Creating a Pecha Kucha

In this post I’d like to share some insight on what I went through to create my Pecha Kucha.

Pecha Kucha 1.png

The first and easiest part was creating a PowerPoint presentation, with each of the 20 slides set to transition automatically after 20 seconds.

Then I turned to the classic dramatic storytelling arc:



I created a table in a word processing document and I color-coded it to match the various stages of the dramatic storytelling arc.  Then I started to write the script while searching for related images, making sure to note the source of each image on my reference slide.

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Then I used Audacity to record a separate audio clip for each slide, making sure I adjusted my pace, if necessary, to keep each audio clip under 20 seconds.

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Then I was ready to insert each audio clip into the corresponding slide in my PowerPoint, making sure it was set to play automatically at the start of each slide transition:

Pecha Kucha 8.png

Finally, I used a screen recorder to take a video of the slideshow, which played through automatically, and uploaded that video to YouTube.

This was a great challenge for me and I really pushed myself to do a good job.  I’m really happy with the end product and look forward to another opportunity to make some improvements.


Producing a Podcast

For one of my assignments in PIDP 3240 I decided to produce a podcast!

You can check out the final product here.

I thought I’d write this post to share a little bit of a behind-the-scenes look at how it was made.  The process was really simple and if I can do it, anyone can!

So first and foremost, you are going to want a decent microphone.  After a bit of research, I decided on the Blue Yeti.   It’s pretty much an “industry” standard and I could tell from the moment I plugged it in, recorded my first sound bite, and listened back that there was a palpable difference between my previous run-of-the-mill mic.  For this project, I used the cardioid setting and definitely appreciated the 48kHz sample rate. Here’s a look at my set-up:


As far as software goes, you can’t go wrong with the powerfully robust (and free) Audacity.  It should be self-explanatory how you start and stop recording and adjust the various levels, but I’m also going to run through a bit of how I post-processed my voice for some added pop.

You may have noticed that I did an interview via Skype for my podcast.  The quality of the Skype call could have definitely been far better.  I tried using the Windows WASAPI mode in Audacity to record the call, but was having technical difficulties while on the line, so just resorted to running the Skype call through a monitor and recording that with the microphone.  Definitely not ideal but I was kind of stuck at the time.  Something to try to explore and sort out for the next time I try an interview.

Anyway, once you record your soundbites there’s a super simple way to clean it up.  You can see in the image below that I left a good 10 seconds of white noise before I started speaking. When you’re done recording, select that first 10 seconds of white noise, click Effect and select Noise Reduction.  Then click Get Noise Profile. Then select your entire sound clip, click Effect and select Noise Reduction again. This time select OK. This will significantly clean up any background noise that may have been plaguing your recording.

I still thought it could have sounded a bit more like a studio though. So I started searching around for some better sound quality advice. This video was hands down the most helpful thing out there and I used this really easy process with great success and I totally recommend it:

To round it out I found some really catchy music at Free Music Archive. There’s something for everyone there.

And that’s pretty much it!

I’ve already had a second go at it and I think it turned out even better with just a single podcast under my belt.

Team Classify Concept Map

I decided to give the instructional strategy “Classify” a try, as proposed by Barkley in Student Engagement Techniques.

I’m currently teaching a course about occupational health and safety management systems (OHSMS), which culminates in an international certification exam. With the exam a few weeks away, and the content now covered, I thought this would make a perfect active learning opportunity for my students. Now that they’ve learned the component parts of an OHSMS they should be able to make a determination on how those parts relate to the whole.deming-cycle

As I started creating the list of component parts, based on the 21 learning objectives in the syllabus, I got a bit carried away. I began to realize what I was envisioning was a concept map.  Since I was planning a collaborative effort for this activity, this strategy seemed to be morphing into a “Team Classify Concept Map”.  I was OK with that.


A former manager once described one of my weaknesses as “too meticulous”.  I see what she was saying now.  I was definitely hating my decision at this point.  This can obviously be a lot less time consuming in the future, but this lesson was really important to me.

