Thursday, July 7, 2016


This year, CSSE (Canadian Society for the Study of Education) conference was held just 'down the highway' in Calgary at the end of May, beginning of June. I was fortunate to have two proposals accepted, I was unfortunate because I had to cancel at the last minute. The faculty of education at BU was well represented with several colleagues attending and presenting, a few graduate students were also presenting. By all accounts it was a great time. Last year in Ottawa was my first CSSE conference, and it was very enjoyable. One of the presentations was with a colleague and was the initial findings of our case study of a rural 1:1 school. I thank my colleague and research partner, Dr. J. Kirk, for doing the presentation (we did put plan it out and prepare it together). My other presentation was a roundtable (I went to a few last year and enjoy them - more of a discussion than a paper presentation is) about a multiple case study of social media use in a rural high school, unfortunately it had to be cancelled. With all that said, I am pleased to post the slides for the presentation and the handout I had prepared for my roundtable. For the handout I decided to use piktochart and experiment with a  more visual approach.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Riding the Wave of Change (conference)

Last week (May 5-6) was the annual Riding the Wave conference in Gimli, MB. This conference is sponsored by MAETL (Manitoba Association of Educational Technology Leaders) and ManACE (Manitoba Association for Computing Educators) and is meant for K-12 educators and IT folks and is, of course, related to technology use in schools. I don't usually present at this conference - it is great to just go, relax, and take in sessions - and this year, I almost decided to not go and attend a one day research seminar at my institution (it sounded really relevant and interesting), in the end I decided to go to RTW. It was a great decision, I do try to stay in touch and I work closely with K-12 school personnel, I want my teacher ed courses to remain relevant, and I like to work with the field. The decision to attend was certainly not a mistake.

Sphero maze!
The keynote was given by the inspiring Kathy Cassidy (@kathycassidy) from Moose Jaw. I use her book Connected from the Start as a text in my EY ICT in Ed course - the students always love it! Her message was all about new literacies - multi-literacies in today's digital world. The importance of visual (including video) literacy. An inspiring presentation. It was good to chat with her again for  a few minutes.

Sphero Chariots!
The other sessions I attended were about coding and maker spaces - something I want to add into my ICT in Ed courses next year when I return from sabbatical (sadly almost over!). I played with spheros and lego and learned some great tips and ideas. These sessions were by Tara (@msmclauchlan) and Joan (@jbadger), from St. James Assiniboia SD and Diana Rendina (@DianaLRedina - a visitor from Tampa - her slides are here). I also attended a great session by Shannon McLintock Miller (@shannonmmiller from Denver) who presented powerful stories about student voice. A great reminder about the purpose of our efforts, and a topic that I value (see my Hybrid Pedagogy article on student empowerment).

A slide from Shannon McLintock Miller's Presentation
That evening, we held a sweltering (the AC was broken!) list of 15 fantastic Ignite presentations sponsored by ManACE. Photos of the event can be seen on the ManACE instagram account - what an evening of inspiring stories, all of the spotlight speakers volunteered to present - and the evening finished with the conference keynote, Kath Cassidy, giving another great presentation. The plan is to put up the audio of the presentations via ManACE.

Darren's "The Fourth Screen"

The next day, I attended 2 sessions before I had to head off. Both addressed the important topic of digital citizenship, although with very different approaches. My friend Darren (@dkuropatwa) presented powerful stories for teaching digital citizenship - he included asides explaining his approach - which is very positive - and showed us many resources. I hope to have Darren come to my institution to present to faculty and students alike. The next session was by another friend, Dr. Rennie Redekopp (@rredekopp), Rennie took a more critical approach - that to be citizens we need to consider issues such as the environment, sustainability, energy use, and manufacturing in relation to digital products (see his links here). Together, these approaches offered important resources and food for thought for thinking and operating in a digital world.

All in all, it was a very good conference - so many good sessions to choose from, I know I missed some other great ones. I learned much and gathered up ideas/resources to incorporate into my own courses for aspiring teachers. It also provided an opportunity to connect with friends and to meet new ones.

One final note, a shoutout to the amazing Andy McKiel (@amckiel) - who, as a member of MAETL and ManACE, does incredible work behind the scenes in putting on events in Manitoba for educators!

Gimli Beach
Gimli Pier

Gimli Pier

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Compassion and Care in Curriculum

The other day I came across this blog post by George Veletsianos (the Canada Research Chair in Innovative Learning and Technology) in which he talked about his thoughts about how we should be including "compassion, kindness, and care" in digital learning.   He writes that he is no talking about overtly teaching compassion, etc, rather,  "I’m more concerned here with how to embed compassion in our practice – in our teaching, in our learning design processes, the technologies that we create." He goes on to list several questions he is thinking about. After over 35 years as an educator, I firmly believe that relationships are vital to meaningful learning. This was/is true in any level in K-12 and in higher ed, and in any role. I have been a classroom teacher, an ICT leader, and a school administrator, and now a teacher educator. George's questions are interesting to contemplate. How can we include compassion in our course design? As I begin to think about my course syllabi for next year, it is something I will have to think about. The work of Noddings can be useful in thinking about this as well. Noddings (2012) wrote: "A climate in which caring relations can flourish should be a goal for all teachers and educational policymakers. In such a climate, we can best meet individual needs, impart knowledge, and encourage the development of moral people."  With the world in its current state - from the hatred we see between people not even known to each other, to the often disgusting online commentary on every topic under the sun, a little bit of compassion, care, and empathy would go a long way. 

Perhaps we need to embed a pedagogy of care and compassion in our work as educators? 

Noddings, N. (2012). The caring relation in teaching. Oxford Review of Education, 38(6), 771-781.

Sunday, April 3, 2016

Reading & Learning

Reading and writing – and learning, always learning! Keeping up with literature and scholarly thought in one’s area is an important part of doing research and writing about that area. During my quickly dwindling sabbatical I had goals of doing both, and I have to an extent. I have a number of books and articles in my reading pile, and while I would like to do more, I read when I can. I also like to read a novel, usually just before bedtime as a way to relax and escape: mostly mystery thrillers or science fiction. Keeping up with blog posts, research articles, and books can take lots of time, since reflection and thinking is also part of the process.

This week has been a good one for reading that has provoked thinking. Here are a few of those ideas.

One book I am reading now is by my friend George Couros. George has skyped in to several of my classes over the years, and he is always thought provoking and interesting, so I delved into his book The Innovator’s MindsetIn a chapter I recently read, George talks about engagement and empowerment. He discussed how we have dwelt on the idea of engagement, but less so on empowerment. George makes the case that teachers should not only engage students, but also engage them by empowering them. One way we can do that is by extending trust, something I wrote about in my article in HybridPedagogy.  So, when we talk about engagement, perhaps the best way to do that through the empowerment of learners.

A few days ago I came across a brilliant article/post by Bonnie Stewart about the Internet as a hybrid “third place/space”. Bonnie always provokes thinking and writes so well, and this article was no exception. Bonnie writes, “the dominant narrative tends more towards essentializing the face-to-face and reducing the digital to instrumental, task-based impersonality, rather than recognizing it as a human space with all the potential – educative and destructive, both – that that implies.  This was a great read and an interesting exploration of the Internet as a place for connecting, meeting, and learning with others.

Anotherpost, this one by Dave Cormier (coincidentally, Bonnie’s husband), was about resilience as related to the idea of rhizomatic learning. One thing that I found interesting, perhaps because of talk about course syllabi and outcomes in my faculty, was “learning subjectives”, rather than objectives. When talking about subjectives, Cormier asks, how can we “design for learning when we don’t know where we are going?” Interesting to think about, I wonder if outcomes  (if we will have to have them in our syllabi) can be stated in such a way to become learning subjectives? I will have to attempt to include learning subjectives in my syllabi, especially since I do think our learning should take us into uncharted territory. The ideas about rhizomatic learning dovetail nicely with some of the ideas in this post, by Jeff Noonan (that I had put into ‘pocket’ awhile back) that argues against outcomes in higher education.

Lots to think about. It is great to be able to learn by roaming about this ‘third space’ and explore new thoughts and ideas, and the great thing is that most of these posts contain links to other good stuff to read and reflect on.

Saturday, February 6, 2016

Critical Instructional Design

So I came across this thing called #moocmooc on Hybrid Pedagogy. Essentially a mini-mooc, that is, a short one, only three weeks in duration. The topic is Instructional Design and is guided by suggested readings, but is really wide open. The first week I read and viewed the reading then was late to the party for the twitter chat. The tweets buzzed by with multiple threads of conversation ... so I just read and lurked, not knowing where to jump in - plus these were very smart and thoughtful people!

The second week prompted us to consider defining critical instructional design. The readings were all thought provoking and I found myself often nodding in agreement, but mostly wondering and thinking. I have numerous tabs open of things to read, and then I need time to just let it percolate and reflect on (it is nice to be on sabbatical so I can take that time!). The twitter chat again flew by, but I did manage to take part, again so many interesting comments and questions.

To put my thoughts - as rambling as they might be - in some sort of context, I should point out that I realize that I am a result of the 'traditional' system. I have been in the education field for 38 years. I taught math, science and computer courses as a high school teacher. I now teach in an education faculty at a small rural university. So the way things are done in these systems is deep within my identity. I should also point out that while the main thrust of #moocmooc is online courses, I have not taught one. So far I have only taught in our B.Ed. program, most of our M.Ed. offerings are online or hybrid, so sometime I will take that plunge. I have, however, used a hybrid approach with one of my courses, but my experience in this venue is limited.

The first thing I would suggest is that the name instructional design needs change. I know instruction is the traditional term, but the words we use convey meaning, to me instruction implies a one way flow. Someone will be instructing - telling you what to do - "what are my instructions?" For critical design, I think that a basic premise would be attention to agency and power. Who has the power? How can we shift traditional power structures to grant students agency for their learning? All of these articles, the various pressures on secondary or post-secondary alike, and my own experiences over the years - always bring me back to a question of purpose. What is the purpose of education - at any level? This is why, I think, instructional design is mostly about content. Generally it seems lots of people confuse learning with regurgitating snippets of information or some 'basic skills'. Certainly content and these basic skills are important, but as Morris suggests "Content does not equate to learning, but should instead form the foundation for inquiry, discussion, dissension, and the production ... of knowledge."  In some cases, the purpose is to learn a certain skill or procedure, say, change a car tire, in those cases we are really talking about training, and simple delivery of content is fine, but in most of schooling, at all levels, it is not fine.

I think that we need to be critical at all times in our instructional design, regardless of purpose. We should strive to give students (learners?) some authority on what they are learning. I enjoyed Morris' "6 principles of critical pedagogical course design". It would be a worthy endeavour to incorporate these into higher ed courses, whether they be online or not. In my primary role teaching in a B.Ed. program, the goal is to prepare people to become certified teachers in Manitoba. In this situation there is an expectation that graduates will have a knowledge of provincial curricula and of the nature of teaching in Manitoba. This knowledge, however, should be a point of discussion and exploration, and critique. Some of my colleagues may disagree, but I think these future teachers must question and interrogate curriculum and the system. If we don't allow this freedom, then they will become technicians, never questioning what they are doing or pushing back when in disagreement. When I teach a 'methods' course, I ask students to think about why the mandated curriculum is the way it is, to consider other approaches, and how they can allow student choice and voice. I try to allow my own students this choice and voice as well.

So a critical instructional design, to me, needs to ask how all students will be allowed agency for their own learning. Providing avenues for students to explore and branch out should be a goal of any design.

Monday, January 11, 2016

My Sabbatical, so far ...

Well, my sabbatical is about half done, and  with a new year beginning, it seems a good time to reflect on what I have accomplished, and where I want to head.

So, what have I accomplished - and learned? Well, I don't feel I have done as much as I wanted, but perhaps I was too ambitious. First off, after a few weeks with my daughter at home (she resides in the UK) and time with family and friends, I am having trouble getting back to work, but I am sure I will. In fact, I have gotten some done over the past few days. A recently retired colleague sent me this image - it maps out nicely my sabbatical progress so far ;-) (sorry I don't have the source!) I love the flexible time, and the break from teaching. I find it strange to say that, I have taught something every year since I began my teaching career 37 years ago and I never regretted going into this career, but I am really enjoying the freedom of the sabbatical and being able to pursue research and other projects of my choosing. I have also decided to walk my wife to work when she walks, it is only about 2 km round trip, but it gets me moving. This week the weather decided to turn to normal, so it is darn cold. Today was -18C and a windchill of -28C. But it is sunny and when dressed properly it was actually a great day to walk. Hopefully I can keep this up! The photos at the end of this post are from one of the walks - a Manitoba winter is beautiful - although ccccold!!

So far I have;

  • attended Social Media and Society (in Toronto) and presented 2 posters in July (this was a great conference!)
  •  co-authored book chapter, now going to the publisher
  • prepared and submitted an application dossier for promotion to Associate Prof - so far it has been supported by the Department, the Dean and now the University committee, now it is in the President's hands.
  • presented at a provincial superintendent's conference (this was fun - it was part of a team with a colleague, admin and teachers from a school division we have been working with, and a local office furniture company)
  • have an article undergoing final revisions for an online journal (I will post a link once published)
  • currently working with 6 K-12 teachers on action research projects (for a study on action research & transformative learning)
  • working with a school division on a systemic change initiative that also involves action research (the chapter above is based on this project)
  • just starting a study (with a colleague) examining a 1:1 computing initiative in a school in SW MB
  • am writing an article on social media pedagogy (based on my Ph.D. work)
  • took part in #DigiWriMo (well as much as I could)
  • conducted a session (with a colleague) on using social media in higher ed at BU
  • put out a call for chapters (with a colleague from U of Manitoba) for a book we plan on putting together about ed technology use in MB schools
  • and, of course, some reading and other activities.

For the second half I hope to make progress and complete some of these projects, I also have some presentations planned - hopefully at CSSE in Calgary. I really must do more writing - even if for this blog, but I want to complete the articles I mentioned earlier, as well as some other pieces. I also have to allow myself the time to read & reflect. I have had this problem since starting my career in higher ed - I know reading and keeping up with research in my area is an important part of what I should do, but I always feel that I should be producing and that reading is not really 'work'. I know I have to get over this and commit the time. I have some books and a tonne of articles on my list. Recently, @JeffreyKeefer wrote a blog post about committing to read more, he is doing 5 articles a week, I think I will take this idea and try it as well. Not sure if I will blog about them, but perhaps, that way I am doing a bit of writing as well. Anyway, this is great idea and I thank Jeffrey for the inspiration!

Winter shadows
Cold winter morning in MB