Wow, it’s been such a busy month. Between work and personal commitments, doing the holiday baking and decorating, gift shopping, trip planning, it’s no wonder folks get stressed at this time of year. So, I’m looking forward to a few days off where I can kick back and reflect on the year that’s been and the new one still to come.
From Steven and I at the Douglas Educators Network, we wish you health, happiness, and hope this holiday season. Check back with us in January. The new year awaits!
Recently we held a workshop at Douglas College titled “Creating emotional safety in learning spaces,” which was facilitated by Leva Lee of BCcampus; Sandra Polushin, CFCS faculty; and Steven Bishop and Hope Miller from the Learning Designer team of Academic Technology Services.
And how did we land on this topic? Well, it started over a year ago when Ross Laird presented a two-day workshop titled “Storming the Ivory Tower.” As one plank of his 10-plank framework, emotional safety is a critical component of teaching the whole person.
Our goal in running this workshop was really to start a dialogue at Douglas College about what emotional safety means and how it impacts each of us in our various learning environments. None of the facilitators professed to being an expert in the field of emotional safety, but they were willing to guide the discussion around this important topic.
To that end, the facilitators used Liberating Structures activities to generate thoughts, ideas, challenges, and solutions, as well as to model how such topics could be tackled in learning environments. Two hours flew by as participants completed three activities–Impromptu Networking, Drawing Monsters, and 1-2-4-All–each activity building on the insights gleaned during group work.
I’m happy to report that feedback from participants was very positive. They liked the format and saw the benefits of using Liberating Structures to delve into topics such as emotional safety.
But, did we succeed in creating an emotionally safe space for participants to come together, share, tackle tough topics, and problem solve? Absolutely.
I am getting better at answering the question, “What you are talking about is important, but what does that have to do with technology?” This question is probably more implied, and probably more personal and internal, than one I am asked by others directly. My job title is Online Learning Designer, a role that involves:
supporting faculty with their use of the college’s Learning Management System (LMS)
collaborating with educational and informational technology staff to ensure currency and quality of online learning environments
instructing faculty in the design and production of online learning objects
providing “exceptional client-centered service on a consistent basis to all stakeholder groups”
Depending on what one thinks technology means, there is lots of room for interpretation of the above functions. Because the environment is technological (e.g. digital, computer-based, online), there can be an assumption that the primary work is within prescribed technologies. Ursula Franklin, defines a prescriptive technology as that which “Each step is carried out by a separate worker, or group of workers, who need to be familiar only with the skills of performing that one step. This is what is normally meant by division of labour.” (Franklin, 1990)
Franklin also identifies holistic technology as “…associated with the notion of craft” and involving decisions that can only be made while the work is in process, by the artisan themselves. Holistic technology is endangered in our modern, compliance-based, and prescriptive technological environment, where one misplaced character in a line of code causes failure, and where algorithms decide what information we are fed on our smart phones and computers.
How is it that I am precisely at the perfect distance to the sun, so that the moon exactly eclipses the sun?[i] And the sun warms but does not destroy this place?
Where is the closest place I can walk on the earth with bare feet? Drink from a pure stream? Slip into a clean lake or river?
When was the last time I scared a mountain lion with only my voice and fierceness away from its prey and saved a little dog?[ii]
Who lived here before me? And who lived here before them? How far down would I have to dig to find the ancestors of this place? What did they find to eat, only here? Wrap themselves in, from only here? Create shelters from only here? Heal their wounds and ailments, from only here? Remember their predecessors to this place?
How will my successors appreciate what I have done here? How I have lived? What love I have received and given here?
How am I to respect, appreciate, and honour this place?
I wrote this reflecting on several overlapping themes in my work and personal life. I am participating in an Indigenous Studies Working Group at Douglas College, in conversation with friends and family who live in semi-remote rural places, and working on developing a new program that strives to use digital tools to enable instructors and students to co-create place-based learning objects that reference local history, environmental concerns, economics and vernacular sensibilities. I am interested in collaborating with others with similar interests…
by Steven Bishop
[i] As relayed during a conversation with Dr. Paul Jacobson (Jacobson, 2017)
[ii] As relayed during a conversation with Susan Aldridge, who did exactly this during a walk on her land in the Slocan Valley. (Aldridge, 2017)
[iii] “All my relations” is a saying used to express awareness of the interconnected nature of the universe. We hear it often as part of Indigenous welcoming to British Columbia post-secondary events. “It also reinforces that everyone and everything has a purpose, is worthy of respect and caring, and has a place in the grand scheme of life.” (Kaminski, 2013)
Have a vision for your project. Is it a high concept, short and artful film, or are you wanting to provide practical information? Instructor or topic introductions, how-to instructions, and concept explanations can be effectively produced with lower production values, less time and cost if a few simple guidelines are considered.
Assess your resources
If you have an in-house production team, take advantage of their skill, knowledge, experience and access to equipment and software, especially if high production values are needed.
If you don’t have concierge-level support for your media projects, determine if training is available for a do-it-yourself approach. We have a new Ed Media program at Douglas College that does exactly this. There are also video-tutorial courses on Lynda.com to help get up-to-speed with pre-production, production and post-production tasks for media projects.
In painting, “fine art” involves formal training, skillful technique, and the use of perspective, refined colour palette and subtle representations. Naive art might lack many or all of these qualities, and has been judged as “technologically primitive” by Western academia. It is also recognized as authentic, simple and honest. And it can be impactful. Consider the work of Henri Rousseau, a particularly influential naive artist.
What does painting have to do with educational media?
The analogy draws attention to the value of video and audio educational media created by amateurs. Many instructors I have met do not have formal training, or the resources to get formal training in creating video and audio learning objects. Help from professional media experts may be difficult to obtain. Subject matter experts are often challenged to create multiple ways to represent their knowledge to students.
In the recording industry, a fair amount of recorded creative work is not used in the final product. In education, unused video or audio recorded content may represent poor planning at best and wasted time and resources in the worst case. Time and budget-constrained educators have to be creative, competent and efficient to make the best use of opportunities to communicate their knowledge to others via video or audio recordings.
Instructors are also in a position to use multiple means of representation (the first principle of Universal Design for Learning) to convey meaning to students, and to allow the same for student assignment submission. Adopting an on-the-ground, essential approach to media production can be an effective way to encourage alternate modes of expression.
The next post in this series offers a few ideas from our recent experience to support the creation of simple, artful, and impactful recordings for educational purposes.
Media creation (videos for class instruction or promotional activities, podcasts, etc.) is everywhere these days. Think YouTube, Lynda.com, the Khan Academy. This is the new way of acquiring knowledge and delivering your message to large audiences.
Creating video and audio recordings can serve to humanize the online environment, convey deeper meaning, and provide a catalyst for social and instructional presence. Some of the uses for educational media include:
short instructional/promotional videos or audio recordings
collaborative peer assignments
digital storytelling projects
At Douglas College, we just rolled out our new EdMedia Program, which, once completed, will provide participants with the skills to create their own educational media designed for their specific purpose, whether that means producing a video or launching a podcast, and ultimately, reaching your desired audience. Graduates leave with a deeper understanding of the creative process and assets that can be used in the classroom, in online courses, or for promotional purposes.
Now for the details. The program consists of six workshops held over a six-week period. Enrollment is limited to ensure a meaningful hands-on experience. Participants have the opportunity to work in recording/editing studios alongside like-minded colleagues and creative professionals from Academic Technology Services. A certificate will be awarded to participants who complete the following courses; however, courses can be taken individually and accumulate towards the certificate.
Recording Foundations:Pre-production and planning
Thursday, May 25, NW MousePad (room N3142) 9:00-11:00 am
Video Recording Techniques:Lights, camera, action
Monday, May 29, Studio (room N3272V) 9:00am-12:00pm
Guerrilla Filmmaking:Portable device techniques
Thursday, June 8, Dance studio (room N3260) 9:00am-12:00pm
The three-day version of the Instructional Skills Workshop (ISW) has mixed blessings: although time efficient for busy instructors, it doesn’t allow as much time as longer versions for transmitting information and developing familiarity with the lesson-planning resources provided. Instructors get going on Day 1 delivering their mini-lesson to peers.Two affordances proved beneficial in helping develop a convivial environment without feeling rushed in the process. We used a Blackboard course to provide advance knowledge of the lesson-planning model, the feedback process and some foundational theory for the workshop. An “Introduce Yourself” discussion forum helped participants learn a bit about each other, and get to a deeper engagement level right away.This was the first ISW in the new flexible learning space, the Collaboration Room (S0620 at the New Westminster campus). The ability to reconfigure the room helped us easily set up several learning environments:
The eClassroom setting for conventional lecture mode (with the added feature of being able to see the presentation on a rear monitors if desired).
A central round table for shared discussion.
Two areas to demonstrate content, concepts, and tools.
Three interactive monitor areas for participants to present their lessons, and allow participants to shift smoothly between stations.