Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Digital Equity

This is an issue that is incredibly important to me and my work as a librarian.  Last year when the decision was made to cut 56% of funding for public libraries in Saskatchewan, I immediately took action.  I think a lot of people take for granted that everyone has a phone, a laptop or other device(s).  But that is not the case, many people rely on their public or school library so that they can complete assignments using library computers, find health information, read a newspaper or a million other things that require Internet access.  Many communities around Saskatchewan also lack access to high speed Internet and in many case are reliant on dial-up.  Especially for students, they should not face this unnecessary barrier between them and an enriching education. 

Another issue that I can see is that keeping up with technology can be daunting.  For example, I have an iPhone 5, I am currently 5 generations behind.  Can I keep up with technology that is constantly changing?  What happens in a low-income family?

On the flip side of the digital equity issue, I was recently told a story about a university professor who forced all of their students to hand write an essay in-class.  Some of the students were very upset that they were not allowed to use their laptops.  The professor simply stated, not all of the students in this class have access to a laptop, but all of you have pens and paper.  Plagiarism is also an issue in many classrooms, with students even taking assignments home and having their parents ‘help’ them.  The professor in this case, was making an effort to ‘equalize’ the class, but also to make a point about doing the work yourself. 

Whole Group Rotation

This blurb is a reflection on the following video:, that we watched for my Instructional Technology class.  

I think the concept of whole group rotation is fascinating.  Students work between an online and offline environment, where online is used to supplement the materials that are covered in class.  I especially appreciated Tucker’s comments on the peer review process.  She uses Google Classrooms, which enables her to view what the students are working on, and provide immediately feedback.  She also uses this technique for students to review their peer’s papers.  I really liked that the peer review was also critiqued for thoroughness, as well as the relevancy and credibility of the comments made.  I would love to try this technique in a drop-in library/writing centre workshop, where students were welcome to work on their papers and receive immediate feedback.  Our ‘night against procrastination’ events might be the perfect opportunity to test out this technique as the event typically happens a week before a major assignment is due within the nursing program. 

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Reflective Practice

When reflecting on the educational technology that was explored this semester in SFCP 604, the information that I gleaned falls into three main categories: the stuff that can be used in-class in synchronous learning environments, the technology that is utilized in an online environment (purely asynchronous), and the great stuff in-between that is used to augment face-to-face (F2F) environments.  The latter is described as blended learning and can refer to offering online components within the F2F class, such as; flipping teaching, so that students watch the lecture as homework in advance, and then come to class prepared to work on an assignment; or whole group rotation.  I see a lot of benefit to using blended learning in teaching as it allows students to work at their own pace, and the instructor is available every step of the way to assist with the learning, ensure understanding, and build foundational skills.

Other key takeaways this semester include tools that can be used to strengthen the material that you share with students.  Here are a few of my favourite tips:

  • use the snipping tool to cleanly crop and copy images into your PowerPoint presentation
  • use a dark background on your slides, so that you as the presenter have more contrast than your presentation
  • use images and a minimum of text to support your presentation (i.e.: your audience did not come to read your slides)
  • use Kahoot! or Poll Everywhere for instantaneous formative feedback
As a librarian, I use technology everyday.   When I prepare an instructional session, I rely on online databases to showcase academic research.  When I answer reference questions, the majority of the time the student is asking about citing and referencing and in turn, I am checking online sources to ensure that I am providing the student with the correct information.  When I participate in meetings, my colleagues and I use Skype for Business, to share our screens, collaborate on projects and to discuss ideas.  I order books by searching online sources and then emailing our acquisitions clerk.  And finally, I organize my life and all of my tasks using Outlook. 

As I look to the future, I am hopeful that technology will continue to enhance my teaching.  That I will always be curious, and that I will always be learning.  With that in mind, I created a PowToons video for this final assignment.  I have used PowToons before to create a short video, and decided to use it again for the animation options and the professional look and feel of their video production suite.  I had not realized until it was too late that there was a five minute limit on the free version of their software.  I was too invested to start over from scratch, so I used it as an opportunity to learn, to grow, to take a risk and to be creative.  So without further ado, here is a link to my final project:

List of images used in my presentation that were found outside of PowToons:

