Curation – a call to action

This is a response for the Ontario Extend module focusing on Curation, specifically accessing and curating from repositories for course content. This is not new for me. I’ve mentioned that I consider curation as a new literacy for teachers to acquire [The Web We Weave]. It’s shifting to a critical stance to examine, analyze and reflect on the resources and materials we use in our teaching. In the past, collections were done in a variety of ways. Even today, it’s easy to build collections of digital stuff around a topic or event. Just look at Pinterest as an example if you want to come up with an idea for an art activity.

Curation is NOT collecting. Curation brings sense making and critical analysis into the process. It puts the learners’ needs at the forefront. It takes context into consideration.

As I build a domain of my own, thanks to eCampus Ontario and Reclaim Hosting, I am rethinking about the curation of SELF as a means of crafting your digital identity. I’ve acknowledged that my digital identity is an ever evolving iteration [Radical Doubt and Digital Identity] that I curate with care. Rebuilding a domain of my own puts me squarely in the role of CIO, or chief information officer, as I read, reflect, discard and curate the bits and pieces of my digital creations.

But it’s not just ME I’m curating. I curate for my students to extend their learning beyond the confines of time or LMS space. As part of my sense making with course design, I’ll curate resources around topics or modules. I openly share the curated course sites that I use as a springboard for my teaching. Since these are open and accessible beyond the time frame of the course itself, they become repositories for engagement with content and topics. They become searchable collections of meaningful connections that lead to learning. [Curation as Course Web Sites].

Also, as part of this curation module, I’ve pulled together and analyzed a number of open, free, image resources and a couple of handy attribution tools so your media is creative commons friendly – One Picture.

So my call to action, don’t just collect it, – CURATE IT – it’s yours to make meaningful!

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Designing learning 101

thai-hamelin-371279I’ve been dabbling into the process of design and examined various definitions of design thinking as it applies to education. I’ve dipped into design thinking [see some resources below], participated in a couple of IDEO courses to extend my thinking about design, and I strive to apply visual and universal design principles in digital spaces with an eye to user experiences (UX), since this is driving online and everyday design these days.

Learning design, teaching design, online design, instructional design, and design thinking are all buzz words floating in the educational landscape. In the educational contexts in which I work, planning is often seen as the learning and doing, while design applies to the physical spaces within which the planning and doing happen. There’s big business in this notion of design thinking in educational spaces, with new furniture purchases and classroom layouts as only the beginning of that design process. Design is rarely thought of in the same sentence as planning and delivery of learning events.

Concepts and definitions get even messier when you look at planning and design as synonymous to preparation of lessons or learning activities, since the design of the physical or online space and place are factors in the delivery of teaching and learning events. This messiness exists in every level of teaching and learning in today’s educational contexts.

In K-12 contexts, teachers are taught in the Faculties of Education to prepare lesson plans and unit plans. These detailed, elaborate and sequenced documents become the ‘playbook’ for the lesson delivery in the classroom. Explicit instruction about instructional design is not a factor in these learning events around lesson planning. Teachers, once in the classroom full time, streamline these planning documents to suit their needs and styles, but planning continues to ensure teaching is effective and student learning results. But again, design thinking is not necessarily applied to this process, since it’s seen as linear not iterative. In Ontario, there is a vision for integrative and design thinking in K-12 classrooms – see the Edugains and Learning Exchange [Empowered by design video series] as examples of this direction.

In higher education contexts it’s frequently a powerpoint that is planned and crafted with care by instructors, used to deliver the learning to the students – whether they are present in the room or not. In online learning, the design of learning activities sometimes takes a back seat to the delivery systems employed to connect students, instructors and content. Planning and design of learning is often sublimated by the constraints of the design of the required learning management system. Designing effective teaching and learning activities that improve the student or instructor UX are often not evaluated. At the end of a course, the teacher and instruction are evaluated by the students, but the management system by which instruction is delivered is not considered.

aaron-burden-236415-unsplashIn each of these contexts, the UX (student experience) is rarely examined or assessed. While some may argue that educators are doing this as they plan and teach, I’ll ask “When was the last time you asked your students how your lesson went or how the online course experience supported their learning needs?”. If UX becomes more prevalent in education, the design of learning events and activities will certainly shift from instructor experience to learner engagement. The eCampus Ontario Student Design Lab is one of many such spaces in higher education. The power and potential to shift thinking from planning to design, with influence on instruction and learning, is yet to be fully seen. The Open Learner Patchbook, currently accepting contributions from students, strives to help shift collective thinking from instruction to design with UX and student engagement at the forefront.

