Category Archives: eci831

Week 6: How to Play Jazz Piano (without chord roots!)

This week was all about rootless voicings on the piano.  I carried on with my work on ‘Misty’ from last week and tried a different style of comping.  I originally planned on introducing another song this week, but I found the rootless voicings to be challenging and require more time.  I tried figuring out the voicings in my head at the piano, but it was too much to think about. So I decided to break it down by going back to the theory basics and writing out each chord, determining the root, 3rd, 5th, 7th, 9th and 13th.  Then, I wrote out the chords transitions so that there would be nice voice leading and common tones between the chords.

A side note about voice leading: I studied a lot of Bach chorales in my first and second year of music school, with the goal of understanding proper voice leading. There are lots of “rules” with voice leading, but they help with problems like:

“smoothness, independence and integrity or melodic lines, tonal fusion (the preference for simultaneous notes to form a consonant unity), variety, motion (towards a goal)” – Open Music Theory

Open Music Theory is an open source textbook (open educational resource). Cool!

In short, good voice leading makes music sound pleasing to the human ear! I really like the end result of my progress this week:

What I worked on:

  • continued with “Misty” – added a separate recording of the bass line in the left hand so I could comp using rootless voicings
  • rootless chord voicings – figuring out which notes to play and using good voice leading


  • Starting to incorporate good voice leading
  • Overlaying multiple videos in my vlog


  • I had to write out the chords this week (instead of figuring out the chords in my head). Although not my original plan, it allowed me to really understand the theoretical sides of rootless chords and good voice leading.

Resources Used:

Next week I am going to begin my final piece as part of my learning project. I am looking forward to learning my favourite jazz standard, “Autumn Leaves”.

Major Digital Project 6: Gaming the Gamification

I’ve been meaning to dig deeper into the gamification aspect of Duolingo for a few weeks now, but I’ve been finding it also takes a lot of time to simply describe what I have been doing each week. So I’ll try to keep this summary brief:

  • I have continued using Duolingo, hitting a 30 day streak, making it into the Ruby league (more on that later), and just generally using it as my daily, baseline learning activity. It’s been an easy habit to maintain so far.
  • I watched another episode of Spanish for Beginners, this time about mastering the verb “Ser.” I found it less useful than the first episode; it is maybe challenging because my progress in Duolingo and the video series don’t match up at all so they feel a little disjointed. I don’t regret watching it, however.
  • I mentioned offhand in one of my classes that I was trying to learn Spanish and one of my students who speaks Spanish as their first language got really excited and wanted to talk with me. I was able to say “I need help in Spanish” and she replied “I can help you.” I was definitely flattered by their generosity.
  • A colleague of mine overheard me practicing with Duolingo over the lunch hour and said two of the educational assistants she works with speak Spanish as their main language. She volunteered to introduce us and said they would be happy to practice with me. Looking forward to it!
  • Lastly, I started playing with an Open Education Resource from MERLOT that someone shared with me in the chat last class. It’s a nice way to be exposed to actual native Spanish speakers. I’m trying to remember who shared it with me, but I appreciate it!

All in all, an exciting week! And with my committment to Duolingo unwavering, I’d like to unpack why it is so easy to remain consistent with. As someone who has, at times, struggled with commitment to things like the gym and meditation, I believe Duolingo is designed in a way to maximize interest. In essence, it’s gamified.

Gamification, for those unawares, is the process of adding game elements to something that’s not a game. Wikipedia has a surprisingly thorough article about it. The article lists some of the various game design elements that are common in gamification: points , leaderboards, badges, avatars, and performance graphs, to name a few. I will explore how these appear in Duolingo.


Duolingo uses a system of XP to track progress. You earn XP by completing an exercise, and bonus XP for getting streaks of answers correct. This XP is used to determine your ranking in each weekly league. The image to the right shows that I am in first place in my league for the time being.


As mentioned, Duolingo uses a series of leagues to track your progress. Each week, your XP is tracked against similar but randomly selected players. If you end the week in the top 10, you get promoted. If you end in the bottom 5, you get demoted. So far, I have been promoted every single week through bronze, silver, gold, sapphire, and now ruby. This incentivizes your progress each week, especially since the top 3 finishers get lingots, the Duolingo currency (I’d need a whole other post to explain the nuances of that system). However, the quality of competition also goes up with each league too. It’s like I’m in my own little English Premier (Soccer) League!


Duolingo has a set of achievements that are easy to unlock initially, but increasingly harder as you progress. I most recently unlocked an achievement for using the app for 30 consecutive days–no small task, in my opinion. Those who follow me on Twitter would know I was pretty excited about unlocking it. The Champion task shown in the image is definitely the hardest to achieve, as it requires unlocking and getting to level 1 of all 159 (!) skills in the course. I have achieved the Big Spender one, but a glitch has prevented it from registering properly. I sent in a help request because it’s annoying me and I’m pretty dedicated to fighting such battles.


Duolingo does have a system of avatars, as my last photo demonstrates. However, it seems that the majority of users don’t upload avatars, nor do they have any real impact on your progress. As far as I can tell, you can’t even message other users, so the value of avatars is minimal compared to other circumstances I have seen them used in, say, for example, on Twitter.

Performance Graphs

Duolingo presents you with a pretty basic performance graph, but only on the desktop version of the app. It’s something I wish I could have the raw data for because I like analyzing data, but it’s an interesting thing to glance it. It certainly shows that there are days that are more productive than others.


