Cloud Tools in Online Courses

Right now I work at Vancouver Island University (VIU), teaching Math and Biology in adult education and love it. A few years ago, I decided to teach my Biology course in a blended format (part online and part face-to-face) as there was just so much content and so little time! VIU has a Learning Management System (LMS) that is recommended and supported, Desire2Learn (D2L). Most of my lessons and assignments have been in that framework. D2L is limited to what it can do so while I intend to continue using it as a framework, I have been expanding outward into cloud tools. Thus the question I must ask myself constantly is which cloud tools should I incorporate (what are their advantages and disadvantages) and how should they best be integrated in to the LMS that I currently use so that the online learning experience of my students is enhanced.

In Biology, on d2L, one typical lesson is students first watch a video or read notes, then they participate in a discussion, do something creative (a concept-map or a comic for example) outside of D2L and post it in a discussion, and then take a quiz. In D2L this can unwieldy as each one of these is a different entry in the same concept. It can be easy for students to get lost or miss something important. While checklists can overcome this a bit, it can still be confusing.

I had the opportunity to try a TED-Ed lesson. The structure is to watch a video (one of theirs or one from YouTube), take a quiz, look at other resources recommended, participate in a discussion and then read any final words of the instructor. Everything is in one place, neatly organized. While students do not have to flow through the lesson in this order, it suggests that they should. One advantage to having everything in one place is it makes it easy for students to see where they are in the lesson. It is also easy to move between components without losing your place or your work. I like the idea of putting the quiz right after the video. By putting it here, instructors can highlight the key points or ‘take-aways’ from the lesson.

One disadvantage I see is the lack of creativity. The lesson format is fairly standard, much like you would see in a classroom. However, I feel that this would work well for a flipped classroom (here is a good description of a flipped class: as a collaborative, creative activity would work well in person. If the lesson was to be solely online, having a creative learning opportunity at the end, after the TED-Ed component was completed would be an excellent summation of learning. I personally like to use concept maps (, coggle, and mind42) and comic builders (comix) as a formative assessment piece.

By using TED-Ed, the lesson would be far more streamlined and organized for the student. In the D2L lesson there would only be or two places for the student to go, rather than many, while still allowing for discussion and both formative and summative assessment to occur. The creative aspect of the lesson, that I like to include, is now a summative of what they have learned, emphasizing its importance, rather than just being another thing in a long list of things to do. I am excited to try it out but may have to wait until next semester as final exams are very soon.


I teach in a blended class. The first day in-person after the first on-line class, like many other semesters, were full of excuses as to why the assignment could not be completed. Most were about computer troubles and connectivity issues. My standard response is to students that they can complete the assignments in the university library as there is twenty-four hour access, seven days a week. The readings of this topic has challenged some of my thinking. I was unaware that there were such large gaps in technology access, a digital-divide between have and have-nots, in Canada (Harris, 2013), especially among Aboriginal peoples (Taylor, 2011).

While on average, 86 per cent of people in BC have internet access (Statistics Canada, 2013), a person is more likely to use the internet if they have a higher income bracket and have some university. Those that have the lowest income or are lacking a high school diploma are among the least likely to use the internet (Harris, 2013). Thus the internet is still, to some extent, for the privileged. As I teach Adult Basic Education (ABE) this presents a challenge for me as many of my students have not completed high school and many are low income suggesting that they have potential connectivity issues and may not be as digitally fluent.

While Aboriginal learners are graduating from high school in greater numbers, “only 54 per cent of Aboriginal learners in the public system graduate from high school … compared to 83 per cent of non-Aboriginal learners” (British Columbia, 2012, pg. 6) thus tend to be over represented in ABE (British Columbia, 2012). One solution is to increase the amount of blended and on-line courses which would allow them to remain in their community (British Columbia, 2012) but the three main reasons for the digital divide “poverty, low levels of income and broadband” (Taylor, 2011, pg. 29) still persist and would need to be addressed.


British Columbia. (2012). Aboriginal post-secondary education and training policy framework and action plan: 2020 Vision for the future. Victoria, B.C.: Ministry of Advanced Education

Harris, M. (2013, March 21). Digital divide persists in Canada, both in access and Internet fluency. Financial Post. Retrieved from

Statistics Canada. (2013). “Canadian internet use survey, 2012”. The Daily. November 26. Statistics Canada Catalogue no. 11-011-X.