Is this something new? Are we just covering this lesson planning process or unit planning process in a shiny new package? Haven’t we been designing learning experiences all along? Didn’t Plato and Socrates design their instruction from their ‘user’s experience’? Many more questions are rattling around right now.

As part of my participation in the EUN Academy Online Safety MOOC, I’ve had an opportunity to explore a relatively new, FREE, learning design platform for educators. Created by Diane Laurillard and a team at the UCL Knowledge Lab in the UK, this platform is “based on the six learning types from Diana Laurillard’s Conversational Framework – a model of the conditions necessary for learning to take place.” [Learning Designer front material]. I’ll let this video describe the platform.

By creating a lesson plan using this learning design tool, I was able to balance the activities, link in the resources, establish assessment strategies and ensure that my lesson was balanced in the plan to apply a variety of teaching methodologies. While the focus of my lesson was online safety, I was able to ensure that a variety of online and offline activities were included. I crafted my lesson for a fictional class, adapting one of the many resources from the Media Smarts repository of lesson plans.

This was an interesting experience since I was also tasked with evaluating three lessons created by others in the online MOOC using a rubric to provide feedback in the use of technology, collaboration, creativity, real-world connections, and general lesson design. I’m planning to return to this platform to see how a face to face class for my higher education context can be designed using this framework. As I’m planning lessons, using a variety of resources, this Learning Designer platform can potentially help me focus more on UX and assessment strategies.

If you’ve never thought about learning design, this video [Here Comes the Learning Designer] will help you understand the basic shift that needs to happen in our collective understanding. The higher education organizations, there are often instructional designers who collaborate with educators to consider design principles when creating online learning spaces. With a clear focus on student learning experiences, this discord between designers and teachers can be reframes and resolved. Collaboration on UX brings a greater focus on student engagement and student learning outcomes.

Design Thinking Resources – thinking deeply about design in education

There is more, oh so much more to this topic than one blog post can share.

What are your basic understandings about learning design, instructional design and design thinking? Where do these differ from lesson, unit or course planning?

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Like driving a car

This is a response for the Ontario Extend module Teacher for Learning, specifically the Mastery section which looks at mastery of a subset of skills that educators deconstruct and teach, in order for students to achieve competency of the subset and the expected outcomes. The metaphor of driving a car is used to bring meaning to this notion of mastery learning.

So what skill is like driving a car in the field of teacher education? I’d like to look more closely at lesson planning and delivering a planned lesson to a classroom full of students. It’s really challenging when teacher candidates look at a lesson plan template and then teach from that plan for the first time. Once they sit in the seat, behind the wheel, the look of a ‘deer-in-the-headlights’ comes over them, just like that teenager behind the wheel for the first time.

Lesson planning is not natural, but it is necessary. Learning the fundamentals ensures a confident ‘driver’ emerges in the end. Teachers who don’t go through the steps carefully, think critically about goals, success criteria, differentiation, cross curricular connections, strategies, questions to ask, assessment, student’s actions, management directions, or their own locations in the room, are doomed to crash that car. They think they know what to do first [e.g. put the key in the ignition] and where to start. But, once faced with the awesome responsibility of planning the lesson, then sharing that lesson with students in a classroom with a whole host of potential actions and reactions, it’s pretty scary. Lesson plans can look great on paper but crash and burn in the doing part! Some of the worst planned lessons can be jewels in the moment of delivery. Getting both parts right is necessary for safe and effective ‘teaching’ (driving) experiences.

With a graduated system of ‘licensing’ it’s a process of perfecting the lesson planning from the paper to the real events. It’s like starting the car in the driveway before taking the car out into the empty parking lot. It’s about having multiple, low risk experiences before going out to the #401 highway. In lesson planning, it’s planning for a small group instructional event before taking on the whole class.

