Category Archives: My presentations

Join us virtually at our session at #OpenEd17

laptop on knees of a person with a dog sitting next to them on a couch

Laptop & dog image licensed CC0 from


I am working with a fantastic group of people on a session at the upcoming Open Education Conference (Oct. 11-13, Anaheim, California), and we are looking for people who want to join us virtually.

Our session info:

Friday, Oct. 13, 3:30-4:25 pm Pacific time (California)

How can we destroy the open education movement? Conversations about ethics.

Openness is a process that requires and benefits from critical reflection. We believe that facilitating and stimulating critical discussion/debate about the contours and direction of the open education movement (OEM) is essential to its flourishing. In this spirit, the proposed session is intended as a space for participants to unearth and critically explore timely, perhaps uncomfortable questions that may not be at the surface of what we are doing as individuals or as collaborators within the OEM. The facilitators in this session do not have answers. Rather, we host an unconventional, interactive format designed to expose difficult topics and support innovative interventions. The session format supports both in-person and virtual (online) attendees working together on outlining and discussing pressing ethical questions in the OEM. This session allows participants to engage in a critical conversation that is liberating, paradigm challenging, constructive, and inspiring.

Session organizers/facilitators (the following list is those who have been active in planning during the last few meetings):

  • Karen Cangialosi
  • Robin DeRosa
  • Gill Green
  • Christina Hendricks
  • Rajiv Jhangiani
  • Jamison Miller
  • Tara Robertson
  • Scott Robison

Tara and I will not be onsite, but rather joining virtually.

We are looking for others who would like to join virtually as well

I volunteer with Virtually Connecting, but this isn’t quite the same thing: those conversations are usually live streamed on YouTube and also recorded; this one won’t be either live streamed or recorded. It’s just a matter of getting more voices in the room who couldn’t attend the conference in person.

There will be a bit of introduction to the session, but most of the time will be spent in small groups doing discussions, and we envision the virtual participants (including Tara and I) being one of the small groups. We will also have a discussion with the whole room, including the virtual participants, towards the end of the session.

Might you be interested in joining us? If so, please fill out the form linked below to let me know and I’ll get in touch with you with details! We may have to limit the group to a certain number of people, so first come, first in! :)

Form to fill out:

Any questions? You could ask me on Twitter: @clhendricksbc



Mobile teaching and learning

On July 26 I participated in an elearning symposium at the University of Washington-Bothell, virtually, on the invitation of Todd Conaway. There were numerous presenters, many from far and wide, including Alan Levine in Arizona and Viv Rolfe in the UK.

Each of the presenters only had 15 minutes to speak, on something related to the symposium’s theme of “Learning Everywhere.” And since several of us were coming in virtually, we didn’t see the rest of the symposium. Fortunately, Todd did a writeup of the whole day, in a blog post.

I wanted to share here what I said in my 15 minutes, in case it’s useful to others.

college students sitting on stone steps of a building, three of them with phones in their hands

People of Berkeley – Meeting Place, shared on Flickr by John Morgan, licensed CC BY 2.0

The title and description of my short presentation were:

Teaching & learning on the go: students and faculty

Our students are learning pretty much everywhere: on the bus, at coffee shops, walking around town…. What can we as teachers to do facilitate that learning? And what can we ourselves do on the go in our teaching and learning practice? Christina will provide a few ideas on these questions, and ask for participants to share their thoughts too.

So yeah, that’s what I had planned. But I didn’t get to that last part of people sharing their thoughts too. I finished what I had planned to say with maybe 1 minute left, so there wasn’t time for discussion while I was there. 15 minutes is hard to squish things into, and I probably took on too much for that time slot. But anyway. Here are my thoughts on the two questions above, expanded a bit from what I actually said in the symposium.

What can we do to facilitate students learning on the go?

Or at least, to avoid hindering it.

How are students learning on mobile?

I use my smart phone a lot. Or at least I thought I did, until I realized how much more students in my classes were using them. I use my phone for email, for social media, for maps, for looking up things on the web… but when it comes to doing a deep dive into things I’d consider part of my “work,” I usually switch over to a laptop or a desktop computer. I still feel like there are things (like writing a blog post!) that are much easier for me to do on a computer interface rather than a mobile one.

But a couple of years ago I watched students in a class reading and commenting on their peers’ essays on their phones. These were 1500-2000 word essays–fairly substantial ones that required a lot of scrolling. But rather than lug a laptop around, they preferred to do it on their phones. And they were not terribly pleased when the particular reading/commenting platform didn’t work very well on mobile.

I have witnessed students taking notes during class on their phones. When you think they are doing social media or texting during class, they might be actually taking notes!

And I am told, though I haven’t seen this myself, that students have complained when they are trying to do academic work on their phones on the bus, on the LMS, and their data signal cuts out in certain “dead zones” on the bus routes. This means they lose what they have already put into an assignment–like a discussion board post or a quiz.

I spoke with someone at our teaching and learning centre who said that medical and dental students working in clinics have wanted to access the LMS on mobile while they’re doing this work, to find an article or something else relevant to what they’re doing at the time. So having a good mobile interface was important.

Many students are truly learning everywhere: on the bus, in cafés, sitting outside on campus between classes, on breaks at their workplace…. And it may be more likely they’d use a phone than a tablet or laptop in many of these spaces/places because the phone is with them at all times, and has a data plan (not everyone has a data plan for their tablets).

