What’s Your Story?

robyn-budlender-112521Any time someone asks this question, it requires some deep thinking and honest reflection. It’s not always an easy question to answer. My students struggle with this question each year in the course that I teach. It’s dependant, in part, on what story your listener is looking forward to hearing. Some stories come easily because there is a recognizable sequence of events. Some stories are easier to tell because there is a memorable beginning, middle and end. The plot line is logical. Some stories are not so easy because the storyline doesn’t really start or end, and the plot is mired in mist. So when you ask someone to tell their story, it’s truly an individual thing. My story is not your story and my efforts to tell the story are uniquely mine.

finn-hackshaw-131930So asking me what my story is about how I became an open educator really sent me on a reflective journey. I’ve been traversing some murky thoughts these past few days, spiralling down the rabbit hole. I’ve come to realize that this story doesn’t have a distinct beginning or end. This story doesn’t begin with a specific event or a catalytic moment. This story doesn’t have an ending since I’m still pondering my next steps toward openness, as the due date for next year’s course syllabus looms ahead. My openness as an educator just IS…… it’s my default mode. My story, then, needs to focus on the steps I’ve taken toward being ‘open by default’ and how it has transformed the ethos of my teaching practice.


I’m a farm girl, born and raised in the open – fields, forest, times, and spaces. Not to say there weren’t clear boundaries, but openness was an inherent quality of my upbringing. Hard work and strict requirements bounded the times of free play and open roaming. Seasons and weather dictated the schedule – planting, harvesting, sun and snow – each determined whether it was time for open exploration or closed to get the job done. Open times to engage in dreaming, imagineering (engineering ideas with imagination), alone or with my siblings was always dependent on getting the work done first.

03.09.17.V2 copyOPEN THINKING:

As I started teaching, it was never about the materials or methods found in textbooks. I would fill my classroom with  resources and methodologies that would reach and engage the children. The text was only one way to accomplish the learning tasks. Looking back, it was student centered pedagogy that was open to multiple means of expression, representation, and engagement; UDL at heart (Universal Design for Learning). My default way of teaching was open right from the start (open pedagogy & content) but I was not necessarily confident to open my classroom door to share with others. Becoming open in education is not like flipping a switch on/off. It’s shades of open, variations on open and stepping forward toward open. (Pomerantz & Peek, 2016)


With an increase in the integration of computers, I could open the classroom to contexts and people that enhanced learning opportunities for my students. Technology became the open window to a wider world for the small school communities in which I taught. I see now that the ideas of open access, opportunity, transparency and entry were part of my motivation to open access education (Weller, 2014). Open became a mission and responsibility for me as an educator. Building doors into the brick walls of administrivia would open options for my students, so I became an advocate for open. Technology became the way I could engage students in open spaces, through these open doors I’d pushed to create, and a way out – out of being disenfranchised, disconnected, disregarded or dismissed.

P1020872 copyOPEN AIR:

I’ve climbed that mountain! Twice! The mountain I’m referring to is Huayna Picchu. It’s captured in many images from Machu Picchu and it can only be achieved one step at a time while managing the physical barriers of altitude, physical endurance and braving the risks. But I’m also referring to my learning journey completing two Masters programs which can also only be completed by taking learning and course work one step at a time.

My passion for open was solidified through the MET (Master of Education, UBC) program where I experienced the power and potential of what David Wiley calls the 4 R’s – reuse, revise, remix, redistribute (Weller, 2014). The fifth R – retain, ensures that there is a legacy of learning in the open. These are core elements throughout the MET tasks I accomplished as evidenced in the culminating, openly published portfolio of learning – My Renovations. Open was expected, encouraged and required. Through this process, I gained confidence in working openly, alone and with others. Open meant experimentation, open to any audience, open to participate in any way possible (Weller, 2014). Explorations of open Web 2.0 tools and resources expanded my understanding of what it means to be a user/generator, a creator of content. My confidence grew as I created and shared in open digital spaces – blogs, wikis, videos, podcasts and more. I’ve taken intentional steps to reach the open air as you can see in several blog posts but specifically Awaken the Dragon. I’ll never forget my excitement when Alan Levine (aka @cogdog) commented at length on one particular blog post where I explored ME in MEdia. It was affirmation and encouragement to continue stepping out into open digital spaces. I now try to do the same for others who are beginning their open journey.


