Dreaming is Free

Press play, then start reading.

When I was asked to keynote the Fleming College Fall Teaching & Learning Day, I thought it’d be a great chance to heed some advice from Blondie (Dreaming is free, after all) and drop a bunch of ideas for digital learning initiatives that we could do and see which ones that we can breath some life into. Each of these ideas are inspired by some open, networked and/or connectivist learning experiences that are already out there. This is an invitation for all of us to dream together about what we can do, so the talk came with a survey that gives you the chance to add your name to any initiative you’d like and your thoughts to the list. That way I can follow up with you and get you on board. So, let’s get digital (here are the slides) and take a look at these wild ideas:

Okay this is one I really have to do as part of the job of Digital Learning Advisor. It’s right there in the Strategic Plan to create a learning technology inventory for Fleming College. But why should I have all the fun? If we do it using something like the Ontario Extend Activity Bank, we could not only have an inventory of the tools we have, we could also have a curation of the tools we actually use, whether they are the tools we pay for or ones available on that Internet thing. Whether they are in-class hardware or online software. With the bank, sure I’ll be the main person adding to and moderating the inventory, but others can as well. Each piece of tech can have its own page full of use cases, examples, tutorials, suggestions of who to seek out for help, and comments. It can be a living thing that builds community and increases access to things rather than a lonely spreadsheet or database that gets a few clicks here and there.

I think this one is going to be great. I’d like to create a team of student workers to help students get more familiar with their digital ecosystems, to go a little deeper with digital assignments, or to push students towards a little bit more critical thought in their working with digital tools. It’s being done already at Muhlenberg College. What they do is summed up nicely by one of their DLAs: “We are a group of students who are trained in a bunch of different digital learning tools so we can help students who are using those tools in their classes.” Simple, but oh so awesome.

I’d also like to have kind of a mirror image program for faculty. A couple of Digital Learning Allies from each school. A pay it forward situation in which they receive deeper training in some of the same digital tools for their own teaching, with the caveat that they are swoofed a little time to get the training and to pay it forward to other faculty in their schools. I’ve done some initial chats and am drumming up some interest already.

Ontario Extend is a set of open educational resources designed to empower educators to effectively use technology in their design and delivery of learning environments. It also happens to come with a lovely community of Ontario educators who love to connect and share their work. I think Fleming would greatly benefit from having a group of educators not just complete the modules, but also to tap in to this community. I propose we run a cohort through all 6 modules concurrently with one person facilitating each module. You can choose your own path, you can take your time, you can have all the help you need. And there are badges!

The Extend framework could just use a little nudge and a tweak and become something very useful for empowering students to learn with technology. The originals are all openly licensed so we could go right ahead and remix and revise them thangs and make a great little set of modules for empowering students to centre themselves in their own learning through technology. I do believe credit for this idea goes to one Lena Patterson at eCampusOntario. Thanks, Lena!

This can maybe be some of the work of the Digital Learning Allies. A space similar to the learning technology bank but not for tools so much as for using tools to make cool and engaging alternative assignments like course trailers, podcasts, visual syllabi, course posters, Twine games and more! Like the technology bank, each post can have tutorials, examples, use cases and more. This can serve as inspiration to any faculty as they go to design new assignments or redesign old ones, with a look to making student work more enduring, less disposable. The work your students do can have more impact not just for themselves as showcase work, but also for you in your future courses.

I believe another piece of valuing the work that students do is to recognize smaller chunks of achievement, like they do in video games (achievement unlocked!). I think we can dabble in that with open badging as a form of micro-credentialing. We already do it with the Co-Curricular Record, so the badges could piggy back onto that, but it’d be fun to build a visual identity for recognizing work inside and outside of academic work that students can build off of and take with them.

It sounds funny, I know, but the more we help students to do their work and collaborate in authentic spaces, the more ready they will be to do work and collaborate in authentic spaces. The LMS is not one of those spaces. D2L will be a long lost or repressed memory shortly after leaving the academic world. More and more, work is being done in collaborative team spaces like Slack, Teams, and Discord. Actually it’s not necessarily so much the work itself, but the connecting and culture building of your work that happens in these spaces. Let’s help students live in these spaces and to help each other through their programs. And hey, let’s use them ourselves! I’ve set up a Fleming Team called Digital Learning at Fleming, where we can lean on each other for help with technology stuff. Join here if you are a Fleming staff and would like in.

Recently we gathered some folks to see what we think about a tool called ECHO 360, in response to some requests for a “lecture capture” solution. We had a couple of Academic chairs, faculty, IT, students and the LDS Team come to the demo. Before looking at the tool I was of the opinion that capturing lectures was maybe leaning a little too much into a passive way of trying to learn rather than a more engaged active learning experience. This tool, though, it seems to have a little something going on to make lectures a little more social, engaging and collaborative. We will be looking more into a pilot to try it more deeply, but the opportunity to provide a flexible and accessible option for delivering some of our content is there.

I spent the last two years working with eCampusOntario, who have been really big fans of OER. And so am I. Open Educational Resources are ones that are free to keep, to use, to revise, to remix. It starts with saving your students some money, and it gets better from there. But it’s not so easy to just switch to an OER let alone maybe make your won, or co-create with your students. So I propose as a start that we simply, with the help of the library, just check to see if there’s something out there for you and your students and go from there. Who knows, maybe you’ll get a standing ovation when you tell your students you saved them a bunch of moola.

In the world of Ed-Tech, it often seems like there’s something new every twelve seconds. It’s hard to keep up, and there’s a lot of crap tbh. However, sometimes new things seem awesome and actually add a new element to what we can do. My favorite new tools of the last couple years, ones that bring a social and collaborative element to digital learning, are H5P, Pressbooks, and Hypothes.is. What do design sprints have to do with this? I don’t know for sure but maybe if we got in to the practice of meeting to actually build some stuff out with this stuff rather than having a workshop about it, we might make a bigger push forward. Want to try?

We’ve been doing the Teaching Hub for a few years now. It’s a weekly blog post focused on doling out what’s going on, pedagogically, at Fleming in easy to digest chunks. We think it may be most beneficial to contract faculty who are not completely ensconced in Fleming all day every day, but we hope it’s beneficial to anyone teaching here. What can you do to be involved? Tell us about stuff you’d like to see in there! That would be great!

Through both The Open Faculty Patchbook & The Open Learner Patchbook, we have so far collected over sixty short pieces of writing, each by a different student or teacher, about how they do the things they do to make learning happen. We collect the stories from anywhere, and they have come from far and wide, but Fleming College is the epicentre. We’d love to have more from Fleming faculty and students. It could even be an assignment in one of your classes?

This is a bit of a different take on active learning, arguably the wrong take actually. But we’ve done it before and it was kind of fun, so why not do it again? Here’s the plan: we organize a set of public talks welcome to anyone, but the catch is it’s also a spin class, or aerobics or Zoomba or whatever it is that people enjoy doing that’s active. We record it and share it with the world. Get sweaty in bodies and minds! I think this would be a fun way to work to meet strategic goals #2, being a true partner with the community. Who would be up for sharing what you know with some spandex clad listeners?

I’m on the conference committee for the OER20 Conference in London and this is where I got this idea. They have the same virtual meeting room for each meeting, but they also leave it an open access thing so we can consider it a space to meet any time! Great idea! So I made one for us. Anyone at Fleming can use this webex room at anytime to meet each other to chat. Just share that URL with whoever you want to meet and poof! you’ll be in the same virtual room where you can share documents and non verbal language.

So there you have it. Some ideas for stuff to do. Want to get involved in any of them? Fill out the survey!

Photo by Christophe Hautier on Unsplash