Reflections on Media Enhanced Learning: Pecha Kucha Presentation


I thought I would try out the Pecha Kucha presentation idea to summarize my reflections on what I learned in my Media Enhanced Learning PIDP 3240 course.

I learned that the Pecha Kucha format  ” . . . was devised in Tokyo in February 2003 as an event for young designers to meet, network, and show their work in public” (  

Translating the format to cover concepts in education meant that I had to do a lot of searching on the internet for free to use and relevant  images.  Keeping the flow between the images and concepts while being mindful of the Pecha Kucha framework of 20 slides for 20 seconds each also made for an interesting challenge.

I hope that you enjoy the presentation.


Technology and Learning: Podcast

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Image Source: Wikipedia

I had lots of questions about learning and technology so I dropped in at Selkirk College in Nelson, B.C. and spoke to the coordinator of the Teaching and Learning Centre, Theresa Southam.

Theresa told me about a book, called Learning Medicine, An Evidenced-Based Guide by Drs. Wei and Chamessian, that her son, who is in med school, is reading to help him learn more effectively. A technology that the authors’ recommend is Anki.

For a summary of what I learned please listen to my podcast.  (5:16 minutes).


Reflections: Making Room for Diversity in an Online Course

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Image source: Pixabay

In my previous blog about diversity in the classroom I focused on 3 strategies: team teaching, mixing student groups and mixing modalities (Brookfield, 2015) as a way of addressing diversity in the face to face classroom. I briefly touched on addressing diversity in the online classroom in regards to gender equality and even revealed my aha moment when I realized that I did not even consider “how the curriculum and its delivery would be perceived by a male student” (para 3, Teachingadventuressite, 2017). (Which I am glad to say I have since addressed).

I have not, however, actually plunged into a full examination to see what the “ . . . pedagogical challenges” (p 235, Bowen) are in regards to addressing diversity an online course and what steps I should take to mitigate these as it seemed, quite frankly, overwhelming. Given that this is my last PIDP course I feel that this issue is no longer something I can and should avoid, so here are my interpretations and decisions regarding what aspects of diversity I feel are relevant for me as an instructor of an online, 13 week, perinatal course for post RNs, and what strategies I need to employ.

As noted by Brookfield (2015), the differences between students can be almost endless:

  • Age;
  • Gender;
  • Citizenship status;
  • Racial background;
  • Primary language;
  • Preferential learning style;
  • Talents and skills;
  • Level of:
    • Motivation;
    • Self-regulation;
    • Self-direction;
  • Personality;
  • Extroversion and introversion;
  • Sexual identity;
  • Social status;
  • Religious affiliation;
  • Cultural background.

Additional considerations unique to the online learning environment include:

  • Student access to internet may not be universal (Peterson, 2015);
  • Students may exhibit varying degrees of computer/technological skills (Narozny, 2010);
  • Online searching skills may be variable (Narozny, 2010);
  • Communication is heavily focused on the written word by way of content delivery, discussion forums, instructor feedback with grades (ie through rubrics) and the use of social media platforms for classroom discussions. This may be challenging for some students, particularly English Language Learners (Milheim, 2017);
  • Peterson (2015) notes that instructors have to work to find their voice in the online environment and that it is challenging to ensure that communication is clear and not misconstrued i.e., humour can be difficult to communicate through text only.
  • Building community in an online learning environment can be challenging, particularly if teachers attempt to apply the strategies they use for face-to-face classes (Peterson, 2015);
  • Thompson (2012) states that it is “ . . .extroversion that is praised and rewarded in our society, and the classroom sometimes mirrors the social values of society by favouring extroverts, who naturally dominate socially because they are three-quarters of the population and are skilful in dominating socially” (para 11). The online environment allows for the more introverted students to have a voice;
  • Peterson (2015) notes that some students may find that the anonymity of the online environment may allow them the freedom to break free of cultural norms of conformity.

This last point makes for an interesting segue into whether student cultural and racial information should be actively solicited by online instructors.

After surveying 41, American, online instructors Milheim (2014) states: “(a)mong nearly all of the participants there was a general acknowledgement that culture plays a critical role in the classroom. One individual stated that cultural difference “changes the landscape of our classes when we share” (p 5).

Milheim (2017) feels “(n)o doubt, a student’s cultural background is an important part of this conversation. Not only does culture have an impact on the overall classroom experience, it has been shown to affect learning, motivation, and satisfaction in a course” (para 1).

Laskaris (2015) suggests creating culture-sensitive content to increase productivity in learners in addition to improving the marketability of a course. Laskaris (2015) supports this claim by relating an experience of redesigning of a course for a particular cultural group. This is different from most online University or College courses where “ . . . it is difficult to identify cultural difference in an online setting since the online environment gives a sense of anonymity and masking of culture” (p 5, Milheim, 2014).

Conversely, in his qualitative analysis of five American, online instructors, Peterson (2015) states: “ . . . the instructors expressed sentiments indicating they felt that either student race and backgrounds are not important in an online environment or they felt they maintained a course of total inclusion” (p 65, 66). Peterson (2015) goes on to note that “(a)lthough this method of dealing with people of differing backgrounds does help avoid complicated conversations, it can potentially be a source of dissonance for students because their personal situation or experiences are not addressed or recognized” (p 66).

Language and culture can also impact how written feedback may be interpreted (Milheim, 2017). Western students “for example, are more apt to view the instructor as a facilitator, rather than non-Western students whose cultural norm is to view the instructor as more authoritative in nature” (para 5, Milheim, 2017).

Visual culture “refers to how people see and interpret images, art, photography, movies, and so on” (para 6, Milheim, 2017). Laskaris (2015) also stressed the importance of finding images, vignettes and even names that students can relate to.

