Monday, March 10, 2014

5 questions

This is cross-posted from BCcampus. I was interviewed by the fabulous Maria Lironi. I say fabulous despite having just met her. You know how you just immediately connect with people sometimes? She listened to what probably seemed like abrupt advice -- present me as part of a team, and no "yearbook" style photos!

I got a glimpse of her life, too. Maria also rides motorcycles and works from home in an environment surrounded by quiet and wildlife. (Ok, so I ride a scooter, but hey.)

Thoroughly enjoyed the process. It was also nice to get exposure for all we do in professional learning at BCcampus.

As the senior manager of professional learning at BCcampusSylvia Currie is part of team responsible for creating and fostering open learning opportunities for educational professionals across the province.
Sylvia Currie
Sylvia Currie
1. Tell a bit about what you and your team do?
Social learning and open practices are at the core of what we do. We create both informal and formal learning opportunities through face-to-face and online activities, and communities of practice.
This includes workshops, webinars and discussions organized though the Educational Technology Users Group and SCoPE, an international community. Right now there is big focus on adopting and adapting open textbooks.
We also build on existing resources, especially those that have made a positive impact in BC post-secondary institutions.  One such example is the Instructional Skills Workshop Online that was originally developed at RRU as an Open Educational Resource.
2. How does a community of practice benefit post-secondary education?
community of practice brings together people who share in an interest in education research and practice, and provides opportunities for sharing. Geographical borders disappear online as communities of practice have the ability to connects people who might not otherwise have the opportunity to interact, either as frequently or at all.
3. How is the work that you do influencing post-secondary education in BC and around the world?
Educators say, “I wish I could live in BC!” I think there’s a little bit of open envy. We’ve been nudging the open agenda along for a long time. We also believe there are many advantages to sharing beyond our borders and engaging in dialogue with practitioners around the world.
Good examples are the SCoPE seminar discussions, collaborative partnerships with institutions to offer MOOCs and conferences as well as supporting research projects.
Last year, I travelled to the Universidad de Ibagué in Colombia to give a talk about learning communities and networks at the annual Congreso de Pedagogía y TIC.
4. Why is this work important to you?
This work fits with my philosophies about education—that learning should be a continuous process that invites multiple perspectives, reflective practice, and new, sometimes unplanned, experiences.
I also feel that something very special happens when working with individuals who are motivated to share their time, expertise and work because they want to learn themselves, and to help others.
I came to BCcampus in 2008, and brought with me many, many years of work experience in a variety of roles in British Columbia post secondary education.
It helped that I was already very connected with people across the system— educational technologists, faculty, administrators, and researchers.
5. How does someone access the department’s services?
You can check out our website and calendar. Many of our events are free.

Notable quotes:

Learning should be a continuous process that invites multiple perspectives, reflective practice, and new, sometimes unplanned, experiences. ~ Sylvia Currie
Something very special happens when working with individuals who are motivated to share their time, expertise and work because they want to learn themselves, and to help others. ~ Sylvia Currie

Learn more:

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Visual Practice Community

My awareness of graphic facilitation and recording practices began with Nancy White. As with all of Nancy's passions, she began sharing her ideas and artefacts, inviting others to draw with her, and connecting people who showed interest. I recall at least 3 Northern Voice sessions with Nancy, one where she co-facilitated with Barbara Ganley and we all ended up dancing. You had to be there!

Click this image!
That lead me to others who were exploring these facilitating and recording methods. Rachel Smith gathered a group at Moose Camp to explore working on the iPad just a few weeks after it went on the market. That's where I met Michelle Laurie, who went on to organize many fabulous workshops with Nancy White in Rossland, British Columbia. (Another one is coming up July 17-18, 2014. GO!!!)

Michelle Laurie and I co-facilitated a Drawing on Walls session at Northern Voice, and also practiced by providing a sandbox to record Moose Camp sessions all day. People joined in. Session leaders hugged us. It was fun!

Not everybody got it. I remember showing a photo to my sister of the graphic recording a group of us did of Alan Levine's ETUG keynote. She said "That means nothing to me". Could be a sister thing :-) But that began a tradition of doing graphic recording at every ETUG workshop, so I think it's safe to say that most people get it, and enjoy it!

Anyway, following a fantastic 2-day workshop jointly organized by BCcampus and University of British Columbia back in September, 2013, we decided it's time to think about forming a Visual Practice Community. 

The first meet-up is February 18, 2014 at the SFU Surrey Campus and you're invited! Sign up here, and show up here

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Professional Learning Framework

As in any organization, at BCcampus we have various report templates to document past activities, and to anticipate future directions. These include strategic and fiscal year plans, and annual reports.

As concise as we try to make these documents, they're not very useful as background reading to support conversations with colleagues about what we do. Last year, for the first time, the Professional Learning Team at BCcampus created this quick 2-page overview. We found the process of distilling the details into a very short document to be very worthwhile. It also helps to have someone to make the document look good. Big thanks to Hilda Anggraeni for doing that!

Anyway, I thought to post it now because I wanted to refer to it and couldn't find it anywhere online. That's a problem!

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

First Twitter Followers

I joined a zillion other people and ran @currie through Tworiginal. to see my first 10 followers on Twitter. These people are still very important in my life, whether they know it or not! :-) The mystery is @gkoshy. Who are you gkoshy?

Thursday, December 19, 2013

My Ibague Experience

Conference badge
This is the third in a series of blog posts about my recent experience in Colombia.
1. Learning Where it Happens
2. Communities and Networks: Learning Where it Happens

A few months ago I received an email message from Carlos Ortiz from Universidad de Ibagué. Carlos asked me if I would be interested in travelling to Colombia to give a talk about learning communities and networks at their annual Congreso de Pedagogía y TIC. YES!

Some history

I've known Carlos for several years, connecting through SCoPE, Facebook, G+, and an online workshop organized by the Colombian Ministry of Education back in 2007. My how time flies!

That workshop was coordinated and facilitated by John Smith, Nancy White, Diego Leal, and Alvaro Galvis as part of the Red Virtuals de Tutores  (RVT - Virtual Tutor Network) where I was invited to join in for 10 days to share stories as a community steward for SCoPE. Through that experience I discovered that SCoPE was a reference point for the development of the RVT, and they were beginning a process that was similar to the annual "Reflections and Next Steps" discussions in SCoPE. I remember Diego mentioning that his first Second Life excursion was because of a SCoPE seminar. I love hearing stories about how SCoPE events reach so many people around the world.

I think my first introduction to Alvaro and Diego was much earlier. Sarah Haavind from Concord Consortium facilitated a course called "Moving out the middle" or MOOM, based on the book Facilitating Online Learning: Effective Strategies for Moderators. Diego and Alvaro completed the course in 1999, and I followed a couple years later. Sarah connected all of this for us when we landed in a SCoPE seminar together.

In 2008 my then BCcampus colleague, Scott Leslie, joined Diego in Colombia for an EduCamp tour. Diego published a paper about that experience at IRRODL. The following year I met Diego at the OpenEd conference in Vancouver. So there were parallel experiences as well that helped to keep us all connected.

I'm kind of obsessed with connecting all of the dots, so there you have it -- my path to an invitation to speak at a conference in Colombia!

Room view

I was looking forward to meeting Carlos and his colleagues at AVACO, the virtual learning and teaching support centre. I'm not sure what I was expecting for accommodations, but my hotel was just beautiful -- a welcomed site after a long journey from Kamloops, British Columbia, which included a night in Bogota to break up the trip. Then the phone rang, and it was the happy voice of my host/guide/translator, Damon Campbell. How was your trip? Do you need anything? Call me if you do! Lunch tomorrow at the university.

Warm welcomes from everyone 

Daniel and Damon picked me up in the morning. Yay, my kind of people! Right away I knew this would be a fun week!

My new friends
Daniel Casas Guerra and Damon Campbell 
We had a quick tour of Ibague then went to the university to meet the staff at AVACO. I arrived melting from the heat, so they pointed a big fan on the lady from Canada while we got acquainted.

Such a great group of people from ÁVACO and they're clearly enthusiastic and proud of the work they do. I suspect the very dynamic Cecelia Correa, directora del Centro de Innovación Educativa ÁVACO, had a lot to do with that.

Teemu Leinonen, from Finland, arrived later but didn't seem to be suffering from the change in climate. I feel like I've known Teemu for many years, but we've never communicated directly. I know him from his work starting in the late 90s when I began to engage in conversations about open source software. We were also both part of the Future of Learning in a Networked World travels, but in different years.

We then gathered in the university outdoor cafe for a delicious lunch, and I tried my first lulo juice. I was so grateful that Damon was by my side, because my hours of listening to and repeating phrases from my Spanish audiobook was not proving to be very helpful! I was ok if, rather than a complete sentence, people just said one word, and it was a word I learned from my tape. :-) To assist with the translation process, Damon's advice to me was to speak in chunks, then pause. Sounds easy enough! 

Press conference 

The following morning I was picked up from my hotel to attend a press conference. We started by watching the promotional video for the conference. It's a really great production! Then Teemu and I were asked to say a few words about our upcoming talks, which was followed by a A&A, then quick one-on- one interviews and photos.

photo by Monica Leguizamón
It was during the press conference that I began to get concerned about the logistics of my talk -- chunk, pause, listen to translation, chunk, pause, listen to translation. It's not so easy to speak like that!

Fine tuning 

Yeisson Mena Triana helps to translate the slides

That afternoon Damon and I spent some time reviewing my slides so he could get the gist of what I would be speaking about, and to clarify any difficult vocabulary. There was some unfamiliar language in the talk I prepared. We decided it would be best to translate some of the slides into Spanish. I had a number of quotes from colleagues integrated into the talk, and we were concerned that many of them would be lost in translation, so to speak.

photo by Monica Leguizamón
This process was really helpful for both Damon and me. I realized that I had some serious editing to do that evening -- fewer words, fewer slides, rethinking the translated slides, clearer language...

We also went to the venue to see how the room was set up. The room accommodated approximately 400 people, and overflow rooms with big screens were set up in the same building. Apparently 800 people had registered for the conference, but they were expecting about 400. Phew! Somehow 400 seems way better than 800.

Participants would be wearing headsets and the translators and videographers would be in a small elevated room to the side. This was reassuring -- that I would be able to see Damon as he was translating. We came up with a couple hand signals: 1) slow down and 2) back up/ repeat.

The stage was set up with a podium with stationary microphones. Hmmm, that meant standing still. I wasn't sure I could do that.

The actual talk

Teemu's talkTeemu and I sat beside each other at the front of the room in the auditorium. His talk was scheduled first, and right up to the top of the hour he was editing his slides. He mentioned how he can never give presentation slides in advance, as some conference organizers request. I can relate!

As Teemu talked about blended learning in higher education, explaining some of the issues around teaching practices, and using some example of activity structures used in his own teaching, I pulled out many key points that tied in well with my own talk. So there I was, also adding and editing in Evernote on my iPad right up to the last minute.

1. "Pedagogical bulimia"
2. Importance of context
3. Dialogue structures that invite participants to jump in when they feel compelled

I was also relieved to see that there was a portable microphone, but as I thought through the logistics of holding a mic, a remote control, and my iPad I realized that just wouldn't work. I needed my notes, especially now that my slides were in Spanish! :-) Alas, I would be strapped to the podium. Also, the translating station was actually at the back of the room, so I would not be able to easily see Damon.

By the time it was my turn I felt like I had prepared about as much as I could, and being surrounded by friendly people sure helped!

What stood out most for me? Speaking when your words are being translated changes everything.

1. The pace feels unnatural. It's difficult to maintain your regular intonations when you slow down. As I listened to my voice it didn't sound like my own.

2. The uneven flow caused me to rely more on my notes. The way my head works, if I don't get what I want to say out, I'll forget!

3. Looking for audience feedback feels awkward. A few times I asked questions, and where you normally get smiles, nods, and other cues that members of the audience were actively listening, instead there was a delay. (We joked about this ahead of time -- that sometimes translators might not understand jokes so they just say "ok, laugh now" ;-) )

All in all it was an excellent experience. I learned a lot, and I'm so grateful to all the support I received.

Celebrating and relaxing

Cheers! With Carlos and Damon
Afterwards Carlos treated Damon and me to a cold beer. They make excellent beer in Colombia!

The rest of my visit to Ibague was full of adventures. A group of us headed up into the mountains, and before leaving Ibague we had a night out for dinner and music. I even managed to stay up past midnight to listen to Damon sing in his lively Raggae band, Mafunda. It was fantastic!

With Damon, Teemu and Monica

Yes, that's us drinking more beer :-)

I owe a special thanks to Cecilia Correa Valdez y grupo ÁVACO. May the conversations continue, and I promise to work on my Spanish!

After leaving Ibague I visited two more universities. More about that in my next posts...

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Networks and Communities: Learning Where It Happens

To prepare for this talk I called upon my own learning network to respond to the question: In the context of communities and networks, what comes to mind when see this phrase:

Learning where it happens

I posted this to my blog, Facebook, Twitter, SCoPE, and CPsquare community. The responses were very playful and creative, so THANK YOU to everyone who contributed.

AVACO officeI also listened to the stories from educators, academic developers, and educational technologists in Colombia. The common theme was that there remains a transmissive approach to teaching and learning. However, there are some excellent examples of innovation and enthusiasm for advancing pedagogical practices. The activities and support organized through Universidad de Ibague virtual education support centre (ÁVACO) are clearly making a difference.
photo by Monica Leguizamón

So in this talk I attempted to weave personal stories, wisdom from members of my learning communities and networks, historical evidence of persistence in traditional pedagogy, snippets from BCcampus communities of practice, examples of innovation from outside the education sector, and situated learning theory.

Special thanks to ÁVACO staff for the invitation, the warm welcome, and for helping me to prepare by giving feedback and translating slides. It was a fantastic experience that I'll never forget!

In my next blog post I'll write a more detailed account of my experience in Ibague.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Learning where it happens

Learning to fly
"Learning to Fly" by Liz

I'm in one of those situations where I'm preparing a talk, I think I know what I'm trying to get at, but I'm not sure if it's something I'll be able to articulate.

The presentation is about learning communities and networks, and the audience is primarily higher education faculty who are seeking to make their online courses and their own professional learning more relevant and engaging. Then I thought d'oh, why not get the question out there to my own communities and networks?

So, I'm curious, what do you think about when you read this phrase:

Learning where it happens

(emphasis anywhere, punctuation optional)