Oh CRAAP, it’s a Test!

This post is responding to the “Holy CRAAP” activity in the Curator module of Ontario Extend. 

I found and discussed a series of Indigenization Guides earlier in this module, and now I’m applying the CRAAP test to evaluate the efficacy of the resources.

Currency: They’re current!

Relevance: One of my favourite elements of these guides is that they’re customized for specific target audiences, so the relevance is quite high for a multitude of stakeholders.

Accuracy: These Guides have been well consulted in a collaborative effort between BC Campus, the Ministry of Advanced Education, Skills and Training, and a steering committee comprised of leaders in Indigenous education. Teams of Indigenous and ally writers from across BC collaborated on the content. I do wonder if some modifications need to be made in an Ontario context; however, the foundational knowledge will remain the same. The guides are also quite careful to avoid painting all FNMI peoples with the same brush, and this active avoidance of homogeneity allows for accuracy as well as scalability.

Authority: Yes, as stated above, the guides are well consulted. It would be nice to see some reviews from an informed Ontario lens. Perhaps I’ll nudge a few faculty experts on campus and encourage them to conduct a review.

Purpose: The guides are meant to support systemic change and progress toward meaningful Indigenization of the curricula. They do present an argument in support of this change, so there is a bit of rhetoric at play, but for the most part they offer foundational knowledge.

One last time, here’s a link to the guides! Check em out. 



This post is responding to the “Find Your Fit” activity found in the Curator module of Ontario Extend.


Last week was Open Education Week, and we went gangbusters with our outreach efforts, both on campus and in the community. It was exciting, and exhausting. I could write thousands of joyful words about faculty interest in and adoption of OER. I feel like last year we started a conversation about Open Education. This year it’s starting to happen. It’s fabulous.

But anyway, this particular activity asks me to find an OER, indicating where I found it and how I can use it. In my other life (the nocturnal one), I’m a student in a Doctorate of Distance Education program. I’m in the process of completing a collaborative assignment that asked us to work in groups to identify a social justice issue, brainstorm an appropriate educational intervention, and suggest a leadership model / theory that best supports the implementation of said program. It was a doozy of an assignment.

We just presented our case last night, making an argument for the need to transition reconciliation efforts from token gesture, to truth and trauma-informed indigenization efforts. We suggested that transformational leadership and learning approaches are required to truly shift the school culture. I won’t bore you with the details here, but if this is an issue you’re passionate about, I’d love for you to check out our case study and recommendations. Please let me know what you think!

A major takeaway from researching this assignment is the abundance of high quality, targetted OER that’s been developed to support the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Final Report and Calls to Action. There is not a shortage of information, that’s for sure.

Pulling Together: Foundations Guide by Kory Wilson is licensed under CC BY-NC 4.0 

Take for example the Pulling Together guides. Available on eCampus Ontario’s Open Library, the guides are specifically designed for a variety of target audiences: Curriculum Developers, Front-Line Staff, Student Services, and Advisors, Teaching and Instructors, Leaders and Administrators. The authors also developed a Foundations Guide. Taken together, they are: 

intended to support the systemic change occuring acorss post-secondary institutions through Indigenization, decolonization, and reconciliation

(Wilson, 2018).

Like most post-secondary institutions, Cambrian is actively working on the TRC’s Calls to Action. I would love to see us utilizing these and other OER to help us gather as a learning community to find and forge pathways towards Indigenization.

Stayin’ Alive

This post is in response to the “Consider This” activity found in the Curator module of Ontario Extend. 


I’ve always tried to find interesting, thematically connected images to anchor my online course design to. For example, the top bit of my College Communications course looks like:


Here’s a Basic Math course I designed for our Academic Upgrading program, which includes both a landing image and tile images to complement each topic:


Needless to say, I see value in incorporating images into course design. It makes the UX feel modern, and adds a bit of whimsy. I’ll often start my course design by finding one anchoring image, pulling key colours out of that image, and using that colour schema throughout the entire course.

