Faculty Development in the Open

What does it mean to do faculty development in the open? How is it different than typical faculty development experiences?

For me, faculty development in the open allows me to connect with learners I might not otherwise encounter. My professional development tends to focus on library conferences where I get to talk and network with other librarians and learn about things that are relevant to my day to day work. Faculty development in the open allows me to encounter colleagues from other areas of higher education that I might not otherwise have a chance to meet. We explore issues that are relevant in higher education on a broader scale than any of our respective “day jobs.” I have conversations with economists, literature scholars, education experts, historians, instructional designers, educational technologists and others. We can find connections that cross disciplines, areas of expertise, regions, and even continents. Language barriers are minimized and connections are formed over shared excitement about the possibilities of working in the open. Perhaps even collaborations emerge. I may never meet some of these colleagues face to face, but I feel a kinship having traveled on a journey with my co-learners.

OpenLearning17 and 18 have been rich experiences for me and I look forward to future iterations! I hope you will join us!

Anxiety about the New Thing

This week has been about anxious feelings about new things. New technology, new ideas, it all provokes an anxious feeling. What is enlightening is that on consulting Merriam-Webster for the multiple meanings of anxious, I am reminded that it not only means “characterized by extreme uneasiness of mind or brooding fear about some contingency,” it also means “ardently or earnestly wishing.” That sums it up for me. I feared the failing of technology, or more accurately my ability to understand new technology fully in order to control it, but ah, I also wished for it to work to bring important conversations to others across the Web! Jenny Dale, in our conversation about the Framework for Information Literacy, talked about her anxiety about the document when it first came out, but she also talked with excitement about how she has come to embrace the Framework and even teach others about its usefulness. An anxious feeling isn’t a bad thing, just temporary unease and a hope for understanding.

Trudi Jacobson and Craig Gibson shared the past and future of the Framework in another interview discussed their latest work that connects the Framework to High Impact Practices (HIPs). I detected some ardent wishing in their voices that showed hope of helping others make this connection. Their passion was contagious and I found myself excited about the prospect of exploring these connections. I am eagerly awaiting this month’s issue of RUSQ where their article will appear.

I am anxiously awaiting your blog posts and eager to know whether you enjoyed the selected readings and the interviews!

From Novice to Node and Back Again Through Liminal Space

I have written previously about my journey from novice to node in OpenLearning ’17. Today I had a back to novice moment and ironically it happened just before the speakers I was working with discussed liminal space. There I was in liminal space myself, grappling with new-to-me technology. I tried to take what I already knew into that space and apply it, but it just didn’t work. This wasn’t what I knew; it was new and I didn’t understand how to put the puzzle together.

These moments of unknowing engender empathy for our students. I remember what it’s like to feel unsteady. It’s uncomfortable and frustrating. I want to get past it as quickly as possible. I try what I know and discover that my strategies don’t work in this environment that is new to me. I don’t know what else to do. And then help arrives (thanks, Gardner!), a guide by my side, and I know it will be all right. We get through the problem at hand, but I still don’t know what I should do. Tomorrow we’ll replicate the scenario and I hope I will begin to understand what I need to do so that I can go it alone with confidence.


Update: It’s “tomorrow’ and I think I get it! Liminal space is uncomfortable, but what’s on the other side feels good!

In the Open, Vulnerability is Essential, Agency is Everything and the Network is the Classroom

I’ve just returned from ELI2018, where a few of us presented on the OpenLearning ’17 experience and took the opportunity to promote OpenLearning ’18. My colleague Gardner Campbell, Hub Director extraordinaire and leader of our motley crew gave me the opportunity to talk about my “Novice to Node” experience in OpenLearnimg ’17. I started that journey with no blog, no Twitter presence and no experience in a networked learning environment. In some ways, I had no business being a facilitator for OpenLearning ’17, but in some ways, I was best guide for fellow newbies and my newness to it all gives me a unique perspective among my colleagues on the steering committee. And besides, not knowing how to do something is not a valid hurdle for me. I figured out how to do it by doing it. I learned through trying to teach others.

There were some tweets from audience members in the session that called out my pithy personal learning outcomes from the OpenLearning ’17 experience. I had my 5 seconds of fame as they were liked and retweeted, but I think they may have been misinterpreted as lessons learned from one specific week. I want to be clear about this– these are takeaways from my entire experience over the duration of the course. These ideas evolved over a 15 week period (don’t worry, OpenLearning ’18 is just 8 weeks!) when I was focused on learning about teaching and learning in the open.

So now that I’ve cleared that up, I’d like to explain a little more about what I meant in the session at ELI2018.

Vulnerability is Essential

If you can be vulnerable and in the moment, you can make connections between ideas and you can make connections with other learners in this networked environment. The network is the classroom and the more time you spend in the network, the more experiences you will have and the more you will learn. Vulnerability and authenticity are important traits for leaders, and I would argue for teachers as well. They are certainly important traits for learners, but it can be hard to admit what you don’t know, especially if you are used to being an expert in your field.

Having just returned from a conference, I find the conference scene a useful metaphor. If you go to sessions, but talk to no one there or in between sessions, you are going to have a more shallow experience than if you strike up conversations in the hallways and over meals. It requires putting yourself out there, but the reward is significant. If you engage on Twitter with others at the conference, you might have an even richer experience.

The Network is the Classroom

The same is true for connected learning–to get the most out of the experience, you need to connect, not just with the readings, but with the other learners in the network. And ideally, you get the opportunity to connect with people who are another step further out from the course you are engaged in. You begin to build your network thought the connections you make in the course, and then you make connections with their connections (it’s like those shampoo commercials from the 70s and 80s–and they tell two friends, and they tell two friends, and that’s the power of the network).