So there you have it. It’s pretty clear that Duolingo is indeed gamified, and I am far from the first person to write about it. In my experience, the gamification has helped me stay more committed to learning, and has been a net benefit. That said, many of Duolingo’s own users are critical of the system, and I do think it is always worth assessing whether gamification is adding value to a learning ecosystem, just like a teacher themselves would. If additional learning isn’t happening, it probably isn’t worthwhile. Am I being too black in white in judging it as such?

Creating a Symphony Through OEP: Open Educational Practices in the Primary Classroom

“No one can whistle a symphony. It takes a whole orchestra to play it.” – H.E. Luccock

Isn’t this the case with learning? We need community and connection with others to enhance our skills, passion, and depth. When we do this, similar to a symphony, something beautiful is created. How can we do that in the classroom? Through Open Educational Practices. Although you may question what this is, my guess is that you’ve probably used it without knowing, just as I did.

According to Catherine Cronin and Iain MacLaren, Open Educational Practices (OEP) are the “collaborative, pedagogical practices employing social and participatory technologies for interaction, peer-learning, knowledge creation and sharing, and empowerment of learners.”

K-12 Open Educational Practice (Roberts, Blomgren 2017)

In other words, in a primary classroom setting, OEP looks like giving students the opportunity to co-create their questions and end goals, take charge of their learning through online sources and platforms, and share their knowledge and experiences beyond the classroom to inspire others. In the words of Loreli Thibault, the intention of OEP “is to broaden learning from a focus on access to knowledge, to a focus on access to knowledge creation.”

There are many elements that make up this type of pedagogy in a K-12 Learning Environment, and Dr. Verena Roberts lays out the steps that can take you there through the Open Learning Design Intervention. I am confident that at one point or another, you have taken part in and facilitated some of these key elements of Open Educational Pedagogy.

Stage 1: Building Relationships
Before starting any project in the classroom, a safe space needs to be established for students to feel like they belong and their voice is heard. This step is all about setting the stage and reassuring students that learning means making mistakes and growing from them. As educators, this should be our top priority in the classroom. Our students voices matter and building connection within our own community is key. Reminding kids that, throughout this whole learning process, they matter – a message that remains on my classroom door everyday.

Stage 2: Co-Designing Learning Pathways
This is where students can take part in co-creating their learning and sharing their desires for the learning process. Criteria is discussed, questions are posed, goals are set, choices are given, digital citizenship is instilled, and motivation begins. I really like how Dr. Verena states that this is where the deep learning occurs, which is sustainable, rather than limited and surface level. BC Campus says that “instead of using disposable assignments that offer no value to the student or the instructors, your students, under your direction and supervision, can build a resource designed to improve the learning space.” When students are asked to come up with their own questions and are given the responsibility to do their own inquiry, they show up and engage deeper.

Stage 3: Building and Sharing Knowledge
Evidence of learning is displayed more formally in this stage. Throughout this whole process, students are expected to connect with outside resources, topic experts, and use Open Educational Resources online. The learners are able to engage with outside learning environments to gain valuable skills, knowledge, and experience, and then can represent their learning process in creative ways. When I asked Twitter for some examples of Open Educational Practices, one of the suggestions was a Gamified Classroom. Dean Vendramin does a great job of incorporating game-based learning in his classroom to increase engagement and life-long learning. Online tools and experiences, like this one, are a great way for students to show their learning processes and discoveries during this stage. Social media, blogs, podcasts, infographics, or digital storytelling tools are just a number of online options that enrich the learning experience.

Stage 4: Building Personal Learning Networks
How can we take our learning one step further? By allowing students to connect with others to build Personal Learning Networks, which expands their learning experiences beyond the classroom. This stage allows the students to share their voices with other students and outside sources. It brings the stages full circle, because it’s now building the relationships and trust outside of the classroom. They are able to reflect on their learning and use their voices and shared experiences for activism, connection, and empowerment. Kristen Wideen, an educator and author, went on a journey with her students called “Kids Can Create Change”. It allowed them to build Personal Learning Networks in order to promote “innovation, empowerment, risk taking, commitment, and skilled problem solving”. Through Twitter, they invited other classrooms to “identify a need in your school, community or in the world that you want to make better.” They created a global collaborative document on Book Creator app on how #kidscancreatechange so that other classrooms could share their experiences and ideas online. They wanted everyone to know that “even though they are young, they can create a huge impact.” This is an engaging yet simple way that students can develop empathy while empowering others around the globe.

OEP in the Primary Classroom
When I think of the type of learning that takes place in Open Educational Practices, I can recall some examples from my own experiences in my grade three classroom:

  • Skype Guess Who
    A game that connects classrooms in a fun and engaging way, similar to an experience like Mystery Skype, “an education game, invented by teachers, played by two classrooms on Skype.
  • Twitter Challenges
    I have taken part in city-wide Twitter challenges, like the #yqreggdrop and #rbedropzone, which allowed students to use inquiry learning in order to connect and share experiences with other classrooms online.
  • Connecting with Experts
    With the internet, we have endless access to go beyond the four walls of our classroom. Instead of only reading information in textbooks, we are able to learn valuable information from the source themselves! My classroom connected with Barbara Reid, an author and clay illustrator, through Twitter. She responded to our learning process and gave us valuable information and feedback. She became a part of our journey, even though she wasn’t physically with us.

By accessing the Open Educational Resources of her website and Youtube videos, we created our own plasticine artwork based off of the type of illustrations she makes in her books. We completed the Saskatchewan Curriculum Outcome CP3.8: “Create art works using a variety of visual art concepts, forms and media and use “three-dimensional materials such as clay to create real textures.” When we completed our projects, we took pictures and displayed our learning on Twitter for others to see.

Even though I’ve taken part in Open Educational Practices in my primary classroom and have used pieces of the OEP stages, I have not yet completed the whole process of this type of learning. Sometimes it feels daunting to use OEP in an elementary classroom, and sometimes even impossible, but I believe that with dedication and an open mind, it is possible! I want to show you an example of how to apply it with your younger learners so that instead of it feeling intimidating, it feels motivating. By no means am I an expert with the concept, but it is something that I want to become more familiar with and encourage others to become familiar with as well.

Since I was close to hitting the target of OEP by connecting with the author and artist Barbara Reid, but didn’t quite use it to it’s full potential, I am going to show you how I would use this experience, or another art project experience, again using the stages of the Open Learning Design Intervention according to Dr. Verena.

Stage 1: Building Relationships

Before introducing the Visual Art Saskatchewan Curriculum Outcomes, set the stage for your students to understand that this learning experience is a process of sharing their voices and having their voices heard. Start with an informal, one-period, introduction lesson to build community in your class. Just as Barbara Reid tells stories through artwork, students should have the opportunity to share their own story before beginning their project.

  1. Display various art media for students to choose from, such as clay, pastels, water colours, paint, crayon, etc. Give them the choice of using the art medium that they connect with and enjoy using the most.
  2. They will create a visual representation with their art medium to tell a story about them, such as who they are or what they love to do, that they will later share with their classroom community.
  3. Once they have created their artwork, they will have a chance to share with their community. The class can gather in a circle and share their artwork and stories while they receive encouragement and support from one another.

Through this opportunity, students are able to listen to their community member’s stories, share their voices, build empathy and understanding, and create connections with one another.

Stage 2: Co-Designing Learning Pathways

In this stage, students will be introduced to the outcome, but instead of giving them all the same task, they will have choice in how they get there. They will have a chance to choose which artist they want to study and what type of art they want to model after. Not only does this apply to the original planned Saskatchewan Curriculum Outcome CP3.8, but it now applies to Saskatchewan Curriuclum Outcome CP3.7, which encourage students to “generate questions that arise from the investigation of a topic or area of interest to initiate inquiry” and “use guided Internet searches to investigate how artists use different art forms and media to express their ideas.”

  1. Create a virtual art gallery with an online tool like Book Creator app, or use a website like Bear Claw Gallery. Students will browse the artists and their style of art.
  2. As students are observing the art , they will decide which piece stands out to them or which artist they connect with the most.
  3. Once they have chosen the artist they want to study and the art they want to learn how to make, they will start asking questions.
  4. In the past, I have created “Wonder Walls” for students to pose questions, but in this project, I would use an online tool like Padlet to create questions on an online board so that teachers and other learners can be a part of the inquiry process. They will create questions they want to ask the artist and questions about the specific type of art the artist creates.

Stage 3: Building and Sharing Knowledge

Once students have their questions created, they will start building their knowledge in more explorative ways.

  1. Connect with artists (experts) online through Twitter, Skype, Blogging, or email. Skype in the Classroom is a great way for kids to meet the artists they are learning about, especially since there is a whole program dedicated to Guest Speakers. Since this is an art project, they will also use sources like YouTube to figure out how to create the specific style of art they are learning about. If the artist is not living anymore, they can reach out to other artists who use the same type of style or medium to teach the student about the process.

2. Primary students need more guidance when it comes to asking questions and finding answers, so using Guided Inquiry is a beneficial way to support younger learners. Read Write Think has a helpful Inquiry Chart template that “enables students to gather information about a topic from several sources.” Ross Todd and Lyn Hay also developed a Guided Inquiry Template that gives guidance to the learning outcomes and questions. You can also create an online guided inquiry template, like a journal, for your students through Google Docs or Seesaw.

3. After the questions have been researched and explored, it’s time for students to display their learning. Like I said earlier, students can use things like  Social mediablogspodcastsinfographics, or digital storytelling tools to display their learning. Instead of using closed platforms like Seesaw, try to use something that can go further than the classroom.

Stage 4: Building Personal Learning Networks

Now is the time to extend the learning beyond the classroom. Students will use their inquiry process and the knowledge that they built to teach students around the globe through the internet. They are now to take on the role of the teacher so that other students can learn from them in their own classroom.

  1. Use the tools of Time Lapse or Stop Motion to share their projects and to make artwork tutorial videos. Lori Thibault does a good job of using the feature of Fast Forward to share her learning and teach others about Unicorn Art. Once students create their tutorial video, they can share it on Youtube for other classrooms to watch and learn from.
  2. Students can also step foot into other classrooms virtually with a tool like Skype or Zoom. They can be the teachers in real-time and give a step-by-step art lesson. This connection now builds Personal Learning Networks for the students to take part in.

The WHY…

This is just one example of how to use the stages of Open Educational Practices in your primary classroom, but there is always deeper learning that can be done. As I become more familiar with this concept, there are still questions that linger…

  • How do we go even deeper when building Personal Learning Networks amongst classrooms? Are there enough classrooms committed to this type of learning in order to have an online community for our students?
  • How can we facilitate a learning environment for our students where they are encouraged to think critically and responsibly?
  • Are there enough resources for primary students to be able to take part in OEP in a rich and meaningful way? What happens if we don’t have all of the resources or don’t have the connections to all of the experts in our learning?

