December 2020 Newsletter

The image above, courtesy of long-time colleague and photographer Ellen Kinsel, is a beautiful visual metaphor for self-reflection – which we trust you have the opportunity for during the holiday – a much-needed break this year.  This month’s news features personal reflections, upcoming learning opportunities, and readings for the holiday.  

Lamenting 2020

As 2020 and its ‘blurdays’ slowly fade and thoughts turn to the hope of shedding pandemic protocols in 2021, our challenge is to reflect on what we have learned.   2020 shoved education out of some well-worn traditions and environments.  Educators were forced to create unique ways to support learning.  New structures, methods, and learning environments were developed and refined.  Technology became pervasive and critical to education.  Parents were forced to become more active partners.  Teachers put student health and wellbeing as a first priority as student social and emotional needs became essential to learning before curricular outcomes.  Yes, with lockdowns and remote teaching there is a loss of learning as defined by curriculum, a deficit that continues to accumulate like the financial one. But is it a ‘loss’ or simply a ‘setback’ and a new challenge?

There were tangible benefits in our practice these past months that we need to keep in mind as we return to closer physical and social proximity.  Our education system needs to become more ‘nimble’ not only to better prepare students for tomorrow’s world but to be ready for the next pandemic.  What we learned in 2020 should be at the forefront of planning, or I fear 2020 hindsight will lament our losses if we simply slip back to the old ‘normal’.

Learning Opportunities

Upcoming online workshops and conference sessions are featured this month to help inform and support teaching skills and practice, whether online, on-campus, or any combination of both.  Many are free but may require registration.  Of note from the Digital Learning Collaborative (others found below):

State of the Nation: Individual Program Survey – We need your help! 

  • The annual State of the Nation: K-12 E-learning in Canada report reflects the most recent data collected by provincial and territorial ministries, but from individual programs as well. 
  • For e-learning programs that have not already submitted data, or are wishing to update their previous survey responses, please visit at your earliest convenience:


On behalf of the CANeLearn Board, best wishes for a restful holiday.

Photos, unless otherwise noted, by @rlabonte, ekinsel, or Unsplash

Featured Events

Featured Events

Pandemic Experiences

CANeLearn is researching what K-12 school districts across Canada have offered in the way of programming and supports during the pandemic.  We published our first report in August, the second in November, that detailed what the Ministries and Departments announced in the Spring and Fall of 2020 for remote learning.  The third report, Stories from the Field: Voices of K-12 Stakeholders During Pandemic, brings the voices of stakeholders from across Canada describing what they experienced.

Access the Research Report Publications and Presentations here


WEBINAR: Ask Ron Anything About Zoom

December 16, 1:00-2:00 pm EST

Here’s your opportunity to ask those nagging questions you have about teaching effectively with Zoom. Contact North | Contact Nord’s Research Associate and leader of our successful Zoom webinar series, Dr. Ron Owston, fields questions on any aspect of teaching with Zoom. More information…

Register here


WEBINAR: SEL in remote and online learning

December 16, 3:00-4:00 pm EST

During this time of remote learning, student support and social-emotional learning have been recognized as critically important. But SEL is not new. Experienced educators have been considering SEL needs for many years, and are now building processes to incorporate SEL into a variety of online and hybrid learning environments.  More information…

Register here


18th Annual Digital Learning Symposium

April  2021 (dates to come)


Open/Technology, Education, Scholarship and Society Association (OTESSA) 

May 31-June 3, 2021

Congress 2021 Theme: 

Northern Relations – Connecting Open/Technology, Education, Society, and Scholarship 


Digital Learning Annual Conference

Austin, TX and Online/Virtual

June 14-16, 2021

PD CalendarSee more here…


Worth Digging Into

25 Years of Ed Tech
Weller, M. (2020). Athabasca University Press

Martin Weller, Professor of Educational Technology at the Open University UK, uses his knowledge and experience in open and distance education to challenge us to think differently about pedagogy. His open-source book offers a repository of the history of educational technology for learning.

Read the book review here and access the book here


Assignments as Controversies – Digital Literacy and Writing in Classroom Practice
Bhatt, I. (2019). London: Routledge.

How has access to ubiquitous content online and to open education resources changed how students tackle an assignment? How has it changed how instructors create assignments? What is now possible for creating assignments, which do more than “test understanding”, but create challenges, controversy and provide an opportunity for students to co-create knowledge? If the pivot to online learning has done anything, it has opened up new approaches and thinking about assessment. If you are rethinking what you assess, how you assess, and how you engage learners in the design of their own assessment then this is a “must-read” book.

Read the review (free),  purchase here, or read the preceding journal article (free).


