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Being Human Online: It takes a village

October 6, 2015 – 3:05 pm | 224 views

A digital surprise for me this week was driving up to a brand new Starbucks drive-through and being asked what …

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Being Human Online: It takes a village

October 6, 2015 – 3:05 pm | 224 views


A digital surprise for me this week was driving up to a brand new Starbucks drive-through and being asked what I would like to order – from a video screen. Imagine my shock when a real person on a screen asked me what I would like to order. It wasn’t just their physical appearance that caught my attention, it was the fact that the Barista could see my lips move and figure out what I was actually ordering. There was no need to clarify what I wanted, because they could hear and see what I was trying to communicate. In fact, when they saw my eyes move back to the menu after ordering my “Pumpkin Spice Latte”, they asked if I would like something else. The video screen not only made me feel good by connecting with a person who actually understood me, Starbucks was able to sell me more product. A late night drive through to another restaurant with no video screen, but the usual sound speaker left me with the wrong order, hungry and frustrated.

Working online from home means my water cooler break moments (when I am feeling confused about something, frustrated or need a break) involve connecting with my work colleagues in Skype. This week, I learned about the new Moji’s in Skype – clips from movies that have an uncanny knack to say exactly what you are thinking. Fellow work colleagues and my own family LOL (laugh out loud) while repeating the same video clips over and over again. The newest digital saying in our family is, “Again! Again!” (Meaning watch it again!) When Skype didn’t work this week, my work colleagues and I learned how dependent we have become on the quick text service that has become the means to check in for online teams. We also learned how dependent we are still on each other, and Skype is the tool that helps us connect and feel like part of a team.

Both drive-in video screens and Skype describe tools that help me develop relationships with others and communicate more effectively as a human being. They are also helping to create a sense of community, encouraging me to feel like I belong to something bigger.

Key Points to Human Interaction and Learning:

Learning is about:

  • Engaging students;
  • Clarifying what students need; and
  • Ensuring that students are offered continuous support and encouragement in a timely manner.  

Online courses that promote digital content interaction over human interaction do not personalize learning in the same way.

A current example of an online course that is content driven that personalizes learning for students is an online course with summative assessment options (like quizzes) that have answers with immediate feedback. For example, interactions are based on computer feedback like, “Great work, keep going” or “You need to go back and review the content again, then you can proceed.” If a student is frustrated, confused or needs to check-in with someone, you will have to send an email to the teacher and wait for them to get back to you. While it is a step in the right direction in terms of some kind of interaction, computer feedback is not the same as human feedback.

An online learning community that promotes personalized learning:

  1. Starts with some kind of digital content;
  2. Introduces inquiry questions that are designed for learners to explore the Internet  for themselves and to connect with others;
  3. Encourages students to explore different learning paths;
  4. Clearly communicates scheduled times to meet for review or guided digging into a topic; and
  5. Provides, promotes, and encourages other opportunities for students to connect with teachers, peers, parents and community experts in the moment

An online learning community encourages the learner to trust themselves, their peers, their teachers and other community members in order to learn. 

How can K-12 Online Teachers promote Human Interaction?

“It takes a village to raise a child” and online learning promotes these kinds of sustainable, human focused and trust based learning opportunities. However, learning how to figure out whom to connect with and how to examine the credibility of online connections is instrumental in creating online learning communities.  The integration of social media and authentic digital tools, and modelling how to build bridges to connect with others rather than build classroom walls in online courses, will help to develop critical media literacy skills that ensure that we are preparing students for real life in our global community.

What are some ways you (or online teachers you know) are creating community in your online classrooms or providing your students with human focused learning opportunities? I would love to hear from you!

How Should we Assess Students in Inquiry-based Science?

September 29, 2015 – 3:25 pm | One Comment | 220 views

The school year has begun and science teachers are working hard to develop and enact their inquiry-based programs. They are …

History of Quebec and Canada – Planning for a new curriculum

September 23, 2015 – 8:52 am | 2 Comments | 412 views

The 2015-2016 school year is here and I have the privilege of piloting the new History of Quebec and Canada …

Beyond the Textbook: Righting the Math Course

September 15, 2015 – 10:44 am | 362 views

The lecture, textbook, worksheet, pop-quiz, test and exam cycle are the traditional delivery tools used in most schools to …

Onward and Upward: Fostering a growth mindset

September 8, 2015 – 2:04 pm | Comments Off on Onward and Upward: Fostering a growth mindset418 views

Welcome back, learners!
I am honoured, for the fifth year in a row, to write the official back-to-school post on the …

The LEARN Team’s Summertime Reads

June 23, 2015 – 10:35 am | Comments Off on The LEARN Team’s Summertime Reads741 views


Editor’s note: This post was a labour of love for everyone on the LEARN team – and from a literacy perspective it’s always good to practice what you preach! 

With the 2014-2015 school year ALMOST a distant memory, the LEARN team wants to help you avoid that summertime brain drain that is bound to happen while you laze around swimming pools, beaches, lakes, porches, water parks and so on. Here are the summer book picks that we feel will help you stay mentally crisp, instead of fading away. Our criteria was simple: recommend a book you like!



The Physics of Superheroes
by James Kakalios

I found this treasure at a used book store last year, but haven’t had the time to read it yet! It highlights connections between comic books and physics, in particular where the authors got the physics RIGHT (I love it when the “science part of science fiction is accurate!). I’m hoping to include some of these connections in my physics classes next year.

-Kerry Cule, Online Teacher and Pedagogical Consultant


The Shack: Where Tragedy Confronts Eternity
by Wm. Paul Young

Life is full of challenges. It’s easy to be taken over by the negatives. For me, this book is helping me to hope and to focus on the positives in everyone and the relationships we have. Put a little love in your hearts people!

-Doris Kerec, Administrator – Financial Services





The Happiness Advantage: The Seven Principles of Positive Psychology
That Fuel Success and Performance at Work
by Shawn Achor

Not a book filled with bumper-sticker platitudes, this is about science… neuroscience actually. Research proves that each one of us has the ability to shape and reshape the neural pathways in the brain. With practice, we can shift our mindset to the positive, which can profoundly affect our work and life. Well written and funny!

-Kristine Thibeault, Pedagogical Consultant


Cooking for Geeks: Real Science, Great Hacks, And Good Food
by Jeff Potter

You’ll learn how to initialize your kitchen, calibrate your tools, play with hydrocolloids and the Maillard reaction… What’s not to love about this book?

-Louis-Gilles Lalonde, Programmer




The Practice of Contemplative Photography: Seeing the World with Fresh Eyes
by Andy Karr and Michael Wood

I love going out with my camera. It stills the mind, makes me live in the moment. This book is full of ideas on how to learn to look: finding the beauty in the mundane and the unusual, hunting out textures and spaces, searching for simplicity…   And it is packed with photographs by many outstanding photographers illustrating the concepts. So I will slow down, read, and take time to focus this summer.

-Susan van Gelder, Pedagogical Consultant


The Home by the Sea
by Santa Montefiore

This book tells the tale of a little girl (Floriana) abandoned by her mother and raised in abject poverty by her alcoholic father in Tuscany in 1966. This story is moving and mysterious, it’s about love and forgiveness… and I thoroughly enjoyed reading it.  The vivid descriptions of the Tuscan coast also kept me enraptured throughout.

-Rosie Himo, Administrative Assistant

paulbookUs Conductors
by Sean Michaels

For the pure pleasure of it I will be finishing Us Conductors by Sean Michaels, which I loved and just tore through in spring but then got sidetracked with all kinds of end-of-year commitments.  I crave books with simple yet rhythmic writing like Michaels’. So, not sure what I will find to follow it.  Any suggestions?

-Paul Rombough, Pedagogical Consultant


Irrationally Yours
by Dan Ariely

Not cosmological. Not theological. Not existential. Not flippant. Not profound. Not poetic. Not prosaic. Not too long. Not too short. Not meditative. Not self-help. And NOT irrational.

-Michael Canuel, Chief Executive Officer


Joy, Inc.: How We Built a Workplace People Love
by Rich Sheridan

I take a moment every week to celebrate and tweet  #3HappyThingsAtWork.  One book I will read this summer tells the story of a company that created an intentionally joyful culture, with profitable results! In Joy, Inc., Rich Sheridan shares how he built a workplace people love – work in pairs, daily short stand-up meetings, no walls, work-life balance, and Viking helmets!

-Dianne Conrod, Principal – Online Learning


Le baiser mauve de Vava
par Dany Laferrière

« Maman, veux-tu un baiser mauve de Vava? »
Dany Laferrière a transporté mon fils dans un imaginaire où s’entremêlent la poésie, la maladie, la vie, la tristesse, l’espoir, l’amour, les papillons jaunes et les méchants hommes aux lunettes noires. Et surtout, le baiser mauve à la princesse endormie, Vava.

-Julie Paré, conseillère pédagogique





Thinking, Fast and Slow
by Daniel Kahneman

Daniel Kahneman, a Nobel prize winning economist, delves into our biased misunderstandings of the world. He seeks to improve our ability to identify and understand errors of judgement and choice. I need the long summer days to explore this insightful trip into our thought processes.

-Bev White, Director of Special Projects





Double Cross: The True Story of the D-Day Spies
by Ben MacIntyre

The story of Britain’s MI-5 intelligence service’s Double Cross system whose elaborate deceptions duped the Nazis and convinced Hitler the Allies would land at Calais and Norway instead of Normandy. The success or failure of a series of elaborate plots and double-dealings turned on egos, personal tragedies, money, sexual behaviour and heroism.  Vintage photographs of these flamboyant agents, their British and German senior officers and the code-breaking Bletchley Park personnel are interspersed throughout the book. If you’re not a war story aficionado but find what makes people and projects tick fascinating, I recommend this as an intriguing summer read!

