Online Collaboration and Helping Others (as Best I Can)

At the start of ECMP 355 (in the syllabus) Katia asked us to keep track of all of our online interactions. She was kind enough to bold the text. I don’t have any stats, but I suspect that lots of undergrads don’t actually read the syllabus – I’m not one of them! Reading syllabi and filling out my agenda with a semester’s dates is a highlight of my year. However, I ignored her request, so here I was today trying to compile all my online interactions of the last four months.

To all future ECMPers:

Don’t fall into this trap! I recommend a nightly update of your log, with the day’s activities.

Anyway, after two hours, my left hand’s pinky and and index fingers are tired (Can you guess why? Answer at the bottom) but I’ve captured most (not all) of my online interactions. Brief summary:

Google+ CommunitySadly, I had the fewest interactions here, and they were the easiest to locate. Just searched for my name. Thanks Google!

Blogging: This is where I likely lost the greatest percentage of interactions, because it limits how far back you can look at the comments you’ve made. Very poor feature WordPress.

Twitter: It’s easy to find interactions here, but I tweet a lot (imho). So this definitely took the most time. Yer arright Twitter.

If you want to read my log, you can do so here. If you want to read a summary with exemplars, read below.

How Have I Contributed To The Learning of Others?

First and foremost, I feel awkward writing this. It’s like a cover letter – you’re supposed to brag yourself up and that’s just painful. However, it’s even more painful for you to read about how painful the writing is for me. So, I have a compromise! I won’t mention it again, but every time I feel self conscious about what I’m writing, I’ll throw in a little asterisk (*) so you know how I’m feeling. Deal? Kk.

I’ll sort my contributions by medium, but there is overlap.


Blogging, and commenting on blogs, is a useful medium. I personally enjoy it because 1) I can express my thoughts fully and 2) because there’s less pressure time-wise. Unlike Twitter, if it takes me a few days to mull over a post before I respond, that’s perfectly okay. I prefer deep, reflective thinking, so this is great.

Rheanne blogged about ability grouping of students, a contentious issue, and I’ve got opinions! But they’re not easy to express. Here’s the opening to my response:

Read the rest here

Read the rest here

I’m setting up a fairly complex argument, largely drawn (in structure, though not message) from this Keith Devlin blog I’d read a fortnight earlier. That depth of thought*, that sort of connection between materials, is fairly natural in blogs as spaces. In this case, nobody has yet responded directly to my thoughts, but I don’t consider that necessary. When people respond, it’s validating, but I hope that people have read my thoughts and reflected on them – I don’t need their validation, although their input is much desired. Tori captures this in a post lower in the comments when she says, “I’m not sure that I have an answer to the questions that have been posed in this discussion. However, I love that they are being asked.”

A lot of discussion in this class has focused on Digital Identity, specifically looking at exposure to sexual material for youth. Ryan posted a lovely blog about the documentary Sext Up Kids, and the discussion in his comment section was exhilarating. I attempted to take that discussion away from the “shocking” nature of the documentary, and away from the way things were “in the good old days” and transition it towards a solution-based discussion. I did this by bringing in Sex-Ed, and what sort of progressive Sex-Ed is both necessary, and acceptable, for students living in a digital environment, at various ages. Ryan thanked me for my thoughts* and built on them, asking about the ways to incorporate this sort of discussion into pre-service teacher training.

Cole made a blog post addressing strategies and supports for students on the autism spectrum, and he provided a link to some lovely resources. This semester, in my Ed Psych class on Exceptionalities in students in Canada, I learned about person first language, referring to, for example, a student with autism, rather than an autistic student. I was happy to share that idea with Cole, and spread what learning I could.

The last blog I’m going to mention belongs to Bryan Penfound, an instructor at the University of Winnipeg (in Math and Math Ed). He’s going to come up a few more times in this post because we’ve had several in-depth exchanges about math pedagogy this semester. In this post, he was writing about some math work his students had done, and how he analyzed and detected errors. We had some back and forth in the comments, and I suggested he partner with a local math teacher so his pre-service teachers could try analyzing real student work. He seemed to like the idea:


No favourites. I couldn’t do it. Too self serving*****

Google+ Community

I didn’t find Google+ particularly useful, so I didn’t use it often. However, two attempts I made to help peers in that forum were:

1) Tori has become interested in Social and Emotional Learning this semester, so when she asked the community about emotional literacy, I responded as best I could.

2) Cameron, early in the semester, posted about the rejection of Learning Styles by recent research. Since my twitter feed had been exploding with overly-vitriolic comments about just that, I shared my thoughts, from what I’d seen. Katia brought in a neat article distinguishing learning styles from multiple intelligences (which also make people angry). I definitely felt some mutual growth through these exchanges.

3) (Bonus!) Curtis had been torturing Katia over her fear of puppets. I waded into the discussion, clarifying that, on a scale of terror, Marionettes > Puppets.

Haunting Eyes. From Czech Marionettes

Haunting Eyes. From Czech Marionettes


I went through my log and selectively chose what I felt were the best tweets where I helped people. I now have 24 tweets queued in tabs. It’s too much to put here, but there’s a lot of stuff I want to share. I’m going be incredibly brief on each tweet that I share, and maybe an extra sentence or two on the absolutely essential ones.




Justice Sinclair (now Senator Sinclair) retweeted and commented on my blog about his lecture. The next day, he tweeted it again. Spectacular and strange feeling.







During an EMTH class we were discussing useful software for drafting math assignments, and didn’t know any intuitive options. I sent a tweet to Desmos, and the CEO got back to us within 10 minutes. Our whole class benefited from that.









I continued a discussion with Michael Pershan, around an article about math anxiety, with Bryan Penfound.










I offered a counterpoint article to discuss growth mindset with Tori, Rheanne, Brea, and Lydia.









I set up a date with Leanne to help her through a more positive coding experience.










I prepared a screencastify on how to make sub-menus in WordPress for Brea and Tori.







I encouraged Regina to participate in Earth Hour. Brea told me she saw my tweet and shouted, “We need to shut off the lights, now!!!” and rushed around to get it done in time.







I was pulled into an (admittedly very productive) #SaskEdChat by Tori, discussing typing skills for students.






Responses and Interactions

I want to showcase three specific interactions that I felt had an impact, or in which I felt significant growth and learning:

First, I tweeted a photo of a mail-out from the Sask Party which led to a back and forth between Alec and I on bias in graphing, and the way teachers can tie local events (like a provincial election) into the curriculum. I had too many thoughts to share, so I had to turn the conversation into this blog post, which then got comments on it, further refining my thinking. The discussion and learning evolved naturally, and mutated through different spaces as required, but it all started from me taking a photo of an ad that came in my mail, and that felt very authentic.

Secondly, I had a lot of issues with this course, especially in the early months, surrounding the normalizing forces that happen in online spaces. I blogged and tweeted about it, and got great feedback and thoughts from Alec. It was nice to have a reasonable approach to what could be considered public criticism. I was nervous going into the blog post, but the results were excellent. Alec didn’t necessarily agree with me, but he was human and polite in responding to real concerns.

Finally, I sent this tweet to Alec and Katia requesting class be cancelled so we could attend Justice Sinclair’s lecture:


I got a lot of support from peers, and eventually, Alec and Katia agreed and we went to the lecture. I certainly wasn’t solely responsible for this happening, and a lot of credit should go to the instructors for agreeing to the change of plans, but I feel like I played a role in making this happen* and I would consider that lecture a pivotal point in the course, and certainly memorable for a lot of students. There were a lot of magnificent posts and reflections that came out of the experience.


I feel that throughout this course, I’ve been an active participant in online spaces, and I’ve done my best to further the learning of my peers. One advantage to my delayed approach to my log is that I got the opportunity (was forced) to reread all of my interactions for this course. And so, tonight, I replied to a tweet I sent in the first week. Brea had asked for some educators to follow and I recommended several. Tonight, after my experiences of the semester, I sent along several other, new recommendations. As I’ve written this (epic of a) blog post, every one of them has liked that tweet, and I got the following very kind words back from Bryan Penfound:


And that’s about as pleasant a conclusion as I can manage.

Answer: Control-C and Control-V, over and over again, with links to my interactions


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