Standing a different river every day


You cannot step twice into the same river, for other waters are continually flowing on.” Heraclitus

You can’t teach the same class twice, for everything is changing.” Irene Stewart

Sound like a strange teaching philosophy? Perhaps, but for me, it contains a truth. Everything is changing; every time I teach, the students are different, I am different, the world is different (even slightly) and what and how I teach must be different too.

The students are different – every semester, every year, every cohort of student are new and have unique needs. What worked last year, last semester, or, for me with workshops, last week, might not work now.

I am different – I haven’t stopped learning either. I am not the same as last year, last semester, and, because of the Ontario Extend experience, I am not even the same as last week.

The world is different – and while I could give a bunch of different examples of all the ways the world different – it’s about relevance – what was relevant last year, last semester and even last week may not be relevant today.

That is why I review my plans every time I prepare to teach to ensure that I am responding to the change. That is why I keep learning. That is why I want to keep extending.

This post is in response to the Culminating Activity for the Teaching for Learning Module of Ontario Extend.

Photo by Omer Salom on Unsplash

Good for students; Good for us too.

Catch them doing something right. I remember this advice from when my children were small. The idea was instead of always pointing out the mistake a child was making (negative attention), I should actively watch for the actions, behaviours and attitudes I valued and give praise (positive attention). It worked.

Here’s the thing, it works with students too. In addition to the correct knowledge that we want them to have, we have skills, behaviours and attitudes we value. When we are assessing their work, we need to be looking to catching them doing something right. I was reminded of this when reading patches from the Open Faculty Patchbook. My nugget is:

Give affirming feedback, where you highlight what the student has done well. This can be a powerful means of building student confidence and engagement, and can directly reinforce good performance. ” (Awwad & Bali, 2017)

This is sage advice for us in Extend West as we seek to grow in our knowledge, skills, behaviours and attitudes. We should give and seek affirming feedback in our learning cohort. I have been considering asking for feedback on my blog and thinking about what kind of feedback would best help me learn and grow. One technique I have used with classes is Stop, Start and Continue.


The basic model is to ask for three types of feedback. A stop, something I should stop doing. A start, a new idea to incorporate, to start. And finally, a continue, something that is good and that I should continue. The continue is always the part that makes me feel better after hearing all the things I do that I should and all the things that I don’t do that I should.

For blog posts, the model could be used by asking a critical friend the following questions:

  • Stop – what is something that is detracting from my blog?
  • Start – what is something that you have seen others do, or you do yourself that could improve my blog?
  • Continue – what is something that you like about my blog that I should keep?

Structuring our request for feedback in this way can ensure that we get information that we can use and that affirms. When I think about my extending experiences, I feel a bit like the climber in the featured image, I am working my way up and even though I have some safety equipment, it still feels scary. I need advice like don’t put your foot there and use your guide rope as well as the keep going, you can do it. I need the stop, the start and the continue.

If you would like to explore how to use Stop, Start and Continue in the classroom, Boston University has a good explanation of getting feedback using this model. And here is an approach on using the model for team building from Retruim.

Featured Image Photo by Tommy Lisbin on Unsplash


Awwad, A. & Bali, M. (2017, May 25). Patch nine: Shifting your design of assessments. Retrieved from

It’s a beautiful day in the neighbourhood!

As I am growing my PLN on Twitter, I am breaking a known social convention. Just because you follow me, I am not following you back. In order to get my follow-back, you must have something worthwhile to offer me, unless you are a cat. Cats always get follow-backs.

I need there to be a reason to follow you (or your organization). You have to fit into one of my LISTS on twitter, you need to belong to a ‘hood! New people I am meeting through Ontario Extend belong in one list. These may be folks involved in #ExtendWest or folks recommended by Extenders.  That along with Education – Organizations is my Professional Development School of Awesomeness, if you will.

The St. Clair College list is my work, Vaping Advocates is my political interest and Chatham-Kent is my local news. Opinions of Interest is a group of people who are famous in some way but that is not why I am following them. Each has a different perspective on life and the world that they share that is beyond tabloid nonsense. I may be a fan of their work, but I follow them to read their ideas.

Finally, I think everyone should occasionally stop and pet the cats. Or smell the flowers, or run with dogs, or watch a sunset… a little lightness and humour give you some balance in your neighbourhood.

I want to shift out the noise and nonsense of twitter and keep it meaningful.

P.S. I used Snag-it from TechSmith to take the picture and add the monster stamps. I purchased this using their Student/Education pricing policy which was reasonable. I would recommend this tool.

Critical Friend

Two people dressed in business casual chatting outside.

“The critical friend is a powerful idea because it contains an inherent tension. Friends bring a high degree of unconditional regard. … Critics are, at first sight at least, conditional, negative and intolerant of failure. Perhaps the critical friend comes close to what might be regarded as the ‘true friendship’ – a successful marrying of unconditional support and unconditional critique.” (MacBeath and Jardine, 1998)

I generally relate the idea of a critical friend to the process of writing, probably because this was the first realm in which the need for a critical friend was introduced to me. However, a critical friend is a concept that works in many other areas including professional development. When asked through the OntarioExtend Daily Extend #oext172 to recommend a node in my network to the #ExtendWest group, I thought of my critical friend, Patrick Redko. Patrick is a fellow faculty at St. Clair College who teaches in the Interior Design program.

Photo by rawpixel on Unsplash

A critical friend is different from a mentor or a colleague, in my opinion and frankly, hard to find. Here’s my idea of a critical friend:

A critical friend is a peer. Someone in the trenches, doing similar work, having similar challenges but far enough away from your immediate work to offer a different perspective.

A critical friend is trustworthy. Someone who will not share details of your work, struggles or failings with others in a way that could harm you.

A critical friend is genuinely interested in your success. Someone who wants you to do well and grow and will celebrate your achievements; someone who recognizes that your achievements do not diminish their own.

A critical friend is willing to challenge you. Someone who is willing to point out flaws, to question your thinking and decisions and to debate different points of view, for your betterment, for the thrill of intellectual discourse and because there is value in the process for both of you.

A critical friend is willing to invest time and energy in you. Someone who is willing to take the time to listen to you, to review your work, and to provide thoughtful feedback.

Having a critical friend and/or being a critical friend is not for the faint of heart; it is not easy to receive or give criticism. However, I highly recommend looking for one for it will be a professional relationship unlike any other.



E is for Extend & E-Juice

Today’s Daily Extend from Ontario Extend, a Learning and Teaching professional development project, was to emphasize the letter E in a picture taken with my phone. I was to play with editing this photo to highlight and isolate the E.

E in e-juice
This excellent e-juice is almost e-mpty!

I had already decided that I was not going to overthink these exercises and would just do it. Sometimes, when taking a risk, I can get caught up in thoughts of “what do others expect” or “what if this is not good enough.” Bleh! My eye fell on the e-juice sitting on my desk. I quit smoking on December 23, 2015 with the help of e-cigarettes. I received my first mod as a gift, smoked my last two cigarettes reading the instructions and have not had a smoke since. I continue to enjoy vaping and recently, Canada E-juice opened a Vape Shop in Chatham, Ontario so now I have excellent e-juice available just minutes away! I took a picture of Strawberries and Creme with my phone.

It was a bit of a challenge to get my phone to focus on the bottle and not the background. Thankfully, I had a handy envelope and a container of Catnip! Here is the original photograph.


I don’t have many photo editing software packages on my home laptop, but I do have Techsmith’s Snag-it. Using Snag-it, I played with the magic wand feature after cropping the photo. Then I used the magnifying glass to enhance the E. I am fairly ecstatic with the result. I enjoyed trying a little editing!

Check out:

Ontario Extend

Canada E-juice

Techsmith Snag-it

All links open in a new tab and I used 21 E words in this post!


Wooden blue chair on a beach

I am joining Ontario Extend, an initiative from ecampus Ontario. This is an project that looks to build teaching and learning skills in educators in the realms of technology and online learning…. I think. Well, that is what the website said anyways.

Specifically, I am joining ExtendWest and the opening event is in about two weeks. To prepare, I am opening up a bit of interweb landscape to play with, my own little sandbox, if you will. So far, I have a chair to rest in set up. Extending like stretching can be uncomfortable. I don’t yet know what I am getting into with this project but I am giving myself permission now to dabble, to rest, to wiggle my toes in the sand and enjoy the experience without expectation.

“Nourishing yourself in a way that helps you blossom in the direction you want to go is attainable, and you are worth the effort.” — Deborah Day