A new adventure in learning…

I’ve signed up for a volunteer tutor training program through Vancouver Island University and the Career Centre in Parksville. It’s actually two back-to-back training opportunities:  the first two Fridays are focused on ESL Settlement Assistance tutor training (an award-winning program that has had its funding cut?) and that is followed by four Fridays focused on literacy tutoring (my primary area of interest). We had our first session last Friday.

1.  ESL Settlement Assistance Tutor Training

Although I find it somewhat challenging to sit for this length of time, we did have breaks and the first half was pretty engaging. Tomiko (sp?) was a volunteer tutor when she first came to Canada from Japan. She’s now “giving back” by providing us with a true immersion experience as she teaches us some basic introductory Japanese phrases – without ever speaking a word of English. It was a great experience and she certainly “walked the talk” in terms of introducing us to the challenges of trying to learn another language AND demonstrating some really powerful (yet simple) techniques that ensured that we were able to understand what she wanted us to do. As you might expect, she used repetition, simple phrases, the intonation of her voice, gestures, and lots of positive reinforcement.

Konnichewa! Watashi No Namae Ha – Sylvia – desu  (Hellow, My name is Sylvia)

We have a pretty big group (didn’t count but the room was full) with a diverse range of interests and backgrounds – it will be fun having a community to learn with that I can reach out to once I’m actually tutoring. When I tutored a literacy student in Whitehorse, I had only the program manager (it was the summer) and I didn’t really know if I there were more strategies/techniques I could have used to help him learn more effectively. I have taught writing and communication skills but never at such an introductory level – it’s a very different experience.

ESL tutor qualitiesSo, today is frantic catchup homework – a very well-designed (at first glance) learning site from BC – 2008 – http://www.mytrainingbc.ca/eslsap/training/index.html

I believe I do have the basic skills a tutor needs – patience, a sense of humour, an interest in people and other cultures. Looking forward to learning some helpful strategies. Curious what today’s class will bring.

Immersed, challenged, stretched by LS workshop…

It's just so great when your high expectations are fulfilled! I was intrigued by the Liberating Structures activity (micro-structure) that Leva Lee and Tracy Kelly tried out during ETUG's Fall Workshop (25-10 Crowd-sourcing) and even more curious after I read the explanation:

"Liberating Structures are a collection of powerful facilitation strategies that can be used in our classrooms, everyday meetings, strategic planning sessions, workshops, presentations, etc.  They are seriously fun methods to engage  and work together."

I just returned from an energizing and challenging 2.5 days in the beautiful new Robert H Lee Alumni Centre at UBC, participating in the Liberating Structures workshop that BCcampus Professional Learning and UBC's Centre for Teaching, Learning and Technology organized. I'm glad I signed up.

During the 2.5 days, we talked, shared, networked (ate delicious food!) and did the "deep dive", immersing ourselves in testing different variations of many of the 33 micro-structures that are defined and described on the Liberating Structures website

And I'm going to begin my "15% Solution" by doing what I can with the resources I have right now and walking myself (and you 😉 through a "W3 debrief". (Note:  W3 = What, So What, Now What?)

What??

What stood out for me? What did I notice?

Day 1, immersive learning, high energy, shared reflections, bravery required.
Keith McCandless and his "Dream Team" of assistants took turns presenting "invitations" to an activity – monitoring and managing the time, clarifying confusions. I noticed that activities were kept brief BUT we took time to listen to insights about what worked and what didn't from participants, augmented by brief deepening questions from one of the LS facilitators. I never saw anyone sitting out any of the activities; never saw glazed eyes or tapping fingers or feet. I heard lots of chatter, laughter and yet quiet, intense listening when an invitation was presented to yet another micro-structure. For 100 or more participants – that's pretty amazing.

Day 2, barriers down, clusters of participants sharing scribbled notes or just talking and listening. While still active, this day was a bit of a "dog-and-pony" show. Keith and his Dream Team assistant, Fletcher spent a lot of time clarifying which structure they used and why in different situations. We experienced the planning and linking of micro-structures to achieve different purposes. It became really clear that LS micro-structures were about letting go of control while still guiding direction; about repeatedly examining "purpose" and thinking about "why" and outcomes. While there were times when the metallic chimes that moved us between activities were annoying, we got through an amazing number of wide-ranging discussions and activities in a day – and never missed a break when it was necessary. By end of day, energy level dropped, tired faces, but lots of writing and sharing still happening.

Day 3 – focus on personal or group challenges, lots of breakout groups forming around self-identified areas of interest but people were starting to scatter their attention as their focus turned to leaving. One last engaging structure – a circle within a circle – can't remember what it was called but it was great. Snapped back the energy (just tamped down) and got people smiling and interacting before the final summary and good-byes

So What??

What was important?

Tight timing, well-managed – chiming mini-cymbals – annoying but attention catching – used persistently kept the group moving towards outcomes, moving between activities/reflections/questions/etc. Appreciated the respect for time more and more during the workshop.

