Watershed Moments


In response to “Watershed Moments of Learning” shared by Dean Shareski. http://ideasandthoughts.org/2016/09/01/watershed-moments-of-learning/

When that light bulb comes on and you feel a rush of excitement over something that the majority of the population would look at you and say, “Really!”   Those are my “Watershed Moments of Learning, “and I love that feeling!  Those are the moments when I realize I am meant to be an educator and l love what I do.


The most engaging PD that I have been involved in to date is the PLCs with the Social Science Department at a very engaging and wonderful high school, CASS.  These PLCs were very interactive and have given me the opportunity to gain hands on experience planning lessons for the LD learner with a group of teachers and administrators that I aspire to be like.  I have never had such an engaging and collaborative learning experience, where I came away from each session we had together as a better more competent teacher.  I can only hope that I will be able to become a part of this team once again and continue my learning involvement in these PLC sessions.


The absolute most mind-blowing amazing presentation where everything made sense was when I had the honours of attending a presentation by Will Richardson in March of 2016 in Sault Ste. Marie.  He is a fantastic presenter and knows his stuff!  I felt so engaged in the presentation I wanted to run out in the middle of it and start incorporating everything he was saying in my science classroom.  But then I realized I wanted to hear the rest of the presentation!  Such a fantastic presenter, with even more fantastic ideas for us teachers to bring to our classrooms and make a real difference in learning.  Since then, I have started using some of his thoughts on 21st century learning and have begun to let the students take the wheel in their own learning.


The book I think that has given me great insight into becoming a better educator is “Mindsets in the Classroom, by Mary Cay Ricci.”  When I read this book I had a hard time putting it down, one of those good reads where you just want to keep going!  This book has made an enormous impact on the way I look at learning for each individual student that I teach.  It has made me feel that creating a growth mindset within my classroom is possible.  Giving me strength to instill this thinking in all my students.  I phrase things differently when talking with my students, making them see themselves as a positive learner.  I had a student come up to me in my Careers class and tell me that they couldn’t do the assignment the same as everyone else because they were (students words) “stupid!”  I had just finished reading this book and all the principles and concepts from the book came flooding back and this is where I began implementing this mindset within my students!


I honestly think that my new favourite tool has become my blog https://julesrobinsonblog.wordpress.com/.  I started this blog while taking the E-Learning additional qualification course to post my responses for my classmates to read and to connect with educators online.  I was very nervous at first about posting my responses out there for everyone to criticize and read.  Boy was I wrong!  Starting my blog has been a super rewarding and positive experience where I can share my thoughts and ideas with other educators.  Getting feedback, or as another teacher in my other AQ class puts it “feed forward,” is such a fantastic way to engage with other educators who are on the same page.  I am hoping to keep up my blogging once my course is complete and to keep connecting with educators who I can share experiences and ideas with.


The person whom I think has inspired me the most in education is a previous principal, now superintendent, “Marcy Bell.”  Marcy has helped me to see my potential as an educator and given me great insight on qualities that I have that can help me grow as a teacher.  I can only hope to be as good an educator and leader as Marcy.  She inspires me to reach high and set my expectations of myself to a level I never thought I could reach!  She is a fantastic leader and encourages others around her to go after their goals.



Documenting for Learning

While contemplating the article “Documenting for learning” by Silvia Rosenthal Tolisano, I went to look up the definition of the word document.  The fourth definition down was, evidence, proof!  This is exactly what we do as teachers when we document our students learning.  We give evidence, proof to the student, parent and teacher that learning has occurred and continues to.  By providing that proof that learning is happening is encouraging for everyone involved, student, parent and teacher.  It shows us that our students are on track or sometimes gives us proof that our students are off track or that they may need more support to get back on track.  Personally I am a documenter as well, I document all my children’s milestones and exciting moments!  “Honey grab the camera he is going to blow his candles out!”  “Honey grab the camera she is taking her first steps!”  “Honey grab the camera he is eating his booger!”  Ok, not to that point do I document.  But I do like documenting and it gives me a sense of accomplishment that I have proof of my children growing.  It gives me something to look back on and see the changes that have occurred in my kids and realize how far they have come.  This is the same way that I look at documenting as a teacher it gives me proof that my students are achieving where they need to be, so I can look back at their progress and see that they too are growing, but in their learning.  I also feel that documenting gives me a way to check myself as a teacher, “Are my students understanding this concept?”  “Should I maybe  that topic in a different way?”  These types of questions arise from my documenting ways, and help me to become a better teacher.  Documenting has given my students ways to self-assess and see their progress, but it has also given me a way to self-assess my learning as a teacher and it helps me grow as an educator every day!


absenteeism-picAbsenteeism is a problem that can arise in online courses.  When taking an online course you have to be responsible and self-motivated to participate and be a part of the course community.  If students are not participating in discussions or being present online to complete assignments this can be a big problem.  They may fall behind in content, lose interest completely or not qualify to attain the course credit.