Taylor, A. (2011). Social media as a tool for inclusion: Final research report. Human Resources and Skills Development Canada. Retrieved from


Recently I have become aware of a few facts about privacy in British Columbia. I knew B.C. had strict laws and that FIPPA (Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act) was important. As I teach adults, not children, I thought that I didn’t have to worry more than being careful about what I shared online. According to Hengstler’s (2014) on the FIPPA compliance continuum I was firmly in ignorance, aware of the concept, unaware of the details or how it applied to me.

(Hengstler, 2014, pg. 2)

My first step to deepening my understanding of BC’s privacy laws was to go to the document itself. I discovered that a public entity must store personal information collected in Canada unless consent is given and the information must be kept safe from unauthorized use (FIPPA, 1996). Fortunately, the university where I teach has been working hard to ensure compliance as employers have a “responsibility to inform educators of their FIPPA responsibilities” (Hengstler, 2014, pg. 4).

While I understood that those who work with children must be concerned about privacy as any digital information could present a risk (Hengstler, 2013); I work with adults. There is the belief that only those adults who have something to hide need privacy, a belief which is deeply flawed (Solove, 2007) as everyone needs to know how to protect themselves on-line (Cooper, Southwell & Portal, 2011). Individual privacy is usually threatened in slow, small steps as data is ‘mined’ from a number of sites and aggregated (Solove, 2007).

The Vancouver Island University (VIU) Privacy Guide (Cooper, Southwell & Portal, 2011) shows that I am not doing enough to ensure my students’ privacy. As some on-line assignments require students to give personal information, I should have them complete a student user agreement and a student consent agreement (Cooper, Southwell & Portal, 2011). Fortunately the VIU Privacy guide has some samples. Regulations and laws are constantly evolving as technology and risks evolve (Hengstler, 2013). It is important the educators and their employers are kept up-to-date on current best practice.


Cooper, S., Southwell, J., & Portal, P. (2011). Privacy Guide for Faculty Using 3rd Party Web Technology (Social Media) in Public Post-Secondary Courses. Vancouver Island University & BC Campus Publication. Retrieved from

Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act, RSBC 1996, c.165, online: BC Laws: Current Consolidated Law <>.

Hengstler, J. (2013, May 17). A K-12 primer for British Columbia teachers posting students’ work online. [Web log comment]. Retrieved from

Hengstler, J. (2014). The Compliance Continuum: FIPPA & BC Educators. Retrieved from

Solove, D. (2007). “I’ve got nothing to hide” and other misunderstandings of privacy. San Diego Law Review, 44, 745-772

Digital Footprint

In teacher training, I learned about professional standards and how teachers were held to a higher standard than the average person. We studied about appropriate behaviour in and out of the workplace and how the morals of a community would affect your teaching career. Recently I deepened my understanding on this topic. Supreme Court Judge Justice Bouck (as cited in Covert, 1993) ruled “that teacher conduct should be judged by the standards recognized in the community where the teachers are employed” and “teachers must not only be competent, they are expected to lead by example” (pg. 441). Thus appropriate behaviour, as deemed by the community or school, should be expected at all times, even when the teacher is not at work (British Columbia Ministry of Education, 2014).

My teacher training occurred when the internet was at its infancy. Today educators must not only consider their actions in and out of school also their on-line presence. I am fortunate that my exposure to social networking platforms happened as an adult rather than as a child or teen. Young people generally lack developed reasoning skills and have “started posting when their impulse control, long range projections and overall mature thought processes were barely emerging” (Hengstler, 2010, para 3). This can have unfortunate implications for today’s youth as the misdeeds of today can have digital permanency affecting them in the future (Kuehn, 2010).

One aspect of my digital footprint that I had not considered is that I may be judged based on the friends I have or groups to which I belong. Hengstler (2012) calls this the “birds of a feather effect” (slide 32), in which the character of my friends is seen to be a reflection of my own character. What I write may be perfectly appropriate but what my on-line community says may not. People could then form an opinion about my character based on comments or images of which I am unaware (Kuehn, 2010). Being held to a higher, professional standard in the community requires awareness of online behavior and connections, not just in-person.


