Curate Your ‘Self’

badge for curator moduleI’ve written about curation before in The Web We Weave – Curation in Action and Curation – a call to action – I’ll return to these blog posts, as suggested by Alan Levine in Blog Posts As Old Concrete Slabs or Alive in the Cracks In Between?, to curate my notions of curation. I’ve been awarded the Curator badge from eCampus Ontario Extend for my collection of reflections for the curator module. My self curated list – Curator Completion – is an extension of my curating.

As I prepare this post for the Extend West cohort of Ontario Extend participants, I realize that reviewing and analyzing is a process of curating my ‘self’. What are the benefits of curation for our ‘selves’, as teachers, educators, leaders and learners? What are the benefits of curating for our students?

The etymology of the verb ‘to curate’ comes from the root word ‘cure’ and means ‘to be in charge, manage’ the care of others. In terms of digital and physical resources, such as libraries or museums, it takes on the weight of responsibility for managing and guarding that which needs to be overseen. Within teaching and learning spaces, curation comes to mean that we, as teachers and learners need to “take charge of or organize, to pull together, sift through, select for presentation, to heal and to preserve” (Mihailidis & Cohen, 2013). How can we contribute to our subjects of interest through the acts and actions of curating our ‘selves’? How can students take responsibility for their ‘self’ through the act of curation?

As we venture into digital spaces and places, it’s wise to apply curation tools to build a ‘spotlight’ on your own work, your repositories of course materials, and your work in the open. Mihailidis & Cohen describe curation as an organizational tool, as value-added, and as a means for critical thinking and problem solving. As a curator of your ‘self’, you become better organized, more valuable in your work as a teacher and learner, and can model a critical, problem solving stance for your students. Asking students to curate, as part of their course work, can enhance their ‘selves’ in digitally connected, global conversations around your subject specific content.

Curation as an organizational tool

Every curator needs a set of tried and true organizational tools. What are yours? Knowing that some digital curation tools can and do ‘die’ (see Alan Levine’s alternative to using Storify), it’s critical to have a variety of curation devices. Purpose and audience can help you determine which tools to apply to specific teaching and learning contexts. A few of the curation tools I currently use include Diigo,, Pinterest, and Zotero. Each is used for specific purposes in my professional and teaching work. What tools do you currently use and which curation tools do you hope to apply to your teaching?

Do you bookmark? How you manage, search and share your bookmark organization for your subject matter can be informative to your students. Exporting a course related bookmark file or a collection of links for a specific topic can enhance your course reading materials in open collaboration with your students. With bookmarking as part of a course regime, you’ll always have a current and vetted curation of resources.

In Chrome, open the Bookmark Manager under the Bookmarks tab, select the three ••• in the right hand corner, select Export. In Safari, select the Show Bookmarks under the Bookmarks tab, then go to the File tab and select Export. You will have a full list of all your bookmarks as a document on your computer’s desktop, from which you can copy/paste selected lists as a topic or course specific resource.  You can merge links from your preferred Internet browsers to create a curated list from these curated lists.

Do you tag? On your blog posts, get into the habit of using categories and tags to make your content searchable and curate-able.  Including your name as one of those tags can make your ‘self’ and your work more recognizable when conducting open web searches. With other social media, such as Twitter or Instagram, you can use hashtags to select and identify audience, purpose, and content. Use a course specific hashtag to curate conversations for course related topics. More than two or three hashtags can become confusing, so stick to memorable ones. Do a search of possible tags before you decide on which hashtags to use for course related use. Search for a ‘clean tag’ – one that does not have any history.

Curation as value-added

Curation can add value to your ‘self’ in terms of digital presence. Having students curate resources and links for course content can add value to your course AND their digital presence. Within Twitter, you can use lists to capture participants from a course, event or topic. Using Moments in Twitter can curate tweets from a course or event.

Do you YouTube? Curating video resources by using channels and subscriptions for a course or topic can extend your ‘self’ for personal or professional curation. Having a link to a curated set of videos can ensure students can readily find, review and revisit course related content. One link can rule them all.

Curation as problem solving and critical thinking

Adding value to the web, while engaging in critical discourse with others, can be done using This enables collaborative annotation of web resources and pdf files. Not only can this engage teachers and students into deeper analysis of course readings, but  it can also leave a legacy of insights for other web wanderers to find (if the settings are left open).

As you curate, you will analyze and make judgements about the value of internet resources for your particular purposes.