Monday, November 6, 2017


Kahoot ( is a free online tool that allows individuals to create simple multiple choice quizzes or learning games.  Users can add video, images or diagrams for a wide variety of quiz offerings.  Kahoot can be accessed on any mobile device via a unique game PIN or through an internet connection on a desk or laptop.  Users can easily sign up for an account using a Gmail account or other email address.  The tool requires little to no training and is very intuiative to use.  Users can create a new quiz or access an existing quiz.  Once you are creating a new quiz, you add questions and at least two possible answers for the multiple choice quiz.  You also have the option of creating discussions, surveys or Jumbles (their newest game option).  
  • No login or sign up is required for participants
  • Kahoots can be assigned as homework to reinforce learning materials
  • Students can create flash cards for themselves as a memory aide
  • Potential copyright concerns when sharing content, such as: images, videos or diagrams.  Instructors need to be cognizant of what they can legally share online and what content would be best avoided.  Caveat - there is a copyright open text field on the opening screen of the quiz for instructors to note which content is protected by copyright.  
  • Instructors often assume that all participants will have access to a smartphone or a tablet and want to use it for classroom activity.  This may not be the case.  Instructors need to be aware that they may be putting an unnecessary barrier between learning and the activity, for these students.
Both a pro and a con, there are only two access settings available for the quiz; everyone can see it or only me.  It is a global testing tool and can be played in real time by players from 180 countries.  There may be individuals who do not wish to share their quizzes globally.  And there be students who are hesitant to participate in this type of social activity.
The advantage of using this tool is the simplistic access mechanism to join the game, as opposed to Poll Everywhere which is a bit more involved.  The site itself is colourful and appealing and there is a sense that the quiz will be fun and engaging (as much as that is possible).  The quiz that I set up for demonstration purposes below was easy to do.  I did not have to consult any training materials and the process was not complicated in any way.  I tested it on my daughter and husband.  Despite their lack of APA knowledge they were easily able to join my quiz and had fun testing out the tool.  I can see using this tool in the future as a quick assessment at the end of my library session.
Further reading that might be useful to you: 
Boitshwarelo, B., Reedy, A., & Billany, T. (2017). Envisioning the use of online tests in assessing twenty-first century learning: A literature review. Research and Practice in Technology Enhanced Learning, 12(1), 1-16.
Harter, Cynthia, & Harter, John. (2004). Teaching with technology: Does access to computer technology increase student achievement? Eastern Economic Journal, 30(4), 507-514.

Friday, October 13, 2017

Tweeting and Blogging at Conferences

This post was taken from my Learning Technologies class, where we were instructed to discuss web 2.0 options that we use in our classroom.  I took a slightly different stance on this project as I do not work with students on an ongoing basis.  I instead choose to discuss blogging and using Twitter at conferences as a means of obtaining and recording knowledge that I have gleaned from the presentations that I have attended.
When I was a student of Library Science, one of my assignments required the creation of a blog.  Ever since that time I have used my personal blog to record information that I have learned along the way from school, from conferences, from my professional practice and from life.  Some of it is for my own personal reflection, and some of it is to inform others about innovative tools or techniques that I have experienced (and not always successfully).  One of my tags is Thwarted by... with each post discussing something that went wrong during one of my library instruction sessions.  Starting a blog is easy.  There are a couple of different options that you can choose from such as; Blogger and Wordpress.  Once you select your page layout and style, you can begin creating content on your blog and publish it immediately to the world.  Most blogs are mainly textual, but you can also create a photo blog or a combination of the two.
My blog is on the Blogger site which offers various templates and page layouts.  I appreciate that I have the option of editing and deleting posts that are no longer relevant.  I can tag each post with self-selected categories and I can view statistics for my page.  For example, I currently have 223 posts with the majority of them covering instructional librarianship and the use of technology.  I have had 7661 page views as of this morning.  My most popular post has 615 page views and was written about a conference presentation from a library instruction conference in 2012 on the topic of literature mapping.  The majority of my posts are viewed between 3 and 20 times.  But by who, I have no idea.  That is the one disadvantage that I can see to creating a blog.  Even though there is an option to comment, no one ever does.  So for me, my blog is still stuck firmly in Web 1.0.  For this reason, I started using Twitter at conferences to have more of the digital conversation.  For example here are my posts from a conference that I attended in 2015,  I used the blog as a narrative to record my notes from each individual session that I attended, but I also augmented my conference experience by using Twitter to share quick tidbits along the way.  The screen shot below shows a portion of my Twitter activity during that conference.  Although I am not a huge fan of Twitter, I do enjoy using it at conferences as a means of connecting with individuals who are also attending the conference.  I find that it is a great social networking tool in this particular environment.  I tweet key takeaways from the sessions or points that resonated with me during the presentation.  I only tweet positive comments and do my best to create at least two tweets per presentation.  I don't pick favourites on Twitter!
 C-EBLIP Tweets
The majority of my librarian colleagues are also on Twitter.  I find that we tend to use it as a professional network, whereas I find that Facebook tends to be more personal.  My director and my direct supervisor are both on Twitter, so it is a good opportunity to share what I am learning when I am at a conference.  They will often comment or retweet my posts.  At least they know I am actively engaged and that the funds used to support my professional development were well spent! In our department we are required to hand in a brief overview of any conference or professional development activity that we attend.  To this end, I am able to summarize the information that I have posted on my blog and on Twitter easily after the fact.  
For more information, you may be interested in looking at the following articles.  Both are from a librarian perspective, but general enough to appeal to a broader audience.
Ojala, M. (2008, April). The Art of Twittering. Information Today. p. 26. Retrieved from The Art of Twittering.  This article provides an overview of using Twitter at a conference.  
Calishain, T. (2016). Blogging. Online Searcher40(3), 42-45. Retrieved from Blogging.  This article discusses the origins of blogging, various sites that are freely available and how the content is discovered by the user.  