-Barbara Goode, Adult General Education and Vocational Training Initiatives

thomas_bookJaguars Ripped My Flesh
by Tim Cahill

How can you go wrong with a title like Jaguars Ripped My Flesh, by Tim Cahill? Pure adventure escapism. Short stories of travel from around the world.

-Thomas Stenzel, Pedagogical Consultant


The Passion Driven Classroom
by Angela Maiers and Amy Sandvold

#youmatter – these 2 words will alter your students’ confidence. These words will change their outlook on learning. I am a huge fan of Angela Maiers. Her message is powerful: make sure your students know that what they do is important! This summer, I want to read more about what she suggests to “cultivate a thriving and passionate community of learners”.

-Peggy Drolet, Online Teacher and Pedagogical Consultant



 Reinventing organizations: A Guide to Creating Organizations
Inspired by the Next Stage of Human Consciousness
by Frederic Laloux

Frederic Laloux looks at organizational models over time from an evolutionary and historical perspective. He offers us the possibility of a new paradigm based on case stories of existing work places and conditions for creating or transforming organizations beyond current levels of consciousness. The author uses a colour palette of red, amber, orange, green and teal to code the models – how can you go wrong… ; )

-Christine Truesdale, Director of Pedagogical Services and Educational Technology

Photo on 2015-05-29 at 11.01 AM #3

Geek Dad: Awesomely Geeky Projects  and Activities for Dads and Kids to Share
by Ken Denmead

With a full nest of littles to entertain throughout the summer days, this sweet project book is exactly what is needed to get my kiddies outside, creating and inventing. Projects from making a board game, to creating a comic book, to building a binary calendar. When your kids say, “I’m bored,” you now have ammo!

– Chris Colley, Pedagogical Consultant

audrey_bookHe’s the Weird Teacher: And other things students whisper about me
by Doug Robertson

Doug is actually a Twitter friend of mine. He’s hilarious and deep, and apparently so is his book. He has written a second one also, which I may read if I like the first one. Taking all the creative energy he has to inspire his students, channeling it into a fun to read, meaningful guide to teaching.

-Audrey McLaren, Online Teacher and Pedagogical Consultant




Photo on 2015-05-29 at 11.41 AM #4An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth
by Chris Hatfield

In An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth Chris Hadfield talks about his early life and the events that led him to become an astronaut. He also talks about his training and his experience before, during and after his 144 days as commander of the International Space Station (ISS).

– Rob Costain, Pedagogical Consultant



The Sense of Style: The Thinking Person’s Guide to
Writing in the 21st Century
by Steven Pinker

I’ve started reading this because I love Steven Pinker’s other books, I love his most recent animated TED talk, and I want to be prepped for his visit to Montreal on October 22. It promises to be deep (as a cognitive scientist he draws on neuroscience), witty, practical and fun.

-Mary Stewart, Managing Editor of LEARNing Landscapes


Turning to One Another: Simple conversations to restore hope to the future
by Margaret J. Wheatley

“Sit down and be quiet. You are drunk, and this is the edge of the roof” – Rumi. An unexpected book from a well-known organizational and leadership practitioner, dappled with poetry and whimsy, while staying grounded in the conversations that make us human and draw us together.

-Sylwia Bielec, Pedagogical Consultant & Editor of the LEARN Blog


Les compétences transversales et les domaines généraux de formation : Les mort-nés du programme de formation de l’école québécoise ?

June 10, 2015 – 2:06 pm | 2 Comments | 16,361 views

Ce n’est pas sans raison que depuis bientôt 15 ans, le programme de formation de l’école québécoise semble toujours confortablement …

Beyond the Textbook: The Math Dip

June 3, 2015 – 9:35 pm | 2 Comments | 944 views

photo credit: CC0
“I’m horrible in math, I’ll never use this in my life, what’s the point in trying, I suck at it, …

Qu’est-ce que la lecture multimodale ?

May 26, 2015 – 9:43 pm | One Comment | 1,157 views

Collaboration spéciale de Véronique Landry
Conseillère pédagogique en français, langue seconde à la CSSWL
En lisant cet extrait d’Astérix et Obélix, vous …

Copyright and Copyleft: using media in education

May 20, 2015 – 12:09 pm | 4 Comments | 951 views
Copyright and Copyleft: using media in education

THOU SHALT NOT STEAL – the creative work of others. Using images, text, videos… without giving credit to the creators …

The Story of Manga – Do something like this, but better

May 12, 2015 – 1:42 pm | 4 Comments | 1,022 views

I’m a learn-by-doing kind of guy.  As a teacher, when it came time to planning my lessons I was not …