Dear 801 Students - In response to some questions about the PLCs, the collaborative group and Module, 4, here is some additional information that might help you.I hope to clarify the relationship between the following two assignments and professional learning communities (PLCs).

You started working towards these specific activities when you identified one or more PLCs that you thought might be useful to your work or offer you the support that you are looking for with your teaching. In Module two, you discussed design solutions and burning questions in the knowledge forum. This work was based on your feedback and questions from your concept map.

In Module three, you will be directed to comment on each others’ PLCs and on how they might speak towards your burning questions. These discussions will take place in the Module 2 discussion board where you posted your professional communities.

So, now, you should start communicating with other students, continue to review each other’s questions, PLC notes, and technology montages in the discussion boards. You then need to decide on which ‘brief’ (PLC and question(s)) interests you. Still in the Module 2 discussion board, you can then contact each other and form a collaborative group (2-4 participants) to start the process of analyzing your burning question and taking the appropriate steps to find / propose a solution to the burning questions.

As a group, you can then review your combined questions and PLC choices. Ideally, you will select the brief that has the most clarity in terms of process and the most opportunity for engagement with the PLC. “The focus of your collaboration will be to design a proposed solution to a substantive problem or dilemma in a Professional Community of your group’s choosing.”

In your groups, you will:

  • Engage in critical review of a problem and the context in which the problem exists in a community
  • Propose solutions to a problem that are sensitive to the concerns of the stakeholders
  • Prototype versions of the solution for review by other students in the course
  • Write a Design/Problem Brief that includes 
    • Introduction: description of the problem/issue that is being addressed
    • Literature review - scholarly connections between your burning questions and the literature
    • The proposed solution - a discussion and ‘tangible version’ of the solution (prototype, process description, tools, etc.)
    • "Process account" - a summary of the process of engagement between members of your group
    •  Reference List and citations within the body of the Design/Problem Brief

 You can use any collaborative technologies (e.g. Google Docs) that you see fit, and that you have investigated in the montage. Remember that you need to include a process account of your engagement with each other so you should use a technology that leaves a ‘paper trail’.

After this has been submitted, and concurrently, each of you will be expected to digitally communicate with a chosen PLC about the value of collaborative inquiry as it relates to an authentic problem of practice. This is why I have advised many of you to think about PLCs from whom you can realistically expect to receive a reply.

Please note that there is no reason why your entire group cannot work with the same PLC after the group work assignment is completed to do the Module 5 individual work.

For Module 5, you will

  • Identify a Professional Community with whom to connect
  • Starting with one of your burning questions, and quite possibly the burning question you worked on with your group, take the introduction and literature review from your group work and define a set of core ideas, related to Collaborative Inquiry and based on course content, to be shared as appropriate, with your chosen PLC.
  • Connect virtually and/or physically with the PLC and document your interactions
  • Provide evidence of a connection to the identified Professional Community
  • Where virtual and/or physical connection is not possible, you will need to create a “digital foothold” where you can communicate the set of core ideas that were identified related to Collaborative Inquiry and the particular Professional Community
    • This is the point where you will find the work better and more rewarding if you can actually connect with your PLC.
  • Create a link between your digital foothold and the course.
Published in PME-801 - Winter 2018
Friday, 12 January 2018 09:12

832 - Email your Instructor

Dear PME 832 Students,

Thank you for the emails and your questions. They are very revealing in that they give me an insight into the concerns of the class generally and also allow me to focus on certain topics which we may or may not cover during the semester.

I will make every effort to refer to these questions, and to my answers, as we progress through the course. I am not including every question as several were very similar. I have sent these responses to the individual ‘questioneers’ and here will perhaps expand slightly on some of them try and make them more generally applicable or relevant.

Please note that I am happy to accept questions throughout the semester and will respond to every email sent to me.


