GOBLIN Returns!

GOBLIN kicked off for the second semester this week. John and I ran four cohorts of this faculty learning community during the Spring 2016 semester and are facilitating two more GOBLIN sections over the next five weeks.

I’m really looking forward to this round of GOBLIN. We’ve fine tuned some of the content, and are continually iterating on our game, but more importantly, I’m excited to have some fun playing games and learning with this group of faculty and graduate students. One participant shared this feeling today when they said:

“[GOBLIN] may be the only fun I get to have this semester.” – GOBLIN participant

Setting aside the pressure of providing the singular fun learning opportunity for someone, I’m extremely grateful to bring some joy into this instructors life. (Goodness knows the world needs some more joy at the moment.) With every teaching opportunity, I’m adamant that learning should be fun and GOBLIN is such a testament to this philosophy.

Ideas From Discussion

To share some of my excitement, I’ll throw out some of my favorite questions and statements as a snapshot of today’s discussion:

What’s the relationship between scaffolding and a difficulty curve in the classroom?

How do relationships and emotions impact course scaffolding and a courses difficulty curve? How can we push students harder when we have a relationship/rapport with them?

We don’t want to assess students if it’s their first time performing a task.

How do we encourage students outside of our discipline to engage in our courses?

How do we design curiosity into our courses?

The character classes and skills from GOBLIN are a metaphor for our students and the variety of skills they bring into the classroom. Each student possess different proficiencies to excel in certain opportunities over others.

Can you see why I’m psyched for more GOBLIN?!

My Vision (and Search) for a Connectivist Graduate Program

For the last year, I’ve been contemplating graduate school. I’m still researching and evaluating various programs around the world, but I wanted to take a second and reflect on what I desire from a graduate program. I have many answers to this question, but let me expand upon this idea:

I want a graduate degree program where students teach some of the courses in the curriculum.

I don’t believe this is too outlandish since I’m looking at programs in the field of education, possibly within instructional design. But I’ve had no luck uncovering such a program. So, for now, I’m going to dream. What would such a degree program look like?

Anatomy of a Connectivist Graduate Program

I envision a program founded upon connectivist learning philosophies and comprised of two components:

  1. A core set of curriculum that every student must complete. This is crucial for standardizing instruction for degree components like research methodologies and models/theories of the discipline.
  2. An additional set of courses led by students based on their own expertise. These are intended to be open-ended in regards to content and practice and would vary year to year based on the student body.

To me, a connectivist program necessitates a particular anatomy and entails thoughtful design. As an example, a degree like this would require a set cohort of students that progress through the curriculum together. Such a cohort would need to be comprised of diverse individuals from different backgrounds, possessing a variety of skills. To ensure such diversity, there’d need to be an application process that not only considers expertise, but also establishes cohesion in terms of student backgrounds within each cohort. In other words, this entire process requires careful design considerations.

If it was possible, there would still be several challenges to overcome.

Challenges

The skills to thrive and succeed in a connectivist degree program are not the same skills present in typical educational environment. For instance, I anticipate humility would be a critical element of a connectivist degree for everyone involved. There’s a significant discomfort about not knowing the exact direction of a program as a student or as a teacher; and overcoming these feelings would require a strong emphasis on community and active, inclusive communication between all parties.

Additionally, I foresee accreditation being a serious stumbling-block. In fact, I proposed a “core set of curriculum that every student must complete” as a solution to this challenge. Program viability depends on the consistency of educational quality and rigor from year to year for each cohort. Accreditation is a conversation well beyond what I wish to tackle in this post but it remains a significant challenge. (Not to mention, I don’t have the answer to accreditation anyways.)

With these two challenges, I hope that I’ve illustrated the complexity of design for such a program to exist—intention and care in developing a connectivist graduate degree are imperative. Still, I am determined! If we are to produce the next generation of educators, critical instructional designers, etc., we need to utilize the educational philosophies we champion in the designs of our programs themselves.

Disclaimer

Since I’m still dreaming here, I want to explore a couple of my favorite questions.

What courses would I want to teach?

This is one of my favorite questions in the context of a connectivist graduate program!

One course that I’d love to facilitate would involve exploring productivity using affordable. I know this may sound a little out-there, but I imagine a course where everyone is limited to $300 worth of technology and must participate with minimal computing devices—including designing instruction to operate on inexpensive technologies. Specifically, I’m interested in engaging others in curriculum around $100 laptops, $50 phones, or $50 tablets? What does a Domain of One’s Own project look like under these parameters? A portion of this curriculum would focus on socioeconomic barriers and issues related to digital redlining.