As I started teaching at the Faculty of Education in a local university, I began to teach the way I was learning within MET – in the open. My courses were and continue to be dual layered within the walled gardens of shared spaces within learning management systems (LMS) and within open spaces found on the open web. Iterations of course designs become a repository for my students or anyone interested in learning about Media and Digital Literacies. Because these are reused and remixed each time I teach the course, the content on the web sites becomes a living document, co-created as we learn. You can see these courses at DTL3239 Digital Teaching and Learning, MDL4000 – Media and Digital Literacy, and CDL3239 – Critical Digital Literacy.

My focus in open education continued to shift after I completed the MET program as I stepped out further to find more. I became ‘moocified’ – I call it my year of the MOOC. I started with Digital Pedagogy’s MOOCMOOC, moved into Rhizo15, then on to CLMOOC which led to the HumanMOOC and Design Thinking MOOC through IDEO. Throughout this ‘moocification’ experience, I became aware of Virtually Connecting and have been actively engaging in open dialogue through conference conversations with VC folks for a couple of years. It’s also when I became aware of how Creative Commons applied to my contributions on the web. My default mode became more open but it was still motivated by what it could do for my teaching practice and how it would be a model for my students. I focused on building communities of inquiry within affinity spaces for meaningful knowledge production. For me, it’s about building relationships and joining conversations. I continued to push, nudge, promote and advocate for open learning opportunities with my colleagues and the teacher candidates in the Faculty.

My motivation didn’t necessarily focus on my own reputation, revenue or audience but those became increasingly important as I talked about digital spaces since this impacts the future of my students (professional identity, future job prospects, partnerships with parents, collaboration with colleagues). I model and share, as well as search out other educators who model and share in the open, so my students can learn by ‘lurking and learning’ from others with experience. I push myself further into the open so my students can see the risks and rewards. Now I try to frame the open so my students can be grounded and bounded as they explore the open for their own benefits. The iterations of my open practice now includes an increased presence in open educational scholarship – pushing myself further into the open by writing beyond blogs.

OEO openSteps toward open educational pedagogies and resources are not done by standing still or walking alone. Networks of practice are an essential component of open education. This year, I have the benefit of joining others as an OEORanger – Open Educators of Ontario. With support from eCampus Ontario, I’ll be able to connect and collaborate in open digital sandbox spaces with others across the province and around the world. Together we’ll push, pull, create and advocate for open educational content and practices within higher education in Ontario. Together, there will be stories to be told, journeys to be shared, mountains to climb.

Stories about becoming an open educator are stories of iterations and adaptations. They are created one step at a time, a story with no perceived beginning or apparent ending. Yet, as you write your story, you’ll come to understand, as I did here, that the beginnings and endings become evident. They are only part of the whole story. Like climbing a mountain – take it one step at a time, stop along the way to breath and enjoy the view, enjoy the open space at the pinnacle of the climb, don’t rush the trip down and share the journey with others. There’s always another mountain to climb tomorrow.

If you’re interested in other stories from the #101OpenStories network you’ll find them on the open web and Twitter.


