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Tag: Bryan Alexander

Second winter reading list

second winter

Seriously though. I know astrological spring and meteorological spring are different concepts and I’m all for more snow, but the bouncing back and forth thing has got to stop. GET IT TOGETHER, VIRGINA.

This post is a day late thanks to the Sweet Briar creative writing conference eating most of my brain really late because my brain is a strange, unpredictable thing and I do not work well under vague, looming stress. Forthcoming: a post about how I need to figure out what I’m doing after graduation, and whether or not that plan involves an MFA (spoilers: probably).

The problem with crafting a reading list for this project before I’d actually begun doing the bulk of my research was that I wasn’t entirely certain what kinds of texts would be the most useful to me. With that in mind I collected anything and everything I could find that seemed vaguely scholarly and added it to my reading list, and now the time has come for some weeding.

Back to the beginning: ds106 and open education

This week’s post is going to be a bit short, but I’m hoping to lay the groundwork for a return to where all this madness began: ds106! My initial proposal revolved around framing a discussion of open education and edtech with my experiences in that class, and while I’ve spent these first few weeks getting my bearings in an unfamiliar field, I need to start bringing things back around.

I’m dipping back into Spiro and Alexander’s NITLE paper about open education in the liberal arts this week. They’ve provided some excellent definitions of open education, and I think it might be useful to examine ds106 to see how it fits into those definitions, and how it is affected by being part of the curriculum at the University of Mary Washington.

“Student as Producer” and integrating creativity

All right, I know I said I was going to discuss ds106 exclusively this week and go back to the NITLE paper I started with, but in finishing up this chapter of Alexander’s The New Digital Storytelling I came across one idea that I do want to explore in more depth. Plus, there’s still that Student as Producer initiative to digest—it remains insanely cool.

Last week I talked a little bit about the unwillingness of some students to adapt to certain kinds of edtech in their classrooms, specifically teaching through digital storytelling. I mentioned that I believe some of that unwillingness arises because students are taught to value rote learning and test-base assessments over more creative teaching methods. Bryan Alexander touches on that in his book in a discussion of curricular integration:

“… curricular integration… represents a subset of a broader conversation concerning the meaning of technology in education and the importance of making digital work evidently part of the learning mission. Storytelling cannot be seen as separate from learning, even though the mind-set may break from the ordinary classroom world of tests and standards. Story assignments, therefore, need to be interconnected with curriculum in many ways.”

Educating with storytelling: the oldest new trick in the book

New text this week! There’s still a lot I have to digest (and re-read) in Spiro and Alexander’s NITLE paper, but for the moment I’m moving on to Bryan Alexander’s book The New Digital Storytelling: Creating Narratives with New Media. I’m delighted to have such a specific resource at my disposal; it’s especially pertinent to the way I want to frame this independent study through my experiences with ds106, a class that’s focused on the practice and analysis of storytelling, digitally and otherwise. And if it seems like I’m focusing a lot of my time on Alexander’s work, it’s because I am. Not only is his writing directly applicable to my project, it was his lecture on “The Visible College” that made me realize I had to pursue this new media thing more seriously. (Kudos, sir!)

I’ve skipped ahead to chapter 14, “Digital Storytelling in Education.” Toward the end of this post I’m also going to try and pull in a bit more about the “make useful stuff” educational model I’ve been talking about. I’ve just discovered the University of Lincoln’s Student as Producer initiative, which is basically my last two blog posts put into practice across a whole university. So awesome!

Three ideals in one assignment!

Before I carry on any further with digesting Spiro and Alexander’s paper on open education in the liberal arts, I wanted to do two things: first, try to clarify a little of what I was discussing last week, and jump to the end of the paper to check out the section on obstacles facing open education. Wonderfully, I think I found a way to tie them both together! It’s a tenuous connection, but it is there.

What I was essentially trying to say last week is that grades and the degrees students are issued based on those grades are not intrinsically valuable; in much the same way as our currency operates, they operate on a belief system and, so long as we measure academic achievement in grades and degrees, the hope is that they can be “cashed in” down the line for a job, or an even more valuable degree. In that sense, a degree operates as a type of currency, an investment that will hopefully ensure a greater return in the future than the amount of money and effort initially invested. The problem, of course, is that rates of inflation for tuition have skyrocketed, student debt is at an all-time high, and the degree that would have guaranteed you some kind of employment a generation ago is now a riskier investment than ever.

Beyond class, beyond grades: a reflection on “assessment”

Okay, we’re off and running and I am writing my first blog post for my edtech/online ed independent study here at the University of Mary Washington.

The first point I would like to make is this: I am more than a little overwhelmed.

I’m essentially taking this semester to give myself a crash-course in emerging pedagogies in edtech, and even reading through the first paper I picked out has confirmed that I’m coming into this as the humblest of padawans. Fortunately my adviser, Dr. Zach Whalen, is a little like really chill Yoda, and continues to remind me that I don’t have to know everything in order to say something.

That said, I would like to add the caveat that I’ve only scratched the surface of these topics and trends. If I say something ignorant, it’s probably because I genuinely don’t know better. Yet. But eventually I will.

The first paper I’m reading for this study is “Open Education in the Liberal Arts: A NITLE Working Paper” by Dr. Lisa Spiro and Dr. Bryan Alexander. It’s serving as a brilliant introduction to edtech/online ed, and specifically the culture of openness that is evolving in those contexts. I’m currently processing how ds106 fits into the definitions of openness they describe in their work (it is certainly an open course, but how does it embody open teaching? Open coursework? Open learners? How does the openness of ds106 challenge, change, and interact with the more “traditional” aspects of UMW’s teaching?) but this section on “open assessment” struck a particular chord with me:

Open assessment: Through badges, portfolios, and other mechanisms, the open education community is developing ways to certify learning that often depends upon open educational resources and approaches. For example, Mozilla’s Open Badges program provides an infrastructure for organizations to recognize skills that people develop outside of traditional educational contexts.