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Educational Research: Relevance and Applications

For the past several weeks I have been questioning how impactful and relevant educational research is. Two questions have come to the forefront for me: Who is reading the research?  Who is conducting the research? I am troubled by the fact that as I spend more and more time looking into the research it becomes apparent that it often does not reflect the complexities and realities of the classroom. Is this because it is not written by the classroom teacher?  Or is it because it is not intended to inform the classroom teacher?

I am confident that the trademark of a great teacher is their emotional and relational competencies rather than the tools, strategies, or even the content. So, when researchers talk about the effectiveness of using technology, whether it is for assessment, formal or informal learning, or collaboration I believe it is impossible to separate the tool from  the educator that utilizes it.  Teachers should be more involved in the research as they recognize how vital trust and relationships are to the learning process. Teachers should also have more access to the research, which I believe would help direct research to be more relevant and applicable in the K-12 setting.  Currently, research is not widely read by the classroom teacher unless they are doing graduate studies.  Research seems to be aimed at University academics and policy-makers, but this is not where the largest gains will be realized.  The full potential and influence of research will be realized when the educator in the K-12 classroom has access to the research and views the research as relevant and applicable. It is with these three things in mind (accessibility, relevance, and application) that I reviewed the research presented by my peers in EDCI 570/571.

Access: Research needs to be available to everyone.

Cheryl, Heather and Benjamin mention several times in their summary of “Using Information Technology for Assessment: Issues and Opportunities” (pp 577-648) that

 developments need to be shared through Open Educational Resources so that progress can be made more quickly in this emerging field.

Joanna, Nicole and Hayley’s summary of “Issues and Challenges Related to Digital Equity” (pp 981-1098) points out that open educational resources have led to an increase in equity in learning. I propose that access to research also needs to be ‘open’ so that there is equity between the educator and the researcher.

Jerry and Rhyanon’s summary of “Flexible, Open and Distance Learning in the Twenty First Century” (681-776) identifies that one of the key aspects in a successful blended learning program is Professional Development through workshops and hands on experience. This would seem like a perfect opportunity to encourage educators to access relevant research, however the divide between practicing teachers and research is once again strengthened by this omission.

Relevant: K-12 teachers need to be more involved in research to make it more relevant. 

Faune, Leanne and Rochelle’s summary on the research of “Curricular Challenges of the Twenty-First Century” (pp 3-120) appears to be very relevant for current educators.  Points such as “young learners lack the ability to critically evaluate the information found on digital medias” and  there needs to be improvement in “teacher skills and competencies to educate students on digital literacies” are obstacles that need to be addressed and overcome before technology can be used effectively. It is noted in their summary that the authors, Voogt and Erstad,

discuss the mismatch between research on how people learn and how schools are organized, the lack of professional development, the overcrowding of the curriculum, access to and availability of technologies, the differing agendas of stake holders, lack of teacher skill

These acknowledgements add relevance to their research as these challenges also need to be recognized and tackled in order to effectively implement technology.  A quick google search reveals that Voogt has 194 research items and 3828 citations. I would like to read more articles by Voogt as her research appears to be quite relevant which leads me to be optimistic that it is also applicable.

The summary presented by Dierdre, Gary and Andrew on “Advanced Principles in Multimedia Learning” (pp 371-390) was challenging for me to appreciate (not the presentation itself, but the material).  I quickly dismissed the relevance of the research as it was clearly directed towards the academic and not to the practicing teacher. Many of the areas suggested for further research regarding the implementation of guided discover learning in multimedia learning was predictable and obvious for the experienced teacher.  Given that I struggled to find the relevance in the research, it might also be expected that I struggled to identify how to apply the research (although the intellectual in me certainly enjoyed the detailed organization of ideas and principles).

The topic of flexible, open, and distance learning covered by Jerry and Rhyanon is very relevant in today’s educational landscape. In their summary I recognized that the models presented resembled the TPAC and SAMR models.  It appears that the models are helpful for policy makers and administrators of on-line or blended learning institutions, and that the models are valuable for evaluating the effectiveness of a blended learning experience. As noted by Jerry and Rhyanon:

As a teacher reading this information, I am encouraged that our school providing Blended learning classes supports the flexibility of pedagogy, environment, learner, and teacher role. The area that  can be developed further is the flexibility of content and technology to further personalize the learning experience for our students.

Joanna, Nicole and Hayley note in their summary of “Issues and Challenges Related to Digital Equity” that technology provides options for those with learning difficulties, and that digital technology can actually promote cultural diversity. Both of these findings are very relevant to educators, and also very applicable as several assistive tools were suggested. I appreciate that shortcomings of technology were also noted in their summary, thereby increasing the relevance of the research for educators.

Applicable: K-12 teachers need to be involved in the development of technology and the construction of educational models.

Cheryl, Heather and Benjamin note in their summary of “Information Technology for Assessment” that

teachers and students need to be included (and see themselves) as co-creators in shaping and directing the development of new tools for assessment.

In particular, Cheryl points out that “there is a whole other career out there in the designing of interactive software for assessment and teaching based soundly on cognitive principles and theory-based domain models”.  The difficulty here lies in not removing the developer from the educational practice so that the technology responds to the demands and challenges experienced in the classroom.

Jerry and Rhyanon’s summary of “Flexible, Open and Distance Learning in the Twenty First Century” (681-776) notes that there is limited research on designing and implementing blended learning at elementary and secondary school levels. I believe it is important that the research be conducted by elementary and secondary teachers so that the findings will be relevant and applicable to these unique age groups.

The summary provided by Sean, Jeremy and Clay on “Basic Principles of Multimedia Learning” (pp 149-368) has left me questioning the application of their research. Clay mentions that the results of the research depended on many variables so the outcomes were somewhat unpredictable. Herein lies my assertion that the research often lacks relevance in the context of the classroom and the experienced educator might be more effective relying on their expertise rather than strictly relying on the research.

This past few weeks have given me an opportunity to question the purpose and audience of educational research, identify what it is that I value and look for in research, and consider how I want to design and implement my research in the future. Above all else, I hope that my research will be relevant and applicable for current educators, and also that it will challenge and inspire educators to try new things in order to further develop their expertise.

Week 3: TPACK, SAMR and Transformational Learning

It’s been an exciting week for me with respect to my academic and professional journey. My focus for my master’s project has shifted, I have been inspired in my practice to re-evaluate my pedagogy with renewed intention of meeting my learners’ needs, and I have considered two new models that can significantly contribute to the development and evaluation of using technology in my teaching practice.

My original question for my educational research was centered around how collaborative practices can influence student engagement.  While reading Voogt, et al. (2018) and their chapter titled “Developing an Understanding of the Impact of Digital Technologies on Teaching and Learning in an Ever-Changing Landscape” from the Second Handbook of Information Technology in Primary and Secondary Education, I was introduced to research regarding the contributions of technology to formal and informal learning. I am excited at the potential for this area of research to inform and guide my interest on how technology can facilitate and transform the learning environment for my students in Environmental Science.  I am excited to pursue the research on formal and informal learning, to consider how this can contribute to lifelong learning, and to utilize the TPACK and SAMR models as frameworks from which I can plan, support, and evaluate the use of technology in my teaching practice.

As a trained AVID teacher, I have built my teaching practice upon the goals of encouraging and facilitating critical thinking in my students.

