It’s better late than never..Part 1

“We travel, some forever, to seek new place, new lives, new souls.”

Anais Nin

My husband and I have been married for thirty-two years but I have never, nor our children have visited his country, Iraq. It was the first visit after many years of living abroad for my husband. Opportunities were hard to come by. Finally, the long-awaited visit to Iraq had materialized this weekend.

Our journey started on Thursday, September 28,2023. A colleague of mine had convinced me to pack my bag and head to Basrah, for the long weekend holidays. On the celebration of the birthday of the Prophet Mohammed (SWT), Kuwait declared Thursday as holiday. It was the perfect timing.!

I could not contain my excitement. I didn’t know what to expect. “What if’s” hovered my mind all day and night before the trip. I thought about cancelling and postponing but I was more geared towards going. I was worried that I will forget the essentials for this trip. I asked my husband if he got our passports and necessary documents countless times. We have travelled multiple times to different places, but this trip was not just an important one but a very special one. I must admit, I overpacked compared to my friend’s one-tote weekender. I still forgot my hair conditioner.!

Abdaly-Safwan Border

My friend parked her Maserati at my parking spot, and we loaded our bags to my Cherokee. I thought, it’s better to drive the jeep to the border and leave it there for few days. I was worried about my car too. Crossing the land border from Kuwait to Iraq required travel documents for residents and expats on visit visa. My husband secured an exit and entry permit from the airport. As a resident on work permit, I did not need an exit and re-entry permit. Anyways, the hour drive to Abdaly felt quick. I made sure that the dashboard cover was properly placed to protect it from intense desert sun for few days. We boarded a yellow coach and waited for more passengers. In no time, driver collected 1 KD per person for some 500 meters bus ride to the border. I could have entered with my car, but I needed a special car permit which is a complicated process to secure. Soon enough, we were at the border. The exit did not take long. We did not expect that my husband’s visit visa to Kuwait will be taken. He has more than a month validity on it. He was told that he can get visa on arrival (VOA) as a Canadian citizen. Within few minutes, we were at the arrival hall of Iraq. The process did not take long too. It was a short queue. My husband and my friend were both Iraqi, so they did not have to pay visa fees. Next time, I will get our marriage certificate stamped from the embassy to save 78 USD visa fee. Visa bank card does not work. I had to pay 78 USD cash or Iraqi Dinar (IQD) cash. Fortunately, I exchanged 40 Kuwaiti Dinar KD to IQD the night before our trip. Not minding the 40 degrees Celsius midday of late September, we decided to walk towards the gate to Iraq. I was overjoyed! My husband was too! I caught a glimpse of pride and joy in his eyes. Welcome to Mesopotamia my dear. I am sorry that it took more than three decades for you to see my country.

Basrah the Venice of the East

Abu Hamad and his beautiful and kind wife Um Hamad were happy to receive us. He was a tall and gentle man. Probably, in his sixties, spoke with calm and proud voice. He welcomed us to his car and asked if our trip was comfortable. He pointed to important sites like the stadium and dozens of oil refineries along the way to Basrah where he and his family lives. He stopped to buy melons and watermelon (Batik in Arabic). The roads from Safwan to Basra were wide and well maintained. Lots of rebuilding and construction along the way. I had the impression that Basrah is on its way to progress.

Um Hamad made sure that we settled in and hydrated with a plastic sealed water in the ladies room. Arabian hospitality is a pride of Arab culture. My husband sat in the next room. I met the rest of the family from the grandmother, cousins, nieces, and nephews. Dinner was served shortly. I am not sure if I was hungry, or the food was delicious. I enjoyed everything in my plate, the pickled lemon and the vegetable stew (tabsi) in particular. The meal was satisfying for both my stomach and soul. After a sweet black tea, my husband and I were headed to our hotel. the family insisted that we stay with them. Abu Hamad took us to our hotel near downtown in Saadi road. I promise to write about Basrah in detail in the next part of this blog.

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30 Things That Make Me Happy

Daily writing prompt
List 30 things that make you happy.

