People in the Field: Deb Chachra

I spent a fair amount of time searching before I found Deb Chachra, Professor of Engineering at Olin College, a small undergraduate university in Massachusetts, USA.

I was instantly struck by her enthusiasm, inspired by her energy, and by her views on education. Listening to her speak in Sources and Methods #30: Deb Chachra (2016), Chachra describes her article in the Atlantic, Why I am not a Maker, which deals with maker culture, the social history of makers-of-things as elitist and overvalued while calling out the stigmatization of those who do the labour. She speaks of how we learn from the making that we put out into the world, and of having a zibaldone, and of libraries. She speaks of education models, of how the factory model of education is about quality control and cost efficiency (which we see a lot of in Weller’s 25 Years of Ed Tech). In Gratitude for Invisible Systems: One way to improve democracy is for more people to appreciate its complex technological underpinnings, Chachra speaks of invisible systems that underpin our democratic society, systems that we subscribe to as members of citizenry and only notice when these systems fail (think pandemic). She also wrote Care at Scale, centring infrastructural citizenship that begins with place-based learning and reads like a manifesto where we follow Chachra on an analysis of interconnectivity. On Twitter, she shares variations on the intersections of education, engineering and science, gender studies, technology and culture, and the environment. She writes a weekly newsletter, Metafoundry, you can also find her on Instagram, and she is writing a book on Infrastructural Systems.

A Reflection on Martin Weller’s 25 Years of Ed Tech (Part 2)

Part One: Is the ed tech Weller describes relevant to my work?

In Chapter 11 of 25 Years of Ed Tech, entitled: 2004 Open Educational Research, Weller identifies impacts, possibilities, and limitations of Open Educational Resources (OER). One of the notable impacts of OER use is teacher reflection on practice which usually results in the inclusion of a ​​spectrum of content and approaches to their pedagogy (Weller, 2020).

I consider myself a secondary user of OER, and see myself moving to a primary user role, but the existing infrastructure is limited for the k-12 learner group. For example, Edwin is an online resource that has pulled materials from Nelson and other publishing companies to mirror what takes place in a face-to-face classroom for virtual teaching and learning. If you do a quick Google search, you’ll see it espouses itself as “tomorrow’s digital learning environment making education better for everyone today.” The content is the same however it is a new take, as it packages in-person learning by moving the textbook online in a user-friendly multimodal way. The thing is, many teachers have been doing this type of facilitating in their in-person classroom for as long as access to digital textbooks has been available. This self-proclaimed digital learning environment can easily be confused as “new” and absorbed into mainstream k-12 academia much to the chagrin of the potential of OERs. 

In a perfect world, I would not have to sign up for a webinar hosted by a math coach (who, as an aside, is wonderful), in order to learn about how to use the materials that I have access to in my digital dashboard. In a perfect world, this coach would post a blog every other day (or whenever convenient) about the day-to-day tips, tricks, and links to meaningful content for educators. This ease-of-use and sharing of knowledge would not only allow those who are least interested, or tertiary, to join in on the fun, and give their students access to the amazing ed tech that exists.

Part Two: Between the Chapters #11 sharing about OER & our open practices with @judyphalet, @catherinecronin, @vrodes, & @marendeepwell

I have been toiling with the notion that what has taken place within education over the past 18 months should not be taken for granted. I felt that a shift to a more substantial use of technology would enhance our practice (as k-12 educators). When Judith Pete spoke of the new norm where institutions “cannot sideline the use of technology” (Weller, 2021, 4:47), the notion revealed itself to be the possibility of a new standard of what learning could mean for educators and for students. It would be a stark contrast to the rhetoric of subscriptions to publishers, where “content is king” (Weller, 2020, p.78), and the expectation that funds be used for this content alone. It could mean a reinvention of the school day.

This optimism is in direct contrast to a return to the status quo. The potential for change and for a better quality of life for those who work within the walls of educational institutions and those who enter day in and day out, deserve a better experience. We have a collective responsibility and a collective opportunity to do better now that we have metaphorically seen the light.

 

References

Weller, M. (2020). 25 Years of Ed Tech. Athabasca University Press.