This semester, I took things a step further by replacing the course landing image each time I opened up a new topic. In this particular online course, topics run for two to three weeks. I think it helps keep the course feel alive and the topics feeling fresh if students open up the shell to discover a brand new image. While I love Unsplash – it’s become my first stop in the search for high quality, CC images, I deviated from this particular strategy for this course.

I wanted to provide some local context, add a bit of edginess, and celebrate the excellent mural work that’s been supported by a local festival, Up Here, for the past few years. So, I wrote and requested permission to utilize photos from their website, which feature local murals from around Sudbury, in my course design. Some of the muralists are even Cambrian grads! I love taking the opportunity to showcase our talented alumni through my instructional design choices.

Here’s a few examples:

Photo Credit: “You Are Beautiful” by Matthew Hoffman (August, 2013)
Photo credit: “VOUS ÊTES ICI” by Cambrian Grad Alexandra Berens-Firth (August, 2015)
Photo credit: “HELMUT OU UNE CHANSON DOUCE” by Ella and Pitre (August, 2016)

Each image loosely connects to the topic at hand, but I don’t really speak to the connection or make much out of the changing landing images to be honest. My hope is that students will wander around Sudbury, bump into one of these murals, and think “Oh! I saw that in my online course. That’s kinda cool”.

I guess my goal is to anchor my online course aesthetic to something real, something local, something that students can walk up to and touch. To marry the digital and the analogue in an intentional, yet subtle way. Best case scenario: students think about my aesthetic choices and imagine some interesting connections. At the very least, I hope the strategy adds some visual interest and life to the asynchronous online learning experience.

If you’re interested in learning more about these amazing murals and about the Up Here festival, check out their webpage!

Crowdsourcing Game Content

My students and I just finished up a unit titled No Shortage of Controversy. We had a look at fake news, confirmation bias, and filter bubbles. I’ve mentioned before that I’ve been enjoying designing the course I’m currently teaching, and this topic was one of my favourites.

I found a great game called Factitious, and decided that it’d be a great kick-off to the unit. Since I crave symmetry, I knew I needed another came to close off the unit, or you know, the whole thing would just feel like chaos.

The problem was I couldn’t find another free web-based game that spoke to one of the unit’s target LOs in the same awesome way that Factitious did. Thank goodness Open Education has deschooled me. I immediately saw an opportunity to build a new game with my students, one that directly matched one of the course-level LOs.

I put out a prompt:


They responded in a way that proved to me that they could indeed distinguish between facts and opinions, and even presented a few “facts” that were pretty clever misleads.

Now I needed to figure out how to build the game 😐

To be clear, I can’t code beyond the few html tricks I’ve picked up trying to make Moodle not look like a dog’s breakfast. So when I say “build a game” I mean find a platform that allows me to plug content in, and magically spits out a functioning game. I wanted a Kahoot! without the synchronicity, but didn’t want to build a ghost-mode Kahoot!, because surely there was another option out there.

I really wanted to use H5P for this build. I remain enamoured with H5P’s ethos. Sadly though, none of their many content types fit the mould. I didn’t just want to build a quiz, I wanted a score and game stuff. I thought about Storyline for about a half second, then continued my Google hunt for free web-based options.

After much wheel-spinning, I landed on Quizziz. It has a decent user interface, with an autosave feature and simple question generator, which ultimately allows you to produce a student-paced, devise agnostic, game / quiz that has some splashy colours, kitschy sound effects and totally random memes. For free. I’m actively trying to be more mindful about privacy and user data (thanks CritDigPed), so I went digging for a Quizziz privacy statement. They’re compliant with the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (American), and they do not rent, sell, or exchange user data.

I read through my students’ statements as I built the game. They were all over the place, and the game is totally disconnected as a result. I decided not to spend too much time building this beta, so I curated and included 20 questions. Next time, I’ll provide a stronger framework so that we end up with an actual theme, and the option to choose untrue “facts”, verifiable facts, and opinions. Since I’ll be a little more forward-thinking next time, I’ll also ask students to vote on their preferred game topic and we’ll design to that.


