Irene learns about teaching – Part 1c

Old style school desk painted blue against a blue wall.

The final piece of this module was a two-page written assignment exploring Pratt and Collins (2000-2020) Teaching Perspectives Inventory (TPI). I was able to determine that my dominant perspectives are Developmental and Apprenticeship, my fall back perspectives are Transmission and Nurturing, and my recessive perspective is Social Reform (Pratt & Collins, 2000-2020). However, given that my current teaching practice is not the traditional classroom/semester model, I found Pratt and Collins explanations of the perspectives limited and I turned to Bates (2015) work on teaching, specifically explanations of campus-focused and online-focused teaching to deepen my understanding.

Tony Bates has written a creative commons licensed text on teaching in online and digital environments for University professors. In Chapter 3, Bates considers teaching methods currently used in campus-based environments and illustrates the five teaching perspectives from Pratt and Collins using examples, historical references and analysis. Using terms like “learning by listening” (p. 84),”learning by talking” (p. 91), “learning by doing” (p.95), and “learning by feeling,” Bates (2015) expanded my understanding of the different perspectives and what they can offer when reflecting on teaching and learning.

In particular, I gained at better understanding of the Nurturing and Social Reform perspectives, the two areas that I had the lowest scores in on the TPI. The Nurturing summary from Pratt and Collins discussed developing self-esteem and enhancing effort in a safe environment. On the surface, I had some objection to this idea, not because I want students to be in an unsafe environment or not to have good self-esteem but rather that at the college level, results matter, not just effort, and learning can be uncomfortable and frustrating. It seems like Nurturing was being too nice or feeling sorry for students. Through Bates, I understood Nurturing to be empathizing with the learner. encouraging learning with appropriate supports; a perspective where the teacher takes the role of a critical friend (Costa & Kallick, 1993).

The Social Reform perspective seemed to put the teacher in the role of knowing all that is good and right for society and molding students into that image. I see a danger in this if the teacher is not able to be open to learners’ value and viewpoints. There are aspects of this perspective in college level education with the emphasis on developing well rounded citizens in addition to proving vocational outcomes. Through Bates, I drew a parallel between Social Reform and collectivism.

I have more thinking, reading, talking, and feeling to do about the Nurturing and Social Reform to sort out what benefits these could bring to my teaching rather than to continue to reject them out of hand.


Bates, A. W. (2015) Teaching in a digital age: Guidelines for designing teaching and learning [Electronic version]. Vancouver BC: Tony Bates Associates Ltd. Retrieved from

Costa, A. L. & Kallick, B. (1993). Through the lens of a critical friend. Educational Leadership, 51,(2), 49 – 51. Retrieved from

Pratt, D. D. & Collins, J. B. (2000-2020). Teaching perspective inventory. Retrieved from

Featured image: Photo by Carli Jeen on Unsplash

Irene learns about teaching – Part 1b

Successful students get involved - photo of staff and students at Chatham Campus for Bee Positive Day.

So, how do I know if I am connecting and motivating my students. THRIVES, the course I am using as a focus for these reflections, is a course in our LMS designed to introduce students to the culture of the college and present a model of successful student skills, behaviours and attitudes that new student can follow. Given that THRIVES is a non-mandatory course and, unfortunately at the moment, has little opportunity for student to instructor communication and no opportunity for student to student interaction, I have had to turn to other indicators to judge rates of engagement.

First, a little background on how we set up the course. In order to ensure the materials and design were learner-focused, we used Fink’s Intergrated Course Design model. In particular, examining the situational factors of the course lead to design changes. Considering the context of our teaching and learning situation and the nature of our subject along with the characteristics of our learner and of our teacher forced us to debate how to address the challenges we knew would be part of this project. This lead to a careful consideration on how we would introduce the course to students and how we would communicate with students during the course, the adaptation of an OER textbook, the use of video lectures and the addition of H5P interactive learning elements. I use we for the development as I still had collegues to work with by the time the pilot began, I was alone in the implementation with the exception of my Director.