Weller, M. (Host). (2021, January 21). Between the Chapters #11 sharing about OER & our open practices with @judyphalet, @catherinecronin, @vrodes, & @marendeepwell [Audio podcast episode]. In 25 Years of Ed Tech. Athabasca University Press CC-BY-NC-ND. https://25years.opened.ca/2021/01/27/between-the-chapters-oer/

A Reflection on Martin Weller’s 25 Years of Ed Tech (Part 1)

I had experienced the shift from in-person to virtual teaching when Covid-19 hit Ontario in 2020. As a middle school teacher (grades 7&8), I was relatively comfortable with the shift, but I knew I had a lot yet to learn, and felt I had just scratched the surface of ed tech in my programming. 

Weller contends that “one of the recurring themes in ed tech [is] that the implementation of technology makes people evaluate what is core in education itself, which had hitherto been implicit” (Weller, 2020, p.24). In my K-12 experience, this statement presupposes educators are reflective. 

I was on leave for the first instructional term of 2020, and when I returned to teaching in 2021, it was to a virtual classroom. I had assumptions of what was taking place throughout the school year: students engaging in various platforms and apps, amongst other inquiry and problem-based activities. To my shock, I found that the instructor prior to me had been employing an instructivist, lecture-based model. I wondered, how could this be the case in 2021? 

In Chapter 4: Constructivism, Weller looks at professor of social anthropology Michael Wesch’s 2008 work on student perception of a lecture hall, or the learning environment. It revealed student experiences such as “to learn is to acquire information,” to “trust authority for good information” and to “follow along” (Weller, 2020, p.32). As I was introducing lessons and activities to my class, I was met with this type of thinking. My students were prepared to follow along with anything I had to say and to copy documents, rather than engage, develop ideas and collaborate. They simply did not have the digital literacy, nor the digital skills, in the virtual setting to do so. As this was the first year of virtual school for students in elementary school, the onus was placed on the instructor. In Wesch’s A Portal to Media Literacy, he reflects on his role as instructor, or facilitator, in a collaborative and shared learning environment. What had happened with the students in my virtual class was akin to a university lecture hall in the pre-ed tech era, due to a lecture-style learning environment. Even though the classroom was 21 students in size it might as well have been a lecture hall with 200+ students, awaiting instruction from an authority figure, a knowledge-keeper. While the internet was literally at their fingertips. I suppose this is a danger of the virtual classroom (K-12), where an instructor can negate the possibility of learner agency.

References: 

Weller, M. (2020). 25 Years of Ed Tech. Athabasca University Press.

Research: A Few Notes from Dr. George Veletsianos

It is a curious endeavour, listening to experts share understandings. A requisite to this listening is open-mindedness undoubtedly, but it is also a matter of reciprocity. If I am able to absorb the content shared with me and recognize its value, I may in turn produce a meaningful byproduct. A student listening to a professor speak their expertise begs a curious question of inevitably: how do I not incorporate this value into my construct of knowledge in this subject matter? The expertise can either affirm prior knowledge, or it can provide new insights, both benefiting the listener.

In our LRNT 522 course conclusion, students were given the opportunity to seek understandings from Dr. George Veletsianos through a set of interview questions. The responses are honest and they engender considerations for action. Here are my takeaways from Dr. Veletsianos (G. Veletsianos, personal communication,  August 11, 2021):

    1. Stay true to yourself: Focus on what interests you.
    2. Make sure what you’ve chosen to focus on is applicable (social benefit).
    3. Discover what others have said, and be informed by what has come before you (scope).
    4. Try to answer your research question by what others have said; how do you add value to what is already out there? (depth)
    5. Literature Review: consider it as a meaningful review of literature that relates to your topic, as an exercise in how your topic compliments what has been researched.

These five points are but a few of the key ingredients that make up the ever-evolving journey of a MALATian, students in the Master of Arts Learning and Technology program.

What Makes a Good Research Question?

A research question forms out of a necessity to delve deeper into a subject matter and becomes the foundation for a study. A good research question “…aims to explore an existing uncertainty in an area of concern and points to a need for deliberate investigation” (Ratan et. al., 2019, p.15).

