Week 7)

With the end of the program fast approaching, I am again amazed by how much there has been to learn. There has been so much enlightening discussion on topics I never would have thought to go so deep into.

I know now what I would have done differently in my last class with some problem students after a discussion in the forum (and my last journal topic) covering Classroom Management, and especially working with disruptive students. I have really learned the importance of a clear set of expectations to be discussed and handed out to students on my first day with them. It is crucial in classroom management, as well as maintaining a positive learning environment.

There was another discussion forum added that I don’t remember seeing before – Great Teaching Movies. I love it! I added 3 movies to the list – Agora, Good Will Hunting, and Dangerous Minds.

220px-Agoraposter09 220px-Dangerous_minds 220px-Good_Will_Hunting_theatrical_poster

I look forward to checking some of the other suggestions like The Dead Poets Society, Mr. Hollands Opus, Freedom Writers, Goodbye Mr. Chips, and Stand and Deliver.

Week 6)

Oops – I’m a little late posting this one, but better late than never!

I was really intrigued this week by the discussion forum about the Gamification of Education. Ever since learning about the possibilities and effectiveness of Educational Games I have been interested in the subject, and on board with it. One topic’s question posed “Does everything have to be fun?” Well my answer to that is “Why not?” Just because something is fun, doesn’t mean a person is not serious about it.  Effective learners find a way that works for them to learn material.  This is another way, just like recording lectures, cue cards, extra worksheets, and group-work work for some. I have already been working on ideas for bringing games in to my program. I still have to learn about the technical side to creating digital games, but I am excited to get it going and try it out on a class. Suzanne C. Shaffer, instructional designer, college reading/ESL instructor at Penn State York created a blog with a game framework based on the book by James Gee What Video Games have to Teach us about Learning and Literacy.  I think it could be worth my time to get a copy of Gee’s book so that I can use the framework for myself.

Another tricky topic that was discussed was Group Work. Good or Bad? This is another area where I love the benefits, but recognize the draw-backs. I suppose it is very program or situational dependant. I have a bit of both in my program, especially partner work in the labs and shop. For the most part it works great, but every once in a while I do see one partner consistently sitting back and letting the other partner do all the work. Fortunately, I have a small enough class that I can see it pretty early on and either assign each member tasks, or change up the groups. I have even asked for labs to be re-done, having them swap roles before.

Each topic gave me some great insight and things to look for when I return to the classroom.

Now to really get moving with my last journal, as well as my last 2 self-assessments – boy this course is drawing to an end quickly!




Week 4)

This is it – the half-way point… the point of this course when the biggest project – the digital project is due.  Check mine out here – I posted in on YouTube.  The topic for my digital project is to describe the “Variations” instructional strategy from our textbook by Elizabeth F. Barkley (see the reference on the Links page), and how I plan to use it in my classroom.  The idea is to challenge student’s creativity as they imagine alternatives to a given situation to build something new. It is a good strategy for getting students to think creatively and outside the box.  It is a strategy that I have been using without realizing that it is an Instructional Strategy – but now I have other twists that I can put on it.

Jordan and Turk's

I always end up liking the digital project assignments more than I think I will. As much as I might dread making a video before I start, there is a real sense of satisfaction when it is done.  Like my daughter is tickled pink feeding her Grandma’s turkeys, I am proud that I am better with technology than I sometimes give myself credit for, and can create a decent looking video and then publish it online.  This seemed so out of my realm a few months ago!

Also due this week is our discussion forum midway self-assessment. I feel that I have done better with the discussion forums for this course than previous ones.  This is always the part of an online course that I struggle with the most.  I understand the need for encouraging a community of learners, but for some reason I end up resisting this part.  It must be the hermit inside of me coming out.

Speaking of the Forum, this week’s discussion is about the Flipped Classroom. This is something I find myself considering more and more for my program.  I love the idea of introducing a topic via video in the students own time, online, before class.  There are huge advantages to building our courses this way – saving class time, learning from various sources, and having the video available for review throughout the course to name a few.  My classmates also provided a few really helpful links:

A YouTube video with some key Do’s and Don’ts for flipping your classroom.

