Let the Learning Continue!



As a pre-service teacher in a condensed post-degree program, the learning curve is almost vertical. We have so much new information in our heads, that at times the idea of learning one more skill can feel overwhelming. As a final project in our EdTech course, we were tasked with creating an EdTech resource to share with out cohort. I had to pleasure of creating this project with my friend and colleague Jackie Turner, and together we decided to take a look at FreshGrade.

FreshGrade is a commonly used digitally based assessment program that creates a central space for teachers, students, and parents to access and contribute to student learning. For the purpose of our inquiry, we decided to dive into the use of FreshGrade as an organizational tool for teachers, and to walk through the various features of the program that allow a teacher to create a class, link calendars to lesson plans, and create digital portfolios to demonstrate student learning.

After spending some time learning the ins and outs of the program, I can understand and appreciate its popularity especially during Covid when classrooms could turn to remote learning with only 24hrs notice. I feel much more confident navigating the program and am grateful to have that familiarity under my belt as we get ready to head out on our first practicum.

Check out our presentation here, and don’t hesitate to contact us if you have any questions or would like to learn more about FreshGrade.



Photo by JESHOOTS.COM on Unsplash

Ready for a Project!

I have gathered materials, worked through my stitch patterns, figured out how to increase and decrease stitches, and have even deciphered the language of patterns, I think I am ready for a project! The possibilities are endless, and as long as it isn’t a scarf or a blanket! My daughter took a flip through my books and was taken with a pattern to make a sweater for a small dog. Both of our dogs are over 90 lbs, and the pattern didn’t offer any different sizes, so how am I supposed to pull this off? 

Enter Mazzy! Mazzy is the most recent addition to our furry family. She and her 4 kittens came home with me unexpectedly last summer after I did a big animal transport for the Victoria Humane Society from Mission, BC. No one was lined up to foster them, so I figured I could just sneak them into the house along with the 125lbs Great Pyrenees X dog we were going to foster. “Mama Cat” as she was known was found with her kittens at the Williams Lake dump. She was emaciated and sick, and after all her kittens found homes, and multiple nights searching for her in our neighbours’ yards when she snuck out a cracked window, I decided (while on my belly in the dirt under a neighbours front steps) that I have saved this cat too many times to ever let her go. I just needed to convince the rest of the house to feel the same way, which eventually worked!

Both of our cats are incredibly social, tolerant, and adventurous, but we decided that Mazzy would be the perfect feline model for this project! She measured a little bit smaller than the small dog in the pattern, but I figured it would all work out somehow in the end. I let one of my daughters pick the colours out of yarn that I already had, once the watermelon palette was chosen, it was time to get to work!  

As I have mentioned in previous posts, reading knitting patterns is quite the art form! When something didn’t make sense and I would ask my mom, she would say, “Well, what does the pattern say?”, to which my response was usually, “I have absolutely no idea!”. With YouTube always at the ready, I started to figure things out. One thing that I really appreciate about knitting is the visual cueing that something isn’t quite right. I am able to tell when things have gone sideways (and they most certainly did), go back and attempt to fix it. I am not going to lie, I ripped out this project at least 3 times and started all over again, but eventually I got into the groove and made it to the end!

Is it perfect? Absolutely not! There are places where things aren’t quite how they are supposed to be, and it is a bit more like a horse blanket than a sweater, but I am so proud of myself! As a prof in a previous course told us, it is ok to struggle, that is where the learning happens. There was a lot of struggle, but as a result there was a lot of learning, and I think secretly Mazzy really likes her new sweater! I am super excited to take on my next project. I think I might attempt a sweater for a human this time! 





Let’s Play!

Today’s guest lecture with Heidi James from SD61 was completely out of my league! Apparently I have some gaming to catch up on. Not sure how anyone else is feeling, maybe we should all head over to YouTube together?!?

While breaking into the world of Minecraft will be another vertical learning curve for me, game-based learning, and the gamification of education is not. Game-based learning is where the playing of the game is the learning experience, while gamification can be thought of as adding game components to traditional instructional methods. I have always incorporated games into teaching wherever possible and think there is a place for games in every subject at every grade level. Games can be used to introduce a unit, access prior knowledge, deepen understanding, demonstrate core competencies, act as an assessment tool….the possibilities are limitless. I also feel that both game-based learning and gamification can be a powerful tool in reducing academic anxiety often found in traditional learning.

