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Module 1

Online Pedagogy and Building Digital Communities

Welcome to Module 1: The purpose of this module is to help physical educators discover new methods to teach online and learn about different tech tools that could contribute to building an online learning community with your students.  This module will have you reflecting on your own pedagogical practices and evaluating research-based pedagogical practices that have been shown to aid in creating a safe and inviting learning community, allowing you to create a tool box of ideas to find what methods will work in your own classrooms.

Online Pedagogy and
Building Digital Communities

Online pedagogy can pose some challenges for physical educators which is why this module will examine different strategies, some new, some old and perhaps some strategies are repurposed but all of which you will hopefully be able to add to your teaching toolkit.  Creating and maintaining a positive learning environment; building a learning community; giving consistent feedback in a timely manner; and using the right technology to deliver the right content are key factors in strengthening student engagement in online courses (Nafukho & Chakraborty, 2014).


This module will focus on the PHE curriculum, however, when examining the tech tools and considering how you will integrate them into your own teaching practice always be mindful of the hidden curriculum when it comes to technology.  As with any skill, technology may come naturally to some students and not so much for others.  As teachers we know our own students and what scaffolding they may need to manage and learn the new tools or software programs introduced in this module. We hope to provide you with the information and opportunities to develop your personalized pedagogical approach towards building healthy, safe, and inclusive Physical Education communities.

The Big Ideas

1- Building Blocks

Building Blocks

Teaching practices are forever evolving and coupled with the pace of technological innovations, many best teaching practices include a digital component.  Whether it's using google classroom, sharing and editing each other's work online, or working through a VR online activity, students need to become good digital citizens to learn how to communicate with their peers and develop that skill for their future careers.


Physical Educators are in a unique position to coach and teach many skills for the 21st century learners such as teamwork, creativity, innovation and problem-solving. As educators, it's our role to set the foundation of building blocks to help students become smart, conscientious, and innovators both behind the screen and in person.

Photo of 2 students holding an ipad with their faces on it - representing their student 'body' as a virtual student

Building Community

Building a classroom culture is one of the first things we do with a new class, whether it's face to face or in a virtual classroom. Creating a classroom climate built on respect, trust and communication is half classroom management, half modelling the expected behaviour and engaging your students with your teaching finesse and add a sprinkle of teaching experience.   Simply put "Get over yourself - challenge any fear of giving up control of the online space and grow to be a facilitator and let students come to the forefront" (Barber & Mann, 2022)

Below are a collection of teaching tips from Dynamic Engaging Learning Environments, W. Barber & A. Mann which is in print and will be published in the book Thriving Online: A Guide for Busy Educators.(Eds. B. Hunter, R. Kay, 2022).

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Co-design of learning space - Negotiation, Flexibility, Grab that trapeze and Fly !!

Setting class norms re social media, respectful interactions, trust and right to pass

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Don’t be afraid to disrupt status quo

Ask for help and SAY you don’t know - or reach out to help someone else

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Celebrate mistakes, enjoy the left turns, find adventure on the tangents

Encourage multiple formats for assignments and tasks

Building communities with your students also means building a community within your own teaching departments.  The sooner we can stand in front of our classes and admit mistakes the sooner we can build trust with our students which is the starting point for creating a safe place and collaborative classroom. 

Activity #1 - Article: Read and Reflect

Building a community is more than the superficial digital announcements on your school's platform where students post questions asking about their homework and assignment submissions.  It involves student engagement during class, getting to know each other, share positive and constructive criticism with each other and feel comfortable engaging in authentic discussion in breakout rooms (virtual) or in table groups (face to face).

The community you build online or in your classroom should be a safe place for your students to share their ideas and express who they are without judgment.  A community should support one another and  acknowledge individuals for their successes and help them build resilience and learn from their mistakes.  Carol Dweck (2008) refers to this as "Growth Mindset" - finding the resilience to persevere and not expect things to be easy. Growth Mindset has become one of those teaching buzz words and with good merit.


In the spirit of building an online community with all the the other educators who are taking this module, the first activity (found below) requires you to be honest and share your teaching stories, whether it's from your 1st year or 21st year of teaching.  Please read the CBC on teachers perspectives of teaching during COVID and see we are not alone in our concerns. 