During the Spring 2019 semester, I piloted THRIVES with approximately 1,000 1st semester students. I planned two emails to introduce and explain THRIVES and designated Thursdays for THRIVES for weekly announcements. In addition to the instructor email within the course, I mentioned our THRIVES email in every communication. One way I could check student reaction was to monitor these emails. Based on the questions received, I did two more emails to all students to clarify our purpose for enrolling students into THRIVES and clear common confusion.

Using Blackboard Course Activity reports, I was able to check the activity rates of my students and the amount of time students were engaging with the THRIVES material. At the end of the pilot, 80% of students had logged into and viewed something in THRIVES. I also used the Gradebook to determine the last date students had access THRIVES and the number of quizzes they attempted. Early in the semester, student activity rates were high but quiz completion was almost non-existant. I added an icon to all the quizzes and emailed directions with the icon to the students. I had included interactive self-check learning objects using H5P and I believe that some students thought those activites were the quizzes for the modules. After this email, quiz completion increased. At the end of the semester, 22% of active students had completed quizzes.

Using the course reports, I was also able to track the day and time that students were access the modules. My Thursday for THRIVES announcements were driving activity as Thurdsay and Friday became the most common days for THRIVES activity. These announcements highlighted part of THRIVES and also used messaging that promoted our expectations of students. These expectations included go to class, get involved, take responsibility, learn independently and embrace diversity. My thought was that even if all students saw of THRIVES were the announcements, they would receive reenforcement our college values.

For the Fall 2019 semester, I also moved all the THRIVES videos to a YouTube channel that I monitor and that allows for tracking of views. This is another way I can track how student are using the different elements of the course. I also set up individual page tracking within the modules and other course content areas for college polices and guides so check their usage.

While the lack of student to instructor and student to student interaction is not idea, it is the best I can do at this time. I am running nine sections of THRIVES with over 6,000 enrolled students for the Fall semester. I would not be able to cope without a lot more support. I may be techically running my very own MOOC.


Fink, L. D. (2005). IDEA Paper #42: Intergrated Course Design. Manhattan, KS: The IDEA Centre. Retrieved from

For more on using Fink’s Intergrated Course Design, see Integrated Course Design to Improve Student Learning from Northern Illinois University.

Featured image: St. Clair College, 2019

Irene learns about teaching: Part 1a

Two old men chatting while standing against a wall.

Who’s your model?

Think back to a teacher you admire and consider their motivational, interpersonal and intellectual skills. I know what I am supposed to say – good teachers motivate their learners, have highly rated interpersonal skills and are content experts. This question is leading to a recognition that teaching is more than just an expert who imparts facts and walks out of the room. However, my favorite teachers were a pair of kinda grumpy old men.

My favorite teachers were not what you would call “highly motivational” in a cheerleader or coach kind of way. They had high expectations of their students and were enthusiastic about their subjects. You could tell that they thought what they had to teach was important and were able to articulate why I, as a student, would want to know this. And at the same time, there was an expectation that I would either choose to motivate myself to do the work to learn it, or I wouldn’t. If I did, they would be there to help me when I stumbled; if I didn’t, well good luck with that.

My favorite teachers were not what you would call “highly personable” and perhaps even a bit unapproachable. They were not kind, grandfatherly figures ready with a sympathetic ear. They were more no nonsense, tell me what you need and please, no tears dudes who would respond to a rational explanation but were not going to feel sorry for you or let you waste their time.

My favorite teachers were content experts and the courses they taught were tough ones. They were certainly intelligent and had a dry sense of humor that many of my fellow students did not get. But I do see a difference from the “sage on the stage” model in that they also cared about their ability to teach; to make their content understandable with out watering it down; to be fair, clear and reasonable in their application of grades and class rules; and to provide authentic opportunities for students to demonstrate their knowledge and skills.

It is worth reviewing what motivational, interpersonal and intellectual skills you bring to your teaching beyond your content expertise because simply being an expert or even someone who learned at a high content level does not make you an effective teacher. I am glad I had my grumpy old man teachers and while I don’t have to be one, I can still learn from their example.

