Zen by PowerPoint

Close up of an ant carrying a leaf.

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I have a love/hate relationship with PowerPoint (PP). I see value in the medium but I struggle to find effective ways to use it. #Oext234 asks Ontario Extenders to consider PresentationZen and to pick one of the 11 recommendations to improve presentations. I am choosing (5) Remove the nonessential and adding photos instead of text. Please understand, this is an exercise for the Daily Extend. I am not suggesting that the new presentation is really much better than the old one but it is a start and this also gives me a change to explore more Creative Commons photos and a new tool.

Sometimes, I have used PP to act as a guide for me; a way of keeping me on track and reminding me of what comes next. I have basically turned them into great big visual presentation cue cards. Whenever I do this, it reminds me of my very first presentation competition in grade school on Carpenter Ants.

I used this approach when preparing to be filmed for an Orientation video based on a transition to college culture workshop that I have done in-class. In this case, the slides were not shown to the participants, they were only for me. Here is a short clip from my practice video where I created a voice over for the slides I had prepared. The final video, edited by St. Clair College’s Audio/Visual department, is at this end of this post.

https://youtu.be/Do_oKCyoXRU

Using Tall Tweets, I created a 15 second gif of my original slides:

CollegeWayOrignal

Using Unsplash, I added photos and then removed most of the text:

CollegeWayZen

This is the final video used now at Orientation:

 

Feature image: Photo by Vlad Tchompalov on Unsplash

On finding a tribe of one’s own.

Small tree reflected in water.

A reflection on To Take Charge of Your Career, Start by Building Your Tribe by Gianpiero Petriglieri posted April 05, 2018 to the Harvard Business Review and my own experiences with Ontario Extend.

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).

Man at desk with back to camera and face visible in a small mirro.
Photo by Edgar Pereira on Unsplash

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).

Tall, old buildings and a tree reflected in a puddle in the street.
Photo by AC Almelor on Unsplash

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.

A crowd at a party with water showing their reflection in silhouette
Photo by Mario Purisic on Unsplash

Featured Image: Photo by Faye Cornish on Unsplash

 

Look Mom! I’m coding!

Modified Label on a Can

A million years ago, or 20 years ago that feels like a million, I quit my day job and joined a computer consulting company as an associate. I loved working with the principle partner, Rick, The more challenging the project, the calmer he became. I learned that you can’t think through thorny problems or multiple steps if you are pissed off.

Back then, you could still build and modify computers and if you didn’t know something, like html, you just taught yourself. At that time, I was quite the QuickBooks expert. I was beta testing and creating curriculum for Intuit Canada. I was teaching two levels of QuickBooks for St. Clair College through Continuing Education. So supporting our clients in adopting Quickbooks was my main role but I also repaired and modified computers, did a lot of printer troubleshooting and learned to code websites.

Funny that, you never actually forget the basics of code. I whipped out my coding skills this year to make BlackBoard do some things I wanted it to do including adding CSS to improve the visuals and layout. I had to adjust my old way of doing things to the new HTML 5 standards but that wasn’t as tough as it sounds.

So with the Daily Extend #221, I am excited. I clicked on the remix button in Thimble Projects and saw code! I can do this! And I did, if you would like to remix my project, it is available here: https://thimbleprojects.org/irenequstewart/511411

Scholarly Reflection

Pathway looped in bands of light with a background of lighted buildings.
Photo by Cédric Servay on Unsplash

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.

nigel-tadyanehondo-200541-unsplash
Photo by Nigel Tadyanehondo on Unsplash

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.

Man tossing a snowball in the air.
Photo by Joanna Nix on Unsplash

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:

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.

Woman in red boots climbing outdoor stairs.
Photo by Diana Feil on Unsplash

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!

 

Dilemmas with the Scholar Module

Woman kneeling on bed surrounded with books and papers and flying books she has tossed in the air.

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!

Man reaching out a hand to a woman to help her out of the water.
Photo by Lacie Slezak on Unsplash

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.

Door in brink building labeled Employees
Photo by Olivier Collet on Unsplash

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!

Featured Image: Photo by Lacie Slezak on Unsplash

 

Working through SoTL questions

Cat with green eyes looking up while sitting on a green wooden bench.

Continuing my quest to complete the Ontario Extend Scholar module, I am adding my responses to SoTL research planning questions here:

Plan for a Scholarship of Teaching and Learning Project

Research Question(s)

  1. How can I increase the number of tutors who use a modelling approach when tutoring students in Math.
  2. Will adjusting the present Strategic Instruction Model (SIM) model to Model-Coach-Fade (MCF) increase tutors’ understanding of the approach?
  3. Will adding a role modeling exercise during training increase tutors’ comfort levels with approach?

Identify challenge/outcome related to learning that is related to your question.

  • Using the survey method, poll tutors in the Spring Semester on their usage of the current SIM model to develop a baseline for tutor usage of the approach.
  • During the initial Fall Tutor Training sessions, present MCF using an exercise/practice session where tutors use the model with another tutor and experience being tutored with the model by another tutor.
  • Using the survey method, poll tutors two weeks and six weeks after training on their usage of MCF.
  • Experienced tutors who would have received training on both models will be asked an additional question regarding whether MCF was easier to understand than SIM.

Ethical considerations: tutors may choose to participate in the surveys and will be informed of the study and its purpose. If results are published in any way, prior approval by Administration and Research Ethics Committee is required. If results are not published, only Administrative approval is required. The role of tutors is considered an employee role but given that 95% of tutors are also enrolled full-time students and the study examines a portion of training, tutors should be treated as students in terms of ethics considerations.

Describe the instructional activity, assignment, or teaching strategy that will promote student learning on the outcome you identified.

The current approach to presenting SIM is to provide tutors step by step information through the Tutor Manual and to lecture on the model in face-to-face training with a faculty member who also demonstrated one problem set.

The new approach will be to present MCF information both in the manual and with a short, portable handout. In face-to-face training with a faculty member will include a short explanation and demonstration of MCF, a discussion of how using MCF will increase student independence, and an exercise where tutors will work with MCF as both a tutor and a tutee followed by a discussion of the experience.

Describe the evidence that would persuade an external audience that the new or modified teaching strategy improves student learning on the targeted learning outcome.

The results of the first survey would constitute the baseline of usage for SIM. The results of the two-week and six-week usage rates would be compared to the baseline to determine if usage rates increased.

Limitations: There is a concern that a positive increase in usage of MCF may only be because of observer effect. There is also a limitation in terms of sample size as the Spring cohort of tutors would be drawn from a pool of 30 tutors and tutors could be chosen by their willingness to participate. The pool of tutors for the Fall semester will be approximately 100 tutors and the sample would be created based on tutors’ willingness to participate. Because of this, it would be unlikely that the results could be generalized to other populations.

How and where would you publish, present, or disseminate this work?

As this project is intended as a professional development exercise, I would be requesting permission to publish the results on my personal blog.

Questions adapted from: C. J. Stanny, E. M. El-Sheikh, & H-M. Chung (2009) Getting Started with an SoTL Project Center for University Teaching, Learning, and Assessment http://uwf.edu/cutla/

Featured Image & Disclaimer: If you are not involved in Ontario Extend, you may find this blog post very boring so I have added a cool picture of a cat to distract you! Photo by Federica Diliberto on Unsplash

Focusing the SoTL Research Area

My next step in SoTL is to focus in on a Research area. I have decided to focus on an area of tutor training, specifically, the technique I share called Simulated Instruction Model. This turned out to be incorrect, the actual name is Strategic Instruction Model.

Because I am focusing this project on tutors, I want to evaluate the impact of changing my approach to teaching this model to see if tutors will be more likely to use the model with students. Therefore, using the UBC SoTL Explorer, I have chosen to frame my project as follows:

  • Practice: Short Active Learning
  • Impact: Attitude and Motivation
  • Evaluation: Survey

To be clear, I am not studying whether the model leads to better outcomes for students. My focus is on whether making changes to presentation of the model to tutors will lead to better adoption rates by tutors as an alternative practice to direct instruction and explaining. Both direct instruction and explaining put students in a very passive role and appears to be the fall back position of tutors who relate these techniques to the teaching practices they often see in the classroom. One of my underlying themes in tutor training is that tutoring is fundamental different from teaching and that tutoring does not take the place of in class participation or use of professor’s office hours.

The model I use does not quite match the SIM model for learning strategies so I am considering using Model-Coach-Fade which seems to be connected to the Flipped Classroom concept. This will mean that the technique does match activities in a flipped classroom and the actions of a flipped professor but will move tutors away from the traditional lecture model that they are familiar with.

I have collected a few resources for Model-Coach-Fade:

Cognitive apprenticeship. (2018, April 4). In Wikipedia. Retrieved from https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Cognitive_apprenticeship&oldid=834109143

Dixie. (2009) Cognitive apprenticeship(Collins, Brown, Newman). Retrieved from https://dixieching.wordpress.com/2009/10/18/cognitive-apprenticeship-collins-brown-newman/

Honeycutt, B. (2014) Flip it with the “model, coach, fade” strategy: Changing roles in the flipped classroom. Retrieved from http://barbihoneycutt.com/model-coach-fade-flipped-strategy/

Marin, R. (n.d.). Modeling, coaching, and scaffolding. In Encyclopedia of Educational Technology.  Retrieved  from http://www.etc.edu.cn/www/eet/eet/articles/learnstrategy/

 

Featured Image: Photo by Stefan Cosma on Unsplash

Connecting some SoTL dots

Dot patterned socks

As I continue with the Scholar Module, I need to set a foundation for my SoTL research question. I want to focus on my work with Tutors in the college setting. When I became a Retention Coordinator, about 10 years ago, and took on the role of Faculty Advisor to Tutoring Services along with my partner, Marko Jovanovic, I thought about a “vision” for tutoring and what we could offer our “stakeholders.” Very businessy of me, but you draw from what you know.

We developed a Purpose Statement. Not a mission statement, because the college already has one, but a statement that would describe how Tutoring Services could fit into and advance the college’s overall mission. This is what we came up with:

The purpose of Tutoring Services is to develop and maintain a credible and responsive system that:

  • Gives students access to academic support in course specific material and core skills through individual and group tutoring, workshops and resources that support success and independence in learning;
  • Encourages tutors to develop their tutoring practice and job skills through training, guidance, resource and support services while respecting their personal academic goals;
  • Provides accurate, timely data and information to administration, the Student Services sector, and the Academic sector regarding student needs as well as individual and institutional barriers that impact academic success. (St. Clair College, 2017)

I talk about the purpose at every training session and every meeting. I tell tutors that the most important aspect of what we provide for students is the opportunity to become more independent in their learning – so that they don’t need us anymore. I toss out maxims like “work your way out of a job with your student” and “never do something for your student that they can do for themselves.”

In tutor training, I present different techniques tutors can use when working with students that includes direct instruction and explaining, the two techniques that new tutors often start with and fall back on, but explain that these tools should be used sparingly. I move on to other techniques such as modeling and anchoring.

Math text open to part of a math problem
Photo by Deepak Gautam on Pexel
 

It is the modelling technique that I am interested in exploring with SoTL. The modelling approach I use is based on SIM technique I learned as part of the Learning Disabilities Specialist program at Cambrian College. (Thank you Jessica O’Reilly from Cambrian for helping me find the document). Basically, it works like this for Math problems:

  1. Choose a problem that is similar to the homework problem the student is struggling with. Solve that problem and talk out every step you take, every thought you have as you work. The idea is to make your thinking real for the student so that they can see and hear your process.
  2. Have the student tackle the same problem on a fresh page. Ask the student to talk out their steps and their thinking. Listen for mis-steps and misunderstandings. If the student is missing information or steps, review that with the student and point out where they can find that information in their notes or text (or online).
  3. When the student is successful with the first problem, ask them to try a new similar problem on their own and with out your help or prompting. Repeat process until student is successful in solving those types of problems.

This technique works well, but in the past couple of months, I am seeing tutors fall back on direct instruction and explaining without giving the student an opportunity to try the problem, confirming their understanding. My thought is to first research if there is a better but similar model to this and then determine an active learning process to teaching tutors this technique to see if we can get better uptake.

References

St. Clair College. (2017). Tutor manual 2017/18. Windsor, Ontario: Author.

Featured Image: Photo by Rafael Lodos on Unsplash

 

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