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!

Online learning activities jam – messy learning!

SCoPE online communityWell, it’s been a couple of weeks since I wrapped up my first open online learning seminar with the wonderful SCoPE community. I have always enjoyed the interesting discussions and activities and people you meet during these open seminars and had benefited so much from this community when I lived and worked up north. It was a great chance to share back; I hope someone else steps up soon. If you have any ideas you’d like to explore with a varied audience of educators, contact Sylvia Currie, the community steward!

jammaking3My intent for the Creating Engaging Online Learning Activities JAM was to start from a focus on what motivates people who learn online, and then to move on to planning a single online learning activity and sharing it with an audience of informed and experienced educators who would provide constructive criticism, suggestions, ask questions and generally help us all polish our initial designs. I even had hopes that we’d have time for a few practical participation sessions where people could demonstrate part of an activity to see how it worked with “students” before trying it in a “real” class. So…obviously that was too ambitious for two weeks. Hindsight is always 20:20 and I certainly see ways I could have restructured it, narrowed the scope and perhaps segmented the sessions? I’ve posted a feedback survey and, even if you didn’t participate in the whole seminar, if you have any thoughts to share, please do.

20150604_BonktripWhile I didn’t get the participation I’d hoped, I had an unanticipated but welcome guest. Professor Curtis Bonk (whose book with Elaine Khoo “Adding Some TEC-VARIETY” I’d used to help us organize our thinking about learning activities from a motivational perspective), stopped by to share some of his adventures since the book was published. He’s had the book translated into Chinese and spent time in the last year visiting Chinese universities to talk about his books. Check out his latest book – MOOCs and Open Education Around the World.

For my own online learning activity (OLA), I developed a rough plan to gather 4-5 videos found on the Internet (TED Talks, Google Talks, etc.) that focused on new ideas about teaching online. I wanted to explore ways to use videos to provoke more critical thinking and then use them to “seed” online/face-to-face discussions for a workshop about new approaches to teaching and learning. I had been playing with a new tool H5P that I’d added to my new website ( and decided to use it’s ability to create html5 annotated videos.

The value of testing OLAs in a community like SCoPE were quickly evident when I received some really thoughtful questions and suggestions about my initial plan. My final sample video was reviewed in detail by a very knowledgeable participant who pointed out a potential copyright issue I hadn’t recognized, and tested the playback in different browsers and using an iPhone. She also provided some “best practices” around using videos including some accessibility issues I had thought of but hadn’t addressed.  I’m in the process of creating a map to the questions I embedded in the video and I plan to provide a link to the interactive transcript (a bonus of using a TED Talk!). I’ll have to choose carefully for the next 4 videos as I would like to ensure that the resulting OLA is accessible as well as engaging.

We’ve posted all the resources – from a great collections of links to digital Bloom’s Taxonomy ideas to some open digital bulletin boards with questions to ask yoiurself when planning an OLA. And I’ll share the revised interactive video(s) as I develop them, on this site.