These are some questions that I have thought of throughout my time of using Open Educational Practices in my classroom. There are always challenges that arise, and there will always be obstacles that come up. However, do the benefits of this type of learning outweigh the negatives? Absolutely. When you use Open Educational Practices in your classroom, “you are inviting your students to be part of the teaching process, participating in the co-creation of knowledge.” Using OEP in your classroom deepens the learning experience, the community, and the connection. Students deserve the opportunity to create networks and build knowledge that extends past the classroom, because when they take part in this OEP process, they are actually creating a beautiful symphony!

Learning How to Sew (week five)

This week was one of preparation.  As my projects increase in complexity, the time required for preparation seems to also increase.


As I undertake my final project, which is making an EDC2 from Savage Industries, I’m realizing that a big part of sewing is not really sewing.  Gathering the required materials and preparing them takes longer than sewing the project itself.  This week’s tasks were categorized in three parts: gathering the materials, preparing the pattern and mental preparation.



Gathering the materials proved to be more difficult than I initially thought.  In my mind, a quick trip to the fabric store was all that was needed; however, this was not the case.  As I proceeded through the list of things to find and acquire, it became apparent that choices had to be made.  As I decided to source the materials locally, I had to modify the supply list to products that were immediately available.  Steel hooks were one the list from the pattern maker, I decided to go with plastic clips as an alternative as they are more economical and were immediately available.  The zipper I needed wasn’t available, therefore I decided to wait until I’m further in the project as it’s not an essential until much later in the construction process.  The materials that were recommended was used sailcloth, given we live in the middle of the continent, let’s just say it was impossible to find.  Therefore, I decided to substitute sailcloth for canvas.  For the bottom part of the bag, I decided to repurpose and old pair of denim jeans.  These are but a few of the numerous adaptations and decisions I had to undertake over the past week.  Here goes to hope that these decisions won’t impact me too negatively later on into the process of making my bag.


The preparation of the pattern was smooth sailing considering the ordeal I went through last week.  (This goes to show how with I’m reapplying the concepts I’ve learned from the past.)  I printed the pattern on 11’ x 17’ paper using Adobe Reader and with the straight edge, the cutting wheel and a bit of tape, assembled the pieces to make a full-size pattern.

*(Side note: Early on in the process, I was made aware quite clearly by my wife that certain cutting appliances were exclusively for fabric and others were exclusively for paper.  It turns out, paper, which is made of cellulose, is extremely hard on cutting edges thus dulling blades quite quickly.  I was reminded of this lesson by the following tweet from @courosa)

Capture d’écran, le 2019-11-11 à 22.17.17

I prepared a time-lapse video showing the process of cutting the pieces of the pattern that I had previously assembled.


The final part of the project was mental preparation.  As building this bag is much more complex than my previous project, I needed to familiarize myself with the process of assembly from people who have already accomplished this project.  I therefore turned to Youtube and found a selection of excellent videos of people who undertook this project.  The initial video I watched was the original video of Adam Savage assembling the bag himself.  It’s a fantastic step by step process that goes in depth on how to assemble the bag.  There are certain parts that were hard to follow but overall, it was an excellent starting point.

My take on Adam Savage’s EDC2 bag// sewing by Make With Miles was a fantastic video where many different substitutions were made from the original plan.  It gives a nice step by step process.  The author’s father owns a sewing based business, consequently, he used many types of machines that I don’t have, and he used a few procedures that I could not use in my situation as a beginner.

Adam Savage’s EDC 2 Bag in the style of The Martian by Malt and Make is another video I appreciated as it clarified many of the difficult to understand parts of the process.  I also appreciated his approach in explaining the intricacies of assembling the bag.

Finally, the last video I watched was Making my own version of Adam Savage’s EDC.ONE by Crafts by Ellen.  Another step by step video using other techniques that are different from the other two videos.  It’s apparent that the author is very experienced in sewing and the quality of her explanations and work is self-evident.

With all these videos, I feel like I’m on the path to success as I have all the support I will need to achieve the result I’m wanting to achieve.  Many unknows will undoubtedly appear in the next week, but as I’m a journey based on open education, I’m sure I’ll be able to find the answers I need somewhere online.  I’ll end this post by showing the message inscribed in the pattern of my project written by Adam Savage.  I found it so appropriate when considering OEP from this week.


With a message like this from Adam Savage (of Mythbusters Fame), how can one not become a bit exited to get back to work!

Let’s Talk About OEP

This week in EC&I 831, we were fortunate to have a guest presenter, Dr. Verena Roberts, speak to us about Open Educational Practice (OEP) and examples in a K-12 educational setting. Prior to this class, my knowledge and exposure to OEP was very limited, as well as my understanding of the concept in general.  I am going to explore:

  • what is open educational practice?
  • what are the pros/cons of OEP?
  • what should OEP look like in an elementary (primary grades) school context?

What is Open Educational Practice?

First, let’s consider Dr. Roberts’ very thorough definition:

Open educational practices (OEP) in K-12 learning contexts can describe an intentional design that expands learning opportunities for all learners from formal to informal learning environments. Individualized open readiness can be demonstrated contextually, as a result of  teachers and students co-designing for personally relevant learning pathways where learners can collaboratively and individually share their learning experiences, that encourages communication of meaning through multiliteracies, that blends curriculum and competencies and that promotes community and networked interactions with other learners and nodes of learning from multiple cultural perspectives in digital and analog contexts (Roberts, 2019).

