Setting a Table for Collaboration

This week we started into the Collaborator module at Ontario Extend.  This module is the one that I’m a bit intimidated by.  While many people come to Ontario Extend with a well-developed personal learning network, my network is somewhat limited.  Those who I do consider to be in my network are generally as unconnected technologically as I was prior to starting Ontario Extend.   I’m anticipating a challenge in the activities of this module.   That said, I’m also greatly looking forward to building a network.

So far, in the activities through Ontario Extend, I’ve met many wonderful people who bring not only a love of education but a wealth of knowledge to the table.    Rather than being that lone practitioner sitting in a coffee shop, working away, I now am starting to feel like someone who can enjoy a meal out with a large, boisterous, and fun group of peers.

This brings me to the activity “The Collaborative Dining Table”.   In this activity, the goal is to reflect on the last year of our professional life and ideas or projects that you’ve collaborated on.  Then one of those projects will be explored via the collaborative dining table.

Brainstorming……   what have I worked on this year?

This is a great exercise to review accomplishments for this year.

  • SNAP – Investigating and implementing a new technology for Microsoft Office courses
  • Instructional Design lead for revised Anatomy & Physiology course
  • Developer for an Organizational Behaviour course for the health sector, including a semester-long integrated case study
  • Developer for a new Records Management course for Health Information Management
  • Team member on Big Data Analytics course initiative
  • Instructional Design lead for revisions of Web Developer course
  • Participated as a reviewer for CHIMA’s Canadian HIM Lifecycle book
  • Neehr Perfect – championed the adoption of new Electronic Health Record for use in the classroom
  • Copic 2 – Development of a new art course

The project I’m going to look at for my dining table is the SNAP project.

I was asked to take over a course on Microsoft Office applications for one of the programs at Fleming College.  This occurred mid-semester, making it an interesting entry point to the course.  By the end of the semester, I knew changes needed to happen for this course to engage students and be effective.  As luck would have it, the version of Office used by the school was being updated over the summer, making it the perfect time to transition.

I invited the students to speak openly with me about what they thought was working and what wasn’t in the course.   Two major issues emerged from these discussions.  The first was that students were assigned a very large textbook which only a few students ever opened.   The paper-based text was bulky, meaning students weren’t invested in bringing it and the exercises assigned out of it, which were intended to build skills, were rarely completed.  The second major issue was in the huge range of skill sets with which the students entered the course.  Those who had familiarity with the products were often bored and disengaged, particularly at the start of the semester.  Those who had no experience sometimes found the pace challenging.  Getting a middle ground proved very difficult.

Eventually, I decided on implementing Paradigm’s SNAP tool.  This web-based training and assessment tool let me address the issues I was seeing with the course.   This tool has several advantages.  Students can use pre-assessments to gauge their level of competence.  If they have the skill level, the course was set up to let them move into the assessment.  For those who didn’t have the skill level, there are exercises, tutorials, and guides, offering a variety of levels of assistance.  This allowed students to get the support they needed while avoiding having them spend significant time on topics they had skills in.  The tool also got rid of the bulky textbook.  The tool includes an electronic version of the text if students need to reference it.     While there were a few teething pains with using the tool, the students were much more enthusiastic about this approach and the class had higher marks than its previous incarnation.


A Scurry of Squirrels

Welcome to Learning Squirrel v2.0!

Bigger!  Badder!  And now with more nuts!

Learning Squirrel started out its life on WordPress.  You can still find the first few posts that were the start of the scurry at

I was given the opportunity (aka. nudged by Terry Greene our guru and guide to the Extend experience…  thanks Terry!)  to set up a Reclaim hosting site through Ontario Extend while participating in the Extend East cohort.

Moving to my own domain opens up a whole host of opportunities and will allow me to explore and to participate in Extend to the fullest.   I’m really excited about this opportunity and hope you’ll enjoy the new digs.

Watch for changes and updates as I add new features and explore this larger space to work!

Teacher for Learning

Organizing Knowledge w/ Cornell

Woman surrounded with paper KZ4LB


In the Organizing Knowledge section of Ontario Extend‘s Teacher for Learning Module, we’re invited to try using Cornell Notes as an alternate way to take notes.  I’d never used this method, so I decided to give it a whirl.

These days, it seems easiest to just start out with a YouTube video, so I took advantage of this freely available resource to find out the basics of the Cornell System.  After watching Jennifer Desrocher’s How to take Cornell Notes, I felt like I was armed with the knowledge I needed to try it out.

