We don’t always know…

Image by Hans Kretzmann from Pixabay

I still cannot understand how he could abandon me so unceremoniously, without any sort of goodbye, without looking back even once.

— Yann Martel, Life of Pi

We really don’t know what others are going through. Life is not easy, and for some children additional challenges present barriers to success… barriers to social engagement… barriers to happiness.

Image by Myriam Zilles from Pixabay

I cannot make anyone understand what is happening inside me.

— Franz Kafka, The Metamorphosis

We need to help our children develop empathy toward others. We need to help them see that they should show kindness in all of their actions.We need to help them connect to each other… to their community… to become a unified team for good. We need to help them see that bullying others cannot be tolerated. Whether in person… in school… at home… in their communities… at play… or online. Where ever they are… where ever they interact with others, they must share kindness and empathy.

As educators and parents, we need to teach kindness and empathy, but more importantly, we need to model those behaviours. Every day. In every way.

Image by Alexas_Fotos from Pixabay

Incorporating kindness and empathy into digital activities will help our youth develop better digital habits, and help them to become better, more productive digital citizens. And helping them to become good digital citizens… good citizens in general… will help them find happy, healthy lives.


Kretzman, H. (N.D.) Child sitting in jeans in the door, crying. [Digital Image]. Retrieved from Pixabay (https://pixabay.com/photos/child-sitting-jeans-in-the-door-cry-1816400/)

Zilles, M. (N.D.) Boy child, sad alone, sitting. [Digital Image]. Retreived from Pixabay (https://pixabay.com/photos/boy-child-sad-alone-sit-1637188/).

On being comfortable with being uncomfortable

I have really enjoyed the videos in the Innovation That Sticks Case Study. I love how the educators in the video represent a variety of ages and backgrounds. I am one of those who was not born a “digital native,” but even though I was not born with the technology, I think I have adapted pretty well. I consider myself a lifelong learner.  I really kind of like change, and honestly have always felt that if my job is not changing and growing… if I am not changing and growing in my job… then maybe it’s time to shake things up.

I like the idea of really embracing the Growth Mindset in academics with our learners, and have been using that (without knowing it until I read Dr Dweck’s book) that I had been doing that with my students for years. I would really like to see more of our educators move to that model, where students have opportunities to learn from mistakes and don’t have to feel penalised by them. By allowing our learners to see that we are constantly learning and growing along with them, we are modeling that learning is and should be a continuous process, helping them to see the relevance in lifelong learning. There should be no place for complacency in the workplace… in schools… in our lives.

The team teaching concept that they addressed in the video seems like it would be a great way to capitalise on strengths. My mind is whirling as I think of how we can accomplish something similar here. I would love to see more interdisciplinary problem based learning activities, and the team teaching approach sounds like the way to get there. I am excited about looking further into that. I also really liked that in the report they discuss Students as Leaders, giving students choices… allowing them to take ownership of their projects… using their voice to effect change… working with authentic learning experiences. The model that they have implemented has students as early as elementary school developing critical thinking and leadership skills, and really taking charge of their education. I really love that.

School of fish, swimming in the same direction

Stiefel, K. (2013). Southern Yellowtail Scad [Photograph]. Retrieved from Flickr.com https://www.flickr.com/photos/pacificklaus/ (CC BY-NC 2.0)

I would love to see more collaboration among the faculty here at this institution, and more opportunities for interdisciplinary problem based projects. I really think we are getting there with the changes we have implemented so far, but the faculty still tend to move like fish in their own schools… rarely venturing out of their comfort zones. Maybe we need to dive in to the big middle of their comfortable little schools and shake things up a little.



EdCan Network Le Réseau ÉdCan. (2016, May 19). Innovation That Sticks Case Study – OCSB: Risk Taking [Video File]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UAMcjUzdVnE

Stiefel, K. (2013). Southern Yellowtail Scad [Photograph]. Retrieved from Flickr.com https://www.flickr.com/photos/pacificklaus/ (CC BY-NC 2.0)

What Courses Would YOU Redesign for Online Learners?

Every course at Odessa College has an online presence, even if nothing more than the course syllabus and grade book. Most of the courses we offer span 8 week terms, so hybrid/blended formats are very common. But I believe we fall short in preparing our online learners with higher mathematics classes, physics, and engineering. Of course we also have a significant number of Career Tech/Workforce Education courses that are offered as face-to-face courses, requiring hands on experiential learning.

