Category Archives: ETEC 565

Collaboration: The good, the bad & the ugly.


© Copyright Peter Ward and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.

“When I die I want my group members to lower me into the grave so that they can let me down one last time.” ~Someecards

When I first heard this quotation, I thought it was the funniest thing ever. Funny, because at the time, it was true. I was in a particularly difficult situation with a group and I felt that I was unequipped to handle the challenges.

This was unquestionably NOT the case for my Platform Evaluation!

Here is the thing… When a group works well together, is respectful of each others opinions, has members that equally do not want to let the “group down”, incorporates humour, and brings a level of professionalism to the table, EVERYTHING IS LIKE RAINBOWS AND UNICORNS.  It’s the best.  It is like going to Cloud Cuckoo Land. (Lego Movie reference for those of you who may not have seen this most excellent movie.)

But when one or more of these attributes are missing from a group’s dynamic, I find that an incredible amount of thinking time is wasted on wishing that the project would be over and/or wanting to stab myself in the eye with a pencil.

For this group project, I came late to the table.  I erroneously gave our organiser my g-mail address with an “” extension.  Brilliant, I know. Days went by where my group mates hashed out the initial stages of our project without my input.  Thankfully, one mate realized that the e-mails had been “undelivered” and I was brought into the planning.

I was “THAT” person.  I very much loathe being “THAT” person.  I do everything in my power to never ever by “THAT” person.  So when it does happen, I go to “THAT” place.  “THAT” place is the place that some of us people-pleasers go when they think that other people think negatively about them.  I know.  At the age of 43, I should adopt more of a “Honey-Badger attitude” (you HAVE to Google that one, if you do not know what I am talking about.  Your welcome.).  But alas, we are who we are, so I immediately thought that my entire group thought that I was a big loser who was in an educational technology Masters program, yet could not freakin even share her own email address properly.

So what do people-pleasers do in this situation?  They make up for it and then some.  Why?  Because we have not only do our part but we have to make up for the perceived part that we perceived we didn’t do.

I truly hope I accomplished my mission.

But this is where my group really came through.  Not once did they make me feel like I had to “make-up” for anything.  It was all in my head.  I admit to being a bit in Cuckoo Land on this one.

Funny story, though.  My group mates don’t even this one (don’t tell them, OK?)

I had to bring my bit of the project to the Google Doc two days after everyone else due to my semester turnaround week at work.  When I visit our Google Doc (the most excellent way to collaborate, on-line, in my opinion), I read the introduction that had us portrayed as a group of Grade 8 Middle School teachers from Vancouver.  I thought to myself, “Great. I’m not part of the group.”  I let it go.  I thought, OK– I can pretend that I live in Vancouver and teach Middle School.” After all, I needed to be a team player.  But then, after awhile, it started to bug me.  My name was on this and I didn’t want to misrepresent myself!  So I said something on the chat function of the Google Doc.  After some back and forth, my group mate piped up and said, “Neither am I!  I live in Thunder Bay and teach Math 10!”  For some reason, I didn’t realize that the whole idea of this project was to write from one institution’s voice.  We had a good laugh.

If I could change one thing about this particular experience, it would have been to have prioritized having a couple of Google Hangouts. I missed not having actual conversations with people and flushing things like not knowing that our scenario was fictitious.  Completing this degree on-line is great for so many reasons, but I truly yearn for face-to-face experiences, as well.   I think that as we venture into more on-line learning, that as educational technologists, we need to keep at least a smidgen of actual conversation into our practices. A screen just doesn’t cut it, 100% of the time– in my world anyway!


Filed under advice, collaboration, ETEC 565, General thoughts, LMS, obstacles

Week 3: The Alleged Demise of LMS and the BCED Plan

As I read this week’s offerings, I couldn’t help but make parallelisms to BC’s new educational philosophy, entitled “The BCEd Plan“– for those of you not from my neck of the woods.

If you spend time with “The Plan”, you will notice that it is a virtual carbon copy of of Kasper Spiro’s 2014 article, “5 eLearning Trends Leading to the End of the Learning Management System.” Catch phrases such as “Personalized Learning” and “BYOD Environments” are huge components to BC’s new educational conquest. The two documents are so similar in their points that it makes me wonder if Spiro was a contributor to the BCED Plan! (on a side note, Spiro’s website is somewhat of an advertisement for his cloud-based LMS software. It is in his best interest to convince folks to abandon ship on the old LMS guard!)

My only experience with a LMS has been as a student with my Masters. It seems to me that each professor has it set up slightly differently and therefore, they can tailor it to their own preference. Assessment is more or less the same in that we submit our work for personalised grading and feedback. I am fully engaged as a student, as for the most part, the readings are thought provoking, as are my fellow classmates’ postings. Through group work, I often participate in on-line, synchronous chats. It has been a very pleasant learning environment, overall!

I question, however, the effectiveness of a similar system with a younger, less motivated crowd. Motivated students will learn in practically any learning environment– they are the cacti of learners! They may prefer heaps of sun, but they can still survive with minimal water in a shady bathroom as well.