Pomerantz, J., & Peek, R. (2016). Fifty shades of open. First Monday, 21(5). doi:http://dx.doi.org/10.5210/fm.v21i5.6360 Retrieved from http://firstmonday.org/article/view/6360/5460

Weller, M. 2014. What Sort of Open?. In: Weller, M, Battle for Open. London: Ubiquity Press. DOI: https://doi.org/10.5334/bam.b Retrieved from http://www.ubiquitypress.com/site/chapters/10.5334/bam.b/

Images in order of appearance: 

Photo of Books by Robyn Budlender on Unsplash

Photo of Open Sign by Finn Hackshaw on Unsplash

Doodle-A-Day #9 by Helen DeWaard

Personal photo at Machu Picchu by Helen DeWaard

OEORangers for Doodle-A-Day #28 by Helen DeWaard

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Out of my comfort zone!

It’s unsettling. It’s got me wondering what I’m doing and how I get myself into these things.

I’ve been pushed and pulled into new and interesting spaces. I’ve been encouraged to share and talk in places and spaces that are new to me. It’s leaving me feeling very much out of my comfort zone. I need to recognize my culpability in this process. I’ve allowed this to happen. I could easily say no and the comfort of familiarity will surround me. But that’s ultimately why I accept the challenge, why I agree to do it. These opportunities change me. They are catalysts for my continued learning.

This week I’m participating in Research and Innovation Week events at the university where I teach. I’ve prepared a poster (for the first time) and a presentation to showcase the work I’m doing in the Faculty of Education. To make this more comfortable and easier on my emotions, I’ve focused on the work and how it improves learning for students. I’ve shifted the focus from me to a ‘third thing’ – the work, the learning, the theoretical foundations behind why and how I teach. With this imposter syndrome lurking in my mind, since I don’t see myself as either a researcher or an innovator, I’m forging ahead to showcase what my students are learning and achieving.

meme-to-startThis week I’m participating in a locally organized one day conference for educators (Push Your Learning).  It’s a chance to hear about innovative work being done by educators in classrooms since the presenters are teachers sharing their work with students in a variety of contexts and topics. I’m excited to be presenting on topics of interest to me. As part of this conference, there is an Ignite session where I’ve been invited to talk about digital citizenship. It’s all about ‘entertain us and make it quick’. Teachers talk in front of people all the time. I’ve presented at conferences more often than I can remember. But this Ignite is causing some discomfort. The idea of talking to a large group, with 20 slides that I’ve created, for 15 seconds per slide, for a 5 minute engaging presentation is pushing me way out onto thin ice. I’m more about conversation than presentation so this is definitely an uncomfortable place. But I’m learning lots about myself, my interests, my topic, and the logical flow of ideas as I prepare for this event. Is there a place for Ignite style presentations as part of teaching and learning?

I’ve been participating in a MOOC that has me exploring some uncomfortable truths about a shared Canadian story. It’s a course exploring Reconciliation through Indigenous Education from the University of British Columbia. It’s week five and despite the challenging topics, ideas and materials, I’m learning in this uncomfortable space. I’ve taken on this challenge because of my #oneword for 2017. Allyship is meaningless without gaining some perspective. My understanding is shifting as I learn with others about Indigenous history, world views, and how learning happens in traditional ways.

screen-shot-2017-02-28-at-8-32-04-amBeginning tomorrow, the month of March will shift me into the uncomfortable space of drawing as a means of expression. I’m picking up the challenge from Heather Theijsmeijer to join into the #DoodleADay event proposed by Royan Lee. I’ve decided to try this challenge to push myself into using my Instagram account with purpose and to re-ignite my sketch noting that started after attending a session with Sylvia Duckworth and reading Nick Sousanis’ blog posts. Let’s see what creativity evolves.

life-begins-at-the-end-of-your-comfort-zone-imgurAs I walk through these uncomfortable spaces and events, I remember that I’m only in them because of choices I’ve made. I’m here by design. I am learning and experiencing which makes it all worth while.

What’s getting you out of your comfort zone?

Where are you going to chose to participate that makes you feel a little uncertain?

What choices will you make to keep learning and exploring?


Image: http://imgur.com/gallery/OmnImn9


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Safer Internet Day – what will you do?

sid-logoDid you know? February 7th is recognized globally as Safer Internet Day.

