An OPEN Experimenter’s Lab Report

Here it is. My report for the Experimenter Module for the Ontario Extend activity bank. It’s part of my commitment to participate with the #ExtendEast cohort to further our collective knowledge. It’s not the first experimenters report, nor will it be the last!

My Lab Report – I’m an experimenter! Fanning the flames of learning!

First, I’m going to admit to being a secret scientist, and that this is not your usual lab report. My methods and conclusions are interwoven throughout. I’ve done my experimenting in the confines of my home, saving to my laptop or in hidden corners of the web, while no one was watching. I’ve examined the explorations of others and subversively integrated their insights into my own ways of knowing and doing. My experiments are amalgamations of ingredients that others have openly shared.

As I reflect on my experimentation, I need to consider how I can espouse to being an open educator while being a closet experimenter? Sometimes I have to take time to play and make mistakes without everyone watching. Sometimes I have to try things and admit they’ve failed – like my first full class use of a google doc or the Cacoo experience where students deleted the work of others. Today, I lay it out in the public eye to share my positive, and negative, results. This is just a report not a manifesto.

I admit to being attracted to shiny new tech. I’ll ‘take a try‘ at new and interesting digital tools with a critical eye to whether it’ll work for my teaching and learning. That’s how I got hooked on cool tools like Answer Garden, Padlet, Linoit and Flipgrid. Having students complete assignments using a tech tool of their choice is how I ended up exploring nifty resources like FlipSnack, Buncee and Blabberize. Looking for new learning opportunities, through MOOCs or conferences, often leads me to new tools to try in my classroom or online teaching spaces – like Scalar, Mindomo and the Learning Designer. That’s why I’ve been using Google Classroom with an open sandbox space for collaborative explorations with my students in the physical classroom.

As I experiment with tech tools and mobile apps, I try to find digital resources that don’t take much time to apply within a learning event. It’s more about exposure and application than adoption or integration for the students. I like using tools that don’t require students to sign up or log in, even if they are free. Ready access through an embed or link which I can share with students on the course website is another consideration. That way the flow of a lesson isn’t derailed while students struggle with a new tech tool. It’s the learning, thinking and analyzing of topics or issues that I want students to be doing during these moments, not struggling with sign in or sign ups. However, this is not always unavoidable and there are lessons to be learned from going through that struggle.

A big factor for me is whether it’s free for me, or for these future educators, to use within a classroom context. I’ll integrate tools I know my students may be able to use in their future teaching experiences within the K-12 classroom landscape. I’ll defer to OSAPAC tools [Ontario Software Acquisition Program Advisory Committee] since they are free to Ontario teachers (full list for K-12 educators) and available in any classroom in the province.

I admit to paying for accounts, on rare occasions, when it’s a tool that will significantly alter how students engage with tasks they are required to complete. I stayed away from Flipgrid until their funding model included a free grid to get you started. I fully funded my students to use WeVideo this year, through an informed choice, due to experiences with technical struggles from previous years, and memories of headaches and heartaches due to lost digital story productions prior to project completion. It’s ultimately why I’ll leave Padlet when their access changes in the coming months [Listen to Padlet’s CEO Explain Recent Changes].

But it’s not just the experimenting with tools that I’d like to report here. It’s the experimenting I’ve done that results in dramatic shifts in how I teach and why I design classes or online learning modules the way I do. I’ve experimented in MOOCs that have transformed my teaching practice in significant ways. The Hybrid Pedagogy [MOOCMOOC] was the first of such experiences. I’ve been reading their journal articles regularly. My learning with the Digital Pedagogy Lab, over several years, has happened as a virtual engager, using Virtually Connecting as my window into the conversations.  I’ll look forward to one day attending in person. My experiences with the HumanMOOC pushed my understanding about COI – Communities of Inquiry from the theoretical to the practical. I’ve been experimenting with the application of COI into online learning as a result of that MOOC experience.

