Archives for category: Class Reflections

The following film summarizes my thoughts on Community, Challenge and Joy.

We were fortunate to have Dean Shareski present to our UVic TIE graduate cohort this past week. There were a number of themes presented during the evening and I wanted to touch on a few of them here.


I am part of many different communities, both online and off. I feel as though the strongest connections I have are with communities I interact with face to face. I love the biking community I am a part of. I can meet someone for the first time on a ride and we have an instant connection based on our sport. I also have a large school community. The teachers, students, support staff and administration all add to the community that makes our school a dynamic and exciting place to be every day. I learn from everyone in our school on a daily basis. Students have shown me how to throw a frisbee better, introduced me to nuances of photoshop, and asked questions in class I can’t answer that pushes me to learn more. The communities and interactions within them challenge me do do more, to be more, and to question more. I love being in the woods and seeing others complete a line on their bike for the first time. It inspires me to ride harder lines and accomplish more on my bike. Communities are vital for learning, a point Dean made many times in our class. When I interact online I am beginning to become more connected with the people I meet, but I admit I struggle to gain as much meaning from my online interactions as I do from my F2F communities. I find many of my interactions occur in isolation (asynchronous) and the banter becomes delayed causing me to loose interest in a particular topic faster than when I am chatting live (video conference or F2F).

Concept of Hard vs Challenging

A discussion began around the concept of high school courses being hard (difficult) and that teachers were heard at a conference discussion the fact that they were impressed with the fact that their courses were hard. Many other terms were lumped into hard (including challenging and rigour). I am not a proponent of making a course hard for the sake of hard, but I don’t agree that the terms hard and challenging are the same, or that challenging is a bad thing. Learners need to be challenged. The challenge will not be the same for all learners. One learner may find balancing on a bike challenging and their focus is to move the bike down a quiet street under their own power without touching the ground. Other may find riding a 5 inch wide log 20 feet above the ground challenging. I think we need challenges in our life. A learning project that is easy can disengage the learner quickly much like one that is far to challenging to complete. This is the same way game designers create games. A game needs to be challenging enough to make the player return and try again, not too challenging to frustrate and not too easy to complete without any effort. This is the same way we run our mountain school programs. There are hiking opportunities for all levels of fitness and we steer students into a hike that will challenge them, keep them interested, and allow them to achieve the outcome at the end of the day. Students who choose hikes that are too easy tend to be distracted and in turn distract others and become a safety issue. At the other end of the spectrum students on a hike that is way to challenging become a safety issue for the group due to their struggles to continue.


I co-taught an intro to outdoor filming course over the weekend and in one discussion a participant said that they would love to come and see what our school is doing. They are a member of the local community, have no children in the school presently, but want to see what is going on. It is important to share what is occurring in our schools. This sharing should not be focused solely on other teaching professionals, but distributed to a wider audience. I think sharing nights for the community and using media to share out what we are doing is important. I have done a very poor job of this so far in my teaching profession and need to be better at it. We discussed the fear around sharing. Teachers may be afraid that what they are doing does not warrant sharing. Others hold on to their practices and do not share because they feel the work they put into their lessons is theirs alone.


I left this topic to the end, not because it is least important, but because it is the take away from the night that I want to leave you with. Joy is so important. I say the joy this weekend in the participants learning new skills, wanting more, and laughing with each. Joy is such an important part of life. I exude joy every turn down a backcountry ski bowl and every jump or berm on my bike. It is that joy that we need to foster in our students. We need to cultivate a community where that is the rule, not the exception. I try to present my joy of the topics I teach in the hopes that my students will see that passion and engage. I would love to hear what others think about how to promote the concept of joy within the classroom.


Jenkins (2009) defines participatory culture as comprising a number of components

  1. Relatively low barriers to artistic expression and civic engagement.
  2. Strong support for creating and sharing creations.
  3. Informal mentorship from experienced participants
  4. Members believe that their contributions matter and feel some degree of social connections with each other.

During a presentation by Alec Couros to the UVic EDCI569, participatory culture was described as the connection between an increase in the number of online tools that can be accessed by individuals and the abundance of content that exists online. Web 2.0 (Facebook, Youtube, Twitter, etc.) demonstrates the vast amount of tools that we as individuals can use to communicate and the resulting volume of online content that stems from those tools (video, blogs, tweets, etc.) Jenkins (2009) proposed that “tools available to a culture matter, but what that culture chooses to do with those tools matters more.” This is a poignant quote, especially in the wake of recent events including terror groups using social media to efficiently disseminate political or religious rhetoric intended to influence others.

It has been said that with the advent of increased access to online social structures that people are connected, but becoming increasingly disconnected with each other. Dr. Jim Taylor in a blog post from 2010 writes that technology is becoming an escape from life, rather than immersion in it and you miss out on deeper connections with people and do not engage in anything of personal value. Ujjal Dosanjh was recently interviewed on CBC’s The Early Edition regarding the idea of multiculturalism in Canada. Although he was discussing the idea of immigrant populations and physical spaces, the concept in the quote below is very relevant with regards to the discussion of becoming disconnected. (

“If you are going to a particular church or temple…that’s not a ghetto. If you live your entire life amongst those people and the only connection you have to the society at large is the economy and you don’t take in the cultural value, because ultimately we left other countries to come to Canada because it has better values, not just more money, not just affluence, it’s the values that are more important than the affluence and those values are about freedom, about democracy, about being tolerant of others views, and living with others and communicating with others, integrating into the society…” Ujjal Dosanjh, 2015

In Douglas Thomas and John Seely Brown’s book A New Culture of Learning (2011), they make an argument that this new learning culture is comprised of two elements:

  1. Massive information networks that provide unlimited resources for learning on any subject
  2. Structured environments that allow for unlimited agency to build and experiment within the bounded domains.

Personal learning can be found in both elements, but it is with the second element that formalized education can find new growth and direction. While reading an article in Dwell magazine on the building of modern schools in New York, I began to think about the idea of experimentation and building within structured domains. Why do we call the buildings modern schools? I know this is in reference to the architectural design of structure, but if we are to build “modern” school(ing) it is important to look at what the domains of learning are. The new domains of learning are about digital literacy and global citizenship, but this needs to be presented to students not in a flood of unlimited resources with the teacher saying “Go”, but within a structured environment that allows students to interact in a meaningful way with others towards a common goal.

Although this discussion has focused on the digital citizen, it is important to recognize that the concept of participatory culture should be viewed both in the online world as well as the physical space we occupy. Participating in 3D life, movement and interaction with the physical world is as important a discussion as the idea of how to interact in a meaningful way online. We define ourselves ever increasingly by our digital identities, but it is now becoming just as important to look at how we define ourselves within our physical environment.


Jenkins, H. (2009). Confronting the challenges of participatory culture: Media education for the 21st century. Mit Press.

Taylor, J. (2010). Does Technology Connection Mean Life Disconnection? [Blog post].

Retrieved from connectio_b_623065.html

Tobin, S. (Producer). (2015, January 16). Ujjal Dosanjh on award [Audio poscast].

Retrieved from

Weiss, A. (2015). Building Modern Schools in New York City.

Retrieved from new-york-city