Did you know? With so many days recognizing various events, organizations or people, this day may be under the radar for you. As a citizen of a global community, this one is worth keeping on your annual days to remember, if only as a trigger to think about how you can become safer on the internet.

This year’s theme – Be the change: Unite for a better internet!

My effort to be the change will revolve around awareness and action. I’m becoming more informed about resources available to educators, parents, and children in Canada to support internet safety. I’ll be doing an internet audit on February 7th to make changes to support my own internet safety and security. I’ll encourage and call for action by others across Canada (#SaferInternetDayCA) to take small steps to BE THE CHANGE and unite for a better internet.

Safer Internet Day? There’s an org for that!

The Canadian Centre for Child Protection is the supporting organization here in Canada. The Safer Internet Canada web site promotes this annual event.  Free resources and lessons are available from this site as well as from the Safer Internet Day global website where a searchable collection of resources come in a variety of languages and topics.  The Safer Internet Day Infographic provides a snapshot of this organization and how it is working to promote and bring awareness to some essential digital literacy topics. You can do your part to ‘be the change’ by following on Facebook and/or Twitter using #SID2017 and #SaferInternetDay. Unofficially I’ve started using the #SaferInternetDayCA since it’s not currently in use for any other purpose – setting a new trend for others to join into this conversation!

AWARENESS as Priority One

This is by no means an exhaustive set of resources, but ones that are available through the Canadian Centre for Child Protection website for FREE (and for educators, free without a hidden agenda or sign up is good!)

  • The Door that’s not Locked – resources in both official languages, this site contains resources that are grade specific, free and downloadable including Internet safety tools, cell phone safety, personal boundaries and online games
  • Kids in the Know – an interactive safety program for students from Kindergarten to Grade 9 including many free and downloadable safety tip sheets and resources when supporting student safety both online and offline
  • Zoe & Molly Online – specifically for parents and educators working with students in Gr. 3-4 on the topic of online and personal safety. Free, downloadable comic book, Smart Board files and safety lessons are provided.
  • What’s the Deal? for grade 7-8 and It is a Big Deal for grades 9-10 are two resources available to download with accompanying teaching guides to help families and educators respond to issues of cyberbullying, how to respond to unsafe situations online, relationships and identifying when to get help. Also available is the resource guide School and Family Approaches to Intervention and Prevention: Addressing Self/Peer Exploitation for those supporting youth in addressing incidents of self/peer exploitation.
  • The National Cyber Security Centre in the UK provides infographics on topics of password security, cybersecurity, cyberattacks, BYOD and managing your information risks. These are worth a look for personal and organizational change to raise awareness in building a safer internet.
  • Media Smarts Canada is a go-to site for all kinds of resources and supports for learning about media and digital literacies, not just for one day but year round! It’s a rich restore of information, research and lesson plans for teachers, parents and anyone who wants to learn more. The Helping Kids Make an Impact When They Witness Cyberbullying would be a great read as a Safer Internet Day action item.

ACTION as Priority Two

Here are some suggestions, from the many you may find when you start searching for safer internet strategies. Pick ONE actionable item to try on February 7th, 2017. Tweet about it using the #SID2017 and #SaferInternetDayCA hashtags. Post your actions to Safer Internet Day on Facebook. Take one step!

  • Do an internet or digital identity audit. You may only get to step one, but a marathon is only completed by putting one foot in front of another. I’ve been through step one and now may ‘level up’ by analyzing my digital identity.
  • Listen to Episode 73: A Safer, More Private Internet (Part 1), Tide Podcast produced by Doug Belshaw and Dia Barnes. Then take a look at the resources & links provided.
  • Review passwords and password protection/storage options. Try this guide to password security. I don’t currently use a password management system but may look at this option – then there’s only one master key to rule them all.
  • Read stuff from Me and My Shadow
    • Tracking … So What? 7 Things We Know You’re Going to Say – debunking common arguments around data and privacy
    • The 8 Day Data Detox – start cleaning up your digital life. While I’ve tried a self imposed digital detox before, and found the experience refreshing, this will have to wait until a later point in the year when my work schedule won’t suffer as a result of my withdrawal from all things digital.

u-thereThat’s enough to get anyone started. Let’s make this an event that everyone is thinking about, talking about, acting on. It may not get the traction or reach of the #BellLetsTalk day, but it’s worth spreading the word and sharing the conversations about this topic with each other and with our children.

