Welcome to my blog!

My name is Thai Nguyen and I am currently a teacher candidate at the University of Victoria. My journey to becoming a teacher was paved mostly by my love of science and science education! This site will be a place where I will blog about my experiences in the Uvic teaching program and my exploration of ed-tech tools. I will also be posting about a recent passion project I started: Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. I have always wanted to learn this martial art, however, my undergraduate studies took up too much of my time. Now, with a little more time on my hands, I’m going to take a dive into this new project!


The Flipped Classroom

The flipped classroom is turning education on its head. In the past, teachers have been giving same lectures year after year to each new cycle of students. Then at home, these students would be doing those same homework problems, and struggling through various concepts without help or guidance. The flipped classroom aims at remedying this problem.


A flipped classroom works as follows: Students “learn” the material by watching a pre-recorded lecture by their teacher or a related video on YouTube at home. This allows students to learn at their own pace and leisure. Then during class the next day, students apply their knowledge and work through problems under the guidance of the teacher. There are many benefits to this flipped scheme. In addition to students learning at their own pace, learning becomes much more efficient in the classroom as they are prepared to engage with the material. This means that students can work on assignments and group projects in the classroom, and whenever they run into problems, the teacher is immediately there to help.

The flipped classroom also brings changes to teachers. Traditionally, the classroom favours confident, intelligent students, as the teachers would engage with these students more during lectures. Students who don’t learn as quickly during lectures don’t attempt to engage with teachers, either because they are embarrassed by not knowing the material or they’re so lost that they don’t even know what they’re confused about. In the flipped model, the students who have the weakest grasp of the material will ultimately engage more with the teacher. In addition, the students who have mastered the material can help students who are struggling. This method also benefits teachers who are not strong at giving lectures. Instead, they can tailor teaching strategies that suit their teaching style such as project work, leading class discussions or experiments.

In short, teachers don’t have to give the same lectures year after year, but instead focus their class time on the needs of the students. The flipped classroom promotes equal learning opportunities for all students. Currently students are not getting the help they need at home. Whether it’s a parent who is always working, an older sibling who isn’t willing to help, or parents unable to afford a private tutor, a flipped classroom promotes equity in learning.

Passion Project #6

This is a demonstration of the D’arce choke. The D’arce is very similar to the triangle choke previously shown in my other blog posts. However, the triangle is formed with the arms instead of the legs. The compression and leverage comes from walking the person’s arms and neck towards their body.


Passion Project Post #5

In this week’s video, I am demonstrating a submission called the triangle. It is a type of chokehold that strangles the opponent by trapping their neck and one arm between the legs in a configuration that is shaped like a triangle. This is a type of lateral vascular restraint that decreases the blood from the carotid artery to the brain.

My experience with video editing!

In the beginning of the semester, I was tasked to make a video that describes “who I am”and why I want to become a teacher. The activity was designed for us to reflect on how we came to be in the PDP program, some of our hopes, thoughts, and ideas about teaching, and questions we have about education, teaching and/or learning as we began the program.

I recorded various clips and photos using my Samsung Galaxy 5 neo cell phone. To edit the video, I used the “windows movie maker” program. I learned how to include voice overs, music, and special image affects.

Windows Movie maker allows for a variety of effects and transitions. The effects alter how the video clip appears. In my video I was able to control the brightness and add dramatic effects. The transition options allowed me to affect how one video clip or picture flows into another.


Passion Project Post #4

This week I am starting to post videos demonstrating common self-defense moves in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. Over these two months, I have been learning common techniques in “sport” Jiu Jitsu. The techniques in sport Jiu Jitsu are complicated to describe to people who don’t practice the martial art. If I tried to demonstrate these moves, the audience watching the video would need a lot of background knowledge of the various positions. For every offensive move in BJJ there are dozens of counters moves.

By posting self defense videos, I can describe scenarios that people who are in danger might encounter. The following video describes a common submission called the armbar. The armbar is best executed from the “mount” position. From the mount, you render your opponent defenseless, as all of your weight is pressed onto your opponent’s hips. This is their center of gravity, and by sitting on their hips, you limit your opponent’s range of motion.

Passion Project Blog Post #3

It is reading break! I am in Campbell River, my hometown, visiting my family for a few days. In Campbell River, there is a martial arts gym called Pure Self Defense which offers classes in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, kick boxing, karate, women’s self defense, and general fitness. I grew up training kick boxing at this gym and know a few of the instructors quite intimately. One of them has a brown belt in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. His name is Spence Shaw. We went to high school together, and ever since I’ve known him, he’s been obsessed with BJJ. He lives and breathes this grappling sport and has competed in many tournaments, often placing gold.


While in Campbell River, I  attended a drop in BJJ class led by Spence to see how much I’ve improved. The moment I walked in the door, I locked eyes with Spence. He was sporting a blue gi with his brown belt tied around his waist. He immediately said “there’s no kickboxing right now, get lost!”. To his surprise, I told him that I was attending a drop in class led by some “dumb idiot”. Don’t worry, we are friends – this was just our usual banter.

The class was so much fun and extremely informative. It was a one hour session with the first twenty minutes dedicated to demonstrating two specific techniques, twenty minutes for the students to practice the technique with partners, and the last twenty minutes was allotted for free grappling and practice. Spence demonstrated two types of chokes: the d’arce and the anaconda. These moves are very hard to describe through a blog, so I will include them in my future video demonstrations.

Spence gave me some very good feedback on my BJJ progress. He suggested I attend more than one class a week. My knowledge and theory of the grappling is there, but my execution needs to be cleaner. He said this only comes with practice and an instructor who can give constant feedback. I appreciated Spence’s advice, but I retorted that the PDP program is too demanding for me to attend more than one class a week. He laughed and wished me luck on my journey to becoming a teacher.



Should we be testing in schools?

In early October, I was given the opportunity to create and administer a test for a grade 12 Chemistry class. This was an assignment given by my science methods professor. The purpose of the assignment was to gauge students’ knowledge of the content, given what they should know about chemistry from their previous Science 10 and Chemistry 11 class. The test was a mixture of multiple choice and written questions. We had to be mindful of the difficulty of the questions, varying them from easy, medium, to a few difficult ones. The outcome of this experience was very surprising.


This was my first taste at creating an assessment item for students. It was much more difficult than expected as the chemist inside of me thought “these kids are in chemistry 12, they should know a lot by now”. I reviewed the previous PLO’s for science 10 and Chemistry 11 to find content to include in my test. I could have just chosen random content from each PLO and made questions out of them, but I wanted to find out more about these students. Most of the questions were popular misconceptions in lower level Chemistry. I wanted to see if by Chemistry 12 if any misunderstandings were corrected. The rest of the questions were simple to boost their confidence.

It seems like writing a multiple-choice exam is much easier than designing one. Coming up with the questions was simple, but coming up with the a-d options was somewhat difficult. I didn’t want the options to be too obviously wrong or too similar to the correct answer. It took a bit more time than expected. The written section was very easy to write up as these questions were open ended. I didn’t have to be so specific. For example, one question was “How is the mole used in Chemistry? You can use analogies and other means to justify your answer.”

On the day I administered the test, I gave clear instructions on how to answer the questions and what topics were on the test. I told them that the test was not for marks and anonymous. They had 15-20 minutes to complete the test and had to hand it in once they were finished.

To my amazement, the students were extremely anxious to write the test. Even though their names weren’t going to be on the test and it wasn’t for marks, the students were very unsettled. Some students were spotted cheating off one another. Others were flipping through the pages in panic and anxiously shaking their legs. Some students handed in the test very quickly without answering any of the written questions, while most the students needed extra time to ensure they answered all the questions to the best of their ability.


Since the students didn’t have the opportunity to prep for the test, and more specifically, prepping for the exact questions, it seemed to trigger panic. It puts into question: are we testing students for knowledge or are we testing for progress and grades? The questions on the test came straight from the previous PLO’s. I expected them to at least get all the simple questions correct.

This experience informs my future teaching as I am unsure how I feel about testing. The anxiety it puts on students definitely hinders their ability to fully represent their understanding. The results of the test showed half the students understood “basic” Chemistry. Most students still had misconceptions about basic chemistry. I am sure if I allowed the students to demonstrate their understanding through a take home assignment the results would have been much better. Perhaps having a group discussion to stimulate their previous knowledge would have surfaced what the class previously knew about Chemistry.

Why learn about Chemical Reactions?



Without chemical reactions, nothing on Earth would exist. In fact, nothing in the entire universe would exist. Everything from the complicated actions that occur in our bodies to the processes that form our atmosphere involve countless chemical reactions. Studying chemical reactions allow us to understand and explain how the natural world functions. They allow you to breathe, turn the food you eat into fuel, make fireworks explode, and so much more.

With an understanding of chemical reactions, you will be able to make informed decisions in your environment. The process of human breathing and burning fuel are the same chemical reaction, whereby organic material is burned in the presence of oxygen to produce energy. This process is called combustion. Knowing about combustions could ultimately save your life one day, if say, an unexpected fire occurred. Most people would try to combat the fire directly. But you, knowing the basics of combustions reactions can critically think of ways to remove the oxygen from the environment. This allows for more avenues for dealing with situations.

