Dr. Paul Leslie

Dr. Paul Leslie

Thursday, 28 December 2017 13:00

Welcome to 801 - Discussion Boards and You

Welcome to PME 801. I will use this site to hold some of my reflections and directions to you. I hope that you will take the time read my comments here. I encourage you to also read through some of the other posts, even if they are from other courses I have taught. You can download a copy of the syllabus from the bottom of this post.

Discussion Boards

In PME 851, you will be required to contribute to several discussion board topics. These are listed in your syllabus. The discussion board entries are required but not graded directly. However, I do look carefully at what contributions you made to the boards and take this activity into account when deciding upon a grade.

Please have a look at this post to understand how I review the discussion boards in D2L: http://www.paulleslie.net/index.php/item/742-discussion-boards-in-d2l

Now, I would like to discuss my expectations for these boards a bit more thoroughly. I ask you to read about the community of inquiry model, (https://coi.athabascau.ca/). You can peruse the site and if you have not heard of this model I will ask you to read a few of the articles listed therein.

In brief, the model highlights how we first must make the community (your classmates) feel safe through social presence – making sure everyone understands your  perspective, context and the purpose of your post. This is not always as obvious as you may think. It also requires that you give (literally) permission to others to challenge you, and to feel confident to ask questions of your classmates about their posts. As with any classroom, f2f or virtual, we all must let each of us (the participants) place themselves in the community and in a context where they feel they can contribute.

 COI model front

The next step is the notion of teaching presence. This is the guiding force of the community. These are the questions that we ask each other and more importantly, the answers that we give. I will ask you challenging questions, quite simply to challenge you. Usually, I expect an answer. You are expected to ask questions of your peers. And when asked, you are expected to answer. In other words, to make the most of this discussion board and community, I charge you with asking pointed and direct questions of each other in the posts. Students must ask other students questions. There is only one of me and many of you. This is to push each other forward in the quest for knowledge.

 Only once we have social presence and teaching presence will we get cognitive presence, the creation of new knowledge - not before.

So, let me reiterate that not only is it appropriate for you to ask each other questions, but it is imperative that you do. Teaching presence not only comes from the teacher (me), but comes in the form of directing questions and inquiry which is what gives the community direction and guidance for sharing our cognitive presence. Social presence is that which makes us comfortable doing so.

That is why we are here.

Monday, 13 November 2017 05:38

851 - Discussion Board Discussion

Dear students - I have read and commented on all of your mid course reflection, even those two or three that just came in the last couple days. I have given fairly extensive comments and am happy to give more. A few students have written for more feedback and I am always happy to give. I do see that only a few of you have gone to the mid-course reflections to open my comments. I encourage you do so.

I generally comment on the reflection itself, and then give some comments about:

  • The contents of your reflection
  • The contents of your posts
  • The content of your replies
  • A comment or two on the rubric.

ALso, I have noted to each of you that there is a grade of ~6% for each one for a total of 50%. I am not sure about marking each one separately as that is difficult and not really reflective of an overall effort at this level. If you want a grade to date, I will provide one.

Please be assured that I read every post, and usually about 80% of the replies. I hope you do too! For your information:

  • Total Replies (All Forums): 276
  • Total Threads (All Forums): 83

That is 359 items for you to read. Below is a table sorted in order of posts read. As you can see, I have read 257 posts and replies, and made 77 replies. I am very impressed with the person who read more than me!

You should have made at least 6 posts by now.

  Posts Replies Total items read
Monday, 13 November 2017 05:05

832 - Final assignment - Advice

To give you a bit more clarity on the final project, here are some comments aligned with the various elements of the project.

From the course, the following is the assignment description. (I have added comments to offer further explanation or examples).

Leadership in Professional Learning: Designing a Connected Classroom Program

This culminating task will help you to bring together your learning from all five modules in this course. For this final project, you will envision what connected learning could look like in your professional context (Context is important for this assignment – to really do it justice, try to describe the project within your own context as much as possible).  

As a culminating task, you will individually design a connected classroom project that you could use with your students (You will find it much more rewarding as well if you can design something that you could actually do. This will allow you to point out issues that may arise and give a practical edge to the work. As it is a project for your students, it needs a beginning, middle and end. There needs to be clearly defined goals for the project.).

You may choose to present this project as a project or unit plan or in another format so that you can share your ideas with your colleagues and inspire others to foster and create connections in their own teaching and learning (Whatever format you use to design your regular lessons might work, as long as it is readable and logical. For example, does your plan show sequence, materials, preparation, and the larger context of the semester or work within which the project is set?)

A successful project or program will include:

  • Strong and Authentic connection (to your larger semester or learning context, to your local learning environment e.g. are you in Canada or another country, and to the students own ‘world’)
  • Rich learning that uncovers the curriculum (For example, are there identifiable goals that require individual work, group or community work, and reflection? Do the students have a chance to contribute the design of the project?)
  • Ongoing learning– not a one-time thing (Are they developing skills as well as demonstrating new learning or knowledge? Are they building on previous work? Are there opportunities to use a product or skill beyond the end of the project?)
  • Theoretically-supported pedagogy (Although there are overlaps between some of the approaches you have examined, can we discern a clear adherence to some of the principles throughout the work?)
  • Technology-Enhanced opportunities (How are they recording their work, producing their work and preserving it for posterity? How are they sharing with others and interacting with their classmates and / or the community? How does technology help them do something they couldn’t otherwise do?)
  • Feasible design (Can YOU and your students actually do the project?)

Output: Connected Classroom Program and Written Rationale (35%):

Along with your connected classroom plan, please write a rationale (600 words MAXIMUM, double-spaced) detailing (Please keep to the word count within 20%. Interestingly, virtually no student ever goes under the word count. Use a proper essay / academic writing format as indicated in the blog post about your case students):

  • How the program relates to pedagogical approaches (cite scholarly work)
  • How you decided which digital technologies to incorporate
  • Who you could share this work with and how you might share it.
  • Why you chose this approach and how it shows professional growth from your previous teaching and/or planning.

Both components of this assignment (project plan and rationale) should be shared on the Leadership in Professional Learning Discussion Board.

For those of you who are not actually teaching, here is some feedback I provided to a student who also does not  teach.

“I have just read through the assignment again and watched the video (again!), and read your introduction to remind myself of your context, so I have some familiarity with your role. Here are a few thoughts.

Since you are a point of first contact, or at least, first sustained contact with parents, perhaps you could build on your appreciative inquiry work (https://positivechange.org/how-we-work/appreciative-inquiry-ai/ ) from the earlier assignment and try to think (Dream in the 4D model) of what you think parents could do to contribute to the school and their children’s success through your interactions.

Then, build your project around that (the next 2 ‘D’s, with the intent hopefully of attaining the 4th). I think that will easily comply with the requirements and the rubric.

For example,

  • What do they need from you to keep in touch with teachers?
  • How do they find out about the inner workings of the school and not just the parent-day events.
  • How can you facilitate communications between parents, and between parents and the school, parents and their teachers, and parents and their own children.

 Keep in mind the community aspect and your role at the school. If you use Appreciative Inquiry as your theoretical model for your work and build on the 4D model then you will be inspired to really do something that is real and that you could actually do.

You could even get your colleagues to give you an hour over lunch and work through the 4d model with them in the context of your project. They might give you some great ideas that you can work with.

Capture all your thinking and make it visible. That will help you to design the project part. You might want to use Prezi and think of your project as a process.

Sunday, 12 November 2017 20:47

832 - Case Study Feedback

The following comments are collected from all student submissions for the case study assignment. I have depersonalized all comments. I have then organized them into three sections. The first are in-text comments that relate to specific instances in the assignments. I selected some that I thought were revealing to the writing itself. The next two sections are from my general comments. I organized them by Positive feedback and constructive feedback. Some are based on the content of the assignment, and some are based on the technical aspects - the writing style and citations.

Although this feedback is for PME 832, students in my other course (PME 851) will be interested in the writing comments.

In-text Comments

Great start – could you add just one sentence showing some connection between the two, or why you chose them?

Powerful opening -really does a great job of introducing the case study!

It might be good to just introduce both schools here in one short sentence. You have both in your title, but you need to mention here just what you are doing.

What are some more concrete conclusions you could make from these two studies?

After reading the rest of your paper, I see that you have set up a great focus for your paper but you do not return to it.

Can you combine these two paragraphs and use the case study to highlight the main concepts of networked learning rather than discuss the approach separately and then go to the case study? It would give a greater coherence to your paper.

Careful with value-laden adjectives. This may be unfortunate, but I can make that determination from the facts and organization of your sentence. This sounds like being flexible is a bad thing.

Can you provide a conclusion that ties the two studies together or highlights some general improvements that both styles would benefit from – reflection seems to be a common theme.

Interesting conclusion. I would like to see a strong discussion about the comparisons between the two. I think this is where you could develop your ideas about pedagogic approaches more thoroughly to benefit from a greater context. You were asked to look at two studies in order to provide that wider context.

Great writing – very clear and succinct. The sentences are models of how to offer an idea and then support it with evidence.

Can you blend this with the previous sentences to provide a rich description of how the case study demonstrates place based learning? You writing rather separates the two and make me have to work harder to make the connections.

To be concise, just leave out colloquialisms. This is a different form of writing than a discussion board

I think you can combine this with the unpredictable learning issue more clearly. How will the reflections be assessed? Are these the self-assessments?

Only use tables for numerical data or very short text-based data. This all should be in paragraph form. It is harder to write perhaps, but easier to read.

You need to save these conclusions for later in your argument.

Careful – you are not really establishing an argument here. You need to be clear and concise when making these conclusions. I would expect such a statement to come after a few paragraphs leading me through a clear argument.

You have already talked about this topic a few times. Can you reorganize your paragraphs to bring a more coherent argument?

Positive feedback

This is a compelling piece and I can see that you have given a lot of thought to it and you have incorporated a range of literature.

This is a great paper. Although it is much longer than specified (~1800 word compared to 1000 assigned), it was so well written than I didn’t notice the extra words until the end. It might be useful for you to go through and see where you can cut down on your word count without losing any ideas.

You captured the essence of the assignment. Your writing is also a model of efficiency and organization. This contributes so much to the overall readability of the paper and makes what your thoughts and comments so much clearer to the reader. It also helps you to build your own understanding further.

I think you have thoroughly captured the pedagogic approaches demonstrated by each study as well. There could be arguments of other overlapping approaches that they might be modelling, but your arguments in support of the approaches you highlighted clearly support your opinions.

I was also pleased to see how you incorporated the literature. You used quotes and references very well. I would suggest that you could use a few more references to authors, especially when you are making some type of statement or claim.

This was very interesting, especially the HBS section. I thought you captured the essence of the AI and were able to suggest a meaningful way forward supported with a solid example.

I was also impressed with your breakdown of the School Grown case. You did a great job to bring in some of the literature into that section

You have given me a great piece of writing. You stepped out of the assignment box and discussed these two case studies in tandem, which really gave your writing a great focus and a means for you to put your comments into a wider context between the two studies.

You clearly met all the requirements and went well beyond.

This is a very thoughtful and complete paper – almost too complete - 1800 words! I appreciate the effort to piece this together and methodically go through the two projects. You really did cover a lot of ideas and almost every time I had a question, you answered it later in the paper.

Constructive feedback

You have given an interesting discussion of two solid case studies. However, I would like to see you really dig into the actual content of the courses. If you look at my comments above, you will see that you bring up important elements of the case studies but do not fully explore them.

You also have a tendency to use very colloquial language. Students who use this style often get a bit lost in the discussion and do not get to the point.

Your report is interesting and you have brought in experiences from your own work and tied it to the case studies. However, I did feel that you were jumping between the case studies and your work without a logical connection.

I also note that in some sections, you relied heavily on quotes, especially in the discussion of the learning approaches. When you are discussing the various sections, it is important to keep the approaches fresh in your mind and in the reader’s mind. So, by breaking it into section as you did, the connections between the sections broke down. This makes the overall reading of the report less effective and interesting.

I think you have picked two good projects and given a reasonable overview of them. You have also identified some pedagogic approaches within the projects and given examples to support your discussion.

By using tables as you did, I think you have confused the logic of your discussion for yourself and hence, as you will note in my comments, the flow of your discussion is compromised. This format places the onus on the reader to make sense of your ideas. That is actually your job as the writer.

I think that you would benefit greatly from reorganizing this into a proper essay style piece. If you view each paragraph as a solid and concrete idea, you will find that you can better organize each paragraph and then manipulate the ideas by moving the paragraphs back and forth until you find a logical flow to your ideas. Then, your writing will be much easier to read for yourself first as a useful piece of scholarship, and then for your readers as a demonstration of competency.

It is quite late, but I am generally very flexible with dates as I understand the pressures of being a teacher. I do not usually penalize anyone for lateness.

For the challenges and suggestions, while I truly appreciated your effort to combine the two cases and comment on both at once, you perhaps were a bit general. Try to really think of the context of the two case studies and offer some suggestions that could really work in their particular setting.

I understand that you were not specifically asked to compare the studies but I was hoping to see you draw out some comparisons or contrasts – otherwise there is no real value to having two case studies.

I think the paper is reasonably well written, but try to really focus on being concise. This is not a conversation – it is a one-way communication of ideas and I want to get to your points.

I think you have given a comprehensive coverage of the two case studies. As I noted above, I think some of your comments might need a bit further examination, but overall it was interesting.

Also, as I noted, I think there could be a greater focus on comparing the two studies. There are some similarities and there are distinct differences as you note in the conclusion. How can these two studies, and us, learn from their experiences and learn from each other at a more general level to improve their programs.

I would like to suggest that you write in shorter paragraphs and then try to manipulate those paragraphs as discrete objects and move them around. You might find that you have reiterated and repeated yourself a few times, and that you have left an idea only to return to it a paragraph or two later. This makes your paper much longer than it should be.

Nevertheless, I think you did a great job to really dig onto these case studies and bring out some highly practical issues. I appreciate the comments on social injustice and agree that many of these go unnoticed and hence are perpetuated. Systemic injustice of this nature gets embedded because people in positions of power (parents, teachers) often gloss over them leading students to believe they are not all that important.

I would like to suggest that you try to write in a formal essay style so that your ideas are logical and clearly linked – so that you can better show for example, cause and effect, sequence and relative importance of your ideas. Your somewhat bullet pointed style (without the bullet points) makes reading your work a bit more difficult and quite disjointed. There is no flow and so I found myself jumping back and forth to put your ideas together. You are supposed to put them together for your audience.

I agree with your points and think you have some great comments about bringing the community to help guide the projects in order to get more out of them. However, you did not explicitly state how students could be guided, but alluded to the companies who might hire these students. That is important, but can we be student focused?

I have been suggesting to other students that an extensive and logical next step in this paper might have been to try and compare / contrast the two studies more thoroughly. You were not asked to do so, but otherwise there is no real value to having two case studies. You would just do better to examine one more closely or have two separate papers.

Although writing produces a linear text, you should not approach it that way. Start with smaller paragraphs and then see how you can manipulate and combine ideas to really be concise. That will really bring out your ideas and leave you more words at the end for the conclusion.

If you have clear distinct paragraphs, you can move them around like objects and see the overall coherence of your argument.

I think the paper is reasonably well written, but try to really focus on being concise. This is not a conversation – it is a one-way communication of ideas and I want to get to your points.

I see that you have read widely and given a lot of thought to your work. However, there are a few difficulties with the organization, which cloud the impact of your thoughts.

As for your arguments, you are putting conclusions up front an the discussing them afterwards. This makes your writing much longer as well. It also confuses the reader because you end up repeating yourself.

Saturday, 21 October 2017 16:18

851 - Role of Education - Feedback

F2017 PME 851-001 Culture Curriculum and Pedagogy

Module 3:  - The Role of Education

Thanks for an interesting post. You had some provocative questions from ______ as well. I hope you answer them!

I wonder what you think about the need for human growth. There is a great book called Pedagogy of Freedom (Freire). How does education set us free? How does that then help us and our well-being?

Great questions! As a proponent of technology in Education, every time there is an article speaking negative about technology in Education, I get it forwarded to me from five different directions! So, is it bad? You ask if being ignorant of something is better? I cannot wait to read some responses!

Well said. That was a great overview and I thought that defining the terms under discussion was a great addition to the post. In many instances, we tend to make assumptions which lead us astray. Clarifying terms is an excellent approach. I would like to pose the same question that ________ has alluded to and that I have asked of another student. How do we maintain the distinction between our curriculum and our wider desire as educators to tend to the well being of our students?

Great post - very thoughtful. I appreciate your focus on being reflective and thoughtful about our world and our place in it. I find your comments about teaching language interesting because the English language does have so many oddities in it in terms of usage, spelling and other illogical aspects. That might be a good way to explore history and the lingering effects of tradition.

One question I have is, where do we as educators draw lines in terms of crossing out of our subject and focus and into wider issues that are not part of our mandate? In your case as an English teacher, when I taught English I was always tempted to bring in culture and other such issues which were outside of the curriculum. How do we balance these often competing needs?

Thanks! You have made some very interesting points. I agree that learning to be responsible is paramount to being, well, a responsible adult! Being accountable... Being fair and equitable...

I would like to know your thoughts around the balance between parental responsibilities and societal responsibilities as represented by schools and education systems? What happens when there is a conflict?

Very interesting discussion. My one concern with knowledge building, although I promote the idea vigorously within my own work, is that there needs to be input into the student's 'knowledge repository' at some point. This is why I am not a fan of discovery learning. Students contribute to, add to build upon and generate new understanding of existing knowledge, but they do need to have that initial input.

How do you accommodate or provide students with some 'grist' for their knowledge mill?

Thanks for your impassioned post. I can feel the drive you have for your students from here!

Two questions pop up for me. One is, when you discuss holistic education, and then focus on Economics and Business, I wonder how well you fit in Arts, culture, and science? I agree with Bill Clinton when he said, "Its the economy, stupid"! However, I once thought that all politicians should be businessmen. I now no longer think that!

My second question is in reference to your refraining from sharing your own opinions. I agree that this is an area fraught with difficulty, however how do you fit this approach with the notion that "It matters who the teacher is" (Keltchermans)? It is a fine balance, but at the end of the day, you do have opinions so...

Wonderful post! I think you have touched on some important points here. I do agree that it is not entirely wrong to fill our students’ brains with knowledge. That is certainly part of the role of education.

In my work with Medical education preparing students to be doctors, we use the term "training to be a doctor". A big part of their education is the sheer volume of content that they need to simply memorize. Of course, they need to be able to make sense of their vast knowledge, but they must learn it all first. How do you balance this in your classrooms?

I agree and have had many a conversation at my last position in Australia about the very topic of the purpose of Education. Now, in a School of Business, they thought that the only purpose was to get a job and their school mission reflected that fact: "Preparing students for enterprise futures" - 'enterprise' meaning businesses.

Many of your classmates are taking this course in order to have better career opportunities and I certainly hoped to get a better position when I embarked on my PhD. So, is there a balance? How do we account for the real goals of education, when "Education" costs so much?

Great stuff! I find that when we draw upon our own experiences, especially as teachers, we have the same goals and vision - to make us better people. I totally agree with you.

However, after my experiences in Australia (read my response to Christa), I have tried very hard to understand those people who get an education simply to get a better job and make more money. There are students that I am working with who are only becoming doctors because they want prestige and a big salary - are they wrong? What do you think? Try hard to see their perspective.

Very interesting post. I take from this that you think the role of education is to provide us with a sense of social responsibility and to help us use our skills to our best ability and in different settings. Interesting thoughts and I wonder if you have read Paulo Freire? He writes extensively about social justice and responsibility and one of my favourite books is "Pedagogy of Freedom". I recommend it to you.

I might suggest that in your future writing and in particular with your assignments, but in the boards as well, that you try to bring more focus to your writing. You post is very interesting, but you have not explicitly stated what you actually think, or given a clear opinion. You might want to structure your writing a bit more thoroughly in order to help the reader understand your train of thought. Also, you should endeavour to incorporate some of the readings into your writing as well so that you can reference what others have said about the topic and give your own thoughts both more weight, and an idea to talk about.

Monday, 09 October 2017 09:17

Discussion boards in D2L

Discussion boards are a critical element in the courses you are taking at Queens University. In some courses they comprise up to 50% of the grade (e.g., 851).

In D2L, the grade book tool allows for a relatively easy means of reviewing individual students' contributions to the discussion boards. In the instructor view, I can go to the the Class Progress section and then view all activity by each student.

The first screen shows the student list with the following information for each student:

d board 4

This screen shows me that the student has visited 34 of the 52 pages of the course - not so excited at this point. The main value of this screen is the graph showing the regularity and frequency of logins. More logins for a shorter amount of time is far preferable to fewer logins for longer periods. The nature of the discussion boards as an asynchronous communication tool suggests that greater benefit will be had from short logins to check on the latest comments from classmates. MOst courses do use objectives and so that information is not relevant.

 I can then click on any student and see the following screen:

d board 3

For example, the above screen shows the first three discussion board topics for PME 851. I can see how many posts you read, how many you made, or "threads started", and how many replies you made to your classmates. The replies are as important, if not more so than the initial comments.

I can then open each individual board and see what has transpired.

d board 1

I then can click on each topic and see the list of titles and various other data for each individual entry. The arrows indicate the replies and the quotation marks indicate an initial post or thread. I then can click on each topic and see the list of titles and various other data for each individual entry.

d board 2

Given that I read almost every post and reply, I do not need to open every one. However, I can open whichever ones I want to get an idea of the content of the replies and the initial post. 

In this manner, I can scroll through and get a very clear understadning of everyone's level of contribution to the boards. 

The following are some comments provided to students on  the points and issues of the assignment. The assignment was graded out of 4. About half received a 3/4 and the other half 4/4.

851 assignment 1 feedback

Context of assignment:

You have elaborated on a challenging question that includes cultural issues and a specific curriculum. Very interesting! I wonder if there is a bit of confusion over the actual issues here. On the one hand, you mention that as a biology teacher, you feel it is your responsibility to teach students how their bodies work. While I agree, that in itself is a personal or cultural issue and some may feel, for example, that they are too young, or that this is the responsibility of someone else.

On the other hand, the main issue you discuss is _____________. These issues might not be specifically Biology, but perhaps cross over into other subjects. Where do you as a teacher delineate between your specifics responsibilities and the larger curriculum?

Your discussion of getting the students to see each other as individuals and to appreciate the struggles that individuals face is a great way to show the similarities between people. I wonder how you get them to understand the differences as well? I would not want to gloss the differences in favour of the similarities. In terms of Cushner, this would perhaps not really help students adapt as much as they might. The differences will remain and that is part of the adaptation.

I did appreciate your comments on receiving new faculty into the school. However, I would like to read about some more detailed efforts to work with the homogenous body of students. Also, can you reference one of the readings into your work? How would Cushner’s IDI be measured with students in your school?

I think your approach is quite interesting. Have you tried using texts from other western countries as well? How would issues differ between Canada and the US for example? The US and the UK?

I would also be interested to know how the students respond. Do they seem to grasp the complexities? I understand this was a very short assignment, but for next time, a bit more focus on some of these questions would be great.

I appreciate your reference to diversity as individuals, and not being limited to culture. You are correct to assert that culture is merely the most obvious element of diversity.

I appreciate your references to differentiation as well, as a teaching strategy to support diversity and to help students to explore their own understanding of a topic and then have the ability to share that new understanding with their diverse classmates.


I wonder how well your students would rate on the IDI from Cushner’s article? Can you give that some thought? I would also like to see a sentence or two about how you might blend the eastern need for summative assessments with the western desire to talk and interact in groups. There would be some interesting ways of offering the students a progress check on their development that might suffice for a summative assessment. This would then have a good blend of formative feedback as well.

I think you have touched on a couple of very interesting points. Cushner’s point that students think the world is getting worse while their own personal issues are fine indicates that students do not make connections between their own actions and the world. There is a disconnect there. What do you think?

I think your use of the _________ issue is a great focal point for your writing. Well done! I also liked your references to Cushner. You have referenced the article very well and pulled out the most salient issues.

It is clear and you have articulated a solid argument and understanding of Cushner’s article. You note that some issues are not good or bad, just different. This is interesting because it highlights the notion of evaluation versus assessment. We can assess something by noting the elements of the situation. We then assign a value to it once we have the facts. So, in the context of your example on plagiarism, the notion of plagiarism is generally considered to be bad. How do you reconcile this with the notion of being different?


I would ask that you focus on your writing. You have a very conversational style which makes for a more lengthy and wordy text.

Also, try to be a bit less conversational and more concise. This is very much an issue of academic style, which may be western based, but very international nevertheless.

Also, while you included several articles in your references, you did not actually mention them in your text. You will need to refer to them specifically in the body of the text in order to include them in your references.

You should try to reference one or two readings in your work to give you some focus and provide the reader (me) with a context for your writing. This will be much more important in longer pieces of writing.


This is a compelling piece. Very interesting. Your discussion of gender is very timely and I think that gender within culture often gets overlooked and women’s issues are often lost in the larger mix of cultural discussion. For example, that women in Saudi Arabia can now drive is only one small issue in a much larger gender gap in that country.

The other point is that you talk about being more inclusive although you do not use that term. I strongly encourage you to look up the concept of inclusion with regards to technology and in particular, special needs.

You clearly have given a lot of thought to multiculturalism in your career and you have given a clear, concise and highly articulate accounting of your school, environment and the efforts being made within to explore cultural differences and diversity.


Sunday, 01 October 2017 15:30

832 - Feedback on 'My Connections'

Below are excerpts from my feedback to students on their concept maps regarding community  and curricular connections.

Comment: You have done a great job in the text to highlight the various connections and to relate the readings to the work you are highlighting. This is a great start to a literature review for a project down the road and I encourage you to keep your written work available in a word doc for easy retrieval. There is no issue with reusing some of this work and building upon it.

With your concept map, I would suggest trying to reduce the amount of text and using what text you do have to highlight the concepts involved and to show the interrelatedness and overlapping nature of the various concepts.

For example, instead of writing "Social action is an important part of the curriculum", which we see in the reading materials, just say 'social action' and then try to show where else in the activities there is an overlap or relation to social action.

Comment:  Try to make some of the connections between the elements more explicit. For example, you have one node that highlights 'communicating with others' and another node that shows 'modes of communication'. Can you indicate which modes would be most suitable for which types of communication? This might be an interesting exercise for you and your classmates.

If you look at some of the other areas as well, you might see some efficiencies in your map.

Try to use an online mapping tool that can use collapsible nodes. This makes reading much easier and you will find that you can edit and share much easier.

Comment:  Very nice work! I would suggest trying to order the elements to reflect their relationships. Perhaps a more circular design instead of a linear hierarchy might help with showing connections. For example, you have curriculum and then students which is of course a connection. However, the curriculum is often designed by the school, board or community and then enacted by teachers for the students. How might you reflect that connection in your map?

Similarly, the technology has its own node whereas it might be better used as a facilitating tool and be interspersed throughout the map to show where technology can support the great work you are doing. For example, what technology are they using to question and analyse? What tools do they use to collect data, record experiences for reflection and the demonstrate their competency with a particular skill for assessment purposes?

Your text is also well written. I would argue that the point you make in the second paragraph about students wanting to know the purpose of their studies is of paramount importance and that this could be the introductory paragraph. We are talking about "Making Connections"!

Comment:  I always wonder about the idea of letting students set the curriculum. Of course, this is tempered with curriculum issues that filter in from society, boards and other ministries that have a stake in what our children learn. 

How do you manage the demands of a 'state' curriculum with the needs and desires of the students and maintain a level of robustness and rigour in the learning?

Another question that arises from this is the issue of students meeting those from similar backgrounds. I wonder about the idea of meeting people from different backgrounds so that we can increase and improve our ability to appreciate those that are different from your own experiences? What do you think about that?

Comment:  It was interesting to read about the need to be explicit about the concepts and to highlight exactly what they were doing. I think this is essential for everyone and perhaps your students are just being more open about their needs.

There is a concept called "tolerance for ambiguity" that I have examined at length in the past. Language teachers in particular should be familiar with this concept. It speaks about the ability of individuals to function without all relevant information. For example, with language learners, how well can they understand a communication even though they do not understand all of the words and expressions being used.

Comment:  This is a wonderful piece of work. You have really captured the range of elements needed to make a curriculum and activities as your outline come to life and work for students.

In reference to your classmate's comment, I would like to ask you to reflect a bit further on the issue of student led curriculum and how that can be aligned with what I am sure is a rigorous curriculum.

How do you maintain rigour in such a curriculum in order to ensure that students meet assessment requirements? 

Comment:  Perhaps instead of the questions, I wonder if a sequence of actions that highlight your process might smooth the connections and provide a greater ability to make those connections? Maybe not, but I am just thinking 'out loud'.

Then, the extra text around the map might be incorporated into the written accompaniment and that whole thing might be just a bit more concise. Your work is excellent, but I am just trying to find a way to make it more accessible.

I would also suggest bringing out the connection between the content and the application and understanding of the content in a holistic sense. You highlight the issue of getting the parents' buy in in order to lessen the expectations of memorizing content. However you do need to have the content and the activities you are suggesting make the content more relevant. You do capture this in section 3 of the map, but I would argue that this is the central motivation for all of your work. Make it stand out!

Friday, 29 September 2017 08:45

851 - Personal Profile

851 responses to module one: I have read through your profiles with great interest and thought I would share some of them here with everyone. My comments to those questions might help to give us a focus for our coming work. I have de-identified the comments as much as possible. First of all, I am sorry for my late start with the course. I just arrived in Miami after 9 days waiting to be evacuated from Dominica. The evacuation process itself took 3 days from the time we left the island to arriving in Miami at 3 Am on the 28th.

Comment: I have worked in many different countries over the last 20 years and I can certainly understand the issues you face in getting situated in a new country. Between internet connections, phones and rental agreements, it can be quite a chore. You mentioned wanting to understand the relationship between culture and teaching methodologies. Teaching is very much about human interaction and so we will look at how culture impacts on our ability to communicate with each other. We will also consider what might be considered universal truths about interacting with each other. For example, in every culture the teacher is still the teacher and the student is still the student. That ‘power’ relationship does not change.

Comment: You note that people have told you that it may be difficult to move back to Canada the longer you are away. I have been away for more than 20 years and can attest that it could be difficult, however perhaps not for the reasons you may suspect. It is true that Canadian institutions may not value your foreign experience as much as Canadian experience, but I hope that that perception is changing. However, from a personal point of view you also may find it very difficult to go back to Canada after being abroad for many years.

The concept of reverse culture shock is very true yet unexpected by many people. The place you have in your mind is not the place that exists now, and so when you return to Canada to live you may find it to be very different than the place you have been visiting for the last so many years. I can assure you visiting a place and living in that same place are two very different experiences.

Comment: We will investigate the question of how cultural tendencies impact the way students participate in education. I think your question of how could Educators analyze and plan accordingly is very challenging. In my experience, we often do our planning and then help students adapt to the way the course has been structured. The culture within which the institution is set and within which the education is being offered has an overriding influence on the planning and development of any course. We then find that the challenge is in helping students to adapt to the new culture within which they find themselves and to adapt to the varying cultural mores of the students that they are surrounded by.

Comment: It is very interesting to note that the previous student is working in Canada with foreign students whereas as you are Canadian working in a foreign country with local students of that country. So right there, we already have two distinct cultural situations within which we can explore various issues when planning curriculum. It is very interesting to note the cultural background of the teachers with whom you are working at the University. They will become a great source of inspiration for you during this course. Although they are all from Western backgrounds, you may be surprised to see how different their views are on many educational issues. I strongly encourage you to discuss some of the issues we discussed in our course with your colleagues.

Comment: I encourage you and all of your classmates in this course to make every effort to answer the questions posed to you by your classmates. On that note, I encourage all of our students to read my post about commenting on comments. The value of this course mainly lies in exploring the thoughts of our classmates. I hope to contribute to your understanding as the teacher and instructor of this course, however there are far more of you as students than there are of me as a teacher.

Comment: There is a very interesting article by an author called Keltchermans, in which he states that, “it matters who the teacher is”. In your case, it is very interesting to know that you have two different cultures in your home from which to draw and inform your teaching. This most certainly will give you a wider perspective and better understanding of your students. One thing that you may notice about Canada in contrast to many other countries is that the Canadian culture is a ‘multi’ culture. Many countries are quite homogeneous and pride themselves on their “country-ness”, whereas Canadians often pride themselves on their non-Canadian-ness, or their independence. These are very powerful cultural issues that have a great effect on the dynamics of any classroom.

Comment: It is funny to read the interactions between you and _____. The grass is always greener...

Comment: You comment on creative and critical thinking. These are two aspects of education that are often highly controversial. There are countries where critical thinking is frowned upon. This implies that things are not already great. So, one question is, how can we help individuals to think critically, or in other words, think independently, or think for themselves, in a manner that is helpful to their community rather than divisive. Thinking creatively is also often thinking critically, but it may also entail thinking differently. Again, how do we encourage students to do this in a positive and constructive manner? As policy and curriculum designers, how do we design courses that encourage such thinking? Even in a liberal minded culture, there are set ideals that people do not like to question. For example, is a benevolent monarchy (ruling family) such as the UAE better than our western democracies? Look at some of our current leaders... You spark two questions for me. One is rather general. You ask about international education and the connection to culture. I find that with the internationalization of the of the world, we need to be more specific about the notion of culture. For example, we think of China as a monolithic state of 1.4 billion people. But in fact, it is a conglomerate of very different cultures, some of which would not consider themselves 'Chinese'.

On another note, as a science teacher, how would you react to being asked to fit creationism into your course? This is a cultural issue that we might find right in our own backyards. As a Nova Scotian, you might not think this is rational because we have had a strict separation of religion and education since the 1890s, however in other provinces such as Ontario where there is a Catholic school board, how might that fly?

Friday, 29 September 2017 08:17

832 - Email your instructor

I have received a number of great questions from our classmates and thought I wold share some of them here with everyone. The questions and my comments to those questions will help to give us a focus for our coming work. I have de-identified the questions as much as possible.

First of all, I am sorry for  my late start  with the course. I just arrived in Miami after 9 days waiting to be evacuated from Dominica. The evacuation process itself took 3 days from the time we left the island to arriving in Miami at 3 Am on the 28th.

Question: My question at this time is, what strategies can be used so that individual educators with different educational/life philosophies find common ground to create connections between their classroom environments?

Comment: I have worked for many years in multicultural institutions facing just that sort of issue. Your opinions and beliefs are important, but must be tempered to the prevailing environment.

Question: I would like to know how can we as educators ensure that learning is extended to the home environment and that parents are more actively involved in the process?

Comment: I think the connections between home and the school are critical, especially for younger students, but even with high school students. There are extremes of not caring and caring too much, but in my experience most parents could be a bit more involved. I will say now that technology is a great tool to help parents be more involved and share just that little more information that they need to be interested, but not overwhelmed.

Question: I teach an internship and careers program, so my focus is on exploratory learning and reflections activities. My concern is the most of what I teach is outside of the classroom.

