Using Tech to Solve Tutors’ Confusion

Man sitting at desk working on a laptop

The Ontario Extend Technologist Module has been a thought-provoking adventure into considering what would be most helpful for my tutors. Let me walk you through my path.

First up, I defined digital literacy back in May, 2018:

So what does all this musing mean for me as a teacher in a digital world? This is the space I must occupy and I need to be both an explorer and a guide. I need to seek out, learn and understand new ways of expressing information and ideas in this digital medium while practicing creation, appreciation, and discernment.

Standing where I am now, the key for the Technologist Module has been “new ways of expressing information” in terms of the training of tutors which has been my focus for this exercise.

After a review of Design Thinking, next up was empathizing with my tutors by gaining feedback. This is the step that held me up from some time as I explored ways to gather this feedback. I spoke with my tutors over the spring semester and gathered some information about the training through a simple survey.

The training that tutors experience is in four parts:

  • Orientation – general overview of tutoring system, tutor responsibilities and forms.
  • Payroll & Health and Safety – hands on training in a custom PeopleSoft module and review of policies along with direction on completing mandatory H&S modules.
  • Tutoring Techniques – philosophy of tutoring at our college, techniques and practices of good tutoring, and review of roles within the tutoring team. This is followed by an opportunity for new tutors to shadow experienced tutors.
  • Ongoing meetings and leadership events.

The survey indicated that tutors, in general, were satisfied with the face-to-face training including the time spend on each section, but there were lingering questions or confusion that regularly occurred after the training was over. While there were some questions about policies and procedures that covered rare circumstances, most of the confusion was over payroll. This was confirmed by the number of issues that pop up during bi-weekly payroll and errors tutors made.

During the Spring Leadership Event, I conducted further investigate into tutors experiences and charted this in a Empathy Map.  This showed that Payroll was a definite pain point for tutors and this aspect became the narrow focus for the rest of my work with the Technologist Module.

The next step in the module was to add to the Learner Challenge Padlet and explore others’ contributions. I did gain some ideas about what could be possible as an alternate way to presenting payroll training beyond the face-to-face hands on model that we are currently using.

Then, I moved on to Ideate. Using The SECTIONS Model by Anthony William Bates, I worked through the questions and downloaded the document to Google Docs. It was working through this activity that I realized that the problem is the Ease of Use of our PeopleSoft Module. The technology we use for payroll is NOT user-friendly, easy to learn or intuitive. Given the linkages to other data about students and tutors that is needed for analysis and reporting, I can’t change that. Helping students deal with this unwieldly software is the problem I need to tackle.

I created a prototype on paper for my ideas and through that process, I found that some of my ideas, while cool, were not the right approach. For example, I have rejected the idea of creating gifs for the payroll appointment entry process as the process is just too complex for this method. I tested out prototyping with another process I was working earlier in the summer for work I was doing on a BlackBoard course for new students. These two activities led me back to BlackBoard and I ultimately decided that providing guides and information through a BlackBoard course was the way to go.

The Solution

Screenshot of Payroll Module

The Tutor Training BlackBoard course contains content areas that relate to the different parts of our training with a discussion board and weekly updates. A special feature is the links to Flipgrid, which we used very successfully in the Spring for Tutor Introductions.

The Payroll training section is still under development but will have Guides with step by step instructions and screenshots of the payroll program to help tutors understand how to enter the different types of tutoring that they do. It will include video walk throughs and Pro-Tips as reminders. At the moment, the Walk-in Tutoring Guide is available.

By having this available 24/7, tutors can learn to first try to solve a problem with their payroll with the guides while knowing that they can contact staff with questions or additional training as needed. The discussion area can be used for tutors to help each other with questions as well. I believe this will help tutors in the future to deal with other software that is similarly unfriendly.

Of interest to me and to our staff is tutors’ response. I uploaded the first sections on Friday, Sept 7th and released it at noon. By 5 pm, 80% of tutors had logged in. By Monday, 95% had logged in. I updated and added two articles this morning and 50% of tutors had logged in an hour later.

Over the next couple of weeks, I will continue to upload and refine the training documents and plan to continue with the weekly updates and announcements for new and timely information. I will also gather tutors’ feedback to ensure the course is meeting their needs.

Given the early reactions of tutors logging in and the kind comments tutors have made over the last few days in person, I am calling this one a success!

Feature image: Photo by Nathan Dumlao on Unsplash

Empathizing with Tutors

Group photo of staff and tutors

It is time to return to the Technologist Module for OntarioExtend. The next step is to empathize with my tutors as the course I am exploring is Tutor Training.

At the end of the spring/summer semester, we held a leadership day and I asked for some feedback to help me complete is this activity.

This is the summary:

100 days of Daily Extend

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:

Three pictures showing a growing number of connections

In case you are interested, here is my first tweet.

One minute video


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The Ontario Extend‘s Daily Extend #oext247 asks us to make an One Minute Video about an aspect of our practice. Mine is a bit more tell than show but I created a one minute video on what to do when you realize that you have a test tomorrow. I love the Emergency Test Preparation Strategy on the Study Guides and Strategies which is based on George Miller’s 1956 The Magical Number Seven, Plus or Minus Two.

The strategy asks students to first scan their notes and materials and create a list of important topics. Then, to choose five and start with writing down everything that they know about the topic. After accessing that prior knowledge, the student then checks their understanding against their notes and update their study sheets. If there is time, the student can add two more for seven topics and if needed two more for nine but is advised to stop there.

I used PowerPoint to create some slides and recorded a voice over. I exported the slide deck and recordings to a video and then uploaded to YouTube. I added some music in the background and YouTube adds automatic closed captioning. I released it under a Creative Commons Attribution license.

If I was do this for a specific purpose for students, I would re-record the audio as it is a bit low but for today’s purpose, I am considering it good enough because it is Saturday and I have other home things to do! This is also my first official post on my new blog here on my own domain!

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.

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

 

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!

 

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