I begin every class I teach with a lesson on Costa’s framework for higher level thinking, followed by practice developing and recognizing higher level questions. It is an underlying and constant theme in my classes to encourage students to engage in higher level thinking and questioning, and it is through this lens of higher level thinking that I have come to appreciate and process the information I have read this week on TPACK and SAMR.

I view both models as valuable tools for informing my teaching with respect to the use of technology, however they are unique in their potential contributions and shortcomings. I will outline each of the models, summarize their key strengths and weaknesses, and consider how each model facilitates critical thinking of technology use in the classroom.

TPACK: Technological Pedagogical Content Knowledge

I appreciate the TPACK model as outlined by Koehler and Mishra (2009) for the elegant framework it provides educators to analyze their teaching practice from the three areas of content knowledge, technology, and pedagogy. This model is refreshing as it recognizes the importance of these three individual skill-sets, and then encourages the educator to improve and grow in their practice by considering how these skill-sets interact and complement each other. Ultimately, the TPACK model is easy to use and student-centered, prompting the educator to be intentional in their planning. As I am a linear thinker, I found myself wanting to order the skill-sets from foundational to that of highest development, much like Costa’s levels of thinking. That being said, I have come to value the holistic representation of the TPACK model as it honors the complexities of teaching and learning. I recognize that the development of an educator is not linear, and I am reminded by the TPACK model that I will continually need to analyze and adjust my practice with respect to these three cornerstones of teaching.


Image based on the original on TPACK.org





The TPACK model is quite simple in its presentation, vocabulary, and application. For this reason, I believe the TPACK model is favorable over the SAMR model for professional development opportunities within schools. It is general enough to allow all teachers to identify their unique strengths and consider technology from a new perspective in order to work towards more effective and meaningful technology use in the classroom.

Perhaps a shortcoming of this model is that it appears to be teacher centered and focused on lesson development. As with all strong pedagogical practices, one must remain student-centered in their lesson development, implementation, and evaluation.

SAMR: Substitution, Augmentation, Modification, Redefinition

Image Modified from Original by Lefflerd’s on Wikimedia Commons

The SAMR model is specific to mobile devices rather than technology as a whole, and appears to be more prescriptive and specific than the TPACK model. Whereas the TPACK model emphasized the importance and interactions between technology, content and pedagogy, the SAMR model is intended to be “used to classify and evaluate mLearning activities” Romrell, et al., (2014). I believe focusing on mLearning is a limiting view of educational and learning, as it simplifies the complexity of teaching by omitting the important aspects of content and pedagogy from the model. For the inexperienced teacher, it may lead to frustration as they work to integrate technology without adequate consideration of content, pedagogy, and the appropriateness of using technology. For these reasons, the SAMR model may be met with skepticism if it were utilized for school-wide professional development as teachers may be resistant to technology being a focus rather than an aspect of effective lesson planning and development.

The SAMR model is presented in a linear manner, and resembles that of Costa’s house of higher learning as pictured above. It appears that the introduction of technology might progress from substitution to augmentation, to modification and finally to redefinition but I  believe this places unnecessary limitations on the model. By being represented as a taxonomy the focus is directed away from the process and towards the final product. Viewing the levels as separately rather than a progression can help the educator be intentional about their use of technology and assess their lessons while looking for new and innovative uses of mobile devices. The SAMR model is gaining momentum, but it is still a relatively recent framework that has inconsistent representations on the internet that might complicate its productive application (Hamilton, Rosenberg & Akcaoglu, 2016). Hamilton, et al.’s article also outlines three potential challenges of the framework, namely an absence of context, a rigid structure, and that it emphasizes product over process.

A strength of the SAMR model is the identification of three key characteristics of mobile devices: they are personal, situated and connected. It is these three characteristics of mobile technology that have the potential to redefine learning for my Environmental Science students. In fact, the analysis conducted by Romrell et al. (2014) found that

If learning activities involving a mobile device are purposefully designed to be personalized, situated, and connected, the resulting mLearning activities have the potential to redefine and transform learning.

My hopes for my students include that they might build on their experiences with social media to create a PLN that will contribute to global collaboration and awareness of environmental issues. With technology, students have the ability to influence global audiences through the construction of blogs and videos and they can produce artifacts as evidence of critical and higher level thinking (application of knowledge) that can have a global impact.

Twenty years ago when I started teaching my strengths were in the content areas of Math and Biology. Almost 10 years ago, I had the privilege of participating in three consecutive years of AVID training which significantly enhanced my pedagogical practice. Recently I have embarked on being intentional about the use of technology with my students. I appreciate the TPACK model for honoring the three contributing aspects of my practice (content, pedagogy and technology) and their interactions as I consider how I can incorporate technology effectively.  The SAMR model provides me with a framework that will facilitate a critical analysis of the use of technology in my teaching practices and how it contributes to learning.  Even though the content area I teach may change and technology continues to evolve, my ultimate goal for myself and my students remains the same – to become higher level questioners and thinkers. It is as a critical thinker that I approach models such as SAMR and TPACK and identify ideas and inspiration that will help guide my teaching practice and facilitate transformational learning.

Additional articles to read re: Formal and Informal Learning

Cochrane, T.D. (2012). Secrets of mlearning failures: Confronting reality. Research in Learning Technology, 5 (2012 Conference Proceedings – A confrontation with reality), 123-134.

Cornelius, S., Marston, P., & Gemmell, A. (2011). SMS text messaging for real-time simulations in higher education. In J. Traxler & J. Wishart (Eds.), Making mobile learning work: Case studies of practice, 13-17. 

Pfeiffer, V. D. I., Gemballa, S., Jarodzha, H., Scheiter, K., & Gerjets, P. (2009). Situated learning in the mobile age: Mobile devices on a field trip to the sea. Research in Learning Technology, 17(3), 187-199.

Traxler, J. (2010). Students and mobile devices. Research in Learning Technology, 18(2), 149-160

Get with the Program

“The Future of Learning (Gerd Leonhard aka FuturistGerd)” by gleonhard is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 

The great media debate between Clark and Kozma has become obsolete when one considers the modern role of technology in learning. Clark’s argument that media does not influence learning states that it is the method and not the media that provides similar learning benefits because similar learning gains could take place by using other media and attributes. This is no longer the case with the capabilities of modern day computers. Technology has become an integral part of learning, and in fact has become a focus in and of itself for learning in today’s curriculum.  Also contributing to the irrelevance of the Clark-Kozma debate is the fact that recent studies have shown that emotional design of multimedia learning does help facilitate learning and motivation (Heidig, Muller, Reichelt, 2015). These findings support the use of a variety of media in the classroom, as students perceive technology as relevant, entertaining and interesting. I will also refer to the work of Heidig et el. to provide further evidence that connection is the ultimate key to learning and motivation.

One would find it difficult to argue against the statement that proficient use of technology is mandatory for today’s graduates. It has long been debated by Clark and Kozma (and numerous other researchers that want to weigh in on this debate) what the effect of media use is on learning and on motivation, but I propose that their arguments and evidence are mute points in 2019.  Exposure to technology, and proficient use of technology are required in every aspect of modern day life.  For example, Datingnews.com reports that over 50 million people have used online dating websites and a press release by Interac in February of 2019 released the following statistics for its e-Transfer service is 2018:

  • more than 371 million e-Transfer transactions were completed
  • the average user sends over 3 e-Tranfer transactions per month
  • 2018 statistics show a  54 per cent increase in volume over 2017.

