A mostly open journey thru ETUG’s Fall Unconference
We began and ended in the open. Friday, November 6th was the long-awaited ETUG Fall Unconference!
We gathered together at VCC's downtown campus (formerly known as VVI) and, after some opening remarks and housekeeping, were plunged into the virtual public meeting place created by the UDG Agora "Dream Team" led by Tannis Morgan, JIBC's Associate Dean in the Centre for Teaching, Learning & Innovation. Other members of the team that worked to create an amazing gathering place in the cloud:
- Brian Lamb, TRU's Director of Innovation,
- Alan Levine, Digital Technologies Consultant (aka CogDog),
- Terri Bateman, local consultant,
- Nancy White, "extraordinary facilitator", and
- Ken Bauer, "Facilitator of Educational Experiences at Tecnologico de Monterrey".
Despite some technical challenges, their hybrid, connected presentation was a glimpse of the possibilities of connecting learners and engaging them in challenging, scaffolded, layered learning online.
The Dream Team's challenge was to facilitate / create an open, blended faculty development experience working with the CIEP Docentes (http://ciep.cga.udg.mx) at the University of Guadalajara (UdG). Approximately 300 UdG professors are enrolled in a six month diploma program with a focus on teaching professors how to create student-centred experiences supported by mobile devices (read "iPads").
The participants from the University of Monterrey had a range of technological understanding and motivations and experience with open tools or learning; the "dream team" managed to engage them in Twitter-conversations, studio-learning, exploring regular creative challenges and sharing online, and supported them in revisting their existing courses to redesign and energize their teaching and learning. An illustration of the amazing "cloud-conversations" that are occuring in the open Agora (now with contributors around the world) is shown by this TAGSExplorer (built by Martin Hawksey) snapshot.
Even more exciting is that the whole challenge-based, layered, open and flexible learning approach is available for anyone to review and use. So, dive into the tag cloud or peruse the somewhat inaptly named "Agora Site Map" Find out more about Tannis' "ETUG Taco Challenge" and, don't be shy, build a taco and share.
It was great to see familiar faces from last year's ETUG sessions but there were also lots of new faces to get to know. The second plenary presentation was focused on open textbooks, a familiar BCcampus topic. We were given a clear overview of student issues and concerns about open textbooks and resources during a lively and thorough presentation by UBC student leaders, Jenna Omassi and Daniel Munro #textbookbrokeUBC It sounds as though the conversation has involved many students and instructors and the support people at UBC, including the bookstore. Loved the contest where students shared pictures of how much they spend on textbooks, in particular the one that showed expensive textbooks acting as a TV stand! They presented a strong case for pursuing "openness" and more and more instructors are getting involved; not just in open textbooks but in developing a more "open learning" approach (see "Physics Course Adopts an Open Textbook and Saves Students $90,000" – some compelling arguments.
I attended a number of "unconference" sessions and learned a fun Liberating Structures activity that Tracy Kelly and Leva Lee facilitated – 25-10 crowd sourcing. The focus question we explored was how to make ETUG more relevant to members. The activity involved writing our best idea and the first step we thought should be taken to achieve it on a file card. Then we circulated (milled around) passing cards back and forth. We stopped 5 times and explored the ideas on our card with one other person – adding a rating from 1-5. At the end, we added up the scores (top score = 25) and now I can't remember what the "10" stood for? If you're interested in learning more facilitation strategies, BCcampus is organizing a 2.5 day workshop led by Keith McCandless of Liberating Structures. Early bird pricing ends Nov 23rd and the workshop takes place February 17-19, 2016 (more information at urls.bccampus.ca/LS)
I did really enjoy some of the one-to-one or one-to-several discussions that I was involved in during sessions, in the back of rooms, waiting in the hallways, standing in line for food, tea or coffee. Lots of interesting people there – just not presenting for some reason. And I suppose I was the same. I came with two ideas to pitch and put them in my back-pocket (so to speak) because they didn't seem related in any way to any of the topics others were pitching or that were part of the featured focus – so much openness is great but a little overwhelming (I can't believe I just typed that sentence but, surprisingly, it's how I was feeling).
I did enjoy the closing session (which wasn't so much a closing session as a bit of a passionate rant by Brian Lamb about a new project he and Grant Potter (of UBC?), were pulling together using the new UBC educloud server (see BC OpenEdTech http://oet.tru.ca ). I've signed up and they've already given me access and I'm happily playing with a couple of open apps (creating my first grain) but so far I haven't figured out how to bring in Dropbox or SPLOT – two ideas that Brian talked about. Obviously I need to do some more reading and poking around. I enjoyed hearing about some of the ways people are using SPLOT (see http://trubox.ca/)
Although I didn't find as much to inspire me at this year's ETUG, it was still a really worthwhile event. Kudos to the organizers and the hosts. It was a good reason to explore a part of Vancouver that I haven't seen for a long time.