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.


unsplash-logoIan Keefe

Quote | Posted on by | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Collaborations in Ontario Extend

How do I explain this Ontario Extend – Extend East collaboration?

I’m going to try since this week’s module is about collaboration.

  • It’s like a club, but there’s no physical clubhouse, and everyone’s welcome to join in!
  • It’s a group of people who hang out together, but we’re never in the same place at the same time, just finding each other on blogs and twitter, liking or commenting as we pass in the hallways of these open spaces.
  • It’s like a party, but the bling and jokes are all shared virtually (and when Terry’s around, there will be jokes!). There’s even got a shared playlist on Spotify!

  • It’s like a workplace, where there’s stuff that has to get done, but there aren’t any due dates or timelines (unless you count the one for #oext125) to make sure you’re working on stuff.
  • It’s like a project where you’re working with others, you get to see what they’re doing, and you’re all building something together, but no one’s got any idea what it’s going to look like because it’ll be different for everyone.
  • It’s like a course that you start and quickly realize it’s more work than you thought, but you’re too busy having fun, reading, writing and thinking, that you forget to fill in the ‘I want to drop this course‘ form, even if there isn’t one!

So what is it, really?

  • It’s the best collaboration space to learn and engage in conversations about higher education teaching and learning with those in Ontario higher education spaces.
  • It’s a sandbox in which to play, build, watch, listen, learn, join in, talk to others, figure things out, get messy and just have fun.
  • It’s a chance to learn about, and use, social media tools to share ideas, practices, past experiences, future planning and current contexts.
  • It’s a clubhouse that has no walls – you’ll hear diverse voices since many others are pulled into the conversations from other global higher ed contexts.
  • It’s a chance to say “I think I’ll try that” and knowing there are others around who are there to help every step of the way. You just need to be brave enough to say “I need a little help here!
  • It’s a daily obsession, if you chose to engage,  with a new ‘daily extend‘ shared on Twitter. It’s something quick and easy to dip in and try, share with others who are also trying, and learning while it’s getting done.
  • It’s a blog of your own, or an activity that you’ve just got to share – it’s a chance for others to learn from your experience and expertise [Extend East blog roll where you can see them as they get written].
  • It’s a focus for your thinking – modules that change every week – with ‘general guidelines’ of what and where to contribute.
  • It’s an opportunity to talk to others outside of your ‘silos of work’ or ‘spheres of influence’ – to realize there are people who talk the same language and engage in deeper conversations about topics that are important to you.
  • It’s a chance to explore, experiment and just push your learning …. and know there are others there with you.

If you haven’t checked it out, take a closer look or tweet to anyone using #oextend or #ExtendEast and tag @OntarioExtend in this collaboration.

If you want to figure it out – don’t stop. What’s holding you back? Let’s COLLABORATE!

The table is set! Appetizers are ready! The rabbit hole awaits! Don’t wait for dessert!

Quote | Posted on by | Tagged , , , , , , | 5 Comments

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!

Quote | Posted on by | Tagged , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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?

Quote | Posted on by | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

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.

Quote | Posted on by | Tagged , , , | 3 Comments