My children can only access their report cards and apply for jobs online, and my daughter completed her training for Best Buy using e-learning modules. These examples outline only a few of the most basic daily requirements of technology usage. Once you enter into more advanced job markets the need for more proficient technology skills significantly increases.

Clark acknowledges the contributions of delivery technology (which influences the cost and access of instruction and information), but debates the impact of design technologies (which influences student learning). I argue that technology is no longer used to influence learning.  It is an integral part of the learning itself.



“The Future of Learning (Gerd Leonhard aka FuturistGerd)” by gleonhard is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 



Students need to be confident and proficient users of technology, and also aware of the vast opportunities, conveniences and capabilities that technology affords.

Clark’s argument that many different media attributes could accomplish the same learning goal is entirely outdated.  In the 1960’s Kulik showed that learning could be achieved through other teaching methods (Kulik, 1985) and this was later confirmed by Clark in the 1980’s (Clark, 1983). Today, media is no longer restricted to T.V., radio, textbooks, and early computers. Clarke gives an example of an individual learning to fly a plain using computer simulation, and argues that they could also learn to fly a plane without a computer. Modern technology has the ability to provide learning opportunities that are not available through any other means. Today’s scientist could not decipher the human genome or predict the structure of a protein without a computer. Another example from the website Gizmodo reports that mathemeticians are thrilled that a computer has solved the longstanding Erdős discrepancy problem.

Trouble is, we have no idea what it’s talking about — because the solution, which is as long as all of Wikipedia’s pages combined, is far too voluminous for us puny humans to confirm.

Computers are not only sufficient, they have become necessary.  They also improve accessibility to the content, facilitate communication between students and student and teacher, and offer experience with a valuable and necessary skill required in society.

I appreciate that Clark agrees with the views of Salomon (Salomon, 1984), recognizing that technology can influence student motivation, and that different students will respond different to any given media. This is at the heart of personalized learning. Teachers know that using humor, invoking emotion, including social interactions and even using the element of surprise can help student learning and retention. This is because a teacher must first get a student’s attention, and then engage and motivate them so they are interested in the learning.

How well students learn any subject area is dependent on several factors. As Rita Pierson outlines in her Ted Talk, Every Needs a Champion Kid, kids don’t learn from people they don’t like. A recent study by Heidig, Muller and Reichelt (2015) found that not only does evoking positive emotions promote creative, flexible and intuitive-holistic ways of thinking, they found that preventing dissatisfaction and frustration was also important for learning. Two studies by Chen and Wang (2011) and Um et al. (2012) have found that positive emotions have been linked to motivation, creativity and problem-solving skills. Further studies by Ereez and Isen (2002), Isen (2000), and Norman (2002) found that positive emotions enhance long-term memory and retrieval, and facilitate working memory processes. Considering the relevance and prevalence of technology in modern day culture it follows that students might view the inclusion of modern technology as a positive addition to more mundane lessons. Heidig et al.’s study seeks to prove what experienced educators already know to be true, however more research is necessary when it comes to emotional design. This is a difficult task as conducting objective scientific research when it comes to unique human attributes is extremely challenging, but approaching media design with the intention of invoking positive emotion could have very beneficial implications for learning.

As Kozma acknowledges (Kozma, 1994), technology is necessary to function in modern day activities and responsibilities. In the 90’s when Clark and Kozma formed their arguments regarding the influence of media on learning there was no mention of the impact of human emotions on learning. So, rather than asking “whether there are other media or another set of media attributes that would yield similar learning gains” (Clark, 1984) a more relevant question might be “how can I relate to my students, how can I use technology to encourage connection and communication, and what media skills will my students need to be successful?” When reading about the Clark and Kozma debate, the saying “get with the program” kept coming to mind. In hopes of finding  a more polite way to say this, I looked up the phrase. Cambridge Dictionary explains the phrase as “to accept new ideas and give more attention to what is happening now.” I will risk being impolite, and suggest that it is time to “get with the program”and put the Clark-Kozma debate to rest.


Chen C.M. and Wang H.P. (2011). Using emotion recognition technology to assess the effects of different multimedia materials on learning emotion and performance. Library and Information Science Research, 33, 244-255.

Clark, R. E. (1983). Reconsidering research on learning from media. Review of Educational Research, 53(4), 445-45.

Clark, R. E. (1984). Media Will Never Influence Learning. Educational Technology Research and Development, 43(2), 22.

Erez, A, Isen, A.M. (2002). The influence of positive affect on components of expectancy motivation. Journal of Applied Psychology, 87 (6), 1055-1067.

Heidig, S., Muller, J., & Reichelt, M. (2015). Emotional Design in Multimedia learning: Differentiation on Relevant Design Features and Their Effects on Emotions and Learning. Computers in Human Behavior, 44, 81-95.

Isen, A.M. (2000). Positive affect and decision making. In M. Lewis, J.M Haviland (Eds.), Handbook of emotions (2. Aufl.), Guilford Press, New York, 417-435.

Kozma, R. B. (1984). Will Media Influence Learning? Reframing the debate. Educational Technology Research and Development, 42(2), 7-8.

Kozma, R. B (1994). The Influence of Media on Learning: The Debate Continues. School Library Media Research SLMQ, 22(4).

Kulik, J. A. (1985). The importance of outcome studies: A reply to Clark. Educational Communications and Technology Journal, 34(1), 381-386.

Norman, D.A. (2002) Emotion and design: Attractive things work better. Interactions Magazine, 4(4), 36-42.

Salomon, G. (1984). Television is easy and print is “tough”: The differential investment of mental effort in learning as a function of perceptions and attributions. Journal of Educational Psychology, 76(4), 647-658.

Um, E., Plass,  J.L., Hayward, E.O., Hayward, B.D. (2012). Emotional Design in Multimedia Learning. Journal of Educational Pyschology, 104 (2), 485-498.

Top 5 Trends in Educational Technology: A 21st Century Learning Perspective


“Manifesto Labs” by Alex Dils is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 4.0 

Technology has never been my passion. Connecting with my students, encouraging them to connect with each other, and motivating them to become creative and critical thinkers…these are my passions. When I review top trends in education technology they often appear to be driven by economics and consumerism, like providing 1:1 devices, utilizing wearable devices, or purchasing augmented and virtual reality software. I often find myself wondering “Who wrote this?” and thinking “It definitely was not a teacher!” In light of my experience in the high-school classroom, my observations of students technological abilities, and the availability of funds in public schools I have created my own Top 5 Trends in Educational Technology.

1.Collaborative cloud computing: As Steven Lahullier writes in Top 10 K-12 Educational Technology Trends  in Oct of 2018

The ability to collaborate on writing assignments, presentations, spreadsheets, etc. has proven to be an invaluable asset in K–12 education.

And, in my opinion, being able to access your work from any device without the fear of losing your work has been one of the most valuable advancement of technology in the past decade.

2.Global Learning: Utilizing technology to promote global collaboration to solve complex global issues has incredible potential to inspire students to be agents of change. As stated in Biggest Education Technology Trends of 2019,

students who have participated in global learning provide the proof – their discussions and collaborative projects have addressed worldwide problems like food scarcity, climate change, refugee crises and child labor.

