Teaching and Learning

Read my teaching philosophy.
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Teaching Philosophy

We begin from where we are.

Each student enters the classroom with experiences, knowledge, beliefs, attitudes, and assumptions. As a teacher, it is my role—and my challenge—to create learning opportunities that are relevant and relate-able. I begin by acknowledging where the student is currently situated and then challenging them to challenge themselves.

Take for example when I teach digital history methods. Students are surrounded by history: their own as well as that of their friends, families, communities, countries, and world. They may not have conceptualized their photo albums as History or considered that their family recipe books, old report cards, and gathered beach treasures tell stories about where they’ve been and who they are. My first task is to help them see their own histories. Secondly, I recognize that students are surrounded by tech: some immersed in it, some involved more peripherally—always conscious that some fear it—but they all know it’s out there and there are occasions when they all must access it. As their teacher, I take that with which they are already familiar and apply it to the field of History. I begin by helping them see how they are already doing history and that they are already connected in some way with the methods. By doing so, we begin from where we are.

Students are in my class for a short time, but the influence of our time together can last. By building on what they already know and creating relevant learning opportunities, students develop competencies with ideas and tools that they will use in the field after graduation. Learning to do research, how to think critically, conducting a comparative analysis, challenging an argument, writing well: these are all things that serve an individual long after graduation, whichever path they follow.

Students enter the learning environment trusting that there is something to learn and that with persistent effort they can succeed. I provide incremental challenges, each building on previous successes. I act as guide through class material, but students make their own discoveries. For example, a writing assignment that begins with a submitted proposal, then an outline, then a draft, then a formally developed essay provides opportunities for feedback at all stages, revision, and expansion of ideas, arguments, and writing. In this way, I am as interested in—and value—the process as well as the content.

My classroom is a community and I strive to create a learning environment that is democratic and welcoming. At our first meeting, we work together to outline teacher and learner responsibilities and acceptable behaviour for our time together. Students work together throughout the class to create and compile resources as a group. A class wiki is a great tool to build a shared class set of resources. This helps build the community and introduces the students to the community of scholars of which they are all a part, even if to them it is temporary.

I provide information in accessible ways. I use text, audio, video, movement, and concrete objects in my lessons. By using a multi-modal approach to teaching and learning, I hope to engage students’ learning preferences and styles. I also demonstrate a multiplicity of teaching and learning methods, which I hope inspires the students’ own presentations. For instance, a favourite lesson on World War II Prisoner of War camps also includes a social history lesson and a chance to learn a Scottish Country dance.

I make learning relevant. As much as possible I offer students choices in topic and format for their summative work. Students are able to work on something they are interested in, which increases their engagement. Work that students do should matter; it should have a purpose to them in and out of the classroom. To this end, I try to create assignments that the students and the community will value. Students create something they will be able to use in their own portfolios and that has a life expectancy longer than the end of term. This acknowledges their place as contributors to the discipline and values their contribution to the field of History. Opportunities for collaboration with the community (local and/or discipline-specific) become possible. Whether this is creating an annotated group bibliography in Zotero; a mashup in GoogleMaps, or an online museum exhibit of a period, person, or place, I want students connect their schooling with their lives, rather than view it as a series of hurdles to jump to earn a diploma.

I provide clear expectations from the outset. This helps nurture teacher-student trust. Clear expectations combined with support and early and incremental successes, has the potential to stretch students to take risks and shift into the place where learning happens. Risk-taking is important to learning and I’m learning ways to allow this to happen without penalty when things don’t work out.

Students are active participants in the classroom: they contribute to—and shape—the learning that takes place in the classroom. I encourage students to bring questions to class. Students discuss what they are reading, watching, and hearing, how it relates to other class material, and their lives outside school. I use in-class discussion techniques (think-pair-share, fishbowl, small & large group discussions) as well as an online discussion board (in Sakai LMS), and I’m excited to try incorporating microblogging into my teaching. Using Twitter, students will be able to use mobile devices to continue class discussions outside our regular meeting times, ask questions, and connect with each other and the larger community. Students are regularly asked to reflect on what they are learning as well as the learning process. I ask for feedback at regular intervals so I can improve my effectiveness as a teacher.

Learning can happen at any time—not just in the classroom—and learning continues after the students leave my classroom. I hope my students go forward better able to meet whatever challenges they face in their futures.

Teaching Experience

Sessional (Adjunct) Instructor

Winter 2011, Summer 2011
Gal Pals: Women and Friendship over Time
Totally online course
Women’s Studies, University of Windsor

Fall 2011
History of Women’s Movements in North America
University of Windsor
Cross-listed: History and Women’s Studies

Teaching Assistant

I’ve had a range of responsibilities as a TA. I’ve facilitated small and large face-to-face and online discussion groups (20-150 students). I’ve developed rubrics and evaluated essays, creative assignments, and exams. I’ve held online and face-to-face office hours, operated in-class tech, and led weekly tutorials.


  • Modern Europe
  • History of the World in the Twentieth Century, 1900-1945 (x2)
  • History of the World in the Twentieth Century, 1945-present

Women’s Studies

  • Love, Honour, and Obey: Marriage and Gender
  • Women in Canadian Society (x3)
  • Women and Globalization
  • Gal Pals: Women and Friendship Over Time

Information Technology/Computer Science

  • Cyber Ethics (x6)
  • Computer Concepts for End Users

Comments from Students

Becoming a more effective teacher is an ongoing process. One thing I do to keep improving is encourage student feedback. Below are some of the comments I’ve received from the students I’ve taught and TA’d, and from participants in workshops I’ve facilitated. The text-image is a Wordle made from the comments.

words about teaching and learning

  • You bring so many diverse talents together (dance, history, women’s studies, technology, organization, writing) that you fit naturally into the role of an effective teacher.
  • You are so strong at being an engaging, supportive, and happy instructor. You visibly want to share knowledge.
  • FYI – I got an 87% on my History paper. Thanks for your tutelage!
  • Organized and informative
  • Keep using colour. It helps us categorize, even if we don’t notice overtly.
  • Engaging and personal interactions as I felt you connected with us.
  • You got us to think about our pre-conceived ideas/images of the military and then drew a clear link to cultural preservation in the military.
  • Excellent clear use of flip charts. Both prepared and dynamic.
  • Very interesting. The presentation increased my interest and knowledge of the topic.
  • Instructor very passionate about the topic!
  • Excellent – can’t think of what could be done differently.
  • Your room set-up was awesome and very enticing. So welcoming and stimulated curiosity.
  • Twitter is new to me. My first impression about it was negative, but your presentation pointed out to me how it can be used in a positive, educational way.
  • Candace was visibly patient and approachable. Very nice!
  • Thank you so much for your help today. It is greatly appreciated! I have finished my paper, after much revision. Thanks again! You helped me gather my thoughts and finally learn how to cite my work.
  • Thank you for being so patient with me.
  • You managed to teach in very different styles, using methods that match all the different learning styles. I was energized by your lessons.
  • You have such a great presence and demeanor as you teach.
  • I appreciate your efforts and genuine-ness. I have learned a great deal from you.

Mapping Community Assets: Learning by doing

University of Windsor Social Work students have agency placements in their senior year, where they gain experience in the field and make community connections. Each student brings enthusiasm and unique skills to their organization. Take Lillian Gallant for example: her placement was been at the Ford City Neighbourhood Renewal project (housed in the Gino A. Marcus Community Centre).

Lillian started out with a plan to inventory the community, and from there, she developed a “community asset map” using GoogleMaps. Combining her interest in emerging technologies and her social work background led to this fantastic map of the neighbourhood. The process was a hands-on way for Lillian to learn about the community and the resulting visualization is a great way for her to share the results with the community.

I consulted on the technical aspects at each stage of the project.

Click on the different icons to reveal information about each asset:

View Ford City Community Asset Map in a larger map

Spicy Nodes for Active Learning

I love trying out new (to me) tools for teaching and learning. I was looking for a way to model “Active Learning” — this idea that students learn when they’re engaged in the process of learning. I found “Spicy Nodes” and voilà: a visualization of active learning was born. Click on the various “nodes” or bubbles to expand and see what’s buried beneath. Continue clicking on each node until it goes no further. You might find you’re actively learning about active learning. (Woah — that was kind of meta!) Go ahead and try out the tool yourself. There are both free and premium accounts available.

Mapping with kids

On Friday nights while my middle kid practices with his soccer team, my youngest and I go to the nearby coffee shop and work on code. He’s 10 years old. Our first project was a Choose-Your-Own-Adventure program in Python, then we moved to a random generator (again in Python), and last night he mapped some of the places he’s been, using Google Spreadsheets and Fusion Tables. The original plan was to map all the places he’s been, but he decided to cap it at 15 since we had just under two hours. I wanted him to finish the night with something completed.

Here’s the map he made:

Blue is for pools

Red is for libraries

Purple is for schools

Orange is for stores

Green is for restaurants

I’m inspired by my daughter, who’s taking her last year of high school computer science. The school she’s at offers three years of courses. In year one they do Turing (and Flash), the next is Python, and in the last they do Java. She’s planning on going on to study either Computer Science or Engineering at university in another year. She also loves the humanities so I’m excited to see what combination she puts together with double majors or minors.

I’m eager for my kids to grow up as creators, not just consumers of technology. The two younger kids both have old computers that run Ubuntu (one has no internet, one has restricted internet) so their use of the machines might be different because of that. They first started out making their own levels in kGoldrunner, but they’ve moved on to spreadsheets of stats for the characters in the role-playing games they create as well as using the word processor in Open Office to write stories for their games. Learning to program seemed the next step, but one they weren’t making on their own. Friday night at the coffee shop seemed like a good way to clear away distractions, learn something new, spend time with mom, and wait for big brother to finish practice. It’s also great for the youngest to learn something before his older brother. Youngest kids often get stuck tagging along and doing everything last. An added bonus here is altering that pattern.

We made the above map in about an hour. We started in Google Spreadsheets, which he’d never used before (limited Internet), though he’d used OpenOffice Calc so understood how a spreadsheet works. He made the list of fifteen places he’d like to map. Then we used map search plus everything search to track down the street addresses and postal codes of all the places on the list. We got to talk about good web practices because the first few addresses we found were images of text instead of text — frustrating! He quickly learned we wanted addresses as selectable text so that there’d be no need to retype long strings of text.

Once all the addresses were found (we took turns after awhile because this was tedious) we added a data type for each: pool, library, school, restaurant, or coffeeshop and had a look at our choices for map icons. He decided which marker he wanted for each data type and we added that to the spreadsheet.

Next we imported the spreadsheet into Google Fusion Tables, set the map to grab location using the street address in the Address column and visualized as a map. Then we modified the map style to use the marker specified in the Icon column and cool! a map was born! He knows that he can go back to his map and add more data, re-purpose it, or use it as an example for a new one.

Once it was done, we shifted to a conversation about places he’d like to go. He navigated Google Street Maps to travel to Spain, Venice (to see canals), Paris (to see the Eiffel Tower), Iqaluit, Japan, Korea, and Rome. We walked down the streets in every place that had street view (we’re both bad at controlling the little person) and looked at the relationships between cities and large bodies of water.

I really do love these Friday night nerd sessions and I know that I’m making it normal to use computers for more than surfing. He’s learning that he can visualize his data, turn his stories into games, and make whatever he can imagine.

Mapping the City of Windsor’s Open Data

This map uses open data from the City of Windsor Open Data Catalogue. If you’re interested in the process used to make this map I’ve included step-by-steps at the bottom of the page. Drag and zoom to explore.

Key to icons:

red dot Large red = Community Centres
purple dot Large purple = Libraries
blue dot Large blue = Arenas
green-circle Small green = Heritage Sites (listed & designated)



This is how I made this map, but not exactly what I’d do next time. See note below.

  1. download csv files from the City of Windsor Site
  2. refine data using Excel* (see note below): columns were in different order on different spreadsheets, not all included all columns, added data type and icon type.
  3. import all spreadsheets into Google Fusion Tables
  4. modify data to recognize lat & long coordinates as Location
  5. Visualize map to view the data points on GoogleMaps.
  6. Embed map in blog.
  7. Share!

*Next time I plan to use Google Refine to clean the data. Working across multiple spreadsheets was a pain.

Total time to make the map: 30 mins.