To prevent absenteeism teachers should create an environment where students are required to be active in discussions within different groups in the course.  By creating an active learning environment in your online course gives students opportunities to help each other and it encourages interaction among classmates.  By giving students chances to pose discussion questions and moderate discussions is another way for students to feel involved in their learning and requires them to be present online.  Teachers need to make online courses engaging and set it up that all students are able to participate at times convenient for them.  The expectations of how many times per week students are to be logging in and taking part in discussions needs to be put in place at the beginning of the course.

When addressing a student with an absenteeism problem in an online course the teacher needs to contact the student by email or phone, if email is not returned.  They need to find out if the student is continuing with the course and if so, find out the reasons why the student isn’t present online.  If accommodations need to be made to assist student learning then the teacher and student should come up with a solution that will work for both sides.

Supporting Student Learning

Teachers can support students who struggle in an online learning environment by scaffolding the learning so they can begin to build on previous experiences and prior knowledge.  We can do this by giving progressive self-tests, hints for solving problems or completing tasks, and give tasks and assignments that will continue to build on previous learning

By providing a multisensory approach to learning gives students different opportunities to engage in the content and clarify for understanding.  Teachers can provide this multisensory environment within online courses by implementing; visualization tools, graphics, illustrations and pictures.  When setting up your course with these tools mentioned above, can enhance student understanding for content, assignments and discussions for those that may struggle in the literacy component of the learning. “The use of organizers and overviews of the content enable students to think holistically, and it supports visually orientated learning (McLoughlin, 1999b).”

McLoughlin, C. (1999b). The implications of the research literature on learning styles for the design of instructional material. Australian Journal of Educational Technology, 15(3), 222-241.


Engaging Our Students

Engaging students sometimes can be a difficult thing in a regular classroom and even more online.  As teachers we have to reach deep down into our creative bag at times to assist our students to be more engaged in our lessons and activities.  It could be making the instructions more interesting, adding in a fun element to a lesson or just making our activities more hands on.  A lesson that I have altered to grab the attention of my students was a science lesson in my electricity unit.  We were discussing static electricity, so I began the lesson with a short video clip of a crazy lightning storm.  Within about 5 seconds I had the attention of all the students in my class.  From there I proceeded to discuss static electricity and what it is and how it works.  I then closed the lesson with a Van der Graaf Generator, where my students had the opportunity to see static electricity in action.

Online course or regular classroom, we have to make our lessons interactive and engaging for our students to connect with the material.  I feel that by connecting my lessons to real world experiences and bringing in a simple video or demonstration as a hook, helps to build a fun and engaging classroom online or in person.



Is Assessment Different Online?

When looking at assessment in an online course I feel that the actual feedback isn’t really that different from the regular classroom.  It is more the way the feedback is given that is different.  In fact I think there is some perks to assessing online!  Teachers can give digital feedback (audio, video, screen-casts) which may be more engaging for most students to have the opportunity to watch and listen to the feedback, instead of reading what is written on their paper.  The teacher can make the feedback more personal and fun, putting a little humor into their suggestions.  Now, having said that, it can be difficult sometimes while assessing online because you don’t get the chance to have a quick f2f on a daily basis with your students.  When you do give feedback, most likely you are going to give more at one time because you don’t see the students daily to give verbal feedback though out the day here and there.

How to Support Online Assessment For, As, & Of Learning?

For Learning

An idea for assessment “For Learning” would be to incorporate quick quizzes in my course before each module, so I have an idea of where all my e-learning students are in relation to the content and technology.  This will give me an idea of where to focus my teachings and what, as a group or even as an individual, we should put more emphasis on within each module.

As Learning

Students should be given a number of opportunities throughout an e-learning course to have a one-on-one discussion with their teacher.  This is where the teacher can ask predetermined questions to see if students are achieving where they need to be.  This gives the students a chance to ask questions for clarification and discuss the expectations within each module.

Of Learning

An online group project is a great way for students to showcase their learning within an e-learning course.  It demonstrates what students have learned, and also what types of technology they have used to complete the task.  An example of a product that a group may put together could be a slide show.  A slide show is a great way to incorporate the use of technology, but also shows what students have learned and taken away from the course.




Backwards Design

The topic that I chose to focus on for the backward design was the first unit in my Careers class.  The unit is titled “WHO AM I?”  In this unit we focus on getting each student to explore who they are as a person and what their interests are.  We compile lists of student attributes, characteristics and skills that would be present in a great employee.  We also explore past and present experiences that students may have that relate to the working world.