Repetitive mini-cycles – interesting to experience the effects through different microstructures – having to revisit a statement, an outline, and idea, several times – by myself, with another participant, with a small group and within the large group debriefings – made my own purposes and next steps much clearer and, often more possible.

Inclusion was powerful – activities are structured to integrate this and it was reinforced by the actions of the LS facilitators. I'd think that all the participants felt included and, if they didn't speak out during group debriefings, it was because they didn't want to – not that there wasn't an open invitation and support to speak out.  Lots of opportunities to feel "heard" during various activities – either one-to-one or small group. Interesting how much it helped to have others share their insights and add them to the explanations of the facilitators.

Flexibility – modularization and demonstration of possible connections into various strings or "mosaics", use of a detailed storyboarding example, lots of fishbowl opportunities meant that you could really see how you might use the microstructures in every situation – from the personal to the professional.

The Power of Invitations! – crafting these became a real challenge. Great to have examples presented by different members of Dream Team and presented by different participants in our group activities. Framing the invitations well results in greater participation, clarity of purpose, positive approaches to the task at hand, inclusiveness, etc.

Honesty, bravery, openness in sharing – the generosity of spirit and bravery that most participants exhibited, supported and encouraged by the LS facilitators, was inspiring and part of the positive energy in the room. So much easier to come to meaningful outcomes when no-one seemed to be pursuing hidden agendas.

So What??

What will I do next?

My 15% solution was to apply a microstructure to this blog post. But I have upcoming challenges to address – potential of broadening my network of potential clients and getting involved in interesting initiatives – perhaps by helping organizations or institutions look at how to use LS micro-structures to engage learners or focus their instructional/learning design initatives?

– preparing a presentation for two upcoming events and ensuring that I blow apart the "presentation by expert" expectation to distribute control and broaden involvement with a judiciously selected "string" of microstructures – starting with a storyboard to guide and gain "buy-in" frrom my co-presenters!

Longer terms – apply some of the micro-structures to revisiting the design of some of the online learning activities we've designed for FLO workshops (Facilitating Learning Online). How can we translate the power of LS micro-structures to the onlne synchronous and asynchronous experience! (and share it with others 😉

Lots to do! I'll report back!  Sylvia

Liberation in quick gulps…

33 micro-structuresI have been looking forward to the Liberating Structures Workshop for ages – since I first learned about it at the Fall ETUG event. I had big ambitions to visit the site and explore all the blog posts and descriptions of the 33 liberating structures but, as with many of the other participants here, I ran out of time. 

We began Day 1 with a familiar activity with a twist – Impromptu Networking was a focused "meet & greet" activity – timed cycles where we paired up and shared what we hoped to get from the workshop and what we could contribute, and a challenge we hoped to focus on. I've done smiliar icebreakers before but liked the 3 cycles we went through with a debrief with Keith McCandless & team to really think about the value and purpose of the action.

And the rest of the day progressed from there – we walked the talk for sure – involved in activities with short bursts of guiding discussion and instructions between each brief but intense "gulps" of learning. Some participants questioned the consistent chime and bell nudges but it kept a group of disparate individuals (over a 100) moving through and experiencing and even sharing reflections throughout the day. Lots more to write about but I'm about to start Day 2.

Last thought:  I did a rough review of my notes and we tested and reflected / "unpacked" our experiences of over 12 different micro-structures. Definitely the co-developer of Liberating Structures Keith McCandless and his "Dream Team":  Tracy Kelly, BCcampus Professional Learning, Leva Lee, Open Learning/ETUG, Kele Fleming, UBC CTLT and, Cathy , Shawna Fenwick, consultant, and Fisher Qua, consultant  were amazing and provided me with all kinds of ideas to make my next facilitation event flow smoothly and provide a great experience for participants.

 

Warming up for FLO Design Sprint

Warm-upTuesday morning, February 2

I sprang out of bed at 5:45 (the time my chocolate lab usually body-bumps my side of the bed in the hopes that I'll want to get up to feed her) mentally running down the checklist of all the things I had still wanted to get reviewed and noted to be ready for our first Sprint Day!!

Luckily my dorm room at Royal Roads University has wireless internet so I was able to get to my web notes and hyperlinks. Don't want to miss any of the bits and pieces I've been collecting to share with FLO facilitators!

BCcampus folks finally made it happen – thanks Tracy and BJ and SylviaC!

We've been talking about getting together (all us FLO facilitators) synchronously and physically to rethink the Facilitating Learning Online workshop since I was first involved with the SCoPE version in late 2014! We've done brainstorm sessions on Collaborate and tossed ideas back and forth on Skype and in multiple GoogleDocs. And we've made many changes, in response to participant suggestions (kudos and gripes) and SylviaC has done an amazing job of creating what I consider an attractive and useful Moodle environment. We've got a FLO Harvest Wiki that is just bursting at the seams with ideas for digital tools, suggestions for additional readings and videos, samples of learning objects created by participants (and FLO facilitators) and a developing collection of ideas for approaching the various mini-session topics. But we want to make it better and stronger and more valuable for learners everywhere.

So, I'm looking forward to what the day brings. Lots of great ideas swirling around this evolving community of practice. And that's an important item not to forget – how do we build a useful proflearning option for online facilitators? And then there's the idea of integrating outside experts into topic sessions in selected weeks. But I'm getting ahead of myself. Sprinting out the door … more later!

 

. Since I was first involved with the SCoPE iteration of ISWo which morphed into Facilitating Learning Online (FLO) we've been talking about how to make the FLO experience and learning even better; we've talked about tightening up and rethinking the learning outcomes, reviewing the value of the FLO Rubric and badges, lightening up the readings and resources, rejigging the flow of mini-sessions,

‘appy holiday fun…

It's been a12apps UBrightonn 'appy time (yuck-yuck 😉 and I've learned a lot over the last couple of weeks – and had fun doing it! Thanks to the energetic, thoughtful teams at the Dublin Institute of Technology (#12appsDIT), Regents University London (#RUL12AoC), and University of Brighton (#12brightapps) for the engaging activities, clear instructions, and great ideas around how to use mobile apps to personalize and energize learning and make teaching more interesting.12apps RegentsU London

Although I didn't participate as much as I would have liked, I've discovered a few apps I hadn't heard of (or tried) and I'm inspired to try a similar approach in an open community of practice (SCOPE https://scope.bccampus.ca/) we've just set up around online facilitation. So great to see that the 12 apps of Christmas materials are open licensed. Although our Facilitating Learning Online workshops are only open to registrants, the materials are always open licensed. Our new CoP will be open licensed as well (although the BCcampus open license allows for commercial uses, unlike the UK version)BlogImage425

I did some further reading about the 12 apps of Christmas workshop and found that six UK institutions participated (see The six 12 apps of Christmas spreadsheet – http://bit.ly/1Zhy5cp.) While Brighton and Regents used the same basic structure (established by Regent'sU in 2014?) The Dublin Institute of Technology got more creative. Each institution selected 12 apps (lots of variety although there was soe overlap) and provided short tasks (to encourage you to explore the potential uses of each app) as well as hosting discussions (on web boards and through Twitter) on potential pedagogical issues and uses. The value for me was primarily due to their focus on the educational value of each app but I also found the variety of tasks, explanations and approaches to each day very inspiring.

The basic structure of 12 apps of Christma (for any of you thinking of following suit next Christmas season) is:

Part 1:
  • What is it?
  • What can it do?
  • Download link and instructions
  • 10 Minute Task
  • And Finally… (some Christmas humour ??!)
Part 2:
  • Discussion Board and/or Twitter with starter questions (directed at ways to use this in education):
e.g., Try to think up ways that iMovie (or Video Maker Pro Free) could work for you in your classrooms and lecture theatres? How would you use it? Recording student-presentations? Oral-Exams? Short video demonstrations that you can use to “Flip” your classroom?
Part 3:
  • Further Task(s)
  • Useful resources

Some highlights from the three that I followed this year:

I thought Regent's University did a good job of providing a clear, comprehensive and consistent presentation each day and I found they had the best selection of Useful Resources. I've got hours of additional exploration and some potentially really useful ideas from these sections. My favourite Regent's app was WhatsApp – lots more exploring to do with that app!

e.g., Useful Resources (Instagram)

I appreciated the effort that University of Brighton's team put into offering separate tasks and apps for participants from outside their institution (and outside of the UK). Thanks to all of you for being so inclusive. I also appreciated the many embedded, annotated illustrations and the thorough explanations of the tasks for each app. My favourite UofBrighton app was ExplainEverything.

It was pretty much a tie between Regent's and Brighton as to who posted the sickest (funniest?) jokes. I've been regaling friends and colleagues with them (inflicting?) since this started. Thanks for the smiles (and chuckles) you generated – laughter may be the best medicine but it also keeps learners engaged (at least this learner).

I found the Dublin Institute of Technology's unwrapping apps icons the most visually appealing and their zoho unwrapapp_iconsite was very easy to use and navigate. They broke with the structured approach I described above and focused on personalized learning – using the VARK framework to explore the day's app from the perspective of a Visual Learner, an Auditory Learner, a Read/Write Learner and a Kinesthetic Learner.

Although I'm not a big fan of learning styles, in this case the framework provided a structured way to explore different ways of presenting learning – very successfully!  I loved Frances Boylan's Soundcloud clips and have shared them with several instructors – hopefully we'll all be more creative in the future. Auditory Learners

Also loved DIT's selection of apps – some overlap with other institutions but their creativity in exploring different types of learning (using the VARK framework) meant that they certainly provided a really good introduction and overview of the power of personalizing learning!

A great 12 days of learning – thanks to everyone who participated. Maybe we'll try a Canadian version next year!