3. Gamification: Tapping in to students enjoyment of playing video games to enhance and motivate learning seems like a no-brainer. As outlined in Top 10 K-12 Educational Technology Tools and The Biggest Education Technology Trends of 2019, games can be used to teach engineering principles, coding, and problem solving skills, as well as teach skills like mindfulness (for example, apps like Headspace and Calm)

4. Artificial Intelligence: Using devices like Siri, Alexa and Echo are becoming more and more common in class. The blog post The 9 Hottest Topics in EdTech predicts that AI will explode in schools in the near future, and has the potential to support learners in higher level thinking and learning. Students can utilize AI to gather information quickly to support new applications of knowledge.

5. Student-centered learning and Inclusion: The New BC Curriculum and the Technology for Learning Goals in School District #61 advocate for learner-centered and flexible, and many teachers are experiencing that student-centered learning is more successful than traditional practices. It is not surprising that student-centered schools like Pacific School of Innovation and Inquiry(PSII) in downtown Victoria and High Tech High in San Diego are attracting attention and gaining popularity. The blog post Top 6 Educational Technology Trends Right Now links the goals of student-centered learning and inclusion in the following quote:

Thanks to modern technology in education, we can really initiate custom teaching and learning methodologies and experiences in our present day educational infrastructure. With modern gadgets and interfaces, now one can initiate learning based on their need, preference, and availability.


My list is centered around improving mobility and student access, improving the quality of teacher and student work, enhancing personalized learning, and promoting critical thinking. The article Implications of Shifting Technology in Education lists 14 literature based current best educational practices, many of which are reflected in my personal Top 5 Trends in Educational Technology. My Top 5 Trends were strongly influenced by ideas presented in the book “A Whole New Mind: Why Right-Brainers Will Rule the Future” written by Daniel Pink.

This book outlines the shift in skills that are valued by North American employees in light of three driving forces:

  1. North Americans are living in abundance, and are looking for beauty and emotion.
  2. Off-shore workers will perform white-collar technology-related jobs for far cheaper, thereby forcing first world workers to focus on skills that can’t be done overseas.
  3. Computers have still not replaced many human aptitudes. As automation seems to be closing the door on many job opportunities, it is opening the door to several others.

Six essential Right-Brain-Directed aptitudes are introduced in Pink’s book that respond to the forces listed above:

Design: This skill is difficult to automate, and so valuable in business. It also brings joy and beauty to our lives in the creation of our living and work spaces.

Story: Story satisfies our need to be understood and to understand. Of course story contributes to our ability to relate to others, but it is also the cutting edge trait that determines a successful business.  In a market business story is valuable when it helps consumers make personal connections to products, or facilitates the discovery of ones’ self through geneology, scrapbooking, or the creation of personal profiles.

Symphony: is rooted in the higher level thinking of making connections and recognizing patterns, and applying those observations to create something new.  Symphony is the quality of entrepreneurs and inventors, problem solvers and artists. The characteristic of perspective and innovation will be highly sought after with the emergence of new and original jobs that fill a need that might not have been conceived or recognized as of yet.


Leadership is about empathy. It is about having the ability to relate to connect with people for the purpose of inspiring and empowering their lives.

-Oprah Winfrey

As of yet computers with emotional intelligence is still science fiction. It is what makes us human and fosters the meaningful connection we all crave. With the increased awareness of mental illness, empathy is redefined the approach to health care in North America and steering our medical professionals towards a more holistic approach.

Play: Today being busy is a badge many people wear proudly, and play is sought after with intention. One only has to consider the success of apps like “Calm” and “Headspace” to see the potential for technological games. It is so much more than a stress release or an activity that might help us achieve balance in our busy lives. Entrepreneurs are tapping into the unprecedented success of games like fortnite and minecraft to invent games that enhance learning, investigating, and problem solving skills.

Games are the most elevated form of investigation.

-Albert Einstein

Meaning: During the age of abundance the pursuit of the meaning of life has gained epic importance for many individuals: Gratitude, Spirituality, Rest, Mindfulness, Happiness. These qualities are driving an economy based on services rather than products.

Pink’s book suggests that North Americans relying on their coding skills or technological expertise may find themselves in a low paying and competitive market. With this in mind, it’s interesting to consider Top Trends in Educational Technology and how they might contribute to the sought after aptitudes outlined in Daniel Pink’s book. We say, or perhaps we’re told, that technology is the key to engaging and preparing students for the future…but I suggest it is simply a tool for enhancing the skills and qualities necessary and relevant in this new era. Technology is an import tool for assisting students and teachers in the acquisition of knowledge, however my goal is to assist my students in becoming creative and critical thinkers, capable of synthesizing and applying knowledge and proficient when working with others. Educators can be confident that creativity, people skills, and problem solving skills are qualities that will continue be in high demand. And coincidentally, these skills will also ensure that our learners can adapt and contribute to the epic pace of technological innovations.


Pink, D. H. (2006). A whole new mind: Why right-brainers will rule the future. New York, N.Y.: Riverhead Books.

Learning is Messy: Final Thoughts for 515 and 568

“who has the time.” by GYLo is licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0 

You know when you are organizing your home or garage and things usually get messier before they get better? I am in the messy stage of developing my research project question. I knew when I started my master’s degree that my goal was to inform and enrich the development and implementation of my Environmental Science 11 class next spring. Over the past six years I have been inspired by the changes in education in BC, and I have taken advantage of professional development opportunities regarding inquiry, indigenous curriculum, assessment, and curriculum development. I am excited to offer a course to students that is guided by their interests and questions, has a positive impact on their local community and environment, and offers authentic hands-on science experiences with local experts. I am bringing all of my learning together in the development of Environmental Science 11, so there seems to be many opportunities for a research project. In the past month I have also been introduced to a variety of research methodologies and been continually inspiration by my peers so that now I feel like a kid in a candy shop that can’t make up her mind.

Thankfully, not everything is messy.

I have learned many things thus far that I can say with certainty I will incorporate into my teaching practice. The phrase “Voice and Choice” has come up regularly, and it has become a focus for me when developing a student centered learning environment. I have appreciated the authentic invitation to contribute and ask questions during and after class, and am reminded how imperative it is that the teacher is approachable and encouraging. Furthermore, I have valued opportunities to choose the pathways for my learning. What a worthwhile experience it is to be a student again and have that perspective when I return to my classroom!

While considering my assessment practices for a student-driven inquiry based curriculum I recognized that I will need to provide my students with choice regarding how they display their learning. Originally, I had it planned out that students would complete weekly reflections on their learning as blog entries and present evidence of their learning in an e-portfolio. My perspective has changed significantly in the past month and my preconceived notions have been challenged. Students needn’t be restricted in how they provide evidence of their learning. I have begun to appreciate the potential roles that technology can have for assessment, but also in project organization (Trello, OneNote), refection (Flipgrid, blog posts), communication (WhatsApp, Slack), and learning from and inspiring others (blog posts, Twitter, and other social media platforms). I look forward to offering and welcoming a variety of ways for students to learn, reflect, organize and present their work.

I have become a more informed user of technology and am grateful that I can implement and pass that knowledge on to my students.  BC FIPPA Guidelines, BC Cloud Computing Guide, and Creative Commons, will be important resources for helping students become informed and responsible digital citizens. For myself, learning more about the responsibilities and repercussions of having an online presence have helped me develop my PLN with confidence and intention and I have begun to tap into an educational community that is rich in experience and knowledge.

Here comes the messy part: Identifying and developing my research question.

