Bespoke Beats

It’s not every day, as an instructional designer, that you get to organize a bespoke soundscape for a learning experience.

But I got to do it this time!

We’re reaching the end of building the Liberated Learner project, built as a “learner version” of the Ontario Extend Empowered Educator program. Like the original for educators, there will be modules aimed to help learners empower themselves in various areas in order to become a more well-rounded and prepared-for-anything learner. The Pressbook is still under construction, so I will save sharing that out here for later.

But I cannot hold back any longer in sharing our “Chill Beats To Study To”. Early on in the project, we thought it might be cool to link learners out to something like the lofi hip hop radio playlists to listen to while they worked their way through the materials and activities. But then we thought… Maybe we can have our own beats, just for this, crafted by some of the very students that might be working on this program to support their learning. Why the heck not?

After all, every step of the way we’ve been very intentional about inviting learners in to co-design and develop this with us. We held a design sprint to collect the stories of the difficulties that learners have faced in their learning experiences. We then used those stories to inform the content. We have all the aforementioned student co-designers who have been absolutely integral to the development. The graphic designer was in the middle of her program when the project began. The translation is all being done by students in the Humber College French To English Translation Program. The evaluation team is comprised completely of students.

Enter the Seneca College Independent Music programs (Production, Songwriting and Performance). I reached out to John Switzer, who coordinates the programs, to see if he thought his students might be interested in the idea. He said “sounds cool!” and reached out to his students with the idea. Once a number of students showed interest, we figured it was an idea worth following through on. With John’s ongoing help, we’ve now received a playlist’s worth of “lofi” beats to study to, crafted by some of the very learners that our original funding was designed to help, Ontario post-secondary students.

And here we are today with our own Soundcloud playlist of chill beats to study to, specifically made for Liberated Learner Project participants.

And there’s more to come! Finalized versions of these beats are on the way, and we’ve also crafted, for Youtube, some video versions that hearken back to the lofi hip hop radio videos that originally inspired the idea. Here’s a draft version of one of those.

Once the project is all ready and released to the world as an Open Educational Resource that anyone can make use of, we hope people make great use of our beats to study to along with the program itself. It has been an absolute delight seeing the talents and efforts of all involved bring this thing together.

Picking Out The Highlights of The Scenery

Pickin’ out the highlights of the scenery. Some some little clouds they looked a… little … like… me.

Gord Downie, New Orleans is Sinking

So I’ve been just sitting here working away on an eCampusOntario funded project, with a multi-institutional team of people whom I like to refer to as radical pedagogues, and an unexpected treat has revealed itself. This post, I hope, will serve to reveal it even more.

But first, how about a little bit more context, yes? Ok then! The project itself is called something like Ontario Extend: Liberated Learners Edition. We have not actually settled on the name’s final form, but the idea is that it is Ontario Extend, But For Learners This Time. So, whereas Ontario Extend for Educators has the Empowered Educator Framework which includes modules in teaching, collaborating, Curating, Technology, Experimenting and SoTL, Ontario Extend for Learners has the Liberated Learner Framework including modules in learning, technology, collaborating, and navigating.

That multi-institutional team (Trent, Cambrian, Nipissing, Seneca, McMaster, Brock and Windsor) of rad pedagogues is oh say about 10% of the way to completing the development at this point. One piece of our plan, the one I think that we value the most, is to have students co-designing with us at every level of the development. So we hired a bunch of student co-designers to join in on the fun. Once the co-designers were in place, we had a bit of a realization: We have budget for subject matter experts. The subject matter is basically “How to Student”. Hence, the students ARE the subject matter experts. That’s their money. Let’s get it to them.

And thus was born the Liberated Learners Design Sprint. It ran in late June, and it invited students of all stripes to join us and we’d pay them tell us the stories of the “wicked problems” that they’d faced in their journey before/during/ after/between their programs. The sprint sessions were held at lunch time every day of the week. Monday was a more traditional kick off what-the-heck-is-this webinar where we told them what we were asking them to do, and then Tuesday to Thursday were opportunities for everyone to come and “try out” their stories. They would join breakout rooms aligned with whichever of the four modules their story best aligns and to tell them, and listen to the others. Student co-designers lead these rooms and these sessions really served us well in drawing out rich, authentic experiences. Friday was then a showcase event in which four people who were able to already complete their stories shared them to everyone. And then we asked everyone to have their written stories in to us by the end of the next week.