Now I just needed a topic.  The Activity Bank entry suggested perhaps taking notes on a conference keynote or a video.   Great idea!  Back to YouTube.   I’d been intrigued by the Tweets being exchanged in regards to Open Educational Resources and the OER Commons so I looked for a video that would fit with that theme.  I came across a TED Talk: Knowledge Belongs to Everyone: David Ernst at TEDxKyoto 2012 and thought it gave a great (now historical) perspective on Open Textbooks.

My thoughts on using Cornell Notes:

  • The essential question and summary made me put my arms around the topic as a whole.
  • I like that it encouraged spacing out of the material, rather than dense blocks of notes I often take.
  • The format allowed use of colours and graphics which are very appealing to me. (I’m a big fan of mind maps for certain types of notes).
  • The left-hand column would be a big plus during studying.  You could scan down the column and quickly identify areas you were confident with and those where you needed to go and read the notes on the right.
  • It worked great for a short video.  Not sure how it would be for longer materials.  That said, I tend to get caught up in the creative part which slows me down.

Cornell Notes

Cornell Notes – Extend Activity

Template for Cornell Notes from Template Lab.

“Woman surrounded with paper KZ4LB” flickr photo by Kathleen Zarubin shared under a Creative Commons CC BY 2.0 license.

Teacher for Learning

Syllabus Concept Map – HLTH 326

I’m working on the Teacher for Learning Activities at Ontario Extend and have just encountered the Syllabus Concept Map activity.  Inspired by Greg Rodrigo’s map (found at Rocket Fuelled Squirrels on an Adventure), I decided to give it a try using HLTH 326 – Information Systems and Technology, a course I developed for Fleming College.  The course covers both IT and IS, but is also a repository for a variety of other topics which didn’t fit anywhere else in the Health Information Management Program.   This means that topics such as Workflow Analysis are found in the syllabus.   As you’ll see from the concept map, this course covers a lot of ground.

I often advocate the use of mind maps and similar approaches to my students as a way to make notes and encourage recall.  For the Extend Activity, I decided not to use Mind Map Pro which I have at home and try out a tool that may be of use to my students.  I tried out which is a free (up to 3) web-based mind-mapping tool.  It was very easy to use and I’ll be adding that to my list of tool recommendations for my students.



The results of creating the concept map only confirm my thoughts.  That there is way too much to cover in this course.  I’d previously identified that some of the topics that could be shifted to other parts of the HIM program and work on that was initiated.  The concept map makes me realize I need to look at it again and see where else balancing can be done.


Teacher for Learning


Working through the Extend Teacher for Learning Module, the activity Misunderstood resonated with me.  It seems that there are one or two concepts which persist as issues year after year.  Even when explained once, they are often immediately confused.  One of the concepts my students tend to have a lot of trouble with is Goals vs. Objectives.   I can explain it one week and the next, there is confusion again.

After a few years of showing a slide with text that explained the difference and having no success in having it stick in student memories, I went to a new graphical format.

Ahhhh!  That seemed to do the trick!  Make it visual, make it a story.  Then students will remember.

My new approach shows Frodo setting off to drop the One Ring into Mount Doom.  The mount has a goal post and shows the ring dropping in – reaching a goal.  The goal is something that is further off and defines the direction that they must go in.   The objectives are a series of measurable steps that must be taken to achieve the goal.  So in my new description, Frodo and Sam have to complete a number of objectives before they can get to the goal.  These objectives show tangible things they need to obtain or do.  Obtain food for the trip, sharpen Sting, walk the first leg of the journey to Rivendell.  These objectives need to be accomplished before they can get to the goal

Extend Activity - Misunderstood

My learning from this is that when students seem to be stumbling with learning a concept or coming back repeatedly to ask for clarification, it means that the story needs to change.  Misunderstood concepts need to have a new perspective that’s relatable in order to achieve that “Oh!  I get it now!” moment.


I’m an Extender!


Today I joined the ranks of previous Extenders to take part in the latest cohort of Ontario Extend.  As part of Extend East, I’ll have the opportunity to explore new practices in online and technology-based learning.   This fits right in with the work I’m doing developing and leading online courses.   It will enable me to expand my teaching practices, try new things, and become part of a growing community of educators who are exploring the intersection of education and technology.

Meeting this fantastic group of people as we prepared for and participated in the kick-off activities today has given me a boost of enthusiasm.  There are so many creative minds out there.  I’m looking forward to sharing with everyone!

I’ll be documenting my activities here as I progress through the modules, take part in the daily Extend and the Activity bank.