Category: Distributed and Open Learning

Sharing is Caring

The beautiful thing about talking with a group of teachers is the amount of sharing that goes on. You share the wins and the struggles. You share your ideas, and your goals. Most importantly, you share your wildest dreams you could see in an ideal classroom.


As I look towards building my masters project, it is great to share ideas and goals with colleagues. Specifically, which areas are being researched for literature reviews.


The challenge is that it brings up too many great ideas to pursue. Some spoke of how to integrate First Nations principles into their classroom, and others are looking into how artificial intelligence can engage students to be active learners.

Personally, my ideas for literature have shifted with every conversation I have had with a colleague. My big idea is to examine how to actively engage students in an online learning environment. However, I have branched into blended learning, engagement strategies, flipped classrooms and the influence of technology. Now I want to pursue multiple intelligence and see how valuing and evaluating multiple intelligence can engage a variety of students.

Its challenging to stick with one idea for research when there are so many interesting avenues to pursue. Thankfully, there is plenty of opportunity to collaborate and discuss ideas with classmates and colleagues.

Sharing ideas is one of the greatest aspects of being both a teacher and a masters student.

Collaboration is KEY!!!

As an educator I find that there is nothing more important than collaboration. Firstly, I have learned more from talking with other teachers, than I did in any course or class I have been in. Not to say there is not a place or time for course work, as there are important academic elements and theories that educators need to know. However, for the practical implementation and pedagogical development, I have found COLLABORATION IS KEY.

I am very fortunate to share an office space with my colleagues. This leads to many impromptu meetings and collaboration sessions. And more importantly the rambling brain work of creating amazing things that could be done in our school. Not only does collaboration give you the space to develop ideas and be creative, it is also a great sounding board and provides a committee for problem solving. I have spent many a lunch hour proposing issues and getting incredible feedback and ideas for solutions. I have found that the community of teachers/colleagues you surround yourself with is EXTREMELY IMPORTANT to becoming an effective educator.

Now although I benefit from a supportive group in the building, there are many ways to develop a collaborative community outside of your school building. For example, participating in social media with fellow professionals, or building relationships through educational endeavors.

This week in class, we participated in an Ed Camp – where we were able to meet in small groups and discuss topics of interest. I spent the time in a group discussing blended learning and online learning environments. From this discussion we elaborated on how the U-Connect program works and some of the challenges and barriers we face.

The recurring theme was the idea that students don’t have the skills to navigate online education when they enter school and that success rates in online learning could be better. After some discussion, the U-Connect teachers came up with an idea to create a 2 credit course that teachers all the practical skills required to be successful in an online education program. If we had not had the opportunity to collaborate and discuss blended learning with a larger group of teachers, we would have never developed the idea to prepare students for online education in an independent course.

COLLABORATION IS KEY. Period. The end. It allows educators an opportunity to become better professionals and better educators. It also allows programs to change and adapt for the needs of their students.

Images retrieved from the public domain Pixabay.

THAT’S GREAT … BUT ________?

After all of the articles that I have read so far, I keep coming to the same conclusion:


Now let me explain a little bit, I have found that academic articles analyze and critique the educational system that we currently have (which is great) and then they propose solutions or ideal situations where all of our wildest dreams come true. (and yes, as an educator I do dream about my classroom and courses.)  Then reality hits me square in the face and I think (or shout in my head), how the heck am I going to implement that idea? Or even worse, that would be great … but what would (students, school district, parents, etc.) say.


SERIOUSLY? I know this seems like a small barrier to face as an educator, but I am finding that this is my first thought to why I could or could not use a certain technology in the classroom.


For example, Future Technology Infrastructures for Learning, the authors discuss the transition of educational technology. Specifically, there are 4 generations of educational technology:

  • CONTROL = basic technology use
  • INTEGRATION = enterprise systems
  • OWNERSHIP = fragmentation and diversification
  • STRUCTURE = distributed and digitally shaped technology

They continue to discuss the steps and struggles educators face as they start to shift their pedagogical practices.  Siemins, Gasevic and Dawson state that “knowledge revolution is rapidly transitioning into a learning revolution.” (p. 203) Traditionally learning has been controlled by teachers, and now we are attempting to provide learning opportunities where students have more influence.  This isn’t a bad thing, it just means that educators need to be given the TIME, RESOURCES & SUPPORT to implement these ideals.


To summarize, I don’t disagree with the aspirations to revolutionize education and learning, however I just think the timeline is a little unrealistic. It’s GREAT to want students to take ownership their education BUT what about students who are not motivated/don’t care about school?   It’s GREAT that there are so many digital technologies available BUT do teachers and students have the skills to use them effectively? Or will the school district support the use of those technologies. It’s GREAT to educate student teachers on new and innovative digital platforms and pedagogies BUT will their school have the resources to integrate them in the classroom?



