Monthly Archives: September 2013

Brainstorming Learning Pathways

This is the Version 1 mind map of a  Flexible Learning Pathway for Formal and Non-formal Learning

Flexible Learning Pathways MindMap

The focus of this mindmap was to see what evidence of learning is currently being offered by systems and what systems are looking for.

The systems that need to connect and collaborate for this learning pathway include:




Based on my research and interviews, the Learning Pathways needs to extend from at least High School to Pre and Post Higher Education.

This is a map of the process that the systems could work on collaboratively to create learning pathways.

Flexible Learning Pathway Process(1)This is a Flexible Learning Pathways Process chart  that integrates these ideas.

My most up to date chart on “Levels/Types of Badges”

That’s what I have for brainstorming at the moment.

Now- I am starting to support and explain these images.

Verena 🙂


Week 4 – POT Class – Online Design and Pedagogy

This is a blog post for my Week 4 in my POT Course which stands for Program for Online Teaching. What intrigues me most about the course is a) even though it is free I can get a certificate if I stick with it to the end and b) the whole course is created in Google.

My primary goal in the course is to “think” backwards and rethink “how” I could design courses to meet personalized needs of students.

Part of my focus this week, was breaking personal habits- I am  actually going through all of the content, let it sink in, reflect, then write a  blog post. I also spent time creating a “brainstorming” plan of how I “could” design a course using google docs (as opposed to my usual learn while I am in the middle of doing). If I spend some extra time on the brainstorming and design, I’m hoping that I can more clearly articulate my pedagogical intentions through my first drafts.

This week we have had a huge amount of content to go through, so I have written a huge blogpost. The readings motivated me to think “how” I am coaching others when helping them create their own online courses as well as encouraging me to rethink design in my own High School open courses.

The Chapter 3 Readings from Ko and Rossen extensively went into detail about how to set up interactive and engaging modules. I especially enjoyed the Mary Jane Clerkin’s asynchronous Speech class and the three types of “review” (interaction and feedback) self-review, peer-review and instructor emails. I also appreciated the description about creating quiz/test questions that promote reverse reasoning skills.  (If there is any mention of backwards anything I tend to pick up on it….)

IMPLEMENTING THE SEVEN PRINCIPLES: Technology as Lever (Chickering & Ehrmann)

Main Points:

1. Encourage interaction between student and faculty (This point reminds me of Anderson’s Chapter on Toward A Theory of Online Learning – with emphasis on balance in “types” of interactions)

Things that the article made me think about: Good Practice Communicates High Expectations – I am often criticized for having “too” high of expectations because I am focused on Good Practice Respects Diverse Talents and Ways of Learning. I have issues with static unchanging online courses that meet select needs. To be sustainable – I’m still trying to figure out ways to communicate high expectations while still meeting variety of ways of teaching.

Video Tours:

I really appreciated looking over the courses. I liked comparing how the courses were set up – literally the design features – content all in the middle, links on the side – just like we saw in the handouts in Week 3. I have created a video of one of my courses – based on some of my thoughts of how I could “rethink” my design for future courses.

Overall – a great week of reflecting, thinking and slowing down to break habits. I now look forward to spending some time going over what my peers had to say about the course content on their blogs. I am especially curious about their thoughts on those great video overviews.

Verena 🙂

Terry Fox – Leader, Inspiration….what badge would he get?

I’ve been thinking about a Failure Badge. Last week I was in a Make and Create Google Hangout with Ian O’Byrne, Fred Mindlin, Greg McVerry,  John Duhring and Per from Pandora  (Jewellery yes) Ian has blogged about his reflections of the hangout and the chat that continued into the ConnectedLearningTV’s Webinar on Open Badges.

However – it was Ian’s post about a “Failure Badge” and what it might signify that has me thinking.

In Canada this month we celebrate one our heroes, his name was Terry Fox. Nearly every school has a Terry Fox run which raises money for cancer.  Why?

Well, briefly for those who don’t know Terry’s story, Terry had cancer.  But that wasn’t all that Terry was – someone with cancer. Terry was an amazing athlete, especially a basketball player. At first, the cancer was only in his leg, and so the doctors amputated his leg. Even this fact would devastate many – an active athlete, now without a leg. However, as I said, Terry wasn’t “just” an amazing athlete or someone with cancer. In 1981, Terry decided to complete the Marathon of Hope. The Hope Stood for his fight against cancer as well as the hope of thousands of other cancer patients. By starting in Newfoundland he trekked his way across Canada, by running on one leg, to promote cancer awareness and “Hope”.

Unfortunately Terry’s cancer came back to his lungs – and he only made it to Thunder Bay, Ontario. Click on the MAP to see the distance and geography in Canada. In fact, nine months after he had to stop his race, he died of cancer.

While Terry may have felt that he failed – he was actually a hero who ignited a country’s pride and hope for a cure for cancer. Like I said in the start of the post, every September in Canada,  schools across the country and communities organize Terry Fox runs. I have also participated in Terry Fox runs in France! It’s even International!

When I asked my daughter if Terry Fox had failed, she said of course not! Terry Fox was a national hero who has inspired many other Canadians and taught us about cancer! What a ridiculous thing to say. Because it’s true – he didn’t fail! He represents the idea that you have to try and great ideas will overcome all odds!  His dreams have persevered through others.

He didn’t finish his run – instead, he shared his passion for hope and his desire to make a difference.

I think that’s what a “Failure Badge” – in the context of Ian’s post is all about. Trying something, sharing the experience with others and trying to make a difference. Terry is a great example of why failure is a good thing – without Terry’s risk taking, drive and leadership – Canadians would have very different September memories and Cancer research would never had had the same support.  I think “Failure” can promote “hope” and possibility.

While we are not all like Terry, our goal as educators, parents, leaders and mentors is to make a difference and share our passion. I am looking forward to working with Ian to create some kind of digital collaboration to share our failures – because it really means, sharing our passion for learning, innovation and trying new things.

What do you think?

Verena 🙂

How to Create an Open Online/Blended Course Using Google

imagesRetrieved from:

I have been challenged to rethink my online and blended course learning design – so I chose to examine what I could do (and any educator could do) in Google.

I added “open” because I have yet to figure out all the privacy features with these tools. Often within a district, the lead administrator can set these tools to public or private. Since I am not using Google Apps for education, and just using Google Apps, all of my suggestions are open (This also means that some Google+ Apps can only be used for participants aged 13+)

Google is still such a contentious topic in k12 due to FOIP regulations. The fact that it is a service offered in the cloud has prevented some districts from letting their teachers and students learn with Google Apps.

Based on the privacy regulation limitations, I still encourage all teachers to ensure that they are following the rules and policies within their district and always get a letter of permission for parents/guardians signed that describes what apps you will be using and why. I also advocate for parents to learn with their kids. Community and parent support creates a bigger learning community for everyone.

The rationale behind these opportunities is to create blended learning opportunities who are in f2f classrooms as well as authentic opportunities for online students who are often “stuck” in a Learning Management System (LMS – like moodle, canvas, D2L etc).

The  best resources that I found are:

Kern Kelley – Using Google Tools to Create and Manage Online Courses, Google Education Hangouts on Air

Kern Kelley – Google Site- Projects

Ultimate Google Apps Training Guide

K12 Guide to Going Google

EduTraining Google Apps


I think there are a few “stages” to building an online course. It will be up to the individual teacher to decide what stage they are comfortable with.


The Basics

Step 1: :Create and Choose a Google Site


A google site is like a wiki or blog page. It acts like an ePortfolio with limited interaction – you can only add comments to the page. You start with a home page, and have a list of all of your pages on one of the side columns. There are some great examples of how you  could use this app as you sign in.  (There are no discussion group features.)

I would use a classroom google site as my home base. I would use weekly pages to describe the weekly activities as “modules. I would not allow anyone to comment – instead I would use Google Communities for interaction, networking and chatting

Google sites would be used in TWO ways –

1) As the course platform and home

2) For individual student ePortfolios

A key addition to my site would include  a Google Calendar


Networking & Interactions

Step 2: Create a Google Community to Build a Digital Community, Connect and Chat


I have been playing and using google Communities for a few months. An example of  a google Community used for an online course is  Creating an open Classroom in February 2013.  What has impressed me most, is the design. They are clear and easy to manage. You will have to go in and set up a basic community with links as well as weekly discussion posts. You must do the setup before the students get into the course (knowing that you will make some changes) as the participants post all over the place and it gets confusing if you don’t. It is also still difficult to transfer posts and organize them if you are the moderator.

Step 3: Using Google Spreadsheets to:

1) Help Teacher “Redesign” Curriculum into Competencies and Inquiry Based Questions

2) Create Google ePortfolio Tracking Systems


Based on the current opportunities to “rethink how” we are teaching, Google Spreadsheets can be used in many ways. I really like the way Kern set up his course curriculum in a spreadsheet so he could  clearly connect curriculum. This is a great way to interconnect – competencies and common core competencies  (for those in the US).

What I liked about the Google ePortfolio Tracking System, was that individual students would add evidence of their learning. This “tracking” system can shared with teachers.

For those teachers who want to use the Google Spreadsheets for more summative assessment and feedback, please read this blog post by Martin Hawksey about how to create a student-teacher feedback system. If I could figure this script out myself (which I can’t), I would use this method for peer- peer feedback as well. This post and community by Michael J. Graham is also an excellent resource, especially for common core integration.

I could see a google Spreadsheet used in a similar way for project organization (process).

Step 4: Setting Up Google Hangouts

Google Hangout require an additional Google  plug in, so some set up is required. Here’s a great LiveBinder about Google Hangouts in k12. Google Hangouts are very similar to skype. You will need individual webcams and students will need to speak right into the microphone. However, you can connect with other learners, share screens and connect with others around the world.  I have only used Hangouts as places to discuss new ideas, but you could always teach through hangouts as well.