British Columbia Ministry of Education. (2014). Standards for education, competence, and professional conduct of educators in BC. Retrieved from:

Covert, J. (1993). Creating a professional standard of moral conduct for Canadian teachers: a work in progress. Canadian Journal of Education, 18(4) 429-445. Retrieved from:

Hengstler, J. (2010, October 28). “Fleas in a bottle? Will social networking stymie personal development of youth?’ [Web log comment]. Retrieved from

Hengstler, J. (2012). Digital professionalism and digital footprints [PDF document]. Retrieved from Lecture Notes Online Web site:

Kuehn, L. (2010). “Manage your digital footprint”. Teacher Newsmagazine (23)3. Retrieved from

Social Networking Platforms

In my personal, professional, and educational life I use various Social Networking Platforms (SNP). According to Wikipedia (Social Networking Service, 2014) SNP are a place to build networks or relationships, connecting people with similar interests or activities. These usually global platforms often have modules (or apps) that allows users control to join or form groups with common interests (Social Networking Service, 2014). SNP are the tools that allows virtual social interaction, what is generally thought of as social media, to happen (Wikipedia, 2014). There are a range of types of social media such as collaborative wikis, blogs, content-driven communities, networking sites, games, and virtual social worlds but the lines between these types are becoming increasingly blurred (Social Media, 2014).

I have used SNP personally for a number of years, Facebook and Instagram being the two primary ones. In my readings I discovered that social media through SNP are an extraordinary way to connect with people all over the world who share similar concerns. Indeed when I performed an analysis of where my friends were, I was surprised as there were more countries represented than I thought.

friend map
Figure 1: location of my Facebook friends. Data generated through

More recently I have started using SNP both in my professional and educational life. In my reading I discovered one aspect of social media and SNP that I had not previously considered. Groups are formed based on common interests and ideas which can thus limit exposure to other ideas and ways of being, a form of social isolation (Social Media, 2014). Policies of the SNP that choose what news stories are in a person’s news feed, such as is done by Facebook, only emphasize this limiting of exposure. Recently Facebook manipulated news-feed to affect the emotions of users (Kramer, Guillory & Hancock, 2014). As an educator, this idea emphasizes the need to use a variety of social media in class to ensure students are exposed to a variety of idea and thought.


Kramer, A., Guillory, J., & Hancock, J. (2014).  Experimental evidence of massive-scale emotional contagion through social networks. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. 111 (24), 8788-8790.

Social Media. (n.d.). Retrieved September 12, 2014 from Wiki:

Social Networking Service. (n.d.). Retrieved September 12, 2014 from Wiki:

Family Time in Korea

Someone who I am in Korea with observed that Sunday is definitely family day in here. I reflected on why this may be the case. Here is what I came up with:

I notice that I see moms & dads (separately or together) with little wee ones all the time through the week, but not with school age children. Only on Sunday are they seen together. I think this is due to the high time demands of work and school in Korea. A person is expected to work 14+ hours a day. Many women stop working after having a child because of the high demands. Students, especially those in high school, routinely do not come home from school until 9 – 10 pm as they are in additional study classes after school. Elementary students come home on a sliding scale, quite early when young, later when older. There is no opportunity to have time with family during the week because of work and school..

That leaves Saturday and Sunday. If you are in high school, you attend additional classes to prepare for the very difficult university entrance tests – without an amazing score you will not be attending a ‘good’ university. Elementary students have the day filled with group activities, such as going to the museum or other outing (these places get quite packed on Saturdays I noticed). Parents also often work on Saturday’s.

Now, we are left with one day, Sunday, for family time. Why Sunday? Well, the religion with the largest number of followers is Christianity (Buddhism is second). Sunday is the traditional day of rest and worship for Christians.

When I think about my family, and the family time of friends, we spread out together time. Sometimes we go out for dinner on a Wednesday or Friday. Maybe we go to the beach on Saturday. And yes, sometimes we visit family on Sunday. We eat dinner together most nights. We can do this because school does not have the same demands on time in Canada as Korea.  When I spoke about this with Korean university students, they said in high school they ate dinner at school and saw their parents very little during the week.

Which is better, one concentrated day of family time or spread out togetherness? I know what I prefer, but I would be intrigued to hear from others.

Education Divide

Looking at the recent history of South Korea, after the Japanese occupation, I noticed some interesting things about how education was divided amongst the haves & have nots.

Initially the divide was gender based. While everyone had access to basic education “Young Factory Girls” would go work long hours in factories so their brothers would have access to further education. Working conditions were not great, health and beauty were sacrificed. (Beauty is very important for the marital prospects of Korean women, most do/did not work after marriage.)