In Dr. Roberts’ presentation, she highlighted a few key elements in her definition: intentional design; expands learning opportunities; and formal to informal learning environments.  Open educational practices focus on the process over product and the idea that learning happens everywhere.  Furthermore, she discussed the importance of collaborative opportunities to create meaningful learning experiences that are personally relevant.  Finally, learning takes place in a community of networked learners blending curriculum and competencies.

To try and wrap my head around OEP, I did some more research to understand the goal of OEP.  Luckily OER Commons provided a specific definition:

The goal of Open Educational Practice (OEP) is to build the knowledge, skills, and behaviors that support and improve teaching and learning. Using open educational resources (OER) presents unique affordances for educators, as the use of OER is an invitation to adapt, personalize, and add relevancy to materials that inspire and encourage deeper learning in the classroom and across institutions. –OER Commons

This definition highlights how OEP can support teaching (as well as learning) and allow educators to differentiate open educational resources (OER) for their diverse student needs.  The key factor here is that by adapting material, teachers are able to provide relevancy that will allow for quality learning experiences.

Although this is not a review of a specific Open Educational Resource, I found OER Commons to be very useful in my perusal of OEP.  In particular, there is the ‘OER Commons Virtual Academy’ with a series a modules to help “advance your open educational practice”. I recommend checking this area out if you are not sure where to start or are new to OEP.

oer commons

A few pros of OEP:

  • ability to adapt material for relevant learning experiences
  • collaborative learning opportunities
  • high engagement among students

These are only a few of the positives of OEP, but they resonated with me as the focus is put on the learning experience of the student.  This relates back to Dr. Roberts’ explaining a flipped learning environment – from formal learning to informal environments as a way to engage students and focus on the process rather than the product. Teachers are able to design learning opportunities with students using open educational resources.   BC Campus Open Ed states:

When you use open pedagogy in your classroom, you are inviting your students to be part of the teaching process, participating in the co-creation of knowledge.

The idea of co-creating knowledge with your students sounds fulfilling and dreamy. But also a little “pie in the sky”, which leads me to some potential drawbacks of OEP.

A few cons of OEP:

  • learning curve for teachers to understand how to use OEP with students
  • limitations in certain classroom settings (ex. primary students vs. high school students)

In a small group class discussion, we talked about how exciting and meaningful these kinds of learning experiences would be with our students, but that the thought of using an OEP was a little daunting.  It feels like it would be a lot of effort to get set up using OEP with our students, and as Loreli mentioned, teachers may not have adequate time to find good open educational resources.  Teachers need to be very invested and see the potential benefits in order to take the time to learn and implement OEP.  Furthermore, it appears to be difficult to find resources appropriate for primary students compared to the vast array available for middles year and higher students.

But, luckily Dr. Roberts introduced our class to her framework, Open Learning Design Interventions (OLDI) to facilitate this process.

What should OEP look like in an elementary (primary grades) school context?

 OLDI (Roberts, 2019) takes place in four stages:

  1. Building Relationships
  2. Co-Designing Learning Pathways
  3. Building & Sharing Knowledge
  4. Building Personal Learning Networks (PLNs)

Using this framework, teachers can begin the process of incorporating OEP in their classroom.  Dr. Roberts also explains that younger learners (up to age 11) experience a “Teacher-Led Walled Garden of Open Exploration”.  This means the teacher helps provide different experiences for their students through inquiry-based learning opportunities. Some examples that could work for primary grades include: Skype in the Classroom, LiveArts Saskatchewan broadcasts and PenPal Schools.

Amanda tweeted asking her followers this question:

Including the image in her tweet helped show educators that they may already be using open educational practices without realizing it!  Amanda has some great ideas of how to use OEP in the primary classroom.

While this is by no means an exhaustive look at OEP, it is a start and will hopefully encourage you to learn more about how you can include open educational resources in your teaching practice.  We have to remember that our roles as educators are shifting to teaching students how to access, assess and apply knowledge by allowing creative learning opportunities. OEP is great direction to move towards if we want to continue to engage our students with personal, collaborative and meaningful learning opportunities.

Until next time,



Oh My, OER

Open Education Practices, or OEP, refers to the practice of utilizing Open Educational Reources, or OER, in a transformative, meaningful way. These concepts were all things I was intuitively aware of before taking this course, but I now have a way to describe them accurately. So, as Confucious once said, “The beginning of wisdom is to call things by their proper name.”

Educase’s “7 Things You Should Know” provides a good overview of Open Education Practices. I particularly liked the quoted description Cronin and MacLaren provide that defines OEP as the “use/reuse/creation of OER and collaborative, pedagogical practices employing social and participatory technologies for interaction, peer-learning, knowledge creation and sharing, and empowerment of learners.” I suspect for many educators the principles of OEP are appealing, but, like many things, the challenge comes in execution.

The Velvet Devil” by Morten Wul is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

This week, we were tasked with reviewing an Open Educational Resource. Like Daina, I was drawn to the aptly named MERLOT (Multimedia Education Resource for Learning and Online Teaching). She pretty much immediately recognized that the resources were not especially age-appropriate for her context, but, as a teacher of Grade 11 and 12, I dug a little deeper, to see what I could find. Would MERLOT shine like a robust red wine? Or would it leave a bitter taste in my mouth like when I tried making homemade wine in my basement?

The history of MERLOT is pretty fascinating, to say the least. Wikipedia and their own website detail the story pretty well, but it’s safe to say it was a pioneering effort in open education, having been started over 20 years ago as a project by California State University. The website gives off a professional, polished vibe when first opened:

If anything, my first vibe was that of JSTOR, a site which is decidedly not free (and issues in the academic publishing field are a whole other topic of discussion).

