Author Archives: Christina Hendricks

Presentation on open pedagogy and open edu practices, Mt. Royal University

Poster for this event

For Open Education Week (March 2018) I was invited to give a keynote presentation/workshop on open educational practices and open pedagogy at Mount Royal University in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. I titled it “Beyond cost savings: The value of OER and open pedagogy for student learning.”

They asked me to speak about open educational practices (OEP) and open pedagogy because, while the adoption, adaptation, and creation of Open Educational Resources (OER) was pretty well understood at their institution, the ideas of OEP and open pedagogy were not.

Being a philosopher, and based on my thinking about open pedagogy and OEP over the last year (see my blog posts on these topics), I used this opportunity to try to push my own thinking further around just how we might conceptualize these two topics. I also provided examples of what others had called OEP or open pedagogy.

There was a worksheet that accompanied the session, that people worked on individually and discussed in groups; we didn’t get as much time on this as I had planned (my fault…I talk for too long!)

OEP at Mt Royal, worksheet (MS Word)

And here are some notes I wrote up with plans for the session:

OEP at Mt Royal U, notes (MS Word)

 

Here are the slides from the talk…

You can download them in an editable Power Point file: Beyond Cost Savings, Mt Royal U, slides (pptx)

Some end-of-term thoughts on Intro to Philosophy

statue of Socrates, showing just the head

Socrates, by Ben Crowe, licensed CC BY 2.0 on Flickr.com

 

 

Classes for this term ended yesterday, and I have a few immediate thoughts/reflections after the term has finished, about my Introduction to Philosophy course that I wanted to write down so I don’t forget them when I’m planning for the next time!

Here are a few things I struggled with determining how to do best this term.

Lecture & non-lecture time during class

This class meets Mondays and Wednesdays for 50 minutes in a big group, and then students also attend one more 50-minute discussion group run by a Teaching Assistant. I run the M,W classes, and it’s often a struggle for me to figure out how best to balance lecture vs. active learning time in that class.

On one hand, there is a great deal of research literature showing that students learn better if they don’t only listen to lectures but also do something with what they’re learning. On the other hand, I do think lectures can be quite useful if done well (and I try my best!); plus, students need to have some kind of basic understanding before active learning on the material can be effective. This can be gotten through what they do outside of class, but just reading philosophy texts on one’s own, if one is new to philosophy, isn’t usually the best way to get that understanding. I have created a few videos to help students with some of the readings but these are time consuming to make and I haven’t made very many.

In addition, since students also attend a full discussion group meeting once a week, I feel like I don’t want to do too much in the way of activities in the M,W class because I need to leave some of that available for the other class.

I did a midterm survey to get feedback partway through the course, and most students seemed to think the balance of what we were doing in class was fine; some wanted a little more lecture, some wanted a little less, and there wasn’t a strong majority on one side or the other.

Still, I feel like I want to work on this more, partly because of the next thing.

What to include in lectures

One student on the midterm feedback survey made an important point: they said that they felt like the people who did the readings before class (which I ask students to do!) got punished, in a way, because the lectures often went back over the readings. I agree! I struggle with this too.

The issue with intro to philosophy courses is that philosophy texts are not always easy to read and understand, for those new to the field (and also sometimes even for those familiar with the field!). As a result, all of my experience as a student, a grad student TA, and visiting others’ philosophy courses at times, shows that we tend to ask students to do the reading before class and then we go back over the reading in class to clarify the arguments. It is of course critical for all of us to have the basics of the arguments before writing essays about the philosophical views.

But I think I can work on this further by having more guidance for students while they’re reading or just before class. So, videos to help break down the basics, or formative (non-graded) quizzes to help them get the basics before coming to class, e.g. This is not something that can be done quickly but I can build it up over time.

I also want to take more time in class to talk about how to take notes on philosophical texts, and find ways to encourage more note-taking while reading. One way would be to ask them to submit notes from time to time that are graded just for completion. I made that an optional way to earn participation marks this term and those who did it did a great job! The only thing that has kept me from making this required is the large number of students in this course (usually between 100 & 150), and the difficulty of keeping up with marking. But I’m going to give this some more serious thought.

Then we could do other things in class, like delve more deeply into potential criticisms of the arguments–if they have the basics first then we can go deeper in class.

Peer feedback on essays

Last year I asked students to submit their completed first essays for peer feedback: after they submitted their first essays, they shared with one other person who read the whole essay and gave feedback for the purpose of improving the writing for the second essay. On the student evaluations some students wanted to be able to use peer feedback before they submit the essay for a mark.

So I changed things this year and had students submit something for peer feedback before each essay. For the first essay they submitted a draft introduction paragraph with a thesis statement, plus topic sentences for each body paragraph. That was due a bit over a week before the essay, and then students got comments from two other students (ideally) before finalizing their essays. For the second essay we did something similar, though this time they could submit up to 350 words of a paragraph about one of the philosophers’ views, if they wanted, or the same kind of thing they submitted for the first essay. The purpose of the paragraph option was to get feedback on whether they got the philosophers’ views correct and on the balance between quotes and paraphrases in the paragraph.

We did the peer feedback online (on Canvas), and it worked mostly okay. The main concerns I had were that some people submitted work but didn’t give any feedback on others’ work. The system automatically assigns two other students’ work for each student who submitted something. So for the surprisingly significant number of people who didn’t do any peer feedback, those other students missed out on comments (the TAs and I offered to talk to students who didn’t get any feedback from any other students, to discuss their work–which is of course something any student could also do!).

I’m struggling with:

  • How valuable it is to get feedback on small snippets before submitting a full essay, as we did this year, or whether I should go back to having students provide feedback on a completed essay
    • If the latter, probably the option to rewrite the essay should be made available.
  • How to get students to actually do peer feedback online (make it worth more, perhaps)
    • Last year we did peer feedback in person–students could only participate if they came to class and exchanged their essay with someone else. This meant that students actually did it, but it also meant it couldn’t be anonymous. There are pros and cons for each!

 

Those are my initial thoughts here at the end of the term. I will do more reflecting after the student evaluations of teaching results are out!

PressEd 2018 Conference on Twitter

I participated in a “conference” that took place entirely on Twitter March 29, 2018–PressEd 2018, about using WordPress in Education. It was a very interesting format: all presentations were series of 10-15 tweets over the course of 15 minutes, leaving time for questions at the end.

All of the tweets were on the #pressedconf18 hashtag, so you can see them by searching that tag.

Or you can see each of the presentations as Twitter moments.

I did a presentation about connecting student blogs together through syndication, in the Arts One program I taught in for many years. You can see the Tweets from this below.

I really liked this conference, for a few reasons.

  • It didn’t feel like something I had to travel to in order to get a full experience, which meant it didn’t feel like some people got a different and better experience than others.
  • It was something I could dip into and out of during the day and didn’t feel bad about it because I knew it would all be available later.
  • The sessions were in small enough chunks to digest without feeling overwhelmed. One could get bite-sized thoughts and ideas that could percolate later. And there are lots of links to go explore for the things one is particularly interested in.
  • I was able to keep exactly on time because I created the tweets beforehand and then I scheduled them to be once a minute during my 15 minutes. I didn’t go over time or feel like I wished I had just five more minutes, for maybe once in my life.
  • The small character count kept me from being too wordy or trying to cover too much (which are issues I usually have). I have to say, though, this would have been much more challenging for me back in the 140-character limit days.

I didn’t get many questions or comments afterwards, but that was okay … I felt like others were dipping in and out just like I was, and plus–the sessions were really close to each other in timing and there wouldn’t have been time to have long conversations on the hashtag without busting into someone else’s series of tweets!

Here are the tweets I sent…  And looking back, I realize I really should have had more pictures or screen grabs or something. These are all just text and links, and many others had nice visuals. I hadn’t been thinking this way, but it makes sense to consider these tweets kind of like slides for a presentation, and I wouldn’t have slides that are *only* text. So I embedded some images here in my post, even though I didn’t do it in the original tweets.

Oh well…next time! I hope this format is used again by someone/some group (something for me to consider myself!).

 

Structure of Arts One

Screen shot of part of front page of Arts One Open site

 

Ooops–the link in the above tweet is wrong. It should be: http://artsone-open.arts.ubc.ca

Tag cloud of tags on Arts One Open (you can find student & prof blog posts, plus lecture recordings, plus podcasts through these tags)

Poster for Karasik’s guest lecture March 27, 2017.

 

Polarization and profits (#engageMOOC)

For topic 2 of #engageMOOC (Engagement in a Time of Polarization), we read an article by Chris Gilliard called “Power, Polarization and Tech,” and Chris was also part of live conversation for the course (I couldn’t join it live but watched the video recording). We also watched a couple of videos, and some of what by Zeynep Tufekci had to say in a Ted talk from September 2017 really stood out to me. Here I’m going to present some somewhat random reflections on both of these–things that really made me think.

Gilliard

I and a few others engaged in some annotations on his article “Power, Polarization and Tech” through hypothes.is. I noted there that, while I’m embarrassed to admit it, I hadn’t really fully grasped how social media, and perhaps other aspects of the web based on making money through keeping our attention, are designed in order to increase polarization. “Polarization is by design, for profit,” Gilliard notes, because it keeps our attention on the platforms that drive it (I mentioned this in my previous post for #engageMOOC as well).

It’s not just that Facebook and Twitter (for example) attract people who get enraged and abuse each other, nor that they don’t do enough to stop abuse (though they don’t), it’s also that people getting angry and outraged and posting about that new horrible thing the other side did is what these platforms require in order to continue to be financially viable…it’s what makes them tick. It’s built into the design of their profits so it’s not going to go away. At least not so long as those who create and run the platforms make their money through our attention and our data.

In the recording of the live discussion with Chris for the course, he points out how many of the apps and social platforms we use suck up our data in ways we don’t realize, and do with it things that we don’t know. He noted that when you update apps, you should re-do your privacy settings, which I hadn’t thought about before. The problem with this is not just “do you have anything to hide” but also that you have lost agency if you don’t know what’s happening. You can read the Terms of Service, of course, but they are often vague and don’t really tell you what is happening with your data. And it can end up, through being sold to others, affecting what kind of insurance you’re able to get (for example). Again, the issue here is in part about agency, about being in control, and we’re losing that with regard to our data.

Which is why, in my previous post, I wondered if one way to help address this issue would be to rethink how we engage on social media and in other apps. We have gotten used to the idea that the web is free (of cost in the sense of money) and so all of these wonderful free services seem like just the way things should be. But of course we are paying in other ways, and not just with our data; we are paying with divides between people built on outrage that is part of the bread and butter of our free services. And as we’ve been hearing lately, it’s all too easy for people to create bots who will stir up that outrage for political (or other) gains.

I have started to make a point of finding online apps and platforms I think are useful and paying for them. Partly this is to support those who I think are providing good things in the world, and partly because I think that this is one small way forward: if the people who create such things can make money in other ways, there will be less need for us to pay in data and attention (at least, I hope so). I realize I’m privileged in this regard; not everyone can pay for such things. And Gilliard notes in the live discussion the limitations of individual actions–just because I take shorter showers doesn’t mean things are going to change. I agree that bigger efforts on a larger structural level are required too. But smaller efforts aiming towards what one wants to see are at least something (and Gilliard notes they aren’t a problem, just not enough usually).

That’s one of the many reasons I prefer Mastodon to Twitter: I pay with money, not my data. And there are actually enforced rules against abuse (and a specific no-Nazi policy, as the instance I’m on is based in Germany). No emphasis on “freedom of speech is always good and we just need more of it to drown out the Nazis” kind of rhetoric on the instance I’ve joined. Find me at clhendricksbc@mastodon.social. I’m also at chendricks@scholar.social, but I post less there.

 

Tufekci

Zeynep Tufekci, by Bengt Oberger, licensed CC BY-SA 4.0 on Wikimedia Commons

I really found her Sept. 2017 Ted talk quite powerful. I don’t have a lot of time so I’ll just mention one or two things in particular. Tufekci was talking about machine-learning algorithms and how the mountains of data that are being provided about us through our interactions with platforms and apps can lead to personalization of content. Some of it seems innocuous, like when you look at some product online and then ads for that product follow you around in other apps and platforms. Some of it even seems beneficial, like how you might get discounts on something you want, like tickets to Vegas. But it can be dangerous too, because the algorithms may realize that the people who are really likely to buy tickets to Vegas are those addicted to gambling, and since they have no ethics the algorithms will target such people. And further, they can work to provide you with more and more of worse and worse content once you start, e.g., watching something a little bit fringe or violent on YouTube–the suggestions on the right are poised to take you further and further down that path (which, as a parent  of a pre-teen boy I really paid attention to).

One thing that hit me in particular was that the personalization these algorithms can do can lead to use getting different content in our social and news feeds–that’s not news to me, but Tufecki pointed out something I hadn’t really focused on before: “As a public and as citizens, we no longer know if we’re seeing the same information or what anybody else is seeing, and without a common basis of information, little by little, public debate is becoming impossible ….”

If the algorithms are showing us different news stories (e.g. on Facebook) and posts from different people with very different political leanings (because they think you will like one kind of post and I another, and we don’t see the other posts even when we’re following the same people), then no wonder we end up unable to have effective public discussions.

I guess I have always held hope in the idea that people who genuinely want to come together and find solutions will do so. There are many people who really want to consider various sides carefully, who want to listen and consider the “other side” and whether there is anything there they should be paying attention to. But people like that are going to have a really hard time coming together if they don’t even have a shared basis of information or if the “other side” they see is interpreted through lenses that demonize them because this is what keeps your attention, and this is what the algorithms think you want in order to keep your attention.

 

Awareness as a first step?

This is all very depressing and all I can hope right now is that helping people see what is going on will encourage us to change the structures that continue to support it. Gilliard talks about looking at the EU as a start, where some of the privacy regulations are much more stringent than in the US as regards companies like Google and Facebook collecting data. It may take governmental regulation to help us move in the right direction. But it’s also going to take awareness on many people’s part to even see the problem.

 

 

“No devices” policies and accessibilty

 

The times they are a’changing, by Brett Jordan, licensed CC BY 2.0 on Flickr

 

I have had a couple of conversations here and there with faculty and graduate students about students using electronic devices in the classroom, and about policies that some instructors have saying that students aren’t allowed to use them at all (or that there are periods during a class where they must be put away, but other times when they can be used). I knew that sometimes students really need devices to succeed, particularly if they have certain kinds of disabilities; but I sometimes struggled to give good examples of when that might be the case, to help others see why electronic devices are critical for some students. In this post I’ll be giving a number of examples.

Can’t students just be excepted from the policy if they have academic accommodations?

Most instructors who won’t allow electronic devices in their classes make exceptions for students with documented disabilities that require device use for them to learn well (in most places such accommodations are required, I think). But there are still some concerns with this having the policy plus exemptions:

  • Students with those needs now have to stand out in a class in ways they wouldn’t otherwise, and in ways that could make them feel like they are divulging something they would rather not (and shouldn’t have to) divulge to others. They now stand out as the only one in the class (or, if they’re lucky, one of two) who gets to use a device while other students wonder just why they get to use one. I have seen a couple of students on social media say that as soon as they see a “no devices” policy on a syllabus they drop the class because of this concern.
  • Sometimes students’ needs may not quite get to the level required for official accommodations, but using devices makes it so that they can learn at the same level as those without those needs.
  • Getting the documentation required for accommodation can be costly, depending on where you live and whether the health care system covers that sort of thing. Some students may not be able to afford this cost. Tests needed can run into the hundreds of dollars or more. And sometimes they have to be redone every few years.

Now, I do see the need for requiring documentation for accommodations; I’m not saying we shouldn’t do that. It is important that all students who have demonstrated needs are treated impartially, and so there are rules applied to all that say what needs to be done for accommodations. But the question is: is it so important to stop device use that it means some students won’t be able to succeed as well in the course because of the second or third bullet point, above?

Some examples of when devices are critical to learning

To help make the case to others, I wanted better examples than I had already for why some students really rely on electronic devices to learn. So I asked on social media, and I got a long list! I’m going to paraphrase them here; some people divulged their own struggles, and even though they did so on a public social media site, I didn’t ask if I could embed those posts in this new medium of a blog post. So I’m just paraphrasing what people told me. And I’ve made a rough separation of them into categories.

 Motor control or other issues with hands

  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Arthritis
  • Chronic pain in hands
  • Dystonia
  • Ehlers-Danlos syndrome
  • Eczema can sometimes be bad enough that bending fingers as much as is needed for writing is difficult because broken skin
  • There can be difficulties with fine motor control in: ADHD, Autism (including Asperberger’s), Tourettes

Visual and auditory reasons

  • If slides are posted ahead of a class meeting, students with visual difficulties can follow along on their computers with adaptive tech that allows for magnification, font changes, or other changes to make the slides easier for them to see. (One person who posted this said that posting slides ahead of time can help all students, since they can go stay on a slide while they’re making notes about it even if the instructor moves forward, or they can go back to review something while the lecture is happening to better understand what is being discussed at that moment).
  • Students with visual difficulties may be able to touch type but have a harder time with handwriting; those with lowvision can can type on a computer and then either:
    • enlarge the font, change the font to one that is easier to read, or
    • print on a braille printer for later reading, or
    • use text-to-speech software to listen to the notes later.
  • Students with auditory issues (including low hearing, deafness, or Auditory Processing Disorder) may use software to have spoken words translated into written words in real time on their devices.

Cognitive and emotional reasons

  • Some students may have difficulty with eye contact (sometimes anxiety or autism can manifest this way), and need somewhere else to look.
  • Dyslexia and dysgraphia: students can look up words or use spell check to get them right in their notes
  • Problems with executive function can mean organizing many physical papers is difficult but having a single device with files organized into folders is easier

Language learners

  • Students who are still working on expertise in the language of instruction: they can look up words they don’t understand (Google is pretty good at fixing spelling if you have just heard the word but don’t know how to spell it).
  • Such students could also use devices to record lectures (with permission), since it can be hard to pay attention and process for long periods in a language you are not already expert in.

 

This is still not a comprehensive list, and as one person said on Twitter, there never can be one, since technology and adaptive tools are continually changing, and people may be using tech to support their learning in ways that no one ever thought of or even realizes.

 

Sitting in a certain part of the room

Many times, instructors justify “no devices” policies or “lids down” time in class in order to encourage students to avoid distracting themselves, and in particular, distracting others. The latter can be accomplished by asking students with devices to sit in a particular part of the room, and those who don’t want to be possibly distracted by others to sit elsewhere. I sometimes hear people saying that, given the physical makeup of laptops, they ask students with devices to sit in the back of the room.

This works from the perspective of those not wanting distractions to not have to sit behind those students with laptops who may be doing things on them unrelated to the class, but there’s a worry from the point of accessibility: sometimes those students who use laptops because they need them also have vision issues, and sitting in the back is going to make the situation worse for them (e.g., if the professor writes on the board; they may have the slides in advance and can look at those magnified on their screens at least).

So perhaps a better way of approaching the issue is to ask students with devices to sit on the sides of the room, whether in front or back? This is a genuine question…I am not sure this might not raise other problems, but at the moment it seems a possible compromise. I would want to make sure there is enough space on the sides of the room for all the students who want to use devices.

 

Your examples

Do you know of other examples of when/why students might need to use electronic devices in classes in order to succeed academically? Please put them in the comments below!

 

Creating meaningful communities (#engageMOOC)

I am participating in a two-week long MOOC called “Engagement in a Time of Polarization,” hosted on EdX. It’s related to the Antigonish 2.0 project (you can read Bonnie Stewart‘s May 2017 Educause article for more: “Antigonish 2.0: A Way for Higher Ed to Save the Web.”

The course is broadly about what the title says: how to engage people together when the context around us emphasizes polarization. At least, that’s what I’m getting from the bit I’ve done of the course so far. As Chris Gilliard notes in his post “Power, Polarization, and Tech,” polarization is profitable for social media and many other parts of the web: “Polarization keys engagement, and engagement/attention are the what keep us on platforms.” So how do we engage with one another, create meaningful communities, work together to address issues we face in our local contexts, when our digital lives are influenced by moves towards polarization?

Meaningful participatory communities

Today I watched three videos in the course, from people working on different aspects of creating meaningful communities, of helping to create “participatory public engagement” (in the words of the introductory video for Topic 1 of the course). The Highlander Center in Tennessee, USA, is one group working on such efforts. According to the video interview of two people from the Center, (among other things) they bring people together to learn from each other about issues in their own communities, plan actions to address them, and carry those out. The emphasis here is on people bringing their own experiences, their knowledges and cultural practices, and learning from each other through those.

This sounded like an amazing group (they’ve been at it since the 1930s), and I couldn’t help thinking: okay, so the people involved learn and take action, but what about the next generation? And the next? How do we build something like this into just part of what it means to be living in a society (or at least, a democratic one)? I suppose one can do so through the three levels of the Angtigonish movement: local groups, k-12 and higher education, international networks.

Meaningful participatory communities on the web?

How might online platforms or other aspects of digital life contribute to such communities? Right now, often they don’t. As noted above, much of social media is based on profits that can be made through engagement, for which polarization is an important driver. What other opportunities exist?

I like to think blogs are one option here: they can encourage longer writing, longer reflections, deeper engagement. And then through comments people can connect together. But I’m finding there aren’t that many people commenting lately, whether on my blog or others’ (this is purely anecdotal!), and I wonder if social media is taking its place. Just do a quote-tweet instead and that’s your comment! And maybe doing so can connect more people (the message about the post gets amplified beyond one’s own original message on social media, e.g.). Still, social media posts, while permanent in some ways, can often be hard to find later, whereas blog posts and comments are a bit easier I think. Not to mention that social media platforms can filter what you see, or when you see it.

drawing of an elephant with an "m" and "joinmastodon.org" underneath it

Find Mastodon logos and stickers through their press kit at http://joinmastodon.org

Another interesting option is social media that isn’t driven by profit. I posted about Mastodon on this course’s discussion board as one such option. The discussion question was about this quote and whether it is correct:

“It’s not that there’s anything particularly healthy about cyberspace in itself, but the way in which cyberspace breaks down barriers. Cyberspace makes person-to-person interaction much more likely in an already fragmented society. The thing that people need desperately is random encounter. That’s what community has.”

– John Perry Barlow, 1995, from http://www.lionsroar.com/bell-hooks-talks-to-john-perry-barlow/

I posted on the discussion board and then realized that that is not visible to people outside the course, and also that it will disappear once the course is finished in two weeks.

So I’m reproducing my post below.


There are probably never any truly random encounters in online spaces, because where you go depends on your past, your current experiences, your desires, etc., and others end up there too because of their context…but I have found that I have been able to reach out beyond my fairly small social bubble online through a new-ish social media platform, Mastodon (http://joinmastodon.org). When I joined in the Fall of 2016 it was a small space with a small number of users, few of whom were from my own, already-established online circles. As soon as I made my first public post someone replied to welcome me, and for awhile there was a culture of welcoming new people with a friendly reply, which I joined in as well. I got to know a number of people in those early days, some of whom are still there and some of whom have moved on. But it felt like a small community of friendly folks that I didn’t meet randomly, but that led to connections I would not have made on my usual social circles online.

Now Mastodon has gotten much bigger, but the nature of how it works still fosters small communities if one wants them. It is a federated social network, which means no one big person or company owns all of it. You join an “instance,” which can be big or small, general or focused on particular interests, and run by one or a group of people. The code is open source and anyone with the tech know-how can spin up an instance (and the helpful thing to do is to contribute to your instance host’s expenses and time with a regular donation such as on Patreon or something like that). Each instance has its own rules and policies; many are much stricter on hate speech and harassment, for example, than what you’ll find on Twitter.

But the beauty of federation is that you can still talk with people on other instances. You can either just see the posts from people on your own instance, or on all instances that yours federates with (usually, if one person follows someone on another instance, then that leads to the instances connecting to each other; but this may differ according to different instances’ rules/practices).

Not random encounters, but expanding circles. the ability to stay in a small community or branch outwards, The ability to be on an instance with policies you agree with and people you want to spend time with. And while there are disagreements and some ugliness at times, it is nowhere near the deep polarization and horror I sometimes see on places like Twitter.


I should also mention that there is even a co-op instance on Mastodon, where the members collectively run the instance, decide on policies, etc.: social.coop

I am not claiming that Mastodon will solve all our social ills…far from it. But I think it’s a move in the right direction because the way it’s structured has the capacity for instances to focus on engagement rather than attention, connection rather than polarization … in a way I don’t see current mainstream social media platforms doing.

And if you don’t want your attention and your data to be the product, be willing to put forward a little money to support your instance host! :)

 

Creating accessible documents

I am collecting a set of links with information about creating accessible documents (e.g., MS Word, PDF, Power Point). This is in part for a Teaching with Technology showcase at UBC Dec. 7, 2017.

I’m collecting them on a page on the UBC Wiki, but they are also embedded below…


 

The following are links to resources that can help when creating documents like MS Word, Power Point slides, PDF and more, to ensure they are accessible.

  • Two modules from an accessibility in broadcast media course from Humber College talk about creating accessible documents: Part One and Part Two
  • If you use Google Docs, Google Sheets, or Google Slides, Grackle Docs has accessibility checkers that can help ensure accessible documents/slides.
source: http://wiki.ubc.ca/Sandbox:Accessible_Documents_Links

Creativity in the Open workshop

 

Tweet with images from the Creativity in the Open workshop: one of our icon jam/dance jam, and the other of a music jam right after it.

In October 2017 I participated in a workshop at Thompson Rivers University called Creativity in the Open. This two-day workshop featured sessions on music, drawing, dance, educational technology, and much more.

I and Rajiv Jhangiani facilitated a session called an “icon jam.” This was based on a session I had participated in during ETUG‘s spring workshop 2017, facilitated by Jason Toal and Leva Lee. Jason has posted some information about the icon jam on the Simon Fraser University EdMedia site.

The basic idea of the icon jam, as I understood it from the ETUG workshop in 2017, is to get people to quickly draw icons for a set of concepts, compare them, and discuss what one can learn from this activity. Drawing quickly is key because you don’t want people to get hung up on trying to make their drawings look really nice. The focus is on the concept and getting it across in a picture rather than a word, and it doesn’t matter if the picture is drawn really well or not.

The group generates a list of icons to draw, and then each person has 30-60 seconds to draw each one (up to you how long you want to give people; we gave people 45 seconds for the first couple of rounds, and then 30 seconds after that). We gave out coloured index cards and people drew each concept on the same colour card. So, e.g., here is our list of concepts and colours:

  • help (green)
  • risk (yellow)
  • spring (pink)
  • permission (blue)
  • power (purple)

Then, when everyone has done their drawings, we put all the same coloured cards together and do a gallery walk. We discuss similarities and differences, icons that stand out as different from the rest, which ones we find surprising, etc. During this or afterwards, the group discusses the value of this kind of activity for teaching and learning. For example, I have found that this is a way to get at different nuances and meanings of concepts in a way that you don’t immediately get just by using the word. For complex philosophical concepts like “justice” or “morality” or “good” or “personhood” or “self” (etc.), this could be a way to generate different understandings of the ideas.

Another thing it brings out the ways in which our social, historical, cultural backgrounds influence how we put ideas into pictures. And it can generate discussion around that: why do several people use X icon for Y idea? What lies behind that? And is that social, historical, cultural influence limiting how we understand the idea?

We added a twist to the icon jam, though: Rajiv brought in a movement aspect to it after we were finished drawing and discussing the icons. We took the same list of icons and, in groups, turned each one into a movement. Then the groups came together and created a dance. It was really fun and wonderful to see that people weren’t too self-conscious doing it. We think perhaps warming up by talking about not worrying about one’s drawing, and just drawing even if one thinks one is no good, might have helped. Plus, we already had the icons for the concepts and that could help spark ideas for a movement for each concept.

If you would like to see our planning notes for the icon jam session, they are on a Google doc.

This reflection by Tanya Dorey nicely explains more about the session (and has photos of the icos!), as well as how the whole Creativity in the Open workshop came about. It was such a fantastic experience–two days of being creative with wonderful people!

eCampus Ontario TESS 2017 keynote

On November 20, 2017, I’m giving a keynote at the eCampus Ontario Technology Enabled Seminar and Showcase 2017. They asked me to come and speak about students contributing to Open Educational Resources, so I wrote the following title and blurb:

Adding Value to the World: Students Producing OER

When speaking with students about open educational resources, reducing or eliminating cost of learning materials often resonates with them first; but we need not think of students only as consumers of OER. There can be significant learning benefits when involving students in creating or adapting OER, and they can thereby add value to the world outside of their classes as well. In this way we can reduce reliance on what David Wiley calls “disposable assignments” and practice open pedagogy. Christina Hendricks will discuss various ways of thinking about what “open pedagogy” might mean, provide examples of how students can be involved in producing OER, and share faculty and student perceptions of the benefits—and challenges—of doing so.

But as I was looking at the program, I noticed that the fantastic Heather Ross is speaking on virtually the same topic right after my keynote: “Open Pedagogy: Moving from the throw-away assignment to student creating learning resources.” Heather and I spoke and decided to move in slightly different directions with our sessions.

Mine has changed a little, as these things do–the title has changed entirely, though what I talk about sticks pretty closely to the description above.

I like to post the slides in editable format here on my blog in case anyone wants to reuse them, but the file is too big for this site! I stopped using SlideShare for various reasons, including that they stopped letting you re-upload slides to the same URL after editing them, and because you can only download slides if you have an account.

So until I figure out something else, I’m posting the slides in an editable PPTX format on my Open Science Framework account, here.

You can see them on Speaker Deck below (but that only allows PDFs, not editable files…clearly I need to reorganize my slide life!).

Oh, and here are some notes I wrote up to help me with some of the slides. There are only notes for slides for which I don’t already have the information in my head. This is not a transcript; it is mostly quotes from others to help me remember what to say about what they’ve done, or what they’ve said. URLs for all the quotes are included. The following are the same file in two different formats.

TESS-ecampusontario-Notes-Nov2017 (MS Word)

TESS-ecampusontario-Notes-Nov2017 (PDF)

Open in the Life of a College Student–initial questions

I’m participating in a remote do-a-thon with Open Con 2017: Open in the life of a college student.

The description for this project:

This project is intended to bring collaborators together to create a new infographic that presents the intersections of various Open movements and applies them to the daily lives of college students. The project supports the “connecting with other open movements” and “empowering the next generation” priorities discussed in Cape Town Open Education Declaration +10: http://www.capetowndeclaration.org/cpt10/

This resource is inspired by the Association of Research Libraries’ “Fair Use in a Day in the Life of a College Student” infographic: http://www.arl.org/focus-areas/copyright-ip/fair-use/3831-fair-use-in-a-day-in-the-life-of-a-college-student-infographic

The resulting resource will be shared with a CC-BY license, and the participation of all contributors will be acknowledged.

 

We are getting started by answering a series of questions, which you can see on the link to the project above. My answers were getting long there on the github page, so I decided to write them here on my blog and put a link to this post there!

Here they are…


 

1. Which of the Open movements (Open Access, Open Data, Open Education, Open Science, Open Source, other…) does your work connect most fully to?

Open education I think is the one my work connects most fully to. I am a faculty member at a university, and I am also the Deputy Academic Director of a Teaching & Learning Centre. Still, I know a fair bit about open access and am very interested in open data too.

 

2. What inspired you to begin working in Open? Where were you in your education/career?

When I was on sabbatical I took a connectivist MOOC called ETMOOC (educational technology and media mooc), and that’s where I learned about open education. Then I took a MOOC from the Open University called “Open Education” and learned a lot more! This was about four years ago.

Why did I start working in open? It’s hard to say…it just made sense to me that I would share what I’m doing in terms of teaching and learning in case it was useful to others. I am a teacher, and sharing things with others for the sake of education just made sense. And I am being paid in large part from public funds at my university; this indicates to me that the benefits of what I’m doing should be more widely available (besides just the fact that I think they should generally).

 

3. What values do you consider to be foundational for the Open movement you identified in question 1 (that which most embodies your work)? Why are these values important for the community?

This is a big question and hard to answer in a short span of time (which is all I have at the moment). Quickly, though:

  • equity: of access to educational materials and activities, of meaningful participation, of contributions to knowledge
    • so things like Open Educational Resources, plus open pedagogy, and accessibility to people with disabilities, etc., are relevant here
  • autonomy: students being able to guide their own learning (to the extent feasible), to choose their educational paths, to show their knowledge
    • this is a value in open pedagogy
  • diversity and inclusion: emphasizing the value of participating in teaching and learning activities with others who have different experiences, backgrounds, views
  • improving knowledge: by making it more accessible and by supporting contributions from many

Those are a few off the top of my head…

 

4. Which of these values are shared with other Open movements? What else do you have in common?

I think the idea of improving knowledge, or a product, or code, by including more and diverse contributors may be shared by other open movements (e.g., open source, open science). Equity and access are shared by open access movements I believe.

 

5. In what ways are you impacted by Open in your day-to-day activities? What open tools do you use? Where do you share your work? How do you discover/consume/engage with the work of others? What are some of the indirect benefits of Open in your daily life?

This is also a big question! I’ll just say a few things.

  • I share my educational and other materials with a CC license: slides from classes, assignments, syllabus, slides for presentations, etc. My course websites are public, on WordPress.
  • I also share reflections on teaching and learning here on my blog!
  • I discover and engage with the work of others mainly through social media: I mostly use Twitter but also Mastodon. I also read others’ blog posts and sometimes comment on them (I should do more commenting!). I work with others on projects partly through communication tools like Slack, partly through shared documents on Google Docs or etherpad, and also through video chat tools.
  • Indirect benefits: I know a lot of people from multiple parts of the world that I connect with daily and consider friends, even though I’ve never met many of them! But also, because of my work in open education I have gotten some professional benefits: I have been able to participate in conferences, be invited to give talks, publish papers, etc.

 

6. What concerns/risks limit or prevent you from engaging in open practices? How do these concerns intersect with the values identified in questions 3 & 4?

I am very careful about asking students to participate in open projects/to release their work into the open, because it is their work and they have the right to decide what happens to it. If they choose to make their work open, that’s great; if not, that’s great too. And when they do I try to ensure they always have an option to remove it from public view later if they wish, either by their own actions (i.e., they have control over it rather than me), or by contacting me if it’s a page I control–the former is preferable.

I am also paying more attention lately to when open is risky/problematic, such as noted in Tara Robertson’s post about a recent talk, “Not All Information Wants to be Free”. I also attended an Open Access Week session in Vancouver called “Tensions and Risk in Open Scholarship”; you can see a collaborative notes document from that session. One of the participants in that session was Dave Gaertner from the University of British Columbia, and he wrote a thought-provoking post called “Towards a Pedagogy of Closure”. This, and some of the notes from the “Tensions and risk” event are about the risks for Indigenous communities of openness.

I recently learned about Traditional Knowledge labels and licenses, which is a way to start more deeply engaging with the risks of open for Indigenous communities.

 

7. Which of these tools/activities/practices/values/beliefs also extend to students? Does Open offer benefits that are unique to students? How are concerns/risk similar? How are they different?

I think the benefits can include: ability to contribute to wider knowledge so that one’s work as a student doesn’t just disappear into the void after it receives a grade but does some good in the world. Open pedagogy often involves students having more autonomy, more choice over what they are learning and how, and how they show their learning through projects. Students can also benefit from being connected to wider communities, beyond the confines of their particular class, depending on what kinds of activities they’re engaged in and what the audiences for those are. They could connect with people who are experts in their field, with community groups from whom they can learn day-to-day realities of life that may not be obvious in a class, and more.

I think the risks include things like online bullying or harassment or even threats (if they are on social media or release their work onto sites like blogs or youtube). They may wish later that they hadn’t released their early educational work so publicly because later they may completely disagree with what they had thought earlier, and yet now the work is impossible to delete from the web completely. Those are just a couple of risks that come to mind.

 

8. What changes about the experience with Open tools etc. as students progress from high school to undergrad to grad school and beyond? What values/practices remain consistent regardless of age and expertise?

I think one has to be more careful with younger students and privacy; as students go beyond k-12 and into university and grad school, more autonomy with choices around their privacy makes sense (though some autonomy in high school makes sense too). In any and all cases, learning about the benefits and dangers of openness, including in terms of privacy, is critical. And being sure students and teachers know what data is collected about them through which platforms they choose to use, and for what purposes, and who has access to the data, is also crucial. That goes not only for “open” platforms but others as well!