This gradually changed, women have equal access to further education. The divide has shifted though. Now it is becoming a class divide. Those who can afford it, pay for private tutors & send their children to expensive universities. Those parents who cannot afford this means their children are not getting the same education. As Dr. Hun Joo Park stated: what happens if the next great idea is in the head of a poor child? If children of the poor are not educated as well, then we are losing the child’s potential?

As in many countries, the middle class is shrinking. I do not think the rich/poor divide is unique but there are no government safety nets here – none. If you do not educate your populous fully, if there is not equal access to education, the potential of your peoples is lost.

I will have to think on this further….

links: General:


Class divide:


Korean Education

I learned two very interesting things about Korean education and I thought I would post them while they are fresh in my mind.

Firstly, one reason why study and memorization is so highly prized and emphasized is due to the history of Korean writing. Prior to 1446 there was no Korean writing system. Any writing was done in Chinese. Korean is a distinct language, unlike others. So speaking is Korean but writing in Chinese would be like speaking in English but writing in Arabic – very tricky. This meant that only about 10% of the population was literate. It took a lot of work and study to be able to read and write.

in 1443, King Sejhunminjeongeumong the Great, developed a writing system based on the way Korean sounds – The characters represent the sounds of Korean. However this new writing system, Hangeul, was not used for official purposes and was only used for some pop culture and for women and children. So study continued to be highly prized and necessary for educated people. It wasn’t until the Japanese occupation (and forced Japanese as the official language) in the twentieth century that Hanguel emerged as a source of national pride and was used.

So for hundreds (10th century onwards) of years the only way to be educated was through intense work and memorization. Expecting that to change in less than a hundred years (the occupation ended 1945) seems unrealistic.

Secondly, I asked a local university student here, if what I had heard about the high school system was true. We had a fantastic talk about the South Korean Education system. Students, in high school, don’t pay very much attention to their teachers it seems. I inquired why and she said because the teachers were “no good”. I pressed further and she said it was because teachers knew that students go to additional school after school and do all their learning there, so they don’t need to pay attention in regular school. They go to this additional school in the month long summer and winter breaks. I said that this didn’t seem very fun, and she agreed. Students usually eat dinner at this second school and can see their family very little. They look forward to University which, in comparison, has waaay less studying and waaaaay more fun. She says some students struggle with the freedom.

I asked her if the quality of teaching changed in school, would students pay attention and care? Would they then not do the other school? She said that she personally, would have payed attention and been happy about it, but many of her friends would not. Change, will be slow in coming.

I feel like the two are linked. Study is valued, so there is extra school, so the teachers & students of the actual school stopped caring because ‘Why learn twice?’. Points for me to ponder…

South Korean Education on North Korea

Today was my first lecture. It was about North Korea. South Korea is separated from the rest of the continent by the North. Essentially it is an attached island. You can really see this separation at night.

korea at night
Image from:

The explanation about why and how the split happened and what that meant in terms of economics, freedoms, prison camps and how the average person lives was fascinating. What shocked me was how little the South Korean students knew about what was happening just north of them. The lectured shocked many of them and they had lots of questions.

The Lecturer, Dr. Yoon Yeosang, Director of North Korean Human Rights Archive, repeatedly said that South Koreans just don’t care about what is going on north of them. He mentioned the book Escape from Camp 14, about a person who escaped from a political prisoner camp, which became a best seller internationally and made in to a film, yet only sold 10 000 copies in South Korea. Why don’t people care/know? Maybe too may threats and incidents? I’m not sure. I decided to investigate further so at dinner I asked about what South Korean students learned about North Korea in school.

It turns out not much! They know lots about the 5000 year history about the Korean Peninsula but nothing about the human rights violations that occur there. I expressed surprise about this and asked if they learned anything about it in high school. Collectively they said very few teachers talk about it. The situation in the North is mentioned, but only briefly. Only a few teachers talk more about it. Most were unaware what was happening.

How much of a responsibility do educators have to tell about what is happening in the world? Should students not be made aware of what is happening? It seems unbelievable that South Koreans do not know what is going on in a country that was until recently a part of a large country that they belonged to. I was told that if students, or people, here want information on North Korea they must listen to English language stations like BBC. Without being taught, the future educators will perpetuate the lack of knowledge.

Teaching must be about more than the ‘content’. We are part of a global community. I believe that we have a responsibility as educators to connect what students are learning with the world around us.

Dr. Yoon Yeosang offered to share his PowerPoint with us. He wants people to become more aware. There are a few translation errors, but it is worth flipping through. As the PowerPoint is too large, I have copied it to a PDF. Click the link here: North Korean Society