Changes in a Math course

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

Accessible Learning and Inclusive Design

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.

For a video of what each member of my Accessible Learning and Inclusive Design group did (I speak second) check out this link:




M. Ed

Recently I completed my Master’s of Education (focus Educational Leadership & Online Learning and Teaching)

Here is a link to my completed Master’s:

My Goal was to design a first year blended transitional course on the effective use of digital tools for academic purposes that also includes the implications of the student’s digital footprint, professionalism and personal learning networks

Course Overview & Learning Outcomes:

Unit 1.  Introduction to Web 2.0

Digital Footprint and professionalism – a student’s perspective

  • Understand the implications of digital profile in terms of longevity, reach, and changing context.
  • Understand and assess the influence of an online profile.
  • Explain strategies for online reputation management.

Privacy Roles and Responsibilities – Sharing information online

  • Use social networking sites in an educational setting in an appropriate and secure fashion while protecting users’ privacy (e.g., Facebook, Instagram, Flickr)
  • Demonstrate protection of privacy and freedom of information in dealing with own and others’ personal information.
  • Discern among private, recordable, confidential and sensitive information (e.g., what may be shared, what legal or professional obligations exist, what consent is required, etc.)
  • Describe how to comply with VIU’s Technology Acceptable Use Policy and other student ethical conduct policies and program-based professional guidelines.

Unit 2.  Telling Your Story – Introduction

Creating a professional image online – E-Portfolios

  • Create and curate an academic profile (i.e. D2L E-portfolio or WordPress)

Ways to tell a story (blogging, etc.)

  • Use a broad range of media texts in order to express ideas through multiple forms of media (e.g., traditional print, electronic, digital, etc.)
  • Create and share multimedia objects, applying best practices.
  • Create and use a personal web-space to express ideas.

Unit 3.  Tools and Technology

Working together online

  • Create and participate in a personal learning network.
  • Use video and web conferencing tools and instant communication tools (i.e. D2L, Collaborate, Google hangouts, etc.) for learning or research.
  • Engage in group development using collaborative creation (e.g. discussion forums)
  • Collaboratively create documents with peers (e.g., shared creation and editing using Google docs, Coggle, etc.)

Digital Presentation

  • Appropriately and efficiently share digital media such as podcasts, music, and video.
  • Optimize and use digital images, audio, and video in a variety of formats (i.e. Text based software such as Prezi, SlideShare, etc.; video media such as Prezi, SlideShare, VIUTube, YouTube, ActivePresenter, Jing, etc.; and audio media such as podcasts, etc.)

Digital Study Tools

  • Use social networking tools for communication related to learning or research.
  • Access and utilize current reference programs for citations and attributions
  • Demonstrate a critical understanding of electronic tools available for creating and managing online resources (e.g. mind-mapping software, flashcard programs, Library apps, organizers such as Symbaloo, etc.)

Unit 4.  Telling Your Story Revisited – Tying it all together

Final E-portfolio presentation

  • Demonstrate course mastery through uploaded assignments into an e-Portfolio

BYOD Seminar

Evidence: BYOD Seminar Website

OLTD Learning Outcomes:

  • Research and identify emerging technologies with educational applications not yet adopted by mainstream education or in early adoption phases.
  • Consider potential implementation opportunities and challenges of emerging technologies.

Charlene Stewart, Stephanie Boychuk and I facilitated a seminar on BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) where we asked our participants to examine the pros and cons to students bringing and using their own devices in class. Allowing students to bring their own devices to class, and use them, is an example of disruptive innovation in education.  With any new innovation there are both benefits and challenges.

One challenge that I had about this topic was I knew very little about it myself! As we planned the seminar (our planning document can be seen on the website) we quickly learned about the topic. Thankfully, one our cohort was familiar with the topic and and allowed us to interview him (full interview can be read on the website).

Over all I am please with how the seminar went. We asked participants to update the website themselves. We also asked them to cross post in our Google + community so the rest of our cohort could participate if they wished. If I were to do a similar seminar, I would have a place on the website for participates to list there pros & cons about the topic, as well as the rest of the activities.

My opinion on BYOD? I love the idea. I love letting students take more control over their learning. I love the idea of students all working on the same document (without using a blackboard, really, who loves chalk all over their hands, and few like writing at the front of the room) at the same time. Having personal access to the knowledge of the world is a game-changer in education. The thought of going paperless as students could access all materials, texts, PowerPoints etc brings joy to me.

My difficulty is I teach in Adult Basic Education at Vancouver Island University. Most students (71%) taking upgrading courses live under the poverty line despite working while attending school. Not all of my students have or can afford their own device. Unlike the forestry department, I do not feel that I can make having a device mandatory. Students can borrow a textbook. It is unlikely that we will have a device-borrowing system soon (though it would be wonderful). Requiring a device would be a huge barrier to some.

Virtual vs Physical Labs

One emerging or disruptive innovation in education right now is Virtual Labs. I just completed a seminar on Virtual Labs and wanted to capture my thoughts here.

Virtual labs create opportunity to:

  • Play – it is safe to mix, try, combine online in a way that it is not possible for students to do in real life (as explosions can be very bad). Curiosity can be satisfied safely virtually
  • Practice – students can review what they need to do in a lab through an online lab. This gives them confidence in their abilities. A procedure, especially those requiring expensive or rare chemicals, can be repeated many-time virtually so students feel prepared to do it in person.
  • Participate – not all students have access to a lab or lab materials. Virtual labs can allow these students to have a lab when previously they may not have. Also, in the case of very expensive lab equipment, students can book time in a physical lab for the experiment to be conducted. The experiment is performed and the results are reported back in real time.

