Searching for a LMS site? Let’s “Canvas” the area!

Welcome, this is without a doubt my best title yet, if I do say so myself.

Today’s discussion will focus on the choice of service for our major project this semester.  After some deliberation, Nicole Brown and I have decided to forge ahead with Canvas.  While I am certainly new to this website and to Learning Management Systems as a whole, I wanted to highlight three (3!)




Three Key Features:

Multiple Choice Questions allow for formative feedback.

Multiple Choice Questions allow for further feedbackI wanted to learn about how the quiz questions

worked so I created a couple questions from Act I of Macbeth and inserted them into program.  Early on, I realized that under each possible answer I could leave a comment.  Traditionally, Multiple Choice questions are seen as low level memorization questions.  However, the format that Canvas offers allows me to use each question as a learning/reinforcement opportunity.

Outcomes are clearly displayed

A current major focus with Regina Catholic Schools right now is the emphasis of clear outcomes and indicators from the Saskatchewan Curriculum. The Canvas website allows you to post your outcomes for all to see, as well as any extra explanation you want to give in order to enhance the understanding of your students.



Discussion Threads

discussionThe final Canvas aspect that I want to highlight in my (admittedly brief) time on the site is possibility of discussion threads.  In the picture, you can see that one of the great aspects is that students must reply to the prompt before they can see the replies of their classmates.  This ensures that everyone is coming to their own conclusion instead of simply copying.  Once the students have replied, they are free to comment on each other’s posts and create a collegial atmosphere on the website.


Important Question Yet to be Discovered:

The most important question so far is the one that I am still unable to answer, and that is, how effectively can this site be used by the students?

My main priority when choosing a major project topic was to pick something that I was not only passionate about, but also something that I could integrate into my classrooms to enhance the learning of the students.

As I proceed further in the project, I hope to test out the site with some of my students and get their feedback on what they do and do not like.  These decisions will help shape whether I continue to use Canvas for years to come or if I leave in search of a new Learning Management System

Final Verdict: To Be Determined…

As I mentioned at the beginning of this post, I am only in the initial stages of planning our major project.  While I am happy with the opportunities that the Canvas Learning Management System provides, I cannot provide a decisive verdict until the project is complete and I am totally comfortable with the site’s capabilities.

Until then, I would love to hear what you, my colleagues, think of the site (if you chose to use it) and what are some of your favorite options, as well as your perceived drawbacks to the site.

Thanks again, and I’ll see you in the comments.



Why is Shakespeare so Difficult?

Understanding Shakespeare


Welcome!  My thought-provoking title brought you to my article and for that I am thankful.  When deciding upon the subject of our course prototype, my partner Nicole Brown and I decided that we wanted to do our part to make Shakespeare (Macbeth in particular) more accessible for students.

With the rising numbers of EAL Students in Saskatchewan, we both strongly believe that this is an important project to undertake.

Our plan is to create a blended course that will aid student understanding of Macbeth.  The decision to go the blended route, rather than strictly online was an easy one; despite the modules we will create and the supports we will curate, there remains a need for a face to face discussion to help students learn from Shakespeare, instead of just surviving it.

Embracing Technology

'well, Fred, I see you're finally embracing technology.'


Fully embracing technology is something that I need to try when teaching Macbeth.  But simply adding technology does not solve the problem.  As Oblinger and Hawkins state, “adding technology without altering pedagogy is not a solution.”

I’ve taught Macbeth several times, with varying degrees of success.  This assignments forces me to think critically, what can I do differently? How can I improve my teaching to enhance student learning?

Blended Learning

Is this what Blended Learning looks like to you?
Is this what Blended Learning looks like to you?


Another important reason for our choice of blended learning is explained by Tony Bates, “the main advantage [of blended learning] is for the 50% or more of students in North America, who are working more than 15 hours a week to help with the cost of their education.”  As mentioned earlier, the number of EAL students in my classes increase every year.

The unfortunate reality for many of these immigrant families is that they need their children to take jobs (in addition to school) in order to provide the necessary income for the family. 

Blended learning will allow these students to work at their own pace and work more manageable hours at their jobs.

Both Nicole and I are fully aware that this may be a difficult undertaking, but we look forward to the challenge and we believe that this is something that we can use in our classrooms.  Finally, if any of you have any thoughts or feedback on this particular idea, I would love to hear about it in the comments.






Guess who’s back? Back again?

Greetings and Salutations to all of my EC&I 834 colleagues and classmates.  I am back again, looking to complete my third Master’s class and second with Alec and Katia.

For those of you that don’t know me, my name is Kyle Ottenbreit, and I am a teacher at Miller Comprehensive Catholic High School, where I teach English and Math, in addition to coaching basketball.  I have a lovely family at home (pictured below), with my wife Nadine, and my children Destiny, Nicolas, and Mason.