Motivated Learner cactus

It’s the classic “reluctant learner” that I suspect would not fare as well, in certain LMS scenarios. The ones who come to class without having read the readings or watched the watchings. Or the learners who can’t actually stay focused on their studies when the course is on a screen. The lure of social media is way too tempting for most young brains to stay away from. I had multiple students beg me to let them sign out a text book this semester because using the on-line text was too distracting.

But here is the thing… Screens aren’t going away. Learning is evolving. Do we not attempt to evolve our teaching practices in order to avoid inappropriate use of social media? (It reminds me of when my school “banned” Facebook so many years ago. Guess what? It didn’t work.) Abstinence rarely is the answer. Producing engaging on-line learning opportunities has got to be the goal.

I also don’t believe in allowing corporations to dictate how and what I teach, therefore, whatever the LMS is going to be, allowing educators to tailor it to their needs, is critical. If the educators can’t personalize the system, then how can the students personalize their learning?

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Filed under ETEC 565, General thoughts, LMS, obstacles

Week 2: When “Secondary Criteria” trumps “Primary” when implementing educational technologies

One thing that I have noticed now that I am one-third through my Masters, is that I enjoy the week’s readings more when they take me a long time to read due to long pauses devoted to thinking about what I do in my own classroom. Thankfully, this happened as I read this week’s article, ““Educational Technologies: A Classification and Evaluation”” (Nel, Dryer, and Carstens, 2010)!

A huge technology stumbling block in my school has been having access to reliable wi-fi.  Some days, I can not even show a video from YouTube, because of the length of time to buffer.  If all of my students attempt to access the wi-fi at once, the system becomes a constipated mess and nobody gets anywhere. In my classroom, I can not even use the data plan on my phone, due to extremely poor reception.  In addition, most teachers do not have all of their students with their own device.  Although 2/3 to 4/5 of a class may have a smart phone, every student obviously needs to be able to access the app, the LMS, the websites, etc. Sadly, costs, access and operability issues seem to prevent most teachers at my school from wanting to spend their free time designing “new school, pedagogical practices.”

Despite these challenges, my Principal has begun a new initiative this year, in the spirit of collaboration, leading to more progressive learning practices. In exchange of having a “lieu day” on our May Pro-D, interested teachers are meeting for a couple of hours over four Fridays, after school. These days are called “Collaboration Fridays” in which we are actually spending time sharing our ideas and developing pedagogy.  Naturally, I gravitated to a group of other “tech-minded” teachers!  I am presently working with two other teachers who are interested in student blogging. The other technology group has decided to figure out “Google Classroom” (as this is the direction our district is moving towards).

A factor that seems to be missing from the list of Secondary Criteria (p.247) needed for successful implementation of educational technologies would be time.  With larger class sizes, and classes with diverse learning needs, educators have very little time to redesign their courses. In BC, our curriculum has just undergone a major revision in which many units have migrated into other grades. Teachers are going to be spending an enormous amount of time simply learning their new curricula– asking them to concurrently change their entire approach to teaching, may be asking too much, at least for right now.

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Filed under collaboration, ETEC 565, General thoughts, obstacles

Week 1 Post: Self-evaluation of my technological proficiency

It was my full intent to post earlier today but alas, Twitter has sucked me in once again.  Today’s Twitter discussion centred around what I like to call “Tech Shaming”.  I define Tech Shaming to be the act of making other people feel inadequate for utilizing out dated technology and/or not using technology at all in their practices. If the goal is to have more educators utilize technology effectively and regularly, the act of Tech Shaming is unproductive and divisive, and hence, should be avoided.

If I were to be graded on the ISTE Standards, I would probably have at best a 3 on a 5 point scale. Or in elementary lingo, I would be “Approaching expectations”.  The “7 Principles” made me feel less inadequate, as I feel that in incorporating a more traditional, teacher centred approach in my senior math and physics classes, I am engaging in all 7 Principles utilizing a combination of traditional and technological practices.

The most relevant criteria of technological competency to me is Principle 7, “Respecting Diverse Talents and Ways of Learning”. I feel like my classes, although predominantly teacher centred, do offer a variety of differentiated learning and evaluation opportunities.   Preparing students for First Year Math and Physics courses, do not afford me a heap of time to allow for projects and group work.  I do more labs than other senior science teachers but it comes at the cost of not finishing our last unit.

I plan to utilize Student Blogging in two classes in the new semester. An incredible amount of research has pointed to the merits of reflection and student critiquing of each other’s work. My research essay for ETEC511 centred on this topic, should you wish to tap into the research that I was able to muster up. To Blog or Not To Blog: Scholarly Essay ETEC 511

I know that I will never be a 100% “GAFEr”.  I am not prepared to give up my stage.  I am prepared to share the stage, however; on the “TechEd Spectrum”, I am presently planted dead centre!  Effective teaching can come from so many different approaches and I think it is our responsibility to be true to ourselves, to be creative, to have passion for what we do and to evolve as we see fit.  I will not paper shame, Interactive White Board shame, soap box shame, overhead projector shame, document camera shame, colleagues. All I ask is for people to do what the do but to do it to the best of their ability. Oh… one more request! It’s getting a little cliché, but also, folks shouldn’t be afraid to fail at something.  I tried what I thought was student blogging this semester, and it was definitely a less than stellar first time out of the gates. Next semester will be better— I know it!


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Filed under ETEC 565, General thoughts, Student Blogging