Learning is messy, and we have to be comfortable with risk, failure, growth and revision” -George Couros

When I started this program my question was “How can technology be used to facilitate communication and collaboration in the classroom?” Technology will be an integral part of communication and collaboration, I am sure, but technology is no longer my focus. My attention has turned to how I can support communication and collaboration in a broader sense.  This might include teaching specific communication skills, facilitating Scrum meetings, being more(or less) involved in student-mentor interactions, and considering how technology can be implemented for effective communication.

Recently, while writing a blog post for 568, I realized that building positive relationships is my primary goal, and that communicating, cooperating, and collaborating are the stepping stones towards that goal. John Spencer’s twitter post raised the question of whether skills of collaboration can be learned (and taught) as a progression from effective communication skills to cooperating and finally to collaborating.

So I am left wondering, is my question “How can I support collaboration in my classroom?” or “How can I teach communication skills, cooperative skills and collaborating skills?”

Things get even messier when I consider my research method. I began this month really excited to conduct the type of quantitative analysis I am so familiar with in my science classroom. Anaylzing test scores was out of the question, as my Environmental Science class was not going to be assessed through traditional testing methods. Questionnaires with scaled answers from 1-10 could be used to analyze student perceptions of the course, their enjoyment, their engagement, their learning, etc. Alternatively, I could collect data on the type(s) of technology that students chose to use for communicating, and how frequently they used that method of communication. Dr. Alexandra D’Arcy presentation regarding the UVIC Human Research Ethics Board raised some serious concerns for me, and it became clear that I do not want to jeopardize the trust and relationships that I build with my students for my own educational purposes.  Now I am considering a reflective self study or a qualitative analysis using interviews with community mentors that can be used to inform and improve my practice (and hopefully that of other educators).

Learning about research methods, ethical considerations, and watching Kitchen Stories (by Bent Hamer, 2003) have raised many questions about what exactly I will be researching and how I will go about my research. I, the researcher, am interested in researching collaboration with community mentors in the Environmental Sciences.  I am interested in the following questions:

  • How might effective collaboration skills be taught, encouraged and facilitated?
  • How might collaboration influence student interest in Environmental Science?
  • How might collaboration impact student ability to engage in scientific inquiry?
  • Will collaborating with high school students be a valuable experience for community mentors?

Ultimately, I hope that my research will have value to myself and other readers interested in implementing collaboration during student-driven inquiry projects in science.

The article I read for my last blog assignment in EDCI 568, Activity Features of High School Students’ Science Learning in an Open-Inquiry-Based Internship Programme,  has provided me with some structure for moving forward with the 7 key features of activity theory; tools, subject, communication, rules, object, division of labour, and outcome. These features can provide a framework for teaching and assessing collaborative inquiry projects, and they can also provide a framework of learning for students. These 7 key features, when considered within the context of the 5 R’s (respect, relevance, reciprocity, responsibility, and relationships) from A Case Study of the First Nations Schools’ Principals Course, can provide a strong foundation for intentionally teaching and developing respectful relationships that can contribute to effective collaboration.

To conclude, the experience of returning to research this past month has been extraordinary. My ultimate goal is to provide positive and meaningful learning experiences for my students, and I believe that can be achieved through engaging in collaborative inquiry projects. I have been introduced to many valuable tools for communication, organization, networking and reflection that will assist me in designing and implementing inquiry-based learning opportunities in Environmental Science 11.  Further analysis of research will help me discover how I can best support students when engaging in collaborative relationships with community members. Although things are messy at the moment, I have learned two very powerful tools that will facilitate my professional growth and help develop my research project.

  1. Returning to research and developing my professional learning network has inspired me and informed my practice.
  2. Constructing blog posts has been instrumental for processing, organizing, and synthesizing information.

These two activities will be allow me to thoughtfully develop research that will ultimately lead to improvements in my teaching and thereby in student learning.



“Organization” by Ms.Palania is licensed under CC PDM 1.0 

Collaboration is Key

“learning zone” by biblioteekje is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0 

I entered into my Masters program with the intent of enriching my pedagogical practices for the implementation of an Environmental Science 11 class in the spring of 2020.  This class will provide an opportunity for learners to participate in authentic inquiry based projects in collaboration with community mentors. I knew I would need to expand my skillset in order to

  • communicate effectively with students using technology
  • assist with project organization
  • model and facilitate effective collaborative relationships with community members
  • assess authentic displays of student learning.

It often feels daunting to embark on such a non-traditional learning experience within the confines of the public school structure, however I have been encouraged and inspired by a recent article I read by Pei-Ling Hsu and Laura Venegas. Activity Features of High School Students’ Science Learning in an Open-Inquiry-Based Internship Programme has offered valuable insight and resources for the planning of Environment Science 11, and reminds me that impactful learning can take place when students are able to collaborate with experts to conduct projects that are inspired by their own interests and curiosity .

Hsu and Venegas outline the development of activity theory, which has had three important stages in its development. First, cultural-historical activity theory (CHAT)

explains how human activities function in the world and how individuals make meaning through ‘social, cultural, educational and historical contexts’  (Postholm, 2015, p.45)

CHAT focused primarily on the learning that occurs when an individual interacts with artifacts.  A subsequent activity theory took into account the context of collective activity. For my intents and purposes I will focus on collective activity between students, teacher, teacher assistants and community mentors. The most recent amendment to activity theory considers the interactions between collaborators and seven key variables that allow the learner to make meaning of the context around them. The seven key variables, features or constructs of the activity are:

  1. Tools: instruments that support and facilitate the activity
  2. Subject: individuals, students, groups, or organisations
  3. Rules: the guidlines which establish normative behaviours
  4. Community: the group or individuals interacting between the object and the subject
  5. Division of labour: how the work is divided within the community
  6. Object: the ‘target’ which is altered into outcomes, ie. curriculum
  7. Outcome: the result of the activity system

These key variables have initiated considerable reflection for me with regards to my upcoming Environmental Science class.

Overview of Research

In the study, 36 high school students worked alongside university scientists over 40 classes that spanned across a seven month internship program. Students were invited to discuss and reflect on project design, data collection, and challenges in their investigations and were required to present their scientific research to their families, teachers, and friends. Journal reflections, video-recordings, scientific presentations, interviews and field notes were analyzed over the seven month period and participant perception of the seven key variables were as follows:

  1. Tools: 73% reported that students were equipped with advanced scientific equipment, hands-on teaching methods, and communication tools to learn science
  2. Subject: 86% reported that students were competent, autonomous and perseverant learners
  3. Rules: 47% reported that students followed safety rules, ethics, and communication to practice science
  4. Community: 65% reported that the internship community was supportive, encouraging, and responsive to students’ needs
  5. Division of labour: 45% reported that students developed skills to work on projects collaboratively with others
  6. Object: 73% reported that students were learning scientific knowledge that was in-depth, specific and applied to real-life situations
  7. Outcome: 27%reported that students were able to present their scientific findings and exchange ideas with other community members

Personal and Professional Application of the Research

One of my favorite Ted Talks is given by Rita Pierson. Rita has been teaching for 40 years and comes from a long line of educators, and she expresses the impact of connection and relationships on learning.

Rita claims that significant learning can not happen without significant relationships. It might follow that collaborative relationships with others has the potential to be a powerful teaching and learning tool. In Environmental Science 11 students will experience hands-on learning with community mentors, while engaging in inquiry-based group projects that directly impact their local environment. In order to ensure positive and productive learning experiences for students, I will need to facilitate positive and productive collaboration between students, teacher, teacher assistants, and community mentors. Hence, my research topic is collaboration, and two potential inquiry questions for my masters project are:

“How can I support productive collaboration with community mentors in Environmental Science 11?”  and 

“How will I determine if a community mentoring experience was successful?”

Hsu and Venegas’ research and their seven key variables bring forth several questions when it comes to  facilitating effective collaborative experiences:

  • What method(s) of communication can we employ to ensure that teacher, student(s) and community members work as a team?
  • How can I encourage autonomy and perseverence in my students?
  • How can I ensure that safety and ethics are in place when students are collaborating with community members
  • How can I ensure that community members are supportive, encouraging, and responsive to students’ needs?
  • What collaborative skills are necessary and how will I teach them?
  • How can I support students in the production and presentation of their learning?

Two strategies I can put in place that may begin to respond to the above noted questions are

  1. Prepare a document with students that can be reviewed at an initial team meeting. This document will include a place where team members can agree upon the preferred method of communication, outline the expectations for the teacher, student, and community member, and discuss how team members might navigate unexpected challenges or obstacles. 
  2. Be approachable and available to students and community mentors throughout project development both in person and via technology.

More questions remain than answers when I consider the implementation of community mentoring and collaborative inquiry. How will students prefer to communicate with me, with each other and with the mentor?  Will community mentors be available during our scheduled class time for collaborating? How will I manage being available to 6 or 7 groups of students during project development and implementation? What will my collaboration with mentors look like? What safeguards can be implemented to ensure positive experiences with community mentors? How can the seven key variables further inform my teaching and assessment practices? This list is by no means exhaustive, however I am so encouraged and excited by the possibilities of authentic scientific learning in collaboration with local experts that I believe my efforts will be worthwhile.




“Macroinvertebrate Sampling” by James River Association is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0 




Related References

The reference list for Hsu and Venegas’ article is a valuable source of information regarding inquiry, authentic science curriculum, activity theory, public engagement, valid and meaningful assessment, nature in science, and research apprenticeships.

A search of Dr. Gilbert Onwu, of the University of Pretoria reveals a variety of research projects relevant to environmental education, indigenous knowledge systems and science education, and outcomes-based education.

Dr. Gillian Judson, @perfinker, is an author, blogger (educationthatinspires.ca), professor, and Executive Director of the Centre for Imagination in Research, Culture and Education at SFU.  Her research interests include (but are not limited to) online learning, educational change, leadership, and sustainability, inquiry-based learning.

RT Johnson and DW Johnson have numerous publications in the area of cooperative learning.

I stumbled upon Dr. Robert Slavin’s blog at robertslavinsblog.wordpress.com. Dr. Slavin is the Director of Hopkins Center for Research & Reform in Education in Baltimore. His twitter account is @RobertSlavin.

Allyson Hadwin (@AllysonHadwin) is an Associate Professor and TIE lab co-director at UVIC. Her areas of focus include (but are not limited to) self-regulation, collaborative learning, and 21st century learning strategies. Dr. Hadwin’s research site (allysonhadwin.wordpress.com) include numerous publications on the above noted areas of focus.

And of course, @hopkinsjeff, @trev_mackenzie, @ChristineYH and @courosa whom we have had the pleasure of meeting in EDCI 568.

Additional relevant twitter feeds include @TrevorMuir and @spencerideas

Storytelling in Science

“Storytelling – The One Eyed Evil” by London Permaculture is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0 


Earlier this week we read two very different papers on decolonization written by Dr. Shauneen Pete, and had the privilege of meeting Dr. Pete in our EDCI 515 class. The first reading, Idle No More, left me frustrated and agitated. I wondered if my reaction was simply a mirror of the spirit in which the chapter was written (as Dr. Pete was transparent in her writing regarding her frustration with teaching pre-service white teachers). My demeanor changed drastically when I started reading Meschachakanis, A Coyote Narrative: Decolonising Higher Education. It was brilliantly written and thought provoking, and displayed the powerful impact that storytelling can have on the reader. Dr. Pete explored decolonising practices in higher education through storytelling, and it prompted me to consider the role of storytelling in the science curriculum.

In this blog I will

  1. review why indigenous knowledge is required content in the BC Curriculum
  2. explore the validity of storytelling in science
  3. Consider the role that storytelling had in my response to the readings by Dr. Shauneen Pete and how that relates to storytelling in science
  4. provide resources to further investigate the role of storytelling in science

Why is indigenous knowledge required in BC Curriculum?

The New BC Science Curriculum requires

that the voice of Aboriginal people be heard in all aspects of the education system; the presence of Aboriginal languages, cultures, and histories be increased in provincial curricula; and leadership and informed practice be provided.

Why is it imperative that our education system respond to the Summary of the Final Report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commision of Canada? A thorough answer to this question might recount details of BC Human Rights, The Indian Act (original and revised), Bill C-31, residential schools,  and countless other references and historical events, however I would like to respond by highlighting a few statistics involving BC Indigenous students (as presented in January 2019 during a series of workshops on Indigenous education in science).

  • Aboriginal students who self-identify make up 8% of SD61 student population
  • Aboriginal students represent 30% of those in Behaviour Support Programs
  • Aboriginal students make up about 2% of those taking senior science and math classes in GVSD high schools
  • 6 year completion rate for Aboriginal students is 59% (provincial  is 69%)
  • 6 year completion rate for Aboriginal students living on-reserve is 40% (provincial is 57%)

As educators, we have many resources to draw upon when responding to the call to action. First Peoples Principles of Learning provides a valuable lens for teacher teams when drafting curricula.

Below I have noted some thought provoking videos for teachers new to the discussion of reconciliation, or videos that can be used for initiating conversations of reconciliation with learners:

8th Fire – 500 Years in 2 minutes

Murray Sinclair – What is Reconciliation (3 min)

Reconciliation Through Indigenous Education (2 min)

How to Talk About Indigenous People (2.5 min)

Martin Brokenleg video (9 min)

Martin Brokenleg’s video opens with the statement that First Peoples learning is embedded in memory, history and story. It might follow that storytelling is a crucial method for learning indigenous scientific knowledge.

An exploration into the validity of storytelling in science

The oral tradition of story telling is responsible for transferring knowledge in Indigenous culture. Gloria Snively & Wagnosts’a7 Lorna Williams spent 40 years writing the book Knowing Home: Braiding Indigenous Science with Western Science. Chapter 14 is titled “Storytelling is our Textbook and Curriculum Guide” and it explains the importance of storytelling to the Kwakwaka’wakw people. Stories provide rules, regulations and life lessons, they reveal interconnections with nature, and build upon the understanding that the land is the foundation of their teachings. Stories provide the wisdom of respecting all things and the value of community and working together. The authors take the reader through 8 ecology lessons that progress from spring science in March to salmon release in June.

In this unit of study the lessons explored how the Kwakwaka’wakw made their living in the natural world. Students experienced and explored the exact territories that their ancestors walked. They were exposed to the beauty of the territories and the stories that were imbedded in nature. There were stories about the trees, mountains, lakes, rivers, rocks, birds, and fish.

In the article Indigenous Storytelling as Research  Judy Iseke conducts interviews with Metis elders and discusses storytelling as a pedagogical tool. Iseke concludes that

Indigenous storytelling pedagogies encourage broader understandings of identity, community, culture, and relations. (pg 573)

When it comes to analyzing methodology of Traditional Western Science and Indigenous Knowledge Systems I appreciate the views of Gilbert Onwu in Indigenous knowledge systems and science and technology education: A dialogue: 

I don’t think we should be looking at IKS with the same lens of judgment as we would do with Western science”.