And now we have 110+ stories of the authentic issues learners have faced, that we’re working to align to and inform the content and activities that go into the modules that we will now begin to create. A rare few were some pretty weak submissions. Very short, not-well thought out. Bummer. But on the other end, and completely overshadowing the weak submissions, are these rich tales of the trials and tribulations of the learning journey that we would never have had a sniff at including into the program without first hiring student co-designers and then asking them to take the lead in the sprints.

Just look at some of the titles of the stories:

  • Anti-Social Sociology Major
  • Crayola markers got me through the first year of University
  • Captain Depresso
  • Teaching Incon-(ass)istant
  • Extra-Curricular Extremist
  • Fake It Till You Make It
  • The Social Caterpillar
  • zzZZzzzzZoom University
  • Fishing for 60’s

You know you want to read those stories! Well, as luck would have it, there is a place to see these stories coming out, one at a time over the next (many) weeks! I’ve had the Open Learner Patchbook sitting a little dormant for a while, but it dawned on me slowly that the stories we’d drawn out of these students are the same types of stories that the Open Learner Patchbook had originally invited, so I all of a sudden had a bunch of new fodder for the site!

So, while we comb through all the stories we’ll align them to and allow them to inform the upcoming Liberated Learner modules. But, we can also pick out the highlights of the scenery and share them out one at a time on the patchbook. We’ll pick a new one and work with its author to turn their stories into a post, and release them pretty much weekly for the next many weeks.

In fact, go have a look at the last two posts, which came from the design sprint:

Oh and one final update. The Liberated Learner project was funded as an eCampusOntario Virtual Learning Strategy project. They are kicking off a series of community webinars with a student panel discussion about this very design sprint on July 22 ant noon Eastern. Wanna join in? Register here:

Photo by Jeremy Bishop on Unsplash

One of Those Times When A Dream Comes True

Somewhere towards the end of the podcast episode I am about to share, I try to tell the host how I felt about the opportunity. I didn’t quite say it right, so I’ll try again here. While Johnny Carson’s Tonight Show was a bit before my time, I do have the sense that getting asked on to the show, for entertainers at least was the ultimate sign that you’re doing well at the thing that you love to do.

In that sense, I think that the Teaching in Higher Ed Podcast, with Bonni Stachowiak, is the Tonight Show for post-secondary educators, and to be asked on and to have the opportunity to be interviewed by Bonni is absolutely a dream come true for me. It’s also hugely validating of any efforts I have made in the world of open education and just generally being an educator and instructional designer. Whoever’s next up to bat on Bonni’s show, you’re in for a treat!

So without further ado, have a listen here to hear me realizing a dream

A couple of notes from the show. Bonni is so incredibly humble that she says she was intimidate to ask me (?) on her show! I crunched some numbers and it turns out her show has approximately 150 times as many downloads as mine lol! Also, before we began recording, we plotted a way to try to discuss how a twitter joke I made relating *NSYNC vs. Backstreet Boys to the *ASYNC vs synchronous debate of online learning. During recording, Bonni set me up to talk about it nicely and I totally whiffed on it, giving like 5% of the context needed for it to make sense to listeners. Thank you to editor extraordinaire, Andrew Kroeger for cutting that part out and saving me from myself! And one final note, I am quite fond of the list of “resources mentioned” on the episode page because they look so random. The list includes a keynote I admire, some resources I’ve worked on (which makes sense) but also books about hip hop and David Cronenberg movies (which seem to make no sense to be included, but hopefully do, if you listen!)

Anyway, if you have a listen, I hope you enjoy it. I certainly did!

The College Drop-In

That image you scrolled by to get to these words… that’s the Nacho Ramp. It’s named that because we ate nachos off of it instead of skateboarding on it. I mean, we’re trying to skateboard on it, but we are so far more successful at the nacho eating thing.