Featured image: Photo by Cristina Gottardi on Unsplash

Learning about teaching – THRIVES

Successful students go to class. Find out more about THRIVES on Bb or email

I will be taking a course over the next three months about Learning Theories and assessing your own teaching. Although I have taught in the classroom in the past, my work in the past 12 years in student services has been in the area of creating/sustaining the Tutoring System we have at the college and retention projects. Yes, I meant to capitalize Tutoring and System. One of our goals has been to make Tutoring Services a credible and responsive system of academic supports for students. One of the roles, I have as a Retention Coordinator is to train and supervise tutors in their practice of tutoring. So there is teaching there. I work with groups and individual students primarily in the area of English, Writing and Communications, check check, more teaching. And finally, I do in-class workshops mostly on the Writing Process, Citation Skills and Study Strategies. I like to think that involves teaching as well. But for, at least the first part, of this course, I want to focus on a Retention Project – THRIVES.

THRIVES is a set of modules developed in Blackboard, our LMS, for 1st semester students at St. Clair College. I am the lead faculty for this project. While I can’t give you access to the modules as they exist in our LMS, you can follow along by reading the OER textbook online and viewing the videos created for THRIVES on Youtube.

All 1st semester students at the college are enrolled in THRIVES. This means, I currently have over 6,000 students. Thankfully, they have not all emailed me at the same time. There are a number of questions that I want to ponder – how do we improve participation, how do we judge effectiveness, and how do we improve the learning environment.

One of the challenges is that the “course” is not mandatory, it does not appear on students’ class schedules and we haven’t figured out a good way to introduce THRIVES to students. Another issue is that, presently, there is no student to student communication options and the instructor/student communication is primarily through announcements and email.

I don’t know if the course I am taking on Learning Theories will help answer my question, but I believe using THRIVES as my focus may spark some new ideas. I hope to document some of my thoughts here over the next few weeks. You are welcome to follow along.

A Guide for Successful Students, Stewart & Maisonville (2019) is hosted on eCampus Ontario’s Open Library.

Planning the next tutor leadership day

two people drawing on whiteboard

On Thursday, December 20, 2018, we will be having our Fall Tutor Leadership day, a part day professional development seminar with two goals: continue to build a community for tutors and address emerging challenges tutors are facing in their practice. I am frantically trying to finish a pressbook with the tutors’ blogs for the OntarioExtend 9x9x25 challenge to use at the Leadership day and have decided to remove some of the suggestions about how to use the guide. I am going to let others decide for themselves how to use it, so I have moved some of the materials I thought about adding here:

Getting tutors to talk:

This section is a quick summary of ideas have used to increase discussion participation during meetings and training.  It is a goal of our training to give tutors an opportunity to continue to build communication skills as well as to build relationships with staff and other tutors. Tutors can and should be a support to one another, be a source for answers to questions when staff are not immediately available and this process is improved when tutors begin to know each other and understand that they can learn from each other.

These first three ideas are from the Cult of Pedagogy,  specifically Jennifer Gonzales’ 2015 blog post on Class Discussion ideas

Affinity Mapping

Affinity mapping begins with a big question. Tutors generate ideas and jot these on a post-it note, one per note. This notes are added to a wall or sheet with the question in no particular order. After many ideas have been added, tutors examine the notes and begin to group in to themes.

Snowball Discussion

Students start in groups of two to discuss a question and then join another group of two to have a discussion with four. These four can join another group of four, and so on. I like to use this technique with Think-Pair-Share instructions at the beginning.

Talk Moves

This technique appears to have been developed for elementary and secondary level students, however, I have found it gives tutors a model for having discussions about tutoring topics where opinions may differ and during early training sessions when some tutors may still be reluctant to join in. Talk moves gives up to five sentence models to use when adding to a discussion that requires the tutor to listen to another speaker and respond to what they have said.

