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! 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.

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

Tying The Room Together

This post is meant to be supplemental to two different professional learning sessions I’ve recently offered:

  1. Leave Room to Make Room, for the OLC Ideate Virtual Conference, and
  2. Creating a Course Podcast/Radio Show, for the Fleming College Virtual Teaching & Learning Week.

I think the two sessions feed each other, so why not make one blog post for the two of them? ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

The first session, Leave Room to Make Room (offered with co-host/kindred spirit Jonathan Lashley) was focused on discussing ways to cede control (and space) to the learners in online learning environments. As if by example, we did this by giving as much time to the participants as we could in a 45 minute space. We recorded mini podcast/radio interviews with participants, but we didn’t talk about HOW or WHY to make a podcast per se. We just used the idea of recording audio as an one example of leaving that space for learners to do something with course material.

The other session, Creating a Course Podcast/Radio Show, was focused more on how and why of it all (and to a completely different audience), offering up the tools and practices that you could use to enable students to make best use of their new space. But we didn’t get too much in to the (open) pedagogy behind offering up the structured space.

Now that the two sessions and their products exist, they can serve each other. The slides and recording from the latter can be offered up to participants from the former interested in digging deeper into using audio recording. The interviews collected from the former can serve as an example to those interested in the latter. (And perhaps offer a rabbit hole into Open Pedagogy)

And as the two entities come together in this post, I hope it all shows that there is great opportunity in online learning to offer up space and time for learners to just talk about course stuff and share it out to everyone to hear people talk about course stuff.

In preparation for the Ideate session, I thought it would be nice to collect some exemplars and then I got kind of carried away with it. I spun up a SPLOTbox (WordPress themes offered up from Alan Levine in his infinite generosity) to collect little audio clips. I put out a request for volunteers to help, hoping to pre-load the site with 3 or 4 exemplars heading in to the session. I ended up with 17 mini interviews from many of the heroes of the digital education road that we are traveling on right now. During the session itself, in order to model the idea of ceding control, we offered a brief introduction and spent the rest of the session recording mini-interviews with participants. Have a look at the slides here. Five fabulous souls volunteered, bravely doing it in front of 80 or so attendees: Katerina “From Space” Berezina, Katherine “Front Porch” Ridella, Dave “Long Pause” Goodrich, Angela “Darn Tootin” Gunder, and Karen “99 Tips” Costa. Here are their mini-interviews.

Favorite moments from the session included Jonathan’s wily Zoom backgrounds, multiple participants saying “LATER SKATER BYEEE”, and getting the idea of leaving space thrown back in our face in the form of an infinitely long, painful, drawn out pregnant pause from Dave Goodrich that left us shook (check it out starting at around 26:20).

A pointed comment in the chat came during the session that was something like: “And HOW do we put a podcast together?” and I thought, well I wish you could come to another session I have coming up! I guess that comment inspired this post, so thank you, pointed commenter!

Now to that other session. It was the penultimate session of an 8-day, Wednesday to Wednesday, Virtual Teaching & Learning “Week” that Fleming College offered to its educators. Throughout the week we offered panel discussions with faculty, students, and student support staff, various “emergency pedagogy” workshops, and other sessions focused on specific tools like MS Teams, Echo 360 and H5P. And, you guessed it, podcasts!

Here are the slides again from the session. The simple goal was to talk a bit about the who, what, when, where, why, how of it all and then to do it for real in a mini-interview from start to finish with the same mini-interviews we used in the Ideate session so that attendees could see it happen live.

Another brave soul (Thanks Mary!) volunteered to, in front of a live studio audience, go from the Webex room that we were meeting in, to the recording space on Zencastr, to do the mini interview. Then a quick edit in Audacity, and publishing and sharing. You can see it in the recording here.

And thus, the two sessions have come full circle in serving each other to show how and why to make space for your learners’ voices. And maybe that is enough belaboring the idea that these two sessions are meant for each other. You probably got (or rejected) the idea like 14 paragraphs ago. Thanks for making it this far! I hope you get something out of it. And, so you know, the SPLOT lives on and is still taking your ideas if you want to add your voice. Go to this link to record yourself. Later Skaters, BYEEEEE!

Photo by Ana Flávia on Unsplash

The Remote Possibility

The typical reader of my occasional blog posts is probably not so much the target of this one. You know this stuff. I’m writing to those students and teachers out there who don’t feel comfortable “going remote” and teaching/learning from a distance. And you may soon be forced to do so.

I want you to know that I absolutely love working remotely.

And I don’t think the idea of “pivoting” in person classes to online is really much different from a “regular job” switching to remote. We can do it and it we can enjoy it. I spent two years working remotely in my laundry room and would do it again in a heartbeat

Let’s talk about the benefits:

  1. You can wear sweatpants. Or your HufflePuff robes. Or an inflatable chicken outfit. The camera does not have to be on when you are in a live class or meeting.
  2. Click mute. Rip that burp/fart. un-mute.
  3. Camera off, mute… go get a snack or another coffee. No one knows or cares.
  4. The laundry gets the hell done.
  5. While you’re in that class or meeting, you can also much more blatantly also be in whichever back channels you’ve made for yourself and friends, keeping up with the real important details.
  6. The back-channels will be your digital hallway. Your shooting the shit skills will become innovative as all get out.
  7. Meetings become more collaborative. Don’t want to be the one speaking? Be the one fetching links to the things we’re talking about and copying them into the chat. Monitor the chat. Make connections.
  8. Your online classes can now have a lo-fi hip hop soundtrack if you like.
  9. Your ability, and your desire, to have quick meetings/chats with peers has gone way up. I’m far more likely to have an “in person” meeting digitally with a friend or colleague if I don’t have to go anywhere. And that person can be across the country. Maybe in like Mortlach, Saskatchewan or something.
  10. Got kids? You’re probably more in position to be flexible in school pick ups/drop offs and fulfill a few more of the million needs they have.

So you may find yourself digitally all over the place. In virtual meetings in Zoom/Webex/Skype. In collaborative workspaces in Slack/Teams/Discord. In your email inbox, LMS, on the socials. Lots of the time all those spaces at once.

Wherever you are digitally, you’re also right there where you can flip the laundry, pet the pupper, grab a free snack (just mute if it’s chips and salsa), turn up the heat, make eyes at your partner.

You’re not alone. The Digital People out there can help. They say things like this:

See you out there!

Photo by Immo Wegmann on Unsplash

Extreme Quilting

I signed up to guest post for the OER20 Conference‘s blog in the lead up to the event running in early April in London. When an association focused on learning technology decides to have the theme “The Care in Openness” you just have to perk up, take notice, get in there and try to help hype that awesomeness.

I also got a little weird with it because I tried to turn a blog post into a live radio event. Head on over to the guest post itself here if you are keen:

photo by Giulia Forsythe of a piece made by Giulia Forsythe

Thanks Milan – Lessons Learned at #OEGlobal19

It’s too soon and I’m still a little jet lagged to have truly processed this last week, so at this time I’m just going go with a lessons learned list as an initial reflection of the experience that was the Open Education Global Conference in Milan.

Lesson 1. Nominate yourself for stuff. It can get you a trip to Italy if it works out.

Lesson 2. If you have a child under two, take them. They fly for free and they get called “bellissima bambina” all the time and you can never get enough of that.

Lesson 3. Said child will not be impressed by anything you are impressed by as you can see in this series of tweets.

Lesson 4. Getting to know people online and then meeting them for the first time in person and finding out they are just as awesome IRL is the best. Looking at you Brian Lamb, Grant Potter, Tom Woodward, Jim Groom, Anne-Marie Scott, Karen Cangialosi. (and a host of others I’d already had the honour of meeting)

Lesson 5. Feed and water your Virtually Connecting guests and they will respond with great conversations.

Lesson 6. When you go to an Open Education conference, don’t just share your pedagogy and stuff, share actual things like socks and you’ll get stuff back!

Lesson 7. Italy’s lecture hall seat game is better than yours as you can see in this image I captured of the backs of Grant, Anne-Marie and Brian.

Lesson 8. There are SO MANY amazing projects going on in Open Education around the world. Dig in to any and all of PhET, Grasple, OASIS, ZTC Pathways, SPLOTs, Blueprint for Success in College & Career, CLIx, QEIOS, VR Classroom app, Open Geography, OpenMed, and, a favorite: Shin-Godzilla Themed OER.

Lesson 9. There are strong feelings about how to use your debit card in Italy.

Lesson 10. A little appreciation for those who send you to cool things like this goes a long way. Thank you, Fleming College!

Hopefully I can offer a deeper reflection soon.

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 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