Another course I’d love to teach would focus on interests that I’ve explored in both GOBLIN and XP—I’d love to teach a course about digital storytelling, game design, and what games have to teach us about learning. I see many opportunities to engage others with information literacy, media literacy, and various digital literacies while participating in experiential learning and exploring creative expressions. Ideally, part of this course would involve developing games and discussing them as transformative experiences with opportunities to pursue action research and/or academic research.

What courses would I want to take?

On the flip-side of teaching in a connectivist graduate program, there are many topics I’d love to explore.

For example, I’d love to learn more about practical use cases of APIs in the classroom and beyond. From personal workflow automation to manipulating sets of data across the web, a practical API course sounds phenomenal. I’d imagine course projects would range from building APIs to utilizing public APIs and engaging in the conversations of the future of APIs in education.

Also, I’d love a course on “crowdsourcing” and how it can be implemented instructionally into courses and/or research. Topics like large scale community driven problem solving and hosting crowdfunding campaigns for social work. These projects would make for some spectacular curriculum in my mind. Crowdsourcing as an instructional tool is not typical and I see a lot of potential around a such a course since there are a multitude of directions and applications for the idea.

Looking Forward

I know this post presents small and specific examples as part of gross oversimplifications of larger ideas. But I write because I see value in a connectivist approach to graduate education. I provided examples of student-led courses because they demonstrate to me the strength of connectivim and highlight where traditional curriculum falls short. Student-led courses can be built on personal passions and current conversations. A dynamic program might be tailored to the participants, current technologies, and cutting edge scholarship; not to mention, scaffold greater transference of connectivist (etc.) theories to practice!

At the end of the day, the core of my dream—what I value most in my education:

  1. The opportunity to be viewed as an aspiring scholar, rather than just a student;
  2. A program that practices what it preaches, instead of defaulting to lecture and discussion of readings;
  3. The promise of growth and not feeling indoctrinated into standardizations of thought;
  4. Connecting with a community that involves and cares about everyones struggles, development, and experience.

That is why I’m envisioning a degree program constructed with connectivist learning philosophies because we should make our programs reflective of the educational ideas we champion.

Before I close, I want to take a moment and shoutout to Martha Burtis & Sean Michale Morris for their recent talks on Critical Instructional Design:

Although the topics from their presentation does not necessarily relate to the content I cover, their words were an “inspiration catalyst” for me to finish writing this post, which began a few months ago.

Anyways, what are your thoughts on a connectivist graduate program? Is it possible? What are the risks? What are the benefits? Am I crazy? 🙂 Let me know.

The featured image is provided CC0 by Baim Hanif via Unsplash.

Canvas Training Roundup

These last few weeks have been intense work-wise. I’ve been developing and hosting multiple Canvas courses for instructors at the University of Oklahoma. This has been especially nerve-racking because I am (also) learning how to effectively use the tool I am teaching. Fortunately, at the end of the week I will participate in official training from Canvas experts. In the mean time, I will continue this rapid prototyping process that is keeping me afloat. 🙂 Anyways, I wanted to give a brief overview of the training programs I have been spearheading these last few weeks (please note this is not an exhaustive list as these trainings are only the ones I have been involved with):

Introduction to Canvas

Screen-Shot-2016-06-01-at-8.40.51-AM
Keegan’s Intro to Canvas Course Homepage

This is the basic overview of Canvas. It’s an hour long session that’s about 20 minutes of demonstrations and 40 minutes of discussion and Q&A. With this session, I want to introduce faculty to Modules and course organization within Canvas while highlighting the notable features. This presentation is conducted using an example Canvas course rather than just a slideshow. I released these materials to the Canvas Commons for other to use and titled them Keegan’s Intro to Canvas.

Image of Keegan's Intro to Canvas Course in Canvas Commons.
Canvas Commons Page for Keegan’s Intro to Canvas

How to Learn Canvas

The idea behind this training is to empower people to capitalize on the many resources in the Canvas Community to facilitate their own learning. In other words, I hope to produce fishers rather than give away Canvas fish. During this session, I walk people through the workflow I use to explore and learn from community.canvaslms.com. This allows me to highlight different features of the community such as the CanvasLIVE events and community groups. When attendees already possess some knowledge of Canvas and have the intrinsic motivation to teach themselves, this session is poised to equip them with the tools to succeed.

Community.canvaslms.com Home Page
Community.canvaslms.com Home Page

Office Hours

This session is both informal and open-ended. The content is directed by the attendees and their inquiries. From Canvas navigation to specifics about grading and course design, this session aims to provide teachers with any and all answers to their questions. I like to equate this experience to group and individual consultations because when there are multiple people present, the participants get to hear the ideas from their peers in addition to my responses. So far, these sessions have been successful in terms of tailoring assistance to faculty and since they require minimal preparation for the facilitator, they are easy to conduct.

Mini Courses

This is my favorite training at the moment. Mobile Blogging & Scholarship (MBS) is the first Canvas Mini Course. MBS is meant to indirectly introduce people to different features of Canvas as they focus on the topic of blogging from a mobile device. Other Canvas Mini Courses will be hosted in the coming months and will also be fully online 4 day experiences centered around a topic to give instructors the experience of being a student in Canvas (while also participating in professional development). These trainings can range in topic depending on the facilitators interest. Overall, Canvas Mini Course are intended to be a minimal commitment to experientially introduce faculty to Canvas.

One of the notable features I am using to conduct MBS is the Redirect Tool. This Canvas app allows me to embed full websites into the course. Since I can setup a WordPress website to accept blog posts from users without accounts, I have enabled my students to participate in blogging without the overhead of creating a WordPress account or learning the WordPress software—the focus is on the MBS content! You are welcome to read more about this setup here (and an official writeup will be coming soon). Also, MBS is a public course that you can explore here or add the contents to your own course(s) through the Canvas Commons.

Blogging Within MBS Canvas Course
Blogging Within MBS Canvas Course

Canvas Camp

The goal of Canvas Camp is to have faculty build and finalize a Canvas course in four days. This face-to-face training means to simultaneously teach best practices of using Canvas while giving instructors time to development their own courses, incorporating what they learn during each session. Thus, at the conclusion of this pragmatic training, attendees have produced a course to use for an upcoming semester.

Each day of Canvas Camp covers a different topic. Day 1 and 2 are about importing and (re)organizing content within Canvas, while Day 3 and 4 are geared toward interacting with students and the steps remaining to finalize a Canvas course. Whether an instructor wants to build a course from scratch or import contents from a previous class, they are welcome to this training. For those that do not complete their content related to the daily topic, they will have to work outside of the allotted course time to finish developing their course.

Features Speed-Dating

There are many features in Canvas that were not available to faculty in the previous learning management system (LMS). To introduce the multitude of features in an efficient manner, we (the Center for Teaching Excellence) have conceived of a program that is being branded as “Speed-Dating for features.” Faculty will spend a few minutes learning and experiencing the affordances of a Canvas feature before rotating to the next. This program is still in development, but the main idea is that features in this Speed-Dating program are being developed as interchangeable modules that could be used to give a Feature Speed-Dating sessions different flavors depending on the audience. Since this training is still in development, this is all I can say for now. 🙂

Other (Beyond Canvas)

In addition to all of the Canvas trainings, I’ve also been hosting other professional development:

WordPress Office Hours – Like the Canvas Office Hours, this is a come-and-go session that was intended to facilitate group consultations and answer individual questions informally. This style of training is ideal for me at the moment since it requires minimal setup, allows me to address random questions, and let’s me build relationships with faculty while we are learning together. This session was a huge success and I plan on offering more of these during the summer, especially since I got this piece of feedback from an instructor:

I’m very, very, irrationally excited about the progress made on the website this morning.  Thanks for the office hours!

OU Create Training – This introduction to OU Create is intended to give an overview of OU Create while walking participants through setting up a WordPress website. In fact, typically every attendee ends up with a functional WordPress site in under one hour. For more information about this training check out this video walkthrough:

Look Forward

There are so many exciting trainings going on at the moment. My focus moving forward is expanding programs and coordinating with the newly hired Canvas Graduate Fellows to also host trainings. Although this summer is intense, I am looking forward to the next year of building curriculum and facilitating professional development. 😀

The featured image is provided CC0 by Chester Ho via Unsplash.

Technology Enabled Learning – GTA Seminar

Tuesday, I had the opportunity to lead a seminar at the Graduate Teaching Academy (GTA), which is a program hosted by CTE that “seeks to promote and maintain a standard of teaching excellence amongst graduate students at the University of Oklahoma.”

This seminar started with everyone brainstorming their favorite classroom activities as Paper Tweets. Together, we generated a great list of engaging and memorable learning (and teaching) experiences. From building interactive and media-rich timelines to great icebreaker activities involving toilet paper, there were many great instructional examples to contextualize the rest of our seminar.

'Accurate' portrayal of Toilet Paper Icebreaker Activity

From this point, we shifted focus to our three topics of discussion: mobile devices, choice in assignments, and crowdsourcing resources.

Seminar Discussion

Mobile Devices
Choice in Assignments
Crowdsourcing Resources

Closing

The final assignment for the participants of this seminar was to think about how to adapt one of our topics of discussion—mobile devices, choices in assignments, and crowdsourcing resources —to their favorite learning experience they outlined in their Paper Tweet.

Presenting at GTA was a great experience. If you are interested in sharing your expertise with the next generation of researchers and university instructors, please contact the Center for Teaching Excellence at teach@ou.edu and schedule a session!

Also, for those interested, here are my slides and the annotated whiteboards from this event:

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Team Learning: A Halo 2 Clan Story

My first experiences of online multiplayer gaming were dominated by Halo 2. This Xbox title was the most popular game of its time in my social circles. In fact, every single one of my friends either owned or played this game at some point during high school. My favorite aspects of Halo 2 were the teams and communities that engaged and encouraged me during my teenage years. In particular, team learning was a significant part of this communal experience.

The first clan I joined, Domini Corona, was the community that engaged me in team learning while playing Halo 2. Coming together as a well-oiled teamwork machine did not spontaneously occur. Instead, all of us invested a lot of time playing against each other and exploring the various maps and weapons in depth to understand the nuances of all of these game pieces. Part of this learning process involved establishing the roles for each team member. For example, there were players who would rush to acquire the sniper rifle while players that excelled at vehicular warfare would seize the tanks and warthogs. Additionally, our clan leader emphasized team communication and continuously evaluated situations and issued orders to each member. (Fun fact! Our clan leader was one of the final OG Halo 2 players before the servers were shutdown.) As for my role, it varied from game to game, but I remember supporting my team by eliminating enemy vehicles and medium range targets with the battle rifle!

Although, we played many game styles, Major Clan matches were the most memorable. This game type was usually a series of 8 vs. 8 player objective games such as capture the flag. These games were the ones that demanded the greatest level of team learning and coordination. At the beginning of our Clan career, I recall trying to figure out how to play Halo 2 with 16 players in a match while also deciphering my role as a member of Domini Corona. Gradually, I learned my peers’ strengths, the layouts of each map, and how to synchronize attacks to efficiently defeat enemies. Eventually, this team learning contributed to us being ranked in the top 100 teams for Major Clan matches in the world for a brief period of time! Without going through rigorous exercises of team learning, we would never have achieved the level of team work we ultimately reached.

I’ll never forget the fun I had with Halo 2 players from all over the world. When I think about how much learning was involved during this time, I am humbled by the energy everyone devoted to come together and be among the best teams in the world.

As I write a portion of our story, I am reminded how powerful games are as agents of team learning. They can facilitate or simulate social interactions and learning to empower individuals to accomplish more in groups than they could alone. Additionally, many games excel at intrinsically motivating players to develop communication, coordination, and strategy skills. And, as with other forms of knowledge, becoming a literate user of a game often requires understanding complex systems and their relations in order to solve problems, overcome obstacles, and succeed. As an educator, comprehending this strength of games is valuable when thinking about course design and ways to engage students.

Games Offer Bold Learning Insights Nowadays

This week, John Stewart and myself are covering Team Learning in our faculty learning community, GOBLIN. Many instructors use group work in their courses and we want to engage teachers in their implementation and design of group tasks and team learning. So far we have discussed why team learning is valuable, how to design ideal groups, and how to scaffold group interactions, especially for younger students. As GOBLIN is also a team role-playing game, it has been phenomenal to see instructors participate in team learning and then engage in discussion about this topic after playing the game. And I am excited to provide professors with similar experiences I had while playing Halo 2—back in the day!

Halo 2 © Microsoft Corporation. The Featured Image and Videos were created under Microsoft's "Game Content Usage Rules" using assets from Halo 2, and it is not endorsed by or affiliated with Microsoft.