An instructional video for Explain Everything, an ipad app for creating learning videos. This looks really neat and I want to learn more about it.  I have an Apple ipad, iphone, and desktop computer.  iMovie is pretty user friendly, but hey, if there is an easier route then it’s worth checking out.

I am excited to be halfway through the course and to have over half of the work under my belt. Can you feel the tranquility that comes with the end of a successful course?  Here is a picture I took on a walk with my kids last week that radiates tranquility to me.  All that remains now are 2 more journals and then to continue on with the discussion forum and this blog! Easy-peasy!


Week 3)

Well, like the leaves on the aspen trees out my window, somehow week three has already come and gone. The week of my discussion forum has wrapped up and like usual, I have been enlightened on a topic I thought I knew pretty well.

There is much more to creating and maintaining a Positive Learning Environment than would have been able to list off this time two weeks ago. I learned lots during the discussions, but now that I am working on my summary of the forum – I feel like I am getting even more from it.  Now I understand the reason for this part of the assignment!  Things like physical environment, policies (especially for cell phones), pace, teacher/student relationships, and culture considerations can be huge in establishing the mood of the environment.

I brought up one idea in one of the discussions that I wish I had made its own topic. I would like to have gotten more input and thoughts on an observation I have made in my short teaching career.  I have noticed that the environment of my classroom can be hugely affected by 4-5 of the class’s most dominant personalities.

The program I teach is a 6 month long, full time program. Now I have only taught 3 of these full classes in the two years I have been working at TRU, but out of those 3 classes I had one group of students that were super motivated, respectful, active participants; another group that were more interested in chatting with their partners and making weekend plans; and another group that fell in between.   I noticed that the mood of the whole class was dictated by the dominant personalities in the class, and whatever their interests laid, ended up setting the mood for the whole class.  As demonstrated by these 3 groups, that can be either a good thing or a bad thing.

I suppose that as I learn and gather experience I will be able to guide the mood of the room as well or better than those dominant personalities. That is my goal at least.  This list from Susan Imel is just one of many good places to start.

Week 2)


And the week of my Forum Discussion has begun! So much research on Positive Learning Environments!  Fortunately, my partner Katrina Lynn Connell provided me a launching pad of inspiration and I was able to create a pretty good post.

My first Journal is complete, and like always, it made me dive deeper and think harder on its topic than I would have otherwise. There are many different theorists and many different theories when it comes to figuring out how to create more engaged students.  I am starting to agree with our textbook’s author, Elizabeth F. Barkley though in that Student Engagement really comes down to Motivation and Active Learning.

Now to apply these concepts to my program. The motivational aspect is very easy for me.  I currently teach the Electrical Foundation Program at TRU, which is a 6 month program that teaches students the fundamentals of Electricity and gives them shop or work experience.  As far as qualifications, they cover and are credited with completing all the theory for the 1st year Electrical training, and also they get 350 hours that goes towards their apprenticeship.  Once the program is completed, they are well qualified 1st year Electrical Apprentices that have a big foot up in the workforce.  The program makes them much more desirable to employers, as the employers do not have to do the expensive and time consuming introduction training.  This really motivates my students, as their goal of being employed as an Electrical Apprentice is so close.  Everything that we cover in class and especially in the shop is very applicable to the work they will be doing in a few months’ time.

The Active Learning in the shop is also quite easy. Students are in the shop with a sheet describing what they need to build in their booth with a blank diagram.  They have to design the circuit and build it, and then we turn it on to make sure it works.  When a student has hands on project like that, they can’t help but actively learn.  If nothing else, it is trial and error.

Active Learning in the classroom is what is going to take the most effort for me – and that is where this PIDP course comes in! I have already been introduced to some great ideas.  I have started diving deep into the world of SET’s – Student Engagement Techniques.  There are about a half a dozen that I can’t wait to try out, both in the classroom and the shop.

Now I just have to get off Maternity Leave and get back to class!