Category Archives: Events

The University of Toronto turns 190!

I (Said) have been part of the University of Toronto system since I began my undergraduate degree in 2009. It has been quite the ride considering I was born in Lebanon & immigrated to Canada in 2003! This year, the University of Toronto is celebrating turning 190 & one of its satellite campuses in Mississauga, Ontario, is turning 50. The history teacher/student in me became curious and wanted to learn a little more about the school I attend and the community I belong to.

It all began on March 15, 1827, when a royal charter was formally issued by King George IV, proclaiming “from this time one College, with the style and privileges of a University … for the education of youth in the principles of the Christian Religion, and for their instruction in the various branches of Science and Literature … to continue for ever, to be called King’s College [before it was renamed University of Toronto on Jan. 1, 1850].”

Established in 1878, the School of Practical Science (now the Faculty of Applied Science and Engineering) offered students instruction in mining, engineering, mechanics and manufacturing. New faculties were soon added, among them home economics (1906), education (1907), forestry (1907), social work (1914), nursing (1920), graduate studies (1922), hygiene (1926) and the School of Architecture (1948). There is definitely a rich history to explore if you are interested in the social, political, and religious influences on the development of post-secondary institutions in Ontario/Toronto. Isn’t it amazing how a once denominational college is now a collegiate university with over 85,000 students from at least 160 countries, over 500,000 alumni, and 2 satellite campuses?

More interestingly, new courses and disciplines will certainly continue to emerge in response to developments in our globalized society and contemporary culture. I wondered if there were courses that weren’t as predictable as “Introduction to Eco/Chem/Math/Psych” and here are two that stood out to me:

Feminism, Zombies and Survivalism (WGS334H1S)

  • In this course, we interrogate the gender, racial, and generational politics of survivalist fantasies while, at the same time, re-reading them for the alternative ethical frameworks and possible futures that they suppress.

The Beatles (MUS321H1)

  • The class tackles two main questions: Why were The Beatles so popular, and how did they become the soundtrack to the 1960s (with a little help from their friends, of course). This class has no prerequisites.

I definitely wish I could have written an academic paper discussing the context and influence of the song lyric, “All you need is love, love. Love is all you need.” 

In any case, happy birthday UofT. Here are a few pictures, taken from Student Life @ UofT.

An intramural soccer game in 1951.
Nursing students in 1920/1921 on the steps of University College.
University College Tank
A tank on campus in 1950.


Preparing for AERA

I (yiola) along with the research team and many other colleagues are preparing for the American Educational Research Association (AERA) conference that will be held in Washington DC this year. The conference begins on Thursday April 7th until Tuesday April 12th.

An enormous conference that attracts thousands of educational researchers from around the world and across disciplines and methodologies in the area of education. Each year the conference has a theme. This year the theme is Public scholarship to educate diverse democracies.  Here is a link to the site and more information about the conference:

The team and our close colleagues will be presenting at AERA.  We will be sure to post pictures and updates from the various sessions we attend. We hope to see you there. If you are not attending this year be sure to check out out blog for highlights next week.


World Book Day

I (Clare) just found out that Thursday March 3 is World Book Day. What a wonderful event Image_WorldBookDayto celebrate. Check out this site from England: which has lots of suggestions for activities for the day.

Thought you would like this picture of children dressed up as Pippi Longstocking and Burgler Bill!

Supporting the Pan Am Games

This summer Toronto is hosting the Pan Am Games. I took a break from my studies yesterday to support the incredible athletes competing in the rowing events. It was amazing to cheer on the Canadian women’s single sculls, the women’s lightweight double sculls, and the men’s quadruple sculls as they each won GOLD medals. Well Done!!


Embracing the Backchannel

The backchannel is the conversation that goes on alongside the primary activity, presentation, or discussion in your classroom. Victor Yngve first used the phrase back channel” in 1970, in a  linguistic context, referring to how people communicate back and forth alongside a conversation.  I (Cathy) have recently started using TodaysMeet as a backchannel chat platform to help me redirect the constant distractions or backchannel discussions in the classroom, especially, the digital ones. Have you ever been frustrated by the frequent use of digital devices (i.e. digital phones, computers, tablets) in your classroom that are not related to your lesson?  This tool may help.  I use TodaysMeet to help me harness the backchannel and redirect it onto a platform that can enable new activities and discussions.  My students are invited, through a link, into a “room” much like a chat room. I then project this “room” onto my screen for all to see.  As I progress through my lesson, questions and comments about the lesson are posted by the students through their own computers or other devices.

Below are a list of benefits from using backchannel tools in your classroom.

  1. Shy/introverted students are given a place to ask questions and contribute to conversations.
  2. Students who process information by asking a lot of questions can ask an unlimited amount of questions without dominating the classroom conversation. Everyone can see their questions and you can choose when to address their questions.
  3. Gauge students’ interest in and or prior knowledge of a topic.
  4. Extend your classroom conversations beyond the time in your school’s schedule. If you have started a backchannel during a classroom conversation and it’s going well you don’t have to worry about running out of time because you can have students continue the dialogue later in the day.
  5. Gauge the effectiveness of an activity in real time, by having students share questions and comments during an activity
  6. Conduct formative assessment by asking students about their understanding of a topic and gauging the responses

From : in.html#.VRAQv-E01q8

Other backchannel platforms include: Socrative, Padlet, and BluePulse. And, yes, tweeting on the same hash tag, during an event, is also a form of backchannelling. To obtain a comprehensive guide on harnessing the backchannel, follow the URL below:


‘Shadiowing’ through Critical Reflection

I (Cathy) am currently working my way through a book on critical reflection.  ‘Working’ is the operative word, as this book, What Our Stories Teach Us, is set up as a guide to take us ( the teacher, professor, etc.) through an active critical analysis of our lives as educators using storying and  critical incidence.  The author, Linda Shadiow, loves to share stories herself.  Below is one of her favourites.  Apparently she has told it often and she uses it in her  book to illustrate how our stories can impact our lives.

A graduate student is attending a lecture being given by one of her intellectual heroes, the Brazilian educator and theorist Paulo Freire. She takes notes furiously, trying to capture as many of his words as possible. Seeing that she is keenly interested in what Freire had to say, his translator asks if she would like to meet him. Of course! She is introduced and he begins by inquiring about her work. Then he graciously agrees to respond to a set of questions she and her colleagues hoped they would get the chance to ask him. She is impressed beyond belief, but time prevents her from asking one last, difficult question. They meet accidentally once more at the event and he wonders if she asked all her questions? No, there is one more. “Given your work, we want to know ‘where is the hope’?” Without hesitating he moves toward her, takes her face in his hands, looks into her eyes, and replies, “You tell them, ‘you are the hope, because theory needs to be reinvented, not replicated … it is a guide. We make history as we move through it and that is the hope.”

(Taken from )

The graduate student is, of course, Shadiow.  She explains in her book that her experience with Freire never left her.  It energized and motivated her.  She had to “give back “.  She invites us as both reader and participant to rediscover our incidences of profound learning and let them move us.


Happy Birthday Margaret Atwood

In honour of author Margaret Atwood’s 75th birthday on November 18th CBC Books is celebrating her life and work with a week of special features including archival interviews, infographics, and a selection of passages from her acclaimed books  in the searchable Essential Atwood Reading List. Follow link below:

For 75 surprising facts about Margaret Atwood see link below:


All About Me Books: Power of Writing Your Story

IMG_3099In yesterday’s blog post, Lydia talked about the All About Me book celebration we had with the student teachers in our literacy methods courses. I (Clare) want to add my comments/reflections on the activity. The “assignment” is unusual in that it is ungraded (pass/fail), there is lots of choice, and the finished product is shared with all of the other IMG_3100students. It is not just me, the professor, who reads the assignment – all of the students have an opportunity to learn from their fellow students’ work. The sharing is a wonderful way for them to learn about their fellow students and to learn about many ways to tell a story. Initially, the students are bit resistant to the assignment commenting (complaining!) about it not being graded so why should they do it or that they are not creative so they cannot do it or they cannot see how doing a book about their life will help them learn to be a literacy teacher. The process of writing their books and sharing them transforms IMG_3145their views – they come to understand the power of story, the demands of the writing process, and the importance of audience. Many commented this was the best class they have had in their university studies. One student noted: “I recognize the courage and vulnerability it takes to showcase our own work and know that without a Professor who harnesses this safe environment we wouldn’t have become such a comfortable cohort in our short weeks at OISE.”IMG_3121

All wanted to know when we were going to do “something” like this again. You will notice in these photos that the students are truly happy and engaged. Like Lydia, I was impressed with their books – their creativity was astounding, the care they took with writing their books was impressive, and their ingenuity humbled me. I learned so much from them and feel so lucky to be teaching such fine individuals.

For the literacy teachers and literacy teacher educators who follow this blog we thought we would share the assignment description with you.

IMG_3152All About Me Books

The creation of this book about you fulfills a number of purposes:

* it celebrates who you areIMG_3140

* it provides your colleagues with an opportunity to get to know you

* it celebrates the diversity of individuals in our class

* it allows your creativity to emerge and through exploration may prove new potential to you

* it provides a good resource for you to use with your students as an artifact, a way of IMG_3138introducing you to your students, a good lesson to use with them and ….

* it allows you to come to understand first-hand the complexity of the IMG_3128composing and publishing processes and it allows you to consider how various literacy formats/genres can be used with students

* it introduces you to children’s books in another way

* it is fun


  1. Meaning

The All About Me text must communicate in some way who you are – it could be descriptive, autobiographic, a metaphor, …. but it must say, “This is me!” It is important to identify your intended audience; therefore, the book must match your intended audience. If, for example, you are writing it for young children, the pictures are very important and the text must be simple and IMG_3119accessible to them. If on the other hand, you are writing it for an audience of adolescents, the tone, structure and theme would be very different. Use a structure/format appropriate for the age group you choose as models.



IMG_3114The All About Me book must be:

* illustrated in some way (use your imagination and ingenuity here).

Any format is fine – text based, artifacts, digital …..IMG_3113

* durable for use in the classroom

* well planned

* well written (adhering to the convention of grammar and spelling)

IMG_3142Possible formats and genres for your book…IMG_3135


Accompanying Story on Tape Shape Books
Fairy tale, mystery, make believe Poetry Book
Banners Pop-up Books
Shape Book Wheel Book (using paper fasteners)
Accordion Book Picture Books
ABC book Books with Bookmarks
Books with Pictures and Clipart Book in a box
Books with Photographs Puppet Books
Characters from a Movie or Novel Chart Books
Dioramas Flip Books
Graphic novel/story; Comic format Television Box
Newspaper Momento book
Series of memos Menu
Series of photographs with captions Counting book
I Book Poster
Prezi Powerpoint
Video Other ….. (e.g. rap, song)



Literacy Teaching in the Community

Reading as an experience takes many forms. We read alone – in the comfort of our homes. We read in groups – shared reading in the classroom and book clubs. We read to connect to the broader community – through social media and the news.   This week I (Yiola) received an invitation to a  Literary Tea from the Yonge Gogos: an opportunity to engage in literacy in the community.

My aunt Valerie is a Yonge Gogo.   “Yonge” for Toronto’s famous Yonge St.  and surrounding area and “Gogo” the  African word for ‘grandmother’.  The Yonge Gogos  (how I love the play on words) are grandmothers in Canada who work with grandmothers in Africa.

The Grandmothers to Grandmothers Campaign raises funds in Canada for the Stephen Lewis Foundation’s work with community level organizations in Africa that provide grandmothers and the children in their care with the necessities of life, including counselling, nutrition, shelter, school supplies and income generation activities.

This year’s literary tea features Sally Armstrong, journalist, filmmaker, and award-winning author.  There will be a reading from her book Uprising and time to socialize.

I think an event such as this is simply amazing:  hosted by strong women in our local community who are committed to and working with strong women abroad; bringing the community together through literacy to raise money for a wonderful organization – the Stephen Lewis Foundation.

I find this literary event of interest because of the visiting author, the featured book, and the focus: the empowerment of women around the world.  Here is a description of the book:

Uprising: A New Age Is Dawning for Every Mother’s Daughter

From Africa to Asia to the Americas, women are the key to progress on ending poverty, violence, and conflict. Award-winning humanitarian and journalist Sally Armstrong shows us why empowering women and girls is the way forward, and she introduces us to the leading females who are making change happen, from Nobel Prize winners to little girls suing from justice. Uprising tells dramatic and empowering stories of change-makers and examines the stunning courage, tenacity and wit they are using to alter the status quo. In this landmark book that ties together feminism and our global economy, Sally Armstrong brings us the voices of the women all over the world whose bravery and strength is changing the world as we know it.

Retrieved from:

Attached is the flyer for the Literary Tea. The event takes place October 19th at 2pm in Toronto.  I will be there. You too are invited to join as well. If you are able to attend please contact Ena @ 416-485-0753.  Perhaps I will see you there to share literacy teaching in the community.

sally 1 pdf

Muay Thai is education: How martial arts impact learning

This past weekend my (yiola’s) family was involved in a Muay Thai Expo.  Muay Thai (or Thai boxing) is a martial art that originates from Thailand  and is now taught all over the world.

My partner is a Master of Muay Thai and has schools here in Ontario: and  This past weekend we held a Muay Thai expo in Toronto. People from across Ontario, Quebec and Mexico attended. Here are some images from the weekend:

a local instructor gives a talk on Being a student: An approach to learning muay thai
A local instructor, Kru Nick Bautista, gives a talk on: Being a student: An approach to learning Muay Thai


Master Suchart taking a group through the physical practice of traditional Muay Thai
Master Suchart taking a group of students through the physical practice of traditional Muay Thai


World Champion Simon Marcus showing specific technique for defence
World Champion Simon Marcus showing specific technique for defence

As I observed the teaching and learning that took place this weekend I was reminded how valuable this type of education is to a society.  From all walks of life, students come to learn a tradition, a martial art, and a way of life.  The outcomes are far reaching and extend to many areas of life including: heightened self-confidence, increased physical fitness and technical skills, and improved health. Through these developments individuals are able to participate in their communities in more creative and productive ways.

I watched on in amazement as each instructor brought to the Expo their expertise and passion for learning.  The instructors’ ability to demonstrate martial art while also teaching elements of the martial art was inspiring to me as an educator. The tone,  language, sequence of instruction, and balance between physical practice and presentation were effective and kept students/participants engaged for 5 hours of learning each day. Students learned a great deal about Muay Thai and I suspect that they walked away from the experience  more confident, stronger, and educated in the art of Muay Thai. Moreso, I know that many students of martial art are able to take their learning and apply it to their lives in general.  Teaching and learning martial arts (and most sport for that matter) extends beyond the art/sport itself into the realm of human experience: morality, ethics, and everyday life.

In teaching sport as a particular kind of human practice, however,  it is the physical educationist’s responsibility to see that the ethical principles upon which it is based are properly understood and that the manner in which a sport is conducted is in accord with its rules and in keeping with the best traditions of its practice. The physical educationist can guarantee nothing, but as an influential guardian of an ethically based practice he can do a good deal to uphold its highest ideals, its most cherished traditions. As in all forms of learning much depends on the attitudes and judgments that are brought to bear upon what is done and whether what is taught and encouraged, is regarded as worthwhile in the context of life. Like morality, sport is a species of evaluation, a kind of appraisal of human conduct. 

Taken from:  Arnold, P.J. (1984).  Sport, Moral Education and the Development of Character. Journal of Philosophy of Education 18(2). 275-281.

Children, teens, adults have much to gain from learning a martial art. Well beyond how to punch, elbow, knee and kick Muay Thai teaching and learning has the capacity to influence and foster character development in many ways.