Siemens, G., Gašević, D., & Dawson, S. (2015). Preparing for the Digital University: A Review of the History and Current State of Distance, Blended, and Online Learning. Retrieved from Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation website:

Data Privacy & Awareness

The digital world is everywhere and there is little student or teacher can do to avoid engaging in it.

I read about new and amazing ways to engage students through digital medias and watch as other teachers integrate programs and technology flawlessly. Then I decided to start a Masters program in Educational technology in the hopes that my skill set would grow and I would feel more comfortable and able to integrate technology in my own classroom.


Now to back track a bit, I rely heavily on digital technologies because I would at a distance learning school, where students attend part time (Mondays and Tuesdays) and work online for the remainder of the week.  My courses are entirely on an online platform, so students can access content, activities and assignments. That all sounds good on paper, but I continue to struggle with integrated digital technology use beyond an online textbook and typed written assignment.

So, when I see other educators using technology in creative ways, or I find a new app or program I always think of how I could use it in my own classroom.


Just when I think I have figured it all out, BAM! Data privacy issues.

Part of me wants to say “Who cares” students have already given access to so much of their personal information through social media platforms and other online things I don’t fully understand.


Then the other more practical and reasonable voice in my head speaks up and tells me that data privacy does matter.  Students seem to be so engaged with the digital world, but I can’t assume that they okay with using certain programs and technology just because I think it will fit perfectly into my lesson.

Our school and district make sure that they use programs whose information is stored on Canadian servers. (I think I said that right, but please don’t quote me). Either way – student and teacher’s private information is safe. But there are so many things out there that would be perfect to use for education.


Caines and Glass found that “if students want to participate in standard educational activities, they often have little opportunity for real choice or consent around what data is collected.” And it got me thinking, how often do I give students an opportunity to “opt out” of educational activities? Or even more importantly, how often do I consider the privacy of students’ data before planning a lesson?

So, where does that leave me? First, I could offer students to opt out, but not really honor their decision. (Which I don’t think will work in my favor.) Second, I could give students choice in how they participate in learning. (Which the stubborn part of me does not want to have to make a back up plan. It sounds like more work.) Or third, I could become more educated on data privacy issues, and teach my students to be more aware of why data protection is important and applicable to them.


When students become more educated on how their data is collected and used, they are more able to protect themselves. Their increased digital literacy can only help them in the future.

Caines, A., & Glass, E. (2019, Fall). Education before Regulation: Empowering Students to Question Their Data Privacy. EDUCAUSE Review, 54(4). Retrieved from

Open Educational Resources, just one of the things I didn’t know.

Open educational resources sound fantastic. So why are there not more widely available? 

Evidently, there are many open resources out in the academic world, I just have never known where or how to look for them. (Until I was shown in post-secondary classes). And to be perfectly honest, I’m not sure I am an expert yet. When reading about these vast resources available to academics and educators I was expecting to see sites that I already use. However, that was not the case – so apparently, I have been doing this whole thing wrong for a while.  

But this revelation, got me thinking … what about high school students? I know that I teach my students to properly cite any sources that they use. And I expect them to give at the very least a list of sources where they found their information. But I don’t know if I have spent any time showing students where to find and how to use open resources.  

Despite these resources being widely available, I feel they are still restricted (unintentionally) to the academic world. Even the articles I looked at this week are all directed at post-secondary education, academics and individuals inquiring about specific information.  

Not to say there is not a place for open educational resources for the everyday, I just haven’t seen it in practice. (That could just be my ignorance to the use of open educational resources, and not a true reflection of their use in the average life of a teacher).  

Maybe the bigger question is why hadn’t I heard of open educational resources outside of the academic world? Or taking a step further and asking how we can make these resources well known and commonly used.  The first thing to look at would be what barriers are in place and how we can remove them.  (Which I’m sorry to say I do not have an answer for.) The second would be to promote the use of open educational resources in K-12 education. The more students are informed about the information that is out there, the more likely they are to use it.   

The more open educational resources are used, the more efficient and effective they will become. Or at least that is the trend I have noticed in the educational world. Take social media for an example, what started as a neat idea to implement in the academic world, has grown to be a highly used and effective source of professional development.  

Maybe it will just take some time to spread the use of open educational resources. Or maybe it’s just me, an out of touch educator who will now begin to learn the use of open education resources in the classroom.  

The Struggles of Innovation

In any group of teachers, you are bound to see some differences. But are there really?

