Teaching and Learning is Like Making Smoothies.

Teaching and Learning is Like Making Smoothies

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This final activity in Module 1: Teacher for Learning in the eCampus Ontario Mooc is to explorer my metaphor for teaching.

My metaphor for teaching and learning is smoothies. A smoothie has a solid protein base and I liken this is the content of my subject matter. When I first started preparing smoothies I stuck to to basic flavours such as banana and vanilla.

Then as I gained more confidence I tried different recipes maybe one day berry and the next day mango. I equate this to incorporating new teaching and learning strategies into my lessons. If I am having an off day I might go back to banana but that will get boring. So, I will seek out new recipes and see what new flavours are available

If I really want to step out of my comfort zone I will try adding in vegetables, at first they are not as sweet as fruit but they provide the people drinking the smoothie with energy. I liken this to stretching myself by incorporating new teaching strategies that I find challenging into my lessons. At first it looks different and I am not sure it is something to use in a smoothie and the students are not sure either. However, as they become engaged with the new flavour a new energy is in the room.

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No matter which flavours I try I am always providing nutrients to my students. They get to try different recipes until they find a few flavours that they really like. I encourage them to experiment and come up with new recipes of their own and then share those recipes. I liken this to guiding student’s learning while encouraging students to find their own path.

I really want my students to like smoothies and I want them to know that smoothies are for everyone. However, maybe the flavour is not right. On occasion I have to accept that some students do not like smoothies. I have to help them find their drink maybe it is not a smoothie maybe it is a cup of tea.

Teachers Make Mistakes And It Can be A Good Thing.

The next activity in eCampus Ontario extend mOOC is to search through the faculty patchbook https://facultypatchbook.wordpress.com/ and find a paragraph that resonated with me. There were so many great patches that I found it hard to settle on just one.
This activity is based on the concept of Thought Vectors. I think the concept of Thought Vectors is an interesting way to describe learning. Thought Vectors can be thought of as an idea to be explored and expanded upon (eCampus Ontario, 2019). To learn more about the concept of Thought Vectors please see Jenny Stout’s explanation below.

My thought vector is about being open with students about my mistakes and the quote that resonated with me is:

“It may be uncomfortable but admitting one’s own mistakes and struggles is a great way to set the tone in a classroom where debates will happen. Hopefully, as a result, being wrong may seem a little less terrifying and disagreement may be an opportunity for learning rather than humiliation. After all, when does one learn more: when they get the right answer or the wrong answer? ” (Ryan, 2018)

This quote resonates with me because I know that being open to learn from my mistakes is when I learn the most. However, it is often hard to admit mistakes. As the subject matter expert (SME) in the classroom it may seem that admitting mistakes to students would undermine credibility in the classroom.

My experience has been the opposite. I am not suggesting that you can maintain credibility if you are constantly making mistakes but admitting that you do not know everything and sharing mistakes humanizes you. In turn, students will feel safe to try without fear of ridicule for making a mistake in front of you and their classmates. As (Ryan 2018) suggests, if you are open about your own struggles you are creating a learning space that is safe and an opportunity for learning.

The bonus to admitting that you do not know everything is that it gives students an opportunity to teach you something. When interactive whiteboards were first introduced into my classroom I struggled with getting them to work the way they should (on occasion I still have this problem). Some of my students (direct from high-school) were very comfortable with interactive white boards and were always happy to come up and provide assistance.

I think when I model vulnerability I am creating space in my classroom that normalizes mistakes. I build trust between my students, between my students and I, and that vulnerability is part of the learning process. The Community of Inquiry (COI) model suggests that supporting social presence is part of the learning process and creating trust among participants is part of that support (Athabasca University, 2013). My experience is that when students feel good about themselves they are ready to learn.


Athabasca Univeristy. (2013). Community of Inquiry Model. Retrieved 2019, from Athabascau: https://coi.athabascau.ca/coi-model/

eCampus Ontario. (2019). EXTEND 101-EN.1 – Extend MOOC. Module 1: Teacher for Learning, Climate of the Course: Thought Vectors.

eCampus Ontario. (2019). EXTEND 101-EN.1 – Extend MOOC. Module 1: Teacher for Learning, Learning Nuggets.

Ryan, M. (2018). Promoting Disagreement. eCampus Ontario. Retrieved February 2019

Do You Suffer From Expert Blind Spot?

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This next Ontario Extend activity is find a concept in my discipline, break it into its component skills, and compare it to driving a car. Many students find learning software and managing computer files a challenge. I think it is like driving a car.

Do you have everything you need?
The first time you learn to drive a car you check to make sure you have the tools you need. The same goes for learning software and managing computer files do you have a computer, software and a login?

I know it feels scary but give it a try…
It feels scary the first time you are in the driver’s seat even with a good coach beside you. You need encouragement to slowly step on the gas, proceed and reminders to watch for pedestrians. It is different then riding a bicycle even though you did that for many years and thought it would be the same. The first time students use computer software (and realize it is different then email or social media) they are nervous and they need encouragement to try it on their own, reminders and repetition so that they can learn the steps in the process.