Examples: I agree with what __________ said, because ________________. I want to add to what __________said, I think ________________. I disagree with __________________ because ______________. I have a connection to what ____________said. Can you explain your thinking?

A couple of my own ideas:

Introductions with crazy questions:

At the start of each training or meeting, I ask the tutors to give me their name, their program, a course they like to tutor and then I add a crazy question. The question is relatively risk free but revealing of the tutor as a person. I find these questions often lead to connections and other conversations between tutors.


  • What are you freakishly good at that has nothing to do with what you are studying?
  • What is something you are proud of in the last year/ 6 months?
  • What do you collect (as in have more than 3 of)?
  • What is something you would like to learn to do?

Pick a card

Using a deck of playing cards, when the discussions first begin, I give a card from the deck to each tutors as they speak. I ask the tutors with a card to wait to answer gain until everyone has a card. Once everyone has a card, we use them again but this time, tutors can leave the card face down and turn them over when they have spoken. I have found this gives a representation of who has spoken and a gentle reminder that it is important to hear from everyone.

General Techniques:

Whether you are planning a one hour meeting or a day long event, there are a couple of techniques I use that have made the training better:

Name Tags:

Use name tags, it will not only help you remember everyone’s name but it makes it easier for tutors to learn each other’s names.

Burning Questions:

Before the session begins, hand out or have available some half sheets of paper and pens and invite tutors to write down their burning question. A burning question is that one that they hope you will cover or is foremost on their mind. I collect them and review during a break. This way I can address common questions or emerging issues even if they were not on my original agenda.

Parking Lot:

Before the meeting begins, set up a space on a whiteboard or use flip chart paper on the wall for your parking lot. Explain that is something comes up that can’t be addressed during the meeting, you will writing it in the parking lot and return to it if there is time or respond in some other way, such as be email. Sometimes, tutors have questions that require you to gather addition information or seek approval. Using a parking lot ensure that those matters are not lost.


For longer sessions in particular, during the last 10 – 15 minutes, I like to ask tutors to write down a takeaway from the meeting, for example, something they learned and tape this on the wall. As the closing, I review some of the comments with the group.

How does this relate to the act of tutoring?

We ask tutors to where their name tags when meeting with students so that it is easier to identify who is a tutor in our lab space. We also encourage tutors to begin their sessions by asking their students what they would like to work on during their session together, what is their student’s burning question. The idea of the parking lot can also come up in a tutoring session when a tutor may need to gather additional information or when some other issue may need to be set aside so that the tutor and student can focus on the material at hand. And finally, we ask tutors to confirm student learning before the session is over, to ask for a summary of what the student has learned or now understands.

Featured Image: Photo by Kaleidico on Unsplash

9X9X25 Quotes on Fancy Photos Guide

It’s up to all of us, in each of our unique corners and niches to be talking about citizenship topics, especially about digital citizenship topics. ~ Helen DeWaard Photo: timelasped photo of traffic across a grey bridge

This is a bonus 9x9x25 post in a guide to making a Faux Inspirational Quotes.

Step 1. Go to the syndicated post feed and read a bunch of entries. When you read one that resonates with you, scan it again for a quote that is enticing; it doesn’t have to be the conclusion or the main point. I look for something that meaningful that can both stand alone and invite a viewer to seek out more. This is one part of how your perspective adds value, out of all the possible quotes, you get to choose the one to highlight.

Step 2. Assemble the basics, copy the quote, find the author(s) names and Twitter tag, make an icon or brand for OntarioExtend 9x9x25. I use MSPublisher to create mine. I use a rectangle box in black as my frame and assemble the pieces using the same font (Century in bold). The quote is in 24 – 28 pt font size.

Step 3. Hang out at Unsplash (or another creative commons friendly photo sharing site) and look for a pretty photo. Here is where your imagination adds value, what photo in your mind adds to the quote? Select something that has some usable space on the edges for the quote to be added that is of the same color with little detail so the words can be read.

large moon in the sky above a hill
Photo by Andrea Reiman on Unsplash

Or Format Text Box to add a Fill with a similar color as the background and set to a high rate (70% or more) of transparency to improve text readability.