Family Portrait

For the first eight years of my career things seemed to be progressing in a normal, familiar way.  I worked at the same school (LeBoldus) for my entire career and coached basketball every year as well.  I was enjoying my job and didn’t see a reason to change anything.  However, at the beginning of last year I started to think about the future and decided that, while I didn’t know if I ever wanted to be an administrator, I wanted to give myself the opportunity, should the desire ever arise.  Therefore I enrolled in the Master’s Program for Curriculum and Instruction, and here I am, loving the challenge and looking forward to seeing what I can accomplish.

Similarly, to the rest of you I assume, I find myself to be a much better student than during my undergraduate time ten years ago, and I look forward to continuing the journey with all of you.

With the “transformational changes” that seem to be heading our way, I want to make sure that I possess a wide variety of skills in order to be most effective as a teacher in whatever our future holds.

My three goals to learn in this class are as follows,

  1. I want to develop my skills related to online learning, so that I am prepared to teach an online class for my school, if necessary.

  2. I want to learn about how to effectively create a blended classroom so that I can enhance the learning environment for my students.

  3. I want to improve my technological abilities in order to better help my school colleagues with any questions they may have.

I hope you have enjoyed my opening blog and I look forward to hear from you in the comments.  Another place to find me is on Twitter @MrOttenbreit


Kyle Ottenbreit

Technology adds Comfort, Should not be Unplugged

Introduction – Turning on your phone

This blog post is a unique one to write, as it is directly related to the debate that I just participated in.   While myself and my team argued for the benefits of Unplugging, Tayler, Nicole, and Angela presented a fantastic argument on the pointlessness of unplugging.  Now that I am free of the shackles of the debate, I plan to sort through the facts and present a unified, coherent (hopefully) argument on the value of unplugging technology in today’s society.



Given that I argued “for” unplugging in the debate, the majority of my research centered around that fact.  Margie Warrell states that “recent studies have found that despite being more connected than ever, more people feel more alone than ever.”  Furthermore, she discusses sites such as Facebook and how “social media allows us to control what we share.  It appeals to our vulnerability and vanity.” We used both of these points effectively in our debate and pushed a theme that a constant internet connection leads to decreased personal interactions and a falsified social media presence.  However, the more time that I spend thinking about this topic and even as I write these words on to the page, I am beginning to feel differently about the effectiveness of unplugging from technology.

Technology allows us to be connected more than ever before.  And that connection leads to a feeling of comfort and even safety.



Body – Checking your phone calls

When I’m at work, if I need to go talk to a colleague in the staff room, I always bring my phone with me.  The purpose?  Not to check any new tweets or Facebook posts, but rather to feel secure in the knowledge that if anyone needs to get a hold of me, they will be able to do so.  Having young children has led to me feeling this way.  I start to feel physically ill at the thought of my son getting hurt or sick at daycare and if his caregivers could not reach me.  Having my iPhone in my pocket does not mean that I am on it, 24/7 but rather it is there as a safety measure should I be needed.

While I have admitted to carrying my phone with me everywhere as a measure of safety and comfort, I also acknowledge the fact that there are certain distractions that come from always being connected.  Ilya Pozin states that there is no such thing as multitasking, rather we are just switching back and forth between tasks very quickly. This is true even as I write this post.  While I attempt to form a coherent argument, I’m also talking with my cousin over Facebook messenger, making golf plans with my dad and texting my wife about plans after work.  Would I be done writing this article more quickly without the distractions?  Possibly, but I believe it allows my a brief and welcome distraction and also helps me coordinate my thoughts before continuing to write.

Conclusion – Closing your Social Media App?

The final point to discuss is the anxiety that can rise from being connected too often to Social Media.  Sophia Breene states that “checking in on friends’ frequent vacations… can create a constant state of Fear of Missing Out.”  This fear is certainly valid and needs to be discussed further.

Too often, people live their lives in comparison to others.  Are they prettier than me?  Are their clothes nicer?  Do they have more money?  Are they happier?  Social Media can enhance those doubts by making the lives of everyone else constantly accessible.



These comparisons between peers are nothing new and did not start with the advent of Social Media.  However, they are certainly something to be mindful of.  If you find yourself feeling too upset, or wanting, after using Social Media, then it may be a good time to re-evaluate the people you follow.  Social Media’s design is to simplify and add enjoyment to our lives, not to make us feel bad because others have more than we do.

Social Media has evolved and grown into a vital part of our lives.  It has created a level of comfort and security that we are unlikely to be able to live without.  Even Pope Benedict XVI states “The exchange of information can become true communication, links ripen into friends, and connections facilitate communication.”  Therefore, we should accept Social Media and rather than unplugging, we should use to benefit our lives not to draw comparisons to things we do not have.

Thanks for reading and enjoy the rest of your day!



Corporate Sponsorships are Damaging Education, Is there a way out?

One of the aspects that I have enjoyed most about my first Graduate class is the ability to learn from experts about situations I may not have been aware of. Before this class, all I knew of Pearson was that they sold the textbooks that we used. Furthermore, all I knew about corporate sponsorships in schools was that here at LeBoldus, Pepsi helped pay for our scoreboard and therefore we only sell Pepsi products in the school. However, after listening to a very informative debate from Tyler, Justine, and Dean, as well as the accompanying readings and videos, I am shocked at the amount of influence corporations have in our schools. Especially in the United States, Pearson is so much more than just a textbook manufacturer and their influence could have damning results. My question is, is there any way to improve these business relationships and can schools survive in their current form without business involvement. Let’s investigate.

Wait a second, the person evaluating my teaching performance is someone I’ve never met???

What Pearson's Assessment Tests would have you believe
What Pearson’s Assessment Tests would have you believe


I still cannot believe the story from Alan Singer, who discussed the Teaching Performance Assessment. In the United States, Pearson agents administer this assessment to new and prospective teachers, which are then used to hand out certification or determine teacher pay. Further evaluation of this assessment led to the discovery that four of the five states used for the assessment were notorious anti-union states, where “teachers have virtually no job security or union protection.” Clearly, Pearson was very clever (shrewd?) in its choice of locations. Singer also points out that there is no connection “between the evaluation system and improved student learning.” Thankfully, not everyone is accepting this new procedure. Teachers in Massachusetts launched a national campaign against the assessment, stating “that the field supervisors and cooperating teachers who guided their teaching practice and observed and evaluated them for six months in middle and high school classrooms were better equipped to judge their teaching skills and potential than people who had never seen nor spoken with them.” Thankfully, this practice has not yet made it to Canadian soil, but it is certainly something we need to be mindful of. When we empower companies and entrust them with evaluations of our teachers, they are not doing so with the student’s best interests in mind. Rather, they are thinking about their own bottom line and how to improve profit margins. Alex Molnar states in perfectly, “it is now time for policymakers to take a more critical look at the purpose and impact of many types of corporate-school relationships and to decide what form of oversight is necessary to ensure that public schools continue as an expression of democratic values rather than corporate interests.” Therefore, we need to ensure that if we are creating relationships with corporations in a school setting, that the schools maintain control so disasters such as this Teaching Performance Assessment can be avoided.

Colleague Perspectives

Given that I admittedly was not as educated on this subject as others, I sought out the blogs of some of my colleagues for their perspective on the subject. Tyler sums up the concerns about corporations in the school when he states, “sometimes it feels that we are pressured into using “their” resources in order for us to have success.  Many teachers also feel pressure to abide by these “new” ideas because the division has told them to.”  Kelsie concludes her blog post with some fears of the future when she states, “To end, I believe that public schools have not yet sold their souls to corporations. As long as teachers are around to discuss and demand transparency and alternative (maybe even transformational?) choices, I don’t believe public schools will sell their souls just yet. However, I can see a future where this has occurred and to me, it is a scary one.”  Finally, Danielle has a different perspective, as she discusses the free promotional items she has received from companies and how she has used them in the classroom when she states, “Would I say that having access to these items has enabled me to be a better teacher on the salary and funding that I have been granted? Most definitely. Have I sold out my students in what amounts to a Faustian bargain? I’m not convinced that I have.”  These are three different and informative views from three well-educated people and they have helped form my opinions on the subject matter.

Microsoft Investing the Right Way



Thankfully, not every company appears to be investing in the same cynical nature as others.  Judah Schiller discusses Microsoft’s recent plan in the United States, where the “company recently shifted all of its corporate citizenship efforts toward closing what it characterizes as the opportunity divide—a chasm that separates those who prosper in our society from those who don’t.”  Furthermore, “As a partner, Microsoft does a lot more than give us dollars,” Everlove says. “They really get into the community, roll up their sleeves and help address education problems that are easy for them to solve, but huge for schools to achieve.”  This type of company/school integration is heart-warming to see and provides hope that these types of relationships can be beneficial for both sides.

It is integral that schools can continue to foster these types of relationships with local businesses.  Because as school budgets and funding decrease from our provincial government, schools must adapt in order to survive.

Standardized Tests

The final aspect of corporate involvement in schools is reserved for any teacher’s least two favourite words standardized tests.  While these tests have been a constant for many years, teachers still loathe them, due to the fact that they are not deemed helpful in any way and often the tests do not match the outcomes being taught from the curriculum.  The pressure to write these tests often comes from superintendents or government ministers, who want numerical proof about the achievements of students and how they relate to the city/province/country.