  • Does this particular resource or link require a deeper look? Then bookmark it for later.
  • Does this web site provide value to students? Then include it as a class task using
  • Does this material add value to your thinking? Then add it to Diigo with a comment or explanation.

Mihailidis & Cohen state that curation of “information to tell a story creates a sense of responsibility for the curator” so let’s work toward students as ‘self’ curators. When students “access content, analyze and evaluate the messages, create presentations, reflect on findings, and work together in collaborative environments” they move beyond the mundane learning tasks and apply “critical skills to combat passivity, groupthink, and the spiral of silence”. Isn’t that worthy of any curation task in any course?

“Students, as curators themselves, can struggle with assessing content, perspective, platforms, agendas, and frames as they sift, sort, and organize information from the depths of the Internet. Through student-driven, creation-driven, collective and integrated teaching approaches to curation, the framework aims to build towards savvy media consumption and production, critical evaluation and analysis, and participation in local, national and global dialog.”  (Mihaidlidis & Cohen, 2013)

Let’s curate our ‘selves’ as a fully engaged, digitally literate teachers and learners. Let’s model for our students what it means to be a curated ‘self’. Let’s collaborate on curations for the benefits of all open educators and learners. It’s a call to action – Curate your ‘self’!


The online etymology dictionary 

Mihailidis, P. & Cohen, J.N., (2013). Exploring Curation as a core competency in digital and media literacy education . Journal of Interactive Media in Education . 2013 ( 1 ) , p . Art. 2 . DOI:

Image attribution: Photo by Erol Ahmed on Unsplash (this image has been edited and remixed to suit this blog post)

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Getting from Point A to Point B

alvaro-reyes-497727-unsplashThere are many ways to get from point A to point B. Travelling is more than just arriving at any specific destination. This is true of the physical spaces through which we traverse, particularly with the distances we travel here in Canada. We can map the journey according to our preferred or chosen methods of transportation. We can plan our trip from a current location to a destination of choice, but often serendipity or unexpected events occur that impact the outcomes of the journey.

Designers of wayfinding systems can engineer spaces to support navigation and ease traveller’s anxiety, yet these design strategies cannot completely predict or totally remove human errors and emotions. Our presence and personalities are revealed in

  • how we travel (means, methods, mechanisms),
  • how we react to events as we travel (cancellations, delays, weather), and
  • how we treat others as we travel.

This is true in our real life adventures on the roads and rails, but also evident in the digital journeys we take. Trips from point A to point B through digital spaces (courses, social media locations, collaborations, events) are rarely straight lines or binary events of getting from here to there. It’s the journey that we’ll remember, as we look back on how we got from a beginning (point A) to an ending (point B). It’s about the people who share the experiences along the way and those we meet along the journey.

As I reflect on my recent travels to Delft to attend the Open Education Global Summit (OEGlobal) and to Sudbury to the Canadian Network of Innovation in Education (CNIE) Conferences, I’m looking deeply at my wayfinding experiences of getting from Point A to Point B. As I reflect, I’m noticing parallels in the digital wayfinding I’ve been doing with eCampus Ontario in the Ontario Extend program. I’m focusing, here in this post, on the journey and will examine wayfinding in digital teaching and learning in a subsequent post.

Wayfinding, as described in Wikipedia, comprises the means of orientation and navigation through physical space. The process includes

  • determining where you are in relation to where you are going,
  • selecting a route to your destination,
  • checking to make sure you are on the right track, and
  • recognizing that you’ve reached your destination.

Wayfinding is described as “the cognitive, social and corporeal process and experience of locating, following or discovering a route through and to a given space” (Symonds, et al. on Wikipedia). Wayfinding is a complex task that involves sociocultural and psychological factors, sometimes explicitly visible, but often intrinsic and implicit. For me, wayfinding is not just the act or actions of the individual, but also the design elements that support or hinder the process of getting from point A to point B. Wayfinding can be applied to both physical and digital spaces.

Our individual wayfinding strategies as we travel are part of the overall navigational process of getting from point A to point B. These include

  • our feelings, fears and fantasies about travelling,
  • what we need while we travel,
  • our previous travel experiences,
  • the characteristics of our travelling companions,
  • our comfort level with dissonance, rapid change, and complexity,
  • how we navigate through crowds.