Q: I am looking forward to learning about how the classroom can be successfully and efficiently connected to the home (as I find it difficult sometimes to draw the line on how much work should be sent home/ should any work completed at home be assessed). I look forward to examining case studies which relate to the teaching profession and be able to apply the knowledge gained to my practice. 

A: Your question is fantastic. I spent years wrestling with how to connect my classroom to the home during my own practice, and worked with many of my students on that very question for the research projects when I was with teacher training in Dubai.

Technology definitely can help, but the diversity of parents and people make this question a tough one! There are questions of how much help can or should parents give? How much feedback do you want from them? Some will argue that teaching is your job! Some are not capable of giving much help. Nevertheless, it is a highly worthy pursuit.


Q: A question that I have is: will we be required to make a blog/ website for this course. If so, I will start preparing my web page right now, and add information as we continue the journey.

A: You are not required to make a blog for this course. However, a teaching portfolio of some sort is a great tool that you can use for your teaching activities and to do such things as communicate with parents (see previous question). In the medical professions, many boards require doctors and nurses to maintain portfolios for demonstrations of competency. See some of my previous posts on portfolios.


Q: I’m currently not in a teaching position. The concern I have is that since I have very limited teaching practice, I’m not sure how to reflect what I have learnt from this course in my own professional practice. Could you please provide some suggestions to me?

A: We will absolutely find great ways to relate this course to your practice. I had a number of non-teachers in this course before and I think we were able to create some very innovative and practical projects.


Q: I like to sum up one of the most important themes as "scrutinize, don't immortalize".  To me, this is the nature of professional inquiry, and understanding that my role as teacher is an ever evolving and progressive one - those that say beyond year three of teaching is a gravy-train are complacent and don't perhaps deserve the privilege of preparing the future generation.

A: First of all, I have only rarely had the opportunity to teach the same course more than once or twice and never with the same students. So, every day is a new day. Evolving and progressing! I operate from the principle that we can always do better. That is dependant in practical issues like time, but we must always be reflecting on our practice and thinking about how to do things better. This is where a portfolio is very useful to help us improve. See my blog on the time span of discretion.


Q: My current generation of students carries the stereotype of entitlement. I would like to explore strategies to instill a sense of community and citizenship in our students, to have them understand better the social responsibility they are preparing for, to value their learning as tools to treat their patients well, and not just pass their next exam. I would like to further that theme by continuing to improve my methods of promoting autonomous learning habits and self-regulation within my students, who are often struggling to evolve from high-school teenagers into young professionals. 

A: As for the students, I believe in a pedagogy of freedom. We need to bring them to learning and the social construction of knowledge and then let them make the decision to actually learn. They are entitled to not learn if they want. However, I would feel a bit of a failure if I thought I did not inspire my students to strive for their own betterment.


Q: At my college there is current PD surrounding the use of technology in the classroom, with emphasis on the distinction between using it simply for the sake of using technology, versus using it to create new opportunities.  I'd be interested if we will delve into this topic, or if there is even merit in this focus?  Obviously, technology can bring in many new opportunities, though my current thoughts are that even if it merely replaces or augments a current practice, a little change can still be good, even if all it does is recapture the students attention.  I also look forward to the topic of technology enhanced learning environments, and how this might help answer this question.

A: I love technology for the things I can do with it, and I include my chainsaw in that mix. However, it is only a tool. If we have nothing to work toward, then we will not need any tools. I do not advocate technology for its own sake, nevertheless, sometimes we do not know the possibilities of a tool until we try It out.


Q: For my PME progression in general, I feel I put in quite a bit of effort and time into the assignments and discussion, and have done well, not just in course results, but more importantly in my own professional development.  That said, I will continue to focus on improving my communication and discussion skills, working to use evidence and resources to better challenge or reinforce the ideas of others. 

A: I will expect you to ask challenging questions and demand answers. That you can do with your entitled students! Please see my post on the use of discussion boards. Also, have a look at how they are graded.


Q: I currently teach ESL in an English for Academic Purposes program where we have a lot of students who are young adults, and tend to use their smartphones in class. I hope to learn how to utilize those smartphones in my teaching, rather than telling them to put them away. 

A: I think that mobile devices are fantastic tools that can do so much for us. The trick is to find the right use for them. I do not advocate technology for its own sake, nevertheless, sometimes we do not know the possibilities of a tool until we try It out.


Q: Does the course focus heavily on collaboration between classmates to demonstrate the importance of being connected with one another?

While I do encourage the use of the discussion boards to work together, the two main assignments are individual. The connections are more about your ability to connect your learning to your ‘world’. In your case, I will expect to see how you can connect the various aspects of practice of being a good technician with the larger practice of being a professional.


Q: I am hoping to improve my technological connectedness throughout this course and be able to apply it to the many roles I play in my profession of being a Clinical Education Leader in an ultrasound department within a hospital.

A: The course really is about understanding why we are doing any particular thing within our studies, either as a teacher or other professional. For example, can you explain to a beginning practitioner the reason behind every single thing that they need to learn?


Q: Regarding the connected classroom, I am interested in exploring new teaching strategies aimed to bridge the gap between theory and practice. I would like to learn more about community-service learning, since I believe it is a great way for increasing students' cultural competence and helps in creating good global citizens. Moreover, I would like to discover the role of technology in connecting curriculum with the real world.

A: You ask some great questions and have some great goals. I hope we can begin to understand how our learning theories play out in the classroom. For example, I often talk about the pedagogy of freedom, but what does that mean when I am working with a student, even if my student is him or herself a practicing teacher? How do I make that person understand how to help themselves be free of those things that detract from their lives?


Q: I currently teach at a school where learning takes place both inside and outside of the traditional classroom. For instance, our students take part in a service learning program every Friday afternoon. Because of this, I have seen first hand the many benefits of this type of education. That being said, It's clear there are certain things we could be doing even better (most notably, making use of the internet to promote global learning). Given this fact, I'm excited to learn more about what others in this class have been doing.

A: I think service learning is a great way for students to learn the value of their own abilities and apply their own learning. The only catch is that the ‘service’ needs to be real.


Q: I tend to take as much of a conversational approach to my discussion posts and assignment submissions.

Very practical question! Yes, actually, I do favour a more academic style because I want my students to get to the point. I appreciate the conversational style in the classroom and F2F, and over coffee. However, I think written communications needs to be much more succinct and direct. Also, I find that to have a successful construction of knowledge, we need to challenge each other. It is for this reason, that I always tell my student teachers that their students are not their friends. You need to dig, challenge and push – all in a friendly and respectful manner of course, but yes you need to dig, challenge and push. That takes energy which I hope is not used up or lost in a more conversational piece of writing.

Also, by forcing you to be more succinct and to the point, you will need to focus your attention on the heart of the matter you are discussing, not get lost in the surrounding swirl. This hopefully will allow you to see the most relevant points of any discussion.

At the risk of being too conversational, how does that sound? I hope this is not a shock, but I find that once students become more comfortable with this style, we start to see some exchanges.


Q: When reading through the tasks, I didn't see a collaborative assignment.  Is the collaborative portion of this course considered to be the discussions that take place each week? 

A: Yes, the collaborative elements are the discussion boards, which I take very seriously. They are worth a significant part of the grade.


Q: If I end up needing an extension on one of the major assessment pieces, is this a possibility if I talk to you ahead of time?

A: The discussion boards need to be completed in a timely fashion for you to really benefit and for the other students to benefit from you. However, I am very flexible on the submission of the two individual assignments and will not penalize anyone for a late assignment.


Q: A question that I have is about best practices for technology is used to enrich learning experiences for early years. 

A: I have found that technology can be great in the early childhood classroom and have noted that children as young as 5 or 6 clearly grasp the concept of a user name and password to save their work.

I have also noted that technology is great to help the teacher save time in admin and preparations so that they have more time to focus on creating great lessons.

Published in PME 832 - Winter 2018