Additional information from common sense media about google Hangouts: More INFO

Step 5: Google Drive for Collaboration


Now that you have created a platform, with links to create an online course, you need to think about activities and learning opportunities. The perfect way to start collaborating and learning together is through Google Drive. Collaborating together is a way for students to start leading and learning.

More information about Google Drive can be found HERE.


Forever  Google

From now on,  the list goes on…and…on and is dependent on what you want and need.

Additional information from common sense media about google Hangouts: More INFO

Step 5: Using Google Forms for Data Collection/ Class Projects

One of the best videos to introduce using Google Drive for collaboration can be found HERE. In fact, at this point, the best place to learn about future Google Apps choices is in YouTube.

Quick Overview as a Google Educator: Click HERE

Good luck! Please reply or comment any examples of ways YOU have designed or created Google open courses in the comments below…..

Verena 🙂

Pedagogy and Backwards Course Design – Week 3 – POT



Image attributed to Lisa Norwoord, Flikr

I love this image. Not only was I looking for an image to describe design thinking “backwards” but the person in this picture is instinctively doing what we are not supposed to ever do – walk into a fire.

That’s what designing a course like an eTextbook feels like to me – being forced to walk into a fire.

I know we are all expected to do things that don’t necessarily “work” for us in institutions. From a pedagogical point of view – I know, that I can’t “follow” the signs telling me that I “have” to walk into a fire. It really hurts to be burned over and over again.

However – I am thinking of designing a course that makes me “think” (not feel) that I am walking into a fire. The  difference is, I am choosing to do it. II think it’s a fire base don my habits – because I am so used to designing, creating and teaching one way – I literally have to force myself to walk backwards and do what I am not used to doing. So my instinct and mind is guiding me and telling me – it’s ok, it’s not really a fire, it’s just different. However, I am fighting years of tradition telling me – it’s a fire, watch out, get away, run! Does that make sense?


It’s me choosing to “deal” with walking backwards, and being able to “think” my way through the process as opposed to being told to do something that doesn’t feel right and I am not thinking for myself.Backwards

Which one would you choose?

Enough metaphors…

I really enjoyed reading  thinking about course “readiness” factors and thinking about stages within the organizations that I work with. Last year, I worked with a high readiness institution, but I purposefully chose not to use D2L (and tried to avoid any LMS), because I wanted to be able to have ownership over my own course.  All of the courses had already developed and as a teacher we had limited ability to go in and make any changes. As a result, I needed to look for alternatives. After reading the text and listening to the screencasts form Week 3 – I realized that it was pedagogical beliefs coming through and not just stubbornness on my part – that determined my course design choices.  As an educator, I wanted to be part of the design process – and having an already created course did not meet my pedagogical needs.

I didn’t last long at that institution – because I spent a lot of time talking about how the fires weren’t that bad and encouraging people to come down the stairs. Until I realized – if you are a human being and you see a fire – you will run.  I can’t “make” you walk towards a fire – unless YOU know it’s not really a fire.

It means more to me that I can help others design their courses and keep rethinking “how” to learn in online and blended environments – and face their own fires.

I am developing a HS MOOC based on Leadership for October. I think I will focus on it for this post. I really appreciate the templates and I look forward to “re” designing my course based on some of the templates that you provided.

My primary goals in designing my new course are to:

1) Think about how to create an inquiry based or problem based learning course – online

2) How to rethink assessment/course design using competencies (especially how to integrate the Alberta Gov’t Inspiring Education Framework based on competencies

I just completed a small research project on “How” to create competency based criteria for open badges. I am helping  to create a proposal for UBC about creating flexible platforms for formal and non-formal learning.

What I noticed in the first Week 3 resources video – is that I will have to create my courses backwards when using competencies. I will have to  start with the skills, behaviours and attitudes that I want to see evidence of – at the beginning and then funnel down towards core competencies. I’m wondering if there is a template for “backwards” design?

What I would add to this discussion this week is two other key resources

1. Revised Bloom’s Taxonomy – I have this posted in front of me to ensure that I clearly offer opportunities for multiple ways to learn. I also really like the examples with words to help me create my outcomes.

2. Mozilla’s Web Literacy Framework – Like Bloom’s Taxonomy, the options and examples help me think about how to create authentic, current and meaningful activities for the students and help me think about other skills that they can (should) be developing in my course.

So – I guess my focus for the HS Leadership MOOC is on how to “rethink” designing online and blended courses.

Verena 🙂

PS  I have to say that my textbook came in record time – all the way to Calgary, AB. Thank you to whomever needs to be thanked. The textbook is a great fit with the course because the tone of the writing in the book blends with the tone of the extra resources. I also had a great time “popping” into the Google hangout today.  I liked hearing about different ways to engage and connect our students.