How can we facilitate this learning?

The first step is one I didn’t really think about carefully until I started working on this presentation. But now it seems obvious: look at your course site on a phone! Honestly, I’ve had course sites on WordPress for years and I think only once or twice have I looked at them on my phone, and only when I needed to look something up really quickly on the go. I haven’t checked for usability on a small screen. For example,

  • Some of the items below may be less relevant if you’re using an LMS and don’t really have much choice in how things show up on mobile, but it’s useful to see what the site looks like for students on a phone regardless.


  • What do the menu items look like on a phone? Do you have a super long menu with many sub-items, like I do on my WordPress courses? How does that play out on a small screen?


  • What do threaded discussions look like? Sometimes when I’m reading blog posts or articles on my phone the threads end up getting pushed more and more to the right side of the screen to the point where some of them end up being really narrow, with just a few words on each line–very annoying to read.


  • How does the text look on a phone? The html text should hopefully be large enough to be readable (and most course sites are now able to be responsive to screen size to facilitate that). But do you have large blocks of text that look not so large on a big screen but seem to scroll endlessly on a small one? Do you need them to be that large?


  • Are you giving readings in PDF or Word that are near impossible to read on a phone? Do they have to be in PDF or Word? Could they also be in some other format that is easier to read on a small screen, like copied and pasted into a page on the site itself? This is often better for screen readers anyway–they may not be able to read PDFs well.


Another thought that came from someone I talked to at our teaching and learning centre: consider whether it’s really necessary to assign students to have long discussion board posts, which are hard to do on mobile. And when the data or wifi cuts out sometimes you lose the whole thing. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve lost comments on blogs when I’ve tried to save them and something has gone wrong and it takes me back to the comment page and my comment is gone. It’s really frustrating, and to the point now where I tend not to give comments if I’m on a phone, unless it’s something short I don’t mind writing again if it’s lost. If it’s pedagogically important for students to write long comments, then okay, but consider whether it is necessary. Maybe they could write more, shorter comments instead, and reply to others?

There are likely many other things to consider, and I’d love to hear your ideas in the comments!


What can instructors do on the go in their teaching and learning practice?

This part got cut pretty short in the presentation, but that’s okay because it’s the part I had the least to say about. Again, I feel like I do most of my work on a laptop or desktop. And while the laptop can be taken practically anywhere, it doesn’t really feel any different to me than a desktop. The OS is the same, the capabilities are the same. I guess having a laptop with me most of the time means I can work pretty much anywhere, anytime, but to me that is a dangerous thing (work creeping into personal life!). Still, here are a couple of thoughts about what mobile learning allows me to do in my own teaching and learning practice.

First, when I think about learning everywhere, one thing I think about is people being in many different places learning together. And I’ve done a lot of that, with online video meetings. I have an online meeting 4-5 times a month, it seems, working with people in various parts of the world on projects, or having conversations with people who are at a conference through something called Virtually Connecting (a way for those who can’t attend a conference to talk to some of those who are there), or just having a conversation about teaching and learning or other things. And of course, there are things like open online courses that bring people from lots of different places together to learn (the courses ETMOOC, Open Education, and DS106 are just some of the ones I’ve taken).

I also think about bringing people from elsewhere into the classroom, virtually. Last Spring, in an interdisciplinary, team-taught course called Arts One, we brought comics artist and visual theorist Nick Sousanis in to give a one-hour guest lecture, virtually. It worked really nicely, even though we were in a terrible room where he could only see about 1/4 of the students at any given time because of the room setup. The elearning symposium at UW-Bothell I was speaking at was another great example–bring in people from various parts of the world to speak at your professional development workshop!

I spoke with someone at our Teaching and Learning Centre who provided another idea for what can change in our teaching when we and students have access to mobile technology. She had spoken with a professor who asked students to take their phones outside (they were actually locked out of a building for a little while for a fire alarm I think) and take photos of something that represents a concept they were discussing in class. This sort of thing could be adapted to many different learning contexts, I think.

Finally, I was trying to think of what I do on mobile that is just actually better done on mobile than on a desktop or laptop, and there are two things:

  • There are apps that you can use to make a video out of a set of slides, with a voiceover, that allow you to draw on the slides while you’re recording. And this is done nicely and easily with a finger or stylus on a table. Educreations is one such app, though I haven’t tried it–I have heard of it and gotten an endorsement from someone I trust. But it does cost a fair bit of money if you want to use its best features. There used to be an app called PlayBack (I think) that did something similar and was much cheaper (you didn’t have to sign up your students, either). It doesn’t seem to exist anymore.
    • There must be other such things out there but I can’t find them. Help?


  • I have spent hours sometimes meticulously creating diagrams on Power Point slides with shapes and lines/arrows. And then I have to move something and the whole thing gets screwed up. Drawing on a tablet is much easier. Paper by 53 is a drawing app that has “smart shapes” where you draw something like a circle or triangle and it snaps into place as a nice-looking circle or triangle, and you can easily add lines and such as well. It just looks nice and you can save as an image file and upload to a slide. Of course, you can’t edit it from the slides then, but you can do so easily from the Paper app.

There are people who do a lot more on mobile than I do. I recently met Amy Burvall, who said she does all her slides and videos on a phone or tablet (if I got that correctly). She does the drawings in drawing apps, puts them together into videos and adds music and voiceovers on mobile apps, creates gifs on mobile apps, etc. I’m not there yet!


Anyone else have ideas on how you teach and learn on the go, with the affordances of mobile technology?


Survey of BC faculty on OER & open textbooks

While I was one of three Faculty Fellows with the BCcampus Open Textbook program, we conducted a survey of faculty in BC and beyond, focusing on their use of and attitudes towards Open Educational Resources and Open Textbooks. We got over 70 complete responses from faculty at various institutions, most of them from teaching institutions rather than research institutions.

Screen Shot 2016-04-13 at 4.47.23 PMWe published a white paper about the survey, which was released in January of 2016. You can read a brief summary of the report here.

Here is a link to the PDF of the full report.



We also presented the results of this survey at two conferences before the white paper was finished:

The BCcampus Open Textbook Summit, May 2015, Vancouver, BC. Here are the slides from that presentation.


The 2015 Open Education Conference, November 2015, Vancouver, BC. Here are the slides from that presentation.

Open Education Week 2016 panel at UBC

I like to keep track of various things I’ve participated in, such as giving talks, facilitating workshops, etc., and this post is part of doing that.

On March 10, 2016, I was part of an amazing panel of people talking about “Engaging Students in Open Education,” as part of Open Education Week at UBC.

Here is the description and panelists:

Open education is a hot topic on post secondary campuses these days. This year UBC saw the #textbookbroke campaign led by the Alma Mater society – advocating for the use of open textbooks and open practices in the classroom to reduce costs for students; the adoption of open textbooks and resources in large multi section physics and math courses; and the continuing development of open teaching practices with Wikipedia projects and student produced, openly published content.

How do we engage students with open educational practices that go beyond making their work public to making it re-usable or available for others to build on? Why is open education important to students and to what extent can it enrich the teaching and learning environment?

Lighting Talks: Each speaker will present for 8 minutes and respond to questions for 5 minutes. This will be followed by a broad panel discussion about open practice.


Christina Hendricks: Senior Instructor Philosophy
Jenna Omassi: VP Academic & University Affairs
Arthur Gill Green Postdoctoral Teaching Fellow, Geography, BC Campus Faculty Fellow
Rajiv Jhangiani, Psychology Instructor, Kwantlen Polytechnic University
Leah Keshet, Mathematics Professor
Eric Cytrynbaum, Associate Professor Department of Mathematics
Stefan Reinsberg, Physics instructor


This even was live-streamed and recorded, and I’ve been waiting for the recording to show up on YouTube. But I decided to just post the link to where it is now, in case I forget:

Link to the recording on the Ike Barber Learning Commons website.


I love doing these sorts of things because I get to learn about what interesting things others are doing on our campus and beyond!

A series of workshops on open education

One of the challenges in our "Open for Learning" challenge bank

One of the challenges in our “Open for Learning” challenge bank

I have been one of a team of facilitators for a series of workshops on open education that we’ve run at UBC from December 2015 to May 2016 (we haven’t done the last one yet!). The idea behind having this series is that we might be able to go into more depth into various topics than we could cover in a single workshop on the broad topic of open education. It has worked well for that, though of course the people that come to the later ones are not always the same as those who came to the earlier ones, so we still always have to do some intro work at the beginning. Still, I think this model works pretty well.

One thing I really like about what we’re doing is that we have used the model of the “assignment bank” from #ds106 and the challenge bank from #udgagora to create challenges that participants can do during the workshop. We were able to do this because Alan Levine kindly put some code up on Github to set one of these banks up as a WordPress theme. Now, I didn’t use that code to set up our challenge site (I only wish I could do that), but Lucas Wright of the Centre for Teaching, Learning and Technology at UBC did.

Here’s the challenge bank we’ve been using for our workshops–super cool!

We will keep this challenge bank and have people add their answers as we do this series again in the future (and we have one more workshop to go!).

Here is a PDF with the descriptions of our workshop series for 2015-2016: Open for Learning Workshop Final Descriptions

And I wanted to embed our slides, too. Here are the slides for the first three workshops (I’ll add the fourth when it’s done, if I remember).


Workshop 1: Open for Learning: Exploring the Possibilities for your Classroom

This was an introductory, overview workshop covering a number of things in open ed.


Workshop 2: Using and Remixing Open Resources in Your Courses


Workshop 3: Teaching in the Open

Presentation on SoTL research re: peer feedback

In mid-November I gave a presentation at the SoTL Symposium in Banff, Alberta, Canada, sponsored by Mount Royal University.

It’s a little difficult to describe this complex research, so I’ll let my (long) abstract for the presentation tell at least part of the story.

750-word abstract

Title: Tracking a dose-response curve for peer feedback on writing

There is a good deal of research showing that peer feedback can contribute to improvements in student writing (Cho & MacArthur, 2010; Crossman & Kite, 2012). Though intuitively one might think that students would benefit most from receiving peer comments on their written work, several studies have shown that student writing benefits both from comments given as well as comments received–indeed, sometimes the former more than the latter (Li, Liu & Steckelberg, 2010; Cho & MacArthur, 2011).

There are, however, some gaps in the literature on the impact of peer feedback on improving student writing. First, most studies published on this topic consider the effect of peer feedback on revisions to a single essay, rather than on whether students use peer comments on one essay when writing another essay. Cho and MacArthur (2011) is an exception: the authors found that students who wrote reviews of writing samples by students in a past course produced better writing on a different topic than those who either only read those samples or who read something else. In addition, there is little research on what one might call a “dose-response” curve for the impact of peer feedback on student writing—how are the “doses” of peer feedback related to the “response” of improvement in writing? It could be that peer feedback is more effective in improving writing after a certain number of feedback sessions, and/or that there are diminishing returns after quite a few sessions.

To address these gaps in the literature, we designed a research study focusing on peer feedback in a first-year, writing intensive course at a large university in North America. In this course students write an essay every two weeks, and they meet every week for a full year in groups of four plus their professor to give comments on each others’ essays (the same group stays together for half or the full year, depending on the instructor). With between 20 and 22 such meetings per year, students get a heavy dose of peer feedback sessions, and this is a good opportunity to measure the dose-response curve mentioned above. We can also test the difference in the dose-response curve for the peer feedback groups that change halfway through the year versus those who remain the same over the year. Further, we can evaluate the degree to which students use comments given by others, as well as comments they give to others, on later essays.

While at times researchers try to gauge improvement in student work on the basis of peer feedback by looking at coarse evaluations of quality before and after peer feedback (e.g., Sullivan & Pratt, 1996; Braine, 2001), because many things besides peer feedback could go into improving the quality of student work, more specific links between what is said in peer feedback and changes in student work are preferable. Thus, we will compare each student’s later essays with comments given to them (and those they gave to others) on previous ones, to see if the comments are reflected in the later essays, using a process similar to that described in Hewett (2000).

During the 2013-2014 academic year we ran a pilot study with just one of those sections (sixteen students, out of whom thirteen agreed to participate), to refine our data collection and analysis methods. For the pilot program we collected ten essays from each of the students who agreed to participate, comments they received from their peers on those essays, as well as comments they gave to their peers. For each essay, students received comments from three other students plus the instructor. We will use the instructor comments to, first, see whether student comments begin to approach instructor comments over time, and to isolate those things that only students commented on (not the instructor) to see if students use those in their essays (or if they mainly focus on those things that the instructor said also).

In this session, the Principal Investigator will report on the results of this pilot study and what we have learned about dealing with such a large data set, whether we can see any patterns from this pilot group of thirteen students, and how we will design a larger study on the basis of these results.


It turned out that we were still in the process of coding all the data when I gave the presentation, so we don’t yet have full results. We have coded all the comments on all the essays (10 essays from 13 participants), but are still coding the essays themselves (had finished 10 essays each from 6 participants, so a total of 60 essays).

I’m not sure the slides themselves tell the whole story very clearly, but I’m happy to answer questions if anyone has any. I’m saving up writing a narrative about the results until we have the full results in (hopefully in a couple of months!).

We’re also putting in a grant proposal to run the study with a larger sample (didn’t get a grant last year we were trying to get…will try again this year).

Here are the slides!

Engaging students with OER

Near the end of May I worked with Jon Festinger and Will Engle to do a 1.5 hour workshop on how using and creating Open Educational Resources (OER) can have pedagogical value in courses (beyond saving students money, which is also important). You can see the basic abstract for the session in the wiki page embedded below.

Click here to see our slides for the workshop, on Google Slides (or see below).

We also created a wiki page for the event, which has numerous link to resources. We also tried to get small groups to post answers to discussion questions on the wiki, but as the event was held in the late afternoon, a bunch of people left when it was time to do the small group activity (I guess many instructors, like many students, think the “real action” is in the presentation rather than the group discussion!).

The wiki page for the workshop is embedded below.


About this session

"Increasing Student Engagement through Open Educational Resources" is a workshop held during the CTLT Institute in May 2015.


Open educational resources are educational materials (text, video, audio, and more) that are licensed to allow others to reuse, revise, remix, redistribute, and retain them free of cost. There are numerous pedagogical benefits to both using OER and creating OER in courses; this workshop will focus on a few of them, including the following.

Asking students to create OER in courses means, in part, asking them to create things that are available to and of use by other students in the course (both past, present and future) and by people beyond the course. Assignments that are read only by an instructor and/or teaching assistant can seem to be what David Wiley calls in a blog post “disposable”: “assignments that add no value to the world – after a student spends three hours creating it, a teacher spends 30 minutes grading it, and then the student throws it away” (Resource here). If, instead, student work is adding value to the world, contributing to a larger body of knowledge that can be used by others, it is much more likely that they will be engaged in working on it and try to make it as good as possible. Examples of such assignments could be student blog posts, student-created web pages or wiki pages, videos, and more that others can see/hear/interact with and learn from. Another example that will be discussed in the session is having students edit an open textbook and share their edits openly.

Using OER in courses means asking students to read/watch/listen to/interact with educational materials for the course that are publicly available and licensed for reuse and (often) revision. Finding and assigning OER can allow for presentation of material in different ways: e.g., a textual resource can be augmented through finding and using a diagram, an image, a video, another text that explains things differently, etc. This can help both engage students and improve their understanding of course material. Further, if the OER are licensed to allow revision, students can edit them or mix them with other resources to create something new, both helping their own leaning and contributing OER for others to learn from.