I’m not disappointed. Even if this first prototype is a bit mediocre, I’m happy with the pedagogy. Inviting students to step into the role of content expert to contribute content which I’ll convert into a learning object is just so comfortable and familiar to my instructional designer self. I imagine building out and refining these prototypes over multiple semesters, with students improving upon the concept each time, shaping it to their unique interests and personalities. Now that I’ve discovered how easy Quizziz is to navigate, I’m pretty comfortable asking my students to build their quizzes themselves. I can help them out of any technical snafus.

If it wasn’t for the Open Education movement, I don’t think I’d be able to envision teaching and learning in this way. I continue to feel immense gratitude for this new praxis.


Click here to play the beta version of View or Verifiable? You’ll need to enter the code 636625.

Active game runs until 11:45pm on March 4 (wish there was an unlimited option re: deadline, oh well).



Finding Middle Ground

The online course I’m currently teaching is the only space I get to test out the pedagogical strategies I’m learning about in my EdD, on Twitter, and in conversation with my colleagues in an autonomous manner. It often feels like a playground, allowing theory to inform my practice (praxis). However, I’m not autonomous in this space. I’m working collaboratively with my students, and sometimes my pedagogical approach pushes them outside of their comfort zones.

Not Ungrading, But Not the Norm

A major influencer of late has been Jesse Stommel and his advocacy work related to ungrading. Stommel’s writing really hits home for me. While I’ve never been completely comfortable with traditional assessments practices, the more I learn, the more strongly I react against mechanistic and superficial assessments that are disconnected from learners’ goals.

While I teach in an institution that values outcomes-based education, and have no problem intentionally aligning my assessments with the course-level outcomes and objectives, I want to make sure that my students have agency and choice in how they are evaluated, and see some actual value in the work they’re doing. So, I’ve been implementing assignments that I hope will support these goals, always in conversation with my students.

I Promise…

At the beginning of the course, I made my students a few promises related to assessment. Here’s an excerpt from my student-facing document titled Succedding in the Course:

Each assessment in SSC 1002 will:

  • include transparent scoring criteria so you know exactly what I’ll be evaluating and to what degree
  • offer you at least two options for demonstrating your abilities
  • include a self-assessment opportunity, so that you get to weigh in on the quality of your work and have a degree of agency over the assessment process
  • honour the effort you put into your work through the provision of qualitative feedback

In addition to these promises, I also intend to invite you to publish your coursework in open, online spaces so that future students, and knowledge-seekers generally, can find and benefit from your work. I’ll expand on this idea as the course unfolds.



While I promised  transparent scoring critieria, I also wanted students to take liberties and get creative with their assignments. As a compromise, I provide general guidelines, typically a series of yes/no questions to help students self-assess their own performance. While some students embraced the flexibility and ran with it, others started to request more prescriptive scoring criteria. They wanted to know exactly how to format their work, and exactly how to get perfect on the assignment.

So far, students have completed three assignments. Here are a few student responses to my question, How do you think this assignment can be improved for future learners?:

  • I think this assignment is well structured and well explained. I did not have any questions because I understood everything that was asked by the teacher.
  • I think the rubric could have been posted to what you’re specifically grading us on, I believe that I struggled because I didn’t have a rubric to follow.
  • I think this assignment is perfect and a fun way to express critical thinking. I found that throughout this assignment, I was self-reflecting and really grasped the concept of critical thinking. I found the assignment clear, and I understood what was asked of me.
  • This assignment could be improved with a more defined rubric that is clearly visible
  • I really liked this assignment. Now that I’m understanding more what your assignments are designed to do, I’m finding that I’m really enjoying them. I wouldn’t change anything!
  • Nothing, the instructions were clear and well laid out.
  • I love that we are able to be creative for these assignments, although since writing is what I enjoy, I would be interested in a few more guide lines for formatting and length.

Responding to Mixed Reviews

I was left with a bit of a pickle. I want to respond to their feedback, but I don’t want to box in their thinking. Since I’m already providing binary scoring criteria in the form of a grading checklist, I thought that maybe one step forward would be to make that criteria a little bit more formal and visible.

