System. Simply pivot into whatever felt like it would work was the direction given for my first experience with what might have been a true model of online learning. Diving right into what felt like chaos my teaching partner and I went with Google Classroom and Seesaw as that is what our students were most familiar with. I’ve now discovered that neither of these platforms are true LMS but do work as a decent digital tools that are simple for the teacher, student and parent to access and be involved in a blended or remote learning experience.

Embrace Change

Through what has felt like chaos, opportunity lies ahead. Opportunity to move forward to create an engaging learning space within the constraints of a traditional model (face to face). Having the opportunity to review the Bates model of blended learning the his diagram below has given me confidence that I already do some of this so called “Blended Learning” quite well in my classroom. Moving forward the question becomes how can I improve on my learned skills that I have gained through the pandemic chaos?

The challenges that I feel exist for me as an educator in trying to develop a blended online learning space within the walls of my classroom are as follows.

  1. Developing a working definition of blended learning.
  2. Time to invest in learning more about the LMS that exist and then designing a course that would utilize that LMS.
  3. The need for technology and data to be in the hands of all my students.
  4. The willingness of the school board to be more flexible with programing and scheduling.
  5. Time to develop the interest of both the student and the parent of such a course.
  6. Fostering connections with like minded colleagues to develop a COP.
  7. Learning to connect with students via online platforms while still feeling connect.

As I continue to discover the modalities and designs that can be put in place to develop an effective online learning classroom I encourage educators to take risks. Not everything is going to work out the way we plan it. With risk we grow and learn together.

Further thought and discussion to be had.

The Learning Journey

An Introduction of Me

The journey continues, 20 years ago when I was completing my internship my cooperating teacher said “if you’re not evolving an changing with the times, then are you still being an effective teacher?” Here I sit “blogging” several years into my teaching career taking my second masters class in order to keep up with the ever changing times in education. Are there days when I feel like a dinosaur and technology illiterate,  absolutely.

My name is Leona Stephen and this is my 19th year teaching with Regina Public Schools. During my career I have had a variety of different experiences, I spent 14 years at Balfour Collegiate teaching science and physed, being a Core Leader of science, as well as coaching the Senior Girls Volleyball team. After my 13th year at Balfour, I had an itch to try something new, so I made an application to become a Science Specialist at one of the new P3 elementary schools that were being built in Regina.

Last day at Balfour Collegiate, 2017

September of 2017 I started teaching at Harbour Landing Elementary School. What a learning curve for four years, two years teaching 3-8 science and 2 years in a 7/8 classroom. So many great memories and fabulous colleagues. To start out my 19th year I made the move back to high school, my true love, the place where I feel connected with my students.  I am currently teaching at W.F Johnson Collegiate in Science and Physical Education.

Today I feel nervous and excited to continue my learning journey as a student and educator. I am excited to be a part of ESCI 834 this term because I feel like I’m going to grow and learn significantly from my engagement in class and with my peers. I’m nervous because I’ve always shied away from using technology, simply ask my students I often say several times a week “technology and I have a love hate relationship.”

This term my goals for class would be to become more adept and well versed in the use of online platforms as teaching tools. To gain more confidence to use new technology more regularly in my science and physed classrooms. Lastly, to enjoy the journey of learning from dinosaur to tech savvy.

Until next class!