Teaching & Learning: Online, Face2Face, COVID, new, different, & exciting opportunities…

August 2020

It seems that for the next semester or two we will all be facing a different approach to teaching and learning. I have years of experience teaching online in different capacities and at different schools but my Camosun teaching has always been F2F – in the classroom. I am happiest in such a learning environment. My years of study and practice with online provided me with a wonderful foundation for how best to engage with my students in the classroom and offer my students a learning experience that allowed them to grow and flourish.

We will all soon find out what is needed to be successful in our new virtual teaching and learning spaces. Will it be seamless and as you remember from your prior F2F experiences? Probably not. But that is not the point. A lot of work has gone into the creation of new learning environments and new approaches and I trust that everyone with have patience and understanding as we transition to this different approach.

As a student, your focus and commitment to your education should be no different whether you are in the F2F classroom or in our new virtual classroom. This virtual learning world will take some adjustment to the time you spend reading and engaging with the various materials and activities online. This will not be an environment of “sit down and take notes”, rather it will be sit down and read and become engaged with the online materials and others in your online class. Then consider what types of notes you will take based upon your direct engagement with the various resources made available to you.

Learn to figure things out on your own. Learn to navigate around your different online learning spaces: not all of your classes will present resources and materials in the same way. Become as independent as you possibly can, but at the same time, find learning friends or online buddies to talk to and share experiences with. There is no one clear and direct approach, there will be new and innovative approaches that you may be exposed to – engage, share, and have some fun.

None of my online classes will have lectures – I believe that any form of online lecture is not the best way forward. I will, however have weekly synchronous sessions (live and recorded) for my students to come and ask questions and seek assistance. My courses are designed to allow you to work your way through the material, do problems and exercises, and learn the material through a variety of different approaches. There will not be lectures but at every step there will be opportunities to challenge yourself and be supported in the process.

I believe that UBC’s motto says it best; Tuum Est

Leadership: Yes, but we need believers as well

I have linked an article that is a rich example of the conversation we need to have today so that we can help build the new tomorrow we will all be facing after we begin to come to terms with our current global health and leadership crisis.


I do not know what tomorrow will look like (after we have found ways around this pandemic) but at this stage, everyone is just guessing. There is a range of responses to our current global pandemic from “let us get this done now” (New Zealand) to “let us pretend we are all immune” (Russia & many other autocratic, dictatorial-styled countries). There is also a great range in between these two extremes and global health data clearly shows where national and regional leadership exists or does not exist.

Regardless of the current long-term health outcome, our future mainly comes down to leadership and a country’s belief in itself. This article speaks of three leadership rules that are very much needed today. Yes, this is a UK-focused article but I believe it should speak to all of us…

Here are three suggestions. The first arises directly out of the reported diffidence and avoidance of awkward argument that the Reuters account describes. Leaders should not surround themselves with courtiers, as Johnson has done. Government needs rational policymaking. It needs people who can play devil’s advocate and make a reasoned case for an alternative. Prime ministers should create decision-making structures in which awkward realities are not brushed under the carpet or fudged.

Second, leaders should admit from the outset that they may get things wrong. One of the many greatnesses of Franklin Roosevelt was that, right from the start of his presidency, he admitted there would be failures along the way. Roosevelt’s ability to convince Americans that he would rebuild the country after the Depression meant that he was also able to say that if he got something wrong, he would try another solution instead, and they should still trust him. Lesser politicians are often paralysed by the terror of admitting failure. Roosevelt showed how a great leader can give themselves elbow room to make mistakes and still retain credibility.

Third, leaders should never believe they have preternatural political abilities. Recent prime ministers from Blair to David Cameron have succumbed to this delusion in various ways. But not even Churchill had it all. His flaws were immense, and needed to be reined in. As Conservative prime minister, Stanley Baldwin – who was certainly flawed too – once said: “When Winston was born lots of fairies swooped down on his cradle with gifts – imagination, eloquence, industry, ability; and then came a fairy who said, ‘No one person has a right to so many gifts,’ picked him up and gave him such a shake and twist that with all these gifts he was denied judgment and wisdom.”

Oh, and if anyone has any doubt about a very different tomorrow, take the time to read through and digest this rather lengthy article… https://charleseisenstein.org/essays/the-coronation/

We have the time today to contemplate and imagine our new tomorrows,  so take the time to read and think and then talk to your friends and then read and think some more. Maybe we have been given this gift of time to allow us to slow down and re-imagine our future.