Cue technological intervention!

Rather than simply embedding my success criteria in the assignment description and self-assessment, I reverted back to using Moodle’s Advanced Grading features and actually programmed my scoring criteria into the assignment dropbox itself. Now, when students submit their next assignment, they’ll see exactly what I’ll be asking myself as I determine their grade. It’s the same strategy, just more obvious on the student side.

I also intend to take a cue from Stommel’s Ungrading article and his reference to Peter Elbow’s advise for “making rubrics plainer and more direct, a 3×3 or smaller grid”. If my students find comfort and security in rubrics, I can align with that need without being overly prescriptive. While I like the idea of student-generated or co-constructed rubrics, I feel that I’m pushing my group beyond their comfort zones in many respects, and suspect that in this particular iteration of the course, they won’t have a high tolerance level for that kind of co-construction.

They want answers, not more questions.

Bates’ SECTIONS Model

Here’s how my pedagogical intervention, implimenting electronic rubrics to replace the scoring guidelines found in my assignment descriptions, maps to Tony Bates’ SECTIONS model:

Students: The Moodle rubric is accessible and all students in the course will be able to use it

Ease of Use: Super friendly learning curve

Cost / Time: No overhead costs; minimal time commitment

Teaching (Pedagogy): Yes, their goals (and mine, as I want them to feel secure)

Interaction: The electronic rubric communicates information to students, but doesn’t really invite response. However, I will continue to email students qualitative feedback too, so the opportunty for dialogue is not lost.

Organizational (Support): Yes, our Moodle team supports the use of the Moodle rubric

Networking (Openess): No, students will not retain a version of the rubric after the course. This isn’t really something I’d considered. However, they will have access to their final mark and all of my qualitative feedback…

Security and Privacy: Yes, the Moodle rubric is compliant with internal policies related to privacy and user data.

Final Thoughts

As I reflect on this learning curve, I think that next semester I’d like to lead with more prescriptive scoring criteria, then slowly transition students into focusing less on my ask, and more on their learning. I realize that this is a process that will take time, trust, and a great deal of communication.

I think I asked for too much too fast, and while some students see my non-traditional approach as an opportunity, I must acknowledge that some see it as a threat, and I must make sure that I don’t leave those students behind in my efforts to push the envelope.

I want us all to get there, and we will, together.










Empathy Online – It IS Possible!

Nurturing is an integral component of my teaching philosophy, and as I’ve evolved my online teaching practice, I’ve incorporated strategies that align with this ethos.

For example, I spend a lot of time in the first few weeks of the course getting to know my students. I ask them about their learning preferences, their goals, their confidence levels. I had great success anchoring my survey to the Universal Design for Learning framework this semester, and I’m still referring back to that survey data regularly (read more about my Learning Preferences Survey here).

This data grab postions me to customize my course to respond to learners’ preferences and needs. It might sound like a lot of work, but I find their variability kind of… predictable. In a good way.

For example, I know there won’t be consensus related to how students prefer to take in information, so I build in a bunch of different modalities and allow students to pick and choose. Ta da! Responsive. I design my assignments so that students have choice, and therefore agency, over what and how they submit. More recently, I’ve built self-assessment opportunities into each assessment. This metacognitive piece has really helped me understand how students are feeling about their work, and how invested they are in receiving feedback from me (typically, very).


I’ve really been trying to incorporate creative assignments into the course, and I’m trying to move away from overly prescriptive rubrics as I think they often stiffle creativity. I’ve been providing loose scoring guides as an alternative. Simplified, they sort of read “Achieve these 10 things, get 10 marks, which equates to 10%). I thought I was being really clear, but my students wished for more clarity. They want rubrics!

This Ontario Extend activity asked us to create an Empathy Map. I didn’t want to go back to my students asking for even more feedback, as I think I’m risking survey exhaustion. I know that holistic, explicit, (somewhat) prescriptive scoring criteria is what they want right now, and providing this will reduce the pain point I’m seeing in my Empathy Map.