Online gaming, and hosted sites like Minecraft, take things to another level. I didn’t even know that there was an educational version of Minecraft!  Our guest speaker explained some of the many different ways she has used minecraft to connect with students and their learning, but in the same breath she said that she has to fight really hard to have access to the game and that the district seems to repeatedly take that access away. I came away from the lecture a bit conflicted about how I felt about online gaming with students. I suppose a classroom-hosted site would be somewhat different that a global platform, but I certainly still have some questions around privacy and safety.

Regardless of my feelings at the moment, students seem very passionate about the minecraft world, and as I get ready to head into a middle school practicum, I better start brushing up!

My Struggle with Tech

In this week’s lecture we had a guest speaker for BCEdAccess speaking to our cohort about the importance to tech availability to learners and their families. Not just those with developmental or learning challenges, but inclusion for all learners. They are an amazing advocate group with a strong voice for learners and their families. While we were presented with list after list of tech and programs, I could feel the apprehension rising over Zoom. All these programs are amazing, but how do we actually use them?

Throughout this course I have really been struggling with having name after name given to us, but then never shown the actual program or learned what type of learner would benefit from which type of tech. I consider myself lucky that I have had experience with some of the platforms mentioned, but certainly not all of them. I would really like the chance to be able to actually see what these programs look like. I am also concerned that mentor teachers and administrators may have a certain level of assistive tech experience expectations of us as recent graduates, and at the moment, I just don’t feel that I do. I completely understand that if I walk into a classroom and have a student that relies on the use of a technology system or tool that I am not familiar with training will be offered, but I was really hoping to have experienced some of the more common applications within this course.

I think that tech and more importantly access to tech for all learners is incredibly important and I want to be able to weave those tools seamlessly into a classroom, but to be honest, right now that seems like a overwhelming struggle and I am not quite sure where to start.


Photo by DJ Johnson on Unsplash

To Blend or Not to Blend?

I find it quite timely that we have just had a lecture on learning design as the BC Provincial Government announces the planned return to face-to-face learning for post-secondary institutions in the fall. As a member to the UVic Education “Zoom Cohort”, it feels like a bit of a slap in the face to our educational experience. Almost like, “Thank god that is over, now we can get back to normal learning!”.

Who is to say that our online learning experience couldn’t be normal moving forward? Would I have chosen a 100% online program if given another option, probably not, but it might be the best choice for the person in the next zoom square over. Why not let learners at least have the choice and allow them the agency to choose what is the best learning modality for them?

Face to face learning and online learning have traditionally been thought of as two separate entities. In today’s tech saturated world, there is no reason why the two of these can’t be blended together to create a multi-access learning experience. It was suggested in lecture that most students prefer this model, so how do educators take their pedagogy and make it flexibly for different learning modalities?

This pandemic has been a long road for everyone, and the whole world is ready to get back to “normal”, but what does that look like in education moving forward? In our PDP cohort being online has allowed for colleagues to be apart of the program from their home communities throughout the province. The cost of moving, lack of available accomodation, or the unavailability of desired programs in a local area are just a few of the barriers that could prevent an individual from pursuing their goals. By creating more flexible modalities for learning, those barriers start to break down. Personal circumstances may change part way through a program, if there was the option for a student to continue in their program through a multi-access modality (online synchronous and asynchronous, open resources, face to face) they could continue with their learning with less disruption in a way that works for them. I am very interested in a particular masters program and UBC, but the full-time face to face delivery model is a barrier for me at the moment. If that program was to offer a multi-access design, I would apply in a heartbeat.

All of this thinking can also be applied to the K-12 model. While the needs, and therefore the design might look different in an elementary, middle, or high school, the principles are the same. Learner’s voice and choice has a space in learning design. Having said all of that, how do I as a pre-service teacher begin to design for flexibility? That is a really big question, and at the moment, I don’t have the answer.


Photo by John Schnobrich on Unsplash

Into the Pool of Inquiry we go!


The past few lectures we have had the pleasure of learning from 2 inspiring educators both currently teaching in Victoria. Jeff Hopkins is the principal of the Pacific School of Innovation and Inquiry (PSII) and Trevor Mackenzie is an inquiry based high school teacher in SD61 who shares his dedication to inquiry based teaching with educators around the world.

It was so refreshing to speak to educators that are currently in the classroom and so passionate about their teaching practice. I have always leaned towards an inquiry approach when working with youth, and while I may have dipped by toes in the pool, there is so far to go and I am excited to deepen my understanding of the inquiry process.