If you take a closer look, I feel like you would see far more similarities. Generally speaking, teachers value education. They are organized (even if the way they organize is different), they have a goal for learning and a clear path to achieve that goal. A+B=C


I have seen a strong shift over the last decade or so, where teachers use creative and innovative methods for teaching and learning.  However, there is still an end goal and a clear path (created by the teacher) of how to get there.


Creative and innovative education does not come easily. It takes a lot of time, resources and effort by individual teachers to implement. Often, I find that I myself fall short of the glorious advances that could be happening in the classroom. Despite great intentions to transform education, teachers have been successful in a traditional classroom setting and therefore can find themselves slipping into a more traditional delivery method. But then where’s the interactive engagement students are so desperately seeking.  Maybe this is our biggest flaw.


Not that reinvigorating educational pedagogies is a lost cause; I just think that some oversimplify the changes that educators are struggling to make.  Even though researchers want to map or outline this process I would say it’s near impossible. Teaching is messy and unclear, there is no straight line of A+B=C. There are too many factors that contribute to the failure and success of any given pedagogical practice. I feel that sometimes research puts additional pressure on teachers to make changes to their class before they are prepared to do so. And research doesn’t account for the uncontrollable environmental factors that influence the success of educational pedagogies.


Open educational resources are a hot topic in education. But most (if not all) of the research is examining how open resources impact post-secondary education and further research. Yes, open access is a great idea. Providing universal definitions or information on basic levels of understanding, but how does this impact the K-12 world.

Working in a blended learning model high school, online resources are key to making our program work. We are given a basic online course from WCLN and then have the freedom to make changes. However, with the most recent updates, WCLN has changed some of the information pieces so that they can control the content. However, this means that as teachers we have less autonomy of what students can and cannot see, and therefore how much we can change within the course. Although this is an open resource, it limits what we as teachers can control in the course.

Personally, I like to have full control of the content covered in my class. My first thought is to create a resource, rather than spend the time to find a ready-made resource to use in the class. I also think that previously developed resources inhibit the individualization of education. When I develop a resource, I know it is specific to my course, my lesson and the students that I am teaching.

But there are barriers to this method as well. For one, developing resources takes a lot of time. Maybe I’m the only teacher that has been in this position, but you can’t develop a quality resource the night before. Second, it isn’t always easy to think of new and creative approaches to content.

So, what does this mean for K-12 educators. The use and effectiveness of open educational resources changes drastically between different grade levels. Furthered by the fact that the current research focuses on post-secondary. Hopefully, future research will look into open educational resources for the K-12 world.

if it aint broke, don’t fix it.

There’s this bed, it’s around 50 years old and has been well used within my family. It started as a bunk bed for my father and his siblings and is now a single bed (no top bunk) in the family summer home. And although we have not used the top bunk in several years, we still have all the parts and the mattress just in case. It is referred to as the ‘taco bed’ because it has a special way of bending in the center that allows the user to feel like they are folded in half.

In order to “fix” the bed, my grandparents decided to throw the second mattress on top and tried to convince everyone that it made it “better”. Let me assure you, a second 50-year-old mattresses stacked on top of the first, does not fix the problem. More than a few years ago, I questioned their logic, asking how an old mattress would fix a broken and uncomfortable bed? They responded with things like, more cushion, and you couldn’t feel the springs of the first mattress. Sure, this makes some sense, but the top mattress has the same issues, so what is going to fix those.  Despite my effort to understand and address the issue nothing has changed.

Oddly enough I was reminded of this incident while reading Twenty Years of EdTech by Martin Weller. “Attempting to convince educators that a complex technology might solve a problem they don’t think they have is therefore unlikely to meet with widespread support” (2018, pp.46) The pushback I received when trying to fix a mattress, is similar to the pushback from teachers to implement new technologies in the classroom. I can’t help but think of the phrase, “If it aint broke, don’t fix it.” Why at any point would an educator completely change what they are doing if it’s a) working or b) the alternative seems over complicated and irrelevant.

First, educators need to recognize that there is a problem in the educational field. If there is no problem, then there is no willingness to change. Second, educators need to be given the time and resources to DEVELOP technology that will SUPPORT their new PEDAGOGY. I can’t help but notice a top-down trend in educational technology. Where new amazing technologies are developed and then teachers try to force the technology to “fit” the traditional educational model.

I believe the next step in innovative and applicable education is starting with pedagogy, then looking at curriculum and ending with discussing what technologies are needed in order to make it happen.  This way we can re-invent education and learning, to cater to 21st century needs and skills. A key to successfully restructuring educational environments is understanding what has changed in open and distributed learning over the past few decades.

As educators we need to critically reflect on our practices and continually adjust and improve our pedagogies. It is crucial that education changes at pace with society in order to meet the needs of a diverse set of learners.