Small Teaching Online

Written by Mirabelle Tinio, Department Chair, French Instructor, Modern Languages & Curriculum Consultant at TCDC

In the spring, the sudden shift to remote online learning forced most people to venture out into the unknown alone, but a rambunctious, fun, and supportive group of Langarans stayed connected every Wednesday, April – June, cozying up with tea/coffee/cocktail before their computer screens and sharing thoughts related to Small Teaching Online, by Flower Darby and James Lang (2019).

The online book club was not only a welcome opportunity to discuss effective online teaching practices and quick tips, but also a good way to connect with peers and share our struggles and successes during these challenging times. Since we no longer had the pleasure of bumping into each other on campus, in the tiny staff washrooms, copy rooms or Tim Horton’s line-ups, we “Zoomed” instead. The book club demonstrated Langarans’ resilience and capacity to build community even off-campus. Let’s stay connected while learning, exploring, and finding new ways to live and work during the pandemic. Whether you’d like to start a book club with colleagues or within your department, join one or find other ways of building a supportive community, there are other like-minded people out there.

Each book club gathering included weekly check-ins; chapter summaries; small group discussions in breakout rooms; and laughter, support, and lots of empathy.

Here is what some book clubbers had to say about the book club and their messages of thanks to the group:

What a great choice of book and perfect timing!
To learn from other colleagues who have experience teaching online in the previous and current terms, especially in the Breakout Room discussion was [a] treasure to me. Their struggles, mishaps, creative ideas and success stories motivated me to plan, prepare and tackle the uncharted territory – online teaching. … let’s not forget that students’ enduring understanding is our most essential goal in teaching. 

What I enjoyed as much as the content of the book was the ability to connect to instructors across departments and learn from one another’s experiences (both successes and failures!) In a time as stressful as COVID, it was so great to have an excuse each week to check in with colleagues and hear about what was going on with others in the college. Book Club provided me with a much-needed community of like-minded innovators and educators who were embracing the challenge of moving online as an opportunity to learn and grow as instructors. … Thank you to my fellow book clubbers for taking the time to prepare for and engage in robust conversations, and thank you for the TCDC Facilitators for creating such an enriching online experience! 

Wonderful community
While the book was approachable and useful to read, I loved connecting with other Langara instructors. I appreciated being able to discuss the book as well as other issues related to online teaching with faculty from various departments and disciplines. The book has helped me take a more intentional and thoughtful approach to teaching online this fall. … Thanks to everyone who participated for being so supportive, encouraging, open and helpful in sharing your experiences and thoughts. It reminds me how lucky I am to be part of such a great community.

Enhanced my confidence and depth of understanding in reaching students online
I enjoyed sharing experiences and points of view with other disciplines. Each week was unique in that I learned new modalities and applications to teach students more effectively. … Everyone helped each other and networked allowing for more growth in knowledge than reading the Small Teachings book alone. 

Thanks for the many small teaching moments!
Being part of the pandemic book club was a wonderful opportunity to connect with colleagues, share ideas and suggestions for what works and what doesn’t, and console each other during this challenging time. … Not only do you get to read and chat about a book that is full of great ideas and tips for improving teaching and learning, you get to spend time with a rowdy, fun, and supportive group of Langarans.

Perfect Timing
Reading this book before prepping my courses was perfect timing (thanks, Book Club!) What I learned changed my approach to teaching, and radically improved my online teaching. My students and I had a productive and fairly smooth semester. The book helped me create effective, engaging activities with fair and accurate assessment. … Book Club participants provide energy, comradery, support and incredibly useful tips that make me a better teacher.

Thank you to all participants for more making the Small Teaching Online book club such an uplifting experience. A huge shout out to Julian Prior, Diane Thompson, Karen Budra, Shawna Williams, and Briana Fraser who helped facilitate discussions. Langara is a community of amazingly talented, wise, and caring instructors.

For anyone interested in reading Small Teaching Online, e-copies are available at Langara’s library. Additional resources related to the book can be found on the book club’s WordPress site. If you are interested in joining a second running of this online book club, there will be an opportunity in August to join a shortened, 3-week series. Please look out for the meeting dates on TCDC’s iWeb.