I decided to use the site as if I were a teacher who just stumbled upon it. A course I often teach is History 10, which is basically a European history course. It’s also a curriculum older than I am, a curriculum without outcomes (which works well with modern report cards), and a curriculum that has supposedly been in the process of being renewed since at least 2009 (I have hope, though). Anyways, venting aside, it’s a good choice because European history is likely a subject taught in the United States, which is presumably where most of MERLOT’s resources come from.

Searching “Industrial Revolution” yields 90 results, displayed as such:

Each resource provides a summary, description of the material type, author, creation date, and an interesting set of reviews both by an editor and by users. The process to become an editor appears very thorough, and bears much similarity to the peer-review process in academia as far as I can tell.

I decided to investigate the Second Industrial Revolution resource because it had five star reviews in both categories, and was described as an “Online Course Module” which best describes what teachers are often looking for in terms of resources, at least in my experience. The splash page for the resource itself provided very little additional information: the key button is the one that says “Go to material.”

In this case, I was sent to a standalone website that resembles a webquest of sorts on the Second Industrial Revolution. Rather than a laborious step-by-step, image-by-image breakdown of the resource, I decided it would be easier to make a quick video. I believe this is the first time I have ever thought that making a video would be the “quick” option for anything, so I am definitely getting more comfortable with the tools out there and realizing their utility.

Screencastify’s website wasn’t loading for me today for whatever reason, so I tried the rival tool, Screencast-O-Matic. Here’s the end result:

Please don’t judge me, I’m new to the Internet!

I spent some time looking around at other resources too. To my surprise, there were a few resources regarding Canadian History, which was a bit unexpected. For English Language Arts, there is usually a great deal of potentially valid resources, but the crux is always adapting it to what is being taught. In my experience, it’s rare I use something as-is for ELA, as I am very particular about how I want to approach an issue. I know there are a few other ELA teachers in this class, so I’d be interested to know if that’s just me or what.

Anyways, my overall impression of MERLOT is that it is a valuable, but not standout, website. It definitely contains high-quality materials, but not at the critical mass that would make it especially valuable to K-12 teachers. Perhaps it would be more useful for a post-secondary instructor, especially a sessional lecturer thrown into a new environment with little support (an issue apparently even at the University of Regina). But realistically, with how many time (and energy!) constaints teachers already have, I don’t see them flocking to MERLOT rather than, say, TeacherPayTeachers, even if they agree with the high-minded ideals of open education. Challenging the commodification of education is not always top of mind on a Sunday night while prepping for 10 different courses.

I suppose my biggest takeaway about Open Educational Resources and Practices is that there’s room for the movement to gain acceptance and widespread adaptation. What’s challenging is addressing the fact that most teachers probably agree with the principles of Open Education, but that those who have the time, money, and energy to implement such practices (bureaucracy, educational consultants, publishing companies…) are probably less enamored with the idea. Changing the norms of open education may have to come from the bottom-up, which unfortunately puts more responsibility on classroom educators, but reflects how meaningful, long-term change is often brought about.

The future is OPEN for learning

The introduction to open education practices (OEP) provided by Verena Roberts during our class this past week had my mind going into overdrive.  Following the end of the class I realized that as a teacher over the past few years, I had conceptualized the idea of OEP in my mind but could never describe it and develop my thoughts in a way to make the concept comprehendible and logical.  Now that I’ve had time to read and reflect on the subject, I feel like I have at least acquired a basic understanding of OEP and have also been able to untangle the mess of ideas that I had retained in my brain over the past few years into more succinct and concrete terms.

Roberts describes OEP as follows:

Open educational practices (OEP) in K-12 learning contexts can describe an intentional design that expands learning opportunities for all learners from formal to informal learning environments. Individualized open readiness can be demonstrated contextually, as a result of  teachers and students co-designing for personally relevant learning pathways where learners can collaboratively and individually share their learning experiences, that encourages communication of meaning through multiliteracies, that blends curriculum and competencies and that promotes community and networked interactions with other learners and nodes of learning from multiple cultural perspectives in digital and analog contexts (Roberts, 2019).

What strikes me the most form the description from Roberts is how OEP “expands learning opportunities from formal to informal learning environments.”  When we as humans develop in the first few years of our lives, our learning environments are mostly informal.  We learn from the environment that surrounds us and from the people that care for our wellbeing.  Once we get to school age, we enter a formal learning environment in school while retaining the informal learning environment at home.  Once most people are done their formal schooling, many turn towards the workplace to start their careers and start building their professional lives.  From my experience as a lifelong learner, I’ve come to conclude that no matter the amount of preparation in a formal learning environment like a traditional classroom, the most valuable and the most effective learning conditions seem, in most cases, to be in informal learning environments. This is why I’m so intrigued by OEP.  Bringing more informal learning environments to schools seems like a logical approach to helping prepare our students for the world which is inherently an informal.

I’m reminded by the classic Sir Ken Robinson TED talk where he is critical of the structure of the current educational system and highlights the inability for students to follow their interests and their curiosities in the fields which interests them.  As a result, our current education system seems to be producing effectively unidimensional learners that have difficulty expanding their knowledge in the unstructured learning environment after formal schooling.  The world of the internet and social media seem to be fostering a renewed influence on the population at large by being an excellent medium for the transmission of ideas.  As much as it pains me to admit, social media is influencing the way we live our lives by providing a mechanism that renews our intrinsic thirst for knowledge and information.  How many of us have been inspired by 30 second videos on Instagram or Facebook that shows an interesting fact or initiative?