Eisner (2001) as cited in Peterson (2015) noted that basing curriculum on critical thinking activities versus tests is a sound pedagogy that allows for the diversity essential for mastery of the subject. Utilizing curriculum that is heavily text based is not, however, well translated across cultures, for while western culture relies heavily on written arguments where the writer’s arguments are supported through referenced quotes, “(e)astern discourse is based on the audience already having a shared knowing of previous works, and, therefore, the reader is expected to actively remember where the reference is coming from without attributing the quote to the original author” (p 12, Peterson, 2015).

Indigenous safety and competency is a topic that is relevant for the students I teach as they come from rural and remote regions throughout BC (and some even from as far as Nunavut). Presently, the online perinatal course I teach includes readings, videos, case studies and journal activities regarding this topic. It has not, however, been reviewed for how compatible the course design is with the Indigenous worldview.

Challenges that have prevented me engaging in this process prior to now is that I recognize that Indigenous populations are far from homogenous. Sammual (n.d.) makes the following suggestion for educators working in Saskatchewan.

“For an educator, the Medicine Wheel offers the possibility to reflect on resources or unit plans to see whether all four aspects are in balance. It is a chance to see whether our teaching is focusing more heavily on the mind or body, heart or spirit, or whether it is lacking one of these aspects. To integrate Saskatchewan Aboriginal perspectives into the teaching and learning of science education, all aspects of the Medicine Wheel must be in balance “(p 2).

Finally, the last topic that I would like to highlight is generational differences. There is much air time given to Millennials regarding the particular attitudes and emotional needs they have but for me, the most salient issue is a person’s exposure to digital technology in their lifetime and the affect it has had on their consciousness. McNeill (2011) notes that “(t)his most recent generation of college students has distinctive characteristics and a persona unlike those of their teachers. They have unprecedented access to technology and instant online information. They are globally connected to peer-groups spanning international boundaries. They are the first generation to come of age in a truly global society” (p 1).

Prensky (2001) identifies the students that have grown up in this digital age as ‘Digital Natives’ and describes them as “ . . . “native speakers” of the digital language of computers, video games and the Internet” (p 1); while those of us who have adapted and adopted the new technology are described as ‘Digital Immigrants’ (p 2). Prensky (2001) goes on to state: “the single biggest problem facing education today is that our Digital Immigrant instructors, who speak an outdated language (that of the pre-digital age), are struggling to teach a population that speaks an entirely new language”(p 2).

Strategies for Navigating the Challenges of Diversity in the Online Classroom

  1. Identify culture (Milheim, 2014).

At the start of the online Perinatal course I teach there is an introductory activity called ‘Room with a View’ (p 56, Conrad & Donaldson, 2004) where students are prompted to provide a brief description of who they are professionally as well as a brief paragraph about the view from their favourite window. They are also encouraged to weave in some biographical material about themselves. In the revision I will encourage students to include some cultural as well as biographical material about themselves. I will role model this by doing the same and will also show respect for the Indigenous people on whose lands I am a settler on by acknowledging them in my introduction.

I will, however, also allow students to remain relatively anonymous (aside from name) if this is what they choose.

  1. Reduce barriers.

For barriers created by things like limited access to the Internet, I need to be flexible. This means being flexible with due dates for assignments, and helping students identify what online resources they may need to print off ahead of time so that they can read them at home.

Many of the discussion forums include finding credible resources for new parents. Students are given support tools to help them with this process. I will now include a link to my infographic and podcast on Digital Literacy as an additional resource.

Last semester I tried out Blackboard Collaborate Ultra and hosted an Orientation to Blackboard session. It seemed to cut down considerably on questions about where to find folders/material etc.

I will continue to recruit a variety of mediums to present material as suggested by Peterson (2015). I am very excited about creating 10 new podcasts – one for each module to highlight key learning points and to increase engagement with the material by providing a narrative for the patient in each of the module’s case studies.

To ensure that the course content is balanced, I am very honoured to say that the local Aboriginal Patient Navigator (who is also an educator) has agreed to review some of the content. I am looking forward to hearing her feedback.

To ensure that my feedback and presentation style are appropriate and received in a positive and constructive manner I will include in the fall revisions a feedback assessment tool that will address feedback provided by the instructor as well as student perceptions of my role as a teacher.

Case studies and names already include a diversity of patients with learning incorporated into the case studies in regards to identifying the patient’s unique needs and possible barriers to care.

As a Digital Immigrant, I come with an accent that I need to ensure does not get in the way of learning. To do this, I need to ensure that I am well acquainted with the medium I am using as well as its applications. If I am not comfortable using a technology or medium, I am best not to use it. I am very grateful that the PIDP 3240 has provided me with the opportunity to gain more skills using technologies including the podcast.

Finally, a perinatal course is not a writing course, but does rely heavily on evidence-based material for making clinical patient decisions. In the revisions to the course I will reduce the weighting for case studies from 15% on writing skills to 5% and increase weighting to analysis and recommendations. Students are instructed that they are expected to follow APA format, however, and links for more information about this are provided.

3. Create safe places (Milheim, 2014).

Kennedy (2017) states: “(t)hat for faculty, modelling caring professional collegial behaviour that creates a we are in this together atmosphere underscore that learning isn’t just a one way street. Modelling also helps to create a safe space in which students are not afraid to post their understandings or make mistakes, allowing them the freedom to learn” (p 21).

I hope that by acknowledging the importance of culture in the content and by role modelling cultural sensitivity in my feedback, it will create a safe place for students. I also need to be open about my mistakes and acknowledge that learning is messy. I also feel that being flexible is an integral part of creating a safe place for students; if they need extra time for an assignment I give it to them. The resultant thoughtful and well-executed assignments I receive back from students has been inspiring.