The notion of dropping in on that thing is absolutely frightening to 42 year-old-not-much-of-a-skateboarder me. What can I do to prepare? Probably a lot of things. Purchase lots of padding. Work on my balance, agility and flexibility. Visualize it happening. Play some Tony Hawk video games and watch Youtube videos of others doing it. Get connected to people in the skateboarding community. Sure those things will help. One thing for sure is that the path to my success in this endeavor lies in pain and failure. And it relies on me actually following that path myself. And at some point I will be prepared to drop right in and down that ramp and skate away into the sunset and it will be glorious.

Now that the embargo has been lifted, I can tell you about another thing I’m about to drop in on. I am part of a project that’s been awarded funding, through eCampusOntario, to design, develop and deliver a sibling to the Ontario Extend Empowered Educator micro-credential. This time for learners themselves. The original Extend is built around the “Empowered Educator” framework. This time we’re working up the “Liberated Learner” framework.

Whereas the Empowered Educator is meant to help educators develop the skills and abilities they need to teach in a digital age, whatever the learning context, the Liberated Learner seeks to help learners develop the skills they need to learn, whatever the teaching context. It’s not really just one nut to crack. It’s a bowl of nuts we’ll need to crack one at a time and then, hopefully serve them up to you in a big bowl of OER.

Who’s the we? Well here is one of the best parts. The team is chock full of some of my absolute favorite heroes of teaching and learning whom we are lucky enough to have working right here in our province. It’s a team effort from 7 different Ontario post-secondary institutions. I am listed as the lead, but I’ll probably mostly just need to keep myself from gawking at all the awesomeness coming from this group. I plan to coax and cajole everyone involved into blogging some of their journey as we go, so stay tuned for updates and to find out just who these heroes are. I’d also love to invite you into the discussion. Hop into the comments below to let us know what nuts you think we need to try and crack (and if you know how to crack them, tell us that, too!)

Let’s pop back to the Nacho Ramp again for a minute. I didn’t acquire this wooden learning environment just so that a 42 year old can finally learn to hit a skateboard ramp. Oh no, no no. Like the Wu Tang, it’s for the children. And like me, it’s up to my kids to follow the crashy, ouchy journey themselves to be able to do it.

It’s like that with the Liberated Learner framework, too. The more seasoned (read: older) members of the team are not involved in this just so that we can figure out how to liberate our own learning, although that’d be cool if we did that a bit. Built in to the proposal is a plan to co-create this with members of the target audience of the project itself. Student co-creators are being brought in to every phase of the project. The more experienced team members will be there, maybe modeling, maybe advising, nudging. Maybe just trying to keep up or getting out of the way. Mostly we just want to help put the ramp there so that the student co-creators that we are working with can show us all how to shred.

The bullseye of our target audience for the liberated learner framework is that student who is getting ready to drop (back?) into higher ed. Whether that’s just the beginning of a post-secondary career, between semesters or years of a program, or coming back to a new program after some time off. It may be a crashy, ouchy, bumpy journey, but we hope to help make that drop in happen with as much padding as possible

After all, that ramp needs to be remembered for shredded knees more than shredded cheese.

Thems the Breaks

It took today’s release of the Praxis Pedagogy Podcast’s newest episode to realize I hadn’t blogged about something big yet! Anne-Marie Scott and I were interviewed by host Tim Carson about a project that we are calling Check The O.L. in which she and I aim to get the stories behind how some of the most ground breaking online learning experiences have come to be.

If you happened to read an earlier post of mine entitled Let’s Get Explicit, in where I attempt to liken the potential of open educational practices to the constantly innovating and groundbreaking world of hip hop, you’ll see in this post that I’ve not only gone deep down this rabbit hole, I’ve also dragged Anne-Marie down there with me. Thanks for helping me dig, Anne-Marie!

