SmartBoard Tip

With the introduction of Smartboards into nearly all of our PACE classrooms, we are providing instructors with the latest generation of interactive projectors.  They serve as an opportunity to enhance the lessons in the classroom and make them more beneficial for students:

– through the use of the SmartBoard app you can share the whiteboard? No app or special device is required by the receiver of the sharing request.  It can then be used interactively by everyone, and students can save a copy of the work to their device for studying later.

-SmartBoard files can be exported to a USB as  PDF file for sharing and later use

-if you don’t want to switch between a PowerPoint presentation and the SmartBoard white board, put in a blank slide.  With the SmartBoard hook up we have you can use the pens to write onto the slide and use it as a whiteboard – you can even save it after!

-the SmartBoards have a built in browser.  You can preset any web pages or videos you want to use during your lesson so that you can access them quickly without having to leave your PowerPoint.

By Monday, we will have finished our upgrades to most of our classrooms.  If you need an orientation to the new AV setup or the SmartBoards, be sure to reach out to the PACE office or the PACE Academic Program Manager.





I was listening to the Teaching in Higher Education Podcast from April 18, “Spaces and Places (and Nudges)”, the guest speaker, Jose Bowen had a lot of great ideas on how teachers can make a difference in the lives and habits of students through small design changes or ‘nudges’.  Nudges cost nothing, but are designed to adjust behaviour so people make better choices.

Amsterdam’s Schipol Airport used nudging in an attempt at improving men’s cleanliness in using urinals.  They placed a target in the urinal, a little plastic fly.  Men would aim at the fly, keeping ‘things’ in the urinal and not on the floor.  A nudge to adjust behaviour to got a positive result.

In the podcast, the suggestion was made that in education, teachers, instructors, and administrators can all use nudges to adjust their student’s behaviour to improve the students’ lives, learning, or future opportunities.

Have you ever noticed the number of students pulling an all-nighter to complete an assignment for 9 a.m.?  And then the students don’t even come to class? Or come to class and sleep on the desk in front of you?  I recently had an assignment due at 9 a.m. which was to be submitted through Nexus. This is a quite standard idea of turning an assignment in at the start of a class.  As I went to start class, I realized that 1/3 of the class was missing, and another 1/3 (or more) were actively sleeping – including a student who had pushed aside his, and his neighbour’s books to lay flat out on the table!

Going forward, if I make the assignment due at 11 p.m. the night before, it forces students to complete their work with enough time to still get a night’s sleep. A small nudge to improve their health and get their work done on time!

If you want to hear the podcast, you can listen to it here:

Rubric Repair

Looking for some tips on how to make your rubrics better?  Check out this episode from the Cult of Pedagogy podcast:

(There’s also a transcript there if you prefer just to read it. 😉 )

Interviewing an experienced educator and author, the episode offers five tips to use when building a rubric:

1) Measure what really matters

2) Weigh the criteria appropriately

3) Check your math

4) Can do rubrics, not can’t do

5) Models

It’s worth checking out and then having a look at your rubrics to see how they stack up to the tips offered.



Professional Development Opportunity

For UWinnipeg full time and contract staff:


Join us for a faculty workshop titled Balancing Support & Accountability: Navigating the Teacher-Student Relationship in a Time of “Reconciliation.”

Facilitator Tara Williamson will cover techniques and strategies for supporting students outside of the classic western teacher-student relationship; and, helping students take responsibility for their opinions, responses, and overall learning.

When: Tuesday, April 2; 12:00 – 1:30 pm

Where: Room 2M70 (Manitoba Hall)

This workshop is hosted by Dr. Lorena Fontaine, Indigenous Academic Lead for the University of Winnipeg.

RSVP to if you are interested in attending. A light snack will be provided.


Using the Whiteboard for More Impact

Using the whiteboard in a classroom seems pretty easy, but some pre-planning over how you are going to use it can improve the delivery of your lesson.

There are some basics ideas that it’s good to keep in mind:

-never  talk to the board, always write the point and then turn so you can address the class when you talk

-print large enough that everyone can see

-check the markers and erasers at the start of class (just ask the Registration Desk if you need replacements)

In using the board, plan out the location of materials that you are going to put on the board:

-assignment instructions, if being listed on the board, should stay visible for the whole class

-make use of a “parking lot” – a space for ideas or questions that don’t quite fit the moment but are worth coming back to later.

-have an active space for materials that you are currently discussing, then clearing off for the next piece – but erase it only have you are sure everyone got the points down!

-terms or learning outcomes can be listed on the board either at the start of the class or as they are encountered so students can see the progression during the day

-put the agenda for the day up, students can see progress over the class and queue to the topic if they miss something said aloud

-identify items that need to be put up in advance, like tables or formulas, so that you aren’t loosing time or momentum during the class

-write student responses to questions on the board to ensure everyone knows the answer and that you heard the answer correctly

-think about a structure for the board in advance, divide the space up so that you can use it effectively and consistently week to week.  Like consistency in slide design, students will come to recognize the connection between items if they appear in groups on the board from class to class

-think about using colours for a purpose: terms are in green, formulas in red for example

The whiteboard is a teaching aid.  Like any teaching aid, thinking about it’s use in the class and how it improve the lesson delivery is an important part of prepping for class.

