One effective self-regulated learning strategy is interweaving course content or interleaving. Interleaving is the practice of switching between ideas while studying as this strengthen  understanding on topics previously learned while creating links and connections between topics. I have been using, demonstrating, and teaching this concept in my math classes. As I am not with my students when they are studying I am demonstrating the usefulness of interleaving in three ways:

  1. As homework suggestions
  2. During regularly scheduled class activities
  3. During instruction time

Homework Suggestions:

The easiest change to make were homework suggestions. While students had standing instructions to practice the topics explored that day, I made a point of recommending other previous topics to look at. Thus my new instructions each day were, for example: “Try practicing what we learned today, factoring using the difference of squares, but also try 1 questions of graphing and 1 simplifying an algebraic radical”

Class Activities:

Changing class activities & assignments took more time to prepare. Each new group activity/assignment now included one or two questions on a previously learned topic. While it was nice when the previous material had a strong link to the new material, I wasn’t very worried about always finding a strong link as mixing up old and new allows students to find their own links.

As one student noted, testing has material all mixed up, so why not activities?

Instructional Time:

During instruction I made an effort to remind students of previous material and how that related to the new material. Math can be ‘silo-ed’ if not careful. I also made a point of choosing questions from other units to solve, mixing up the new with the old which keeps everything fresh in the minds of my students.

My math class looked like: teach, student practice, teach, student practice, teach, student practice, teach, student practice, teach, student practice, teach, student practice, teach, student practice, review, test. Also, I had taught similar concepts as unique, separate entities. For example, there are 4 different chapters of binomial factoring. I taught one, after another, over 2 or 3 days.

I changed my thinking in how I approached math class to incorporate ‘clumping’ of similar strategies (Nilson, 2013). Now, for example, all four chapters in binomial factoring were taught in 1 day. Students could now see similarities and differences in similar material. This left SPACE in my teaching schedule. I decided to incorporate activates on those days. Activities would be done in groups of 2 – 4 and help students master aspects of the course.

Within the activities, I would embed Self-Regulation learning strategies. Initially the strategies were implicit, as the term progresses I changed my thinking and made the strategies explicit. For example I said “A great learning strategy is called Dual Coding. Dual Coding means combining words and visuals. Essentially you look at visuals and explain them in words or take information and draw a visual.” Then I got the students to use that strategy in the activity. My goal was to have students understand why I was doing something.

I believe that test corrections are very important in math. Thus, once I have returned a math test, I ask students to make corrections to their test and hand it back in for marks. To expand and enhance test corrections, I created a ‘test wrapper’. Students would answer a few simple questions before the test, a few simple questions after they completed the test corrections and I would be able to have a conversation with them about how they approach studying math, their motivation for being in the course, and their confidence level with the material. I saw it as a simple way to have a conversation about their learning in a math course.

One unexpected benefit with the test wrappers was the 2 or 3 simple questions at the beginning of the test really grounded the students. It gave everyone a simple starting place, essentially the first couple of steps on the test journey. I forgot the wrapper (once) on a test and students immediately asked where it was – I had to promise to put it there for the test corrections (and for the next test)

Overall I am pleased with the changes to my course

Lat year at VIU I was part of the VIU Council on Learning and Teaching Excellence. My person goal was to provide more support to aboriginal students in my Physics class. I found that the changes I made had a profound  affect on all the students in class.

Here is a video of what each member of my Accessible Learning and Inclusive Design group did – I speak second





For some time I have been wanting to incorporate aboriginal ways of learning and knowing in to my teaching practice. This semester I will be teaching Physics 047 & Chemistry 047 (Grade 11 equivalent). I haven’t been fully satisfied with the atmosphere of the classes, many sit alone and we really only incorporate a very liner thinking processes. VIU is very fortunate that it is on Snuneymuxw Territory.

Liesel Knaack, at the Centre for Innovation and Excellence in Learning, offered to help me in my journey to expand my ways of teaching. To that end she connected me with Sharon Hobenshield, Director of Aboriginal Education. Sharon called together an Indigenization circle for science class learning which comprised of an Elder, Faculty and Students who wanted to share and support me.

It was truly an amazing experience that touched my soul. Everyone was so supportive. The students told me what worked for them and what they appreciated. The Elder reminded me that this was only one step on a student’s journey, that they come from somewhere and go somewhere. They was so much information and support.

I created an initial mind-map from what I took out of the experience. Initially, on my first day of class, I plan to acknowledge the territory that I work on and have the students sitting in a circle, where they can make eye contact and connect (no voices from behind). I will also get students to introduce themselves, starting on the right so they can learn about each other.