Reactions in nature are more simple than people generally think, and can be applied in innovative ways.  To gain an appreciation for chemical reactions, one needs to realize that reactions occur in isolated, simple steps. For example, water can be formed from the reaction of hydrogen and oxygen gas. That’s it. Its as simple as pouring milk into a bowl of grains to give cereal. But after discovering this simple reaction in nature, scientists harnessed its use for creating rocket fuel, as this reaction was discovered to produced tons of energy. Without understanding this specific way that water is produced, we could have never made it to the moon.

While chemical reactions are a beautiful topic to learn, studies have shown that students go into this topic with some misconceptions (Stavridou & Solomonidou, 2007). There tends to be confusion between the differences of physical and chemical change. A physical change, like boiling water, involves the change of a molecule’s state from one phase (water) to another (vapour). A chemical reaction involves the rearrangement of atoms in molecules to form different molecules.

This misconception is mostly due to the varying life experiences that each student brings to the classroom . The construction of the chemical reaction concept needs to nurtured intimately so students can critically think about these natural processes. This role falls onto the teacher. Does it make sense that chemical reactions are taught mostly using textbooks and dry lectures? Just as chemical reactions are alive and all around us, we need to learn them in this manner. Whether it’s doing an experiment or watching something spectacular occur in your daily life, chemical reactions are inescapable. The fact that we can organize these events using simple language, symbols, and a little bit of math is so beautiful.


Lastly, it’s your social responsibly to be educated about chemical reactions. We know that the ozone layer is made up in the atmosphere from the reaction of atmospheric oxygen and solar radiation. The ozone layer protects the earth from high levels of UV radiation from the sun. But when this ozone layer is depleted, holes start forming in the atmosphere where high levels of UV radiation penetrates the Earth and causes damage to the environment. This depletion was discovered in the 1980’s by many groups of scientists.  And the cause of these holes? The chemical reaction of compounds called CFC’s (chlorofluoro carbons) with the ozone layer. CFC’s were used in refrigerants and aerosol propellants, but after their harmful properties were discovered, they were banned worldwide. Understanding chemical reactions allow you to think critically of the things you use in your daily life and how it could potentially impact the environment.



When you realize that physical changes are just the movement of molecules, and chemical changes are the transformation of molecules, you have essentially solved how everything in the world works. The only thing you have left to learn is how many of these almost infinite processes you’re willing to fit in your brain.

Khan Academy -“Video tutoring for mastery”

Khan Academy is a non profit organization that creates lecture videos in all subject areas. In addition to making lecture videos, the site offers materials and resources for student learning, as well as resources for teachers. When one first enters the website, they are greeted with the following sentences: You only have to know one thing: “You can learn anything. Free for everyone. forever.” Immediately, the user feels the needs of the students come


A typical Khan Academy video is between 5-20 minutes. There is a voiceover and a blank page where the narrator is free to write and speak about any topic. The early days of Khan Academy focussed solely on math help. Today Khan Academy expands medicine, finance, physics, chemistry, biology, astronomy, cosmology, American civics, and much more.

I followed a chemistry video on “acids and bases”. His lectures are unlike any I have experienced in a classroom. Khan explains everything slowly, without missing steps, and carefully. If students do miss something, they can choose to watch the video slowly, or rewatch if necessary. Khan doesn’t bother using tons of jargon in his explanations as he knows students are using his platform because they are already confused with the material. The beauty in all of Khan’s videos is his ability to use real life examples in his explanations.


Salman Khan created Khan Academy in 2006, after realizing that he would not make his mark on the world by being the next Richard Feynman. He traded his physics equations for computer skills, and attended MIT for computer science. His lectures first launched on Youtube before expanding on his own website. Now his projects are funded by donations. Google has donated 2 million dollars and AT&T has donated 2.25 millions.


Passion Project Blog Post #2

This is a general update for my passion project. I have been going to drop-in Jiu Jitsu classes once a week for almost two months now. I have also been watching videos uploaded to YouTube by Tenth Planet Brazilian Jiu Jitsu creator Eddie Bravo. Up to this point, I have enough BJJ experience and knowledge to test for a blue belt ranking. I was planning on being where I am a month from now, but I’ve been so motivated to learn BJJ that I’m a month a head of schedule.


I am now confident and comfortable enough with my Jiu Jitsu to post videos that demonstrate basic self defense techniques. Featured in these videos will be my roommate, and BJJ partner Kyle Robinson. Kyle has been attending the classes with me and has been an excellent partner and has been motivating me to practice. My plan is to upload one video a week until the beginning of December. If I’m feeling ambitious, I might upload a couple of videos a week.