If you want to build a ship, don’t drum up people together to collect wood and don’t assign them tasks and work, but rather teach them to long for the endless immensity of the sea.
Antoine de Saint-Exupéry  (Citadelle)

Learning in Complexity and Chaos – Welcome to our new everyday world

The following is a link is to a fascinating post by Harold Jarche, an educator, a well read leader, and keen interpreter of the world of collaboration, knowledge sharing, and sensemaking.


The post is not overly long but contains some very interesting observations about learning in our world today.

Learning is the key to facing our current and future technological, environmental, and societal changes. Developing these new skills requires learning that is rather different from existing training and education systems. This is learning that is informal, requiring significant amounts of implicit knowledge, as well as social sensemaking. Critical thinking, creativity, communication, and collaboration skills are not developed in a vacuum. These are permanent social skills.

Teaching and Learning in a Dangerous Time

Yes, my title is a take-off from Bruce Cockburn’s 1984 song “Lovers in a Dangerous Time”. How do we survive in a world that is morphing faster than most us are able to comprehend and/or appreciate?

We are in the midst of a most challenging and somewhat precarious time with the global spread of a deadly virus that appears to have few bounds and is causing all of us to rethink the way we live, the way we conduct business, the way we associate with others, and, in my world, the way we teach and learn.

I teach in a face-to-face world because I enjoy the instant connections I have with my students and I get to see such wonderful growth and development every day. The challenges of our current global COVID-19 pandemic may force us to move away from this teaching/learning modality. In many ways there are two key challenges.

One will be my ability to design and support a learning environment that can offer my students the opportunity to learn in a meaningful way. The second, and I think more challenging, will be for students to fully appreciate and understand just what they need to do to be successful in this new and, in many cases, unfamiliar learning environment.

My students chose to learn in a face-to-face environment for many reasons and being pushed to switch to a different learning modality: learning online, requires a very different focus and different mindset with respect to student responsibilities and behaviours. There will be challenges but not at all of these challenges are insurmountable as I believe everyone will understand that we all have little choice but to adapt and modify our behaviours in order to develop and grow in these challenging times.

I have seen many wonderful resources surface in the last few days from key individuals in the world of online teaching and learning and this fine community is doing everything possible to help mitigate the challenges of moving from one learning modality to another in a very short period of time. I will list some of these resources and will attempt to modify this list as times change. I trust everyone understands that this is a very fluid world. The wonderful part of this online community is their open sharing.

I trust you will all work to adapt as I work to assist you in this new adventure.

Tony Bates is one of the key figures in the world of online teaching and education — https://www.tonybates.ca

Tony has a post on his site specifically directed at the challenges of moving to online – I would encourage you to especially read hi point #8 where he lists a number of key additional resources

Advice to those about to teach online because of the corona-virus

Terry Anderson was my mentor and a pioneer online thinker and academic — https://virtualcanuck.ca/2020/03/13/emergency-distance-education/

The Community of Inquiry Model offers a guiding heuristic for online teachers — http://coi.athabascau.ca


Read and read more; know as much as you can with as open a mind as possible…

January 27, 1945 – 75 years ago


Yehuda Bauer, at 95 considered the dean of Holocaust experts, told the assembled monarchs and chiefs of state that of the 35 million people killed in World War II,

“some 29 million were non-Jews,” who died “in large part because of the hatred of Jews.”
“Anti-Semitism is not a Jewish illness, but a non-Jewish one,” he said pointedly. “It is a cancer that kills and destroys your nations and your societies and your countries. So there are, my friends, 29 million reasons for you to fight anti-Semitism. Not because of the Jews, but to protect your societies from a deadly cancer.”
“Don’t you think,” he concluded, to a loud ovation, “that 29 million reasons are enough?”

DECEMBER 06 1989… Because they were women

Geneviève Bergeron (1968–1989), civil engineering student

Hélène Colgan (1966–1989), mechanical engineering student

Nathalie Croteau (1966–1989), mechanical engineering student

Barbara Daigneault (1967–1989), mechanical engineering student

Anne-Marie Edward (1968–1989), chemical engineering student

Maud Haviernick (1960–1989), materials engineering student

Maryse Laganière (1964–1989), budget clerk in the École Polytechnique’s finance department

Maryse Leclair (1966–1989), materials engineering student

Anne-Marie Lemay (1967–1989), mechanical engineering student

Sonia Pelletier (1961–1989), mechanical engineering student

Michèle Richard (1968–1989), materials engineering student

Annie St-Arneault (1966–1989), mechanical engineering student

Annie Turcotte (1969–1989), materials engineering student

Barbara Klucznik-Widajewicz (1958–1989), nursing student

And I thought my generation was powerful…

One of the most powerful speeches at the United Nations in a generation.

Yes, she is very emotional and she should be. All of us should be outraged and all of us should be educating ourselves in what we can do to help to effect change. I am not just talking about recycling or conservation, I am talking about advocacy and asking difficult and uncomfortable questions and pushing back against a corporate agenda that is only interested in profit. Stop patronizing companies that don’t care – find out who is involved – educate yourself. We can change the global agenda.

In my classes we talk about CSR, Corporate Social Responsibility. I believe we need so much more than just talk and dance past the fluffy overview that barely meets the requisite course outline requirements. We need to show that we care enough to make a difference.

Yes, “How dare you…”

Faith, Hope, and Classroom Conversations That Matter

The following article, posted in The Atlantic, touches briefly upon the topic of faith and religion and how or why we need to have these conversations in our secular classrooms.

A quote from the article

What my students ultimately believe is none of my business. But they, like all other college students, need to understand what it’s like to be absorbed in robust traditions, including religious ones. They—and I—should refuse to hide behind narrow versions of critical thinking that keep them from engaging with people whose lives are energized by compassion and forgiveness. Becoming more aware of the multiplicity of traditions and practices will make all of us more curious about and more empathetic toward others’ beliefs—and more humble with respect to our own.


A list of recent readings

Much of my reading today is done via Kindle although I still purchase some as physical books or are privileged to be given them as gifts. As I re-read my list I realize that the majority of my readings are via Kindle and thus not readily shareable. Hmm, got to find a better way so that I can share.

This list in no set order but represents my readings over the past year, some of which are still being enjoyed, some were devoured with great joy, and others were not as well appreciated.

Non fiction:

The Revenge of Analog: Real Things and Why They Matter David Sax

The Undoing Project: A Friendship That Changed Our Minds Michael Lewis

Lost Knowledge of the Imagination Gary Lachman

Practical Wisdom: The Right Way to Do the Right Thing Barry Schwartz & Kenneth Sharpe

The Age of Walter Gage: How One Canadian Shaped the Lives of Thousands Shelley Fralic (Walter Gage was one of my early mentors and my math prof at UBC)

A Tragic Fate: Law and Ethics in the Battle Over Nazi-Looted Art Nicholas O’Donnell

The World as I See It Albert Einstein

The Suez Canal S C Burchell

The New Paris: The People, Places & Ideas Fueling a Movement Lindsey Tramuta

Fascism: A Warning Madeleine Albright

Churchill: The Power of Words Winston Churchill & Martin Gilbert

Intrepid’s Last Case William Stevenson

There’s No Such Thing as “Business” Ethics: There’s Only One Rule for Making Decisions John C Maxwell

The Soul of Paris: Two Months in the French Capital During the War of 1914 William J Guard

Charlemagne: King Of The Franks Cameron White

A Moveable Feast Ernest Hemingway

The Phoenician Code Karim El Koussa

Don’t Let My Past Be Your Future: A Call to Arms Harry Leslie Smith

Harry’s Last Stand: How the world my generation built is falling down, and what we can do to save it Harry Leslie Smith

A Certain Idea of France: The Life of Charles de Gaulle Julian Jackson

The Great Reformer: Francis and the Making of a Radical Pope Austen Ivereigh

Roller-Coaster: Europe, 1950-2017 Ian Kershaw

The First Day on the Somme: Revised Edition Martin Middlebrook

Paris After the Liberation 1944-1949: Revised Edition Antony Beevor & Artemis Cooper


Don Quixote Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra

The Good German Joseph Kanon

Les Misérables Victor Hugo

Death On the Marais Adrian Magson

The Little Prince Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

A Gentleman in Moscow: A Novel Amor Towles

The Malta Exchange: A Novel Steve Berry

The Flame: Poems and Selections From Notebooks Leonard Cohen

Let Us Compare Mythologies Leonard Cohen

A Legacy of Spies: A Novel John le Carré

Our Man In Havana Graham Greene