Engage. Grow. Fostering Community Online.

Last week (April 19-21) I attended the Digital Learning Conference 2015 in Burnaby with my colleague and OLTD cohort member, Lisa Lewis. It was a great opportunity to connect with people such as Mary O’Neill (@maryjoneill), Randy LaBonte (@rlabonte) and Avi Luxenburg (@aluxenburg) (OLTD instructors) and some of my OLTD cohort. This well-attended conference was a great generator of new ideas and gave Lisa and me our first opportunity to present.

The opening keynote speaker, Dave Cormier (@davecormier), used an analogy of a rhizome to learning. Rhizomes, aggressive, chaotic, and resilient can be hard to contain, following their own path. This is how learning should be; not contained or restricted. “Success is never finishing (learning)”. We were asked to consider why we school, what we are schooling and ultimately what do we want school to be for? There were lively discussions amongst the participants as well as on the twitter backchannel (#2015DL).

My focus for this conference was to collect information on how others are incorporating blended or flexible courses in their traditional face-to-face schools. I attended a seminar by Jeff Stewart (NIDES/Navigate) who described how they tackled the challenges of ‘traditional’ learning by incorporating Web 2.0 tools and choice via various Academies. I am not sure how this model could be applied in Adult Basic Education, but I am inspired by the idea of including community activities, leadership and project-based learning in our program.

Heather Corman and Julie Shields presented their thoughts on Independent Learning Centres. These centres are a place for students to work on courses via distance learning but with a support teacher in the room to answer basic questions. They have met with great success, providing opportunities to students to take courses they would otherwise be unable to. The greatest tip for success was to ensure that expectations were clear – that it was a class and not computer ‘play’ time!

Avi and Mary’s presentation suggested strategies for building community in online and blended courses. Creating social tension may work for some instructors, while others lean towards appreciative inquiry. Both presenters agreed that it was necessary to have a cohort model to build a successful community for learning.

Lisa and I presented early on the last morning of the conference. To see the slideshare of our presentation, check out the link below. I think it went amazingly well, especially as first-time presenters at a very well attended seminar. We challenged our participants to create a digital mindmap of our presentation, and some jumped right in and tweeted a copy to the rest of the conference participants. I was very happy to have the opportunity to both attend and present at this conference, and hope to present at another conference in the future!

Mindmapping – Harnessing the power of student collaboration: http://bit.ly/1yM2LtH.

2015 DL Conference collaborative notes: http://goo.gl/9r1Vqi