The Class Trip: Learning Out of the Classroom

Tyendinaga Picture

Hands down, the most rewarding teaching experiences for me have been those teaching moments that take place out of the classroom. And in my experience, it is these moments that the students remember the most as well. Just last week, Alison Bonham took her Social Service Worker students from the Kingston campus to Tyendinaga Mohawk Territory in order to learn first-hand about First Nations culture and traditions from students and faculty in the Social Service Worker Program at First Nations Technical Institute. The trip had two objectives:

  • to learn about the use and importance of story-telling, song/music and circle in Aboriginal communities in order to increase their cultural competency.
  • to be able to obtain accurate information regarding Aboriginal traditions and culture which will improve their ability to provide culturally sensitive service and support to First Nations clients.

In the feedback Alison has already received from the students who took part in the trip, there were countless lessons learned that day. Perhaps some lessons were expected, but arguably the greatest reward are those unexpected lessons learned.



Alternative to Traditional Presentations


It seems like every semester at some point many faculty enter a period of in-class presentations. I definitely use them in my Communications courses. And as much as I believe in using the project as a skill building assignment, they also take up a LOT of time. That is why I was very interested to read about an alternative approach to the traditional in-class presentation: an online presentation. Even in writing those last few words I can hear the collective sigh of relief of many of our students at the possibility of not having to present, in person, in front of a group.

The article “Maximize In-Class Time by Moving Student Presentations Online” provides a step-by-step guide to facilitating presentations online. In reading through the steps, it does appear that there are some technical requirements but not any drastic limitations to implementing the strategy. If you’re interested in trying something new when it comes to student presentations, you can read the entire article here:

Taking Teaching Outside

Carpentry Photo 1


Recently, the lawns around St. Lawrence’s Kingston campus have been strewn with different wooden creations. You  may have seen them. This has been the work of the Carpentry students, and they have been busy taking their learning outside.

The students have been learning how to build an 8′ x 10′ building and what you may have seen the students working on are the footings for the buildings. The students were given a dimensional drawing and were then asked to come up with a tool list, a sequence of operations, and a bill of materials/cutting list to determine how much lumber they would need to complete the project, all of which needed to be handed in and marked before they began cutting.

The project is also a group project. The students were divided into groups of four and worked together to lay out the outside walls of the building and sledge hammer in the batter boards before constructing the footings.

The project is a great reminder of the power of learning by doing, one of the best ways to learn.

Thanks to Jamie Seaby, the faculty member teaching the course, for providing all the technical information.


Carpentry Photo 2


Sugata Mitra’s School in the Cloud

I watched this talk on and can’t stop thinking about what Mitra’s discoveries say about education and teaching. If you’re not familiar with the story, Mitra was teaching computer programming at a school in New Delhi that was situated next to a slum. Curious about the connection between having money and having the potential to learn, Mitra decided to put a computer in the exterior wall of the school so that the children living in the slum could access the technology. What he discovered is nothing short of amazing. If you have twenty minutes to spare and want to see an inspirational talk about the potential to learn and our role as educators, please watch this video:

Student Participation in Group Work

As much as we may want to incorporate group work into our courses, often they can be a difficult beast to manage, particularly when it comes to assessing the contribution of each group member to the assignment. If you are concerned that not all group members are contributing equally, this article has five suggestions that you might want to try:

If you are doing group work on Blackboard, one of the great suggestions I just learned about is the Participation Summary option. This tool allows you to see which students have contributed the most to the project, perhaps a wiki. It will actually tell you what percent of the content was completed by particular students. No more guess work!

You can read more about this function here:

Thanks, Jamie, Jim, and Val.

The Three Hour Lecture

The topic of the three hour lecture seems to be coming up a lot in conversation. Have you been there? Teaching the three hour lecture that might sometimes feel like the six hour lecture?

In looking for suggestions from other faculty in other schools, I was somewhat surprised to come across these suggestions from a professor at NYU that dates back to 2000. Clearly, this is not a new issue, but I think Paul Brown’s tips still hold up:

There is another article on the Faculty Focus site that addresses the idea of teaching courses in blocks. You can find the article here:

The suggestions seem to be similar: divide your three hours into distinct blocks and alter your mode of delivery. Doing so will keep the content interesting for you and the students.

The Civil Engineering Technology Car Wash

Car wash

The weather cooperated for the car wash fundraising event organized by Civil students these past couple of weeks.

The students came together to try and raise $600. Their goal was simple: let a kid play hockey. As many of the students know first-hand, playing sports as a kid can be an expensive undertaking for families. With that in mind, the students wanted to raise enough money to be able to pay for at least one kid to play hockey this year with the Kingston Church Athletic League. They succeeded! Now, one Kingston kid who may not have had the opportunity before will be able to play.