Together we can BE THE CHANGE and UNITE for a BETTER INTERNET!

Hey, U THERE?   What will you do on February 7th? 

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The Power of ONE WORD

One word can have significant impact, if it’s the right word for you. I know this from experience. This is my third year to use the #OneWordONT challenge to reflect, connect and contribute – thanks Julie Balen. You’d think selecting ONE WORD would get easier with practice. It doesn’t.

Each year brings new perspectives, challenges, insights and resolutions. This year is no different. As I reflect, as we often do at the beginning of a new year, I recognize that I’ve been changed by the focus that ONE WORD can bring. My first word was HEART. This became my call for the year to find ways to share heart-felt moments and to open my heart towards others. Last year, I chose the word COLOUR and this focus changed the lens I used, particularly when listening to news stories. It opened my eyes to new perspectives and points of view. It shifted my cultural stance. I can now see that these two words have incrementally changed me – they became words of ‘friction’.

The power of one word is not insignificant! ONE WORD can gently guide, carelessly catapult or instigate change in unknown ways throughout the coming year. I need to reflect and select my ONE WORD with care.

I’ve taken time to play with some ideas and tried out some one word contributions from previous participants (found on Twitter and blog posts). I’ve been digging into an online dictionary and thesaurus. I’ve been tinkering with words in VisuWords and Lexipedia since these are great places to play with words.

I’ve left myself open to opportunities. Thanks to some serendipity in my search, I’ve decided to select a word will provoke and catalyze change in my life. This word does not sit easily on my mind or slip effortless from my lips. It’s a word that will make me uncomfortable in the coming year. Its a difficult word to figure out, but I’ve got a whole year to work on that. This word is going to push me out of my comfort zone.


First, I’d to thank Rusul Alrubail for this word. Her blog Through These Words… was the starting point. I’d never heard or seen this word before Rusul introduced it to me in January 2016. Serendipity brought me back to this post where I had commented on Rusul’s thoughts. She responded with words that resonated and have come back to challenge me yet again.

“Thank you so much for stopping and sharing your thoughts here. I agree with you, remaining silent in open spaces is easy for many reasons, and listening and speaking often is hard. But I think here’s where we should push outside our comfort zone and do something that’s hard but still support our belief in solidarity and social justice. It was hard for me to write this post, no matter how lightly I touched the surface of inequality in education. But through the many conversations I’ve been having with other educators, I was empowered to share my own thoughts. So thank you for sharing yours🙂”

Second, I’d like to thank the Digital Media Lab 2016 conference for bringing together two diverse people who’s voices shared personal experiences about the need to speak out and stand together – Digital Dreamers: Jose Antonio Vargas talks with Henry Jenkins. As I come to try to define this word, I’m looking for models and actions to guide me. Henry Jenkins, a media researcher, talks about his background and how he’s come to stand (sit) on a stage with Jose Antonio Vargas. The whole talk is worth a listen, but I think that Jenkins describes ALLYSHIP starting at about the 18 min mark.