Let me break it down with a list of revelations that slowly came to me as this project was formed:

  1. (June 2020): When you’re just sitting there, building courses all summer, your ears have a lot of free time to hear things. Like music!
  2. (Same time frame): If that music is hip hop, it puts me right into the flow I need to in to be quite productive.
  3. (July 2020): I want to know more about hip hop. I really loved it when I was little, but I seemed to forget about it for a good while and I need to get caught up! Maybe there is a book.
  4. (July 2020): There is a book! Check the Technique: Liner Notes for Hip Hop Junkies, By Brian Coleman. This book is dope. I love learning the stories about how these groundbreaking, innovative hip hop albums came to be. There are so many ways to make great hip hop.
  5. (Late July 2020): Oooh there is a sequel! I should read that, too!
  6. (Early August 2020): Hmmm. I kind of think that hip hop and open, online learning have some things in common.
  7. (Mid August 2020) I wish there was a book just like this but for innovative, groundbreaking, probably open online learning.
  8. (Also Mid August 2020) Hmm. Could I make that book? I should see if anyone else thinks this is a good idea.
  9. (Still Mid August 2020) Anne-Marie Scott thinks it’s a good idea so it must be. And she’s willing to help. LET’S DO THIS! LET’S MAKE A BOOK!
  10. (Late August 2020) I really dig how Martin Weller’s 25 Years of Ed-Tech is planning an audio version and a podcast about the book. We should do that too when we get to that point.
  11. (Still Late August 2020): We should do that first! Podcast our way into a book. LET’S DO THIS! LET’S MAKE A PODCAST AND THEN MAKE IT A BOOK!

And if we fast-forward to today, you’ll see that we’ve made some pretty good headway. We have a juicy list of online courses/ communities/ experiences to cover and we’ve released 5 episodes of the podcast, which have included Laura Gibbs’ (THE Online Course Lady) Indian Epics & Myth folklore , Bonnie Stewart’s #Antigonish2, Mia Zamora and Alan Levine’s #NetNarr, and Whitney Kilgore’s #HumanMOOC. Anne-Marie sees these things more clearly and easier than me, but I can assure you that some interesting common threads are beginning to reveal themselves as we go.

Next up is the release of our chat with Al Filreis on the long running MOOC known as #ModPo (Modern Poetry). This course was one of the most recommended to us, and we sure as heck found out why when Al blew our minds with meta-pedagogical delights. Stay tuned for that to be released late next week!

Grab the feed to the podcast here, keep them suggestions for courses to cover coming, and let us know what you think!

Gettin’ Air Top Ten

Stephen Hurley of VoicEd Radio, likely sick of me sending him new podcast recordings to release on his platform, recently upgraded his Spreaker account to allow me access to publish new episodes myself. An extra bonus is that I can now see the stats.

I was curious to see which was the most listened to episode of my main podcast: Gettin’ Air: The Open Pedagogy Podcast. And surprised at the answer! Not that I think the all time leader is not worthy. When it comes to shmooshing technology and learning together, he is probably one of the world’s best. No hyperbole in that statement. It’s just, you know, look at the list of guests! There are some big names on there!

So I took it to Twitter, to annoy people into guessing who it was at the top of the list. The suggestions were the ones I would have guessed, too! Maha Bali, Audrey Watters, Sheri Spelic, Bonni Stachowiak, Robin DeRosa. All absolutely fantastic guests, but not the number one. Not today anyway. Some of these episodes deserve more listens!

Sure thing, Jesse! Now keep in mind that these are the stats for downloads of the podcast. Gettin’ Air is also a radio show on, and I don’t have those stats. An episode may have had a decent showing of live listeners when it was broadcast. Who knows? I do believe there is some weird luck going on in the timing of the release sometimes. It’s like a game of Plinko sometimes. This would all be moot if everyone just listened to every episode. OK?

So let’s see that list!

  1. John Stewart: Assistant Director for the Office of Digital Learning at the University of Oklahoma
  2. Chad Flinn: Student advocate and Open Pedagogy enthusiast
  3. Audrey Watters: Writer at Hack Education
  4. Jim Groom: Co-founder of Reclaim Hosting
  5. Jesse Stommel: Founder @HybridPed @DigPedLab
  6. Catherine Cronin: Ireland’s National Forum for Enhancement of Teaching and Learning in Higher Education
  7. Lee Skallerup Bessette: Learning Design Specialist at Georgetown
  8. Sheri Spelic: The Edified Listener
  9. Mia Zamora: Associate Professor of English and Director of the MA in Writing Studies at Kean University
  10. Frances Bell and Anne-Marie Scott: The FemEdTEch Quilt

There you have it! The list will likely need to be updated once Robin DeRosa’s mom gets in on this, so stay tuned!

