Digital pedagogy is the study and use of contemporary digital technologies in teaching and learning. Digital pedagogy may be applied to online, hybrid, and face-to-face learning environments. (Wikipedia)
Critical Pedagogy: Habits of thought, reading, writing, and speaking which go beneath surface meaning, first impressions, dominant myths, official pronouncements, traditional cliches, received wisdom, and mere opinions, to understand the deep meaning, root causes, social context, ideology, and personal consequences of any action, event, object, process, organization, experience, text, subject matter, policy, mass media, or discourse. (Wikiversity)
Ungrading: SO this is a tricky one. There are many blog posts, articles, books on how to “Ungrade” and why grading isn’t the best (Jesse Stommel has excellent posts on this) but I am trouble finding a good definition of “ungrading”.
So, what were my takeaways?
Ask Why. Why assess an assignment? Why assign an assignment? Why grade the way you do? Why are things worth the amount they are worth? Why test a concept? Why test so much? Why that question?
By asking why, you are not necessarily deciding NOT to do something, you are critically thinking about how it will benefit a student’s learning and understanding. Will it enhance understanding? Will it allow for a different viewpoint? What else is going on in the student’s life? (I recognize it is not always possible to know the answer). It is also important to examine the effect it will have on your own life. Do you have the time to assess it? How much other work do you have?
Get students involved in their learning. In Adult Education/Higher Education we work with adults. Talk to them about grading. If you have to mark something explain why – is it because it is important? Because the institution requires it? Explain why you are doing/requiring what you are doing/requiring in the class. As an adult, I prefer to know the reason why I need to do something, what benefit it will provide. Why are students any different?
Would I go again?
I am not sure that I would! Unfortunately, because of the name, I thought there would be more doing and practicing. I associate “labs” as hands-on learning. This was more of an unconference. While I have attended unconferences and loved them (IIE does a great one) I was not looking for that for this. I was looking to increase my education and knowledge on a specific topic rather than getting bogged down in definitions and how the university/college system is failing Here is a Google Doc of what we did: http://bit.ly/ungrade
One fabulous person I met was Rajiv Jhangiani (on Twitter @thatpsychprof. Give him a follow). Truly an inspirational speaker.
Develop a “pedagogue’s mindset” by building capacity of faculty and instructors to critically reflect on practice for the purposes of improvement of teaching and learning.
Facilitate “critical friendships” through a twinning or mentor/mentee relationship between people who volunteer–scaffold how to be a “critical friend”
Teach a variety of ethnographic approaches to exploring pedagogy
Provide professional development opportunities for learning strategies such as reflective practice
Sponsor reading circles such as materials related to pedagogy.
Facilitate “open educational” practices–facilitating colleague observations and visits.
Develop collaborative action research projects.
Host a Ted Talk – on a related topic to digital pedagogies – to capture and share with others to present various perspectives
Build community and opportunities for collaboration with like-minded people.
Connect with others in your field that are currently creating and advocating the use of open resources for both instructors and students
Connect via Twitter. Search using hashtags # connected to the topics and discussion related to the book, Urgency of Teachers specifically the authors @jessifer @slamteacher
Share relevant open educational resources (OER) with fellow instructors (plant the seed of OER by sharing great resources)
Select a few early adopters and get out there to capture their stories!
Adopt “open practices” that share what we do–as we do it–to improve teaching and learning
Invite/accept opportunities to web conference with others you find online
Provide foundational knowledge of digital learning such as “where do I start?” strategies
Community of Inquiry model – Introduce faculty/students to the three elements of an educational experience: cognitive, social and teaching presence. Retrieved from https://coi.athabascau.ca/
Research approaches and levels of engaging with “ungrading”, student self-assessment. Identify variety of “entry” points
Provide students with opportunities to develop digital agency
Allow students to develop a digital portfolio of their learning throughout a program to showcase and personalize their reflections, growth and examples of learning (they become agents of their own learning, choosing samples, reflecting on growth and designing it as they wish)
Ungrade a course (untangle grades from feedback and reduce/remove marks/values on student learning) and allow students to give and receive feedback via digital means on their learning
Create safe opportunities for exploration & failure (both with technology and with learning) and model this whenever possible (don’t be afraid to try new technology in front of learners – even if you struggle)
Allow students to select or propose alternative media for evidencing learning: podcast, images, video, text, multimedia
Provide helpful feedback to students and focus on the value of it, and how it fits within their learning journey
Care about our students (digital identity, location and processing of info, inclusive) and access to learning. Those in digital spaces as have different needs, wants, and perspectives.
Ask students about their experiences online to help understand assumptions, perspectives, and background in online. Honour their prior learning experiences
Use blogs to allow for class reflections to expand learning in the moment and to work to find ways to have both students and instructor active engagers in the process
Clarify for students about the expectations for what is acceptable for ‘videos put online/sharing’ – have the instructor demonstrate this first to show it doesn’t have to be perfect
Allow for “practice” in a safe space before going public. Create awareness of implications of but the digital footprint is guarded a bit more closely (digital identity learning!)
Engage in conversations with students about what they choose to transmit, share, store etc on the Internet to be respectful of personal requests and needs (added level of care to think about where students’ information (personal identifiable info) is stored and is processed
Incorporate UDL (Universal Design for Learning) in materials developed for use online or face-to-face classes.
Consider exploring the digital divide in a class (who has access, who doesn’t)
Consider equitable ways for students to explore tools and technologies so that the experienced ones aren’t always making the perfect video /slides – and are not intimidated or feel aren’t capable of doing it so are with less confidence – maybe let students in groups explore technology/tool/software together first and feel more comfortable – provide them guidelines on how to work together (focus on inclusion)
Are our courses accessible?
Honour physical location and social space in online courses
Provide acknowledgement, introductions of where students are located in physical and social spaces
Explore digital experiences options beyond LMS and invite students into creating networked learning.
Use open source technology to develop a student resource that can extend understanding of topics during the course and provide students with a “textbook” takeaway after the course is over
Teach about the collaborative development, definition and/or use of hashtags (#) (similar to keywords) to organize shared participatory sharing/creation of information seemingly online chaos of tools like Twitter
Create a hybrid course approach to redefine the “classroom” experience.
Guide to Blended Learning. Provides a theoretical foundation as well as concrete examples for different blended learning pedagogical approaches. OER retrieved from http://oasis.col.org/handle/11599/3095
Split classes into online and in class sessions to allow for flexibility of schedules and encourage self-regulation.
Do the same for office hours – offer virtual and physical spaces where students can reach you (within a schedule because online learning shouldn’t mean you or your students expect to be available 24/7)
Give learners meaningful choices
Allow learners a meaningful role in creating the syllabus- even just one part of it.
Use blended or online learning spaces to present multiple ways of learning and let students move through content as suits their needs (Turn off content tracking)
Move away from grading everything by adopting a grading contract in collaboration with students
On Tuesday, January 9th, 2019, all the members of the Digital Pedagogies Pathways Project (DP3) gathered for our first dinner to discuss digital pedagogies. Four members came in via Zoom and seven were gathered in a university meeting room (with the always important – food). We began by hearing from everyone for a few minutes answering these questions, “What are you thinking about? Where is your head at with regards to the readings? What are your reflections on Urgency of Teachers?” I knew they were coming with variations in how much they had read, comprehended and assimilated – so we began with questions about what was on their mind around digital pedagogies.
The responses were as diverse as the people in this wonderful group I have assembled to explore digital pedagogies. They are all adventuresome souls – but I am sure we all don’t know where we are heading or what we’ll learn about ourselves, our practice or each other. They are uncovering new language, different perspectives and what critical pedagogy is all about.
Some of Jesse and Sean’s writing is resonating with the group and some of it is challenging our perspectives or just not clicking at all. I am reminded that this isn’t a book of best practices or research about what works best for teaching with technology. Far from it. It is a collection of blog posts written over six and a half years by two colleagues/friends immersed in teaching and learning in post-secondary education institutions. It is their thoughts (many published on Hybrid Pedagogy – an open access journal on learning, teaching and technology) that dive into topics such as online learning, instructional design, pedagogy, critical pedagogy, digital pedagogies, MOOCs, learning management systems, writing, teaching, learning etc.
Some of the group’s responses included: learning about the definition of digital pedagogies, “chalkboard pedagogies” (we didn’t call it that then, so why are we calling it digital pedagogies – isn’t it all just pedagogies?), “forking education” – what are the provocative thoughts in that blog post that stir our minds for addressing some key learning issues, “manifesto for online learning” – how do these ideas resonate with those who teach online or those who are just getting into it?, and grading and assessment (oh don’t get us going on assessment and depths we all could go to on this topic)!
I sat there and listened to their opening thoughts making sure everyone had a chance to speak, but soon realized that eleven people sharing for just a few minutes can quickly add up to an hour of elapsed time! Our group is diverse with faculty members from trades to nursing, graphic design to social work, education to kinesiology, education assistant and community support worker to adult basic education – we even have a nursing instructor/teaching and learning support faculty member from North Island College. One of my teaching and learning centre staff rounds out the group.
One member indicated that there aren’t many references or research cited throughout the book – true. While some professions focus on taking cues from the literature and well-established research, this area of digital pedagogies is rather new (past 10 years I think Jesse and Sean feel) but they quote or refer to well-known writers and researchers such as, Audrey Watters, bell hooks, Henry Giroux and Paulo Friere.
Urgency of Teachers is a collection of thoughts, provocations, published blog posts, keynote speeches – snapshots of Jesse and Sean’s explorations into teaching, learning and technology. I consider the book as a collection of topics to discuss – agree or disagree, feel intrigued about or not, want to debate or dive deeper – it was up to you. It is an easy book to access – short blog post chapters, different topics, easy to digest, read in any order – but then good ideas to discuss and explore.
I encouraged the group to not only read the book, but also some of the articles on this website that flesh out some topics a bit more. I read every article on this site before I created the link and located a key passage. I even did searches for additional readings and often stumbled down some rabbit holes reading for hours on end about various topics. So I sat there listening to my group reflect on the book and their perspectives on digital pedagogies and teaching with technology – quietly hoping they will soon read a bit more so we can dive a bit deeper.
We meet three more times before we head off to the Digital Pedagogy Lab in Toronto in March. I am sure we’ll have some good conversations exploring those topics and areas of teaching and learning that provoke us, challenge us, encourage us to look further, and reflect on our own practices. But for now, we are off to a good start!
When I moved from Ontario to Vancouver Island, British Columbia there were a number of new learning experiences such as new real estate, car and medical insurance processes. I also had to learn how to get on and off the island with varied transportation choices (ferries, helicopters, airplanes and seaplanes) and the impacts weather (low ceiling, fog, wind, rain) had on those choices. Cost of food, gas and other living expenses were more than in Ontario, yet provided context for the ways goods and services make their way to an island versus what can be produced and sold locally. Moving to a new province is nothing compared to moving to a new country, but for some parts of my job it was a significant shift.
Provincially, locally and institutionally there were many new lenses through which I had to view the work I do, the way I could lead my team and what changes I had to make in how teaching and learning would be supported. I think I have come to understand the culture and context of living and working here, but when I read articles, talk to peers or attend events outside of the province I am reminded how much British Columbia’s and Vancouver Island University’s culture and context impacts education, learning, technologies, research – sometimes for the better, sometimes with small hurdles to jump over and sometimes disappointingly challenging.
Here are some context and cultural factors that influence how we teach and learn at Vancouver Island University. This blog will provide a reference for future blog posts and work done by this project.
Responsibility for Education Under the Canadian Constitution, provincial governments have exclusive responsibility for all levels of education. There is no ministry or department of education at the federal/national level. The ten provinces oversee policies, funding and regulation of teaching and learning of all K-12 and post-secondary education at both public and private levels. In literature from other countries there are often more regulations and overarching organizations engaged in education’s directions.
Honouring The Truth, Reconciling the Future: A summary of the final report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada This report traces the history and legacy of the residential school system and also includes 94 “Calls to Action” (recommendations for all Canadians such as urging provincial governments to revise K-12 and post-secondary curricula to include the history of residential schools and treaties). Rolling out these 94 calls to action (with a couple of dozen focused on education) isn’t going to happen quickly or easily, yet the discussions happening across the country are worthy ones. Other countries do not have such an initiative nor with the impacts that it has on post-secondary education. For British Columbia and both education sectors, we are very engaged in ways to honour and respect the Indigenous ways of knowing and the perspectives they have to more broadly inform our learning and expand our understandings.
Freedom of Information and Privacy of Protection (FIPPA) Act The province of British Columbia’s terms around data sovereignty and the storage of personal identifiable information affecting government institutions and their service providers. Only British Columbia and Nova Scotia have this regulation for activity taken on by K-12 and post-secondary institutions. This means that we require storage of student work and associated data to reside in Canada and that no access to personal identifiable information is allowed by any non-Canadian company. This impacts the choices we can make about technology platforms and systems are sometimes limits our activity (or forces us to find local and shared instances, hosting and collaborations). On the positive side, we treat data about our students and faculty with a greater degree of consideration as to where it will live and what sorts of data we need to store.
BCNET BCNET is BC’s provider of shared services for higher education and research. Of the many services BCNET provides, they assist in licensing platforms and systems with vendors to obtain better pricing and access with large scale purchasing with groups of institutions joining the service. As a cost saving measure, it is worthy but it also means that Privacy Impact Assessments (PIAs) have been done for the institutions who sign on to the service should the data sovereignty be in question.
BCcampus This is an organization providing teaching, learning, educational technology, and open education support to the post-secondary institutions of British Columbia. They host workshops, conferences, learning series and other professional development opportunities on a variety of topics. They also will run sandbox pilots of educational technologies. Supported by BCcampus, ETUG – Educational Technology Users Group is a grassroots organization of faculty and support staff who connect and share resources, ideas and knowledge. This community of connected educators and support staff is very helpful in building learning experiences around digital pedagogies.
Open Textbooks and Open Education Movement A government supported open textbook project (led by BCcampus) and strong adoption rates across the province puts BC as a national leader in the use and integration of open educational resources. Faculty, admin and support staff are also leaders hailing from many of BC’s universities and colleges. The principles of open education and the associated practices for creating learning experiences is very prevalent in BC and therefore creates a broad community of like-minded educators.
British Columbia Teaching and Learning Council(BCTLC) This is a community of leaders from British Columbia’s public post-secondary education system with a mission to provide local, provincial and national leadership on issues, challenges and directions around teaching, learning technologies, scholarly practice, student learning, and related topics to facilitate the enhancement of high quality teaching and learning cultures across the BC system. Having this group of leaders enables teaching and learning centres to have a network of colleagues to reach out to for sharing and growing awareness and engagement of the work of critical digital pedagogies.
Vancouver Island University
University Act – Creation of Vancouver Island University (2008) The University Act sets out that Vancouver Island University (VIU) is “a special purpose, teaching university that serves a geographic area or region of the province.” The Act identifies VIU’s programming to be “adult basic education, career, technical, trade and academic programs leading to certificates, diplomas and baccalaureate and masters degrees.” Further, the Act states: “so far as and to the extent that its resources from time to time permit…applied research and scholarly activities to support the programs of the special purpose, teaching university” (10:47.1) are part of its mandate. There are five such designated universities like this in BC with no others across Canada.
Teaching-Focused Institution Faculty members have a larger teaching load than their counterparts at research universities. Typical load is 8 courses per year. Faculty are passionate and highly engaged in teaching.
Poverty Vancouver Island University has its main campus in Nanaimo, British Columbia. Nanaimo has ranks near the top in the province with the greatest number of people living below the poverty line. This affects the role a university has in engaging families and children in education and assisting in this important regional issue.
Open Access Mandate With a mandate to provide open access for learners, VIU responds to regional needs including those of students who are disadvantaged, Indigenous, international, dual-credit high schoolers, those pursuing a trade, youth aging out of care, etc. If credentials do not allow for entry, there are upgrading opportunities and other pathways for entry into post-secondary learning at VIU. With most programs needing only a C in Grade 12 English, the opportunities for entry are more extensive than research-focused institutions.
Indigenous Learners In the spirit of reconciliation, a new learning partnership for Indigenous youth supported with $50M by two philanthropic foundations, Mastercard Foundation and Rideau Hall Foundation, has enhanced opportunities for Indigenous learners. This will double the number of First Nations and Métis students who pursue an education at VIU. VIU already offers a range of initiatives and wrap-around supports for Indigenous students, including outreach workers, student mentors, campus Elders and tuition supplements. New supports include Education Navigators to help Indigenous youth access pathways to learning, improve retention and graduation rates and ultimately support the social and economic development of their communities. Relationships are built by providing in-community services to guide Indigenous learners along their pathways. The vision is that students will no longer need support to navigate the “system”; rather, the system will offer supports to fit the students. ‘Community Cousins’, Aboriginal students studying at VIU, offer campus peer support. The program builds capacity for mentors to gain valuable employability skills and career related experience through mentoring activities. Many students enter through VIU’s Aboriginal University Bridging Certificate. The coaching and mentoring provide learners with access to upgrading for entry into natural resource management, science, health, education and trades programs in demand for local Indigenous communities and employers.
VIU’s Niche VIU responds to the regional needs for offering education opportunities for all. With both vocational and traditional academic programming, there are also special opportunities created for more interdisciplinary and focused programming. The Niche Statement is as follows: Adjacent to the rugged coastline of the Salish Sea and within the traditional territories of the Coast Salish People, Vancouver Island University is proud of its unique history and culture as a teaching university that: • welcomes and celebrates learners, from local, regional and international communities, and nontraditional students, as the heart of the institution; • supports and celebrates student success; • provides high quality teaching, affordable high quality programs and multiple ways of knowing; • promotes campus communities offering small class sizes that encourage rewarding faculty/student engagement; • supports Indigenous learners and connections to Indigenous communities; • fosters a global awareness within the campus and external communities; and • promotes community engagement for students and faculty
I read Sean and Jesse’s book, Urgency of Teachers: The Work of Critical Digital Pedagogy by the lingering light of day (on the shortest daylight days of the year) during a massive power outage that arose from British Columbia’s most devastating windstorm in decades. The multi-day power outage presented me with a gift of uninterrupted time to read, reflect and think. Yet how fitting it was during this absence of technology that I spent time critically thinking about technology!
been teaching and thinking about teaching with digital tools and technologies
since they came into in our schools and classrooms (decades ago), first as an
outdoor educator, then as a K-12 teacher and finally as a university
instructor. I have also been supporting faculty on designing/redesigning
learning experiences with or without technologies – also for decades. Somewhere
between K-12 and university teaching I dove into two graduate degrees on
education and technology – and remember now how forward thinking many of my
professors were around challenging the status quo around how technology was
being used for learning. So, I read this book already on board with many of the
calls to action, understanding the journeys Sean and Jesse have experienced and
already had debated many of the inequities, injustices, dilemmas, challenges
and issues that confront learners each day.
That didn’t mean I still had much to learn – and it meant I had more messiness and complexities with the topics and pushed myself harder to figure out what the writings meant to me now. I read the book from two perspectives: one as a somewhat experienced educator and one as a somewhat experienced administrator of a university teaching and learning centre supporting faculty members in the very topics and issues, Urgency of Teachers, explores. At times I found myself re-reading sections to consider my thoughts and responses from both perspectives. Sometimes it was a jarring experience – but a worthy one.
I liked the format of the book – a collection of published writings composed over six and a half years that showed Jesse’s and Sean’s understandings as they explored and experienced the many facets of digital pedagogies. Each ‘chapter’ or narrative has much to dive into and reflect upon. The writings triggered memories of activities I had done as a less experienced educator and helped me trace how I have evolved my perspectives and actions on digital pedagogies. Each of their narratives has something for every teacher to ponder whether it be the LMS, MOOCs, plagiarism software, teaching online, ethics, assessment, open education, instructional design and so on.
From my teacher perspective I felt that their words were echoing what was in my head but had never made it to paper or computer. I started thinking about my future self as an educator returning to the classroom. How would I approach digital pedagogies with what I know now? What would I change? What do I want to try? How would I engage colleagues in developing a more critical perspective about learning with digital tools? How could I weave my love of ungrading with open pedagogies and inclusive learning environments? How could I have students co-create a course from scratch or build a non-disposable assignment leveraging digital technologies to give them their own identity and voice? What do I still need to learn? Ah, so many questions and still so much learning to do.
For almost twelve years I’ve been exploring the field of faculty development – building supports and services to assist faculty with core pedagogic knowledge and skills, creating environments for reflection and reaction and consulting with educators when they hit roadblocks or want advice. It is a tough gig and takes years to hone. But it is also the other perspective through which I read this book.
Recently having done a scan of the literature about leading an open education movement at the post-secondary level and not finding much about the roles teaching and learning centres (and their leaders) can play, I read this book to glean any ideas around supporting change at the institutional level. I understand the calls to action so nicely woven throughout the whole book – and agree on their importance – but am thinking more strategically and tactically about how critical digital pedagogies can be woven into culture and context at my institution. Being more critical about our pedagogies and our digital pedagogies I feel is a core activity any educator, department and institution should be doing.
As faculty developers we know the point when educators go from talking about the ‘whats’ of teaching (describing teaching practices, explaining assignments, outlining outcomes and assessments) to embracing the often messy and challenging state of making change in your practice. The ‘so whats’ and the ‘now whats’ of the reflection process create dissonance and uncertainty, but are a necessary part of being a critically reflective practitioner (Dewey, Schon and Brookfield). If we can move faculty to this state of reflection we can also engage in more purposeful conversations about student learning.
I have similar
thoughts as Jesse and Sean do about the need for being more critical (or I
might say more inquiry-oriented, necessary, investigative, reflective, focused,
purposeful, etc.) in our work with digital pedagogies. In both K-12 and
post-secondary education there is a need for more meta-level discussion and
extended thinking (critically) about what is going on with digital tools, technologies
and learning experiences.
I closed the book thinking about how to build more critical dialogue about teaching and learning across the institution. I pondered how to infuse more inquisition and probing into why and what we are doing both with my own staff and with faculty. I desperately want to encourage more faculty to think beyond the LMS as a storage depot or quiz and assignment collector, or aggregator of grades. I want our centre’s offerings and activities to have critical digital pedagogies embedded within. I would love to have a faculty learning community keen to challenge their own and others’ uses of learning technologies and push into new ways of creating more authentic, accessible and student-authored learning experiences.
So now what? In my head, I am formulating what might be a companion document of strategies, activities and initiatives to begin planting the seeds of critical pedagogies across any post-secondary institution. This is going to take more time to flesh out, discuss my thoughts with other leaders, and explore more at the Digital Pedagogy Lab in Toronto. I have also created a faculty learning community on digital pedagogies and am taking them all to the Lab in Toronto hoping to build the movement slowly across a variety of program areas. But for now the book, Urgency of Teachers: The Work of Critical Digital Pedagogy, confirmed I am not alone in my thinking. But I have much more thinking still to do.