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.