Successful Secondary School Online Learning

We have completed six Octomesters in our board, and we just embarked on Octomester seven. For some of our teachers this is their seventh class online, and for some it’s their first. But since we are now ALL online throughout Ontario I thought I’d take a few minutes to share what has been working for us.

Consistent Structure

A consistent structure in both instruction and in the provision of content via the Learning Management System has helped our students. KISS seems to work, with a simple presentation of content combined with a consistent agenda for each day allowing students to get into a “groove” and succeed. One of our teachers has music on for five minutes before class, has a “question of the day”, provides breakout rooms for discussion, and has one task to be submitted each day.

Posting using Multiple Modalities

Our teachers are packaging content in two different Learning Management Systems: D2L/Brightspace and Edsby. They are also providing both print and video content, and embedding videos using OBS Studios.  Some students are connecting with their teachers via email, and others are participating in 1:1 work in MS Teams.


Teachers are making the “chunks” small, and easily managed on phones, tablets and computers. They are replicating the length of social media posts, and providing multiples that thread rather than posting a single, large document. Most Learning Management Systems allow for content to be hidden until needed, so our teachers are able to keep students from feeling overwhelmed.

Being Available Online

Our teachers are live in an MS Teams setting for more than just the mandatory 225 minutes (PPM 164). They are replicating their usual practices of “walking around the room” or “being available at the desk in the classroom” by being online in a Teams meeting, and welcoming students to 1:1 or small-group sessions throughout the day. They are doing less “direct instruction”, and more individual facilitation, and it is paying off.

Differentiated Instruction

Our teachers are providing both synchronous lessons, and asynchronous tutorials. They are providing voice and choice to their students. By personalizing methods of assessment they are meeting their students where they are.

Sharing a Master Agenda

While some are using a list, and others a calendar, our teachers are all creating a “one-stop shopping” page where all assignments, links to handouts, and dropbox are located. The LMS is also a huge help, housing all course content and videos of the daily meetings. Live links to content assist both students and their parents to navigate each day’s work.

Clear Expectations

Use of learning goals and success criteria has allowed students to self-assess, and to reach out when they require assistance. Because the octomester structure results in very long days, but fewer of them, our teachers have pared down their goals to as few as possible, and are focusing their work on essential learning.

Taking an Inquiry Approach

Several teachers have structured their courses around fun engaging inquiry questions, and supporting student-to-student interaction to complete their “quests”. They are taking advantage of the technology, and access to Internet resources, and exploring content beyond the textbook.

Communicating Regularly with Students and Parents

Weekly newsletters and emails to parents are helping them to support their children to be successful. Our teachers are providing tips and tricks to families, so that their teens are supported at home.

Monitoring Participation

Our teachers are able to track who is attending meetings in person, and who view the videos later in the day. They can then follow up with students and their parents, and get them back on track quickly. One teacher has an attendance quiz each day, with one question: “Are you here today”? This populates a spreadsheet, and allows him to enter absences at the end of the day. Taking a look at statistics within the LMS is also helpful, and is allowing our teachers to reach out before students get too far behind.

Breakouts to Connect

Structures such as breakout rooms and shared documents have supported our students to connect. They have needed these in order to get to know each other, as many live up to 200 km from each other. Since the culture in our board is to have cameras off the breakouts provide a safe space for cameras and mic to be on and for students to interact. It is important to build rapport with our students, so our teachers make that priority.

Allowing for Fully Asynchronous

Several of our students are now working full-time jobs. They are managing to access class resources, and complete the day’s work when they are at home. By structuring courses to allow for fully-asynchronous participation, our students are able to continue their learning despite the need to work.

Team Teaching

Where we have more than one class for a particular course our teachers are team teaching. Sometimes they create one LMS, and share instructing duties. In other cases they plan and create two or more LMS shells, and instruct only their class. In both, however, they benefit from their PLN, and are able support each other to be more creative.


Our teachers have been experimenting with standing desks, multiple monitors, and other tools to ensure that they aren’t in pain at the end of the day. Some are scheduling regular walk breaks into their day, getting outside for some sunshine and to stretch their legs.

Learn and Share

Our teachers are learning a great deal through this process, and are happy to share with their colleagues. If you are teaching online, please reach out to a peer and talk about what is working (and not working) for you.

Advice to Novice Online Teachers:

  • Don’t stress out.
  • This is pandemic teaching, not a normal teaching year.
  • Be flexible.
  • Be kind to yourself.
  • Reach out if you are feeling burnout.
  • Extend grace to your students and their families.
  • You are doing great!

First Nation, Métis and Inuit Studies AQ – Response #2

I am in week two of learning in our Ontario Additional Qualification course: First Nation, Métis and Inuit Studies.  This week we have four questions to consider, summarize and reflect upon.

How are First Nation, Métis and Inuit People distinct from one another?

First Nation people include both Status (registered as an Indian under the Indian Act) and non-Status indigenous people, who may or may not belong to a band, or live “on-reserve”. There are more than 630 First Nation communities in Canada, representing more than 50 Nations and languages. They are diverse in their language and traditions.

Métis people self-identify, are members of a present-day Métis community, and have ties to a historic Métis community. They have a unique culture and nationhood. “In Powley, the Supreme Court of Canada stated the term Métis …does not encompass all individuals with mixed Indian and European heritage. Rather it refers to a distinctive peoples who, in addition to their mixed ancestry, developed their own customs and recognizable group identity separate from their Indian or Inuit and European forbearers. The Métis communities claiming Aboriginal rights must have emerged in an area prior to the Crown effecting control over a non-colonized region.”

Inuit people live in the Arctic, from the Yukon to Labrador. They speak Inktut throughout, with distinct dialects in each region. They have a unique culture, core knowledge and beliefs, and live in a distinct homeland.

What forms, and contributes to, First Nation, Métis and Inuit identity?

Identity is formed by personal experience and family history. Colonization and the loss of communal land has had repercussions to this day. There is a shared experience of loss, oppression and multi-generational trauma, that impacts the identity of all three groups. Forced assimilation resulted in the loss of languages and faiths, particularly through the practice of residential schools which removed children from their families. In some regions indigenous people remain the majority, as in Nunavut and the Northwest Territories. While they now represent more than 15% of the population in Manitoba and Saskatchewan, they are less than 8% of the population in the remaining provinces of Canada.

Compare the historical rights of Indigenous Peoples in Canada using the Indian Act and your learning in class to the contemporary rights of Indigenous Peoples in Canada. What rights do Indigenous People in Canada hold today?

Historical RightContemporary Right
Self-governmentImposed electric chief and band council system
Full status for womenIndigenous women have fewer rights than men, or of non-indigenous women
Traditional LandsReserves
Full status as “people”Status jeopardized by enfranchisement of grandparents
Access to landExpropriation permitted, without band approval
Use of traditional names – hereditary, family, clanImposed Christian first and surnames
Free tradePermit-to-sell, until repealed in 2014
FreedomImprisonment of anyone inciting to riot three or more indigenous persons
Alcohol as barter/trade itemSuppression of liquor sales until 1985 – now controlled by band council bylaws
Education of childrenMandatory residential school attendance to 1969. Now federally-funded, either on reserve, or by agreement with local school boards.
Use of home languagePolicy that forbade home language in residential schools has resulted in a loss of oral histories and severing of connections to culture.
Access to uncultivated landsLeasing of reserve lands to non-Indigenous permitted until 1985. Inadvertently led to sales of lands, permanently lost to bands.
Freedom of entertainmentGovernor General has authority to regulate pool rooms, dance halls, and other places of amusement on-reserve.
Right to vote granted at Confederation, but only if treaty rights and status given up.Right to vote granted in 1960.
Royal Proclamation of 1763 recognized First Nations as owners of the lands occupied by Europeans.Shift from nation-to-nation relationship to view of Indigenous peoples as wards of the Crown, faced to assimilate.
Each nation had full rights.Treaties affect only half of Canada’s First Nations, so rights are not clearly stated, nor consistent.
Summary from Joseph, Bob. (2018). 21 Things You May Not Know About the Indian Act. Port Coquitlam, BC: Indigenous Relations Press.


How might this impact students that you work with (both status and non-status)?

Students we work with are diverse in their cultures and experiences. The impact of multi-generational trauma will take many different forms. Our students’ understanding of their family history will also vary greatly, with some having been cut off, while others have strong connections with their traditional communities. As a cis-gendered, white woman my identity has the potential to create barriers rather than build connection, so I must work with respect and continue to learn to support my students. I will need to be mindful of micro-aggressions that might occur in my classroom, and address them directly. I also need to examine our educational policies and practices which may discriminate against First Nation, Métis and Inuit students, either overtly or covertly. For example, compulsory school attendance, particularly within the current pandemic restrictions, is one that I believe needs to be examined, and addressed in a culturally-responsive manner.