The influence of social media on our culture was highlighted following the 2016 American Presidential election.  The ability to interpret sources of information and data in a critical and effective manner requires skills that do not come naturally to many people.  Consequently, we cannot be amazed when people can be easily influenced by seemingly credible false information that is controlled by entities with hidden agendas.

OEP provides a mechanism and a structure to help develop critical minds become lifelong learners.  As Loreli highlighted in her blogpost, Exploring Open Educational Practice: Week 9 Blog Post:

A major benefit of OEP is the engagement of the learner in a learner-centered environment, and provision of authentic learning experiences.  The level of engagement will positively affect the level of learning.  Learning becomes transparent and obvious to both the learner and the teacher.

I would add that the line between learner and teacher becomes somewhat blurred in an OEP as learners become teachers through the sharing of their exploits while the teachers become learners as they relinquish the role of being sources of knowledge and become co-learners in assisting their students in navigating the world of information.  As it is mentioned in Open Education: Practices, “OEP have the potential to empower students to be engaged, active participants in more authentic learning than they might otherwise undertake.  Further, OEP go a step beyond active learning by engaging the learner in creating and revision OER (Open educational resources) and hence contributing to the learning of the students who come after them.”  With such promise and potential, how can a teacher not consider shifting their pedagogical practice towards OEP?

Still being new the idea of OEP, I’m still uncertain in how to approach this shift in my own educational practices.  Although I acknowledge the benefits of OEP, the challenges remain, in my own context, a large preoccupation.  The digital divide is always a reality in my context as our school has only 38 computers for over 170 students.  Gaining access to the computers is a challenge as they are not always available, and their locked down nature makes them difficult to use and inflexible when new software or web applications need to be used.  In addition, we have a considerable population of students who have difficult socioeconomic realities where they don’t have ready access to computers or even smartphones at home.

Apart from the technological challenges, there is also a language barrier in my context as the availability of resources in French online is only a fraction of the diversity and quality of those available in English.   Although difficult, this situation might present an excellent opportunity for my students to develop their own OER, thus helping future generations or students.

Another challenge I foresee is the how to integrate OEP with the curricula I must teach.  Sciences from grade 7 to 11 could be quite easily adapted to OEP as their outcomes are well structured for exploration and remixing.  Grade 12 sciences could also be amenable for OEP, however, the need to prepare my students for Departmental examinations that have a value of 40% of their final grade, limits my ability as a teacher to deviate from what is on the test.  As an unaccredited teacher, I feel stuck in a corner where I have to teach to a test which is a revolting idea when thinking of OEP.

How might OEP look in a francophone high school science class?  For me, the obvious place to start would be within the context of a science fair project.  Having students openly share their learning progress with their communities while exploring scientific knowledge and processes from across the world though the use of social media and technological tools is quite alluring.  As demonstrated by Lile Audris in his Rube Goldberg Video, opening ones learning to the world can provide excellent results.

Finally, as a teacher, evaluation always remains a challenge due to the diverse nature of the work students can produce in the context of OEP.  Verena Roberts provides an excellent start with her rubrics in her document on Open Readiness & Open learning Assessment Rubrics.

The transition from my current educational practice to an OEP might never be complete, but I’m convinced it’s well worth the investment in that it will hopefully allow me to foster more effective learners in a world bombarded by unlimited amounts of data and information.  My thirst for more knowledge related to OEP is large.  I think we can all take cues from Dean’s educational practice as a starting point towards such a transition.  How does OEP look in your classrooms?  What kind of OEP do you aspire to integrate in your classroom?

UCL – University College of London – Open Learning Institute

I discovered UCL when I googled "Digital Anthropology" and it came up in the search results.  I was inspired to find out more about what digital anthropology was after watching a recommended video from our ECI 831 course - Michael Wesch’s Anthropological Introduction to YouTube

UCL, or the University College London is ranked as one of the world's top universities and was established in 1826.  The University created  e-learning website that offers a range of non-credit open courses to the public called UCLeXtend.

Currently there are 34 online courses offered by their University faculty on a variety of topics including anthropology, education, engineering, global health, healthcare, information studies, research methodology and more.

I was interested in learning more about anthropology - specifically digital anthropology.
I found this video online that describes the global research project the University did that aimed to understand how social media is used in different countries and how it is used and the consequences for its use.

The project has a dedicated website called "Why We Post - Social Media Through the Eyes of the World" 

Nine anthropologists collaborated on the research for 15 months in nine countries around the world.  They immersed themselves in the communities to research the role of social media in everyday lives of the people living in a community in Brazil, Chile, China, England, India, Italy, England, Trinidad, and Turkey.

The researchers published and shared eleven open access volumes of their research online in multiple languages.  Translations of this research and the free online course are available in Chinese, Italian, Hindi, Portugese, Spanish,, Tamil and Turkish.  The research was published in February 2016, so it is fairly current.

UCLexTend offers a free online course called "Why We Post: the Anthropology of Social Media".  It is a five week course which explores the impacts of social media including how the consequences of social media may vary between different countries and on topics including politics, gender, equality and privacy.

The course offers a new definition of social media which concentrates on the content posted, not just the capabilities of platforms.  It examines the increasing importance of images in communication and the reasons why people post memes, selfies and photographs.