Virtual Labs also have some challenges:

  • Replacement – some cash strapped schools may see virtual labs as a way to replace costly laboratories. Virtual labs serve a different purpose than physical labs. If possible, the experience of hands-on learning should be remain. Mixing two chemicals together and feeling an exothermic reaction is different than mixing two chemicals online and seeing a thermometer change temperatures.
  • Access – most virtual labs require reliable broadband. In many parts of the province this can be difficult. While virtual labs can permit many students to experiment and participate without requiring a physical lab, without reliable internet, participation is still difficult.

In my teaching practice I do have some virtual labs. The reason that my colleague, Charlene Stewart, and I started to have some virtual labs (about half) in our blended Biology is limited class time. As our lab only permits 12 students and our classes are double that, we would have to use two days a week for all our students to participate, severely limiting our face-to-face class time.

One challenge we had in implementing virtual labs was prep time. It takes quite a long time to fully prepare labs so they are suitable for the grade/students. There are a lot of great sites with prepared virtual labs ( but they still need to found, tried & altered. Last semester when we were implementing the shift to half the labs being virtual, we were lucky if the labs were ready to go more than three days before the students attempted them. Having dedicated development time would really have removed much anxiety around implementation.

The results so far? There have been a few ‘hiccups’ but overall I am glad that we have changed from just physical labs to half & half. Students seem to learn from them, perhaps because they can take as long as they need to do them and can work when they feel like it, not when they are told to. Having only virtual labs would not permit the skills development that students need. By using both virtual and physical labs, students get the best of both worlds. They get the benefits of virtual labs while are still are in the physical lab enough that they can practice the lab skills that they need to continue on in Sciences.

Further Readings:

Technology in the classroom

When I first started working at VIU, there were signs on the door of every classroom asking students to turn off their cell phone. People discussed ways to get students to keep the phones put away or turned off (on vibrate IF there was a pressing reason). I, following the culture, asked students to keep their phones and laptops out of the classroom. Only students with special permission were able to use their laptops. About a year or so later, I started to question this concept. I realized that I did not know everything about a topic and students can ask challenging questions that I may not know the answer to. I began to remove the ‘no cell phones’ signs from the doors. I began to ask students to find out and look up information that they did not know. I am only one source of information for students.

(Siemens& Tittenberger, 2009, pg. 10)
(Siemens, 2009, pg. 10)

They need to be able to make sense of a world where information can come to them from many different places. It is part of my job to help them to build their own personal learning network. By allowing technology in the class, I am helping them to “make sense of, and manage, the incessant waves generated by an increasing sea of information” (Siemens& Tittenberger, 2009, pg. 10).

When other instructors ask about cell phones and computers in the classroom I tell them that I am o.k.with it! Sure, I get Candy Crush sometimes, but in all fairness, those students would probably not be paying attention to me anyways. I need to help students learn how to focus “while undergoing a deluge of distractions” (Siemens & Tittenberger, 2009, pg. 28). If too many are distracted, I need to asses what I am doing, or perhaps call awareness to it. With technology students themselves can find out more details about the topic. Usually they share the information with the class, enriching the learning environment.

It has been a slow, silent, very personal initiative to encourage technology in our building. It is still a work in progress. The signs are almost entirely gone. I have shared my beliefs with many colleagues. While a number do not agree with me, it feels like I am gradually getting somewhere.
Siemens, G. & Tittenberger, P. (2009). Handbook of Emerging Technologies for Learning

Lesson Plan: Reproductive System

Evidence: Unit Plan for the Reproductive System: Reproductive system unit plan

Learning Outcomes:

  • Develop and design intentional learning activities suitable for the appropriate environment and the learner
  • Develop an online unit using cloud tools effectively

The lesson has students participating in three TEDEd lessons, which I created. Students then create an infographic about either the path of sperm or the path of an egg. The last component is creating a concept map about one of four topics. Students would then combine their concept map with three other students to create a larger map with all four topics.

In my teaching at Vancouver Island University I generally use a Learning Management System (LMS), specifically D2L. While having one system for the entire university is very convenient, especially for students as there is consistency between classes. Sometimes, however, the LMS is too limiting and cannot do exactly what the instructor wants the students to do. Sometimes one needs to go outside the LMS and in to cloud tools. Educators should use the best tools available to create appropriate learning activities for their learners.

In the lesson I created, I choose to use a hybrid model: cloud tools housed within a LMS. With very little alteration the entire unit could be done with cloud tools (the discussion, for example, could be held in Google + document while the infographics could be held on a photo-sharing site). This, perhaps, is what I like best about cloud tools. They offer tremendous flexibility in that they can stand alone or work within an LMS

Digital Boundaries

Evidence: Paper: Digital Boundaries & Social Media
Learning Outcomes:

  • Understand functional contexts & constraints, employment considerations, privacy tensions, BC legal, school policies/procedures, professional ethics
  • Scaffold digital citizenship from K-12 to professional level of educators
    • Responsibility, accountability and civility in online environment


Sometimes it is so easy to lecture, PowerPoint or use chalk on a blackboard in the classroom. One problem is it can be boring, the same thing over and over again. There is a fantastic world available through the internet with all sorts of resources, learning apps and communities. Students are going to the internet on their own for learning, so why not bring the world in to the classroom. The problem? If, as an educator, you are asking students to go on-line, you have the responsibility of informing them of the risks that exist as well as how their digital footprint can be affected (or even that they have a digital footprint).

Educators also have legal (and ethical) consideration when their students go on-line. Unfortunately many educators are not aware of their legal responsibilities. OLTD 506 really opened my eyes to the legal requirements of B.C. and Canada, as well as the the responsibilities around informing students of the risks and about their digital footprint and how that can be potentially affected.

Here is the paper: Lewis_Lisa_oltd506_BoundariesPaper


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