Resident Provocateur at CANeLearn Symposium

This post serves as my public thinkspace throughout the Canadian eLearning Network’s Symposium, April 5-7. My thanks to everyone at CANeLearn for inviting me to participate and share in this important professional event.

Resident Provocateur

I am currently attending the Canadian eLearning Network’s 2017 Symposium in Vancouver, British Columbia. At both the Pre-Conference (April 5) and full Symposium (April 6-7) I have the wonderful responsibility of serving as “resident provocateur.” Part ethnographer and part healthy skeptic, my role is to listen deeply, observe participation in conference activities, and reflect broadly on purpose and meaning. As a learning scientist by day, this is a distinct yet entirely appropriate opportunity for me to publicly inquire about a discipline (that of blended and online learning), with its active members (including educators, school leaders, technologists, and researchers), and to do so while embedded in an authentic context (at a well-established professional gathering). While “soaking it all in,” I will also be sharing publicly in various forums – such as via #CANeLearn on Twitter and during a closing synthesis Keynote – and will offer my thoughts on a range of topics, from digital pedagogy, to educator professional development, to the relationships among technology, equity, and learning.

Opening Keynote at Pre-Symposium

To set the tone for my participation as resident provocateur, I was invited to provide some brief opening remarks at the Pre-Symposium on Wednesday afternoon. The title of my talk was “Opening Toward Disrupted and Transformative Professional Learning.” The talk was organized around a central question: How can educators open their pedagogy, toolkits and perspectives toward disruptive and transformative professional learning? First up, here are my slides:

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Second, I spoke about my pedagogical “original” story via my participation in the University of Michigan’s Interactive Communications and Simulations group (ICS) and the Institute for Innovation in Education (iiE). For an additional bit of context, here are some brief descriptions of both groups selected and condensed from a forthcoming book chapter on playful partnerships for game-based learning in international contexts:

Founded in the late 1970s, ICS designs and supports an assortment of web-based learning technologies for primary, secondary, and higher education students and their teachers, with the goal of promoting creative expression, cultural inquiry, and civic engagement. Having engaged over 400 primary and secondary schools in 36 American states and 25 countries (some of which may be described as developing nations, such as Brazil, Bulgaria, Morocco, Oman, Russia, Tanzania, and South Africa), as well as dozens of higher education partners, the ICS portfolio of web-based ICT include games, simulations, and online social networks concerned with various interdisciplinary topics, such as conflict in the Middle East, cross-cultural exploration and exchange, trans-historical role-play, immersive narratives, public policy debate and development, and poetry. Research about students’ ICS participation suggests these projects strengthen skills such as argumentation, perspective-taking, and literacy development, while also promoting more playful orientations toward traditional schooling (D’Angelo & Kline, 2012; Holden, Stanzler, Fahy, & Kupperman, 2015; Kupperman et al., 2011; Kupperman, Stanzler, Fahy, & Hapgood, 2007). Furthermore, educator participation in ICS projects has been shown to aid pedagogical decision-making, reflection upon students’ socio-cognitive engagement, and the development of mentoring capabilities (deNoyelles & Raider-Roth, 2015; Killham, Tyler, Venable, & Raider-Roth, 2014)…

After over three decades designing game-based ICT, ICS affiliates created a new organizational mechanism to further bolster the social, cultural, and global connections necessary to enact such innovative media, practices, and learning. In 2012, the Institute for Innovation in Education established a global network of designers, educators, and researchers so as to rethink and redesign learning environments and experiences, bridge a gap between academic and popular culture, and broker social and civic engagement among K-12, higher education, and workplace learning. The iiE built upon the success of nascent global partnerships and game-based learning strategies incorporated into an educational technology graduate program facilitated by ICS researchers and teacher educators (Holden, 2013). From its inception, a hallmark of iiE programming has been an ongoing series of Gatherings – events planned collaboratively with international partners, hosted at schools and universities across the globe, and facilitated with the goal of exchanging ideas and co-constructing innovations for more equitable and participatory learning. To date, Gatherings have occurred in Switzerland, South Africa, the Czech Republic, Canada, and annually in the United States; complementary work under the iiE umbrella has engaged stakeholders from schools, universities, government, non-profit organizations, and the private sector in Jamaica, Japan, and Oman.

Third, the “geek-out” section of my opening remarks concerned web annotation and my use of the platform to support student and educator open learning (and if you’re curious about why I use, read their principles!). Here are various projects I mentioned, as well as related resources:

Fourth, I offered three questions that participants at the CANeLearn Symposium should carry with them during the conference. I suggested these questions might provide a distinctive lens (and yes, I literally played with that metaphor) as they engage in interest-driven professional learning:

  1. How does my pedagogy blend the boundaries of student and professional learning?
  2. How are my toolkits creating more participatory and innovative learning?
  3. How do my perspectives work to create more equitable schools and communities?

Finally, a few tweets from CANeLearn attendees in response to this talk:


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