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Activity #2 - Jamboard Teacher Confessions

After reading the stories from these 3 teachers we hope you can relate to them in some ways.  This next activity is meant to be fun but also informative.  A place where we can all share our experiences of teaching in a virtual classroom, or integrating technology in face-to-face classroom.  Consider what are some things you wish you had more help with and advice you would have given yourself at the beginning of your teaching career?

The purpose of this activity is to see and share your stories or success or failure with other teachers for the sole purpose of learning and building our community.  Please be mindful of your responses and practice good digital citizenship.



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Activity #3 - Watch Video and Reflect

​After participating in the Jamboard from the previous activity, you may notice certain drawbacks to engaging with one other in that manner.  Alternately, if you were one of the last ones to post an idea, you had the benefit of reading the post from the previous teachers.  This may have helped you develop a rapport with this group of people you have never met before. 


Now imagine those post-it notes happened in real time and you were able to dialog with people that are experiencing the same challenges you are facing.  This sense of community is something often forced in classrooms, because we don't typically get to choose our peers.  So the question remains, how can we authentically develop that same community and respect for one another that people develop in other online communities mentioned in the Ted Talk.  As you watch the video, please keep your students in mind as you ask yourself these questions and reflect.

Do you have personal experience with a digital community (big or small)? Or do you post or comment on other's posts or receive support, positive feedback or suggestions on things you have posted?


How might your students identify with the speaker's story?


Can you see value in creating this type of digital community for your students?


Why does the speaker use the digital community for support?


Many students have been using digital communities long before taking your class; through Facebook, snap chat, tic tok and YouTube to name a few.  They intrinsically know what behaviour 'feels' good such as receiving a positive comment, or a 'shout out' or levelling up on a gaming platform.  They also know what behaviour isn't good, as seen in the graph below 45% of U.S. teens reported 'feeling overwhelmed because of all the drama'.  In addition to this, 44% of U.S. teens 'unfollow' or 'unfriend' people with drama being the number one reason for doing so.  The data is clear, these communities are present in the daily lives of our students and if you haven't already experienced it or participated in a social community, by posting a comment or content online we suggest you do so.  Comments on another teacher's YouTube video about an activity you want to try, or maybe a recipe blog or even 'clapping' for someone that received a promotion on Linked In.  Our communities may look different from our students but they are still present, so engage with them and put yourself in your students shoes to see why these online communities can be a source of positive reassurance and support for many.

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M. Anderson & J. Jiang (2018, November 28). 2. Teens, friendships and online groups. Pew Research Center: Internet, Science & Tech.

Armed with this information, you should have a better idea of how building your own digital community could help your students.  Exposing students to a positive online environment and helping them build their Digital Citizenship will benefit them now as well as later on in life. 

Activity #4- Padlet Community Dialog

Does building a Digital Community seen like a daunting task?  Don't know where to start?  This activity will cover these topics and more.  What better place to start experimenting with digital dialogue than right here through this course with teachers across Canada.  Building an online community with students doesn't only happen when students are 100% virtual.  It can also come into play when you're teaching face-to-face. Many schools boards are already using some type of learning management system such as Brightspace, Blackboard, Google Classroom or Microsoft Teams or in the classrooms to help keep student organized and give them access to all the course material digitally. 

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Creating a safe digital space for your students also includes these platforms, and is perhaps more important - because sometimes students can act one way in person - but another way online.  Therefore it is up to us to set up the norms and whether that means to gradually releasing the responsibility of posting on the classroom digital platform or creating smaller digital groups, either way we want to hear your strategies!  Too many teachers use these platforms as a depository of information without taking advantage of the community building opportunities embedded within each platform.

After reading the blogs below, click on the padlet button and share an idea about building a safe virtual space and how you can engage your students in a digital community. It can be an idea you are currently using or a co-worker may have recommended it, you could also build off an idea you read in one of the blogs below.  Share your comments and help build this resource of tips and tricks for yourself and teachers across Canada.

LearnWorld Blog - How to build an online learning community in 2021
Edutopia Blog - Fostering a strong community in a virtual classroom