4. Build community.

So far, in the 3 semesters I have taught the course, there has been a sense of community as evidenced by students posting more than the required number of posts to each other in ways that are supportive and thoughtful and by very collegial and engaged groups for the face-to-face portion of the course. I feel that there are a few external factors that help to make this happen; students from the same hospital are often taking the course; students know each other from past working experiences; or they feel a kinship with other students as they are working in a site that they have worked in before.

Another component is that I work very hard to provide students with lots of feedback to their questions via the 5 ‘Muddiest Point Survey’, through supplemental material provided on the ‘Course Updates’ and with weekly case studies and discussion forum posts. I feel that this too creates community as students see that all of their questions matter and that I am carefully reading all of their work.


No matter what culture students come from, the top 3 top student expectations of an online course are (Mupinga & Carole-Yaw, 2006, as cited in Peterson, 2015):

  • Explicit communication with professor;
  • Instructor feedback;
  • Challenging course curriculum.

To help students learn, we need to respect them, be aware of how our own culture and the students’ cultures impact learning, acknowledge barriers (and try our best to mitigate them), increase the richness and cultural sensitivity of the course by involving members from different communities to provide feedback, mix modalities, use authentic assessments that employ critical thinking skills and use technology wisely. Acknowledging and allowing for diversity will only help to improve learning.


Bowen, J.A. (2012) Teaching Naked: How Moving Technology Out of Your College Classroom Will Improve Student Learning. San Francisco, USA: Jossey-Bass

Brookfield, S.D. (2015). The Skillful Teacher: On Technique, Trust, and Responsiveness in the Classroom 3rd Edition. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass

Conrad, R., J.A. Donaldson (2004) Engaging the Online Learner Activities and Resources for Creative Instruction John Wiley & Sons, Inc. Retrieved from:

Kennedy (2017) Designing and Teaching Online Courses in Nursing Springer Publishing Company Retrieved from:

Laskaris, J. (2015) Culture and Language Diversity in Online Learning Environment Talent lms Retrieved from:

McNeill, R.G. Jr (2011) Adapting Teaching to the Millennial Generation: A Case Study of a Blended/Hybrid Course. University of Massachusetts – Amherst ScholarWorks@UMass Amherst International CHRIE Conference-Refereed Track. Retrieved from:

Milheim, K. (2017) A Fundamental Look at Cultural Diversity and the Online Classroom. eLearn Magazine Where Thought and Practice Meet. DOI: Retrieved from:

Milheim, K. (2014) Facilitation across Cultures in the Online Classroom International. Journal of Learning, Teaching and Educational Research Vol. 5, No.1, pp. 1-11, May. Retrieved from:

Narozny, E. (2010) Designing Online Courses to Meet the Needs of a Diverse Student Population Faculty Focus Higher Ed Teaching Strategies from Magma Publications. Retrieved from:

Peterson, J. (2015) Honoring Diversity in the Online Classroom: Approaches Used By Instructors Using an LMS. University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Retrieved from:

Prensky, M. (2001) Digital Natives, Digital Immigrants. On the Horizon (MCB University Press, Vol. 9 No. 5, October 2001). Retrieved from:,%20Digital%20Immigrants%20-%20Part1.pdf

Sammel, A (n.d.) Aboriginal Perspectives into the Teaching and Learning of Science Education: Beginning the Conversations in Southern Saskatchewan. Collaborative Inquiry Committee. Retrieved from:;sequence=1

Teachingadventuressite (2017) Trends in Adult Education Part #3: The ‘Aha’ Moment Retrieved from:

Thompson, S., (2012). Introvert? Extrovert?  Tips for a Balanced Classroom. Jan/Feb Canadian Teacher Magazine. Retrieved from canadianteacher.archives


My Reflections on Using Dance Instead of Power Point to Teach

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Reflections Photo: L.. Schmidt

In my PIDP 3240 course, I had the opportunity to reflect on John Bohannon’s TED Talk: Dance VS Powerpoint a Modest proposal.


It is an awesome TED Talk, and one that I will say has opened my eyes to how powerfully and effectively dance can communicate ideas and concepts – even in the scientific field!

If this TED Talk gets you as excited as it did me, do check out this year’s winners of the Dance Your PhD contest. (You will never think of Braid Theory in the same way again, I promise).

For more of my thoughts on the TED Talk, please check out my podcast here. 


Enhancing E-Learning with the Podcast

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Photo Source: Flickr Photographer Patrick Breitenbach

Podcasts are better than lectures” (p 113, Bowen, 2012).

There are times when I really enjoy listening to a radio podcast. I can get so invested in listening that I have been known to remain sitting in my car long after I have arrived at my destination, just so I can catch the last of a podcast. The intimacy of the medium combined with a compelling narrative is what I find so captivating.

Creating an appealing and informative podcast that will engage students and deepen learning is a very intriguing idea, especially as I teach an online course and therefore do not have any ‘lecture’ time anyways. I must say it has really gotten me thinking. Can students benefit from learning packaged in the form of a podcast as Bowen (2012) in the opening quote, suggests? Is it possible for me, a podcast greenhorn without any journalism training or fancy recording equipment, to produce an educational and interesting podcast and publish it so it is readily accessible for students online? Furthermore, are there any best practice guidelines that can use to help me create an educational podcast?

Podcasts, “a radio programme that is stored in a digital form that you can download from the internet and play on a computer or on an MP3player” (para1, The Cambridge Online Dictionary n.d.) have moved beyond something you just listen to on the radio and are readily available to listeners in today’s society, especially since the advent of the smart phone.