There are no previous experiences that can fully prepare anyone for a travel event, but relying on a set of tried and true strategies that work for you, are an essential component of wayfinding. My trips to Delft and Sudbury, as well as my navigation into Ontario Extend, have required me to enhance several wayfinding strategies and techniques that I applied while travelling with family members last fall in Cambodia, Viet Nam, Laos and Thailand. Being the ‘agent’ of my travel and having control of the arrangements required a certain level of comfort with and responsibility for my own preferences, and awareness of the needs of others, along the journey.

Getting to and from Delft involved navigating roads in and around Pearson Airport and Schipol Airport. It involved locating airline counters and security clearance areas in three airports. Following and decoding signs to find trains and platforms in the Netherlands rail systems were the next challenge that was faced. Preparations for this included using the Netherlands train trip planner. Preparing to navigate foreign spaces included accessing, downloading and using the Maps.Me app in order to freely walk around Amsterdam and Delft without the need to be Wi-Fi connected or pay exorbitant data fees. Locating and tagging conference venues in Delft and Sudbury involved the use of mapping tools and GPS. This was particularly helpful when my internal navigation system warned me that I was going in the wrong direction.

Course corrections such as retracing steps, checking the Maps.Me app, and looking for signs and familiar landmarks, occurred frequently. When external events impacted travel plans, such as the King’s Day celebrations, an electrical outage at Schipol airport, and Memorial Day ceremonies in Amsterdam, it was helpful to have a backup plan for dealing with challenges. There’s always a ‘plan B’ should things go wrong. Getting lost as I drove into the Greater Sudbury area prompted me to pull over, plug into the GPS to get re-oriented to the correct route, and then revise my directions were Plan B strategies to help me get to the destination. Strategies such as these, from geographic experiences, can be applied to work in digital spaces.

Navigating into the eCampus Ontario Extend Modules and Activity Banks can be done with the digital maps available, as found on the website, but having a ‘kick-off’ event supports the user’s (traveller’s) location identification, provides essential navigational cues, and identifies some interesting sites to see. There are no specific global positioning systems (GPS) to pinpoint what you need to find, but you can zoom in to locate specific locations. While the Ontario Extend space is designed as an explore-and-find opportunity, there are specific geographic locations to aggregate and connect – sort of like the check in counters at the airport. Flying KLM from Pearson, check-in today is in Zone F – working on curating, the counter is marked and identifiable. Want to find others on your flight, have a seat anywhere around Gate #27. Want to find other ‘extenders’ – go to the blog hub, dip into the Daily Extends (#oext…) or check out the hashtags #ExtendEast or #ExtendWest.

What about planning the trip? I usually sequence a trip chronologically and create a one-page summary which can be left for those who need to know the itinerary. For this Ontario Extend experience, someone was kind enough to capture and share a one page Excel spreadsheet listing all the extend activities. You are welcome to download and/or copy for your own use. This has become a GPS locator for my personal tracking through the Ontario Extend activity bank spaces.

For Delft and Sudbury, decisions about whether to travel with paper copies or digital versions of maps, directions, boarding passes, confirmation numbers, and flight information was dependent not only on my own levels of comfort, particularly when I considered the need to resolve potential issues, but I also recognized the needs of travelling partners. The psychological comfort of having a paper copy of documentation was a wayfinding decision made many months prior to the travel event. Digital boarding passes, while convenient and easy to use, are an uncomfortable replacement for the tactile assurance of a paper copy for a traditional traveller.

Within the Ontario Extend experience, paper copies are redundant and unnecessary, but can be assurance of travel markers achieved. Capturing location information along the trip, as part of the process of ensuring that I was on the right track, was one strategy that worked for me. This strategy also turned out to be a helpful mechanism for recognizing that I’d reached my destination – the completion of the Teacher for Learning and the Curator modules. This strategy is replicable for others who will travel the same routes, a digital ‘trip-advisor’ of sorts.

My plan B for the eCampus Ontario Extend, has been to retain my current blog domain (Five Flames for Learning) while I navigate and create in the new digital spaces and learn the terrain in the Reclaim Hosting Domain of One’s Own. I’ve set up an Extending Thinking blog space, will selectively use it to create content for the Ontario Extend modules, and continue to explore how to develop a splash page entry point. When issues occurred, it was good to know there was a helpful source of support. Just as the information kiosks, ‘you are here’ maps, and explicitly signage found in physical spaces like Schipol airport or the Amsterdam Centraal train stations, the resources within eCampus Ontario digital spaces, particularly for setting up your own domain, provide much needed information and guidance in these complex and foreign territories.