The problem with standardized tests, however is that the students never feel any attachment to these tests and usually put forth a minimal effort. 



John Oliver explains perfectly (as he often does) the issues with these tests when he states “if standardized tests are bad for teachers, and they’re bad for kids, who exactly are they good for?”  Oliver goes on to state that the people benefitting from standardized tests, are our old friends at Pearson who control over 40% of the testing market and “have a shocking amount of influence over America’s schools.”  In order to free ourselves from Pearson’s grip and from standardized tests, we need the government minister’s who want to compare scores to instead look to gain insight from the classroom teacher, who can tell you precisely the strengths and weaknesses of our students without a Scantron test.

I hope you enjoyed reading the article as much as I enjoyed writing it and I look forward to hearing your comments.


Ahhh! Summary of Learning!

Greetings all, after three crazy busy days I have finished my summary of learning. When I encountered this assignment during our first class, I was intimated by the quality of the examples that were shown. I knew I wasn’t creative enough to rewrite a song, so I started to think about something that I could do. I have always been interested in iMovie and so three days ago, I had a colleague at school show me the basics of how it worked. I was impressed by the quality it produced and how user friendly it seemed. I borrowed a microphone and a tripod and set off to videotape myself doing certain sections and to record my voice overs for other parts. I am happy with the results of my first video. I believe that it effectively summarizes (see what I did there?) the important points I have learned, well also incorporating some fun as well. With no further adieu, here is my video, I hope you enjoy. Feel free to leave comments on the video or here on the blog post.

Ps  this is not the image I would have chosen as the opening to my video. It is an image inside my presentation, so I guess it will have to do for now. I’ll work on changing it.


Social Media Acceptance Necessary for Parents


Before beginning this blog post, I polled my ELA 10 class to discover their beliefs about the acceptable age to start using social media. The results were surprising. They believed students should be allowed to start social media at the age of 14. This was surprising because when I followed up by asking when they started using it, the majority said they started at age 10. These (informal) results tell me that students do understand and appreciate the need for social media, yet even they understand a certain level of maturity must accompany it.

Social Media


Parents should accept and not fight the inevitable inclusion of Social Media.

I will begin my argument on the understanding that all students joining social media are doing so at an age and maturity that is appropriate for them. Rather than fighting the possibility of our children developing a negative footprint, we instead must embrace the reasons that social media might actually help our children. Society continues to evolve and our childhood is vastly different than that of our children. While we may have hung out at the park, they may have “digital hangouts” in chatrooms or group messaging. Furthermore, social media allows students to easily discover new interests. Certainly all of these new interests may not be positive, but at that point it is our job as parents/teachers to ensure our children are informed enough to make the correct decision and comfortable enough to communicate if they stumble across something negative or dangerous. Finally, from a teaching perspective, social media allows our students to easily collaborate with each other outside of a classroom setting. The positives of websites such as Skype, or Google Hangout that we emphasize in class are likely already being used by our students independently. None of that is possible if we do not embrace social media as a new digital, communication platform.

Digital Hangout



Creating Communities and Fostering Social Identity

As a society, attention is always drawn to the most sensationalist, negative, dangerous stories or people. The fact remains that the vast, vast majority of students using social media have no problems at all and only a fraction of them are misusing the applications. We obviously still not to be cognizant of the dangers but as Caroline Knorr states, “as a parent, you can help nurture the positive aspects simply by accepting how important social media is for kids and helping them find ways for it to add real value to their lives.” For when children are aware of the dangers and focus on the positive aspects of the internet, there is so much positivity and kindness to be found. A heartwarming example can be found on a Reddit forum, where “an entire online community used voice-conferencing software to talk a teen out of his decision to commit suicide.” If only our society could reach a point where we focused on the positive aspects of social media as much as the negative, acceptance at large would be much easier.




Still Concerns to be Aware of

While a focus on the positive nature of social media is our best bet, there is still concerns we need to be aware of as parents/teachers. This Susan Tardanico article discusses our overreliance on texting being our main form of communication. She references a study that says 93% of communication is nonverbal, whether it be a tone of voice, an eye roll or slumped shoulders, these are all aspects that we are unable to see through digital communication. As well, students are graduating to the work force with a “lack of comfort with traditional interpersonal communication.” Furthermore, George Bowden discusses cyberbullying, which can lead to “increased anxiety, stress, and sleep deprivation… in children.” While these are certainly problems to be aware of, they are in no means an excuse to completely cut social media out of our lives. Rather, we as parents/teachers need to be sure to explain the dangers of cyberbullying and to emphasize moderation in digital communication. If we can have our students communicate effectively through social media AND using interpersonal skills, then we have done our part to ensure their best chance of success moving forward.