Sutton-Brady, Scott, Taylor, Carabetta and Clark (2009) state that “(p)odcasting enables lecturers and students to make connections” (p 220). This statement is reflected by a student in their study who provided the feedback “ . . . that listening to the podcast episodes felt “like the lecturer’s talking to you personally in a one-to-one case”” (p 228).

Sutton-Brady et al (2009) list the following as additional perceived benefits of the podcast to students as (Table 4, p 226):

  • Supported and enhanced learning;
  • Helped them to actively engage with learning;
  • Allowed them to be able to learn in their own time.

Another advantage to the use of this technology, as identified by students, was that the podcast “highlights important information’ (Figure 1, page 225, Sutton-Brady et al, 2009). Interestingly, the comments I hear repeatedly from my online learners is that learning from home is challenging because they miss interacting with the instructor and feel that they sometimes fail to identify the more nuanced points of the material as a result of this lack of interaction.

In 2009, George Washington University’s Center for Innovative Teaching and Learning, interviewed 262 world history students to determine the impact of podcasts on their learning and engagement (Roscorla, 2010). Some of their findings included (para 7, Roscorla, 2010):

  • Podcasts grab attention and maintain it;
  • Students conceptually understood the content, not just remembered it, and the scale of understanding seemed to tip toward the podcasts;
  • The students who said they weren’t that motivated at the beginning of the class scored higher on the test when they listened to the podcasts.

For instructors, a key benefit that was identified was “. . . the knowledge that students are able to revisit key topics critical to the course learning objectives and assessment” (p 228, Sutton-Brady et al, 2009). This was felt to be very important particularly with students for whom English was a second language (Sutton-Brady et al, 2009).

Podcasts, I learned, can be produced quite easily using a laptop and a suitable app like Garage Band (an Apple product). Publishing is simple and involves downloading the MP3 to an online platform like Podomatic or Podbean. The podcast is accessible to the public through a link provided by the online publishing platform.

In the online course I teach, students access course material through a series of 10 modules hosted through the Blackboard Learning Management System. Information is primarily presented to students in the form of written text with links to videos to enrich learning for select topics. Students interact with each other throughout the course via weekly discussion forums and case studies. My contact with students as the instructor comes through student specific feedback that is provided for discussion forums, case studies and quizzes and through email and/or phone if needed. This past semester, I created virtual classrooms for students to meet and discuss material with each other and with me through Blackboard Collaborate but found that while some students were enthusiastic to interact with the instructor most found that the fixed time did not work for them due to family or work commitments.

Since reading about the benefits of podcasting and learning of the ease of producing and publishing them, I have decided that I would like very much to develop 10 podcasts, one for each module in the course. To help me understand the elements that make an engaging and informative podcast I decided to listen to a variety of educational podcasts online. I must confess that some of the podcasts for educators I did not like at all as they felt more like an infomercial than an instructional podcast. One podcast I found to be quite enjoyable was a NPR hidden brain production called “Students and Teachers”, hosted by Shankar Vedantam. What made it enjoyable for me was that it introduced interesting and factual material in a story like way, featured the voices of the people involved in the story and ended with some fun and relevant stats about student – teacher relationships presented in a game like fashion.

Having a “ . . . story-centric eLearning script” (para 7) is one of the 7 tips on how to create podcasts for learning offered by Pappas (2016) as, just as I have noted above, “(t)he most compelling and captivating podcasts involve a great storyline (para 7). Other tips provided by Pappas (2016) include developing a detailed outline and choosing “ . . . the right voice” (para 5).

Time to walk my talk. Here are the guidelines I am going to use to make my podcasts for the online perinatal course I teach (adapted from Pappas, 2016):

  • Create a great storyline that will mesh together the 10 modules.

Integrated into the case studies for modules 2- 5 is a central character for whom the students have to develop a care plan for and determine ongoing plans of care for as the modules progress. Focusing on the story of this character’s needs and experiences as she goes through labour and birth will be the framework for the podcasts for these modules. For the remaining modules I will integrate the characters from the case studies into the podcasts while remembering to include themes and learning from previous modules.

  • Develop an outline for the 10 modules

For each module I am going to write out the key points and themes that I want the students to know. The modules have been designed to incorporate learning from previous modules with increasing complexity so it is important for me to keep this in mind and pose questions/ present stories for each subsequent podcast that will stimulate a deeper understanding of the material. Maximum time limit for each podcast will be 15 minutes.

  • Choose the right voice

The tone I am going to use is going to be conversational with a pace that would approximate what I would use if I were actually speaking to the students in person. I think it would be really awesome to have someone else be the voice of the focal character! Perhaps I can enlist a friend to help me.

I have just created a podcast for the PIDP 3240 course using the Apple Garage Band app and found it to be very easy to use so I will continue to use this for producing the course’s podcasts. I will publish using Podomatic (as this is also what I just used) and will also provide students with the opportunity to download the MP3 recording of each podcast via Blackboard.

I am very excited at the idea of producing podcasts as an adjunct to the online perinatal course I teach. I will, however, keep in mind this quote from Roscorla, (2010)

“If your goal is to find a magic bullet that makes all students better, this isn’t it,” said Hugh Agnew, a professor from the Elliott School of International Affairs who taught the course. “But if your goal is to reach some students better that maybe you aren’t reaching so terribly well, then I think this is worth trying ” (para 4).


Bowen, J.A. (2012) Teaching Naked: How Moving Technology Out of Your College Classroom Will Improve Student Learning. San Francisco, USA: Jossey-Bass

Buckler, L. (2017) 8 Ways Teachers Can Leverage Podcasts as a Learning Tool Emerging Ed Tech. Retrieved from:

NPR hidden brain (2015) Episode 4: Students and Teachers Host Shankar Vedantam.