Jeff Hopkins stressed the importance of “process over product”, and the importance of self-regulation in agency in student learning and to think about the intention of the curriculum. If we teach to the intention, we can’t go wrong. Inquiry based learning has a process, and most students are not ready to leap right into the deep end. As pre-service teachers, we need to learn to watch for readiness followed by opportunities to introduce students to the inquiry cycle. Jeff also introduced the idea of multi-year planning when it comes to curricular content and the amazing opportunities that can be created for students when teachers come together to plan as a staff.

Trevor Mackenzie suggested that as new teachers, we may have a lot of “unlearning” to do around our own education and any biases we may hold before we can dive into inquiry. His presentation was full of ideas, values, and strategies to put into practice all stemming from a constructivist approach. Trevor challenged us to think about what our values are and do they seem to line up with the ideals of an inquiry based classroom? Trevor’s website is overflowing with any resource you could possibly want to create an inquiry based  classroom.

The underlying theme for both speakers was the importance of relationships. If you don’t know your students, you will have no idea what they are passionate about, where the talents lie, or what they truly wonder about. There is a certain level of risk involved with inquiry, and if students do not feel like they are in a psychologically safe environment, they won’t be willing to take that deep dive with you.

I walked away from both of these presentations full of energy and ideas, and perhaps more importantly, confirmation for me that inquiry based learning will be the grounding of my teaching philosophy. I have a lot of learning ahead of me.  I started by ordering both of Trevor’s books and can’t wait to dive into the inquiry pool.


Photo by Marija Zaric on Unsplash

Stitch it out!

Once I decided to try and improve my knitting game, the next question became where to start? All the books that I have gathered seem to follow the same layout. They introduce the basic things, like the materials you will need, different types of needles, how to cast on, and then they all move into stitch patterns, so it makes sense to me that is where I should go next.

I easily moved through the first few patterns such as stockinette, ribbing, and garter stitch, but then things started to go a bit sideways. As far as I was concerned, I was following the stitch pattern, but here is the thing I have learned about knitting, your knitting instantly tells you when things aren’t quite right! Learning how to read knitting patterns is like learning a whole new language. EVERYTHING is abbreviated, and if you don’t know what those abbreviations mean, you might as well not even pick up your needles.  Here is a little teaser from a chevron eyelet stitch, Row 3 *K2, k2tog, yo, k1, yo, SKP, k2; rep from * to end, what does that even mean?? I tried phoning my mom, but she didn’t answer, so off to YouTube I went. I honestly don’t know how people learned to knit (or do anything frankly) before YouTube was a thing.

It turns out that I was reading the very first line of the stitch pattern wrong which was sending me down the garden path of disaster. In the picture below, in the brackets you can see where it says “multiples of 7 sts plus 2”. I took that to mean for every 7 stitches I cast on, I add two more, essentially casting on 9 stitches each time. But what it actually means is that you cast on how any many multiples of 7 you need, and THEN you add 2 bonus stitches at the end after you have all of your multiples of 7 on your needle. I had set myself up for failure by having the wrong number of stitches, so the pattern would never turn out how it was supposed to. Once I figured that out, I was off to the races!

I was easily able to move through the rest of the patterns. I figured out how to increase and decrease, knit and purl through the back, and work new colours into a piece. I was so proud of myself for working through my frustration and figuring it all out. I now have a nice little collection of colourful swatches, and a little bit more confidence in my knitting skills. Now that I have made it through all the stitch patterns, I am cautiously optimistic that it is time to attempt my first project. Flipping through my books, the projects all look way above my newbie skill set, but I am sure there is something in there I can tackle….and it won’t be a scarf!

What the heck is a PLN and do I need one?

In this course we have been introduced to so many new programs, platforms, and networks that it has been hard to keep them all straight. As I take the time to explore everything, I can see that some of these new tools will stick (like my new love of Trello), while others may not find a way into my professional practice. In multiple lectures I kept hearing the term “PLN”…”as you develop your PLN”….”when you are creating your PLN”….”this would be someone to include in your PLN”…what the heck is a PLN?

PLN stands for Personal Learning Network, and yes, I definitely need one. It can be thought of as creating a circle of like-minded professionals. The field of education seems to have chosen Twitter as its platform of choice.  As a pre-service teacher, I can begin to create my PLN by following leaders in the field, school districts, individual schools, master teachers, tech innovators, fellow pre-service teachers, and anyone else that aligns with my developing teaching philosophy.

By creating a PLN, I can start to create my education digital footprint. I am able to see what other districts are passionate about, and grow my network as I make new connections. Through creating a PLN and developing my digital footprint, that may put me in a more advantageous position when it comes to interviewing for teaching positions, as my professional learning and areas of interest will be visible to potential schools and administrators.

I also really like the idea of having a social media platform that is solely dedicated to my professional practice. I have shied away from Twitter in the past, but I appreciate that I am able to open my Twitter feed knowing that I am there to learn from others, and won’t be prompted to take a survey to find out what Disney princess I am.


Photo by Marvin Meyer on Unsplash

Sharpening my Needles

I think I am really ready to give this a whirl!

I grabbed some books from the library, picked up a “how to knit” book from my favourite local book store, and told my mom to get ready for a lot of questions! The funny part about that is that there is a 21 hour time difference between the two of us. Sometimes those burning questions have to wait a few hours, and sometimes I forget about the time difference and send her a trivial text about knitting at 4 am New Zealand time. I also sat down and took stock of what knitting supplies were in the house. I found a few pairs of really big needles my daughters used when they were little, and a really long pair of super skinny ones. First question for mom, “What size of knitting needle should I start with?”, followed by, “Why type of knitting needle do you like to use?”. She suggested I find a pair of 8s. What does that even mean?? Off to google I went.

Just to keep you on your toes, knitting needles can have a metric size, a US size, and a UK size, and of course they also come in different lengths, shapes, and can be made out of different materials. After practicing with the long skinny ones I already had (turns out they are 4mm), I went with my mom’s recommendation and picked up a pair of 8mm bamboo needles. I went with bamboo as I felt it was the most ethically sound choice, and I love the feel of them.

Next up, some yarn. While I did have some in the house, I knew it wasn’t the right type for learning basic stitch patterns. Some was too thick, some was bumpy, and the other one I had was way too slippery. I try to stay away from big box stores and support local small businesses as much as possible, and lucky for me, there are some lovely knit shops in town. Boutique de Laine is a small shop close to home and the lovely woman there was able to help me find everything I was looking for.

The plan for this week is to work through the basic stitches that are shown in the books I have collected, and see if I can make them look like the pictures! I am also going to set up a time to interview my friend Kate who loves to knit and also happens to be in my PDPP cohort. We might even plan a covid compliant knit night!

My mom keeps telling me it will get easier with time, so here’s to hoping she is right!


Photo by Nick Casale on Unsplash

Knitting Books by Leah Mathewson is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.


Giving Credit Where Credit is Due

This week we dipped our toes into the vast ocean of intellectual property and learning design. Most of us seemed familiar with the term “copyright” and what that means, but then the idea of “copyright vs. copyleft” was thrown around, and to be honest I am still not exactly sure what that means?  As a post-secondary student working through my second degree, I am very aware of the importance of crediting the work of other people, but I had no idea how much change there has been in this area with the growing movement to create a more openly-sourced, accessible, shared learning environment not just at the post-secondary level, but at all learning levels.

In lecture we were introduced to Creative Commons. I have heard the term while being at UVic, but to be honest, I thought it was a UVic run platform for sourcing resources. I had no idea until Friday what it actually was! Creative Commons is actually a platform created to enable the sharing of ideas/materials/images/knowledge etc. in a free, open, and legal way, ensuring that credit is given to creators through the licenses they provide. There are many different license types, and each one represents what you can or can’t do with the intellectual property you would like to use. I can also easily create a license to share and protect my own work through the “Share your work” tab. The website is full of information, and a tad overwhelming when you first open it, but it is so well organized and easy to navigate. I am easily able to go to where I need to to find what I am looking for.

The next important shift I need to make in my practice is photo attributions. Like Valerie said in lecture, students in K-12 are essentially taught to swipe images left, right and centre from Google, and that really is not the best practice to be teaching.  I knew from a computer science course that images from Unsplash were free to use without attribution, but it is so easy to give that credit, so why wouldn’t I? Moving forward I will ensure that any photos I post (even my own) in my blog, or anywhere, will follow best practice for attributions.

The learning curve for me is still almost vertical in this course, but I have already learned so much, and am starting to understand the importance of a course like this in our program.

Photo by Charles Deluvio on Unsplash