He goes on to defend that each system requires different forms of verification, and that by not doing so we would be compromising one system at the expense of the other “and in the process lose the beauty of what the two systems could provide alongside each other.” (pg 6) What a wonderful concept. That each system has its own value, and that they each fill a void of knowledge present in the alternate approach. The scientist can reach a more thorough understanding by considering Traditional Western Science and Indigenous Knowledge together, rather than if only one of the systems were employed.

With this in mind, how can I apply the 4 R’s to the oral tradition of indigenous peoples? Is it appropriate to do so? In an attempt to understand storytelling in comparison to other qualitative research methods it can be an interesting exercise. The researcher includes generations of indigenous people that have passed their knowledge and wisdom on for the benefit of their community and future generations. Storytelling as research reveals intricate connections between self, community and the land that expand well beyond a single lesson, focus or discipline. The researched includes information passed on through many generations that is specific to the community and culture of the listener. Lastly, I am honoured to be invited to participate in the research of storytelling as the reader (or more, the listener), as the wisdom captured by storytelling can also benefit learners of non indigenous decent. Yes, it is interesting to consider storytelling through the lens of these four R’s, however I am reminded of The Five R’s for Indigenizing Online Learning: A Case Study of the First Nations Schools’ Principals Course and the five R’s (respect, relevance, reciprocity, responsibility, and relationships) seem to be a more appropriate approach when analyzing storytelling.

There are additional significant differences between the systems of Traditional Western Knowledge and Indigenous Knowledge. Co-author of Indigenous knowledge systems and science and technology education, Mogege Mosimege, brings up the point that

questioning is a critical component that seems not to be dominant in IKS and I think it is true that this does not help developments in IKS to advance beyond where they are. (pg 8)

Another stumbling block for IKS (when compared to traditional knowledge) is the reproducibility of the science. Without written documentation verifying knowledge gained through IKS is difficult. It seems to be a delicate balance between respecting each system for the qualities they possess, and suggesting alterations that might enhance credibility, validity, or rigor. In Canada, with relationships between settlers and indigenous people being delicate as we work towards reconciliation, it might be wise to leave the future of IKS to indigenous peoples and respect their knowledge systems for the unique contributions they provide. I hesitate as a settler to impose any more of my colonial ways on indigenous people, and instead I propose that we (white people) recognize and admit to the limitations of Traditional Western Science and practice respect and gratitude for the unique contributions of storytelling.


A significant difference between the two readings by Dr. Shauneen Pete was that of storytelling. When storytelling was used to discuss decolonization of higher education I was more open to listening and learning as I was invited into relationship with the author. Storytelling allows the listener to relate the stories to their own lives, make connections and draw new meanings. It includes cultural context that can otherwise be overlooked and reveals new perspectives that expand our understandings. When we compare Indigenous Knowledge Systems of storytelling to Traditional Western Science we might conclude that one fills a void in the other and vice versa. Through storytelling the author invites the learner into a deeper understanding of the natural world that nurtures relationship and connectedness. I am grateful to Dr. Pete for sharing her stories with us, and reminding me of the importance of relationships and connections when it comes to living, learning and teaching.

Resources to Further Investigate the Role of Storytelling in Science

Additional resources for First Nations Education in Science are available from


Inquiry, PSII, and Environmental Science

“Trello” by Brian Dys is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 

What a week! I was able to dream and make connections to my upcoming Environmental Science class that left me inspired and invigorated. Two leaders in the field of inquiry and personalized learning visited our class this week. Trevor Mackenzie came to speak with us about Inquiry and Project Based Learning, and Jeff Hopkins shared some of his experiences as an educational leader at the Pacific School of Innovation and Inquiry(PSII) in downtown Victoria. The work of both of these speakers reminded me of the film “Most Likely to Succeed” by Ted Dintersmith that introduces viewers to High Tech High in San Diego. The founding  principles of High Tech High are equity, personalization, authentic work and collaborative design. These principles are evident throughout Trevor MacKenzie’s book Dive into Inquiry, in the design of the PSII, and also in the new BC curriculum.

The new BC curriculum aims to achieve curriculum competencies by equipping learners with the core competencies of

  • Communication
  • Creative and Critical Thinking
  • Personal and Social Awareness and Responsibility.

The core competencies and revised curriculum allow teachers and learners to dive deeper than knowledge acquisition and retention so they can apply their skills in exciting new ways. I am reminded of the visual from Trevor MacKenzie’s book Dive Into Inquiry:

The goal for the teacher is to facilitate students progression from structured inquiry through to free inquiry. There are real challenges in introducing guided and free inquiry in the context of our current public school system. A few such challenges include the physical structure of our schools, schedules, assessment practices, class sizes and teaching students according to grade and course subject. Jeff was able to design an independent school that addresses these limitations, however, I am hopeful that I can provide similar meaningful learning experience in the current public school system.

I will be teaching Environmental Science 11 for the first time in the fall of 2020. I have a variety of goals for this class, but in this blog I want to focus primarily on promoting inquiry and personalized learning in the wake of this weeks EDCI 568 lessons.

Early Learning Models as an Educational Foundation

Jeff strongly recommended that all educators familiarize themselves with early learning practices. British Columbia’s Early Learning Framework is currently being updated to respond to the challenges and possibilities of the 21st century, just as our K-12 curriculum has been. The pages of the draft framework mirror many of the curriculum competencies, however the role of play and emergent learning is prominent in the early learning framework. Specifically, the StrongStart BC resource emphasizes the importance of play-based learning environments that foster discovery and creativity. In his visit to our class Jeff spoke of being disappointed with his high school experience even though the opportunities seemed endless with great teachers and plenty of resources. Perhaps it was the absence of emergent learning, or the ability to follow one’s own interests in order to create and solve one’s own questions that limited his engagement.

Inquiry-Based Learning

At PSII they help facilitate emergent learning with inquiry learning tools found on the Human Learning Institute site which includes

  • Inquiry Guide
  • Inquiry Process Flowchart
  • Competency Assessment Framework

Before educators ‘Dive into Inquiry‘, it is important to acknowledge that many students approach inquiry with uncertainty and trepidation as the freedom to guide their own learning is unfamiliar. Jeff mentioned the following questions were useful when helping students ‘unlearn’ the traditional school structure and embark on learning based on inquiry and innovation:

  • What do you know?
  • What are you interested in?
  • What would you be doing if you weren’t here?
  • What do you learn when your doing that?

Jeff also mentioned that when students participate in inquiry based learning, there is a prerequisite that the teacher let go of a certain element of control. The new role of the teacher is not to control the information that the learner is introduced to, but to facilitate the discovery of that information. Often that includes leaving the confines of the school, and this is an experience I hope to offer my Environmental Science students next year.

Opportunities for Collaboration

Resources in our community for environmental education abound, and by engaging in partnerships with community members my students can experience positive collaborative interactions that will enhance relational skills that are paramount in so many 21st century jobs.   I have lined up almost a dozen local experts in environmental restoration that will share with students some of the projects already underway in our community. To my delight many of these community members are not only willing but excited at the opportunity to mentor high school students and influence a future generation of environmental stewards. Students will pose inquiry questions that will guide their own exploration from questioning to learning activities and projects that have a positive impact on our local environment. This leads us to the next important stage of inquiry and project based learning: Assessment.


How will I capture the moments of learning through this inquiry process and collaborative community engagements? I really appreciated the personal approach that Jeff outlined with regards to assessment and the continuum of engagement with the learning.  Scheduling weekly discussions with students to discuss goals, progress, and challenges will be an imperative tool to monitor and facilitate positive learning experiences. This will be complemented by the use of Trello, a tool for organizing and prioritizing tasks and projects. As students will be working in small groups, I am intrigued by the idea of Agile Scrum meetings, which can be conducted daily or weekly to encourage student independence and organization. Quick Scrum meetings can be used to review what has been completed, what the tasks for the day or week are, and what obstacles need to be overcome to continue working. Additional resources for Scrum meetings include

The final evidence for learning will be determined through conversations conducted throughout project development.  The expectation and requirement to provide evidence of the acquisition of relevant knowledge and skills seems like a much more authentic means of assessment than traditional testing. Referring to the above noted Competency Assessment Framework used by PSII will be a valuable tool in constructing competency-based assessment in the following areas:

  • Ecological Literacy
  • Critical and Creative Thinking
  • Personal Planning and Responsibility
  • Information and Media Literacy
  • Cultural Awareness and Understanding
  • Collaboration and Leadership
  • Reading, Writing, Speaking and Listening

Predicted Challenges for Implementing Inquiry and Personalized Learning

During Jeff’s visit to our class, it became clear that two of the greatest challenges I will face implementing inquiry-based learning will be class size and the restrictive school schedule. I will have a class of 28 students that will have limited experience in self-directed learning. It will be crucial to develop strong relationships with my students, and encourage a team dynamic in the classroom. I can also overcome some of the challenges of a large class size by

  • working in small groups
  • modeling and encouraging regular scrum meetings
  • using Trello to facilitate student organization and teacher-student communication

The obstacle of our existing school schedule will be a little more challenging to navigate. My vision of a successful experience for my students will be one where they are excited and able to meet with their community mentor during class time (or certainly outside of school if they would like). This level of student autonomy rarely exists within our public school framework. If this vision is to become a reality it will require

  • Parental involvement (and permission for excused absences)
  • engaged and invested students
  • a clear plan for daily and weekly progress with a focus on providing evidence of learning
  • strong trusting relationships

There are many more details to be considered in the development of my course, but I am confident that with the resources and literature provided by experts in the field, such as Jeff Hopkins and Trevor Mackenzie, I can overcome existing obstacles and participate in enjoyable and meaningful learning experiences with my students.  Stay tuned!


Trevor MacKenzie on twitter: @trev_mackenzie

Jeff Hopkins on twitter: @hopkinsjeff


Other interesting school designs and ecological learning opportunities can be found at



The last few days have been quite a ride.  The three assigned readings;

have taken me through such a range of emotions, I am hoping that blogging about it might allow me to put some of my thoughts to rest tonight for a good nights’ sleep.

I hope I’m not alone when I admit that “Idle No More” left me frustrated and agitated.  I wondered if my reaction was simply a mirror of the spirit in which the chapter was written (as Dr. Pete was transparent in her writing regarding her frustration teaching pre-service white teachers). I am a very willing learner when it comes to Indigenous experience and ways of knowing, and in my experience my agitation simply signals that I have more learning to do.  And so I jump into the second reading.

I thoroughly enjoyed the second reading, and appreciate the insights that Dr. Pete had with respect to her readers.  It was brilliantly written and provoking, and I appreciated it very much.  Storytelling is so incredibly powerful. Furthermore, I appreciate Dr. Pete’s call for action for non-indigenous educators to educate themselves.  Resources abound, and I have echoed the sentiment that we (settlers) do not have an excuse to be ignorant.  That being said, I still have so much to learn. I am grateful for the respected authors noted in Dr. Pete’s work.

To finish my readings tonight, I had the pleasure of considering the Five R’s for Indigenizing Online Learning. I found the approach and foundation to the research welcoming and inspiring.  I am shocked that a new category for evaluation had to be created in order for the course to be accredited. This framework reflects so many of my goals, and I wonder about implementing a similar guiding foundation to my Environmental Science course, and allowing these critical R’s to penetrate my teaching practice throughout all of my teaching assignments.

I also am also considering the research methodology of the third article and how a similar approach would be beneficial for the implementation and evolution of my upcoming Env. Sci class.  I will certainly be revisiting this paper for further inspiration.


Informal Blog Post: Take One

I woke up this morning really excited to dive into my goal of interacting on social media and building my PLN. In particular, I wanted to follow some blogs that have been introduced to us in class, and take some time wandering around Twitter to find people that will inspire me professionally.  This is my first informal post, one that I will not submit for grading. I am consciously refusing to edit and re-edit, and just want to journal my experience navigating this new realm. Will it be as interesting and rich as promised?

I started by re-reading Christine Younghusband’s blog post titled Evolution of My PLN and love the idea of making new friends on Twitter.  I am part of a facebook group of fitness enthusiasts that has over 50 members from across North America, and I have had the pleasure of meeting a few of those individuals after first establishing a friendship on facebook. I wonder if participating in Twitter and reading blogs can offer me the same inspiration and sense of community.

I then looked up Christine Younghusband’s blog. Within 5 minutes I was reading about a course Christine taught in the Summer of 2018 called “Quantitative Approaches to Environmental Education”.  Crazy. Taking my masters was a decision I made to inform and support the implementation of Environmental Science 11 in our School. I thoroughly enjoy math, and look forward to using quantitative analysis with my students to evaluate our marine and land environments. Now I am repeating a sentence from Christine’s blog in my head: “It was very serendipitous”. Yes it is. Listed in the required reading for Christine’s class is a book by Judson, Gillian (2018) titled “A walking curriculum: Evoking wonder and developing sense of place (K-12)”, which appears to fit in beautifully with the ideas I have for my class next spring so I promptly ordered it through Amazon.  I watched Gillian Judson’s Tedx Talk  titled “Engage Emotion, Engage Imagination” and followed her on twitter.

She has 18.1K followers and is following 14.2K twitter accounts. I’ll checked them out later:) I also made note of the fact that she offers workshops to school districts…perhaps a ProD opportunity I can suggest. Thirty minutes in and this has already been so fruitful. I could stop now, but I haven’t even read a blog or dove into twitter! This will likely be time consuming, but I am already assured it will be worth it.

I commented on a blog post from Christine, noting our similar areas of interest and thanking her for directing me to some valuable resources. This is easier than I thought! One hour in and I am switching gears to check out Ian Landy, AKA Technolandy.  Second blog in and I am reading his post regarding his chat with #TIEgrad. He recommends some hashtags, handles, and blogs, and I have followed Katie White @katiewhite426 (I really appreciated her positive, inspirational tweets) and Dean Shareski @shareski. Wondering what to do next I looked up a friend and respected colleague (also a twitter enthusiast) and checked out who she follows. I added Ted-Ed, Elisa Carlson, Ally Hoffman (who I did my practicum with way back when), Daniel Pink (I have read and thoroughly enjoyed his books!), Chris Hadfield (he has such an endearing personality), TomWhitby, Alan Clark (colleague at Spectrum), Ramy Gerber (VP of our neighboring elementary school where I have helped create a shared garden space), UVIC, Bruce Bidney (my principal) and Greater Victoria SD. I’m losing steam, so I’m going to close by updating my twitter profile as this influenced who I followed greatly.

Not bad for my first day.