JOLR 2020 Volume 6 Number 3
Editors: Leanna Archambault and Jered Borup

  1. Special Issue: Inclusion in Online Learning Environments
  2. Expertise, Complexity, and Self-regulated Engagement: Lessons from Teacher Reflection in a Blended Learning Environment
  3. Students with Specific Learning Disabilities’ Experience with Instructional Materials and Programs in a Blended High School History Classroom: A Phenomenological Study of Accessibility
  4. Mattering is Motivating: Special Education Students’ Experience with an Online Charter School
  5. Perceptions of Accessibility in Online Course Materials: A Survey of Teachers from Six Online Schools
  6. The Effects of a Psychoeducational Workshop to Decrease Anxiety and Increase Empowerment in Victims of Trolling and Cyberbullying

Access all articles here

Learning to Teach Online

A free six-module open educational resource developed by Dr. Michelle Schira Hagerman

Includes reflection and practice activities for teachers to complete. Module topics include

  • Teaching Online: Relationships are Everything
  • Equity and Accessibility: The Foundations for Good Online Course Design
  • Planning, Pedagogies, and Learning Management Systems: The Nuts and Bolts of Online Teaching
  • Assessment and Evaluation in Online Courses
  • Establishing and Modelling Norms in Online Courses
  • Meeting Standards of Practice in an Online Practicum

More information can be found here.

Exploring the Promise of Online and Blended Pedagogy

Dr. Barb Brown and Dr. Michele Jacobsen, University of Calgary

Good teaching is good teaching whether it occurs online or in blended contexts. One of the myths of online learning is that it is inferior to meeting in person. This session explores how teachers can cultivate strong relationships with students and create the conditions for learning in digital spaces. The session focuses on ways teachers can engage with networked learning communities and access expertise and resources for teaching in diverse contexts. 

Get the slides here

Moving beyond the individual to create collective wellbeing by Dr.Kendrick and Dr. Russell-Mayhew

Jan 27, 2021

‘What lessons could we learn from the COVID-19 crisis and how will we act upon them with intention, compassion, and courage? Staff and student wellbeing can be mutually reinforcing when it is intentionally and systemically prioritized. Especially in times of difficulty, there are occupational hazards for teachers including emotional labour, compassion stress and fatigue, and burnout. How might we imagine a narrative of teaching that is energizing and empowering to both manage the complexities of education today, and to spark an upward spiral of well-being for teachers and students?

Information on future presentations in the Werklund (uCalgary) Professional Learning Series can be found here

In the News

Students’ Responses to Remote Learning in the Fall

Top Hat Survey: Tony Bates

The focus of this study is the experience of students in the fall semester and whether their experience has improved from the poor experience of remote learning in the spring. In particular, do students believe they are getting value for their higher education investment?

Read more here.

Micro-credentials and the Skills Agenda

In an era of uncertainty punctuated by massive job loss and unprecedented economic fallout from the COVID-19 global pandemic, micro-credentials represent a real opportunity to make lifelong learning accessible to all.

In this overview, fundamental questions about micro-credentials are addressed:

Basics of micro-credentials, what they are, who they are designed for, who develops them, and the standards that define their value.

How micro-credentials help people acquire the skills they need quickly for the types of jobs that are in demand.

Why micro-credentials matter and how they differ from long-form learning.

What are people looking for, what’s on offer, and the implications for the future of higher education.

What are the challenges and issues associated with the growth and development of these credentials?

Read the full article here.

Why sex is more fun than swotting: further discussion on asynchronous vs synchronous learning

Tony Bates

In an earlier post, Bates argued that online learning can combine both synchronous and asynchronous learning, while by definition face-to-face teaching is synchronous (although as one reader has pointed out, face-to-face teaching is often combined with non-digital asynchronous learning, such as reading books for homework — or swotting.

No one teaching method, medium or mode of delivery is intrinsically “better” than another; it is the conditions in which they are used that matter, so we need to understand the conditions that are necessary for success in teaching and learning. This applies just as much to the choice of synchronous or asynchronous teaching methods, whether online or not.

We need to look at the range of factors  that can influence learning as well as the synchronicity or otherwise of teaching and learning, and how these other factors fit with either synchronous or asynchronous learning. This is where things start to get complicated.

Read the full article here.


Resources for the Digital Classroom 

  • List of 300 sites covering a wide range of K-12 subjects curated by a grade 12 student from Toronto – check it out here

Common Sense Education Resources

UNESCO Resources

Quality Matters Emergency Remote Teaching Checklist

CANeLearn’s Emergency Remote Teaching Resources, Tools, Ideas 

  • CANeLearn has published a page with a collection of resources from other organizations, emerging tools, and ideas about pivoting to remote teaching
  • Check it out here

eCampusOntario’s updated list of tools and resources

Adventures in Archives

Check out links to past CANeLearn events

Featured Event

  • CANeLearn researched what K-12 school districts across Canada have offered in the way of programming and supports during the pandemic.  Check out the research project website for reports, recordings, and slide decks.

All archives here

Stay Connected!

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