Found: A map of engagement

During my random treasure hunt through compilation of BC’s teaching and learning websites, I noticed an interesting subsection in UVic’s Learning and Teaching Support and Innovation site (what a mouthful that must be to share when you meet others at a conference!) – the subsection is called Community-engaged Learning. I was curious partly because I’ve been working with a community planning consultant and educator from Whitehorse who has opened my eyes to possibilities for engaging rural and remote communities across the North, but also because I’m always looking at ways people interpret and advance basic learning theories. The Community-engaged Learning site began with a definition:

Community-Engaged Learning (CEL) is a form of experiential learning and community-engaged scholarship whereby students actively engage with course content through the combination of collaborations with community and facilitated reflection.

So, I was curious to find out the ways UVic’s interpretation or application might involve different approaches based on experiential learning. Although I didn’t find what I was hoping for – guidelines or tips on facilitating/managing experiential learning in the field/community to ensure meaningful learning (i.e., how to prevent disasters and go beyond – “I had such a great time”), I did find some interesting first steps CEL pedagogies and flagged that for future exploration.

My first find though was the searchable, international, multi-faceted Engagement map. The visual of the map gives you a sense of the surprising spread of UVic community-engagement activities and you can find public lectures, partnerships with community groups, community-focused research, and guided walks (if you’re in Victoria).

The map is pretty straightforward to use: either click on a blue circle in a geographic location that interests you, or use one of the nine filters or try a keyword search.

My initial explorations led me to co-op programs and then to impact stories from young participants and their community groups or health organizations. I discovered a unique Fraser Valley ethnohistory field school hosted by the Sto:lo that has been running since 1998!

I found out about a community research project that resulted in Victoria rain gardens that contributed to our understanding of municipal stormwater management. Other stories introduced me to international impacts where UVic students work to find business models to help Zambian goat farmers find the best markets for their animals. A Social Sciences community partnership allowed students to work with UVic sociologist William Carroll to develop a new online mapping tool to highlight 50 of the most influential fossil fuel industry players in Western Canada and develop our understanding of the power relationships within this sector.

So, if you’re looking for inspiration in terms of making your teaching more relevant and meaningful for your students, you might pick up some ideas while exploring this map. While the stories featured are somewhat lean on the realities of how to actually facilitate the learning and to keep the community projects manageable for students, partners and yourself, you could always follow up with the university or keep an eye on their CEL website. Enjoy!

BC Teaching & Learning Centres

BC’s Teaching & Learning Centres

Have you ever gone looking for inspiring ideas or examples of teaching (and learning) and come up empty? Or wondered about what educators at other institutions were thinking about, working on, or practising that might be useful in your teaching context?

As an educational developer and facilitator I’m often curious about what’s happening. So I started poking at the websites of Canadian higher education institutions. I found it too slow to start from each hi-ed institution’s website so I found various listings. But I wasn’t really thrilled with those either – too many dead links – not enough information to do a quick scan to pick up points of interest. So, I’ve created my own page(s) – organized by province and listed the main areas each teaching and learning centre shared publicly that might be of interest.

It took me far longer than I anticipated and it’s still a work in progress but I’ve got BC done finally! Check it out:

Teaching and Learning – British Columbia

Along the way I’ve found some really interesting podcasts, newsletters, ideas, explanations, images and videos. I’m going to follow my nose and do some blogging about what I find when I do the ‘deep dive’ into the websites of those institutions that still share a lot of their knowledge and activities publicly (sadly many are putting resources for teaching and learning behind a staff/faculty login.

Let me know if you find errors or omissions. And better still, if you find this useful! Enjoy.

Social tech takes more than tidy

The “tidy queen”, Marie Kondo, may offer transformative wisdom for houses and offices, but her methods failed me when I tried to apply them to my unwieldy collection of social media apps and tools. Her method “…encourages tidying by category – not by location” and she exhorts her many Youtube followers to “discard items that no longer spark joy.” But my collection strongly resists categorization and sometimes the changes in terms of use, pricing and functionality make a a tool unusable – even if it does spark joy!

A case in point – Flickr. Once one of my almost daily ‘go-to’ places (since 2004!) and the source of much joy, became an issue for me many years ago when Yahoo bought it. Their unwieldy handling and then outright neglect made me step away but I couldn’t quite make myself cancel my account. Then, a year or so ago, SmugMug bought it and immediately made some fairly significant changes. I had some concerns about the ownership terms and conditions and didn’t have time to dig into them for clarity. So, I stepped back again, downloaded and backed up my photos. I’ve gone back recently and found that so many people complained that SmugMug adjusted some of its new terms to address the biggest concerns – new storage limits for free accounts. Now I have to think through whether I want to find an alternative social photo sharing site, give up on social photo sharing and just share selected images on my blog site, or ? See, not so simple Marie Kondo!