Fall leafs in the sunlight
Photo by Timothy Eberly on Unsplash

Step 4: Mess around with the placement of the quote and the brand and try different justifications of the text until it looks pretty and balanced. I am not sure how to describe balanced, but at some point, it just looks right. Don’t forget to add an attribution to the photographer. I add the Unsplash attribution in white 10pt font, usually in one of the bottom corners.

Step 5: Save as a Portable Network Graphic (PNG) or your choice of a graphic file format and open the graphic with another photo editing program such as Windows Paint to crop the white edges and scale the photo. I use Snagit Editor by Techsmith and do a quick crop and scale to 1160 pixels width and let the height calculate. 1160 pixels is a good size for the full picture to show when you share it to twitter.

Step 6: Tweet the photo to @OntarioExtend and include the hashtag #9x9x25 and tag the author of the post you took the quote from. Attach the picture and copy the quote and photo description to the description box for the alt tag. If you do not have a description box at the bottom of the photo, you will need to turn on this option through Settings on your Twitter account. A considerate alt tag includes both the words shown on the graphic and a description of the photo.

Final notes: I have weird personal reasons for the pictures I choose. For Helen DeWaard’s quote on digital citizenship, I choose a time lapsed photo of a bridge where the car tail lights were streaks because the internet is often called an information highway and data streaks past and teaching digital citizenship is like building a bridge for students. For Peg French’s warning on not becoming bedazzled by technology, I chose a photo of a single eye in glitter make up.

I hope the authors of the quote enjoy seeing my final mash-up of a photo and their quote. I think it is fascinating to see someone else’s perspective of the words I have written. Alan Levine did this for me once in a DailyExtend and I thought – Wow, I sound really smart! I hope the authors see how smart they sound to me and that others, seeing the mash-up on Twitter, will be enticed to check out some of the blog posts for themselves.


Zen by PowerPoint

Close up of an ant carrying a leaf.

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I have a love/hate relationship with PowerPoint (PP). I see value in the medium but I struggle to find effective ways to use it. #Oext234 asks Ontario Extenders to consider PresentationZen and to pick one of the 11 recommendations to improve presentations. I am choosing (5) Remove the nonessential and adding photos instead of text. Please understand, this is an exercise for the Daily Extend. I am not suggesting that the new presentation is really much better than the old one but it is a start and this also gives me a change to explore more Creative Commons photos and a new tool.

Sometimes, I have used PP to act as a guide for me; a way of keeping me on track and reminding me of what comes next. I have basically turned them into great big visual presentation cue cards. Whenever I do this, it reminds me of my very first presentation competition in grade school on Carpenter Ants.

I used this approach when preparing to be filmed for an Orientation video based on a transition to college culture workshop that I have done in-class. In this case, the slides were not shown to the participants, they were only for me. Here is a short clip from my practice video where I created a voice over for the slides I had prepared. The final video, edited by St. Clair College’s Audio/Visual department, is at this end of this post.

Using Tall Tweets, I created a 15 second gif of my original slides:


Using Unsplash, I added photos and then removed most of the text:


This is the final video used now at Orientation:


Feature image: Photo by Vlad Tchompalov on Unsplash

Office 365 Planner for Groups

Asking for a Friend Series – Episode 1: How can I set up and use a Planner group in Office 365.

Photo by rawpixel on Unsplash

This is a collection of training resources “for a friend” – use your institutional log-in to access – Microsoft Office Support

Blog posts

So there you go friend, (you know who you are) and if you need more, let me know (you know where to find me)!

Note: Extending my curator skills by sorting through all the stuff on the internet about this topic and picking out the good ones. I learned about curation at OntarioExtend.


Extending my PLN through Twitter

My adventures in creating a Personal Learning Network (PLN) is only weeks old. However, through OntarioExtend – the modules, the blogging and the Dailies, I already have a fruitful PLN growing.

First Steps:

Photo by Daniel Hjalmarsson on Unsplash

  • I began with the Daily Extend. I created one and tweeted it. Then I watched for people to either tweet a Daily or like a Daily. If they did, I followed them.
  • I created my first blog and added it to the ExtendWest blog feed. Then I read other blog posts that showed up and found those folks on Twitter and followed them.
  • I attended two conferences in early May, the Open Education Summit 2018 held in Windsor, Ontario and the OntarioExtend’s ExtendWest Kick-off event held in Sarnia, Ontario. I added people I met to twitter. I tweeted about the events and searched #oes2018 and #ExtendWest and added people who were also tweeting about these events.

Second Steps:

Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash

Then I started cleaning up:

  • I did not follow back everyone who followed me. When someone follows me, I check them out first. Is this person just looking to increase their follower count or do they have something interesting to offer me? If the person is creating new tweets (not just retweeting) and has interests in common with me – particularly in teaching, learning, technology, professional development… I follow them back.
  • I checked the list of people I follow and thought about why they are on the list. If I couldn’t come up with at least one good reason, I unfollowed them.
  • I discovered Twitter lists. I love lists. After I add someone, I put them in a list based on categories. It helps me remember why I added them and when I review, I can decide if they are worth keeping. Sounds mercenary, but you have to be worthy of my time and I will do my best to be worthy of yours.

Taking Further Steps:

Photo by Francesco Gallarotti on Unsplash

  • Now I am watching my feed and looking for people who people I respect follow especially those that more than one person I respect follow! I add these new sources.
  • I am also thinking about and looking for organizations that work towards goals that are important to me. Here is one to consider adding to your PLN: @Womenalsoknowstuff
  • I am also beginning to explore Twitter Chats and VConnecting.

The Big Step:

I can’t just lurk in the background, taking from my PLN and offering back only likes. I have to figure out what I can contribute. I am not sure what that is yet.

Photo by Elaine Casap on Unsplash

In the meantime, I am okay with the idea that it is early days and I am still learning about cultivating my PLN. But along the way, I am doing a lot of learning by observing. And of course, the Collaborating Module in OntarioExtend is providing a good road map. I am going to repeat this activity in about the month and see how my PLN has changed!

Featured Image screenshot from TAGSExplorer while playing with Replay Tweets was taken and decorated with TechSmith Snag-it.


The Internet is for Cats

Two cats lounging indoors

Finally, a real opportunity to add more cats to the internet! In the Curator module, the Consider This activity asks me to used different search opportunities to find a picture. I am going to use two methods using four sites.

Method 1: Collections of Free to Use Photos

The first method involves using collections of usable free pictures. Here is what I found using the terms cats and cuddling on Unsplash. Out of 59 pictures I scrolled through to find this one, only 14 had cats and most, only one cat:


Photo by Wayne Low on Unsplash

Using the same terms on Pixabay, I found lots of cats!


Photo by pogo_mm on Pixabay

Finally, on Pexels, I found lots of cat pictures, but not a lot of cuddling. I had to scroll a long time to find one matching what I was looking for but boy, they were beautiful photos!


Photo by Ninz from Pexels

Method 2: Google Search

For the Google search, I will begin by searching for cats and cuddles with advanced setting for free to use or share photos. Rather than just save the image. I prefer to visit the site and check that I am free to use the photo. Google can be wrong. My search took me to a photo on Wikimedia Commons.


By Safina dhiman [CC BY-SA 4.0 (], from Wikimedia Commons

Finally, for the Google search method, I did an image search on the Featured Image for this blog post which is a photo that I took of two of my cats, Lily and Pooshka.

Lily & Pooshka Photo by Irene Stewart

Here to, I changed the usage rights to filter for reuse and found this photo:

pixnio cats

Public domain photo from Pixnio

While taking my own pictures is always an option, the photos available under Creative Commons and Public Domain are certainly of a better quality. As I learn more about my options, finding appropriate photos is becoming easier.