I’d also like to thank Gord Downie, who is bringing ALLYSHIP to Canadian contexts. This is a model that will resonate and shape my understanding and actions into this coming year. I’m not the only one who is finding inspiration in Gord Downie‘s actions and words. Just read Joseph Boyden’s seven love songs for Gord Downie in Macleans Magazine to gain insights. I’d have the same reaction if I met either of these ALLYSHIP mentors.

allyshipFinally, since this word has been ‘calling’ me out, I’ve been looking for definitions to help me shape and guide my thinking. Turns out, it’s not so easy to define. Rusul has provided some insights in her blog post. I came across this Guide to Allyship that expanded on some of the ideas. I’ve tried to capture the connected ideas into a word cloud that may help in the coming year. You can take a closer look at this word collection on this interactive Tagul word cloud. Best part is, I’ve got a year to work with this word and learn more about my own ALLYSHIP. The new year awaits!

What’s your ONE WORD for 2017?

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Why I listen – your voice is compelling

djfdklj-copyI listen because your words compel me.

I listen because your voice enriches my life.

As you share your voice, through text, words, images, voice recordings or videos you add depth and meaning to what it means to be human. I just wanted to let you know – I’m listening.

This goes to you Laurie Azzi. You wrote about Why I Write. Your voice resonates and echoes against my own memories of car rides, unfortunate accidents that shaped my childhood, and images of myself, shaped by my past and present.

This goes to you Chris Friend. Your post on Hybrid Pedagogy – Giving Voice to Written Words –  compels me to create more resonance with my writing. You words spoke to me about why Laurie’s ‘text evokes a sound’. You encourage me to ‘talk more’, to ‘write to make ourselves heard’.

This goes to you Maha Bali, Rebecca Hogue and Autumm Caines. Your voices bring together a chorus of others through Virtually Connecting. Voices that share ideas and celebrate discourse. Voices that don’t always agree but come together to collectively complement or harmonize through conversations and laughter. I often return and re-listen to completed Virtually Connecting conversations and video recordings using the text from the close captioning to clarify and simplify the symphony of voices.

This goes to you Doug Belshaw and Dai Barnes. TIDE podcasts bring your voices into my world while I drive. Ideas spill through my sound system and I listen attentively to your kitchen conversations that weave your experiences through and between my own. Each week I listen and enjoy the humour, the insights and the connections you explore with new ideas. Engaging in your conversations using Anchor.FM was an opportunity not to be missed. Your invitation to participate in the recording of TIDE #71: Slacking off (Pt 2) encouraged me to ‘talk more’.

I’ve recorded my own voice (My Voice is My Choice) as a practice of self-listening. Hearing my written text through a voiced recording, played back in stops and starts, helps me clarify writing, reading and the flow of ideas. As Chris Friend reflects “spoken text offers an opportunity for richer involvement with the content”. For me, it’s a reciprocal relationship between sounds and written ideas.

In the past I’ve asked my students to record themselves and post these recordings to their blog. Using openly accessible digital tools, they tinker while recording their voices for digital space. The mere thought of recording, let alone listening to their own voices, can be daunting. The technical challenges of creating a recording and embedding this to their blog is a process of making decisions, shaped by digital identity considerations. Some use SoundCloud while others explore alternatives such as Audacity or Garage Band. Weaving a link back to their blog sites or embedding the audio file adds to the decision making process. Students problem solve as they work through the many little steps to make this happen since digital difficulties and issues often emerge. Digital fluencies are modelled as they find ways to make things work to suit their personal needs and preferences, honouring the voice being shared, while also considering their audience.

diamond-on-music-sheetThere are many voices in my digital spaces, more than I can mention. These voices colour my days with shades and tones. Each day brings an opus of ideas through a variety of texts, images and recordings. Sometimes it’s the assignments students create to complete course expectations. Other days it’s serendipity that leads me to listen deeply. Colourful concertos in digital spaces can become masterpieces of dissonant and disparate voices to explore.

Just thought I’d reach out and let you know – I’m here and I’m listening.

Your words are compelling.


Image Attribution:
Hands – https://morguefile.com/search/morguefile/5/words/pop
Diamond on music sheet – https://morguefile.com/search/morguefile/5/diamond%20on%20music/pop 


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