Students will be able to identify experiences, attributes and skills that they have that relate to being a good candidate for a job.


Students will create a resume that compiles all their important and relevant experiences, attributes and skills that will relate to the work force or a job of their choosing.


  • Skill/Interest inventories
  • Job inventories
  • College/University program inventories
  • My Blue Print
  • Videos that demonstrate qualities of a good worker
  • Videos of good vs bad interviewsbackwards-designpic
  • Guest Speakers
  • Learning Style quizzes


Universal Design for Learning – Low Vision

When thinking of a barrier that could potentially affect online learning, I think of a past student that I had in one of my classes that had difficulty seeing small print.  This barrier not only affected his learning in the regular classroom but also when using the computer.  The way I supported him in the classroom was to provide all my students with larger print on any handouts and tests that we did in the classroom.  I made all my power points and visual aids with larger print but also with dark print on a lighter background.  Some ways to support him in an online course would be:

  • Larger Print throughout entire course
  • Dark print with light background
  • Make sure all video quality is clear and not pixellated and that video can be enlarged
  • Emails with larger print
  • Don’t make the site distracting
  • Use fewer words in explanations
  • Record instructions or explanations of assignments in an audio file
  • Highlight important words or phrases with a bright colour


Important Interactions

Student-Teacher Interaction

An example would be the student not getting positive feedback from the teacher in person to feel positive about the growth in their learning.  When the teacher has an active presence online, positively encouraging each student independently either in discussion posts or email it helps to encourage students to continue to try hard and put forth a great effort.  “An active presence on the part of the instructor—one in which s/he actively guides and coordinates the discourse—relates positively to both a students’ sense of connectedness and learning (Shea, Li, & Pickett).”

Student-Student Interaction

An example would be the students not having opportunities to interact with each other online and create a comfortable social learning environment.  The online environment needs to be created with assistance by the teacher and the course layout, so students have many opportunities to connect and interact with each other either through discussion, assignments, email etc. “Student-to-student interaction is vital to building community in an online environment, which supports productive and satisfying learning, and helps students develop problem-solving and critical thinking skills (Kolloff, 2011).”

Student-Content Interaction

An example would be; how much time does a student spend interacting with the course content (discussion posts, readings, questions, and reviewing overall content).  If students spend quality time reviewing the course content and are given a minimum amount of time to spend on each module by an actual number in hours or minutes, or to break it down even further each discussion question, assignment etc.  This would help students to be able to have an idea of the amount of time that should be spent on the online course in each section to help them achieve better marks but also a better way to focus their learning in an online course.  “Learners who spent more time interacting with course content achieve higher grades than those who spent less time with the content (Zimmerman, 2012).”

Student-Interface (LMS) Interaction

An example would be students needing more interactive course materials throughout the interface.  Teachers can add in audio lectures, record videos of a lesson, set up self-tests for students to test themselves on course knowledge, and review games set up for students to review content and learning without teacher testing directly.  “When integrating Learner-Interface interaction, the objective is to give students a tool to interact with repeatedly until they master the intended outcomes, receiving clear instant feedback when they need to correct themselves.  Offloading the work of low-quality interactions with students is one of the greatest strengths of the LMS, freeing instructors to focus on high-leverage teaching practices (Curran, 2013).





Asynchronous vs. Synchronous

Scenario 1:

Orientation to the LMS

An asynchronous tool could be any type of presentation software like Mindomo, Prezi, PowerPoint, Haiku Deck, Slide Dog, Keynote, Emaze and many more.  The teacher can create the orientation on one of these tools with photos and directions of how to navigate the LMS.  Students can then log on and view the presentation, “Orientation to LMS” at any time of day or night when it is convenient for them.  The asynchronous tools are a big part of having a successful e-learning course.  These tools provide students with more flexibility in the course to complete course work.  Ideally, to complete the course at their own pace, by using the internet merely as a support tool rather than venturing online solely for interactive classes.

Scenario 2:

An Important Class Discussion (reviewing a concept)

Synchronous tools are another way to support our online classrooms, which help to enhance online learning.  These are tools where the teacher is readily accessible and gives immediate feedback to students.  The synchronous tool that I choose for “An Important Class Discussion” is a program called Adobe Connect using Teleconference.  My board is very large “ADSB” and they use this tool to connect all the teachers across our board that are many hours apart.  They do courses, new certifications and meetings using this tool.  This has helped our board to become more connected.  I feel that this tool could be used in an online course either on a regular basis, if the course required, or when certain important topics are to be discussed in class.  When something comes up in an online course that is pertinent, then the teacher can arrange an Adobe Connect Conference using Teleconference so that all students can be heard and ask questions and get answers right away.