And tune in soon for new episodes from Valerie Irvine and Tim Owens! As always, if you are interested in being a guest on the show, I’d love to set something up (even if you’ve been on before!). Get in touch!

Photo by Joshua Golde on Unsplash

Gettin’ Air with Bryan Mathers

The release of last week’s episode of Gettin’ Air came with bonus material… A new logo! I’ve loved Bryan Mathers’ work for a long time. My laptop is covered in work he’s done with the likes of Reclaim Hosting, Audrey Watters, OpenETC … just to name a few. I wear his work on my belly often in the form of my Hack Education t-shirt. His stickers are also on my tablet, my bike. It even makes our mini van a little cooler than it already is. So to have some Bryan Mathers art as a logo for Gettin’ Air is just like… you know…. frickin’ awesome. I have considered getting it tattooed on my person. Check out all his work here, and consider how valuable his process could be in any number of projects you work on.

Have a look through the Twitter Moment below for links to the things we chat about in the episode as well as some other responses shared after the fact. And if you’d like me to send you a sticker, shoot me your address in a Twitter message.

Gettin’ Air with Karen Costa

Karen Costa (@karenraycosta) is a faculty development facilitator specializing in online pedagogy and trauma awareness in higher ed. We chat about some of the things she has learned in working with and supporting thousands of faculty from around the world. Karen also reveals what the 100th tip for creating great educational videos would have been were she not limited to 99 in her book 99 Tips for Creating Simple & Sustainable Educational Videos.

Here is the episode.

Here are the shownotes via Twitter Moment:

Gettin’ Air with Remi Kalir

In a fit of extreme efficiency, it only took me 110-ish episodes to work out a good workflow for collecting and sharing some show notes for an episode of Gettin’ Air: The Open Pedagogy Podcast.

Here’s how it works:

  1. Record a podcast episode with someone awesome. Remi Kalir fits that bill perfectly.
  2. Set a time with the also awesome Stephen Hurley at VoicEd Radio to broadcast the episode. Make sure your guest is available to listen at that time.
  3. Listen to the broadcast and, with your guest, tweet out links to all the stuff you talk about with the hashtag #gettinair.
  4. Be thankful that Jonathan Lashley also listened and tweeted along so that it didn’t feel like you were tweeting to no one.
  5. Check with Stephen Hurley to see if anyone is listening. Find out that people are listening in far off places like Alabama!
  6. Keep tweeting the things we chat about.
  7. Slap all those tweets into a Twitter Moment (see it below)
  8. Slap that Moment into your blog, categorize it and tag it with ‘Gettin’ Air’ and here we are!

Let’s Get Explicit

How can I explain it? If you’re all down with OEP (Open Educational Practices), I think that it’s time to make one thing clear… we’re a bunch of wannabe hip hop artists and I couldn’t be happier about it.

I’ll take you frame by frame it.

According to The Zulu Nation, there are five essential elements of hip hop. In this post, I hope to describe each of them a little bit and then try to relay them into a metaphor for Open Educational Practices, or just open education in general. I am more of an expert in the latter than the former, but I learn more (and love more) about hip hop every day. As we’ll see, there are different roles to play in each of the elements. Some people are known for one over the other although everyone crosses boundaries, here and there.

1.  Lyricism (Rapping)

In hip hop, emcees are the ones rhyming on the mic. They smith the words, make the rhymes, and deliver it to you with rhythm and flow. There are absolutely endless examples of different, riveting ways to rap. Just listen to a few of the greatest rappers of all time

To me this is the easiest and most obvious category to relate to Educators. Our emcees are the faculty members, out in front of students, spittin’ hot content. It’s not just what they say, it’s how they say it. I mean yeah it’s definitely more what they say than how they say it, but sometimes it’s just a mixture of both. I mean, I would listen to any of Rajiv Jhanghiani, Robin DeRosa, Jesse Stommel, Jim Groom, Maha Bali or countless others talk about anything just based on how they deliver to be honest.

So who do you think are our Missys, Tupacs, Biggies, and Weezys?