The Challenge…
The problem is once we have been driving for awhile, we assume the new driver will make sure they are in reverse before stepping on the gas to back out of the parking spot. In the same way that we assume the student new to file management will understand that if they do not “save as” their file they will save over the work in the file.

We make these assumptions because we have been doing this so long we no longer think about the steps in the process. I am learning in the Ontario Extend mOOC that is known as “Expert Blindspot” and it is suggested that we should be diligent in our effort to remember what it was like to learn at the beginning (eCampus Ontario, 2019).

Don’t give up…
Often when we are learning to drive we make mistakes and if they are big enough we want to give up and go back to our bicycle. However, with our eye on the freedom that driving will give us and encouragement from our coach we keep practicing. Same goes for learning software and managing files. How often does the new student lose their file or worse work many hours only to discover they have been working in a temporary download and never saved it in the first place? Many students want to quit but with encouragement they keep practicing.

One day the new driver is driving without thinking about it. Muscle memory has kicked in and they have their freedom. Same with software and managing files. One day, without realizing it students are locating, editing and saving files without thinking about it. They now suffer from “expert blind spot”.

What is the cure?
The cure for expert blindness (in my opinion) is to learn something new and regularly so that I can remember what it is like to be a beginner.

eCampus Ontario. (2019). EXTEND 101-EN.1 – Extend MOOC. Module 1: Teacher for Learning Mastery.

WIFM:What’s In It For Me?

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The fourth activity in the Ontario Extend MOOC is to think about what motivates students to come to class and to engage with course material? It is easy to think:

  • You need it for your future career
  • To earn your diploma
  • You will perform this task in the work world

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The truth is I am competing with many other priorities. Many of my students are parents, work many hours at their jobs, commute from out-of-town, are new to Canada (and the climate) look after older relatives and the lists goes on.

In this module we are to consider the following:

  1. Student’s prior knowledge
  2. Why do student’s want to learn something new?
  3. Relevance for students to future activities and future classes

In my health-care communication’s class, I ascertain student’s prior knowledge through the breakdown of a small case study. The case studies are common communication interactions that many of my students will have encountered as a “consumer of health care” through life experience. As we apply course content to the case study students have an opportunity to share their own experiences and perceptions to what is happening in the case study. Boehmer & Linsky (1990) ascertain that when using a case study method that students are engaged with the material not merely reading it.

Why do student’s want to learn something new? If they relate to the case study then they can apply the communication tools (that they are learning) to communicate effectively the next time they encounter a similar situation. Referring to Universal Design for Learning (UDL) theory this optimizes the value for the student because they can use it in their every-day life (UDL Guidelines, 2019)

Relevance for future activities and classes. If the students come to class and participate in breaking down the case studies they are well prepared for assessments. If students feel they can be successful they are motivated to come. By ensuring that students can clearly see the connection between assessment and class lessons students are confident in their success.

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Boehrer, J. and M. Linsky. “Teaching with Cases: Learning to Question.” In M.D. Svinicki (ed.), The Changing Face of College Teaching. New Directions for Teaching and Learning, no. 42. San Francisco,: Jossey-Bass, 1990

eCampus Ontario. (2019). EXTEND 101-EN.1 – Extend MOOC. Module 1: Teacher for Learning Motivation.

CAST (2018). Universal Design for Learning Guidelines version 2.2. Retrieved from http://udlguidelines.cast.org

Paying The Bill

The first activity in the Ontario Extend MOOC is to identify a concept that is often misunderstood and think of an analogy to help it make sense to students.

In the program that I teach there is no math prerequisite. When I introduce the health-care billing cycle some of my students are quite anxious because they perceive that this is complex math. I use the analogy of going for dinner so that students will recognize that they have done this type of math before.

You go out for dinner and choose from the menu what you would like to eat and the menu lists items and their cost. Once the bill comes, you look it over, you check that the tax percentage is correct, you add in a 20% tip (because your service was awesome!) and you pay the bill. If the bill comes and it is not what you are expecting, you let your server know and together you review the bill. If you find a discrepancy (you did not order two cups of tea) you send it back for correction.

The concepts are the same in health care billing.

Private Bills:

A client sees a provider for a service. The client chooses a service from a list of services (similar to a restaurant menu). If the bill is correct the client pays for the service. If the bill is incorrect, the client seeks out clarification before paying the bill.

Third-Party Insured Services:

The concepts are the same but this time the Insurance Company provides the menu with stipulations to what they will pay. If the Insurance Company sees an extra charge (similar to the extra cup of tea on the restaurant bill) they will send it back to the provider for clarification or correction before paying.

Ontario Health Insurance Plan (OHIP) insured services:

The concepts are similar but this time the provider chooses from the menu and sends the bill to the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care (MOHLTC). The menu that the MOHLTC provides is the Schedule of Benefits (SOB) a complex menu that lists out the services, the rules, and the fees those providers are paid. If the MOHLTC finds a discrepancy with the bill, they send it back to the provider for clarification or correction before paying.

My Cup is Ready

My TEAching cup is empty because I am ready to learn something new. I am very excited to start the eCampus Ontario Extend MOOC and share my learning with you.  I will not forgot my long-established teaching pedagogy but use it to reflect on my new learning. It is time to try out new flavours and step away from my customary cup of English-Breakfast tea and refresh the old with the new.