But I didn’t give up on the Kondo method right away. I stepped back and thought again about categorization. I’ve collected free or low cost drawing tools, image editing tools, and presentation tools. Maybe they would be more straightforward to tidy up than a more complex social tool like Netvibes or Evernote? At least they fit (mostly) into separate categories. If I started from the goals or objectives I had for the use of each tool? And, instead of handling each one to think about whether it gave me joy, I could look at the functionality, the possibilities, and what I had actually created or done with each tool? But there are always additional factors to consider. Was I planning on using the tool for my teaching, writing, daily life? Did I have hopes that a tool would prove useful to other instructors I worked with or taught? Could it support creative methods of engaging students? Or was it simply a way to have some fun while traveling or waiting in line-ups? I need a tool for analysis – maybe just a simple table?

Factors1 Joy2 Happy3 Good4 Blah
Useful – teaching or writing
Useful – other instructors
Useful – personal
Stable ownership / development
Well-designed (ease of use, functionality)
Multiple options for sharing, saving
Free or low cost to use
Reasonable terms of use

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 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:

Learning about inclusive design with Josie Gray

February was Inclusive Design month for BCcampus! Josie Gray, Coordinator of Collection Quality for Open Education, facilitated all four sessions and left us with a rich collection of ideas, tips, examples and guidelines of how we can all improve our practice when preparing / delivering / sharing information and ideas in our teaching or instructional design efforts. Check out the BCcampus video channel Open Education

I reviewed Part 1: Inclusive Design webinar in some detail in a previous blog post as Jess Mitchell of the Inclusive Design Research Centre at OCAD was setting the context for the series. The remaining three sessions focused on: Presentations, Pressbooks and Inaccessibility.

Part 2: Presentations webinar was reported on by Michelle Reed from University of Texas at Arlington – see Presentation Recap Josie’s webinar recording ( in the Open Education channel of the BCcampus video collection includes links to the resources she used to ground her exploration of four main elements: Slide setup, Slide content, Inclusive presentation strategies, and After the presentation. One of my personal “I didn’t know that!” moments was learning that text boxes are NOT accessible and, in fact, should always be accompanied by an ALT text description. Lots of other helpful tips and tools are covered by Josie Gray during the session.

share written version of keynote
provide multimodal options

I found Josie’s example of Robin De Rosa’s before- and after-sharing really inspiring! Robin shared a written version of her talk ( via Twitter before she delivered her keynote. The written version included image slides with written descriptions for screen readers and her video of the talk included captions. And Jess Mitchell also makes a practice of sharing her presentation slides with slide notes and a transcript through her Slideshare channel ( Something to strive for – I often feel that I just don’t have enough time when it’s a new presentation or topic.

Part 3: Pressbooks demonstratede Josie’s expertise with the tool as she provided sevveral constructive ways to approach the complexity (from my perspective) of Pressbooks publication requirements. As a newbie to Pressbooks, I found it helpful but can only suggest you watch/read Josie’s presentation ( yourself before you start your next Pressbook’s publication!

Part 4: Inaccessibility began with a design thinking approach as Josie challenged participants to think about making an OER inaccessible. The resulting suggestions demonstrated that her audience had been listening during previous sessions (or were very experienced with issues of accessibility.) Some of the challenges the group suggested:

  • Money/cost – find OER to reduce the barrier
  • Limited access to digital devices – provide multiple formats
  • Limited access to Internet – design learning events that limit the time students need to be connected
  • Varying levels of digital literacy – demonstrate/teach about ways to utilize basic tools like pdfs – help them to navigate, highlight important features of course environments, provide access to alternative formats
  • Language-comprehension – use key terms, glossary lists, avoid jargon and figures of speech, structure topics, highlight main ideas, provide audio

Josie reminded us of Jess Mitchell’s advice to go beyond checklists for accessibility and to try to think ahead to challenges that the next presentation, course, book or any activity might cause. If we could think of disability as relative, subjective and dependent on context, we would be more likely to ask more questions, to be curious, and to try different solutions.

Thanks to BCcampus for offering such a meaningful professional learning opportunity, and to Josie Gray for her clear explanations and examples.