2.  Turntablism (DJing)

Grand Wizard Theodore took a piece of equipment that was supposed to just need a little bit of your input to get started, and turned it into a dynamic instrument that could blow your frickin’ mind. The record player was made to just dutifully sit there and turn in clock wise circles after you carefully place the needle at the outermost part of a record. Grand Wizard Theodore thought “fuck that” and dropped that needle wherever he pleased, and manually took over just which way that record was spinning. It most surely did not say to do that in the manual. The results are that every single damn record ever made and ever will be made are now a portal to endless new sounds and new worlds. Just watch Mixmaster Mike do it here (start at around 1:45):

If someone could have a look at the LMS and do that with it, that would be great. I’ll wait.

That said, I’ll go right out and say first that the DJs/Producers of Education are the ed-tech folks and the instructional designers. There are folks in ed-tech who try to master, mess with and straight up own the technology like hip hop DJs/ producers have. Some of the results are absolutely mind blowing and I would love to see more and more and more of it. And then some more.

If you’re a faculty member looking for a DJ to make some tight beats for your content, find yourself a Martha Burtis, an Alan Levine, or a Tom Woodward to make the technology do just what you want it to do and not the other way around. And keep pumping out Open Educational Resources so we have more material to sample.

So who are the Large Professors, Dr. Dres, RZAs, J Dillas of Open Education?

3.  Breaking

Hip hop doesn’t care if your knees and back don’t want to dance. There’s a b-boy or b-girl inside of all of us ready to lay it down at the altar of hip hop. Sometimes, an altar is made of cardboard and the DJ leads the service. You don’t want to get raptured, so you better get to poppin’ and lockin’.

If all has gone well with numbers 1 and 2 in your work developing learning experiences, guess what? We all turn into a bunch of b-boys and b-girls for each other. I have never been a part of a community so supportive of each other, who constantly pumps each others tires by liking and sharing their work, making connections and just generally heaping praise all over the damn place. And you know why we can do it and want to do it? Because we know each other. Because we are open. And we want to get to know you, too.

So the next time you’re retweeting and liking the work of a fellow open educator, just remember that you are figuratively doing for your friends what Bag of Trix are literally doing below.

4.  Graffiti

Graffiti is a controversial inclusion as an element of hip hop, but there’s no denying that it shows up everywhere, and that it can be quite beautiful. If graffiti is a visual expression of hip hop, then maybe openly licensed imagery is the graffiti of open education.

Where would our emcees be at their lectures and keynotes without a slide deck full of some bomb ass (openly licensed) photos? And I’m going to put this out there that Alan Levine, also one of the listed great “DJs” of Open Ed is also its greatest graffiti artist. Just look at the 50 million images he’s put into the Commons on his Flickr page (actual count: 65547). Have look at your attributions on your slide decks and you probably have a cogdog in there somewhere.

Perhaps another side to the graffiti metaphor is all the annotation that we can put all over any page of the Web done via Open Web Annotation using tools like If that’s not tagging stuff up and adding our piece, I don’t know what is.

Update! As suggested by Martin Weller, another amazing source of graffiti in the Open Education space is The Fabulous Remixer Machine from Bryan Mathers. Get in there and make some art for us!

Let’s have a listen to someone who began his hip hop journey as a graffiti artist, and then went on to become on of its greatest emcees: KRS-ONE.

5.  Knowledge

The last essential element of hip hop that we’ll cover here is knowledge of its history.

“Don’t come at it without being willing to learn and grow alongside it.”

I think we can all relate to that over here in Open Education. Avoiding the historical amnesia that Martin Weller refers to in his book 25 Years of Ed Tech is obviously a good idea, and a tack that helps you gain acceptance into the folds of both hip hop and the open education communities.

You’ll also find that as you learn from the people who share their experience of the history of Open Education or Ed Tech, like Martin, you can actually connect with many of them and build yourself into the networks.

Kendrick Lamar couldn’t make something this good with out knowing what and learning from what came before him.

So there you have it. In the midst of the pandemic, online learning is maybe having its biggest moment. If this is a fork in the road, I want to take the path that has more of the community, the innovation, the creativity, the control and everything else except probably the fat stacks of cash. We should follow hip hop’s lead and get as explicit with it as we can.

Photo by Emiliano Vittoriosi on Unsplash