Asynchronous Learning, Lectures and PowerPoint

Advantages and Disadvantages of Asynchronous Learning

The main advantage of asynchronous learning is that the learner can participate in their studies at a time that is convenient for them.  My graduate degree was 100% online, I worked, had young children and did my homework in the evening after everyone was in bed, so I believe that this is a true advantage of this form of learning.  According to Hughes (2014), learners have the ability to learn at their own pace and can review the classroom materials as often as necessary in an asynchronous environment.  While I can attest to the ability to review materials at my leisure, the pace of the class is dictated by the assignments that are due and the overall course content.  Although you can leave things to the last possible minute, the learner cannot really control the overall pace of the class.  That is probably a good thing, as many of us are not self-directed enough to complete tasks that have no assigned due date.  Some disadvantages of asynchronous learning include detachment from your classmates and potential feelings of isolation.  I think humans are social creatures and enjoy the opportunities to discuss topics and learn from their colleagues.  Without an active discussion board, those opportunities would not exist.  Another disadvantage that I would note is that the class time is not limited to a typical class length.  My professors at graduate school would often assign as much content as they wanted within the week.  Responding to discussion boards took hours of my time, much longer than a 3-hour lecture.  And I was forced to contribute (good and bad thing).  In a face-to-face (f2f) lecture, if I didn’t feel like contributing, I could avoid making eye contact.

Is 'Lecture' a Bad Word?

The term lecture has become a catchall phrase that can mean anything from the traditional ‘sage on the stage’ all the way to a modern view encompassing the ‘guide on the side’ methodology of instruction.  Although the term tends to have a negative connotation, I think of it as the concept of the standard class time allotment.  I believe that online classes are more likely to fall prey to ‘traditional lecture format’ than any class that I have attended f2f in recent years.  In my experience, f2f classes, more often than not, contain a participatory element.  There are group activities, discussions, hands-on experiences and so much more.  I will agree with Bates (2015) that the more traditional format of a lecture where the expert talks and the participants listen is likely dying out.  But teachers and learners who engage in critical thinking and active learning are the future.  Teachers help students understand materials.  They synthesize huge amounts of knowledge into manageable chunks.  Learning builds on a solid foundation and instruction is scaffolded.  
My library instruction sessions are all offered in a f2f learning environment.  In my opinion, my classes are most successful when I have the opportunity to include plenty of active learning techniques, such as: demos, group and solo reflective exercises, quizzes, polling, etc. Perhaps because these are the classes that I enjoy teaching the most, these are the classes where I feel the students are most engaged in my instruction.

Is PowerPoint Evil?

In my Learning Technologies class we were asked to watch a TEDtalk and then comment on the topic covered.  The Phillips TEDtalk is highly entertaining and educational.  He discusses our use of PowerPoint software and how it is done well and not so well.  He states that PPTs can help to illustrate a point, prompt the presenter, provides an overview of the materials covered, notes key points and generally complements the presenter and the information that is being presented. I appreciated the comment made at the end of his talk, when he said that your PPT should not distract from you, because ultimately you are the presentation!  The problem is that most people don’t create successful PPTs.  They load the slides with content, the text is hard to read (size, colour, amount), there is little contrast on the slides and the information is quickly forgotten.  Also in the TEDtalk, I liked how he suggested that the presenter should have the greatest contrast in order to draw the audience’s attention to them.  
Bates, A. W. (2015).  Teaching in a digital age [Open Textbook].  Retrieved from
Hughes, A. (2014). Comparing asynchronous and synchronous learning [Webpage].  Retrieved from
Phillips, D.J.P. (2014). How to avoid death by PowerPoint [Video file].  Retrieved from

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Retrospective Blogging

It occured to me that I haven't linked to any of the blog posts that I have contributed to the Brain Work blog (C-EBLIP) in a really long time.  Here are the links and the titles: