SoTL at Colleges

Close up of page of book in french focusing on the word "serait"

Many discussions I have with colleagues who work at universities centre around two main concepts that are usually posed as questions. One, what does pedagogy look like at your institution and two, what does research look like at your institution? These two ideas often highlight preconceived notions or misconceptions about differentiations.

The Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (SoTL) is a wonderful way to bridge divides that may be present. The three keys to SoTL in my opinion are a focus on systematic inquiry, the use of habits as scholars in praxis as teachers, and having a methodology and design of research that reflects the question you are asking (or basically modelling what you want to explore).  This all of course requires and is underpinned by having space and time to reflect and this is why it has taken me a bit of time to write a post on this topic. All educators know that time is at a bit of a premium at the end of the semester.

Scholarship is also not simply about research, or whatever preconceived idea of research that you may have, but it is all very much couched in ethics and morals. You do not conduct research for no reason, you conduct research because it has specific value to your pedagogy, your field of study, and ultimately because it will directly affect your students’ learning environment.  SoTL helps promote many facets of faculty development. It also helps promote networking amongst scholars and pedagogues. However, none of that matters if these networks remain dormant, in fact the most forward facing (think public scholarship) research that is presented either in some sort of conference model or as an OER publication are the most valuable and rewarding.

One of aspects of pedagogy and educational research that I am most passionate about is access and accessibility, and how those two are not necessarily the same thing. I always have these conversations with the faculty that I support and I hope to promote strong access and accessibility pedagogical practices that are inclusive in all aspects. I think this is a valuable SoTL research project because it directly studies the learning outcomes based on pedagogical praxis. It also has the possibility to be explored as a mixed-mode project where F2F classes are studied alongside blended/hybrid or online classes.

As the picture above suggests it is all about the “serait” the “would be”, and with research, insight, and analysis classroom environments would be the most accessible and access-able spaces.

Experimenting With a New Tool

Beakers and Erlenmeyer flasks

Experimenting with a new tool can be fun, but it can also be frustrating.  I like the concept of experimenting because it brings me back to my chemistry roots. With that experimental desire in mind, for the past two weeks I have been playing around with Google Keep to see how it could be useful for faculty to curate and share resources. I am glad I went through the process of experimenting with the tool and I have created a great Google doc of resources, but ultimately I didn’t want a Google doc of resources, I wanted something a bit more dynamic that could be shared easily…let me explain.

I decided to try Google Keep because Terry Greene had suggested it previously and I am still in the search for something to replace Evernote without being privacy icky. However, I know that Google is probably not the best place to go to avoid privacy issues.

In order to use Google Keep I had to agree to sync things across platforms. This was a great reminder for me that I need to have separate Google email for the different aspects of my life (work, home, research). It might be a good best practice for you too unless your worlds collide seamlessly.

It was great to be able to use Keep after I had the tool on Chrome. It made it easy to save resources and content, and to label it specifically to what kind of resource it was and add annotations. In that way it functioned much like Evernote which is what I was looking for.

It was after I had a good set of resources labelled that I realized that more work is needed to be put in to make Keep accessible. For example, you cannot simply share all your Keep notes under one label but you have to select them and export to a Google doc which I feel is extra steps for no good reason. I know I can experiment more to see if I could do something differently but the lack of user friendliness was a bit of a turn off for me.

In general it was a good experiment and allowed me to see what would work well and what would be some apparent gaps if I was to suggest it to others to use in class or as a research tool.

If you are interested in what I curated as resources related to inclusive curriculum design and delivery, you can check out the following Google doc

How to Expand Your PLN

Four people in a line on their cel phones

Reflecting on your Personal Learning Network (PLN) is important not only in terms of who makes up your PLN but also who may be absent from that PLN. However, expanding your PLN or even starting one may be difficult to put into practice. In 2011 I decided to join Twitter and for the past 8 years that has been the virtual home of my PLN. Geographically my PLN lives all over the world from Canada, to the United States, to the UK, and Australia.

My motivation to start on Twitter was based on articles that I had read about digitizing pedagogy and at the time I was working on blended (or hybrid) courses where I was researching online tools and resources to use in the course. This lead me to Twitter and the wealth of resources there. My first follows were Inside HigherEd, Audrey Watters as well as other organizations like Educause and WCET. Then there were other follows in my area of research. But it was following Hybrid Pedagogy that connected me to a whole new group of researchers and educators who were very passionate about teaching and learning strategies. I was hooked.

There are certainly many other places where you can foster a PLN, like in your own educational environments through communities of practice and professional development opportunities. Here are a three strategies I have used throughout my PLN building and expanding that are applicable to online or offline environments.

Add new people when you meet them: If you meet people at a conference or through professional development or articles you have read and they have a social contact  or email add them. Most of my adds after the base of folk I had on Twitter came from specific conferences I attended as were the additions to email contacts. You will also then be connected to their PLN and the possibilities for community and collaboration are endless.

Share great resources when you find them: This can be done via email, OneNote, Google Keep, or any other way that works for you (remember mail, sometimes I still mail cool finds to friends).  If you are on Twitter make sure you use the appropriate hashtag so that the resource can be seen by the people who would most enjoy and benefit from that resource. Also as an aside always make your hashtags camel case for them to be accessible. For example, #EveryWordStartsWithACapital instead of #everywordstartswithacapital.

Take part in cool MOOCs if you can: I was part of the first MOOCMOOC and it was a really great PLN building experience. Something like ExtendmOOC or other Ontario Extend offerings are also a great option especially if you are in Ontario and want to build local community.

A Note about Follow Reciprocity: If you are on Twitter you do not need to follow everyone who follows you. Curate your followers like you would OERs. Are they sharing resources you would find useful, are they part of interesting conversations, then yes definitely follow. But if they are only tangentially related and all they do is share pictures of  root beer floats and you don’t want root beer floats tempting you in your feed then maybe they don’t need a follow back. Also I do a Twitter clean about once every 6 months. I stop following accounts that have not tweeted in about 8 months or so and see if there are people I am following that have shifted to a new focus that may not be what I am looking for in a PLN.

And A Note About Twitter Discussions:

Twitter discussions are great but I personally find them hard to schedule into my day. I may hop on onto a thread at a latter date but it is rare that I can follow a Twitter discussion in real time. (except #BFC530 which is a breakfast chat for educators at 5:30am because well that’s when I wake up). Daily Extends are difficult for me for that same reason and as the hashtag changes it’s also not as easy to follow, but there are good resources there if you dig. Twitter discussions, like conference feeds, and classroom hashtags are definitely useful, you just need to be more intentional in their use.


Autodraw and Sharing Resources

I am a big fan of PLNs (Personal Learning Networks) and I love collaborating with others. It is always great to see what sorts of resources come out of collaborative situations either shared based on each members research or created together as a team.

As I was thinking about who is at my collaborative table and how diverse this table would be in terms of geographical location and area of expertise. My pedagogical and research interest often intersect, and I am lucky that both of those overlap onto the work I do on a daily basis. So my PLN is made up of disability advocates and scholars, pedagogues, educational researchers, sensory scholars, and Victorianists. I know that most people’s PLN is also a nice Venn diagram of different interests. As I was thinking about how my PLN contributes to collaborative opportunities, I also started thinking about how to represent that in a visual way. I narrowed down the representation to a project at work and the people who were at the table as a test case for a visualization.

It made me realize that this would also allow me to share a great resource which is Autodraw . I learned about AutoDraw through the Cult of Pedagogy podcast and it is a wonderful resource for those who are not as good at drawing as others. The premise is that you draw and object and autodraw gives you options as to what they think you are drawing. You will quickly get a set of stairs, a door, or even a table with this tool. It’s great for putting in visuals in resources and to make sure your image is clear for others to understand. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do and that you find a way to use it in your classrooms with your learners or with your collaborators on a project. The best is that it is free.

A table drawn in cartoon format in blue ink with words on it
Who sits at your AutoDraw table?




Curating Curriculum Development OERs

There is a lot of information available out there about curriculum development and finding good reliable OERs can be a challenge. However, it is fun to find resources to share and open a space for a critical dialogue about the resource.

I will be sharing a few resources that I found a giving some critical feedback on each but will add to this post in the future

Designing and Evaluating Curriculum by Rick Lumadue (Content updated in 2018)

This is a course that “provides teachers with knowledge and skills needed for designing, developing, and evaluating curricula.” There are captioned videos, a companion ebook, and rubric, and outline resources. From an accessibility point of view the colour contrast would need updating from the original 2014 format and the information could be structured in a more accessible manner but this a nice one-stop source for many curricular aspects.

Internationalisation and curriculum development: why and how? by Polyanna Magne (2014)

This is an open source article on the internationalization of curriculum which gives many case studies that touch on different subjects and content. This is a good piece to help brainstorm and mindmap concepts of inclusion and the need for diversity in curriculum and how theory leads to praxis.

and now for a Rabbit Hole Resource…..

Two brown rabbits in a hole
You never know what you will find (Attribution Jim Long

Instructional Design Collaboration: A Professional Learning and Growth Experience by Brown, Eaton, Jacobsen, Roy, and Friesen (2014)

This journal article is a treasure trove of other links and resources about inclusive instructional design and curriculum development. I love OER sources like this because it is very much a rabbit hole resource and demonstrates the fun of interconnectivity in curating OER on a particular topic. (More turtles all the way down 🙂  )

I will continue adding to this post as the semester goes on and I would love to hear about your favourite OERs that relate to inclusive curriculum development.



Was This What You Were Looking For?

In an age of Google searches we often forget to look where our pictures and visuals are sourced. Curating good digital and visual resources means having faith and hope that the person who is sharing the visual is accrediting and filing it properly.

Take this picture for example.

Papers in front of a computer
Is this curriculum? Attribution Lukas

I like to use Pexels to search for pictures but when you type in curriculum this is the only free for personal and commercial use picture that comes up. Is this curriculum I ask you?

Yes, and no. It definitely shows a curriculum vitae on the right hand side, but is that the kind of curriculum representation I was looking for? This picture brings up many concepts around searching and curating techniques and strategies.

It also brings up an important point about literacy, meaning making, and having an awareness of how visuals can be described in a different way by different people. Keeping an eye on scope and using the “or” function in your searches is a great way to make sure you are covering the ground you want represented.

Curation as the Glue of Teaching and Learning

Tools used in school

I love the concept of curation. When I started on Twitter the earliest motivation to be on that platform was one rooted in curation: 1. To foster a PLN or a personal learning network and 2. To curate articles and tools that would help make sense of the many resources available in library collections and on the Internet.

Sense making is key to curation as without it curation simply becomes collection. Bringing in an etymological lens, curation is from the Latin meaning “taking care, attention, management,” especially “medical attention,” and from 1769 it took on the meaning of “management, guardianship” (Curation). It is the management and attention, especially to detail, that we use in our more modern conceptualization of curation.

When working with faculty I emphasize how curation is the glue of teaching and learning. When you select a pedagogical framework through experience and research that’s curation, as guaranteed you will bring in aspects of other things you found along the way because they make sense in your classroom. When you selected the readings and resources on your course outline, that again is curation, where you help guide students to discussions and then leave space to open up discussion further and to bring in other tools and resources.

There are many strategies and tools you can use to curate. The first platform I used to use for curation was Evernote, but I stopped using that platform when their policies changed. It was an excellent system with built-in clippers for your browsers and the ability to store by theme and topic in notebooks.

There are many other tools like this available now and the great thing is there is always a tool that feels good to you and you can share with your peers. The meta aspect of curating curating tools is just one way that allows you to refresh and rethink your classes and outlines when the time comes. Curation is the glue of teaching and learning and the heart of any PLN.

Work Cited

“Curation.” Online Etymology Dictionary.


Mapping and Technology

The process of mapping curriculum can definitely be assisted with the use of different technology. I created a mind map using mindmup of some concepts that relate to mapping.

Mapping Curriculum Mind map
Some thoughts on mapping

Visualizations are really good to allow many to see overlap and gaps in curriculum. I explored the use of Creately to create Gantt type charts to visualize topic overlap over a semester.

You can do this in Excel but this seemed a bit more intuitive and aesthetically pleasing.

This is a rough sketch of a first semester in a business type program for example:

Gantt type chart of topics in courses
Gantt type chart

Using a SECTIONS Test can help you determine if  using a particular new technology may be the most advantageous to the folk you are working with.

This SECTIONS test is useful for many different scenarios (not just for thinking about mapping) and I recommend reading the blog linked above about how to use it in your teaching and learning.

Empathy Maps and Access

Empathy maps are a common assignment especially in business and design courses. However, the traditional template for an empathy map can suggest and prioritize a sensory reaction to the environment that not all students may be able to engage in.

I am always open to different ways of organizing assignments so that they are more inclusive and I would be really interested if any learners and instructors can share the different labels that one can use on an empathy map so that it is more inclusive.

Can you think of another assignment or template that also uses the same sensory nomenclature?

What is Digital Literacy?

It is definitely important to have a conversation about digital literacy as it is a term that is often used as a catch-all for many other skills that we assume that learners have. Similar to the discussion around the concept of digital natives, a concept which is much more complex than simple age bracket and rather has many class and geographical valences, digital literacy is often taken for granted and also very much misunderstood.

I like to conceptualize digital literacy as being subsumed under information literacy. Therefore, if we focus on information literacy primarily then digital literacy can be a subset of this. The diagram below indicates a conceptualization of  how I see the interrelation between information literacy and digital literacy (there are many others to add to this list but this is a start).

Information literacy as the root of digital literacy, numeracy, intercultural literacy, and research skills
Information literacy as key


Thus finding the appropriate source of information can lead to different pathways, which emphasizes the importance of literacies plural, one of which being digital literacy. So digital literacy is about taking the concept and finding the tools that will help connect to that concept and also help relay that concept to others. It has a technical aspect yes but it also has at its heart a pedagogical aspect for it does not exist in a bubble. Digital literacy is relational and is also (as mentioned above in relation to digital natives) based in class, geography, and access.

Engagement with digital literacy should be first and foremost accessible. If you approach tools from a universal design principle you then can decide why an infographic may not necessarily be better than a PowerPoint with voice over or a video with captions. Digital literacy is knowing that access should come first, and there are many exciting ways to impart that to faculty and then on to students.