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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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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 http://bit.ly/2HutAen

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 http://bit.ly/2NXoqc6. Josie’s webinar recording (http://bit.ly/2u2xPGg) 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 (http://bit.ly/palakeynote) 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 (http://bit.ly/2UsiBpj). 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 (http://bit.ly/2Heu0pZ) 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.

Helping us see differently – Jess Mitchell

BCcampus, launched an important webinar series on Inclusive Design in February…and I missed all of them (sigh). But because the folks at BCcampus are digitally-aware and focused on openness and accessibility, they provided recordings of each session so I’m digging in to discover what I missed. If you are curious, here’s a brief overview of my take-aways from the first in the series: Inclusive Design, Jess Mitchell, Snr.Mgr, IDRC webinar recordingSlideshare presentation slides

Inclusive design means changing how you see; you need to take the time to reflect, to look around, to see what doesn’t work and think about why? Inclusive design works best when it happens before something is designed but, even afterwards, you can strive to make your course, your teaching, your presentations, whatever you create – more inclusive. It seems that, from Jess Mitchell’s perspective, it’s about the “why and the try”.

Inclusive Design is design that considers the full range of human diversity with respect to ability, language, culture, gener, age and other forms of human difference.

Jess Mitchel, IDRC,

Why should you try? Some of the benefits that Ms Mitchell shared (of using an ID approach to solve complex problems):

  • solutions have better = longer shelf life
  • solutions work better for more people
  • solutions address the gaps

Often the changes we make to support inclusiveness benefit unexpected or broader groups than we first think about. Jess pointed out the ubiquitous curbcuts that were a simple and widespread change that made navigating city sidewalks easier for people with mobility impairments. People thought it was just for the wheelchair bound but it makes it possible for moms w/strollers, elders with canes or pulling wheeled grocery carts, young kids delivering newspapers w/little red wagon – lots of people benefited.

It’s not just about accessibility – it’s about providing equivalent experiences. So the folks at IDRC talk, think, research about how to help everyone have a good experience – whether learning or working or just doing. She talked about making presentations and information multi-modal – and acknowledged the challenges of doing so – but encouraged us to try. She reiterated the power of taking the first step, and committing to the try.

Disability is a mismatch, between an individual and their goals and the tools they have available to them in their particular environment or context.

Jess Mitchel, IDRC

Thinking about disability – Jess pointed out that it might be more useful to think about mismatches. Walk around your environment and look for what doesn’t work – try to identify why? Talk to the people you’re designing for – “I find it helpful and important to ask…” Often disability is created by a non-thinking choice in the design phase; always think about how you can make your product, process, teaching accessible/digestible/navigable by more people.

Table as a metaphor
  • who isn’t at the table?
  • who can or can’t use this table?
  • is the table welcoming to all?
  • have people been at the table before?
  • when you invite somone to the table, do they know the culture of the table?
  • do they know how decisions are made at the table?
  • do they know how to have their voice heard at the table?
  • is the environment at the table safe and welcoming and open for everyone?
  • how is listening going to be captured at the table?
  • do these tables give people real ways to have an impact?
  • are people empowered to act on what is discussed at the table

There’s lots more – watch the screen recording – browse the slide deck. A great launch to a series on inclusive design. Thanks to BCcampus and Jess Mitchell.

References mentioned during presentation

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:

 

An appy ending inspires renewed focus on openness

So much for end of the year reflective posts – I’ve been in full-immersion workshop development since Christmas and then digging out from under a nasty cold – so here’s my mid January “looking back – looking forward” post for 2017!

I’ve always been curious about and involved (at some level) in open practices – from participating as a learner in open educational MOOCs, to blogging and presenting and teaching about open education, open learning and sharing of resources to, finally, exploring what it means to teach more openly.

Looking Back

12 apps featured by BC event

This last fall (2016), I was lucky enough to work with an amazing team (Leva Lee, ETUG and Clint Lalonde, BCcampus) to put together the first Canadian (West Coast!) iteration of the popular, free, open licensed, UK-event “12 Apps of Christmas.”  As I’ve written in other posts, I participated in four different 12 Apps events from the UK last year and had so much fun – and learned lots too. The original event was developed by Chris Rowell and Andy Horton of Regents University London in 2014.

Our BC-based event was the result of individuals and teams from different educational institutions around BC; each day featured a different free mobile app, explaining how to get it, sharing ideas of how it might be used in teaching, and posing a brief, fun challenge to encourage people to try the app. We had 194 email subscribers and I spoke to several people who were grateful that the site (http://12appsofchristmas.ca/) and the microlessons would remain available as they planned to explore when time allowed.

Other “open” explorations last year:  I joined the BC Open Educational Practices group coordinated by Rosario Passos (on leave from BCIT) of BCcampus. Primarily a group of instructional designers who are interested in promoting open practices and the creation and use of open educational resources in BC higher education, it’s been interesting but a little slow to coalesce. As everyone is so busy, we’re lucky to have Rosario to keep us connected and share all kinds of interesting events in the “open” universe.

I also kept up with maintaining a Scoop-IT page – FLO Learning – to capture and share open events internationally that I find interesting and contributed to and maintained the FLO Harvest Wiki, a collection of tools, readings, artifacts, etc. from repeated offerings of Facilitating Learning Online. Although FLO is not fully open, the resources are open licensed by BCcampus and hosted on the SCOPE site.

Looking Forward

So what’s ahead for my open practices explorations for the coming year? Maybe it’s best to just focus on the immediate future – I’m about to pilot a four week FLO-Design workshop for BCcampus. As with the foundation FLO, the resources will be open licensed and available once we complete the review and edits suggested by the pilot. I’m going to be blogging about some of my teaching intentions and lessons I learn as we proceed. I planned to share my designs as they evolved but they were really too messy to be of any great interest; part of teaching in the open seems to be to find the time to share what you are doing in a way that is digestible – takes time I just don’t have right now.

As soon as we’re launched I’m signing up for an open educational practices course from The Open University. I’ll report back on what I’m learning and whether it changes my thinking about what it means to teach in the open.

And I’ve discovered the rich goodness that is UBC’s http://open.ubc.ca/ site. I was drawn there to explore the stories from people who have taught in the open; and I started poking around. I can hardly wait to explore the challenges – more blog posts coming and maybe some OERs on my website!

I’ve also made a commitment to get more comfortable with the Confluence wiki we’re using for the BCOEP group. They’ve started up a couple of initiatives I think I can contribute too. Some of my first blog posts are going to be about finding ways to maintain a streamlined open publishing process so I don’t lose myself in the maelstrom of opportunities 😉

So, ‘appy New Year and good luck to all for 2017.

Sylvia