By summarizing these experiences, I come to realize and understanding my personal preferences while travelling, in both physical and digital spaces. My awareness of the needs of others, as they navigate into, through and within physical and digital spaces has been heightened as I’ve travelled – since these wayfinding experiences are sociocultural activites, not singular or isolated occurrences. Recognizing the common and divergent experiences of the other Open Education Fellows (#OEGFellows and #OEFellows) shows how we need to be open to mechanisms and strategies that others apply to get from point A to point B.

Within the Ontario Extend modules, there is free range to explore pathways, build a plan, set a direction, work towards an end-goal – there are no single ways or right/wrong ways to get to your destination. For many who like to travel with a guide or learn from others who’ve been there before, that’s also possible – just reach out and ask. A trip-advisor is only a tweet or blog entry away. Set your personal GPS on ‘start this trip’ and enjoy the journey. Let serendipity and unexpected events positively impact the outcomes of your travels. Stop along the way to smell the coffee shops, tulips and trilliums along the roadsides. Gather with others to share conversations about where you’ve been, what you’ve seen, and the special highlights along the journey. Recognize and celebrate moments along the journey, especially those ‘Gala-dinner’ events such as those in the Princehof Museum courtyard, Science North cave or thisontario-extend-teacher-for-learningDoes Helen get a badge” blog post written by Terry Greene.

Recognize that it’s not the destination, getting from point A to point B, but the journey of getting there, that is the important focus for any trip. Whether it’s an international trip to Delft, a long road trip to Sudbury or a badge at the end of an Ontario Extend module, getting to Point B is part of the overall experience. So keep your focus on the journey, on the people who are part of your journey experience, and on the memories of the trip, including what happens when you get to Point B. After the excursion is over, and you’re home safely at the end of the trip, it’s the journey you’ll remember and share with others.

Image Attributions

Photo by Alvaro Reyes on Unsplash

Teacher for Learning badge from Ontario Extend found on  and awarded (See “Does Helen get a badge” link above)


Symonds, Paul; Brown, David H. K.; Lo Iacono, Valeria (2017). “Wayfinding as an Embodied Sociocultural Experience”. Sociological Research Online. 22 (1): 5. doi:10.5153/sro.4185 found on Wikipedia.

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M.A.D. about this PD

What a great way to share ideas! M.A.D. PD – it’s about Making a Difference in professional development! Thanks Peter Cameron and Derek Rhodenizer for getting this started and keeping it going into a second annual event.

This is a model for P.D. that could be applied to any setting or educational context! This opportunity could become a model for others to engage, share, provide resources and learn from each other. It shifts beyond the physical meeting spaces but can connect within face-to-face locations. Imagine learning from the wisdom of others – no hierarchies or status – just people who are educators – sharing together. Choice and voice are baked into the framework for the day!

The landing page [MAD PD] provides a video introduction to all the presenters – almost 100 of them. Many were using Flipgrid for the first time. Then, just before kickoff, a Master Schedule collection page was created (thanks Jennifer Casa-Todd and Jen Giffen) – it was my first look at how Awesome Table works. With this searchable list, it was easier to find topics of interest or presenters you’d like to hear. Best part is that this ‘gift of sharing’ will keep on giving into the coming year – it’s archived and accessible for all!

As I dipped in and out of the MAD PD sessions on Sunday, May 6th, I was struck by the variety of topics, the willingness of the presenters to risk in this open forum, and the supportive community surrounding this network of educators. If you’ve never experienced that in your teaching environment, take a look at the MAD PD hashtag (#MadPD) to see how others responded as the day evolved. There were many errors, glitches, and issues that arose throughout the day, but these did not stop presenters from sharing their ideas and resources. There were many who provided support and words of encouragement when the technology went wrong – read Diane Maliszewski‘s blog post where she describes her experiences [Fearful But I Finished! #MADPD and Hemming].

My own issue with technical issues was quickly resolved. As I set up a new YouTube live event with a new watch link, it was immediately posted to the spreadsheet by Jen Casa-Todd. The session notes for PLNs: Finding Friends and Fans in Affinity Spaces were adjusted at the last minute to include the #MADPD spreadsheet link since this is a great place to start building a PLN, with all the Twitter links available [slide notes are here]. Thanks to Lynn Cartan and Steven Secord for joining in. I was proud to support Madi Prinzen in her first PD presentation as a brand new educator  – risking in the open and gaining the rewards by sharing her knowledge with others. Her presentation is Connecting Globally with DHL.

Noa Daniels shared a quote that certainly wraps up the insights and impact of the #MADPD event for me.

