Hark! An #OpenEd18 Reflection

Last week the Open Education Conference was held in Niagara Falls, New York. I am going to hark back on my experience there for my third post of the Ontario Extend 9x9x25 Reflective Writing Challenge.

I had a barrel of fun, but I am going to reflect on things I wish I did differently while there. I’ve been lucky enough to attend the last three Open Education Conferences. I’ve also been lucky enough to meet and become friends with many people in the community. I get excited to see them and eager to catch up.

So here is the first thing I wish I did differently: I wish I did not skip the speed networking that followed Jess Mitchell’s very, very wonderful keynote on the opening day. And I wasn’t the only OpenEd “veteran” to do so. In my haste to see some people I already knew, I missed the chance to connect and help people newer to the movement. I could be a helpful node in your Open Education network, and I missed a chance to offer that help. Maybe it’s not too late though, if you’re reading this and want to connect, please do!

OpenEd is truly full of people who would LOVE to chat with anyone interested, would LOVE to bring more people in to the fold. It’s been billed as the family reunion of Open Education. Which can be great, but can also seem like a club that is hard to get in to. And “club members” may say that you just need to say hi and we are happy to get to know you, but that is intimidating, and frankly kind of hard to pick the right time when someone you want to meet is deeply engrossed with catching up with an old friend. I will do better to offer up my network connectivity status to others in the future.

Another thing I wish I’d done differently is a more long-term missing out. I can’t believe it has taken me this long to truly recognize the importance of Wikipedia in Open Education. I got the opportunity to try to contribute a little bit to Wikipedia in an edit-a-thon run by Bonnie Stewart and Amy Collier. The prep work that went in to this was unbelievable.

The simplest (simple, but not easy) way to introduce a non-disposable assignment to your class was sitting right there the whole time! Add to Wikipedia. Believe me, the process is academic as heck. As Robert Cummings said in his session on teaching with Wikipedia: (paraphrasing here) Academic writing is too often writing what you think and then finding things to support that. Wikipedia writing flips that so that you are working  with nothing but truth. This is probably so obvious to most, but I’ve been busy looking at other ways to embed open in our teaching and learning. Wikipedia was just too “already there” for me to think hard enough about. Not anymore. So what I wish I did differently at #OpenEd18 is to learn more directly from Amy Collier and Bonnie Stewart about how to Wikipedia while I was in the same room as them. Luckily though, Daniel Lynds is hard core and has already pushed me to meet with him on a regular basis going forward to finish what we started.

Which takes me to the final thing that I wish I did differently while there.  I wish I thought and acted more directly about what to do next. Make not just connections, but plans to connect and take action. It all comes at you so fast, but making solid plans to do something with someone holds more weight when you make those plans in person. I saw others taking action. Ken Bauer and Joe Murphy promised to complete their patches of The Open Faculty Patchbook for me (woot woot!). It’s not like I have no plans, I just wish I made more direct plans with people while I was there. A couple things I did nail down is that I will be interviewing Billy Meinke for my podcast and helping Ken Bauer with the Virtually Connecting podcast! NICE.

We can make a huge impact with each other. Maybe it would be cool to try to have a daily theme at a future conference. Day One, helping newcomers feel welcome and connected, Day Two: normal conference day stuff, Day three: plan for action together. And sprinkled all throughout, making connections to those who couldn’t be there a la Virtually Connecting.

We’re going to need a really big barrel to fit us all in together as we go over the falls.

Photo by Elevate on Unsplash

The Ghost of Questions Not Asked

This is IDIGOntario‘s 2nd post of the #9x9x25 Challenge

When I signed up to be on the IDIG team I very vaguely said that I would like to write something about the “Front End Analysis” phase of Instructional Design. Also known as the “what are we doing and why” part.

If you do this part well you can avoid making big mistakes down the road. You might even realize that you shouldn’t even do it at all. You also tend have that “come on, come on, let’s get going!” feeling buzzing around you. I am feeling that right now as we prepare to try a new way of delivering Ontario Extend in January. But no matter how many angles you try to anticipate, something will surprise you when you implement it.

A good example of this came from the scholarly project I worked on to complete my Master’s of Instructional Design. I created an instructional Alternate Reality Game (ARG). It was designed to help youth identify problem gambling behaviours and to know how to reduce their harm. I completed a lengthy front-end analysis in which I tried to anticipate who the learners would be and what needs I should meet to help them complete the game. I never considered that some kids might not be up for suspending their disbelief in what was meant to be a fun way to learn.

Tyra aka Chance the “missing” dog

The first test went great, with a group of ninth grade students who were asked to participate and agreed of their own accord. They had fun and were successful in taking the story to its conclusion. The final test run, however, was a different story. In working with the program facilitator for the gambling awareness group, we chose to bring the game to test it out on an entire class of (I think) 11th grade students at an “alternative” high school. I don’t recall too much about the make up of the class or the reasons they had enrolled in a “different” kind of high school. In general you could say that the students were rightfully kind of pissed off about how their education was going so far.

They didn’t want to pretend. They didn’t want to suspend disbelief. They didn’t give a damn about rescuing a fake dog. They completed the game activities, but it would have probably served them better to give them a handout describing the harm reduction strategies and to just have a frank discussion about how these things have affected their lives. I remember clearly the look one student gave me when he realized I was trying to trick him into playing along. That’s when I knew that this program was not even close to the right thing to bring to them. It was utterly deflating.

The results of the test run were that yes, students reached the objectives. Learning was measured to have happened. But the feeling in the room was not the fun buzz I was working toward in the back of my mind. It was a stark opposite.

I’m going way over 25 sentences by digging in to that anecdote. My point is that I did not anticipate, at all, that this idea of learning via a game would resonate so poorly with these students. I didn’t ask the right, or enough, questions in my front-end analysis. JR Dingwall’s post in which he did ask the right questions to help bring about a great result, is what got me thinking about what questions to ask in the beginning.

So I ask you, what are the big questions you ask yourself and others when you first sit down to analyze a potential ID project? How can you avoid making something that leaves students feeling flat and misunderstood?

“Question?” flickr photo by spi516 https://flickr.com/photos/spi/2113651310 shared under a Creative Commons (BY-SA) license

Like Driving a Minivan

This is my second 9X9X25 Challenge post for Ontario Extend.

The challenge asks you to reflectively write on the open Web about your teaching. For this post, I want to step back and write a bit about writing itself. Especially writing in the open. It can be scary. Maybe it doesn’t need to be quite so. I think it’s like driving. You are free to drive no matter what kind of car you have access to.

I drive a minivan. I’m sure lots of people dream of driving a Ferrari or some other fancy, luxury vehicle. I don’t at all. I wouldn’t enjoy it very much. I’d worry about scratching it or grinding the gears. No thanks, Ferrari. It’s all a bit much.

No joke, I’ve never enjoyed a vehicle more than our van. It does all the things. It goes around corners. Stops after it starts, starts after it stops. And I do it all feeling great about it because I don’t need to worry too much about getting hung up on a speed bump or if enough people are looking at me. It grinds no gears of mine. All the vehicles I’ve ever owned have been in this same non-luxury class, but this is the first time I’m really leaning in and enjoying the benefits.

It can fit my whole family in it. That family is then able to easily provide feedback/Q & A on where we are, where we’re going, why we’re going this way, and if, perchance, we are going somewhere where we can get a toy. Try doing that in a Ferrari. There’s definitely no feedback about the vehicle itself. As long as it’s going, no one cares.

I feel the same about my writing. It’s minivan-esque . I don’t have all the features like semi-colons, non-dangling prepositions, deep thoughts, or big words. But I can write. I can take people places with it. It might be a bit bumpy. I used to worry if my writing is good enough to be out here. I don’t any more because I realized it’s not about my writing skill, it’s about offering up what I have to say in the hopes that someone else can gain from it.

I sure enjoy writing now despite the lack of luxury features. I’m glad it allows me to get out there in a way that maybe lets me bring some people along or convinces others to join in. I never thought of myself as a writer, just as I’ve never thought of myself as a driver. I think I can and I should. I don’t wonder if my driving skill is good enough before I drive and I only had that one short driving course like 25 years ago. Let’s apply that moxie to our writing.

All this is to say that I hope that you are not too worried about how polished and supercharged your writing skills are to get out there on the road sharing your journey. This challenge is all about hearing some fresh takes on pedagogy. I hope that how you feel about your writing doesn’t stop you from getting in here and sharing your thoughts. Don’t worry about the Ferrari drivers. We’re all allowed on the same roads. You have something important to say and we would love to read about it.

Season 14 Abc GIF by The Bachelorette - Find & Share on GIPHY

Featured image: “Dude, You’re Driving a Minivan” flickr photo by happyskrappy https://flickr.com/photos/happyskrappy/4608104244 shared under a Creative Commons (BY) license


The Plan

This is my first post for the Ontario Extend 9x9x25 reflective writing about teaching and learning challenge. What I have, teaching and learning-wise, to be reflective about right now is Ontario Extend itself. So my 9x9x25 posts will either be meta-Extend, or Extend-ception. Not sure yet.

This post’s outline was provided by the band Built to Spill, in the lyrics to their song The Plan. I can legally share the live version of the song here. Well, the first 30 seconds anyway! Press play and read on.

The plan keeps coming up again.

The chance to try again doesn’t always come when designing and delivering some instructional thing or another. Ontario Extend, thankfully, is one of the lucky ones. We have delivered it in a couple different ways and gotten some feedback. We listened to it, grimaced a little, smiled more than we grimaced, and made some tweaks each time we launched a cohort.

And the plan means nothing stays the same.

Oh come on, Built to Spill, some things will stay the same! But yes now we’re lucky enough to be able to take some time to make some bigger tweaks and fill some gaps. Based on the numbers of those who have really engaged with Extend and the feedback received from those who have and have not fully engaged, we know that something is missing.

But the plan won’t accomplish anything.


If it’s not implemented.

Oh yes. Good point. As I said above, something is missing. Extend’s implementation is a little too radical for the masses. I certainly take the blame for that as it has been implemented just the way I wanted. People do all their work in the open, in a few different places. It’s a little too chaotic for some (is it chaotic good at least?) I can certainly see that and I would love for as many people as possible to feel comfortable experiencing Extend.

So we are building a new piece to slot in the middle and connect it all. A one-stop shop that you can stay inside the whole way through, if you’d like. Or you can come and go as you please if and when you’re up for it. It will likely look a little more traditional. Maybe a little like this. All the other Extend pieces remain: The Daily, The Activity Bank, and the Domains Hub (where all the great 9x9x25 posts will appear!). I think of it like this; After creating the Extend modules themselves we built its playground, skate park, and splash pad. Now we’re building the community centre in the middle of it all.

We will be implementing and relaunching for (hopefully) the greatest Extend Cohort yet in January. But hey, it gave us the downtime we needed to run this awesome 9x9x25 Challenge. It’s almost like it was all part of the plan.

Photo by Med Badr Chemmaoui on Unsplash