A good and effective research question should be:

      • specific, well-conceived, and define what you will examine
      • clear and concise, yet open to interpretation and argument
      • based on good research and evidence

A good research question will:

      • be relevant, addressing a problem that has yet to be unpacked
      • guide the study design through an applicable methodological approach
      • utilize the FINERMAPS acronym: feasible, interesting, novel, ethical, relevant, manageable, appropriate, potential value, publishability, and systematic (Ratan et. al., 2019).

Developing a research question requires time and thoughtful consideration. Remember the acronym for the characteristics of a good research question: FINERMAPS, feasible, interesting, novel, ethical, relevant, manageable, appropriate, potential value, publishability, and systematic. Incorporating these considerations will allow for the creation of a strong and impactful research question.

References

Ratan, S. K., Anand, T., & Ratan, J. (2019). Formulation of Research Question – Stepwise Approach. Journal of Indian Association of Pediatric Surgeons, 24(1), 15–20. https://doi.org/10.4103/jiaps.JIAPS_76_18

Impact of Digital Learning on the Existing Digital Divide in Canada

For this activity, I partnered with Anabella and Jolee to discuss the impact of digital learning on the existing digital divide in Canada. In doing so, we gathered information to highlight the plans and policies in place to reduce the digital divide and increase digital literacy and inclusion, as well as articulate the impact on academic performance.

Please hover over the hotspots to find articles to support our research.

Unit 3 Reflection

In my initial post for my Digital Presence and Digital Identity Plan, I used narration to paint a picture of Teacher Presence (Garrison, 2000, p.87), and the role of teaching within a closed group (Dron & Anderson, 2014). After reading several works and gaining a better understanding for the definitions, concepts and competencies found within digital learning environments, I will return to modify my plan to include specific language. For example, I will include the Community of Inquiry model (CoI), and extend this to include the “three elements deemed essential to successful educational transactions: cognitive presence, teaching presence, and social presence” (Dron & Anderson, p.110). Further to this, I intend on developing considerations around collaboration, specifically how it relates to learning, where “[c]ollaboration is seen as an essential aspect of cognitive development since cognition cannot be separated from the social context” (Garrison, 2000, p.92). If the end result is that digital learning environments create critical thinkers who develop knowledge acquisition, through social interactions, that take place in and across multiple nets and sets, then I’m all in!

 

References:

Dron, J., & Anderson, T. (2104). Teaching Crowds. Athabasca University Press.
https://www.aupress.ca/books/120235-teaching-crowds/


Garrison, R., Anderson, T., & Archer, W. (2000). Critical inquiry in text based environment: Computer conferencing in higher education.
The Internet and Higher Education, 2(2–3), 87–105. https://ezproxy.royalroads.ca/login?url=http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1096751600000166

Visual Network Map

The networks presented in my Visual Network Map are indicative of the various areas of interest and intersections of both my work and personal endeavours. As Dron & Anderson (2014) point out in Teaching Crowds, “[e]very individual’s network is different from those of others because it is defined by social connections and therefore it matters whose perspective and connections are being observed” (p.76). It is through this relationship of perspective and observation of connections, that I have constructed the networks presented here. My professional network is simply labeled Education Network. The modes of interactions in this network are primarily one-to-one, although some are one-to-many. Included in this map are my peers within the MALAT program, a network connected to my higher education pursuits. The Volleyball Network is a blend of professional (coaching) and participation in sport (athlete), where both have allowed for many meaningful connections. The Personal Social Network is made up of friends and family, where primary interactions are one-to-one, or one-to-many, and are done through social media tools such as Instagram and Facebook.

I have used Kumu to complete this mapping task. Kumu offers ease-of-use and accessibility for even the most inexperienced user. If you have a LinkedIn account, you will delight in its features of importing csv. files and modifying where needed. It offers tutorials and how-to’s if you ever run into trouble. There is one drawback from my experience, in that it does require some time to edit if you are not importing a large network of connections from LinkedIn.

Angela’s Visual Network Map

 

References:

Dron, J., & Anderson, T. (2014). Teaching Crowds. Athabasca University Press. https://www.aupress.ca/books/120235-teaching-crowds/

 

Digital Identity and Digital Presence Plan

Educators consider the end in mind, or backward design, when planning. It is a useful strategy that encompasses setting goals, to scaffold learning, and to reach specific outcomes. The following is the result of a backward-design plan. During the process of achieving this specific set of learning outcomes, I will conscientiously construct and reconstruct my digital identity and my digital presence. I create this plan mindful of the spaces I hold as an educator. As I create, I think of an excerpt from Marie Battiste’s Decolonizing Education: Nourishing the Learning Spirit:


Every school is either a site of reproduction or a site of change. In other words, education can be liberating, or it can domesticate and maintain domination. It can sustain colonization in neo-colonial ways or it can decolonize. (p. 168)

I plan to set myself up for success through active and authentic participation in a variety of learning opportunities and through ongoing self-reflection. I think of myself as an educator who navigates digital literacies while exercising mindful deployment of my attention (Rheingold, 2010). In doing so, I will be able to set and achieve short term goals while remaining focused on my long term goals throughout this course. 

I set out to achieve the following goals, affording myself opportunity to reposition the order as I grow through my MALAT and educator experiences:

  • That my interactions in digital spaces are intentional and meaningful for the creation of my digital identity. 
  • That I carry these understandings with me as I move through the MALAT program. 
  • That I incorporate these understandings to the development of my digital identity as a researcher, where I am able to focus my energies to affect change both personally and professionally.  
  • To develop and incorporate a holistic approach to education that has intentional focus on well-being.
  • To actively and authentically engage in digital content and digital spaces in order to facilitate meaning for myself, my students and my communities. 
  • To actively and authentically engage in learning and teaching pedagogy by developing fluency in the various intersections of ICTs in order to expand my understanding of digital literacies and affect change for students. 
  • To affect change in educational policy, with a focus on equitable access to education for all, specifically with access to technology in municipal and/or provincial education systems. 

The process will be critical. I will endeavour to maintain a balanced approach to the MALAT program that will include self-care, organization, and reflection. I will have to create boundaries for my interactions in digital spaces, and limit my engagement. I will include design thinking and holistic practice into my pedagogy. I will lead by example by modelling my own cyberinfrastructure (Campbell, 2009), helping students create online portfolios or digital domains (Watters, 2015). My interaction with digital tools will have to increase, as I increase my networking with various stakeholders. For example, my engagement on Twitter and LinkedIn will have to increase from visitor to resident (White & Le Cornu, 2011); I am only now beginning to network through LinkedIn and learning about the usefulness of this platform. I will keep an open-mind and apply a growth mindset (Dweck, 2019).

Knowledge-acquisition, knowledge-facilitation, and knowledge-consolidation are a large part of teaching practice and pedagogy, yet they depend on the construct of knowledge and this construct can alter with context. I aspire to maintain a growth mindset for the following:

  • MALAT and discussions
  • Symposiums and Webinars
  • Shared stories: lived experiences of students, community members, and colleagues
  • Research 

Organization, time-management and reflection will provide the structure for these outcomes. I will continue to modify sub-goals to interact with specific outcomes pertaining to my overall goal. In order to accomplish this, I have and will continue to set specific dates to check-in on goal-setting and well-being. These check-ins will align with course schedules and work schedules, as well as personal commitments. They will be weekly, monthly, quarterly and annually. I will use various tools to log outcomes, such as Google Keep and Google Calendar. Reflection will be ongoing, evaluative, and meaningful, so that I may adapt and evolve along with new Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs), in order to apply my understanding (Beetham, 2015). 

As a virtual school teacher, I have endeavoured to understand the scope of instruction in a digital space through a variety of digital tools and media, while centring the student in my pedagogy and in my practice. My skill set is wide-ranging and includes: reflective practice, fluency in a variety of ICTs, and comfort in a variety of digital media. I endeavour to expand my understanding of the digital literacies within the education sector, to include student engagement through digital portfolios or, when possible, personal digital domains (Waters, 2015). 

I have learned that at the top of a very long list of values that make up a happy, productive classroom environment are respect, care, and trust. I have learned that these values transfer to digital spaces. Mutual respect, care for others and trust manifest through authentic shared experiences, and are crucial to meaningful collaboration and to the establishment and sustainability of psychologically safe spaces. In a safe space, students flourish, and the opportunities for growth are endless. It is through the utilization of these skills and the varied contexts the teaching profession provides, that I am able to set my goals and to seek solutions. 

Part of growth is recognizing one’s strengths and one’s weaknesses. Among many of my knowledge gaps are: research on equitable access to technology and to the internet, Open Source Education and Open Education Resources (OERs), and Creative Commons Licensing. I have only skimmed the surface of the potential of these areas of interest, and I look forward to unpacking what they have to offer with respect to my learning outcomes. I have considered the following strategies and approaches to address these gaps: research scholarly articles and consult with stakeholders invested in these areas of interest. 

My measures of success will reflect on my engagement in digital spaces. As I embark on new approaches to my engagement, my digital identity and my digital presence will evolve. My engagement will afford interactions and new connections to various stakeholders in education. Through these interactions, I will expand upon my research and understand where to best commit my energies. As I monitor specific outcomes over the next two years, my engagement with stakeholders in various digital spaces will grow, and by association my understanding of my research.

I look forward to what comes next. 


References:

Battiste, M., & Bouvier, R. (2017).
Decolonizing Education: Nourishing the Learning Spirit. Canada: UBC Press.

Beetham, H. (2015, Nov 10). Building capability for new digital leadership, pedagogy and efficiency. https://digitalcapability.jiscinvolve.org/wp/2015/11/10/framing-digital-capabilities-for-staff-deliverables/

Campbell, G. (2009). A personal cyberinfrastructure. Educause Review, 44(5), 58-59.

https://er.educause.edu/articles/2009/9/a-personal-cyberinfrastructure

Dweck, C. (2019). What having a “growth mindset” actually means. Harvard Business Review, 2019 Special Issue, P26.

Rheingold, H. (2010). Attention, and other 21st-century social media literacies. Educause Review, 45(5), 14-24. http://er.educause.edu/articles/2010/10/attention-and-other-21stcentury-social-media-literacies

Watters, A. (2015, July 15). The Web we need to give students. Bright.
https://brightthemag.com/the-web-we-need-to-give-students-311d97713713#.a2rmav7fp

Visitor-Resident Mapping

As I stare at my blank, hand-drawn tension-pair map (White & Le Cornu, 2011), I find myself reflecting on my digital identity. After some time, I am able to finish the activity, but not before reflecting on the act itself: it is complicated. I know it shouldn’t be, but it is painstaking.

I manage to transfer my perceptions onto my drawing using pencil and paper, nothing fancy. It’s greyscale. I choose grey because the complexity of colour is too intricate a detail to deconstruct. I move things around just enough to make it capture me. There are no compartments, I can’t be compartmentalized. I want it to look like water, because I want to believe I am fluid, not fixed.

Here’s where I get stuck: When do we consider the factors that contribute to the typologies presented? Before, after, during? What about time: do we reconstruct a new map every so many years? How about context: do we reconstruct a new map for every career change?

In 2021, is my digital identity separate from my personal identity? When I participate in this act, and log my engagement in digital spaces, am I not fully participating? I wonder if our modes of behaviour are extrinsic to our identity politics. I wonder how much we are performing (Cover, 2012), and how much we are authentic in these spaces, and to what degree this affects our placement.

Whether I like it or not, I am pegged down onto this spectrum in one way or another.

And I suppose that’s the point.

“There will be time, there will be time / To prepare a face to meet the faces that you meet”  -T. S. Eliot

 

References:

White, D., & Le Cornu, A. (2011, September 5). View of Visitors and Residents: A new typology for online engagement: First Monday. View of Visitors and Residents: A new typology for online engagement | First Monday. https://firstmonday.org/article/view/3171/3049

Cover, R. (2012). Performing and undoing identity online: social networking, identity theories and the incompatibility of online profiles and friendship regimes. Convergence18(2), 177–193. https://doi.org/10.1177/1354856511433684

Eliot, T. S. (n.d.). The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock by T. S. Eliot. Poetry Foundation. https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poetrymagazine/poems/44212/the-love-song-of-j-alfred-prufrock