VerCon_F_WEB_logoIn the meantime, I’ve become deeply engaged in the Virtually Connecting community in efforts to bring ideas from conferences venues to virtual visitors who face barriers to attending but need to connect to like minded, different thinking and diverse teaching and learning contexts. This grassroots, global group of voices works diligently to open portals for digital campfire conversations. I’m happy to be named the Canadian regional lead. Experiment with me anytime – there are many upcoming events [Creative Commons Global Summit-Toronto, OLCInnovate-Nashville, OER18-UK, OEGlobal-Delft, Netherlands) to engage your thinking.

I’m thinking deeply about negotiating the syllabus in the open, thanks to Robin DeRosa and Rajiv Jhangiani‘s experimentations. I’m revising my assessment and evaluation practices through a deeper discourse about grading, thanks to experimenters like Laura Gibbs and Jesse Stommel. I’m still experimenting to see how things fit for my students and the specific contexts in which I teach. I’ve been lurking along with Mia Zamora and Alan Levine as they craft open digital media in the #NetNarr Alchemy spaces [on twitter and blog site].

My open educational practices continue to evolve as I experiment with UDL (Universal Design for Learning) and connect to the exective members of the ISTE Inclusive Learning Network. I look forward to experimenting with Luis Perez and Kendra Grant with their recently released book Dive into UDL (Universal Design for Learning): Immersive Practices to Develop Expert Learners.

So, this lab report is verification of experimentations that are ongoing, both in private, closed places where things can implode without too much damage, and in open, conversational spaces where ideas explode into the digi-sphere. This report has little detail on the methodologies used or the specific equipment used. It’s a report with few conclusions and mostly winding threads to follow. So take this report, see where you can connect. Build your own experimental learning style with a keen eye to how all this messiness will impact the students you teach.

The experiments are in the remakes, remixes, revisions and re-iterations. Let the art and science of teaching and learning continue! Fan those flames. Manage the burn. Enjoy the embers at the end.

Image:

unsplash-logoIan Keefe

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4 Responses to An OPEN Experimenter’s Lab Report

  1. chrisjcluff says:

    Howdy Helen!
    Bits of random spark up at my points of contact with your context. I wish I could draw these strings together better, but here are the pieces…
    1. New Future Job = Digi physical anthropology, masses of data for future techno-archaeologists to sift through … I am fascinated by implications.
    2. Are we somehow responsible or beholden to future gens understanding of our mod learning pursuits?
    3. In using digitools are we thinking that we are sending messages in a bottle to future EDU fringes?
    4. Emerging UDL pathologies … The stress of collecting, connecting observations on learning everywhere, everywhen, everyhow, everywhat is …
    5. Is it still EDU without Social Media?

    • HJ.DeWaard says:

      Sparks are good – if they are contained and encouraged to grow, or flash out in natural ways. Happy to have sparked some thoughts here! Interesting turn of phrase – UDL pathologies?! Pathways perhaps rather than discourse about diseased states?
      I’m sure there will be more sparks flying as these ideas take to the fire!
      Helen

  2. lynncartan says:

    Hi Helen,
    What an inspirational post! I loved the comment that you “subversively integrated their insight”. You’ve tried so many different tools, many of which are new to me. I have to admit that it took me quite a while to make it through as I kept going out to look at each of the tools. I now have a huge list of ones I’ve added to my “have to try” list. This is very pertinent to me as I’ve been taking courses in Adult Education/Educational Technologies and I’m always on the lookout for great new tools. In these courses, we often explore tools and share activities with classmates. I appreciated your perspective of looking for tools that don’t require a sign-up. I’ve seen a lot of discussions get derailed as students try to get logged in. I definitely think I need to add that to my list of considerations for tools for adoption. Thanks for sharing your wealth of experimenting expertise!

    • HJ.DeWaard says:

      Thanks for taking the time to read through and comment. I forget how many digital tools I’ve slipped into the tool kit I can pull out and integrate into teaching events until I wrote this reflection. Glad you’ve found some new ones to try. Don’t hesitate to blog about your experiences so others can also benefit from your experience.
      Helen

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