It was time well spent.  I had a huge chunk of a whole bunch of inter-related components of an OHSMS for the students to chew on.  It would be up to them to figure out the relationship between them and graphically organize them in a way that made sense. (1).gif

In small groups, students worked with a piece of poster paper, coloured markers, and a set of the classification components. The purpose of the activity was explained, a goal was set, some suggested models of graphic organization were presented, and off they went.

While there was definitely some pain and confusion during the 90-minutes that students spent trying to come to terms with an entire semester worth of information, the results were pretty stellar:


Overall, I was pleased with the value of this activity – it was worth the time I spent making it happen. I felt like there was a good balance of expectancy and value and the active learning strategy had students engaged for 90-minutes.  All levels of cognition were being used as I overheard students evaluating, synthesizing, analyzing, remembering, understanding, and applying what they’ve learned to create the finished product.

It was summed up perfectly by a student who openly reflected about the activity:

“What we did was just like a management system:  We planned our approach; We carried it out by pasting everything onto our model; We checked it with you to get some feedback; and now we can act on what we learned.”

Debates in the Classroom

Check out this video on Split Room Debates by a former student of 3250, Fatima Sheriff:

I enjoyed learning about using this instructional strategy, especially since I had recently attempted it in my class.

As I was teaching my students to explain the financial consequences of poor health and safety standards, I came across a story about how the UK’s largest construction company has reserved £25m for future health and safety fines.

We split the room into those who believed this was a responsible fiscal decision and those who believed this was an admission of future fatalities and legal non-compliance. Unfortunately, the “debate” devolved into an argument with only a few students contributing their opinions.  I didn’t do a great job of setting the ground rules or facilitating the debate, opting instead to let the students sort themselves out.  It was at the very least entertaining and for some a “memorable” activity, as indicated on a mid-term course evaluation a few weeks later.  It certainly warranted further investigation and perhaps another refined try.

Thankfully, there’s been an inspired debate about debates on our 3250 forum this week, facilitated by Louisa.  There are some really great points for and against the use of debates as an instructional strategy.  With the dust starting to settle, I’m more for the use of debates, agreeing with the following tweets:

When I try this instructional strategy again, I’m going to try to vary it by creating small groups of students on each side of the debate, as illustrated below (but please forgive my illustration skills). Each small group would only debate another small group from the other side of the issue. That way, the opportunity to collaborate is maximized as well as the opportunity for students to participate and have their say.


Transformative Learning


In my post a few weeks ago about creating a positive learning environment, you may have noticed that I had some not-so-nice things to say about transformative learning.  After getting off to such an eager start to the course and feeling really inspired by the first few chapters of the text book, the chapter on transformative learning was the first time where something just didn’t sit right with me.  It seemed like such a far-fetched theory that was so incredibly difficult to put into practice and required such a specific set of circumstances – and maybe even a bit of luck – to make it click.

Well that was then and this is now.

Truth be told:  I’ve been transformed.

The transformation felt like it happened pretty rapidly though the shift in paradigm may have been underway since I first decided to apply to the PIDP at VCC (the initial step of acting on my motivation to be a better instructor).  After about 5 weeks in Foundations, I had the pleasure of taking the Curriculum Development course in person when Douglas Mauger and Glen Galey were kind enough to travel to Doha, Qatar to teach 28 instructors at the College of the North Atlantic from September 4-8.  I was incredibly fortunate to be part of that group.

While the content of the course certainly helped with the transformation (there were a few major dots that were connected for me about how to get from the course outline to the lesson plan) it was the positive learning environment that was created and the instructional strategies that were used which really helped melt almost six years of resistance to being a better instructor off my shoulders.

Previous me:  “lesson plans are a stupid waste of time – why on earth do I  need to write a lesson plan when I’m already an expert and I know what I have to teach – it’s just a dumb piece of extra paper that my boss tells me I have to do and by the way I don’t even have time for it!”

New me:  *writing all lesson plans with furious vigor*

Maybe I was ready for change and it would have happened anyway.  Maybe the goal of the instruction was to transform me and the instructional strategies were all so carefully prescribed that it magically worked.  Maybe I could be an instructor that goes beyond teaching content and actually transforms the beliefs, attitudes, values, and behaviours of my students.

The experience as a whole made a believer out of me.

