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New Centre at SFU launched!

I tripped over news of an exciting change happening at Simon Fraser University in an email I received through the ISW network. On July 15, 2019 SFU launched the Centre for Educational Excellence (CEE) under the direction of Elizabeth Elle, Vice-Provost and Associate VP, Learning and Teaching. This is a major change in the structure and organization of the university and I’ll be curious to hear/see what impact it has for instructors and students in the months ahead.

a simple chart showing the intended organization of Centre for Educational Excellence

The new Centre will include the current divisions: Teaching and Learning Centre (TLC), Centre for Online and Distance Education (CODE), and the Centre for English Language Learning, Teaching and Research (CELLTR). The launch message from Elizabette Elle indicates that the purpose of the re-org is to encourage better collaboration, streamline the services they provide to instructors and students, assist in the university’s indigenization and internationalization efforts, and add some additional capacity (?) in educational assessment). While I appreciate the recognition of the blurring of boundaries between modes of learning, and the intention to move away from compartmentalized services, I’ll be curious to see which area gets the most attention. I’m not a big fan of an entire area devoted to quality assurance and analysis as so much time and money was spent in Alberta and Ontario to develop guidelines and then they weren’t maintained – will this initiative consider “lessons learned”? But I have been impressed by SFU’s creative and dedicated staff in the TLC and CODE areas in the past, so I’m looking forward to positive changes from the intended focus on teamwork. and innovation.

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.

Making marks and dancing feelings at SKiP2018

Sketching in Practice logoOne of the things I love about living ‘down south’, is the opportunity to follow a whim or curiosity in terms of professional development. When I saw some tweets fly by about a Sketching in Practice symposium sponsored by SFU, my interest was piqued. When I poked around a bit I found the pages and pictures from the 2016 and 2017 events and then followed the blog until the presenters for this year’s event were posted. I checked my calendar, figured out travel details and registered.

I’ve explored graphic facilitation and sketchnoting in the past but I appreciated the wider scope of SKiP2018. From a young art teacher, Meghan Parker, who had just completed the first “..thesis of an autobiographical nature in comic book form” to two academics, Dr. Kathryn Ricketts and Dr. Andrea Kantrowitz, who proposed to explore intersections between movement, gesture, and meaning, the day looked pretty full of thought-provoking experiences!

A last minute surprise was my winning a draw for a pre-event workshop with Carnegie Mellon’s Doug Cooper called “Drawing by Touch.” Thanks SKiP!

So…what?

So, what did I learn? what did it change about my ongoing professional development ideas and interests?

Comics in education

I am still ambivalent about the role of comics (as most comics are drawn) in education. After listening to Meghan Parker speak her comic thesis, I realized that part of my resistance to comic strips may have been the structure (connected boxes) and the visual busy-ness I perceive when I try to read them. I was surprised at how much I learned from Meghan’s comics and how some of her simple images and complex messages stayed with me afterwaMeghan Parker's thesis comicrds. I realized I appreciated the variation in presentation of her visual elements – sometimes she drew around boxes while at other times she had a pageful of boxes. I’ll revisit some comic strips and try reading them out loud too – might help me to understand the attraction 😉

 

Hand drawing on paper

I have always found that writing can help me work out ideas but I often struggle with using drawing the same way. I’ve found that the challenge of imagining an image to represent a complex idea takes a fair bit of thinking at times and my lack of any drawing automaticity means that I’m also struggling to think of how to draw the image I can picture. Sometimes that means drawing is a block to understanding rather than an aid. So, the natural drawing exercises (from author/teacher Kimon Nicolaides: The Natural Way to Draw (1941)) that Doug talked/walked/drew us through on Thursday afternoon were really helpful as he introduced me to some new ways of relaxing about drawing and finding ways to feel the shapes of what I see and to let my hand and arm relax and stay connected with the paper. Now, to make drawing a more natural part of my day so that I can use it more effectively in my practice.

drawing scienceDrawing Science

I thoroughly enjoyed Armin Mortazavi’ Lightning Talk. His understated delivery and self-deprecating humour make it easy to miss the impressive abilities of this young science cartoonist. His story about juggling personal crises while holding various government entities at bay while he created a meaningful story to communicate complex health and nutrition information through his comics was hilarious but enlightening. I’m only sorry I couldn’t be part of his session – I heard it was great.

Maps for inspiration; maps for understanding

Two related afternoon sessions: Professor Chris Lanier shared some interesting examples of some of his favourite graphic novels and then pulled us into an exploration of how drawn images can inspire story narratives. An interesting use of this narrative mapping technique that certainly drew some interesting stories from the audience. Chris is currently working on a novel about the Department of Justice’s Ferguson Police Department Report (An Anatomy of Institutional Racism), using comics and infographics.

Erin Fields hosted an interesting session exploring the Information World Mapping (IWM), developed by Dr. Devon Greyson. She involved us in a brief application of the technique, having us draw our information world – mapping the process and connections we think of when we try to resolve a problem. This enriched our understanding of her story about applying this method at UBC when she participated in an application of IWM to try to understand the information-related needs and preferences of student refugees during resettlement. Erin is Liaison Librarian in the humanities and social sciences and the Flexible Learning Coordinator at the University of British Columbia.

Drawing as a form of thinking

I had read about Sandra’s use of drawing journals in a recent article from Capilano University’s Bettina Boyle so I was curious to hear her story and learn more about how she integrated drawing in her teaching. She shared her journey and her efforts to understand the evidence underlying her beliefs and practices in the classroom. Some of her examples were very compelling and a good “push” to start incorporating more drawing and journaling to support my own personal reflective practices!

Marks, movements and meanings

I think there is much more to the ideas Dr. Ricketts and Andrea Kantrowitz wanted to share with us than I was able to absorb from their Lightning Talk and interactive three-part session. Although the fluidity of movement, the variation in emotional expression and story conveyed by Kathryn’s movements was interesting, and the use of the projected overlays of line, colour and form that Andrea drew as she was inspired and interacting with Kathryn’s story were eye-catching, I never really felt the two blended or augmented my understanding, although the group I was part of during the “audience participation” piece had a lot of fun trying to use movement to express emotions depicted by tiny drawings on scraps of paper. I was grateful for the small printed booklets Andrea shared afterwards and I’ll be “unpacking” the ideas as I have time.

Whew! It was a full day and a half – had to leave early to catch a ferry home. Too bad I missed the summation and the opportunity to get together with people afterwards. But my hat is off to the hardworking, enthusiastic SFU staff that helped us all learn together – and kept it fun!

Cheers to Jason Toal’s team of sketching enthusiasts – from Simon Fraser University’s, Faculty of Communications Art and Technology; School of Interactive Art and Technology; and the Teaching and Learning Center

 

Making learning personal

Have you noticed the the increased use of the terms “individualization”, “differentiation” and “personalization” ? While more prevalent in K-12 education conversations, the terms (often linked with adaptive technologies) are increasingly part of the focus within higher education. They are cited as being part of the move to more effectively engage diverse learners and help them learn what they are interested in, and need for their future.

Do you think you know what they mean? Do you feel you are able to offer one or all of these approaches in your teaching?

When I asked myself, I realized I was a little hazy on the differences between the terms and was finding the link to online learning and the power of adaptive approaches and technologies. So, to clarify I turned to my Googlebrain and found what seemed to be a useful explanation (from the U.S. Department of Education, Office of Educational Technology) and discovered that two were actually subsumed in one (i.e., individualization and differentiation are considered a part of personalization).

Individualization Differentiation  Personalization
 instruction paced to the learning needs of each student  instruction to meet learning preferences of different learners  instruction paced to learning needs, preferences and interests of different learners
 learning goals same for each student  learning goals same for each student  learning objectives, content, method and pace may all vary
learning progress allows faster, slower pace for each student  method and/or approach varies for each student, based on their preferences or what research has found works best for students like them  encompasses both individualization and differentiation
Personalization – “Personalized Learning”
instruction in which the pace of learning and the instructional approach are optimized for the needs of each learner. Learning objectives, instructional approaches, and instructional content (and its sequencing) may all vary based on learner needs.

In addition, learning activities are meaningful and relevant to learners, driven by their interests, and often self-initiated.

Based on my own experiences, I would say I try to offer this kind of flexibility to individual learners as often as I can but I doubt I ever fully achieve “personalization”. I don’t really see how it is possible to address all the aspects described in the definition, within a structured school system built on measurable, demonstrable, similar learning outcomes.

Many of us face increasing class sizes, increasing diversity of learners, and a growing complexity of teaching. Even in the face-to-face classrooms, teachers are hard-pressed to get to know each of their students well enough to provide appropriate flexibility of timing, approaches, and completion options. The laudable intentions of the “personalization” approach assume that every learner is able to identify what is meaningful and relevant when new ideas, concepts and content are shared. While the learner-centred interpretation of the three terms put forward by Bray and McClaskey are inspiring, I have had many students who weren’t focused enough on my course (among all the competing demands in their busy adult lives) to even want to achieve “mastery” or to take the time to monitor and reflect on their own learning.

And a challenge that is never mentioned in the articles and conversations about the benefits of personalization, is how do you keep track of what you’ve done, why, for whom, and whether and what they have achieved and how it relates to the stated outcomes of the syllabus? “Aha,” you might say. “There’s an app for that!” Technology is often cited as the answer to customizing learning for individuals.

Some practical examples of how “the machine” can identify problems (in curriculum) quickly, help to improve curriculum on the fly, and help an online instructor identify emergent or potential problems that individuals were presented several years ago by Stanford’s Daphne Koller in her popular What we’re learning from online education TED Talk. Since then the possibilities of machine-assisted teaching surround every conversation about how to help students learn and succeed. A more recent EDUCAUSE article, “How Personalized Learning Unlocks Student Success” provides a list of ways in which instructors can use machine-generated data to personalize learning activities and includes a Utopian vision of accessibility, enjoyment and positive partnerships between instructors, adaptive courseware and happy students.

If I sound a little skeptical of many of the claims of technology, it’s based on my experiences and observations. While technology makes it possible to provide amazing learning experiences and to manage the outcomes, we’re still learning how to use the tools well. The power, scope and potential of new technologies progresses faster than we seem to be able to respond – both in using those powers for positive effects and to protect our learners (and ourselves) from the potential harm and loss of privacy.

 


Header image: On-screen analytics @Jisc and Matt Lincoln and Teacher and learner group, @tamuc via Flickr, CCBY

eRefs

Alli, Nazeema, Rahim Rajan, Greg Ratliff (Mar 7, 2016) How Personalized Learning Unlocks Student Success, EDUCAUSE review, Retrieved from https://er.educause.edu/articles/2016/3/how-personalized-learning-unlocks-student-success

Basye, Dale (Jan. 24, 2018) ISTE Blog – Education leadership, Personalized vs. differentiated vs. individualized learning, retrieved from https://www.iste.org/explore/articleDetail?articleid=124

Bray, Barbara and Kathleen McClaskey, (??) for Education Alberta, “Personalization vs Differentiation vs Individualization  https://education.alberta.ca/media/3069745/personalizationvsdifferentiationvsindividualization.pdf

Koller, Daphne (https://www.ted.com/talks/daphne_koller_what_we_re_learning_from_online_education)

Lam, Evelyn (Aug 31, 2016) Review:  Weapons of Math Destruction, Scientific American Blog, Retrieved from https://blogs.scientificamerican.com/roots-of-unity/review-weapons-of-math-destruction/

U.S. Department of Education, Office of Educational Technology, (2010) Transforming American Education: Learning Powered by Technology (pdf) – https://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/ED512681.pdf  (see p.12)
Note:  These periodic reports are referred to generally as National Education Technology Plans.

U.S. Department of Education, Office of Educational Technology, (January 2017) Reimagining the Role of Technology in Education:  2017 National Technology Plan Update (pdf),  https://tech.ed.gov/files/2017/01/NETP17.pdf (see p. 9 sidebar, Personalized Learning)

Integrating UDL in Course Design

sketchnotes - Universal Design for Learning - Giulia ForsytheI’ve been a proponent of universal design principles since I worked for a national disability research centre many years ago. As I’ve taught and written about the design of learning, I’ve tried to keep a ‘UDL lens’ in place – not always successfully. I ruefully admit that my intentions were often overwhelmed by circumstances, resulting in fewer options for learners to engage or share their learning than I would have liked to offer. I keep trying – while exploring new technologies to aid me and reading and discussing different approaches with other educators whenever I can!

Over the last few years I’ve noticed periodic resurgences of interest and discussion around the three principles of UDL and the growing emphasis on “personalization” of education and learning. (Note: to learn more about the history and development of the concept of personalization, see UNESCO’s 2012 Personalized Learning Policy Brief).

CAST director David Gordon was one of the first to explicitly link UDL and personalization with his May 2015 article “How UDL can get you to personalized learning“.  A more recent article in ASCD’s 2017 Educational Leadership journal, “Personalization and UDL: A Perfect Match” by Kathleen McClaskey reiterates many of his original points but presents the application of UDL from both a teacher and learner perspective. McClaskey and her colleague Barbara Bray have been influential in the dissemination and application of the concepts underlying personalization in education.

PDPIE course design model

PDPIE model

The strong connections between the three principles of UDL and the underlying perspectives and applications of “personalization” are also found reflected in the various “quality” frameworks that are applied to online learning design. In the upcoming BCcampus workshop, Facilitating Learning Online (FLO) – Design, we’ll take a look at how UDL principles can be integrated within a quality framework.

 eRefs

Gordon, David (2015) How UDL can get you to personalized learning, e-School News, Retrieved from https://www.eschoolnews.com/2015/05/19/udl-personalized-939/3/?all

McClaskey, Kathleen (2017) Personalization and UDL: A Perfect Match, ASCD Educational Leadership, “Getting Personalization Right”,  Volume 74, No. 6, Retrieved from http://www.ascd.org/publications/educational-leadership/mar17/vol74/num06/Personalization-and-UDL@-A-Perfect-Match.aspx

National Center on Universal Design for Learning, The Three Principles of UDL, Retrieved from http://www.udlcenter.org/aboutudl/whatisudl/3principles

Sharif, Afsaneh, (2016) Quality assurance designing quality online course, UBC wiki, retrieved from http://wiki.ubc.ca/Quality_assurance_designing_quality_online_course

UNESCO Policy Brief (2012) Personalized Learning: A New ICT-enabled Education Approach, retrieved from http://iite.unesco.org/pics/publications/en/files/3214716.pdf