Category Archives: Learning

I’m an Empowered Educator!

I did it! I worked my way through all six of the Ontario Extend modules and was rewarded with the status of an Empowered Educator. Whoo hoo!

That means I have received a badge for each of the six modules and one special final badge for the Empowered Educator designation.

It’s kind of like being in Brownies or Girl Guides all over again and working on those activities so you could get that badge that you could sew onto your sash. Only this time you get to download paper badges that you can print out onto a certificate or stickers you can put on your laptop.

This journey started with the Technologist Module that our wonderful Educational Technology Officer, Jesslyn Wilkinson, in the Teaching & Learning department at Conestoga College invited us to participate in. It was a great way to jump in. A group of us started together back in mid-June and supported each other through the activities over the two week timeframe that had been set for the learning experience.

After successfully gaining my first badge, and checking out the rest of the modules at, I decided that I was going to continue my quest and go after the other five badges: Teacher for Learning, Curator, Collaborator, Experimenter and Scholar. Each of them focused on a specific area and required different activities to be completed. I discussed several of the challenges in posts here. All of them made me stop and think and taught me new ways to be better at what I am doing, both as a professor and professionally.

In the program’s description, to have achieved Empowered Educator status, recipients have, “increased their capacity to create learner-centered technology-enabled and online learning experiences. They are empowered educators who have explored a range of emerging technologies and pedagogical practices for effective online and technology-enabled teaching and learning. They have explored the skills, knowledge, and attributes required to extend and transform their teaching and learning practices and to enrich their professional development.

Wow, it almost makes it sound like I know what I’m doing! Wink, wink!

I am very proud and excited to be counted among those that achieved Empowered Educator status.

Considering a Little Covid-Inspired Research

So, here I am, working on my sixth and final Ontario Extend module, Scholar.

What exactly does that mean? Well, it is asking us to consider our courses, how we are teaching and what we can do to improve upon that by looking at our classroom as a research lab. It’s the “scholarship of teaching and learning” or SoTL.

This module is by far the most academic in nature and harder to get your head wrapped around.

It is asking us lots of questions about the hows and whys of the way teaching is done. Essentially, it is the 2-year-old asking, “But why?”

Good question.

For many teachers, who have been doing the same thing, the same way for years, I’m sure it is a bit of an eye-opener. I wonder, though, if they are even taking these modules. I had an instructor like that behind me in one of my workshops this past year. By the end of the night, I wanted to smack him. I really felt for his students. He was a dinosaur.

For me, new to the teaching game, (officially as I have been speaking to high schools, colleges and industry events and doing industry workshops for years,) I’m all about the, “why are we doing it this way?” I am constantly looking at the materials I am being handed to teach and my students and gauging are they getting this? Are they handing in what they are supposed to? And I have had to change things on the fly all year long.

But, COVID-19 has really thrown a monkey-wrench into things.

I am sitting in front of my computer screen talking away to my class full of students and I can’t see a single face. Yep. It’s a black screen. Nothing like connecting to your class. I can’t tell if they are getting what I am teaching or not. And they are quiet. Oh so quiet. This semester I didn’t have the opportunity to meet any of them before we got shuffled off to our homes and no face-to-face contact. It takes a lot of work to try and connect this way. And I can’t see if they aren’t understanding the material, until they don’t….as in they fail something. Or don’t hand in something.

So, that is the observational research opportunity I have seized on for the semester. How can I introduce additional tools that will provide my students with other ways of learning what they need to know beyond the traditional “prescribed” course delivery? If I can be strategic about the best learning techniques for student success during COVID-19 and required remote delivery, will it make a difference? I’ve created a plan as part of my module.

We’re at the half-time right now, and I thought about the conversations I had with my students a couple of weeks ago about where they were at and what was getting in their way of doing well. That led to me thinking of new ways to connect that could meet their needs. Like giving them a video that outlines the biggest assignment for the semester in much greater detail, with references back to the material taken in class and some tips. I created it quickly and posted it to the class website. This lets them view it when they want to view it — on the bus ride home from work, on lunch break at work, while they are looking after their kids or two weeks from now when they need to go over the information as they work on the project. They will have me telling them again, exactly what they need to know. They can even watch it on their phone.

With the information I learn from what can make a difference in their learning, I can improve the classes I teach over the next couple of semesters. This remote delivery is going to be here with us for a bit yet, so I need to figure out better ways of teaching for my students’ success.

I also intend to share my learning with my colleagues, especially the ones teaching similar courses. Conestoga College has a fantastic Teaching and Learning team and I know they will be open to any information I am willing to share with them. And I plan to share some highlights here as well.

Only by being open to hearing about my students’ needs, what’s not working well and what could be done better, can there be the opportunity to pinpoint how I can turn teaching during this time of COVID from a wall of blackness into a new path through the forest.

Experimenting with New Techniques

As I mentioned last week, I am in the process of working on my Ontario Extend teaching workshops. I now have completed four modules and am finishing up my fifth one, the Experimenter Module. This blog post is part of the final activity for this series of challenges.

The focus this time was to experiment with different technology tools that you can use to create resources for your classes. And at least one of the challenges had to be done using your smartphone or tablet.