Thirty is too little to list the things that make me happy. Waking up with warm sunshine on my cheeks, a cool light breeze, trees, and chirping birds make me happy. The smell of coffee, the sight of my sleepy puppy next to me, random baby and kids’ pictures, pictures of my kids, their phone calls, my husband’s massages, and caring and loving gestures. Bachata music and dancing makes me happy too. Road trips, wind blowing on my face as we go down a hill.. blasting music of Pink playlist, butterflies, sight of Bisons in the distance. Sleeping in on weekends and walks to the parks, best friend’s visit, decent tasting red wine and the smell of rain.

That’s a wrap! 😊🥳👏

It is hard to believe this class has come to an end. I have learned so much over the past month when it comes to online and blended learning. This course did an excellent job of breaking down the different components of creating an online/blended prototype and provided us with the opportunity to engage with the intricate process. After careful consideration, I opted to create a blended course prototype for this class that could support what we learn in class and hopefully push my students to further their learning in French while providing them with different activities that will explore different concepts we learn in French Language Arts. When we had to pick a topic to center our course prototype around, I knew I wanted to create a resource I could use in my classroom with my kiddos and I figured French is a huge component in the Grade 2 curriculum in French Immersion that would allow me some flexibility and variety when creating my lessons.


The ADDIE template was an incredibly helpful tool that really helped me out with the development of my course prototype that allowed me to plan and organize the course content, assessment tools, and course layout. This template encouraged me to consider the reasons a blended prototype of this nature would be beneficial to my students and it encouraged me to link clear outcomes with my course objective. It was definitely a helpful tool in the development stage of my blended course prototype.


Choosing an LMS (Learning Management System) was a little tricky due to all the different options that were available to choose from. Among some of the different choices for different learning management systems we could choose from were the following: Microsoft Teams, Blackboard, Google Classroom, Canvas, and Moodle just to name a few. Seeing as I wanted to create a blended course prototype that I could use with my students in the fall, I opted for an LMS that is supported by my division that I would have access to and the kids would as well. Google Classroom turned out to be a great choice for an LMS for my blended course. It is incredibly user-friendly and this LMS has allowed me to organize my course content efficiently while making it accessible to my students. I like that there is a Google Meet link assigned to our course in case we ever need to meet online as well as a class code that will help students gain access to the Google Classroom. Classwork was super easy to set up and organize; you could easily create different topics and add assignments, quizzes, and material, or even reuse a previous post. Once my assignment – Module 1 – was created, I was able to effortlessly upload videos, activities, google slides, boom cards, Quizizz/Quizlet activities, and even Flip activities. Another nice feature was being able to write prompts for your assignments where you could provide students with additional information and instructions. I really love that we can add other teachers to our Google Classroom which is a nice feature in case you plan to work with other staff when planning the course material. I plan on adding my LRT (Learning Resource Teacher) and Administration Team so they can be aware of what we are studying now.


Having the opportunity to create interactive videos was another fun feature we learned to use in this class. I was not familiar with Lumi and did not know how to make videos interactive before this course. I was happy to have learned about this program because my pre-recorded lessons were a little long and I was looking for ways to keep my students engaged when having to watch a 20-minute lesson. Lumi allowed me to insert different activities throughout my pre-recorded lesson that I chose to use as checkpoints with my students by including some true and false questions, multiple choice questions, and links to a couple of activities on Quizizz. I am really looking forward to playing around with this tool and finding other ways to make my activities and lesson interactive.


Getting a chance to meet with our classmates and receive feedback was incredibly useful. I loved getting to see all the different courses and how everyone’s prototype was different and unique. One of my classmates used Microsoft Teams, while the others used Canvas and Blackboard. Two of us in our breakout room opted for using Google Classroom – but I loved how we each set it up in our own way to match the needs and vision of our blended course. It was super informative to get a walkthrough of all these different learning management systems. I was happy to hear from my group members that they enjoyed the Flip activity I included for my kiddos and that my course was easy to follow (so fingers crossed that my students think the same thing in the fall haha); I have made a mental note to continue incorporating Flip activities in my following modules after our group discussion and if my students end up liking them, we could plan for two or more Flip activities within each module. Looking forward to “going live” in September!


Here is a link to my course prototype walkthrough: Course walkthrough


And here is a link to my Summary of Learning for this semester: Summary of Learning – EC&I 834

At the End of the Tunnel

“Keep your eyes on the finish line and not on the turmoil around you.”