Indigenization Learning Circle

Indigenization Learning Circle


I am currently working on my paper to go with my Master’s Project for my M.ED at VIU. I am interested in the topic. I am teaching the course that I am writing about (FNFS 103. Succeeding Online: Tools and Technology for Learning) in September. Thus my Masters will really prepare me for my students in September. The problem? The weather is beautiful, things need doing, the ocean is calling, Facebook is distracting…. In short everything and nothing.

Heck, right now I am updating my blog rather than working on my Masters…..

What are you procrastinating doing?

We did it. I am so proud of all of us.

20150527_165356I was very fortunate that I was invited to attend the presentation of the new convocation suite by renowned artist Arthur Vickers. I am a part of the first graduating class that will be using these at Vancouver Island University.

The ceremony was extraordinary with dance & words. I do not have any pictures  as i wanted to enjoy the moment. i did take some pictures after, though they do not do the work justice.

digital footprintI recently had the pleasure of attending the 2015 Digital Learning Conference ()put on by Randy LaBonte (@rlabonte).

Charlene Stewart (a colleague & OLTD cohort member) attended with me. We were also fortunate enough to see two other instructors Mary O’Neill (@maryjoneill) and Avi Luxenburg (@aluxenburg) and several other OLTD students. It was wonderful to meet so many people that I had only connected with online. It definitely felt like meeting with old friends.

The keynote speaker Dave Cormier (@davecormier) spoke to us of Rhizomatic learning. Learning like Rhizome plants, does not come from nothing but is rather part of a large, complex, underground root system that is the sum of our being. It is a new way to look at the idea that student are not empty vessels but have experience & knowledge and are linked to a wide community. Curriculum is not the content of the course but is other people and your connection to them. My favourite Quotes: Learning for uncertainty in the age of abundance & Divergent thinking is much more important than convergent thinking.

My theme for the conference was community building. So I attended a fabulous lecture by Avi and another by Avi and Mary on building community. For all the details, check out this site: Some key thoughts (in images):

4D learning wordleJo Axe & Samantha Wood from Royal Roads presented all about tools for student engagement. They shared this wonderful resource with a list of terrific digital tools: (really, check it out).

The presentation that Charlene and I did went fabulously well. I am very proud of us that we presented at a conference FOR THE FIRST TIME. Our topic was Mind Mapping – Harnessing the power of student collaboration (link below)

Other Links:

Here is the presentation that Charlene and I did at VIU on how we integrated online labs in a blended class: Integrating Online Labs in a Blended Class using D2L

You can find the videos to all presentations here:

OLTD 508 examines mobile learning and gaming. One video that was recommended that we watch was Jim Gee‘s (2013) “Principles on Gaming”. In this video he states 13 learning principles that good games incorporate to ‘hook’ you in to learning the game (and any content it contains). A longer list of the principles, with a description of each, can be found in this article from Phi Kappa Phi Forum: GoodVideoGamesLearning. Three of the principles particularly resonated with me.

The first is ‘sandboxes’ or safe risk taking. I teach science. One challenge of science labs is students must perform experiments in a particular way, in a set amount of time. There is no ‘play’. Students cannot experiment with the chemicals and equipment in the lab as much as they or I would like as this can be potentially very dangerous. There is usually very strict time limits as lab space is in-demand. Labs are designed to be completed in a given time leaving no room for play. In a game, if students fail they can try again, as many times as are needed or desired. This permits experimentation and risk taking (such as putting sodium in water – something very carefully control in real life). Many games, like Minecraft, have a sandbox mode, a safe place to play. While a space may feel dangerous (zombie attack!) it is safe.

Another aspect of good game design, that education would do well to emulate, is the way information and words are used. In a game information tends to be given ‘just in time’ (when it is needed, it is given) or ‘on-demand’ (when it is asked for. In schools, information tends to be given in large chunks. I know that I am guilty of that. Too many words overwhelm and students tend to ignore most of them (which frustrates the educator as we are left saying ‘the information is on the page, have you read it yet?’).  Poor game design  tends to either not give enough information (SimCityEDU: pollution challenge is one), even on-demand, or can overwhelm with information. As an educator, I experienced the former this week in evaluating games, it helped me to appreciate how students must feel when it happens in class. I kept thinking the information MUST be somewhere, but I couldn’t find it – definitely left me feeling frustrated.

This leads me to another aspect of good game design which looks at complexity. In a game, there are usually levels. You are not expected to learn about everything all at once. Initially a game starts off quite simply. Complexity & difficulty is added as mastery and understanding is achieved. Problems and challenges must be well-ordered so gamers (or students) start off on the correct path. Earlier problem build to achieving success in more difficult problems. There are breadcrumbs through the maze.