So, let’s keep this MAD momentum going. Let’s keep sharing in the open! There are risks, I know, but oh so many rewards as well! What kind of difference will you make today?


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#OEGlobal18 Reflections

As an Open Education Fellow with eCampus Ontario, I had the pleasure of attending the Open Education Consortium #OEGlobal18 Conference in Delft. It was held within the common areas of the University of Delft where students took it in stride when over 400 open educators from around the globe inundated their space. I’ll thank the organizers for selecting this site since it put students at the forefront of our thinking as we moved from session to session. As we intermingled with students who attend the university, enjoying their foosball games as we wandered into their classroom spaces, our awareness of the students was a subtle reminder of why we were there. This was an opportunity to engage in deeper dialogues with others from diverse settings and fields of study. Few silos or hierarchies were evident.

As I navigated into these open streams at the conference, I experienced many course corrections and special docking points. My rich conversations over lunch times and breaks helped debrief or revise my understanding of recently attended sessions. My planned and preselected sessions were diverted as other interesting topics came to my attention through conversations with others. I’m still exploring the conference schedule, re-viewing some of the live streamed keynotetalks, and revisiting the twitter stream (#OEGlobal18) for gems or links I’ve missed.

The group of eCampus Ontario OEFellows used the #OEGFellows and #OEOntario hashtags to share our learning and insights as we moved through the conference sessions. There is now a rich repository of information from the conference collected for further reflection. Several blog posts written by other OEFellows explore deeper understandings from the conference, share insights gained and include curated links.

Closing keynote speaker Peter Smith stated, “We stand at the nexus of liberty and social justice and that’s a pretty great place to be”. Individual work as an open educator brings forward the agenda for an inclusive, accessible, fair, and equitable education system for all learners around the globe. Paul Stacey shared the state of open education in a graphic that describes where growth is being realized and areas that are currently germinating. This hints at the movement evident in the open educational movement.

30590576186_96603f0727_kEach of us stands as one image in a mosaic of moving parts. This is the open education (OE) movement. This OE movement is part organizational and systemic, part incremental individual iterations. It’s a moving landscape with shifting elements going from one direction or another. Our concerted decisions and individual efforts to make things better for others is at the crux of what we do in open education.

From the #OEGlobal18 conference, the many faces of open become clearer and the colours become brighter, while the ideas around open education take shape. While the image of OE continues to shift focus it’s the defining terms and acronyms that continue to be problematic. There is confusion and overlap in how facets of open are named. Open educational resources (OER) was certainly one key topic at this conference. Open educational research (OER), supported through the GO_GN networkbrought new ideas to the forefront. Open educational practices (OEP) and open educational pedagogies (OEP) were explored and defined (Cronin, Roberts, Kuhn). Many at the conference discussed and shared open educational policies (OEP) to establish frameworks and engage others in the work of open education. Other key topics focused on innovative tools and applications, as well as the student impact of OE.

Screen Shot 2018-04-30 at 9.59.02 AMFor me, this moving mosaic takes shape through the collaborations and networks where people add clarity and colour to this image of open. It’s the supported collection of individuals that will make this open education mosaic take shape. The open education rangers in Ontario (#OEORangers) is one such network. The eCampus Ontario Extend cohorts (@OntarioExtend) is another. The GO_GN network is one focused on research. Others focus on policy and implementation (@SPARC_NAOpen Education Action Plan Template thanks to Amanda Coolidge). There was even a small but mighty meetup at the conference for those involved in K-12 open education –

UNESCO is in the consultation phase, one of the final stages of an Open Education policy statement that will reshape the picture of OE across the globe. These were all the moving pieces to this #OEGlobal18 conference picture. These connections, collaborations and networks will continue to shape the image of OE for me into the coming year.

As I continue to focus on open, shape my understanding and image of open, and keep the moving mosaic in view, I’ll keep Amanda Coolidge’s final reflection in mind.

The OEConsortium, Creative Commons Open Education forum, and eCampus Ontario are doing just that – celebrating the good work of individuals, networks and moving mosaics in the global and Ontario open education landscapes, sharing open educational resources and building the network of collaboration to fuel the positive of OPEN.


Image attribution: “One year of Free Pictures” flickr photo by Carlos ZGZ shared under a Creative Commons (BY-SA) license

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P3: It’s more than a podcast!

This past week has been a P3 kind of adventure. And it’s not over.

It’s important to take time to pause, reflect and consider the impact of events as you move forward. It’s moments of reflections that shift and reframe your next steps. Checking the rearview mirror as you head on down the highway towards the next place and space can be helpful.

It’s a necessary stopping point before I head off to the Netherlands to attend the OEConsortium OEGlobal Conference in Delft, and after experiencing the Creative Commons Global Summit, as well as sharing conversations through Virtually Connecting with folks attending the #OER18 conference in Bristol, UK. This is a moment to reframe and reflect.

But this pause isn’t a reflection of these events. It’s about something more personal.

This past week I’ve shared parts of my story in three spaces. Each story focuses on elements of my ‘self’ that I would not have shared otherwise – what I know about education (thanks Ramona Meharg), what brings me into the Creative Commons (Humans of the Commons), and how music, specifically three selected songs, metaphorically represent my life (thanks Noa Daniels). These three podcasts, my personal P3, explore my personal story and my professional roles. These P3 examine places where potential and possibilities abound, and where personal connections and networking are promoted. Since some of these podcast recordings are not yet released, there is patience in the waiting. More P’s than I can alliterate!

The selection of these songs required some deep reflection, specifically which songs meant something to me, resonated on more levels than mere enjoyment. I reflected on the impact of those songs and how they share something about my identity. Not an easy task. Try it! Pick songs that reveal your past (nostalgia) or uncover your identity (who you are and what’s meaningful to you). Then listen to each song a few times to let the lyrics and melody sink into your psyche. You’ll come up with lots of connections from the riffs that resonate and words that make you stop and think.

I’m going to take some time to listen and learn – there’s lots to hear when your voice echoes back to you. Thanks Noa Daniels, Ramona Meharg and the Humans of the Commons project for opportunities for reflection.

I’m posting links to Ramona Meharg’s podcast I Wish I Knew EDU and to Noa Daniel’s Personal Playlist Podcast so you can check out all the other great reflections in conversation.

Here’s the Humans of the Commons recording. There are many more human stories in this podcast lineup.


Where and when will you bring your reluctant voice into the conversation? Which personal podcast space will you share your story? There’s many in the VoicEd Canada podcast lineup. Pick one. Reach out and let someone know you’re ready to reflect.


Attribution of feature image photo by Gritte on Unsplash

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SoTL #1 – So what’s the answer?

This is a reflection on the questions asked in the Scholar module of Ontario Extend. This is about the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning – SoTL. I’ll look closely at each of these questions, one at a time, and craft a separate entry for each one. Here are the big questions.

  • SoTL #1: What are the three key characteristics of SoTL that are meaningful to you?
  • SoTL #2: What would motivate you to become more engaged in SoTL activities?
  • SoTL #3: What areas of teaching practice would you like to explore?
  • SoTL #4: What’s the plan for this SoTL inquiry?
  • SoTL #5: Going public? where, when, why and how?

So what’s the answer? I don’t know. Just like in good teaching, the answer lies in the struggle. My teaching practice is ever shifting, always informed by student learning.

Reflecting on the video – Key Characteristics of the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning –  where key characteristics of SoTL are identified, the three that resonate for me, in no specific order of importance, are:

  • the syllabus as a hypothesis“: Since I’ve been struggling with the crafting of a syllabus document, as many instructors do, it’s been several years of examining closely how to improve student engagement and learning with the syllabus as a primary focus for learning. I’m currently looking at the open options for syllabus creation where students craft the syllabus when they enter the course. How will this practice impact student learning of the required course content? It’s something I’d like to try but have continued to struggle with student expectations and context specific requirements for syllabus production.
  • the amateur work of SoTL“: Since I don’t have a research background or a specific research skill set, will what I do really matter in the end? Will it meet the rigorous standards of those who do the work of research? As a contract, sessional instructor, my work in SoTL will be primarily unpaid and potentially unnecessary since my position may not be renewed in subsequent years.
  • going public“: This can be as unstructured as talking to colleagues within the faculty or as formal as conference presentations and academic publication. I’ve done the first two, but the daunting task of searching for potential publications, writing about my collected reflections, then submitting this to a peer reviewed journal for editing and feedback, is not something I’ve considered. I blog about some of my work, but not most of my teaching or learning experiences. I’ve co-authored a few pieces. I’ve gone through the peer review process. The toughest question I ask myself here is ‘what have I got to say that anyone would want to read’? I’ll need to shift this question to ‘what can I write that others may need to know’?

Lots more to think about in this SoTL work – there’s no answer yet …. and there may never be one!

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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

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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!

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