Summer semester went way too quickly. It was overwhelming at the beginning of the course. There was a lot of content to learn. Now that the semester is almost over, it is time to look back and reflect on what we have learned together in this course. I am grateful to Dr. Katia and to everyone for being part of my educational journey.

Developing a course prototype was a painful process. However, it helped me greatly in advancing my knowledge and skills in online and blended course. I did not know where and how to begin. I had one focus: teaching art! I had to figure out my way and fit my steps in the outline provided. This opportunity allows me to adapt to an ever-changing education and grow as an educator. Much has changed in my ADDIE format since I first shared it in my blog. I can say that the template makes more sense now and has a direction. I have included aspects of accessibility, assessment, and online collaborative learning. I have added my colleagues’ suggestions on the assessment part. The themes or contents that I wanted to include in the course are clear and aligned to the learning objectives, assessment, and teaching practices. Finally, I can produce the course prototype. It may not be the best in the class, but I am proud of my learning and accomplishment.

AP Art 2D Course

Here is the video of the course prototype: AP2D Art

Here is the summary of the knowledge and skills I learned from the course. I am forever grateful!

Summary of Learning

Course WalkThrough!

Over the course of this semester, creating my course prototype was very enjoyable and I knew immediately what I had to do. Off to Google Classroom, I went! I wanted to create something that I could use going forward in the classroom in the fall, as I work with my 10 diverse students. My students all have intellectual disabilities and are part of a numeracy and literacy intervention, which is tailored to their needs, as they do not work at grade level. Therefore, I chose to create a numeracy prototype, that would be suitable to my learners.

I chose to create a blended course, around double-digit addition, as this is something my students tend to struggle with. My students require significant repetition and refreshing, so creating this course was no question. My students are very familiar with Google Classroom and find that it is easily accessible to their needs. Within the assignments posted, students have simplistic, straightforward directions, to ensure clarity to complete the tasks at hand. Further, creating videos on “how to” within the course, was suitable to ensure the content was providing an accessible and equitable learning environment. A blended classroom was fitting as rotations are provided daily, where students have independent, small group, partner and a teacher station. Providing learning through a blended classroom, creates valuable skills, learning experiences that are accessible and equitable and creates a learning community where the teacher and the student learn alongside each other.

Gathering all my materials, was very easy for me as my brain was flowing with ideas. Interactive videos, check. Games, check. Interactive Google Slides, check. Board games, check. Online game show games, check. Extra support for an educational assistant, check. Now, all I had to do was put it together into one course. It simply started with jot notes, to paragraphs to a full-blown unit plan that I created, and then chose to share what 2 of the lessons would look like. Without a doubt, I had a very good experience with creating a course prototype!


Further, receiving feedback within the breakout room was minimal but I appreciated the positive, reassuring thoughts that I was on the right track with my course prototype. Comments I received included: methodical, clear, concise, well thought out, thorough, and easily accessible. My group members talked about how I could consider discussing how my prototype would be accessible to all and what that might look like. Therefore, I included that within my introduction in my course walk-through, stating what some supports my students have within the classroom. I enjoyed the process of sharing and receiving/giving feedback.

Overall Thoughts

I feel very proud and confident of my course prototype that I have created. I am excited to share with my students, as we create a community of learning and I am proud to be alongside them in the process. I cannot wait to share my upcoming journey with double-digit addition. Don’t go far, there will be more to come in September, once my students are “blended” into the classroom.

So without further due, grab some popcorn and your notes! Here is my course walkthrough to share with you all!

Week #1.5 You’re good at it? Get university credit!

I am pondering taking on teaching advanced credit in art. I taught art history as an elective this past semester for grade 12 students. The students learned the historical part of art but did not have much time practicing their skills in the studio. They asked if I could teach them again in the coming school year for more studio practice.

Advanced Placement (AP) Art is a course intended for highly motivated high school students who are not able to attend a regular secondary program (i.e., pregnancy, physical and psychological health reasons, economic, etc.) Students will earn university credits while they are still in secondary school. AP offers advanced courses in art like 2D, 3D, and art history. Students will complete both asynchronous and synchronous activities for a year until they submit a digital portfolio to the AP College Board as a final assessment of their work. Passing the course will grant students an advanced credit in the university.

Students will hone their skills in 2-dimensional (2D) Art and develop an extensive portfolio. They will begin with the fundamentals of 2D composition and progress to a more advanced body of work. They will explore a variety of techniques and media to showcase their ideas and techniques. Students will work on their own and attend mandatory synchronous meetings which will have the chance to explore other artists works, learn from each other, and share their knowledge and skills.

Northern Saskatchewan communities have always been a source of fascination and inspiration for me. The land, the trees, the lakes, the light, and the people inspire me to look at life in positive and bright perspectives. It has been four years since I left La Loche, I still think about the place. It continues to inspire my art. This inspiration moved me to do something in return, to give back and to show my gratitude to the land and the people. I thought about many ways to show my gratitude. I think that helping Dene students make art and show their talents would be beneficial. This online and blended art education course for high school students answers the need to earn credit in their postsecondary while they are still in high school.

Online Collaborative Learning in Advanced Placement 2D Art Blended Course

“I want to make videos that students want to watch, enjoy watching, want to watch more, and want to discuss.”

Michael Wesch

Online interactions in a blended course can be a daunting task. Fortunately, we now have a trunk of technological wealth to implement allowing students to engage and collaborate in a meaningful and supportive learning environment. In a blended Advanced Placement (AP) 2D Art course, the online community learning (OCL) tools range from using the main Learning Management System (LMS) forums; Microsoft (MS) Teams, Discord, virtual art workshops, virtual museums and galleries, and online seminars and webinars in Art.

Padlet, Discord and MS Teams

Set up online learning platforms (formal setting) as well as social media groups (informal setting) where students can post their thoughts, share their artworks, and provide feedback to each other, share their progress, seek advice, and inspire each other in both formal and informal learning environments. Instructors can moderate and guide the discussions to encourage critical thinking and constructive criticism. AP 2D Art is the LMS platform where students can access anytime.

Virtual Workshops in Art

Organize virtual art workshops where students can participate in live demonstrations, ask questions, and practice various art techniques together in real-time. There are online workshops that students can help develop their skills like Virtual Art Workshops, courses offered at the Museum of Modern Art MOMA website and Google Art and Culture. Host webinars or invite guest speakers, such as professional artists or art historians, to interact with the students online. These events can offer unique insights and perspectives on the art world.

Guidelines or assessment practices

Harasim (2017, as cited in Bates, 2019) proposed Online Collaborative Learning (OCL) where students are encouraged and supported to work together, created knowledge, invent, explore ways to innovate, and to solve problems. AP 2D Art course views students as active and engaged learners. Students must adhere to the course expectations and create artwork that are guided by the AP College Board guidelines AP Art Guidance for Artificial Intelligence Tools and other Services.

Blending these online community learning forms with in-person or face-to-face interactions in the classroom can create a well-rounded and enriching experience for students in AP Art course. It fosters a supportive and interactive learning environment that promotes creativity, communication, and collaboration.

Summary of Learning!

Check out my summary of learning below, to hear all I learned this semester! I know I talk fast, but let's get real, I only had 7 minutes and I had a lot to say about this informative class.


Bates, A.W. (2019). Teaching in a Digital Age – Second Edition. Vancouver, B.C.: Tony Bates

Associates Ltd. Retrieved from

Irvine, V. (2020, October 26). The landscape of merging modalities. EDUCAUSE Review.

Major, C. H. (2023, March 23). 6 strategies for building community in online courses. The K. Patricia Cross Academy.

Ritzhaupt, A. D. (n.d.). ADDIE Explained: Introduction. An Open Educational Resource for the Educational Technology Community.

Accessible and Equitable Advanced Placement Art Blended Course

“The power of the Web is in its universality. Access by everyone regardless of disability is an essential aspect.” – Tim Berners-Lee

Accessibility cannot be disregarded in an online learning environment. A stellar course outline is futile if accessibility and potential challenges to learners are ignored. While online learning has the potential to be more accessible in certain ways, it also presents its own set of challenges and ethical considerations.

A few considerations were included in the Advanced Placement (AP) Art Blended course. Designed for highly motivated and skillful high school students in art, the course allows them to earn an advanced college level course in Art. Although the online part of the course is designed to be accessible to all interested students, there are possible issues that may impede their learning. Accommodation is offered to potential students who may not be able to attend synchronous classes due to work, family commitments, or living far from the school. Also, to students with physical limitations, mobility impairments or visual impairments. In these cases, flexible learning environments and materials that can be adapted for various needs, like screen readers and closed captions are available for them. Seeing AI is one good example of an application that students can use.

Issues related to accessibility and equity are considered in the course. These issues are significant challenges that need to be addressed to ensure true accessibility and equity in online learning. Some students may not be able to afford a computer at home. Another is individual knowledge and skills in technology. Some students may face difficulties in using technology due to their limited knowledge. The course also considers some ethical or social considerations like inclusivity, differentiated instruction, individual privacy and security, and responsibility in technology use. Accessibility and equity in online learning is significant for students’ success in the course. It requires collective efforts from the senior teachers, school administration, parents, and school division to address the challenges and ethical considerations to create a truly inclusive and equitable blended course.

Blog #6: Building Community

Building community and engaging learners is critical in any classroom setting, whether online, blended, or completely in person. It is important all learners feel a sense of belonging, apart of the conversation, and that they are within the learning. Instead of a teacher drilling facts into their young brains, we need to rather think of teachers as facilitators, “which students are encouraged and supported to work together to create knowledge: to invent, to explore ways to innovate, and, by so doing, to seek the conceptual knowledge needed to solve problems rather than recite what they think is the right answer” as Bates stated. The teacher then can be alongside the learning as students create communities and engage in conversations.

Within my own blended classroom, I need to encourage and have opportunities for online discussions to create connections, ask questions and learn from each other. To do so, it is important to create meaningful online discussions that will encourage the students to participate and be a part of the learning. Bates says we need the following for meaningful online discussions:

  • appropriate technology
  • clear guidelines on student online behaviour
  • clear goals
  • choice of appropriate topics
  • setting an appropriate ‘tone’ or requirements for discussion
  • defining clear learner roles and expectations
  • monitoring the participation of individual learners, and responding accordingly
  • regular, ongoing instructor ‘presence’
  • ensuring strong articulation between discussion topics and assessment.

It is clear, that thought and pre-planning needs to be involved in the process of creating and facilitating an online community.

Speech bubbles with people talking

My students have many opportunities to interact within the classroom and their online communities. My students have these opportunities through threads on Google Classroom, Flipgrid (where they can create videos and interact with each other), and various videos of myself, explaining the tasks at hand and then students can react to the videos posted and ask questions as needed. I think involving myself within their online learnings is important, for them to make connections and to ensure their learning styles are being met. My group of students is very diverse, with different learning needs, and therefore, it is important to provide clear exceptions and ensure all content is laid out simplistically. Through these opportunities to interact and connect, students can build a sense of community, where they are involved and a part of the learning.

“Community is more than participation; it requires moving from participation to engagement, involvement, and action.”

Further, my students are very familiar with Google Classroom, and therefore, creating posts and responding on the stream, is manageable for them as they understand the expectations, how to use it, and what their roles are within it. As I said before, my group of students is very diverse, as they all have learning challenges, so this is a way for them to build that sense of community without overwhelming them and expecting them to become familiar with too many platforms. With Google Classroom, I can provide videos of myself in relation to their learnings, create streams/discussions and allow the students to post questions and comments, as well. Further, on Google Classroom, I can create a topic, called Flipgrid. By simply clicking the link, students will be directed to the platform where they can create videos and interact with each other. This is something new, so it will take some pre-teaching to review the platform on how to use it, the expectations/role of each student, and creating of goals (what do we want as a community on Flipgrid). I feel my students will be capable of building connections and interacting as it all comes down to one LMS, Google Classroom. Inevitably, students will be a part of transformative learning.

As discussed prior, the teacher within these communities than acts as a facilitator. Meaning, when creating assessments and guidelines around these communities, the students and the teacher, will co-create what they would like to see, to ensure all input.

Tri-Venn Diagram of Communication Within a Community

Building online communities is vital for students to create, discuss, participate, and create. It is clear that “online collaborative learning as a result can also directly support the development of a range of high-level intellectual skills, such as critical thinking, analytical thinking, synthesis, and evaluation, which are key requirements for learners in a digital age.” I am excited to continue building communities, on and offline.