But back to vulnerability. Think about times when you have really made a connection with someone, not over something superficial (like shampoo…), but over something meaningful. How did that connection happen? One or both of you probably shared something personal, something that was important to you, something you’ve been thinking about for some time. That’s what can happen in the network if you open yourself up to connecting in that deeper way, but you do have to put a piece of your deeper self out there. The network IS the classroom. It’s where the learning happens. To be part of the learning experience, you need to be in the network, connecting with others.

Agency is Everything

Agency is about having a choice, and in the connected learning environment the choice is for the learner. The learner decides whether to do all, some, or none of the readings in a cMOOC. The learner decides whether to participate in the synchronous activities offered and at what level (are you lurking in the Hangout, or are you engaging in the chat?). Each learner’s experience will be different based on the choices they have made. Agency is empowering. It also lets us make decisions about our privacy. Perhaps you don’t want to join Twitter because you are concerned about how your information will be used. You can choose not to participate in that way. Your experience will be limited by that choice, but the choice is yours to make. Open pedagogy takes further steps to give students agency. Students might have a voice in how the syllabus is shaped or in the tools they use to complete an assignment. Perhaps they even have a choice in which assignments they will complete. Again, each learner’s experience is unique based on their decisions and what learning opportunities they choose to experience.

And a little about time management for cMOOCs

For me, I choose it all. My only limit is time and I have been amazed at how much time I can create when I adjust my priorities and my habits. So when I’m in the cMOOC, I will take a break from social media that is not connected to the experience (sorry, Pinterest and Facebook), and I will engage on Twitter over my morning coffee, but I will filter for #OpenLearning18 and focus my experience. I might write a blog post over several mornings or evenings (this one was begun in an airport and finished in my office). I will find ways to fit this experience into my days and nights because it is important to me. I know I will gain valuable insights from connecting with others in the network. It’s worth the small sacrifices and adjustments to my routines. For 8 weeks, I can change my lifestyle and it will change my life for the better.

Here’s how to join OpenLearning ’18: http://openlearninghub.net/the-stream/ 

We’ll get started on Sunday, February 4th. I look forward to connecting with you!

My trip to Digital Pedagogy Lab’s 2017 Institute

Welcome to the new home for my blog–my own domain! I set up this domain while I was attending the Digital Pedagogy Lab 2017 Institute at the University of Mary Washington. I will continue to use this space to think and tinker with ideas about connected learning, and more broadly higher education and libraries.

At DPL, I attended the Networked Learning and Intercultural Collaboration track and was excited to meet Maha Bali, one of the track’s facilitators, with whom I had collaborated in the spring. Maha and I co-directed the Open Access week of learning in the OpenLearning17 cMOOC. Since Maha lives in Egypt and I in the United States, all our collaboration was virtual, using Google Docs and Google Hangouts. I also enjoyed getting to know Kate Bowles, Maha’s co-facilitator for the Networks track, and all of the colleagues who were in this track throughout the week. The week revolved around philosophical discussions about building connections across identities and cultures, authority versus agency and intersectionality. We had many discussions attempting to define and redefine constructs. My notes are cryptic, so it’s impossible to try to capture the thread of the conversation.

I also attended two workshops during the week. The first was a workshop about Respecting Students in Digital Pedagogies by Chris Guillard. He introduced his work on digital redlining and challenged us to consider what we ask our students to give up when we use commercial technologies in the classroom. To paraphrase Chris, don’t enter students into any relationship with technology where they don’t have control over the relationship. Chris had us pick apart a syllabus to locate the places where students’ were being asked to put their privacy at risk. Related to this were discussions about surveillance capitalism and extractive data. Chris also alluded to these ideas in the final keynote he gave with Maha Bali.

The second workshop I attended was on Decolonizing Rigor in the Classroom. Ashleigh Wade presented some ways of providing students with assignments that give options beyond writing and she discussed how writing is often privileged over other forms. Thanks to some hands-on time with a partner, I decided that I would offer an infographic as an option for an assignment in our Roadmap to Research course the next time I teach it, and I will encourage my librarian colleagues to do the same. Students could be given the option of creating a traditional presentation, or an infographic as their assignment. I would also have them evaluate infographics in class as it relates to thinking about how information is presented and citing information accurately.

As is typical of other conferences I’ve attended, the in-between conversations were incredibly valuable–the lunches, the hallway conversations, the chats during the reception. My network is larger and richer for having made these connections during the Institute. I even met some individuals I had connected with online in OpenLearning17, including fellow Faculty Collaborative Steering Committee member Laura Gogia. That was definitely a highlight! There is something really special about having face to face time with someone after having collaborated for months in virtual space. In fact, I noticed lots of hugging and gentle touching at DPL (the hand on the shoulder or arm, the fist bump, etc.). It’s as if we had to touch each other to be sure that the physical connection was real. I have the impression that many of the attendees had connected via Twitter or other online spaces and I think many of us were grateful to finally have that face-to-face connection.

I’d love to tell you that I came away with clear ideas that will shape how I move forward, but I don’t think it’s that kind of learning experience. I hope that the philosophical discussions I participated in will re-emerge as I run into ideas in my day to day work with students and faculty. I hope that I will come to conversations of connected learning and digital pedagogy with a better understanding of the complex issues involved. What do we need to think about when we ask students to connect, particularly through a specific platform? Platforms are political, extractive, and limited. What choice are we really making when we select a platform and for whom are we making that choice? Are we sure we have the right to make such choices for our students? What about the choices they have already made for themselves? Are they aware of what’s involved in those choices? What’s the best way to help them understand what it means to live and work in the open? These are the ideas that resonated most with me.

So in the end, I left with more questions than answers, but I think that’s what was supposed to happen. What happens next, well, time will tell. Watch this space for more tinkering with these ideas.