How Hard Should Your Test Be?

When I started as an instructor I struggled with the idea of how hard to make my tests and assignments.  Even with time, it is still a bit of a guess.  This past month, the Scientific American posted a blog summarizing some recent research.

In short, you don’t want your course or exam to be too easy, then students are challenged and true learning doesn’t occur, nor do you want the test to be so hard that no one can pass it.  The ideal sweet spot for learning is 85%.  At that point, students are being optimally challenged and are still getting enough correct answers to engage their interest and keep them motivated.

The theory is derived from the work of a team lead by Robert Wilson for the University of Arizona, whose team studied the ideal point of difficulty to enhance the learning of material and how the level of difficult impacted that learning.

If you want to read the blog post, click here:

If you want to read the research paper that it was based on, you can read it here:



Plan for the Unexpected

As you plan your day in the classroom, keep Murphy’s Law in mind, what ever can go wrong, will go wrong.  Make time for mistakes, for discussion, make time for the unexpected so that you don’t have to rush through the materials, so that there is time for questions.

Murphy would tell us though, that something will go wrong and the class will move faster than you though.  So, have a back up.  That material that is extra, that way if time moves too quickly, you have something to fill in with.

Make room for the unexpected.

Are Learning Styles Real?

When I was learning to be an instructor, I was taught two key points that I was told to ensure all of lessons plans addressed.  One was the Learning Pyramid and the other was learning styles; it was stressed that to be a good instructor, these needed to be in every lesson.

The Learning Pyramid is a theory that people learn only a small part of a lecture, learn 10% from reading, learn 20% from audio/visual, and so one till you get to the base of the pyramid that says we learn much more by ‘doing’.

If you’ve heard of that theory, I hope you’ve also heard that it’s false.  There are a number of articles out there that show it’s not true, including some that show the supposed source never put out the stats that the pyramid claims:

I quickly picked that up and have dropped it from my materials and teaching plans.  Now it seems the other ‘must do’ I was taught is also false; teaching styles are myth says a lot of research, and yet it persists:

Rather than try to cater to every learners’ style, it’s more important to be clear and gain understanding by teaching material in a variety of ways. The type of material and understanding being sought will play a larger role than ‘learner style’ – teaching someone to do something (like play soccer) needs tactile / hands on work, while teaching someone to be able to define concepts will lean more to discussion or lecture.

The Forgetting Curve

Ever had that moment where you’ve met someone and two minutes later, you can’t recall their name?  Or read a passage in a book, but you can’t remember what it said?  Think of your students, how much do you think they remember after the class is done?  Would you believe they can forget as much as 80% by the day after your class?

Back in the 1800’s, Hermann Ebbinghaus, a German psychologist, did a study on how people forget what they’ve learned.  It was a limited study, but the theory has been replicated and become known as the Forgetting Curve.

The Forgetting Curve is exponential.  The student walks out of the lecture knowing 100% of the material, by the day after 50%-80% is gone!  Each day after that gets progressively worse.  By day 7, students have forgotten significant amounts of material.  A month after a lecture, students may only retain 2% – 3% of what they learned!

Graphically, the forgetting curve has been portrayed like this:


(source: )

A huge part of beating the Forgetting Curve is on the student.  Doing recall exercises the next day, ie., studying.  But as instructors, we also play a role in beating the Forgetting Curve:

-Over the duration of a course, or even during a lesson, build in repetition.  Reinforcement is a big part of beating the Forgetting Curve.  During the lesson, build in repetition, to help ensure the material is being learnt.  Then in subsequent classes, come back to it, reinforce the material and ensure that it is being retained.

-Make the lesson, and the material, memorable.  Teach the lesson in a way that students will remember it; give the lesson meaning so students know why they need the lesson, show the teaching point matters.  Deliver it in a way that works for students and will be memorable – be that a game, a story, an example, an activity.

-Share memory tricks.  Is there a mnemonic or memory device that can help to learn the material? Share it!  (How many of us still recite 30 days hath September, April, June, and November….?)

-Be clear in your teaching.  The worse piece is delivering teaching points in a way that can’t be easily followed.  If students struggle to get the material in the first place, they won’t be able to recall it later.  So ensure that the lesson you’ve created is clear TO THE STUDENT.  Too often it’s clear to the instructor, but it’s the student that matters!

Want to know more about the Forgetting Curve, and how easy it is to beat with studying, check out the University of Waterloo post:

Want to see some more ideas about how to improve delivery to beat the Curve, this post is specific to online learning (and was the inspiration for this post), but the ideas can be adopted: