A wealth of online teaching resources – BC

A recent tweet from Dr. Tony Bates provided the nudge I needed to update my collection of Canadian teaching online resources shared during the COVID-19 pandemic. I’ve been watching the generous outpouring of tips, webinars, workshops, resources from the US and Canada, aimed at helping teachers pivoting to online teaching. I’ve poked at a couple of summaries of resources (from a collection focused on helping learners moving to online by Clint Lalonde to recordings of drop-in COVID-related webinars hosted by BCcampus) but I thought there were probably some others I’d missed!

BC’s higher education institutions are onboard with open practices so I expected to find a lot of open licensed materials; I was a little overly optimistic 😉 But, a rich vein to mine first is BCcampus (as their purpose is to support all post-secondary institutions in improving teaching and learning practice.) Allow some time to browse their open, online options to help you “pivot” to online teaching; review previous resources for Open Education, and subscribe to their free newsletter to stay connected. And if you want browse a wider collection, check out the Information Directory – COVID-19 Educational Resources.

University of BC is also a leader in open practices (imho) so I took a look at Effective Online Teaching Practices. If you’re looking for a course, rather than an assembly of resources and links, check out CTLT’s Introduction to Online Teaching. These open-licensed resources for this course are also available on the UBC Wiki (and were the subject of Tony Bates Jun 25th blog post.) Plus there’s the amazing open-licensed, practical resources at OpenBC.

Simon Fraser University’s Centre for Educational Excellence seems to protect most of their COVID-19 webinars (you need a campus login) but you can browse their OERs from previous years at https://www.sfu.ca/oer.html

Burnaby’s BCIT hosted a number of sessions on teaching online that are available on their Faculty Help for Online Teaching page but they appear to be very focused on BCIT instructors need for D2L, etc. I didn’t find too much on their Open Education Resources site that might help instructors trying to adapt quickly to online teaching (useful for other purposes though).

Kwantlen Polytechnic University offers some thoughtfully produced resources for their instructors “who need to plan and facilitate teaching and learning activities remotely in the event of an unexpected campus closure.” The nice thing is they have created resources that are useful to anyone faced with this situation (and they’re currently leaving them open to access). Their Keep Teaching page offers interactive resources to: Getting started with Remote Delivery; options for instructors wanting to Use Moodle or Not; things to think about when Designing Online Courses; and Learning Opportunities (external & internal). And as one of the leaders in the open education field, KPU has a rich trove of resources in their Open Education site – really worth taking time to browse different sections like the Open Pedagogy Notebook (a personal favourite!).

Royal Roads University in Victoria has a broad range of resources for their staff and faculty but, as an outsider, you’ll need to find your way to their Open Educational Resources pages for help with teaching online.

The University of Northern BC doesn’t appear to have any OERs yet but the Centre for Teaching, Learning and Technology offers an interesting (and varied) collection of helpful videos on their Youtube channel

That’s all for BC – next week I’ll look further east – Enjoy exploring….Sylvia

OnlineBookClubs

Reflections on participating and facilitating

I had the opportunity over the past two years, thanks to BCcampus, to participate in two online book club events. I was excited to see whether I could sustain my interest and participation over the 7 or more weeks of each event. I was looking forward to learning from the responses and ideas shared.

The first BCcampus Online Book Club in 2018 focused on How Learning Works: 7 Research-Based Principles for Smart Teaching. I was attracted by the easy-to-access WordPress site and the openness and friendliness of the initial launch post: Welcome to the BCcampus Online Book Club! The terms of engagement seemed clear: read each week’s facilitated blog post regarding a chapter in the book, register to receive updates and to post comments on the site and participate in a one hour synchronous session each week – optional and not recorded – with the facilitator and other participants. I recognized most of the facilitators so I was looking forward to their in-depth look at some of the research-based learning principles the book included.

Unfortunately, life got in the way and I didn’t register and post an intro comment until early October but I reviewed the weekly posts and shared questions or experiences or comments through the Comments on the site as often as I could. I hoped to participate in the weekly synchronous sessions but the timing never worked out and I found that I felt quite disconnected from the facilitators and other participants after a while as visible conversational currents (Comments and Twitter) began to drop off.

Chapter Topic#Participants#CommentsFacilitator(s)#Posts
Prior Knowledge1116115
Student Organization of Knowledge7927
Motivation51028
Practice & Feedback51026
Student Development and Course
Climate
3523
Self-Directed Learners2222

But the weekly blog posts were very helpful and I did gain some further insight into the research-based principles under discussion. And, Leva Lee’s evaluation report provided some thoughtful insights and suggestions for the next offering.

image of book Small Teachings

The 2nd BCcampus Online Book Club in 2019 focused on Small Teaching: Everyday Lessons from the Science of Learning by James M. Lang BCcampus’ Leva Lee had worked her magic and found a facilitator for each chapter of the book (9) and, with BCcampus’ open education experts had moved the WordPress site to a new server and set up an open licensed chat client called Mattermost. Synchronous sessions were still hosted with BigBlue Button.

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Become a brave beginner

Professional development involves many kinds of learning: short workshops, seminars, online microcourses or webinars, conferences and symposiums. You may read professional journals, listen to academic podcasts, participate in a community of practice for your subject area or job, and monitor / participate various social media channels. But what kind of development learning do you participate in most often?

In our fast-paced, ever-changing world, you need continuous professional development. No matter what your area of expertise or profession, you need to keep pace with the important changes that affect your daily practices. Finding time to focus on, absorb and apply new learning is challenging but I wonder – how often do you dive into learning that makes you uncomfortable, where you might fumble and even fail initially?

Research has shown that uncertainty and discomfort can trigger better learning. Emotions are a big part of learning – they don’t always have to be positive. But how often do we seek out learning that makes us uncomfortable? For many of us, reading professional journals, watching/listening to podcasts or webinars and attending annual conferences or workplace seminars or “lunch and learns” are the main avenues to learning about new developments or skills we should have. We are busy with the demands of our professions – it’s not surprising that we stay within our comfort zones when it comes to ongoing professional development.

And yet, to learn things that are new, not just that reinforce what we already know, is essential to moving forward in life. We need to take risks to expand our knowledge, make new connections and stay at the leading edge of our fields. That doesn’t mean we need to do this all the time. Yale professor, Daeyeol Lee explains that we need to take breaks from learning to balance the uncertainty we face in new situations.

I read an interesting article in HBR magazine the other day: Learning is Supposed to Feel Uncomfortable by Peter Bregman. He shared his experiences as as an expert in his field participating in a professional development workshop in which he had to learn from the beginning – and the discomfort and even embarassment he felt. Yet he deliberately seeks challenging opportunities for learning every year. He contrasts his perspective with a colleague who doesn’t dare to risk exposing their ignorance as it might undermine the respect and trust that students look for from a leader in their field.

His perspective resonates with my own personal professional experiences. I’ve taught and designed learning related to online and technology-enhanced learning environments for many years. The field changes constantly and no one is really an “expert” in the old sense of the word. So, my approach to learning tends to reflect Bregman’s in that I tend to seek out learning that makes me uncomfortable or in which I don’t know much yet. The acknowledgement of the possibility of learning new things also infiltrates my teaching and design. And yet, I have had learners (who were teachers) who told me they felt very uncomfortable when I openly stated that I too was learning while I was sharing what I knew. They wanted me to be “the expert” and felt a loss of confidence when I wouldn’t accept that role.

I think that the level of discomfort that you can handle, and the impact of public learning that might concern you has a lot to do with your area of knowledge and type of work. You may be avoiding exposing your ignorance in certain kinds of learning (as Bregman’s colleague was) and you may be correct in assuming that you will lose clients or the confidence of students (or your employer). But don’t avoid risk and discomfort in all forms of professional learning. Make sure you take on the role of the “brave beginner” in some forms of learning so that you explore new ideas, knowledge and skills and stay interested in your work and provide value to your learners.

Additional references and resources

Boaler, Jo. (Oct. 28, 2019). Why Struggle is Essential for the Brain – and Our Lives, Edsurge: Voices: Learning Research. Retrieved from https://www.edsurge.com/news/2019-10-28-why-struggle-is-essential-for-the-brain-and-our-lives.

Bregman, Peter. (Aug 21, 2019). Learning is Supposed to Feel Uncomfortable, Harvard Business Review Retrieved from https://hbr.org/2019/08/learning-is-supposed-to-feel-uncomfortable

Patel, Sujan (Mar 9, 2016). Why Feeling Uncomfortable Is The Key To Success, Forbes, retrieved from https://www.forbes.com/sites/sujanpatel/2016/03/09/why-feeling-uncomfortable-is-the-key-to-success/#41a64fe31913

Stillman, Jessica. (Aug 14, 2018). Science Has Just Confirmed That If You’re Not Outside Your Comfort Zone, You’re Not Learning, retrieved from https://www.inc.com/jessica-stillman/want-to-learn-faster-make-your-life-more-unpredictable.html

TED Talks playlist – How to learn from mistakes Missteps, mess-ups and misunderstandings hurt. And yet, they offer an opportunity to learn and grow. Talks on how … 7 videos.

YaleNews (July 19, 2018) Aren’t sure? Brain is primed for learning, Retrieved from https://news.yale.edu/2018/07/19/arent-sure-brain-primed-learning

Several of these articles cite research published in Neuron journal:

A KonMari approach to digital downsizing?

I’m a self-confessed (or is that self-professed?) digital hoarder. I have six printed pages (in 10pt Arial Narrow) of Web2.0 and mobile app accounts location and login information! I had two extensive del.icio.us and Furl bookmarking accounts and still have two Diigo accounts, a Netvibes account with 25 pages of topic-organized bookmarks, and Evernote on all my devices! I have tab saving/syncing setup on my Firefox and my two favourite mobile apps are Pocket and Feedly. I maintain five separate cloud storage accounts that give me a total of 20 Mb of free storage and tuck away documents and files and images in sporadic flurries. Does that sound familiar?

Along with so many of us, I have come to a point in my life where I’m stepping back and reflecting on whether I’m still going in directions that are important to me. I know that I no longer need the plethora of digital files, multimedia, social media and other digital stuff that I’ve collected over 20 years of teaching, coaching and developing courses and workshops. I’ve gifted myself with a professional refocusing time that involves exploring new options but also requires that I declutter my digital life and becoming more disciplined about how and when I dive into the fascinating, time-sucking social media streams.

I tried various approaches but after two months realized that I’d simply deleted some stuff but added a whole lot of new, interesting digital bits. Obviously I needed a better approach. I asked around and my sister suggested the magic of the KonMari method. Apparently I was one of the few who had never heard of this popular author and Youtube video maker, Marie Kondo, a Japanese organizational consultant who advises only keeping what gives you joy or at least pleasure when you see or handle it.

I was intrigued at the enthusiasm that people expressed about her methods. I watched a few videos and read a few articles. I wondered how learning how to fold a t-shirt with love and to ensure that it could stand on its own (??) could be applied to my digital downsizing quest.

Where to begin? Well, at the beginning. In a starter video, Tidy Up Your Home, Marie Kondo says to start by gathering all your clothes into a pile. She suggests that you not put anything away until you have review each item. By review she means handling each piece and reflecting on your physical/emotional response to it. If it is positive, “joy” is her term, keep it. If it isn’t, thank it and get rid of it (feeling appreciation for each object seems a bit weird but I like the concept).

In another video, How to Tidy Your Office Desk, she asks that you “..think about your ideal lifestyle…” or goal. That’s where I hit my first block – I’m not sure yet what my lifestyle goals are/will be. If I interpret her advice figuratively, and modify it for my particular digital downsizing goal, I will develop some broad categories of digital resources and begin collecting them together. Hopefully reflecting on each item will help clarify my goals? Stay tuned for digital dogpiles ahead.

Other reading:

Mapping connections 4 learning

Mind maps (the term is attributed to Tony Buzan although the idea is much older) are a useful tool to organize knowledge visually and deepen understanding. When drawn on a piece of paper or whiteboard, the maps are easy to create and change, yet provide a clear and shareable record of thinking about a subject.

12Apps of Christmas graphicWhen the maps are developed using an app or web-based service, mind mapping becomes even more powerful and portable. I’ve used various apps over the last few years and thought they might be an interesting addition to the annual BCcampus 12apps for Christmas event. But how to choose an app?

The 12apps event has a simple set of attributes:

  • free (or at least an option to try for free so everyone could try it easily)
  • cross platform (iOs or Android – bonus if it works in a web browser too!)
  • has potential to support teaching and/or learning.

I added a few additional characteristics to help me choose:

  • visually attractive (without a lot of fussing)
  • easy to save or share (even if the saved version couldn’t be edited in other apps)
  • clear terms of use and help to get started
  • collaborative (a big bonus and only available with some)

I chose SimpleMind first as I thought it scored reasonably well and I had used it in the past as an iPad app and liked it. But after initial testing and review of features, I found they had restricted what I felt was an essential attribute of free use – you could no longer save your mind maps in any way – not even with a screen capture!

So I went back to check out Bubbl.us, Freemind, Mindomo, Mindmup, Mindmeister, Popplet, Lucidchart (not technically a mind mapping app). Some were open source and required installation on a server (or didn’t have an app option for mobile devices; other apps had a free or trial version but were expensive (comparatively) if you wanted to continue and expand your use.

I finally settled on Coggle – it was cross-platform, easy to use, produced visually appealing maps without a lot of fuss, and could be used collaboratively. Although the free version had limitations, the price for a basic subscription was in line with other apps.

example mind map - lasers

Coggle Gallery: Lasers

Mind maps are useful for various knowledge building activities and Coggle makes it easy to use to engage learners in online classes:

  • creating a visual map of course themes, topics and learning objectives to help students manage their learning or to help an instructor develop or refine a course;
  • creating collaborative maps to summarize highlights of a week’s forum postings or to share final reflections on learning as a course draws to a close;
  • for individual learning as a way to take meaningful notes during presentations or while reviewing research reports;
  • to support collaborative knowledge building activities by having small groups create and share mind maps of their research and analysis of a relevant topic; and,
  • to support a blended learning activity beginning from individual to small group discussion using a paper-based graphic organizer to capture and refine brainstorming (face-to-face) and then moving tChristmas mind map with Cogglehe discussion into an online session where small groups shared digital mind maps of their analysis to contribute to a final summary of critical perspectives on an important theme or issue.
  • And I had some fun by completing my own “What about Christmas?” mind map!

There’s not been too much participation (at least visibly) in this year’s 12apps event but the daily app blog posts will stay visible throughout the year so you can easily refer back to find a new app to try.

If you’re curious to learn more about the potential of mind maps and other visual organizers and analytical approaches, check out some of these articles: