100 days ago, I started an adventure with Ontario Extend and created my first Daily Extend. This was the beginning of building a Personal Learning Network (PLN) as an educator in the post secondary arena in Ontario.
Here’s what happened:
In case you are interested, here is my first tweet.
I submit that we create a problem for students with the language we use for General Education course requirements in the college arena. We call them Electives. The term Electives gives students the impression that these courses are optional, that they are not important and that these courses do not deserve the same attention as students’ vocational courses. Many faculty reinforce this idea with the way they think and speak about the place electives have in their program.
In the summer of 2016, I got curious about a specific group of students who didn’t graduate. I wondered how many students where in their final semester of a program, who had at least a grade point average of 3.0 out of 4 and were not eligible to graduate. There were more than I expected. And then I looked at why they were not eligible. Electives. The majority had failed, dropped or skipped an elective in their first three semesters and that was what prevented their graduation at the end of their final semester. Many had enrolled in an elective course in the Spring semester but it meant that these students would not be walking across the stage with their class in June. Our college had set targets for increasing retention for the year. Graduating this group of students would have exceeded our targets.
So how do we address this? I have three suggestions:
Let’s stop calling these courses electives. These are General Education REQUIREMENTS – you need these to graduate. An addendum would be to also change other faculty conversations about the importance of these course to students.
Let’s do a systematic check of students as Winter semester ends and suggest Spring semester options for catching up missing courses or a plan for picking up the additional course during the regular semesters.
Let’s talk to students about the benefits of General Education requirements.
Mr. Keating emphasizes the real-world applicability of words, language, and poetry. He encourages his students to contemplate their life’s purpose. The human race is full of passion- poetry, beauty, romance and life: the things people stay alive for. “The powerful play goes on, and you may contribute a verse. What will your verse be?”
Let’s ask students about their passions, their life outside of work and the impact they wish to have. Let’s explore the options they have with General Education Courses and show them the possibilities for making their college experience unique. This discussion could come as part of a workshop, at faculty meetings during Orientation, or during one of their core courses in 1st semester.
If we can reframe electives, I believe we could both improve student experience and graduation rates.
The idea of having a space of my own on the internet is compelling but also daunting. There is so much to know and too much I don’t know. But in the last three weeks, I have had a chance to peek under the cover and learn about how I can have a digital identity that I control.
Early on in my professional development involvement with OntarioExtend, I was offered a Reclaim Hosting site and I said “maybe.” I had never blogged before and I didn’t know if I would like it or be any good at it. I didn’t know if I would want to keep doing it.
As you can see from my 60 some odd posts, I have something to say. Lots of different somethings to say. So I took the plunge and accepted a Domain of One’s Own. However, the deciding factor was not that I liked blogging but rather, that there going to be Domain Camp. Domain Camp, led by Alan Levine (@cogdog) is four weeks of activities and instructions for those of us that are new at webmastering.
Now, I have a landing page, a blog and a splot for cats. I have email… try it, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org! I have ideas. Ideas about subdomains based on my varied personal interests. Ideas about student success training I could release under creative commons license. Ideas of how I might involve my student tutors in curating content. So many ideas!
I am crazy proud of myself. It feels weird to say that but it is true! I am more capable than I thought possible and I credit OntarioExtend for helping me see that!
On Friday, July 13, 2018, I participated in my first slow twitter chat with Higher Education Digital Identity (a.k.a. #HEdigID) Chat. Once a month, on the second Friday, the assigned host, in this case @SuzanKoseoglu, posts 6 questions and the conversation usually continues over 24 hours. A transcript of the first 24 hours is collected and posted.
I experienced my first slow chat and my first twitter storm. A slow chat, unlike twitter chats that are scheduled over a one hour period, is a chat aimed at a larger population, across time zones or where internet connections are spotty. A slow chat can can last 8 to 24 hours. A twitter storm is a sudden surge in a topic or around a twitter thread where you receive notification of every addition and every like or retweet.
The conversation did not end after 24 hours, it continued through the weekend and into the next week in part because of lurking. This aspect, the idea that people listen in but don’t contribute – in twitter chats, online discussions, forums, online courses, MOOCs and more sparked both debate and analysis. I found it fascinating to hear perspectives from around the world and from different viewpoints as HE professionals discussed their thoughts as both leaders and users of discussions and courses.
I am a lurker. I lurked in the #HEdigid chat, for the most part. I contributed 9 tweets. It was my first slow chat. I wasn’t sure what to expect or what I might have to offer. Maybe next time, I will add more. Maybe not. In this round, it was connecting to the discussion that was valuable to me. Let’s just say, I was applying the Educational Theory of Apprenticeship to slow twitter chats. I posted something to be a part of the conversation and then sat back and learned from others on both the topic and the manner in which they participated in the discourse.
Here is what I learned:
Curiosity. Respectful questions for clarity and understanding are welcome.
That (noteworthy) article is about the practice of rhizomatic learning. Does the practice in all its complexity meet the promise of the theory? Not necessarily, not for all members of (which?) community. who is in, who is out, whose perspectives? #HEdigID
Make it personal. Your antidote regarding your approach, your thinking and your lived experience has value.
I had a gradual approach to using social media and open practices too – over several years! Also accompanied by lots of reading, resources, and slow mindset changes as I learned about different ideas, aspects, and pros/cons of why/why not to do certain things.#HEdigID
Love this.. How do we reach the digitally shy and resistant? What does mean to be shy and resistant in open online platforms? I’m noting these on the shared doc together with @IrenequStewart‘s comments #OEP#HEdigID
I was led to this article during my morning scan of twitter. I wish I could tell who shared it, but the twitter tide has swept that away. I am also going to do something in this post that I caution my students against; I am going to heavily quote from the original article. I generally encourage students to put the ideas they find in a literature review into their own words, but in this case, I don’t believe I can do it better and I want to relate what reading those works evoked in my mind about my experiences with Ontario Extend.
I joined Ontario Extend as a personal professional development project as St. Clair College, my work home, encourages faculty to pursue PD during May and June. Unfortunately, most of the available PD outside of the Faculty Retreat just doesn’t speak to me. My colleague, Marko Jovanovic often describes me as “paying a game of 3-D chess in my head” apparently against myself or maybe against the man (shakes fist in the air) because I want to think about and debate crazy ideas and connections that occur to me that are simply not on others’ radar. This often leaves me feeling out of step and, frankly, lonely. I was expecting to find it interesting and challenging.I did not expect to find it affirming. I did not expect to find my people, my tribe.
“We can only become the person whose story we can keep telling and acting out in the world” (Petriglieri, 2018).
Here, I am going to digress a bit and bring in Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. I don’t go to work to fulfill my social or self-esteem needs. I take care of these at home with a circle of close friends and family. I have no patience for small talk. It’s not that I don’t care what you did on the weekend or that you found a great deal on _______________ (fill in the blank), it is just there is this important stuff going on, there is a big semester clock ticking in my head and time for our students is running out and I want to talk about work first. At work, I am working out my self-actualization needs. I am working on becoming my authentic self and developing mastery in my work.
“Most useful and precious among our illusions, my research suggests, is the illusion of one’s self as masterful — able to endure adversity, experience freedom, and be of service to others” (Petriglieri, 2018).
Adversity, freedom and service, now that is powerful stuff. Reminds me of parents’ teaching and the dutch work ethic I was raised with. I go to work, not just show up in the building. I put up with the crap (and as my mom would say, there is crap in every job, except she would never use the word crap) so that I can have the freedom to take care of me and mine so that I have the ability to help others. If mastery is the feeling that I got this, then most of the time I am there but…. there is some self-doubt and again, loneliness.
“Instead of demanding conformity in exchange for safety, such communities keep our working lives exciting and us stable, ultimately helping us master our working lives” (Petriglieri, 2018).
Are you ready for some Ontario Extend stuff? In Ontario Extend, I have found a community and an experience that is both dynamic and supportive. If you read any of the recent post in this blog, you will already know that I struggled fiercely with the Scholar module. But my Extend West community was there offering clarity, ideas, and support. On twitter and through the weekly lunch meetings, I received new angles to consider and a very strong message that not only am I determined and on fire, I am capable.
Petirglieri’s article is all about tribes and their value. But not all tribes are created equally. Some tribes demand conformity that stifles growth. Good tribes inspire mastery.
Petirglieri (2018) lists three characteristics of tribes “that help us be masters of our working life:”
encourage us to show up generously in the world
let us take risks to try something new
raise the questions that help us explore the edges of our competence and identity, or send us in new directions
This is Ontario Extend. It is like the perfect elevator pitch for why you should become an extender! The Collaborator module shows us how to become part of the community and encourages us to both give and receive in our Personal Learning Network. The Domain of One’s Own/Blogging/Extend Activities provides opportunity to gently enter the practice of working out-loud and sharing our real selves. The Experimenter module and Daily Extends invites us to play, to try, to create and Technologist module takes us through a process of how we can extend these principles to our practice for the betterment of student learning. The Teaching for Learning module allows us to explore our identity. The Curator module helps us realize that we are already curators and that our discernment adds value. The Scholar modules gives us a path to developing new competences and to using real data to improve our practice. And new directions?? How about open learning, Open Education Resources, Creative Commons, students as collaborators and co-creators, authentic assessment, Universal Design for Learning, accessibility and more tech tools than you knew existed! It is truly a work changing experience, if you let it be. And that is the key.
“Hard as you might look, my work suggests, you cannot find such communities. You must build them yourself” (Petriglieri, 2018).
Well, in the case of Ontario Extend, you can find such a community but you have to make it real. There is an amazing group of educators in the extend community – electic, passionate, inquisitive, supportive, expressive, brave, and most of all, open. But to really benefit from the community, you need to embrace the tribe. You have to become an extender – to expand your thinking, to increase your risk-taking, to enlarge your circle of colleagues, to stretch your comfort zone, to reach your hand to accept the offered friendship and to grasp the hand of the next person seeking support. Ontario Extend built the first four houses on the block but it is up to us to keep building the community.
“And yet we need those open communities, those peculiar tribes. Without them, it would be impossible to remember who we are and to imagine who we might become” (Petriglieri, 2018).
Through out the past 10 weeks of my extending adventure, I have been reminded of where I have been and I have drawn on past experiences, I have been able to better define where I am now and I can see new paths to explore. I remember who I am as an educator and I am excited about who I can yet become as an educator. And best of all, I am not alone.
I found it really difficult to get started with the Scholar module. I had heard of SoTL in the past and had explored some aspects of it through reading and research. I liked the idea of some systematic approach to trying to improve some aspect of your practice and following that up to see if it actually worked. I would describe the approach as a spiral that may loop around but does represent movement forward. Articulating a working definition was a way to step into the Scholar module.
I did get stuck on the idea of amateur SoTL work for a short time. I am still not sure why that is such a bad thing. If we have this idea that only professionals (who ever that may be) can participate in SoTL how does that fit in with the idea of co-creating with students who would be amateurs or apprentices of learning? So, upon reflection, I have decide to reject the idea that there is some danger to be had from amateur work in SoTL and leave that for others to debate.
At this point in my work on the Scholar module, I did find myself drawing upon past research, readings and professional development. I find that happens more often where things am exposed to don’t immediately connect but do roll around in my head and start to line up where the connections become clear.
Before moving on to the next Extend Activity, I need to set a foundation for my thinking and demonstrate how I landed on staying small and selecting an aspect of Tutor Training to build a research question around. Focusing in on exploring a modeling technique for Math tutoring is a practical way to try SoTL in the field I am working. Part of my process was to do some further reading about models such as Model-Coach-Fade and the theoretical background on Cognitive Apprenticeship.
Before finalizing my plans, I would continue to read around this topics and add it active learning activity opinions in addition to my role-playing idea. I enjoy reading around topics, starting with a few key terms to find some new sources and then finding new terms in those readings that may take me elsewhere. Sometimes I use the snowball technique as well. If you are not familiar with that term, it is the idea of using the reference list of one article to find the next article you read.
My next steps was to answer the SoTL questions about my research. It is dry reading but there is a nice cat picture included.
I ended with a somewhat salty post expressing my frustration on a couple of levels with the Scholar module and my thoughts about ethical concerns. This was probably the most fun post to write as it was a chance to get it all out and on paper (screen?) so to speak. Thank you, David Porter, for reading it and offering encouragement:
You’re doing great. Hard questions often lead us to reflect and pivot our thinking. That’s ok.
My last step for the Scholar Module is to select an image to illustrate the direction I plan to go with my SoTL research. This will not be my last step for the research because the plan is to actually do the research, but that may need to wait for the Fall. I will ask the faculty lead from the Centre for Academic Excellence at my college to review my plan in addition to gaining approval from my Director, Cindy Crump.
So what direction do I plan to go? Upward and onward, right after I put on my fancy big girl boots and my determined face!
AHHHHHH! I want to scream out the backdoor and shake my fist in the air!! Maybe it is just me but the Scholar Module is tough! Actually, wait, it is just me!! Please, other Extenders, do not give up on the Scholar Module because I am having a tough time getting my head around it. Here’s why:
As a faculty member who has working exclusively in Student Services for the past 11 years (in August), I don’t have a course or a classroom to work with. This has made figuring out a suitable SoTL research project a bit more challenging. However, through our ExtendWest Lunch dates with @Cogdog, I have found both support and inspiration. It was at one of the Zoom discussions that Alan suggested I stay small and focused on one thing. That helped me narrow down to one aspect of our Tutor Training that I wanted to improve. I also want to give a shout out to Danny who said he thought I was determined! Thank you, I am determined and that compliment helped to push me to continue!
It is scary to practice out loud like this. I have created a few posts about the Scholar Module and my ideas for SoTL and there is a part of me that is afraid someone will come along and question “What on earth is this woman doing??” It is risky and uncomfortable. I would rather just be right all the time and only show things in a perfectly finished product that is sure to get approving nods! Heh, like life is really ever like that!
Right now, I am giving myself permission to make mistakes, to put out work that is unfinished and maybe even completely wrong. And I am giving myself permission to say – I don’t get it and this is hard! Why? Because I have worked in Student Services for the past 11 years and have been the faculty advisor for tutoring services and have seen so many scared and frustrated students walk through the door thinking that they are stupid because they don’t get it and they think it is hard… AND that is it so easy for everyone else. I think that when I look at the Extend Activities that others have posted. I only see the end results and they all sound so smart and it looks like it was easy. I am going to bet that it wasn’t alway easy for them either!
If you are struggling with any of the modules, I hope you find this and know that you are not alone!
So, continuing on with my post, no course, no classroom, this is hard, AND I have no idea if I could publish the results, or if anyone would be interested in them and finally, who, exactly, am I studying?
First, can I publish the results? I can do the research project because it is looking at improving a process of training that we do for tutors. I have done similar work to examine our processes in order to improve quality and have checked with our research office and did not have to apply for permission or present to the Reseach Ethics Committee. We do other surveys for student satisfaction with tutoring for our own quality control where the surveys are both anonymous and voluntary. The trick is, we don’t publish results outside our department and upper management. It all stays in-house. The guidelines seem to indicate that when the results will be published, permission from the committee in addition to immediate manager approval is needed. However, we are now in vacation time and I can’t begin the process of checking if permission is needed if I am only writing up the results on my personal blog.
Second, would anyone be interested? People involved in tutor training is a pretty narrow field and it might inform people who use similar models for tutors. I don’t think there is a wide interest. That is one of the reasons I consider this for my own professional development rather than worrying about whether anyone would be interested in the results.
Finally, who am I studying? This is an intriguing question. Am I studying students or employees? We discuss this quite a bit within the department. Most tutors are full-time students as a job eligibility requirement. We do have a few contract positions for grads and part-time faculty for some difficulty senior year courses, but most positions are filled by students. Because of the addition of Retention Coordinators as faculty advisors, we have taken the view that our tutoring lab are labs and we are similar to placement or clinical supervisors who are concerned with tutors’ practice and development in tutoring, communication skills and employability skills. We actively look for teachable moments with our tutors. So, Marko and I consider tutors as our students. This adds another layer to the questions of ethics.
This is my second to last post about the Scholar module. I am almost there! If you made it to the end of this post, thank you! It was very satisfying to write! Very wordy! I enjoy lots of words and bristle at the number of reports that I have to write that are little more than elevator pitches because they can only be one page in length or no one will read them! Maybe no one will read this but it felt good to write!
Recently, there have been concerns expressed about cheating on tests and International Students. This has been rattling around in my brain for the past couple days. That rattling around and Father’s Day came together for me. What if, for some International Students, this is their two years of farming??
Confused? Let me explain. My parents emigrated from the Netherlands in 1952 along with my two older brothers (they had many girl babies in Canada but that is another story). They went through a pretty strenuous vetting process, three months of ESL classes and had to find a sponsor. The deal was that they would work for this sponsor, a farmer, for two years.
Appelscha Dunes, Netherlands – June 1942. My father, Kees Feyen, is in the back row with his arms on the shoulders of two others. He is 22 years old here, about the age of many of our International Students.
In 1952, my dad was 32 years old and had been farming for at least 25 years (yes, he started young on the farm, don’t all children of farmers?). While my parents were grateful for the sponsorship, my dad was frustrated with this farmer. There wasn’t much, if anything, this farmer could teach him. My dad was already a better farmer. He could care for and handle the horses better, plow straighter and faster, build or repair what was needed. When the two years were up, my parents moved to North Buxton and worked for the Prince family for better pay and better living arrangements.
Those two years of farming were the price my parents had to pay both to the farmer and to the government of Canada for the opportunity to become Canadian citizens and, after the two years were up, for the opportunity to make choices about where to live and where to work and who to work for.
So what does this have to do with International Students? Well, for many of our International Students, a two-year diploma means the opportunity for a two year work visa in Canada. This is their opportunity to find work and, hopefully, begin their process towards emigration. Many of our International Students already have degrees, sometimes in the very fields of study they are enrolled at in our colleges and sometimes in other fields, even more than one field. I have met doctors in the nursing program, dentists in the dental assisting program, engineers in the civil engineer technician program, and previous business owners and accountants in the business program.
Like my dad, there isn’t much, if anything we can teach them, at least not in the same way as domestic students right out of highschool. Many of our programs are set up for helping domestic students learn skills they don’t already have and build a body of knowledge that they can take into their first career. I am suggesting that this may be different for International Students where the body of knowledge they need to learn is customs of Canada and to hone their communication skills, in some cases. By customs, I don’t mean learning to drink lots of Tim Horton’s coffee. I mean to learn the practices, procedures, policies and legalities of their profession within Canadian society. For communication skills, I mean honing speaking and listening skills, as many International students already have strong reading and writing skills, as well as honing social conventions common in Canada. Have we considered this in our programs and courses? Are we giving International students opportunities to learn what they need?
We talk a lot about how a diverse population of students is also good for domestic students for a wide variety of reasons including helping our domestic student be better prepared for a global economy but are we giving our domestic students real opportunities for this learning in our classrooms outside of seating them beside an International student?
I want to be clear about one aspect before I conclude my musings. I am not suggesting that International students much give up their heritage. My parents didn’t. My parents were part of a wave of immigration from the Netherlands after WWII that found a place in Canadian society. They started their own churches, build their own schools including colleges and universities, founded their own companies – they even started a union and a political party. This may have been part of the reason my parents choose Canada over America.
I don’t have any answers yet. I am still at the rattling around in my brain stage. I am not even sure I have the right questions yet. But I do know that the issue of cheating is a complex issue and that we need to do something different that what we are doing. I believe that adding more security and proctors for tests is not the silver bullet solution. Finding the answer will require consideration of International student needs and perspectives. One resources that I found helpful, in spite of the heavy US content, is Recognizing Cultural Variation in the Classroom from Carnegie Mellon. If you have a good resource, I hope you will share it with me.
Happy Father’s Day in heaven, Dad. Thanks for immigrating to Canada so that I could be here today pondering this.
Today is the last day of the Making Sense of Open Education Mini-MOOC hosted by Jenni Hayman. It has been a 15 day whirlwind tour of Openness! I wanted to go back to the beginning and review the Course Outcomes and see where I stand in relationship.
Course learning outcomes:
On completion of this open course participants will have expanded their ability to:
Describe the value of open educational practices (OEP) in their teaching and learning contexts
Give examples of appropriate open educational resources (OER) for their practice
Describe user permissions related to each of the Creative Commons license types
Find and curate high quality OER for a course or small project
Connect with other practitioners interested in exploring use of open educational resources and practices in their teaching
These were not numbered in the course, I added numbers to make giving my response easier.
One: Open educational practices add value to my teaching by allowing me the opportunity to tailor my teaching to the students in front of me now by broadening my awareness of OER sources that can better meet their needs in terms of accessibility and affordability. Beyond the choice of materials, OEP also leads me to consider how students can co-create materials and be curators of learning materials and how participating in this is a better assessment tool and holds more long-term value for student than disposable assignments. Digital Tools give me and my students the opportunity to be creators and give us the opportunity to share what we are learning with others. Because I see value in OEP, I am inspired to take action and advocate for greater openness in others and in my own institution.
Two: Can I give examples of appropriate OER for my practice? Why, yes, I can. I posted a prototype of a unit I am building for my students. It includes chapters from a OER textbook, open source images, and a CC video.
Three: Can I describe user permissions? Yup, let me do so with a Creative Commons licensed image:
Four: Can I curate OER resources for a small project? I did! I collected OER resources on Reflection into a padlet in a recent post.
Five: Have I connected with other practitioners of Open Education? Sure did and will continue to do so. I outlined my growing PLN in a post exploring what my connections look like. I also create a post outlining how I began to use twitter as a tool for connecting.
The Making Sense of Open Education has been a tremendously positive learning experience for me and I encourage you, my reader, to check it out soon as it will be set up as a self directed learning opportunity on Open University soon.
@ontarioextend#oext193 If a student received an assignment back with just feedback, would they know what to do unless they were aware of how to use the feedback – do we promote reflective practice in our classes? Photo by Olhar Angolano on Unsplash pic.twitter.com/WYLcS8OEUr
After completing the tweet, I turned to Day 4 of the MOOC Making Sense of Open Education which was to explore Open Education Resources (OER) online. I collected some OER into a Padlet, adding articles, photos, videos and learning resources around helping student use feedback and the concept of reflective practice building on the thought of whether student know how to use the feedback we give them.
I selected one photo and one resource to try to make something new. I adapted a photo from Pixabay by stockpic and a four-page hand out from WestEd from their Formative Assessment Insight open course to create this graphic:
I am growing in both my knowledge and my skills through my professional development this spring but perhaps more importantly, I am becoming more naturally open by practice, practice, practice.