Month: January 2021

Integrating UDL into Pedagogy

Working with Universal Designs for Learning for the last 10 years, I find that there are some challenges and some major successes implementing UDL strategies. I taught science to a group of grade sixes and sevens, who run the gamut of academic abilities. I had (and have) slow learners, low learners, self-motivated go-getters, about 5 straight-down-the-pipe kids, one moderate FASD, and one severe ADHD. For these students, with their range of abilities, the UDL spectrum approach to learning materials and assessment (particularly the assessment) resulted in very high engagement, and a demonstration of learning far beyond my expectations. For this class of 24, Earth Sciences was something they were not particularly into initially…

First, the challenges. Number one was access to technology; as a small school, individual devices were unheard of, and a space to compile appropriate links and content in a consumable format was non-existent. Obviously, we have progressed, but

Quartz mineral structure

piloting programs such as this is schools can be difficult because of the lack of available infrastructure.

Second challenge was attitude, from the students, who were unfamiliar with the format; from colleagues and admin, who were concerned about the curriculum contained in conventional texts and the precedent being established; and from parents, for whom the format did not mesh with their experiences, and so seemed like the students were not learning, but rather ‘on a screen all the time’.

All the successes really came to light towards the end of the unit. Student engagement was very high- we did an incredible amount of hands-on exploratory science, both in the class, and out in the community, students and teacher brought in mineral samples that we would drop everything and look at, test, and identify. I knew we’d arrived when the FASD student showed up with a huge box of rocks, and told me he picked them up all over the farm (which was a substantial and diverse amount of property), and wanted to know what they were.

Accessibility and Website formatting

I decided to check over my preferred platform for online education using the POUR filter today. The POUR filter, for those not in the know, is an acronym used to determine accessibility for exceptional users who may struggle with more conventional GUI interactions. Please note that the images in this post are thumbnails which open in new tabs;Iwill endevaour that all future images also be links to facilitate access by users with visual exceptionalities.

Chrome display of

The POUR filter stands for Perceivable, Operable, Understandable, and Robust, and can be applied to any site. I used,  a teacher-vetted repository for resources available across BC.

In critiquing the site, I used a number of techniques recommended by Glenda Watson Hyatt, an advocate and online accessibility expert who works primarily as a consultant for various government organizations. One of Glenda’s recommendations is to surf the site with your non-dominant hand. This highlights tightness of format, clashing menu access, and button location, and I found to be quite user-friendly in terms of the formatting and layout of menus. Full disclosure, as a long-time guitarist, I have a great deal more facility with my left hand than the average person, so that may play into my quick navigation of the site.

Another suggestion is to attempt to navigate the site using only the keyboard. The ‘Tab’ key allowed me to move through the site quickly, and select menus with the enter/return button. However, some potential barriers include the difficulty in recognizing highlighted links; the change in the thumbnail graphic was pretty minimal when selected. Additionally, there are any number of different menu options presented on the main page, and took a great deal of time to navigate down to lower buttons located near the bottom of the page, In all, inconvenient, but still navigable.

Safari display of

I opened the site using a few common browsers, and also on mobile devices running both Android and Apple iOS. The site was optimized for desktop use, and there was little to no change between desktop operating systems, and browsers (Brave, Safari, Explorer, and Chrome).  The site text on mobile was significantly smaller,

Mobile screenshot of, on Android operating system.

which stands to reason given screen size, but this still made it difficult to read and access links in default formatting on the mobile devices, and required a switch to landscape mode which might be potentially problematic.

I found the actual hosting of the site to be funded through larger established entities, through the BCPVPA, as well as (surprisingly) Baseball Canada. Owing to the size, nature, and longevity of these hosts, the site appears to be well ensconced in the net for the foreseeable future.

For more information on website accessibility auditing, or to see the sources used in this article, please visit Ms. Watson Hyatt’s site at .

Adding Open Education Resources

For this particular assignment, we were sent on a scavenger hunt! It was kind of fun to dig around, and as usual, I was not content to sift through the provided resources, so dug up some really neat stuff…

When we first headed into pandemic teaching last spring, I packaged up a program that examined the elements of fairy tales with my grade 4 and 5 class. Amongst our goals, reading, responding, and making connections to text, and comparing and contrasting variations in format due to regionalization and diverse culture. In this exercise, I am extending the existing unit to more

Made with Google Slides

Active link to our Fairytale Portal

fully include indigenous resources and perspectives. I will adjust the learning outcome accordingly to reflect the new addition.

Learning Outcome

By the end of this unit, students will be able to identify at least two literary elements contained in a fairy tale structure, and provide an example in both an indigenous and another culture. (Grade 5 Language Arts, BC Curriculum)


OER Number one

This first resource matches quite nicely with both my topic and my level. Though the quantity of tales available is somewhat limited, the ethical and cultural use of these is on point, due to the curation and collaboration through the various First Nations. As such, the quality of the site is great, considering that there is a scarcity of resources of this caliber, and of this nature. I would use this as-is, as that too is ethically appropriate, but I would definitely pick and choose a large spread of resources in order to demonstrate the diversity between individualized nations.


  • Indigenous compiled website, through the University of British Columbia, so culturally vetted.
  • Free (as is to be expected).
  • Reliable host, so longevity is not an issue.
  • Well organized, according to indigenous groups.
  • Local BC and Canadian focus, so relevant.
  • Portal to international groups, so easily extended.


  • Some stories are not, but are rather links to other resources, so becomes a bit of a rabbit hole
  • Certain links are not well populated, for example, Interior Salish only has a single short film.
  • Many groups are not represented outside of the coastal nations.

OER Number Two

So often, when we see resources posted, they are touted as excellent avenues to enhancing student learning. However, this is an example of when resources fail to meet our expectations. Despite the fact that both of the next resources share a common URL, they are very dissimilar. Although I originally believed that this site’s contents closely matched my topic and level, I was very disappointed to note that although it was soundly constructed, the site appears to be short on content. Considering this, I would say the quality of the resource, though professional in appearance, is substandard as it does not supply the depth of content necessary to enhance my learning goal. I would be happy to take the one story from this, because it is in a usable format that I can easily modify, but beyond that, I find this site quickly and easily discarded. In fact, I would simply take the document, and probably never visit it again.  (Incidentally, if you are looking for a vast repository of public domain fairy tales, try this site . Adaptations, of course, would need to be made for contextual and era-specific languages.)


  • Public domain, so free cost.
  • Available in a .doc format, so it is easy to adapt.
  • Clearly organized website, and easy to navigate.
  • Has accompanied rating system, so resources can be reviewed and ranked.


  • Grossly underpopulated; there is only a single story resource available on the site.
  • The search results were only loosely related to my initial search parameters.

OER Number Three

I think it’s only fair to allow for some redemption, so once more we revisit the OER common site, but this time in pursuit of lesson plans or activities to supplement our unit. Despite its poor story bank, the site boasts a fairly in-depth set of individualized lesson plans that match perfectly with our topic. In terms of level, that is entirely dependent on class; each lesson plan comes with a suggested grade level. Of course, many of the resources listed are easily adopted in terms of lessening the demand for output, or reducing the number of steps for groups that struggle. I particularly like this site because the quality of the resources seems reasonable at first glance, but I really appreciate the review system that is in place , allowing one to see what others favoured or disliked at a quick glance.


  • Public domain, so free cost.
  • Available in a .doc format, so it is easy to adapt.
  • Clearly organized website, and easy to navigate.
  • Has accompanied rating system, so resources can be reviewed and ranked.
  • Plenty of diverse resources that also cite the source.
  • Grade level cited.


  • Not all resources are reviewed, nor are there comments.
  • There is no specified BC curriculum connection.
  • Specific grade level is contained within the site link, but not viewable from search results.
  • Not searchable/ able to filter by grade level.

Open Educational Resources… What A Concept!

It always starts wth a need…

I have dozens of needs for resource almost every week, particularly when we modify our teaching practice due to, say, a pandemic, or to accommodate exceptional learning needs. As a second-language teacher who deals with a wide spectrum of learners, I am always taking core concepts and repackaging them into a format that makes the concepts both more attractive, and more retainable.


All Marvel characters and the distinctive likeness(es) thereof are Trademarks & Copyright © 1939–2021 Marvel Characters, Inc. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

User created resource using copyrighted images

Here’s a sample of something I made for my French 6 class to introduce vocabulary around the face. Obviously, I was in violation of international copyright laws, but the imagery and timeliness of the resource yielded excellent results in student demonstrated ability to retain the knowledge because of the visual association.

That said, I am also a major contributor to an online repository of free teacher-vetted resources called Bettereducate. Bettereducate is a free site used to store, share, and collaborate on projects, document, and resources by educators and administrators across the province. Each resource comes with tags that are part of a searchable database. I post my quality created projects on the site for colleagues to share free of charge, and am able to view, comment, and download the resources from others. One of my favourite resources to share is this french-themed Bingo (Lotto, if you are a purist),

A screenshot from a search on the site.

based on the winter Carnaval, celebrated in Quebec early in each new year. It uses free images on all the cards, is relatively recent in terms of timeliness, and provides a resource for an aspect of French Second Language learning that is deficient- culture.


I am very proud of the project, as it took time and a lot of expertise that I have developed from my past careers. There is some desktop publishing from my journalism degree, the algorithm to generate non-repeating patterns from my math background, and general computer wherewithal that comes from experience. I am excited to share this because it also promotes Quebecois culture, and looks great with all its colour and quality images.

A screen capture of one the actual cards in my created Bingo de Carnaval.

The thing that really stands out for me is the philosophical raison d’etre behind OER. Follow me here for a second. First, the purpose of education is to build critical thinking participants of a democratic society, with the end goal being that these individuals will help to form and moderate a progressively better (and hopefully, just) society in the future.  To that end, the establishment of post-secondary institutions has occurred, so that experienced minds can provide guidance and discourse beyond the experiential day-to-day. So, what then, are we as a society doing, putting barriers that are ultimately economic, in the way of those who will become the driving force behind social advancement? Does that not mean we are in essence stymying ourselves, and in the process, creating social strata, that, though they have the same democratic power, may not have the same access to informing the awareness of both process and impetus? I would argue that such things as this are the defining aspects of privilege, and lead to the exponential degradation or retardation of society as the gap between those social strata perpetuate.


So, to that end, countries such as Germany are heading in the right direction, by offering free post-secondary education to all. If the point is betterment through the people, then bettering the people is the point. Particularly now, the need for free universal education is paramount, and so attempting to glean financial gain from those engaged in that betterment process is not only counterintuitive and restrictive, it is unethical.



[I have selected an image I shot from my Dad’s trapline in Mayo, Yukon, where I was raised. Mayo is a small community some 400 kilometres north of Whitehorse, located at the confluence of the Stewart and Mayo rivers, on the traditional territories of the Na-cho Nyak Dun. Being raised in a small remote community has given me strong ties to the land, and also has allowed me the opportunity to develop many life skills that may not have been available in a more urban environment.]

My name is Ryan, and I teach in beautiful Christina Lake, BC, in School District 51 (Kootenay-Boundary). I wear many hats, primarily as a classroom teacher for grades 2-7. I teach Math to the grade 2s and 3s, and grade 6s and 7s, French to the 4s to 7s, Language Arts to the 4s and 5s, and PE to the 6s and 7s. In addition, I am one of the district coordinators for computational thinking in the district, so I organize and facilitate distribution and training around district technology; lots of fun!

I have had lots of experience with educational media; I actually have a degree in journalism specializing in broadcast communications, and worked shooting and editing video for a few major networks in my former life. During my teaching program, I worked as a tech aid to the education program at UBC, as well as shooting and editing video projects, and I also created and maintained the cohort website (now defunct, I believe). I utilize tech daily with my class, from assistive technology to coordinating student independent learning.

I am really looking forward to this course, and I hope to experience new avenues to incorporating tech effectively into my practice, potentially with tools I have not encountered or used yet. I have discovered that the collective mind is an amazing resource, and I cannot wait to see where this will take me.

For your edification, this is one of my favourite pieces that emerged out of an early course in TRU. Amy Cuddy is vulnerable and funny, and I show this video to my students every year.

Take care!

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