My main takeway: If I’m going to ask students what they want, I better be prepared to respond, at least to a degree, even if I don’t really want to! I gotta empathize.


Empathy Map

I Asked, They Answered, Now I Ponder

I’m currently delivering a fully online version of SSC 1002: Thinking, Reasoning, Relating. It’s a General Education course intended to provide students with opportunities to enhance their critical thinking skills, and it’s brand new to me, so I’m having a lot of fun planning, designing, and delivering the course. My greatest professional joy is to teach, and it’s been really refreshing to break out of my typical English Communications deliveries and teach something new.

I kicked off Week One with some standard elements: course overview, success criteria, learner preferences survey, video introducing myself to my students. Then I took a little risk.

Instead of a traditional icebreaker, I asked my students to complete the Proust Questionnaire, a personality quiz from the 1890s that asks deeply personal questions said to reveal one’s true character. First, I summarized a bit of the history of the Questionnaire and how it’s been used in modern day contexts (Inside the Actor’s Studio, Vanity Fair, The Next Chapter). I explained to my students that in the interest of fairness, I would respond to every question, but they were only required to respond to half of the questions (10 of 20). Students would be unable to see anyone else’s responses, including mine, until they submitted their own.

So what, you ask? Well, the questions are so incredibly intimate that I fully expected several angry emails and outright refusals to respond. Which was sort of the point…

 For context, here is the list of questions:

  1. What is your idea of perfect happiness?
  2. What is your greatest regret?
  3. What is one thing about yourself that you dislike?
  4. What is one thing about other people that you dislike?
  5. Which living person do you most admire (and why)?
  6. What is your greatest indulgence?
  7. What is your current state of mind?
  8. What do you consider to be the most overrated character trait?
  9. Under what circumstances do you lie?
  10. What do you most dislike about your appearance?
  11. Which words or phrases do you most overuse?
  12. What or who is the greatest love of your life?
  13. When and where were you happiest?
  14. Which talent would you most like to have?
  15. If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?
  16. What do you consider your greatest achievement?
  17. What is your most treasured possession?
  18. What is your motto?
  19. Who are your favourite artists?
  20. What is your greatest fear?

The first assignment in the course asked students to reflect on their approach to the Proust Questionnaire. I asked:

  • Did you consider refusing to answer the Proust Questionnaire?
  • What empowered or silenced you?
  • Is it important to you that your teachers demonstrate trust and vulnerability if they expect it in return?

My intention was to help make students aware of the critical thinking strategies they use everyday, and to open up a conversation about the educational system in relation to learner empowerment versus indoctrination. While those conversations definitely happened, something else did too.

We got to know each other. Our loves, regrets, fears. I saw student’s personalities in their responses, as they shared stories that brought me close to tears, and responses that made me laugh out loud. I was touched by the common themes that emerged: our love of our families, including our pets, our overarching fear of judgement. Many students were concerned about how others in the course would perceive them, but overwhelmingly opted for honesty and openness, understanding that with the risk of trust comes the reward of community.

However, some students acknowledged that their initial reaction was one of anger. One learner took a screenshot of the Questionnaire and posted it on Instagram with the caption “This survey is about to know me better than I know myself…yeah, uhm, no!”. Despite their anger, nobody refused to respond. Instead, they responded strategically, navigating my expectations without sacrificing their personal boundaries.

Every student who expressed concerns about the personal nature of the survey acknowledged the importance of my participation. Even though they couldn’t read my responses right away, knowing that I participated in full led them to participate as well. Many told me that if I hadn’t shared, they wouldn’t have either. It was a nice reminder of the importance of reciprocity and leading by example, but the fact that no single student opted out of the Questionnaire left me a bit flummoxed. I still am, and I’m reminded of a quote from bell hooks’ (1992) Teaching Community: A Pedagogy of Hope, which I’ll end with:


Education as the practice of freedom affirms healthy self-esteem in students as it promotes their capacity to be aware and live consciously. It teaches them to reflect and act in ways that further self-actualization, rather than conformity to the status quo.