In this session we will all discuss together the various kinds of open educational resources, including open textbooks, how to find OER for your courses, and several of the pedagogical benefits of creating and using OER.


Will Engle is a strategist for open education resources at UBC's Center for Teaching, Learning & Technology. He engaged with projects that are leveraging emerging technologies, approaches, and pedagogies to support open learning. With a background in library science, Will is interested in understanding and supporting the removal of barriers that limit access to education, information, and knowledge.

Jon Festinger, Q.C. (LL.B., B.C.L. 1980 McGill University) is a Vancouver, British Columbia based counsel and educator. He is an SFU Professor of Professional Practice and a faculty member of the Centre for Digital Media. Jon has taught media, entertainment and communications law topics at the UBC Faculty of Law for over two decades, as well as teaching at various times at the UBC Graduate School of Journalism, the Thompson Rivers University Faculty of Law and the University of Victoria Faculty of Law. He is the author of the first edition of “Video Game Law” published by LexisNexis in 2005, co-author of the 2nd Edition published in 2012. The open and on-line components of his courses can be found here & here. Jon was named a member of Creative Commons’ “Team Open” in 2014.

Christina Hendricks is a Sr. Instructor in Philosophy at UBC, and she also regularly teaches in the Arts One program. She has been a proponent of open education for several years, having participated in and few open online courses and been part of the design and facilitation team for others, including one with Peer 2 Peer University called Why Open?, and a course on Teaching with WordPress. She uses as many open educational resources in her teaching as she can, and posts many of her teaching materials as open educational resources herself.

Agenda and session outcomes


  1. Introductions--to us, to you
  2. Defining openness and open educational resources (OER) in groups
  3. Discussion of openness and OER
  4. Presentation on pedagogical benefits of OER and open courses
  5. Groups: take a "traditional" assignment and discuss how you might use what we've talked about today to transform it (and why)
  6. Conclusion

Session outcomes

By the end of the session, you should be able to:

  • Give a definition of “open” and/or open educational resources
  • Explain at least two pedagogical benefits to using and/or creating OER in teaching & learning
  • Explain one or more courses/projects at UBC using/creating OER
  • Say how you might adapt an activity or assignment to make it more "open," and why this would be pedagogically a good thing to do

Group activities

Click on your group number to go to the page where you can type in your answers to the questions in the group activities during the session.

To see all the groups' notes from the activities, click here:

You can also see how the group wiki pages look when embedded into a WordPress site, here:

Resources, links from the session or relevant to the session

Slides from the session

The slides used during the session can be found here (on Google Slides).

Examples of open courses or OER

A list of some examples can be found on the website, here:

Please add other examples that you know of, below!



Open Education

Creative Commons licenses

True Stories of Open Sharing

Watch some amazingly true stories of open sharing--the great stuff that can happen when we share our work openly:


Foucault, the sovereign, discipline & bio-power

I gave a presentation last night for the Vancouver Institute for Social Research, a fantastic program that provides free lectures at an art gallery downtown for anyone to attend. This term’s series has focused on sovereignty, and I decided to give a talk on Foucault’s claim that in common ways of thinking about power in political theory (in the 1970s at least), we still have not yet cut off the head of the king:

What we need … is a political philosophy that isn’t erected around the problem of sovereignty, nor therefore around the problems of law and prohibition. We need to cut off the King’s head: in political theory that has still to be done (Interview, “Truth and Power,” in Power/Knowledge, ed. Colin Gordon. Pantheon, 1980).

I contrasted the “juridico-discursive” view of power that, according to Foucault, has dominated political interpretations of power (and that is descended from the way monarchies came about and established themselves), with disciplinary power and bio-power.

You can get straight to the presentation here:

And here it is, embedded. There is also a videorecording; I’ll embed that as soon as it’s posted on YouTube!

Upcoming #TvsZ game and presentations at #et4online

#TvsZ is back! Running April 22-24, 2015. See the main website, here.

Plus, next week I and several other people are presenting on #TvsZ at the OLC “Emerging Technologies for Online Learning” 2015 conference.

What is #TvsZ?

That’s surprisingly difficult to answer. Here’s how I tried to describe it recently in an application for a teaching award, in which I discussed my work in open education.


Originally designed as a zombie game played on Twitter (and thus called “Twitter vs. Zombies”), we have also created a new version called “Technology vs. Zen.” Both games are played through Twitter, and are meant to bring people together in order to create collaborative stories. The other part of the purpose of the game is to help people learn how to use Twitter, and to give them motivation to create and share digital artifacts such as blog posts, images, videos, and more. The game usually happens over the course of a weekend, often lasting about three days.

Apocalypse, Flickr photo shared by Charles Hutchins, licensed  CC BY 2.0

Apocalypse, Flickr photo shared by Charles Hutchins, licensed CC BY 2.0

In “Twitter vs. Zombies” the overall setting of the game is a zombie apocalypse, where there are zombies who have started to infect humans. You can see the website for the third iteration of the zombie version, here: On Twitter, one can be bitten by a zombie through the use of a hashtag, and then has a certain number of minutes to dodge or be rescued by someone else before they turn into a zombie themselves. But the game goes beyond this; the most interesting parts of the game are when people take on missions where they have to add to the ongoing story in the game through a blog post, a picture, a video, a drawing they take a picture of, a song, or many other things. These aspects of the game happen through new rule releases that occur about every 12 hours:

In “Technology vs. Zen” the setting is an apocalyptic scene of unknown origin; participants are to imagine that they have woken up to find a wasteland around them, dead and dying plants, deserted city streets. The game site for this version is here: The point of the game is to figure out what has happened and to determine how to approach solving the problem. Players begin on one of two teams: “technology” or “nature,” each team devoted to either a technological solution or one that has to do with working more in tune with nature. Participants start out recruiting others for their teams, but then are asked to engage in missions such as finding food, building a shelter, describing what they think has happened, and determining an approach to solving the problem (examples of such missions can be found here:

A number of people have used #TvsZ in their courses, asking students to play in order to experience collaborative storytelling and connecting with people around the globe in a team that has to work together in order to accomplish their missions. They have also used it to show an example of open and emergent pedagogy, though outside of a specific course context. Finally, it serves as an engaging way to encourage students to learn how to create and post digital objects—though the game sites don’t have information on how to do so, participants learn this from each other (or from their instructor, if they are playing the game as part of a course). As the current TvsZ planning team wrote in an abstract for an upcoming conference presentation:

 This game builds digital literacy through creating avenues for participants to engage in international collaboration, to compose for a visible and active audience, and to craft personal learning networks. It is a dynamic experience for engaging students in transmedia storytelling and narrative collaboration, and it can democratize the classroom by blurring the line between teacher and student. The game design itself is democratized through emergent rules: players re-shape the rules and revise the narrative as the game unfolds. (This quote comes from the abstract reprinted below)


But even since writing that, the game has changed again. This time we’re thinking of not having any teams to start with and asking people to create their own teams. Thus, there might not be a “technology” team or a “nature” team, but entirely different ones.

That’s one of the wonderful things about this game: it is continually evolving. And not only between games, but within the game itself: rules change over time, new missions are created for teams to complete, and participants are asked to suggest changes during the game as well. And actually, participants sometimes just change the game themselves by choosing to do something quite different than what we designed; in a recent version, which had a divide between humans and zombies, a group of people decided they didn’t want to be either humans or zombies and participate in biting or escaping bites, but to rather be neutral commentators who created poetry about the game.

What does one get out of playing the game? Here are a couple of blog posts I found with reflections on experiences in various versions: one by Karen Young, and one by Kevin Hodgson.

And here’s a fabulous artifact created out of what the teams did in #TvsZ 6.0, thanks to @nanalou022, which gives a good sense of what that version of the game was like.


So what are we doing at the conference?

I think I’ll just let our abstracts, which are pretty detailed, speak for themselves. We have two presentations, a longer one and a shorter one.

Here’s the abstract for the long, 2.5 hour workshop. This one is called Perforate Your Classroom: Collaboratively Hack the Open Online Game #TvsZ 6.0.” During this workshop, people will learn about the game, start playing it, learn how it has been used in courses, and work together on how they might change it for their own educational purposes.

All of the following is from this #et4online webpage.


Participants will learn about and play the open online Twitter game #TvsZ, go through the process of hacking it, and discuss pedagogical benefits and challenges.

Extended Abstract

This workshop will invite participants to explore the pedagogical value of perforating oneÍs classroom: opening it up for students to learn with others online in loosely facilitated social media experiences. The seven international collaborating facilitators will share their experience of co-facilitating an open online game. The facilitators, who teach in Egypt, Canada, New York, Georgia, and California, will share their cross-institutional, cross-border experience of hacking #TvsZ and playing it with their students.

#TvsZ is an open online Twitter game played across an increasing variety of online sites and apps. The game, created originally in 2012 by Pete Rorabaugh and Jesse Stommel, is usually played over 3-4 days by anyone who chooses to follow the Twitter hashtag #TvsZ, as well as students in participating classes. Players, who are often meeting virtually for the first time, interact with each other on Twitter via a basic game dynamic which encourages informal, spontaneous tweets relating to the game premise. As players develop increasing familiarity with other players and with the basic syntax of game tweets, additional game dynamics are introduced, often in response to player suggestions and initiatives. These additional dynamics encourage players to create a wide variety of media objects, to experiment with new modes of networked collaboration, and to refashion their roles in the game itself.

This game builds digital literacy through creating avenues for participants to engage in international collaboration, to compose for a visible and active audience, and to craft personal learning networks. It is a dynamic experience for engaging students in transmedia storytelling and narrative collaboration, and it can democratize the classroom by blurring the line between teacher and student. The game design itself is democratized through emergent rules: players re-shape the rules and revise the narrative as the game unfolds. Although #TvsZ had been played multiple times before, the diverse interests and backgrounds of the co-facilitators as well as the international flavor, led to an interest in hacking the game in order to meet the different needs of their students and their own diverse teaching agendas.

The basic structure of the game can be revised in numerous ways, however, and participants in the workshop will brainstorm how they might do so for their own teaching and learning contexts. For example, while most versions of #TvsZ started with a Zombie narrative of biting and converting human players, the 6.0 version was intentionally kept zombie-free and non-violent.

Our workshop will be experiential: one must play the game to get a good sense of how and why one might want to hack it. Workshop participants will play a short version of one of the #TvsZ games and brainstorm their own forks of the game, and discuss possible repercussions of various modifications to such a game. They will also discuss possible pedagogical benefits to including a game like #TvsZ in their curricula, as well as potential problems one might encounter when doing so (and how such problems might be addressed).

Workshop Interaction/Takeaways:
Participants will play a version of #TvsZ, go through the process of hacking it, and (time-permitting) try out aspects of their hacked version during the workshop. Participants will discuss pedagogical benefits of using such a game in their classes, possible challenges and approaches to assessing learning.

Pete Rorabaugh (Southern Polytechnic State University, USA)
Andrea Rehn (Whittier College, USA)
Christina Hendricks (University of British Columbia – Vancouver, Canada)
JR Dingwall (University of Alberta, Canada)
Maha Bali (American University in Cairo, Egypt)
Additional Authors
Janine DeBaise (SUNY-College of Environmental Science and Forestry, USA)
Lizzie Finnegan (D’Youville College, USA)



Here’s our abstract for the shorter session. This one is called “Perforating the Classroom: How Hacking the Online Game #TvsZ 6.0 Brings Together Faculty, Students and Community Members.” It is just for talking about how we changed the original #TvsZ from a zombie narrative to a more generic apocalypse narrative, and why, and how we engaged in cross-world collaboration to do so.

The following is from this webpage for #et4online.


Learn about the collaborative hacking and hosting of #TvsZ, an open online Twitter game which fosters digital literacies/network fluencies

Extended Abstract

#TvsZ is an open online Twitter game played across an increasing variety of online sites and apps. The game, created originally in 2012 by Pete Rorabaugh and Jesse Stommel, is usually played over 3-4 days by anyone who chooses to follow the Twitter hashtag #TvsZ, as well as students in participating classes. Players, who are often meeting virtually for the first time, interact with each other on Twitter via a basic game dynamic which encourages spontaneous tweets relating to the game premise. As players develop increasing familiarity with other players and with the basic syntax of game tweets, additional game dynamics are introduced, often in response to player suggestions and initiatives. These additional dynamics encourage players to create a wide variety of media objects, to experiment with new modes of networked collaboration, and to refashion their roles in the game itself.

The rationale for #TvsZ is simple; we call it the “perforated classroom” mode of teaching and learning. In this era of information abundance and fast-changing socio-economic paradigms, both students and teachers require new and different skills. Students need to learn to contextualize ideas through efficient web-enabled research practices, to share their results through effective multi-modal communication, to discover new resources and connect to emerging networks of experts as they prepare for lives which may require many transitions among fields. Teachers need to learn to model these these skills by interacting with students as curators of information and connected, public co-learners. The perforated classroom thus embodies these various methods of connection, while also enriching the possibilities of teacher-student, student-student, student-community, and student-teacher-community-global rapport beyond the classroom itself.

#TvsZ 6.0, played November 14-16, 2014, refashioned the premise and dynamics of play to respond to contemporary events, and to better adapt to the cultural and temporal distances among players and game facilitators. The global nature of the #TvsZ 6.0 facilitation team and their students resulted in some unique emergent dynamics during the game, which this presentation will highlight. While previous versions began with a Zombie infection narrative, the 6.0 version was intentionally kept zombie-free and non-violent.

#TvsZ 6.0 was hosted by a group of seven international collaborating scholars with varying types of expertise (and familiarity with the game itself) and with different institutional roles and teaching goals. We, and our students, live in three countries (Canada, Egypt and the US) and four widely separated time zones. While our students all speak English, many also use at least one other language as a primary mode of communication. Our students ranged from freshmen to seniors in college, and the participating classes focused on disciplines and topics. Two of the game hosts did not directly involve their own students, but facilitated the game out of a commitment to open learning itself. More than 150 players participated in the online game: some as students completing assigned work, some participating in extra credit activities, some who were invited to play to help them learn twitter literacy, some to learn about creative game design. In addition, many players from the Twitterverse (including veteran #TvsZ players from previous iterations) participated for the sheer fun of it.

This presentation will focus on #TvsZ 6.0’s cycle of collaborative development, focusing on the value of social networks for instructor collaboration, and sharing our experience of a cross-border, cross-institutional, and cross-cultural collaboration between teachers and students, from game host & student perspectives. By exploring a few of the media objects created by game participants, we will also discuss various methods for evaluating the outcomes of student, teacher, and community peer-learner collaborations. Each step of development and implementation exemplifies a stage in the digital fluency that the game promotes by involving people in the fun and frenzied creativity of participation, by inviting participants to collaborate and co-learn techniques of multimodal media creation, by tempting collaborators to become partners in the management of the game during gameplay, and by player-partners becoming hosts and hackers of future iterations of the game itself.

Open online games extend learning opportunities beyond the classroom, augmenting studentsÍ understanding of knowledge networks. The reflexive nature of #TvsZ and the other games it may spawn creates space to enjoy the game experience while critiquing its shortcomings (e.g., in terms of how language, pop culture, and even time zones affect players in different parts of the world). Students engage in collaborative, experiential, and self-directed learning, developing Twitter literacy about the values, as well as the potential risks, of using social media to network. They learn by doing; rather than following linear modules, they learn from how others are playing the game and they ask the community for help. They also learn about power dynamics in gaming and social media. Hacking the game into a more collaborative narrative, and playing it with students from different countries and cultures provided insights not previously visible in #TvsZ iterations, such as how game rules (in terms of time limits and timezones) could affect equity in the game, how cultural attitudes could affect students’ gameplay, and how to develop game dynamics that would encourage students to venture outside the safety of their classmates and play with strangers online.

Andrea Rehn (Whittier College, USA)
Maha Bali (American University in Cairo, Egypt)
Pete Rorabaugh (Southern Polytechnic State University, USA)
JR Dingwall (University of Alberta, Canada)
Christina Hendricks (University of British Columbia – Vancouver, Canada)
Additional Authors
Lizzie Finnegan (D’Youville College, USA)
Janine DeBaise (SUNY-College of Environmental Science; Forestry, USA)
Sherif Osman (American University in Cairo, Egypt)

Presentation at Open Ed conference 2014 (on UBC’s Policy 81)

I have been waiting to make this post, because like last year, all the sessions this year were videorecorded, and I was going to wait until the recordings were posted on Youtube so I could embed mine here. But the conference was in November of 2014, and it’s now February of 2015, and the Open Education Conference Youtube channel still just has the keynotes from the 2014 conference up. So I’m going to at least post my slides here.

This presentation is from the Open Education Conference 2014 in Washington, DC. It was about UBC’s Policy 81, and my fears that it may have lead to enough bad feelings among some people at UBC that they are no longer willing to share teaching materials with an open license. I did a small survey (28 people responded) of faculty members at UBC who had opted out of Policy 81 by signing up on a registry to do so, and found that that was indeed the case for some.

Now, just this week a revised Policy 81 has come out, and the university is asking for comments. I have a blog post about that too.

Here are the slides from my presentation:


I also have a lengthy set of notes for the presentation (surprisingly lengthy, given that I spoke for about 20-25 minutes, if I remember correctly (so obviously I skimmed over much of this!). In case you’re wanting more background on any of this, you can check out the notes:


Finally, as a result of this presentation, I was interviewed by Jenni Hayman of the Open Policy Network about UBC’s Policy 81. You can see a video recording of this interview, which was done via Skype, on the OPN blog.


Governance at UBC

At the presentation at the conference, some people asked about whether or not there was shared governance at UBC–how could it be that the administration and the faculty union were so at odds on this issue? A good question. Honestly, I’m not entirely sure how governance works at UBC, but here’s what I do know.

The policy was passed by the Board of Governors, which consists of (according to the University Act of BC)

  • the UBC Chancellor
  • the UBC President
  • 11 people appointed by the lieutenant governor, two of whom should be from a list of nominees from the alumni association
  • 3 students (undergrad or grad)
  • 3 faculty members
  • 2 UBC employees who are not faculty members

So there are just three faculty members out of 21 people on the board, and 11 out of those 21 are not currently at UBC (though two of those 11 are probably alumni, from what I can tell). The faculty voice, then, is pretty small.

There is also the Senate of UBC, which is part of the overall governance. The membership of the Senate is pretty complicated, so I’ll just copy here from the University Act, part 7:

(a) the chancellor;

(b) the president, who is the senate’s chair;

(c) the academic vice president who must work through a part not specified under section 3.1 or equivalent;

(d) the deans of faculties who must work through a part not specified under section 3.1;

(e) the chief librarian or a person designated for the purpose by the chief librarian;

(f) the director of continuing education or a person designated for the purpose by the director;

(g) a number of faculty members equal to twice the number of senate members provided in paragraphs (a) to (f), to consist of 2 members of each faculty elected by the members of that faculty, and the remainder elected by the faculty members in the manner that they, in joint meeting, determine, but only faculty members employed through parts not specified under section 3.1 can vote or be elected;

(h) a number of students, equal to the number of senate members provided in paragraphs (a) to (f), elected from the students who are members of an undergraduate student society or a graduate student society, in a manner that ensures that at least one student from each faculty is elected, but only students studying through parts not specified under section 3.1 can vote or be elected;

(i) 4 persons who are not faculty members, elected by and from the convocation;

(j) one member to be elected by the governing body of each affiliated college of the university;

(k) additional members, determined by the senate, without altering the ratio set out in paragraphs (g) and (h).

So clearly, the Senate has a much greater representation of the faculty than the Board of Governors. But which body does what?

The Board of Governors website lays out the different responsibilities of the two. Briefly, according to that site:

The Board of Governors is responsible for the business of the University – its administration, finances, operations, assets and place in the community – and the integrity of such.

The Senates have a more focused responsibility for the academic integrity of the University, subject to the Board’s involvement where academic matters interface with matters of business and the larger community.

According to the longer list on the site, the Board of Governors has a say in most of the activities and policies of the university. The things that the Senate determines on its own are mostly to do with academic matters, such as academic discipline, final exams, admit students, grant degrees, and manage the library.

The procedure for adopting policies by the Board of Governors, such as Policy 81, seems to be that the policy is proposed, then there is a comment period, and then a vote is held among the Board. The UBC Faculty Association (our faculty union) expressed serious concerns about Policy 81 in February 2014, but the policy was passed anyway.


A revised policy

In February 2015, a revised policy 81 was put forward for comment. Please see a later blog post for information on that.