I would personally love to see our higher mathematics courses delivered in an online format; we have many students pursuing some form of engineering in this area. Many of these individuals work full-time jobs in the petroleum industry, and need opportunities that are deliverable online.  Through a partnership with Texas Association of Community Colleges (TACC) we are able to provide our learners with opportunities to take courses offered through other Texas Community Colleges as part of a collaborative effort called Virtual Colleges of Texas, or VCT. Most of the requests we receive from students to take courses through VCT are for Calculus I, Calculus II, Calculus III, or Differential Equations. None of these courses are currently offered in an online format at Odessa College. And though in order for the students to be able to take the courses from another college for Odessa College credit the instructor must meet the same criteria of Master’s Degree with a minimum of 18 graduate hours in pure mathematics; the course must contain the same level of rigour that our courses contain, and must include a comprehensive final exam. When students from our institution request the opportunity to take one of these courses, we verify that the student has the appropriate prerequisites in place. But even with these measures in place, our student success rate in these courses is only about 60%.

Yes… there’s hope. One of our higher mathematics instructors is working closely with us to develop materials and learning experiences for these courses, to increase their online footprint. It’s a start.

So with magic want in hand, I would definitely say that I would develop online courses for:

  • MATH 2413 – Calculus I
  • MATH 2414 – Calculus II
  • MATH 2415 – Calculus III
  • MATH 2320 – Differential Equations

I don’t have much control over those courses. But I am really happy to know that one of the instructors is thinking of ways to deliver them online, and I am thrilled to assist him in any way I can.

For the courses that I do have some level of control over…. well, the credit level course that I teach is constantly evolving. I am working closely with the other two instructors of the course to create content that will eliminate the need for the courseware we currently use… courseware that is so costly that it’s prohibitive to many of the learners. I am working to develop simulations through Adobe Captivate that will accompany the open resources we have found that will provide reading material for our learners.

For the professional development opportunities for faculty, I am working with our Division of Teaching and Learning. When the Teaching and Learning Team provides a face-to-face development experience for our faculty, I work with them to develop an online component that is available to our faculty that could not attend the session, especially our remote adjunct faculty. In addition to having the development activity available online, I am creating experiences that they can emulate in their own courses, helping them to see how they can convert learning activities to something that can be presented in an online format.

I am passionate about providing support for our faculty. Passionate about developing online learning experiences. And passionate about ensuring that our faculty and our learners have exceptional experiences online. Learners should never experience feelings of isolation just because of the modality of the course they are taking.

What’s so important about instructional design?

As our institution moves more toward a culture of open pedagogy, I have seen a significant need for our faculty to receive more training and development in instructional design. Our faculty are exceptional as content matter experts, but they may not know how to effectively design a course around those open materials, in a way that is logical for their learners. We are trying to provide our learners with a more cost effective solution to higher education, but our instructors really need some guidance in developing the design skills. What we have seen with our venture into the use of open education resources, is that the content must be organised in a modular way so that the learners have that added layer of structure – the reading material and open resources organised with the assessments that measure learner progress toward learning outcomes.


Engaging Learners – Starting with the End in Mind


Borich, M. (2018). Tour de Ozarks [Photo]. Retrieved from Flickr.com.

To ensure that learners are truly engaged in 21st Century Learning, our faculty need to strengthen the sense of community in the online course.

Workshop: Creating Community in Online Learning.

The Understanding by Design “1-Page Template with Design Questions for Teachers” allows us to plan course development, beginning with the desired results, and working backward through development of appropriate activities and experiences that will allow learners to attain the desired goals and outcomes.

Stage 1: Desired Results

Learners will develop strategies and activities to enhance the sense of community students will feel in their online courses.

Established Goals:
LO1.            Establish a sense of presence in the online learning environment LO2.            Compare/contrast journaling, blogs, wikis and other forms of online interaction that can be used to enhance online learning
LO3.            Examine methods for evaluation of student work in a collaborative environment LO4.            Create and integrate effective communication and community-building methods into online teaching environments
Essential Questions

  • How can we create a sense of instructor presence in a fully online course?
  • What is a learning community?
  • What is the relevance of a learning community in the online learning environment?
  • How can we inspire learner engagement, collaboration, and interaction to create a sense of community in the online environment?