Now, the modules don’t have to be done in any particular order. And, as I mentioned in my blog last week, in the past year, I have taken 66 workshops in various types of teaching resources. So, many of the tools are ones I have already experimented with. But, I did look for ones that I would use.

With that in mind, I chose to create an infographic, a GIF and to use the OER Commons resource builder.

The infographic I created was entitled, “Who’s Using Social Media?” I know this is a topic I cover in most of my Public Relations and Marketing classes and I need to use updated facts. So, I created a quick graphic that shows the latest estimate on how many people are using which online platform.  This will provide a fast graphic for my students to look at and refer to, something that they can refer to more than their textbook. Also, I can easily update and reuse it.

My next challenge was to create a GIF using the GIPHY Make a GIF Tool. I had never made a GIF before, so this would be interesting. One of the topics I also teach every semester is about media relations and working with the media. I used a rather infamous piece of television footage from NBC News’ Meet the Press and the U.S. White House’s Counselor to President Donald Trump, Kellyanne Conway, being challenged about then Press Secretary Kevin Spicer lying on behalf of President Trump. She uttered her rather famous statement about the reporter/host being dramatic, saying it’s not lying, it’s alternative facts. I chose to turn that into a meme.  Creating this type of graphic allows me to take an “are you kidding?! in your face tone that most of us think, but don’t say. I can pop this into a presentation, or resource and let it stand on its own. ‘nuff said!

For my final task, I chose to use the OER Commons and its Open Resource Builder to create a graphic that would be posted and free for other educators to use. OER Commons is the “public library of open educational resources.”

I used a couple of different tools to complete this activity. As one of our activities had to be completed on a phone or tablet, I used my smartphone to go to Unsplash and select a photo that captured the essence of marketing projects that my class would be working on this semester. I then went to my PicMonkey app on my phone and edited it.

I ran into to some issues though, and had to go to my laptop/desktop version, so that I would be able to save it in a format that I could upload to be able to use with the OER Commons website.

I did use my phone to search and find the OER Commons website, register, read about it and try and figure out how I was supposed to do the assignment. But, it was difficult! I ended up coming back to my laptop/desktop setup again, so that I could click on the link here and access the information easily. I then created the resource.

There are definitely advantages and difficulties in using a smartphone for class assignments. I know that I have students that need to depend on them. It is the standard for many international students in their home countries. I’ve had discussions with students about this. Some use their phones as they commute to school or to jobs to listen to classes that they have missed, so it is important that all my classes are recorded. I have also started to create mini videos for assignments that provide more detailed information and even tips, so that students can replay these as they need to through the semester. This is especially important for the major assignment that is worth 30 percent of their total mark.  

The downside of using a smartphone was it was not as fast, as smooth or as complete an experience as using my desktop version. It made me frustrated, because I realized that I was missing elements that I could do on my desktop version of PicMonkey for instance. I wasn’t going to be able to upload my finished product the way I needed to. The option wasn’t there. I also couldn’t grab the photo directly. I needed to save it in my PicMonkey file first from Unsplash. It took me extra time and if I wasn’t aware that I did have these options, I would think that I couldn’t do it.

I actually have had students who didn’t have laptops and were trying to do all their homework on their phones. This came to a head after Covid-19 hit and the school was closed. No more access to laptops at the library! That’s when I started to see the difference in assignments and I began asking questions. The school had resources to lend them computers, but they weren’t aware. So, the connections needed to be made. It’s important to realize that not everything can be done with one resource.

I do know that adding a poll in class is one quick way to add the use of a smartphone to the student experience.

This was an interesting series of experiments and has added to my repertoire of resources that I can use for creating tools, both for classroom, professional and personal use.

A discussion about my journey of learning

Thanks for stopping by! Stay safe!


It’s Award Season…

….as in the Marketing Communications industry awards.

Not the TV or movie award season that happens earlier in the year.

For the past 19 years, I have been a judge for industry award programs starting first in Toronto and now spreading around the world. From the International Association of Business Communicator global Gold Quill awards to Canadian Silver Leaf Awards, the Toronto OVATIONS awards and now numerous US regional awards shows like the Nashville Music City Gold Pens, Atlanta Gold Flames, Chicago Bronze Quills and other various award programs, I am honoured to be asked to serve as a judge.

The season is actually a lengthy one, now that I think about it. I started the process of judging submissions for one awards program back in January, I just finished another a week or so ago, and I’m gearing up to start on several others soon. It almost goes year round now.

There are similarities between each of them and differences. I find them all fascinating.

One of the reasons I enjoy being a judge is the opportunity to provide input to the award submitters on how they can make future submissions stronger. It is a learning process. You can be too close to the program you are working on and not realize that you are leaving out information judges need to truly understand how the program worked. It is hard to condense down hours and months of work into the mandatory number of words or pages of the submission. It can also be difficult to step outside the “in the trenches” mindset and prove tangible outcomes. But, in order to have a successful, award-winning program, that’s exactly what you must do.

I also just love seeing what people around the world are working on. What are they communicating? How are they communicating? I always learn something new, see another way of doing something, an enhancement…I love it!

If I had to summarize it a quick snapshot, I guess it would be that…the opportunity to teach, to share and to learn all at one time! Fabulous!

Have a great day!

Diana Diana & Associates with awards
Diana Degan with OVATION awards she has won