I have registered for the course and will be starting it shortly.  I am impressed with the high quality of the online materials presented so far and anticipate the course will be very valuable.  If anyone is interested in my opinion after I have completed it, I would be happy to share.

I am inspired by a quote on their website for what I will be learning

Adopting an anthropological and comparative approach, we strive to understand not only how social media has changed the world, but how the world has changed social media.

Aaron Swartz – How his legacy impacted me

I am embarrassed to admit that I did not know who Aaron Swartz was prior to learning about him in our #ECI 831 course this semester.

Dr. Alec Couros, our instructor shared several resources we were to review about Aaron Swartz:
Admittedly, it took me longer than I hoped to watch both of these videos (both are over 1 hour in length each) but I watched both this weekend and was captivated at the story of who Aaron was, and the impact he made on our world.

I think deeply about things and want others to do likewise. I work for ideas and learn from people. I don't like excluding people. (Aaron Swartz, September 2004)
The documentary The Internet's Own Boy introduced me to who he was.  Aaron was a young American activist who was a computer programmer who used his intellect and beliefs to help make information more freely accessible to everyone using technology.

His accomplishments in his short 26 year life are astounding, to name a few:

- he was the co-founder of Reddit
- he helped develop the web feed RSS
- he worked with Lawrence Lessig on designing the code to help build Creative Commons
- he was a vocal activist again SOPA/PIPA legislation

The documentary shared stories and interviews from Aaron's family - including home movie footage of a precocious young boy playing with his brothers.  Clearly, he was a very smart young man who had a strong curiosity for learning and for using computers at an early age.

I was stunned when at 14 years of age in 2001, he said he imagined the future of the internet was going to "be a two-way web, where users can really write their own webpages".  He was a high school dropout who was unhappy with the systematic way his school taught information.  The film described how traditional school was not challenging enough for him, and that his thirst for knowledge had him accessing information online to learn whatever he desired.

The documentary described how he went to Stanford University and worked on a startup company called Infogami in 2005 which was a CMS (Content Management System) that allowed the creation of websites in the form of a collaborated or wiki site - based on the vision he had for the transformation of the web 4 years earlier.

As a mom to a 14 year old son, I can only imagine what his mother was thinking!  

I expected the rest of the story would tell us how this young man, who went on from Stanford to co-create the popular website Reddit would make millions, live a lavish and eclectic lifestyle from his earnings, but he did not.

The documentary shared interviews with colleagues and friends who reinforced how well respected Aaron Swartz was in the tech community.  He was a modest man who lived within average means and he held strong beliefs that people should expect more from society for access to information.

He used his knowledge and passion to download a large number of scholarly journals from MIT, which ultimately led to his arrest and long legal battle agains JSTOR (Journal Storage). 

The film explained how SOPA (Stop Online Privacy Act) was intertwined with his story and how perception of what his actions were could have been perceived as online terrorism. He promoted online campaigns for social justice issues and fought to release information he thought should be freely accessible by anyone.

He died on January 11, 2013 after taking his own life.  The inventor of the internet, Sir Tim Berners-Lee delivered his eulogy and Lawrence Lessig's Harvard Law lecture is a moving tribute to what he did and believed.  

One can't help but wonder what else he would have done and led if he would have lived?

Did you know who Aaron Swartz was or what he did?

Do you share his belief that everyone should be able to freely access information and online content?

Residential Schools

First learning about residential schools in Canada during my undergrad degree is a defining moment in my life.  I discussed this in detail in my blog post Starting a Journey of Reconciliation.

I recently re-read sections of the two primary sources I used for a major research essay in my undergrad class:  Shingwauk’s Vision: A History of Native Residential Schools by J.R. Miller and A National Crime: The Canadian Government and the Residential School System 1879-1996 by John S. Milloy.  As someone who is fascinated by history and how it relates to our society today, I can honestly say that these books are both illuminating and devastating.  Miller’s book juxtaposes Chief Shingwauk’s vision of education – a teaching wigwam where his people could acquire the necessary educational tools of modern society while honoring the values of their culture and traditions – with the Indian Residential School system that was developed by the federal government and run primarily by religious groups.  Milloy’s book uses the paper trail of memos, reports from field inspectors, and letters of complaint to expose that the residential school system was horribly underfunded and mismanaged, affecting the health, education, and well-being of entire generations of Aboriginal children.

In recent years, witnessing the stories told by survivors of residential school has been both heartbreaking and healing.  The vulnerability, courage, and strength shown by survivors is inspiring.   I use many of these stories in my classroom to encourage truth and reconciliation.  Orange Shirt Day (which I blogged about earlier this week) is the result of Phyllis Webstad sharing the story of an incident she experienced in residential school.   The documentary We Were Children tells the stories of Glen Anaquod and Lyna Hart.  In his memoir The Education of Augie Merasty, Joseph August Merasty tells of his experiences.  His humour in the midst of telling the horrors of his experience is inspiring.

These resources make me feel the weight of injustice, but they also leave me hopeful that healing can occur.  Sharing the stories is an integral part of a healing journey.

“There is no concept of justice in Cree culture. The nearest word is kintohpatatin, which loosely translates to “you’ve been listened to.” But kintohpatatin is richer than justice – really it means you’ve been listened to by someone compassionate and fair, and your needs will be taken seriously.”
― Edmund MetatawabinUp Ghost River: A Chief’s Journey Through the Turbulent Waters of Native History

It is not about justice but about growing a mutually respectful relationship for the betterment of all who dwell in the land we call Canada.

Click HERE to access a Wakelet collection of Residential School resources I use and recommend.