It’s driving with a master driver before it’s done on your own, without anyone else in the vehicle. Being mentored with a practicing teacher is an essential part of the lesson planning system. It’s seeing lesson plans as the evolve from detailed, specific documents to free-flowing guidelines for actions. It’s seeing that what is written is often shifted in response to student needs, actions, reactions and interests. It’s watching from a master practitioner that the static plan on paper is a living, breathing opportunity for learning.

Is it a perfect system for figuring out how to write and deliver lessons? No. There are still places where accidents can and will happen in the lesson planing process – from paper to classroom experiences. And even efficient and effective drivers don’t always get it right. Reacting to the context, conditions, and the unexpected is part of the ever evolving process in lesson planning and in teaching those lessons.

So I guess what I’m trying to say is that lesson planning and then teaching that lesson is sort of like learning how to drive a car, not like actual real life, driving. It gets easier to do. You get better with experience. You can transfer those skills to new ‘vehicles’ when you move from grade to grade. You don’t need to refer to the manuals each time you step in to do the deed of driving, just as you don’t need to refer to the curriculum documents every time you sit down to plan. You can drive further, farther, and in a variety of conditions, the more practice you get behind the wheel. Lesson planning is like that! Teaching from those plans is like that!

BUT, I’m not saying that teaching is like driving a car – that can never be said! Lesson planning and teaching is not like taking control of any kind of complicated machinery. Nope, not even like rocket science. It’s harder than that! Just listen and decide for yourself.

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Combining Strategies for #oextend

This is a response for the Ontario Extend module Teacher for Learning, specifically the Organize Knowledge section which outlines the purpose of providing students with better opportunities for note taking.

When I first saw the Cornell notes I had a deep reaction of distaste, probably from the memories of note-taking from lectures, rewriting book chapters while reading texts and then re-reading all those notes in preparing for tests and exams. This is still necessary in many subject areas where information recall is an essential part of the learning process.

After reviewing a few videos to learn more, and taking a look at variations of Cornell note templates, I decided to give it a try. I’m reading a text that I feel has particular importance for me so I’ve been sketch noting the chapters to visualize the content. My note taking practice now includes graphic images and icons. Then the video below caught my attention and I was convinced. Combining these two strategies may be just the  knowledge organization technique to make remembering meaningful and note taking less tedious.

Here is my combined sketch note and Cornell notes about this video.


Here is a sample of one sketch note from one chapter of the book I’ve been reading.

Functional Art Chapter 3 v1

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Mapping a course for #oextend

This post is a response for the Ontario Extend module Teacher for Learning in the Organize Knowledge section. The extend activity was to create a concept map of my course but since I’ve been using concept maps in course design, I’m pointing to the ones I’ve already created as examples.

All the maps for my current online course Critical Digital Literacy (CDL) can be found on the course site – overview of CDL, code breaking, meaning making, use and understand, analyzing, and persona. These maps outline the five resources for critical digital literacy found in the core reading from the course.

Each of these maps was created using my all time favourite concept mapping software VUE – Visual Understanding Environment. It’s a free, open source software produced by Tufts University. This software was easy to learn but also had exceptional depth in it’s ability to create visual presentations from the maps. I haven’t used this lately since the most recent updates were done in 2015 and I’m using a newer computer that may have compatibility issues.

I’ve done work in CMap, concept mapping software created at the Florida Institute for Human and Machine Cognition (IHMC) but would need to go back and relearn since it’s been a few years since I’ve used this digital resource. It’s full potential comes through the collaboration options available.

Because my students will become teachers in Ontario schools, I introduce them to Mindomo concept mapping. This is licensed for use in Ontario K-12 classrooms so, for my students, it is a FREE digital concept mapping resource teachers should know about. Students in my online course are required to create a concept map for their inquiry project which allows me to see what they are planning to do, what resources they may have found and I can identify potential gaps in their project plan. Mindomo can also be used collaboratively in whole class or small group maps depending on the purpose. Before the students do their individual maps, they explore Mindomo in a collaborative mapping task with no marks or grades attached, so they can become familiar with the software’s functionality and affordances.

Mapping is a great way to make learning visible and see how students are making connections but you need to give them time to play and explore before you attach marks to a map since their familiarity with the tool will impact their production. If you want to see other maps I’ve created as I’ve learned, you’ll find a collection of them on my electronic portfolio site for the UBC Masters of Education (MET) program.

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