Learners will understand:

  • current trends in higher education with regard to online learning.
  • attitudes of learners with regard to online learning.
  • what is a community of learners, and what are the benefits of developing a sense of community in the online learning environment.
  • how to synthesise learning experiences that encourage and promote learner interaction and collaboration.
What key knowledge and skills will learners acquire as a result of this workshop?
Learners will know

  • current trends and practices in online learning
  • how they can establish a strong sense of instructor presence in the learning environment
Learners will be able to

  • develop activities and experiences that encourage and promote learner collaboration
Stage 2: Determine Acceptable Evidence
Performance Tasks:

Learners will participate in discussion forums in Learning Management System (LMS) and through Social Media

Learners will participate in Reflective Journaling Activities in LMS

Learners will participate in information sharing through Blog posts in LMS, in ePortfolio outside of LMS

Contribute to Wiki repository of resources in LMS

Participate in Synchronous Discussion using Collaborate


Other Evidence:

Blackboard quiz, over getting started strategies (similar to a syllabus quiz)

Participants will develop a Course Communication Policy (submitted via LMS Assignment Dropbox)







Opportunity for Self-Assessment and Reflection

Throughout the workshop, learners will engage in a variety of hands on activities using tools and technology available to them inside of the LMS, and outside of the LMS. These hands-on activities will help them to envision how they can use them to engage with their students in their courses. Learners will develop engaging activities to incorporate into their courses for their students, and will reflect on the processes and strategies used throughout.

Stage 3: Plan Learning Experiences
Learning Activities

Readings (links to PDFs on changing trends in Online Learning provided in module, communication policies, strategies to increase engagement, etc.)

Reading (Links to articles, and PDF readings)

Engagement Activities (Group Activity and Course Wiki, Social Media, Synchronous Meeting through Collaborate)

Reflection (Journal)

Though similarities exist between Fink’s 3 Column Table and the UbD Template (both encourage focus on design with the end in mind), I found that the UbD Template allows the educator to go further into the planning and development process, linking learning strategies, activities and experiences to expected outcomes and goals.

The process I use when planning out a course is more along the lines of the UbD Template; I think of Fink’s 3 Column Table as a good starting place, but UbD Template encourages the instructor to really think about expected/desired outcomes, and how to help learners attain those outcomes. Structuring questions throughout the template helps the instructor to plan learning experiences and activities for assessment.

For Texas institutions of higher education, course outcomes are prescribed by The Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board (THECB). For most courses, instructors are not required to construct their own course outcomes. However, instructors are required to ensure that their course materials, activities and experiences provide learners the tools they need to successfuly acheive those outcomes. With tools like the UbD Template and Fink’s 3 Column Table, we can ensure that we keep expected or desired outcomes front of mind as we are planning out a course. I like to see this taken a step further, encouraging the instructor to think about the timeframe for each course or workshop, and map out a schedule as they are developing their plan.


Borich, M. (2018). Tour de Ozarks [Photo]. Retrieved from Flickr.com

Fink, D., (2003) Creating significant learning experiences: An integrated approach to designing college courses. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass

Wiggins, G. & McTighe, J. (2017). Understanding by design. Alexandria, VA: Association of Supervisors and Curriculum Development.

The Competition Educators Are Facing…

This video from Vice News Tonight on HBO explains what life is like in West Texas right now. This is the competition we face as educators. Unfortunately, I can only provide a link to the video here. West Texas Economy – Oil Boom.

According to the video, this region of Texas is experiencing an unemployment rate of almost 0%, with more than 20,000 jobs available. Yes… if you can’t find a job here, you have not looked. But this means that we are experiencing a huge influx of people from all over the world. The housing industry cannot keep up with the growth,resulting in a housing deficit approaching 40,000 housing units.

Young people are lured away from their pursuit of higher education by lucrative jobs in the oil and gas industry, where they can earn more than $100,000 in a year with minimal skills and no education. Schools are overcrowded and low performing. Educators are difficult to attract because the academic world cannot keep up with the rapidly increasing cost of living. The service industry in general suffers; the oil boom causes strain on health and medical care infrastructures, and on the community infrastructure in general. Housing is in short supply, and when it is available it is too costly for someone who earns a teacher’s salary, with median home costs reported at around $350,000.


Blum, J. (2018). Companies needing Permian workers find West Texas a hard sell. Houston Chronicle 2018:06:01. Retrieved from https://www.houstonchronicle.com/business/energy/article/Companies-needing-Permian-workers-find-West-12960385.php

VICE News Tonight on HBO. (2018). 22-year-olds are making six figures amid a West Texas oilfield boom [Video]. Retrieved from http://video.vice.com