Retrieved from:


Pappas, C. (2016) 7 Tips To Create Podcasts For eLearning eLearning Industry

Retrieved from:


Podcast (n.d.) in The Cambridge Online Dictionary. Retrieved from:


Roscorla, T. (2010) Do Podcasts Help Students Learn? Converge Center for Digital Education Retrieved from:


Sutton-Brady, C., Scott, K.M., Taylor, L., Carabetta, G. & Clark, S. (2009) The value of using short-format podcasts to enhance learning and teaching, ALT-J, Research in Learning Technology 17:3, 219-232, DOI: 10.1080/09687760903247609. Retrieved from:



Diversity In the Classroom

Screen Shot 2017-06-22 at 1.35.04 PMImage Source: Pixabay

Diversity, according to the Merriam-Webster online dictionary is, “the condition or fact of being different.”

The differences between students can be almost endless (Brookfield, 2015):

  • Age;
  • Gender;
  • Citizenship status;
  • Racial background;
  • Primary language;
  • Preferential learning style;
  • Talents and skills;
  • Level of:
    • Motivation;
    • Self-regulation;
    • Self-direction;
  • Personality;
  • Extroversion and introversion;
  • Sexual identity;
  • Social status;
  • Religious affiliation;
  • Cultural background.

How on earth is the teacher supposed to deal with all this diversity? Even Brookfield (2015) admits that, “(d)iversity can never be fully addressed to the satisfaction of all involved” (p 108). But before we all quite trying, he offers us this: “(i)f your purpose is to help people learn, then you must be open to constantly varying your activities to what we find out about the range of students we work with” (Brookfield, 2015, p 108).

Some of the differences with how students learn and personality variances can be mitigated by employing a variety of different and effective learning strategies. Brookfield (2015) also suggests:

  • Team teaching (p 102) “. . . whenever two or three people with different racial identities, talents and personalities form a teaching team, the possibilities for connecting to a wider range of students expand exponentially.”
  • Mixing Student Groups (p 103) “Do you cluster together individuals who are roughly the same and who you think will therefore work well together? Or do you create a pedagogic bouillabaisse – a mix of different experiential, racial and personality ingredients plus contrasting ability levels that are stirred together to produce a satisfying blend? I would argue that both approaches are necessary and called for at different time.”
  • Mixing Modalities (p 105) – applying a variety of teaching strategies.

In my search to learn more about issues of diversity in the classroom, I came across this resource from Harvard University’s Derek Bok Center for Teaching and Learning. It takes a look at the classroom contract and its impact on students; what is explicitly laid out for students in the syllabus and what is implicit – the unspoken contract of classroom dynamics that leaves students wondering “(w)hat will be my position . . . will I have to talk; can I talk; how will I get to talk; will I be dominant, or not? How will I be judged? What is expected of me?” (Classroom Dynamics & Diversity, n.d., para 4).

In a diverse classroom, these implicit issues can become real barriers for learning, which is why we must strive to bring these issues out in the open for discussion as well.

Differences between students can also bring conflict. Classroom Dynamics & Diversity (n.d.) describes a classroom ‘hot moment’ as the “ . . .moment when the conversation either stops or erupts because of the volatile nature of the subject matter, or because of conflicts among students” (para 8). The article has links for Examples of Hot Moments and Diversity and Tips for Dealing with Hot Moments. The quick and dirty take home tips for me when dealing with a hot moment were:

  • Calm yourself;
  • Detach yourself from emotion;
  • Acknowledge the moment with the students;
  • Make the issue (not the individual(s)) the focus for discussion and turn it into a learning opportunity for everyone.

The article helped me recognize the importance of knowing my own biases as a teacher and appreciating the effects my attitudes have on classroom dynamics.

Diversity in the classroom is a complex issue that requires the instructor to be skilled in applying varied strategies to maximize learning for all students; to have an awareness of how his or her actions and attitudes are impacting the classroom; and to have the flexibility and openness to make revisions in actions and thinking patterns. Lofty aspirations I hope to some day be able to meet!


Brookfield, S.D. (2015). The Skillful Teacher: On Technique, Trust, and Responsiveness in the Classroom 3rd Edition. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass

Classroom Dynamics & Diversity (n.d.). Harvard University Derek Bok Center for Teaching and Learning. Retrieved from

Putting the Team in Team Teaching

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Photo source

“One of the most predictable contradictions in American college classrooms is that a solo instructor confronts a classroom full of diverse students. No matter how much she might strive to empathize with different learning needs, racial traditions, and personality types, any individual teacher is inevitably limited by the boundaries of her personality, learning preferences, racial group membership and experience . . . As teachers we all bring different gifts and handicaps to the table. A team that works well is aware of the different talents of its members and attempts to mix these as equitably as possible” (Brookfield, 2015, p 102).

The idea of creating a learning environment that capitalizes on the strengths of each member while minimizing weaknesses is so exciting! After all, aren’t ‘two heads better than one’? Brookfield (2015) states, “ . . . when two or three people with different racial identities, talents, and personalities form a teaching team, the possibilities for connecting to a wider range of students expand exponentially” (p 102). Yet, when I reflect on my experiences of ‘team teaching’ in workshops and in the online environment, I must confess it hasn’t been exciting at all – in fact sometimes it has been quite frustrating!