Comment: Your focus is great as that is the way forward for a lot of medical education and for competency based assessment, especially for professionals. Think about portfolios and how professionals and others can capture their experiences through electronic portfolios in order to share a running commentary on their work.

Question: I am very excited to take this course for several reasons, but the main one being the use of digital technology such as video and Skype to improve the learning experience for my students. The question I have about the course is: For the big assignment (35%)-Designing a technology-enhanced Connected Classroom Experience, are we able to show this design to other students in the class via Skype, Youtube, or Adobe Connect?

Comment: You are on the right track for incorporating technology in to your project, however in this medium, I think you need to consider asynchronous technologies. Consider why we use a discussion board and there are no synchronous activities. For your connected-classroom experience, you need to consider very carefully the ability of others to participate in real time. If it is a blended course with a classroom full of kids, that is one experience. If you want to connect with others in real-time, that is another experience.

Question: How might the academic readings and discussions in this course support my ability to make sound decisions and ask good questions about how technology is utilized by the staff and students at my school?

Comment: Your question is useful and incorporates the materials for the course. I encourage you to also ask your colleagues and students for their input. Their concerns and ‘deal-breakers’ are the real issues you will need to overcome and these may really surprise you.

Question: I look forward to learning more about how technology can both improve and be detrimental to home/school relationships. The school community I work in is very tight knit, however we also have very little interaction with those outside our school community. I am curious to know how this is something we can build upon, and what I can learn from the experience of others in the course. I have a strong interest in communication, so I am looking forward to the communication element of this course, and how it can build connections if used properly, and how the decrease in face to face interactions impacts this.

Comment: I can feel your desire to adopt new tools and your hesitancy in doing so. This is a tension that can be useful is making sure you are using tools that will do what you need them to do – that will serve your purposes, not create purposes simply based on their functionality. One issue that I have with technology, despite my love for it in Education, is that we sometimes get lost in the shiny things and lose sight of our actual needs. This is far easier to do that we realize.

I find that people attach values to new or different ideas before they understand them. This inevitably leads to discord and discomfort. My secret is to consider ideas for their own worth before any evaluation (think e-VALUE-ation). In this way, we can see the idea for its own usefulness or not, without clouding our judgement with preconceptions.

Question: I just wondered how you thought my experience may be impacted by not having an active role in a classroom while taking the course.

Comment: Well, this is a great challenge for you to finds ways to be connected to the community from home. It may not be your preferred way, but it is a common and increasingly desirable way to learn and study so that we can make the most of our lives.

For example, I teach online and am currently in Miami. I would love to teach this course F2F, but that would mean giving up my amazing life in Dominica and missing out on the adventures of surviving a Cat 5 hurricane and being evacuated on a Russian cruise ship!

So, my advice is to embrace your decisions and explore how technology can enhance both your ability to be a parent and to support students.

Question: I'll now be creating a classroom setting for clients. I think my questions creating a technology-enabled classroom for adult learners? Can I use this one on one? How do I use this when I'm seeing different clients and learners each day? My goal with be "How to implement technology-driven learning in a non-traditional classroom setting for adult learners" and "gaining leadership and applying in a professional setting" ... this feels very big and broad but I feel I can begin to pull it apart as the course continues.

Comment: I think you have a marvelous opportunity to explore some truly cutting-edge research into competency based education with adults and professionals. I am working on the use of electronic portfolios to support competency based activities and demonstrations of competency. This is highly relevant for medical professionals including residents and physicians, and they are common already in the nursing profession. I think you could explore the use of similar tools to support your clients and get them to be able to track their own activities and the use these reflections as a means of assessing their performance.

In terms of collaborative learning and a student-centered approach, I encourage you to explore some of the work around Appreciative Inquiry and portfolios for demonstrations of competency. These two areas provide a focus for interacting with others, and then the tools you will need to actually do this work will be easier to chose from among the many etools out there on the internet.

Question: The question that I want to investigate concerns ways that I can design and facilitate “authentic collaborative learning” that engages students. I can envision this course supporting me in articulating, facilitating and implementing a connected environment where students, staff and families are involved in the learning process.

Comment: I did a lot of work in Sharjah with professional teachers from Jordan, Syria, Iraq, Egypt and Lebanon, and of course the UAE. I let them guide the process as I was unaware of the many challenges they faced in collaborating and working with internet-based tools. Once they were able to articulate their needs to me, we could then explore the tools needed to get the work done.

Question: Are there experiences or technology tools that are appropriate for connecting a sensitive culture?

Comment: Well, you pose some interesting questions. I have spent years working in the UAE with female students and teachers in girls-only high schools and so am acutely aware of the concerns of a sensitive culture.

One issue that is always difficult is the need to acknowledge the individuality of our students. This is far more problematic that it might appear. How do we let students grow and be individuals while trying to instill community values? The challenge is to be honest and open. Ultimately, it is about trust – trusting the students to make the right decisions of their own free will - trusting them to evaluate information on their own without our influence – trusting them to be their own person.

These are difficult challenges -there is no way around it. I look forward to working with you on these. This is at the very core of the purpose of education – to set us free.

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