I’ve been reading a lot more about transformative learning and constructivism. Where previously I would have sighed audibly when someone asked me to reflect on something, I now see the absolute value and importance of my students going through this process. I’m really focused on trying to create the necessary environment in order to help catalyze a transformative experience for my students.  While there’s no perfect list of criteria available, this checklist is a pretty good start:

  • Encourage students to reflect on and share their feelings and thoughts in class
  • Cultivate awareness of alternate ways of learning
  • Establish an environment characterized by trust and care
  • Facilitate sensitive relationships among the participants
  • Demonstrate reflection as an experienced mentor
  • Facilitate the questioning of reality that promotes shifts in worldview
  • Encourage rational discourse
  • Provide equal opportunities for all students to assume various roles

Looking back on that list, every one of those items can be checked off as something I experienced during my time as a student in the curriculum development course.  While I have a long, long way to go as an instructor, I feel like I’m at least on the right path and moving in the right direction.

The Myth of Individual Learning Styles


I recently discovered that individual learning styles are a myth.  (So are my Microsoft Paint skills apparently ^^.)  I was pretty shell shocked by this discovery because having a learning style was such a strong belief so heavily ingrained in my thinking that I even considered it part of my own identity.  When I first heard that individual learning styles are a myth, I tried to justify my beliefs by telling myself, “learning styles DO exist but tailoring lessons to an individual’s learning style doesn’t necessarily help students succeed.”  I started getting comfortable with that idea, but upon further investigation, the research just doesn’t support even the existence of individual learning styles.  It doesn’t help that the myth about learning styles is still so alive and well:

In my search for more answers, I watched the following TedTalk video, where Dr. Tesia Marshik presents a meta-­analysis of current research on individual learning styles and concludes that:

“at present, there is no adequate evidence base to justify incorporating learning styles assessments into general educational practice”

-Dr. Tesia Marshik


Daniel Willingham described research proving that learning styles are a myth as far back as 2008:

“It’s true that some people have a better visual memory than other people and other people are better at learning auditory material than other people are, but that fact has little relevance for teachers”

-Daniel Willingham

Put simply, if you wanted to teach students to identify the appearance of different songbirds, you would show them a picture.  The picture gives meaning to the students.  It has nothing to do with whether or not the students are visual learners.


If, on the other hand, you wanted students to identify the different songs of various songbirds, you would have them listen to the sounds.  Again, it has nothing to do with whether or not the students are auditory learners, it only has to do with attaching meaning to the content.

Ultimately, the most effective instructional strategy to take away from the myth of individual learning styles and cognitive science in learning, is that incorporating multiple sensory experiences into a single lesson helps makes the content most meaningful.

Motivation by Gamification


Check out this awesome graphic recording of a Dan Pink lecture on the surprising truth about what motivates us.  He summarizes a study done at MIT and elaborates on the fact that having autonomy, mastery, and purpose is significantly more motivating than other incentives, including substantial monetary rewards:

Those are some really surprising results and I wondered about how to apply them to adult learning.  It got me thinking about another huge trend in adult education: gamification. Ultimately, when you hear or read about how much time gamers spend solving virtual problems, so much of it has to do with autonomy, mastery, and purpose.  This is why I believe gamification is here to stay for adult learners, as further evidenced by this recent tweet:

When I think about the principles of gamification and how it can tap into the motivation of adult learners, I really, really want to incorporate it into my teaching.  But it seems incredibly time consuming, expensive, and frankly too advanced for my current knowledge and abilities.


There is, however, some advice out there about how to implement effective, low cost gaming strategies into our teaching.  Keith Gibson suggests incorporating learner creativity, productive failure, and competition in order to hone in on the intrinsic motivation of adult learners.  This is my favourite quote from that article:

“Gamification principles made learners almost 20 times as likely to organize knowledge and relate it to existing knowledge”

Banfield & Wilkerson (2014)

Ultimately, the recent science of motivation in learning isn’t supporting the old carrot and stick philosophy that we’ve come to know.  And recent evidence of the intrinsic motivation of adult learners supports the use of gamification technology, especially when you consider the next generation of adult learners, and how much of their lives have been spent playing games.