Are two heads really better than one? According to Ludden (2016), it depends on how they interact. In the past, it was thought that group work intelligence was determined by the average intelligence of the members or that one really clever team member who takes over and runs the show (Ludden, 2016). Research from Woolley (as cited in Ludden, 2016) reveals that the group actually develops a group mind and that the determining factor in how well the team performs is not based on “ . . . accumulated knowledge or skill set . . . (but) how well the individual team members can read the emotions of team members” (para 10). In other words, “ . . . a group composed of members who have moderate intelligence but are very good at reading each other’s emotions can outperform a group with high average intelligence but low social perceptiveness” (Ludden, 2016, para 12).

Another factor that impacts team functioning is how alike or diverse team member personalities and cognitive styles are (Ludden, 2016). Too close and there are limitations to the approaches the team will use, but too diverse and there are breakdowns in communication and a loss of empathy amongst team members (Ludden, 2016).

Too great of a diversity in teaching perspectives certainly was the cause for the feelings of vulnerability and frustration Dabbs (2013) had during “ . . .a very tough first year . . . “ (para 3) of teaching with a co-teacher who did not share her enthusiasm for teaching “ . . . in new and authentic ways” (para 1). As someone who is equally and enthusiastic about the very same thing, I can relate!

Team Teaching Advantages and Disadvantages, (n.d) lists the disadvantages of team teaching as follows (para 12):

Team teaching is not always successful. Some teachers are rigid personality types or may be wedded to a single method. Some simply dislike the other teachers on the team. Some do not want to risk humiliation and discouragement at possible failures. Some fear they will be expected to do more work for the same salary. Others are unwilling to share the spotlight or their pet ideas or to lose total control.

Despite the challenges team teaching presents, students do indeed value its impact on learning. Here are the results of a survey of 440 students taking a large undergraduate marketing class in Australia where team teaching was employed (Yanamandram & Noble, 2006, Abstract):

Despite the relatively weak forms of team-teaching adopted to teach this subject, the majority of the students liked the concept of team-teaching. The findings in this study suggest that team-teaching can facilitate student learning through the generation of interest and exposure to ‘experts’, but can hinder student learning if the team fails to act as a cohesive unit and work together to adequately link learning concepts. This study also argues that the most critical factor in determining the success or failure of a team-teaching effort is the actual composition of the team. A key implication of this study is that a team that comprises of ‘good teachers’ (perceived as those skilful in teaching large classes) is far more important than a team comprising of ‘experts’ in different knowledge areas.

Team teaching requires strong communication skills, dedication to ensuring skillful teaching is taking place, commitment to the team effort and a thorough understanding of the key concepts in order to reach the potential it can have on student learning. In order for this to take place, team members first have to be able to work together.

Tips on Working Together

For me, the clearer I am with myself about what is important to me the better I am able to communicate my expectations to team members. Murawski and Bernhardt (2015) suggest using tools to help a supervisor be able to understand how best to pair teams together, but if like me, you don’t always have a choice in who you will be team teaching with, understanding where everyone is coming from sounds like a good idea. Some tools to use to help identify teaching perspectives include:

Murawski and Bernhardt (2015) also acknowledge that sometimes teams may need “ . . . couples therapy” (para 30) if problems continue. For me, I feel that accessing my manager and or the teaching and learning centre in my university may also provide some more ideas of how problems can be worked through.

Once the team in on the same page in terms of teaching perspectives and approach the next step is to implement best practices with the approach. Here is a list of 10 ‘commandments’ that I thought really outlines these key concepts and will help pave the way to successful team teaching.

 The 10 Commandment of Team Teaching

For all of the commandments that Anderson and Landy (Leavitt, 2006) made, I was able to find supporting evidence from Brookfield (2015). I will definitely need to post these in my office!

  1. “Thou shalt plan everything with thy neighbour” (Leavitt, 2006, p 1)
    • “Team teaching is not two or three people agreeing to carve up a course into sections so that each person does 30 or 50 percent of the sessions. Properly conducted, team teaching involves all members of the team planning the course, writing the syllabus, specifying learning objectives, conducting the class, and evaluating student work” (Brookfield, 2015, p 141).
      • For the online course I teach, I need to ensure that my co-teacher and I are involved in all parts of planning by preparing content material jointly – either each taking on different parts and then providing constructive feedback or actually sitting down to the work together.

2. “Thou shalt attend thy neighbour’s lectures” (Leavitt, 2006, p 1)

  • “ . . . (E)very team member is in the class all the time so that she or he can complement and support whatever the lead teacher is doing (Brookfield, 2015, p 142).
  • An online course doesn’t have lectures per se but there are Discussion Forums and a Clear as Mud Post where we as instructors provide feedback to students about their anonymous muddiest survey questions (there are 5 surveys throughout the course). Instead of just having one instructor answering the questions, we could each take turns and then provide comments and debate concepts with each other in the forum (see commandments 3 and 4).

3. “Thou shalt refer to they neighbour’s ideas” (Leavitt, 2006, p 2)

  • “In team teaching we can hear a colleague explain and idea or contribute some information then show students how we connect it to our own stock of knowledge” (Brookfield, 2015, p 145).

4. “Thou shalt model debate with thy neighbour. (Leavitt, 2006, p 2)

  • “One of the meta-agendas of higher education is teaching students how to disagree in ways that don’t shut down further communication” (Brookfield, 2015, p 143).

5. Thou shalt have something to say, even when thou art not in charge (Leavitt, 2006, p 2)

  • “There will always be time when one instructor has more knowledge or experience than another, but when this is the case the teacher with less content knowledge has an important role to play as a skilful questioner and also as an observer of the class to ensure that everybody is getting the chance to participate” (Brookfield, 2015, p 152).
  • While this may be hard to make happen online, there is a face-to-face workshop where case studies are reviewed as a group. Having one person field questions, while the other observes classroom dynamics and takes a closer look at the students’ work would help to ensure that everyone is able to participate.

6. “Thou shalt apply common grading standards (Leavitt, 2006, p 3)

  • “Specifying the criteria by which students work will be assessed is crucial in any classroom but never more so than in a team-taught course. Ideally, it should be possible for either faculty member to slot into the grading role and assign the same grade or number of points for any particular piece of work” (Brookfield, 2015, p 151).
  • In the online course, there are rubrics for marking case studies and discussion forums, but one of the problems could be that my co-teacher and I may mark differently if we identify different issues, recommendations and relevant evidence to support decisions for the cases. In order to mark the same, we need to be able to work through the case studies together first, come up with a list of key issues etc. and then use that when we mark.

7. Thou shalt attend all staff meetings (Leavitt, 2006, p 3)

  • “Team members plan, conduct, evaluate, and debrief all activities together. This is the sine qua non of team teaching.” (Brookfield, 2015, p 150).
  • I feel that my co-teacher for the online course and I need to meet by phone every week to ensure that grading, discussion forums and plans for the next week’s module are discussed.

8. Thou shalt ask open questions (Leavitt, 2006, p 3).

  • “When a solo teacher tries to convey the different viewpoints or theoretical frameworks that exist on an issue, he or she is always working within the confines of being a singular voice . . . Team teaching allows your partner to pose a question or contribute an insight that opens you up to a genuinely new way of thinking about something” (Brookfield, 2015, p 145).
  • The online forums and Clear as Mud post provide wonderful opportunities for both of us to pose questions to students and each other.

9. Thou shalt let thy students speak (Leavitt, 2006, p 3).

  • Team teaching reaches a wider variety of learners. Solo teachers teach out of their preferred learning style. Although we can all expand our repertoire of teaching practices, there is a limit to how much we can change who we are (Brookfield, 2015, p 142).
  • I love researching information and will often take a very theoretical approach to a topic – an approach that may not work for all people. Engaging my co-instructor into the discussion forums will encourage more participation from the students, as it will appeal to a broader range of learning needs.

10. Thou shalt be willing to be surprised (Leavitt, 2006, p 3).

  • In team teaching there is no clear source of authority and knowledge in the classroom. This can create an environment of discovery and inquiry (Brookfield, 2015, p 144).
  • One huge advantage of teaching online is that you have time to think something through before you post it, but this is not the case in the workshops. Team teaching sounds like a very exciting adventure in learning!



Brookfield, S.D. (2015). The Skillful Teacher: On Technique, Trust, and Responsiveness in the Classroom 3rd Edition. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass

Dabbs, L. (2013) Back to School: Teaching with Authenticity Edutopia George Luca Educational Foundation. Retrieved from:

Leavitt, M. (2006) Team Teaching: Benefits and Challenges The Speaking of Teaching Center for Teaching and Learning at Stanford University Fall 2006 Newsletter Vol.16, No.1. Retrieved from:

 Ludden, D. (2016) Are Two Heads Better Than One? It depends on how they interact. Psychology Today Retrieved from:

Murawski, W.W. & Bernhardt, P (2015) An Administrator’s Guide to Co-Teaching ASCD Learn Teach Lead Educational Leadership December 2015/January 2016 | Volume 73 | Number 4 Co-Teaching: Making It Work Pages 30-34. Retrieved from:’s_Guide_to_Co-Teaching.aspx

Team Teaching – Advantages, Disadvantages (n.d.) Education Encyclopedia – Retrieved from:

Yanamandram, V.K. & Noble, G. (2006) Student Experiences and Perceptions of Team-Teaching in a Large Undergraduate Class University of Wollongong Research Online Faculty of Business Faculty of Commerce. Retrieved from:


Trends in Adult Education Part #3: The ‘Aha’ Moment


Photo: A.McKenzie

Ok, I have to make a major confession.

I am a nurse that works in and teaches the specialty of maternity nursing – in other words I work with women as my patients, with women as my nursing colleagues and with women as my students. When I re-wrote the curriculum for the online perinatal course I teach I thought about the clients that my students will encounter and included cultural sensitivity material and information about LGBTQ(2S). I had students work through exercises that examined their biases and preconceptions. I really thought I had it all covered. I was in fact feeling pretty good about how it all came together, until I read this article on gender equality.

You see, I did not, even once, think about how the curriculum and its delivery would be perceived by a male student. I completely gapped on thinking that a male student would indeed be taking the course at some point. The sudden realization had me reeling – how could I be so blinded by my own bias?

Don’t get me wrong, I greatly value my male colleagues. I value their talents and insights. It is just that because I never work with any men (as nurses) in maternity I didn’t even consider that they would ever be taking a perinatal course.

Now I am reviewing the course again to check for anything that might be seen as gender insensitive. I am using this checklist offered by the University of Fribourg, a Questionnaire for the evaluation of gender equality in teaching and so far so good  🙂

I really hope that I won’t have to wait too long before have male students take the course. I am very keen to learn with them as we travel on this journey of learning.


Evaluation for gender sensitive teaching (n.d.) Project e-qual – Teaching, Gender, Quality University of Fribourg. Retrieved from:

Trends in Adult Education Part #2: Implications – Putting Theory in Practice Gamification and Gender Equality


image source Pixabay


In Part # 1 Trends, I mentioned that I thought that gamification could increase the fun factor of learning thereby increasing motivation. When I took a look at some of the motivational theories – and there are a lot of them – the one that seem to fit in with my fun factor theory was Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi’s flow theory.

Csikszentmihalyi as cited in The Pursuit of Happiness (n.d.) states:

“The best moments in our lives are not the passive, receptive, relaxing times… The best moments usually occur if a person’s body or mind is stretched to its limits in a voluntary effort to accomplish something difficult and worthwhile.” ~ Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi (The Pursuit of Happiness, n.d., para1).

So, the fun comes not from any one element (like those identified by Scott and Neustaedter (2013)), but from the combination of elements that allow the individual to push themselves to learn and succeed at “. . . something difficult and worthwhile” (The Pursuit of Happiness, n.d., para1).

This is something I can relate to. I love that feeling I get when I am skiing or trail running or canoeing or doing yoga or even when I’m learning something new that is really cool like motivational theories (really :)) time flies by, I forget to eat, I live in this state of flow until I get frustrated or bored and then feel compelled to move on to something else.

Marczewski (2015) in the article Grinding to Mastery and Flow presents an excellent graph that shows how flow happens when the game is in the sweet spot between skill and challenge. It is important to note that flow isn’t completely without variance and there can still be moments when the challenge is too much or too little hence the little zig zag pattern that appears in the sweet spot; but if the challenges stay too hard or if it stays boring you drop out of flow and you move on to something else.

The prospect of having students be in flow is pretty exciting to me but is it realistic? Penny and I (both flow enthusiasts) talked about the barriers we have noticed to getting into the flow like being able to focus and being at the same skill level as the other people you are interacting with. These are definite considerations when teaching a group of students.

Summary: Putting Theory into Practice

  • Elements that are to be gamified (like feedback and progression for example) need to be based on proven instructional strategies:
    • When giving feedback during the game consider it like an assessment for learning which is a “. . . a dynamic and ongoing conversation between the teacher and the learner – the goal of which is that the learner comes to better understand and consequently own the process for their own learning” (Fenwick & Parsons , 2009, page 157, 168).
    • When creating progression in the game use Blooms Taxonomy to guide how to increase to higher levels;
  • Consider the level of challenge that the game will provide – it needs to be difficult but not too difficult for the students;
  • Create an environment where the students can focus;
  • Ensure that the technology won’t get in the way of learning – there is nothing is worse than having unexpected technological problems and having no back up plan.

I have given a lot of thought of how I could apply gamification to the courses I teach. One of the courses is a 6 hour face-to-face workshop that has a set curriculum and is quite frankly awful. Whoever created it was completely unaware of the principles of andragogy and thought that providing 6 hours of power point presentations and 2 quizzes was going to provide a rich learning environment. While I won’t go into the details of how I am going to tackle reformatting the material (yet again) I will say that I have decided to replace the 2 quizzes – which I did as a group anyways as it provided more learning than having people do it on their own – with a jeopardy game.

Using the jeopardy game format I will be able to apply the elements of freedom to fail, rapid feedback and progression that Scott and Neustaedter (2013) identified. I will have the class break up into groups of 3 for collaborative learning. I will also create a final class challenge question so that ultimately, the teams will all be working together. For a little extra fun I will provide treats like candies and such to everyone. I need to ensure, however, that the questions are of the appropriate level of challenge.

As technology develops and apps become more readily available, I may have the opportunity to individualize a program to create games and enhance learning for my specific subjects. For now, I am content to try gamification using simple technology like power point or even paper based games. I will watch with interest as to where gamification in education will go in the future.

Gender Equality


image source pixabay

The consequences of gender inequality impact all of us “Gender segregation in career choice results in talent loss for the individual as well as for society” (OECD, n.d.,p 9).

As a nurse educator this really struck home. Nursing, especially maternity nursing, is an almost exclusively female dominated specialty. Having been in nursing for almost 30 years I remember how much discrimination the two men in my training program experienced when they did their maternity specialty. Patients and nurses refused to allow them in the room and yet, curiously, had no problems letting the male doctors in the room.

Reading about gender equality has really gotten me thinking about what it is in maternity nursing in Canada that continues to keep men out. A friend of mine told me that in Australia they have had male midwives for 20 years now. Why is taking us so long for us in Canada to shake the stereotypes? Why don’t we understand that the care of labouring and post partum women would be enriched by having men on board as care providers and as educators?

I think we need to start by recruiting more men into nursing. We need to start showing images of male nurses in professional nursing magazines and in social media. We need to start by ensuring that men are not being exposed to gender bias when they are primary school and we need to actively recruit men from high school to come into nursing.

We also need to ensure that programs are evaluated for hidden curriculum. Evaluation for gender sensitive teaching (n.d.) offers an evaluation guide that instructors can use to evaluate their course (including teaching didactics, students performances and instructor performance).

Men have the right to be able to chose their profession just as much as women. I am hopeful that as society becomes more aware of gender diversity it will translate for more freedom for men to come into nursing.


Evaluation for gender sensitive teaching (n.d.) Project e-qual – Teaching, Gender, Quality University of Fribourg. Retrieved from:

Fenwick, T.J. & Parsons, J. (2009) The Art of Evaluation A Resources for Educators and Trainers Thompson Educational Publishing Inc Toronto, Canada

Marczewski (2015) Grinding to Mastery and Flow Gamified UK Gamification Consultancy. Retrieved from:

Merriam, S.B. & Bierema, L.L. (2014) Adult Learning: Linking Theory and Practice San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi (n.d) The Pursuit of Happiness. Retrieved from:

OECD (n.d.) Trends Shaping Education 2015 Spotlight 7, OECD Publishing. Retrieved from:

Stott, A & Neustaedter, C. (n.d.) Analysis of Gamification in Education Retrieved from:

Teaching To Promote Gender Equality (n.d.) Center for Teaching Excellence University of Virginia. Retrieved from: