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Tips From the Field – part 1

Coming alongside adult foundational learners requires attentiveness and creativity, and a commitment to finding ways to meet them right where they are. Responding to feedback or cues with innovative approaches goes a long way to helping learners develop the positive self-narratives and the foundational skills they need to achieve their own goals. In upcoming issues of The Connector, we will be sharing ideas from practitioners about what is working well in delivering their Calgary Learns funded program. There is a great deal of collective wisdom in our learning community, and we invite you to be in touch with us if you have a teaching technique or tool that your learners find to be valuable in their learning journey.

“Show and Tell”

Teaching online presents challenges for both instructors and learners. Many practitioners have said that they miss having a whiteboard or flipchart to engage their learners in the course content they bravely showed up to learn. Others have described the challenge of helping ESL learners, who might be new to technology as well as English vocabulary, to use Zoom during online classes. In this issue, we share ideas from two practitioners who have found ways to support verbal explanations with visual cues that are helping their learners.  The techniques and tools are at both ends of the technology spectrum, and both are effective supports in online teaching.

Jeb Gaudet teaches math to adults in Never Too Late and CanLearn, and he finds that using a graphic drawing tablet is an effective way of walking learners through new ideas. It is one tool which allows instructors to respond to questions and requests in real time in a “show” rather than “tell” approach.

“I love being able to write on the screen, because I think it helps to see math “in process”. I don’t use PowerPoint, in part because it’s too easy to whip through slides before learners can write down and think about what’s on them. With the tablet, I can draw on a blank slide or on the white board feature of Zoom, making whatever notes and drawings I need, and keep things dynamic.”

– Jeb Gaudet

If you are a Calgary Learns funded program and are interested in trying this technology as a teaching support, please contact Heidi (

Two years ago we all undertook what was a sometimes humbling learning journey to understand how to effectively work Zoom, and yet many of us are still challenged with the mute button.  Imagine the challenge of teaching ESL students with low vocabulary and digital skills how to navigate the Zoom journey.

Practitioner Afra Shirazi in CanLearn’s Biliteracy program comes alongside her learners creatively to help them learn how to participate in Zoom classes. Her simple but practical idea of using picture cues turned around what is often a frustrating experience for learners. In addition to effectively conveying instructions, there is relational value in her approach because it supports learners in a friendly way. This creates the kind of welcoming learning environment where positive relationships between practitioners and learners are built.

“When I was watching a video on YouTube that showed a teacher using a handmade sign of raising a hand during the Zoom meeting, the idea of making all the signs of the Zoom meeting came to my mind.  These handmade signs support my learners navigating the Zoom meetings. This idea was welcomed by the learners.”

– Afra Shirazi

Do you have tips from the field that you would be willing to share? We would love to hear them! Please get in touch with Heidi (


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