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April 14, 2022

Spring into Summer, with a little help from our friends

With spring weather, your mind might turn to what you’ll do this summer. That could lead to interesting initiatives and collaborations. In fact, the Anglophone college network provides ways to find people with whom you can set intentions for the future. One of these is a space on the Linkr platform.

What would you like to do next year? As a community, how might we help you in this endeavour?

As you’re hard at work on your regular activities, it might be difficult to think about what’s coming up next. This blog post is an encouragement to take a step back and consider some options for future collaborations such as getting in touch with colleagues across the network who aren’t your direct colleagues.

Meaningful Intercollegiate Action

Perhaps because of its size, the Anglophone network tends to favour intercollegiate collaboration. For example, take a look at the sustainability project that we’ve discussed before. More than once. The reason we keep going back to it is that it’s quite unique and inspiring. Some of us may even hope that it will influence colleagues elsewhere, including those on the Francophone side. (Indeed, I hear positive comments from francophones every time I mention this type of collaboration.)

As you probably realize, some pedagogical counselors from Anglophone CEGEPs have been organizing events bringing together people from multiple colleges: Intercollegiate Ped Days (IPDs). Beyond those days, the organizing committee and the community building effort uses the label “IPD”.

Back in January 2022, I welcomed the opportunity to participate in several activities during such IPDs. The event revolved around a theme near and dear to my Eductive heart: inclusive pedagogy. The title, Systemic Transformation: Developing Our Inclusive Practices, denotes decisive action. In my observation through those January 2022 IPDs, participants were able (and willing) to develop important skills which can and probably will lead to meaningful learning experiences, in the classroom and online.

According to the organizing committee, this theme came from thorough consultation over 2 months to align strategic planning priorities across Quebec’s 8 Anglophone CEGEPs. Doing so, they paid particular attention to student success criteria laid out in Quebec’s Plan d’action pour la réussite en enseignement supérieur 2021-2026 [in French] (aka PARES; not available in English). Many local faculty initiatives had to do with Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (EDI). This is unsurprising given the fact that, according to the 2020 EDUCAUSE Horizon Report ™ Teaching and Learning Edition, “Equity and diversity goals and agendas are increasingly prevalent in higher education” (p. 8). Together, those 3 factors (local faculty initiatives, strategic plans, and student success criteria) have contributed to the thematic organization of that event.

As someone who’s worked for the federal government where truth and (re)conciliation are frequently front of mind, I must admit that I was impressed by the quality and thoroughness of the insights shared about indigenous learners and knowledge through several sessions during IPDs. Unsurprisingly, accessibility (#a11y) and Universal Design for Learning (UDL) were also hot topics through the proceedings. Issues of cultural diversity were also discussed in such a thoughtful way that I wish more people were present to benefit from those exchanges.

That experience during IPDs was so impactful, it’s still at the back of my mind at most times since then. And it occasionally comes back to the forefront.

A large part of the impact of that event had to do with collaboration. The naysayers might say that the network Itself isn’t ready to move forward in terms of inclusive practices, it’s obvious to me that there is critical mass throughout our context.

 

IPD’s Inclusive Pedagogy “Phonebook”

Recognizing that IT partners (including Eductive) have a role to play, organizers invited us to describe our respective contributions to inclusiveness. Together, responses from diverse organisations constitute something of a “phonebook” for pedagogical support. In agreement with all partners, these responses are available on the IPD site (free registration), sponsored by AQPC.

Our team’s entry in IPD’s Inclusive Pedagogy Phonebook

Eductive seeks to ensure that technology benefits all learners instead of creating new disparities in learning experience. Through activities grounded in learner empowerment, Eductive has…

  • Guided educational technology decisions while highlighting principles of UDL and UDI (Universal Design for Instruction).
  • Called attention to learners and teachers facing challenges, from accessibility and connectivity to language barriers and cultural differences.
  • Through our work on Open Educational Resources (OER), helped actors overcome barriers to learning in the contexts of epistemic justice, promoting indigenous knowledge and collaborating on locally appropriate material.
  • Hosted labs leading participants to taking a proactive part in technopedagogical shifts.

Teachers in Quebec’s college network can contact us to:

  • Share their experience with an inspiring pedagogical practice
  • Invite the team to host an activity
  • Discuss an innovative project and possibly receive a support letter about it.
  • Enquire about pedagogical uses for Moodle and related platforms

Everyone may also get involved in Eductive labs which are participative events bringing together experts, teachers, and pedagogical advisors to build knowledge about emerging practices or uses of technology in the world of higher education.

Participation in these labs is an effective way to get involved with Eductive and contribute to collaborative work across the network.

A few of our site’s resources around inclusion, decolonization, accessibility, learner agency, diversity, justice, and equity:

Building a Sense of Community to Act Cohesively

The puzzle pieces are in place so that we can tackle large issues together. It will take time, obviously. Some people will become cynical. To my mind, there’s a real opportunity to work together towards the same goals.

And what are those goals? In some ways, it’s hard to tell. What matters the most might not sound like one of those SMART objectives which are specific, easily measurable, attainable, relevant, and timely. Put simply, they have to do with learning experiences that are appropriate to people’s diverse contexts. And some of those goals are emerging from cohesive practice despite differences of opinion.
At the end of the keynote session, there were still 226 participants. Now, it’s possible that some people simply forgot to leave the session. Still, that’s a lot of people who were attending a session which touched on deep issues.

Some activities during those IPDs had to do with tips and tricks to move towards a more inclusive practice. Other sessions were more conceptual, or aspirational. Overall, though, the whole event had a vibe of doing things together.

When a community of practice is welcoming, participants feel like they can try new things. In addition, the inspiration can come from people who have similar approaches. New trends often emerge from those dynamics. And there are different roles in a community of practice. Some people are great at recruiting new members. Others, myself included, tend to share material they come across, as it reminds us of what others might think of that material. Yet other community members are really into organizing things in a neat structure. That’s all good!

How do we make communities of practice as welcoming as possible? Therein lies the rub. And that’s part of what made me so enthusiastic about those IPDs. It all felt welcoming and inclusive. I commend the organizers for focusing on pedagogical inclusion for that specific event.

Where to go from there? Well, there’s a space on the Linkr platform for communication among community members! Slowly but surely, people are joining those groups. Some of those are based on disciplines and a notion is that we’re building communities of practice based on those diverse fields. Other groups might relate more to projects that people can tackle together using the tools provided. An example comes from the event itself, when Kahente Horn Miller, keynote speaker for the event, described collaborative indigenous learning bundles created by her team at Carleton University. Through the IPD space, community members are able to find one another and assess each other’s willingness and capacity to work on similar bundles appropriate to our context here. Meaningful and impactful action already comes from this. In fact, inspired by that same keynote during IPD, the Intercollegiate Decolonization Network (IDN) has applied for funding to develop collaborative indigenous learning bundles appropriate for the college network.

As you may know, IT reps already have their community of practice. In some ways, they’re the ideal people to contact when you want to collaborate with people at other colleges. What might happen, though, is that communities of practice will emerge from teachers themselves.

Tautologically, things won’t happen until they happen. Teachers need to be involved for the engagement to really increase. During the semester, it’s often difficult to start adding new items to the list of things you need to do. And the summer break only helps to extend what you do if you also have time to take a step back from it all.

Setting Intentions

In my experience, those kinds of collaborations work best when we have broad intentions which work as flexible goals. The big difference between intentions and goals, in this case, is in how you assess them. If you set yourself some rigid goals, chances are that you might apply little flexibility when you assess yourself. When you don’t reach a goal, you don’t really get a sense of achievement, even if you accomplished something more important than your initial goal. Some of us are our own harshest critics.

When we set intentions, we give ourselves permission to achieve unexpected great things. Of course, there are constraints, so it’s also good to set yourself some limits. What you’re able to accomplish by a certain time is probably a better guideline than aiming to reach goals imposed by external forces.

It’s somewhat like Agile methods. Instead of setting priorities for tasks which allegedly need to be completed before a deadline, the basic idea is to use a feedback loop, constantly reassessing what needs to be done before the next opportunity to share what you’ve done. To an extent, our classes occasionally work this way, at least in terms of course preparation. We may all come out of a semester thinking that we will do everything differently the next time. Or we might be so tired from the previous semester that we just want to avoid thinking about it for a few months. Yet at the back of our minds, there’s this notion that we can try a few tweaks the next time over. What if we implemented a few changes instead of overhauling the whole thing? We can spend the summer mulling it over, experimenting with new tools, getting in touch with old friends, and plan for the new year. There’s less pressure there and then. Though it might not be the best time to make big plans, it’s still a great time to develop new skills, for instance.

While it might sound like it’s too early to make plans for the fall semester, I’d argue that things can go forward if you only leave this at the back of your mind to simmer. Professional development may sound foreign to us as teachers when it comes from Human Resources. Yet it can feel very similar to what we do with learners. Especially if we think about the impact it can have on the whole community.

As might be obvious to some people who know me, I like to try new things. Call it a personality trait if you want. New software, new music, new food, much of it is about experience. When it comes to tools or practices, the best way I’ve found was through a low stakes, practical context for experimentation. For instance, instead of typing this, I’m using dictation software and noticing where it works and where it doesn’t. I don’t feel as efficient as when I use the keyboard, yet I do realize that this learning experience will help me along the way. It’s pretty much the same thing with our teaching practices. Trying a new approach may not feel as efficient and possibly as effective, yet it can lead to much deeper pedagogical efficacy than doing the same thing repeatedly.

You can contact us if you want to try something new.

Even if you have no summer plan, you can create a free Linkr account and join the Intercollegiate Ped Days group to get inspiration from learning pros in Anglophone CEGEPs. As you’ll likely notice, they’re a welcoming bunch!

About the author

Alexandre Enkerli

He is a Technopedagogical Advisor at Collecto, where he helps learning professionals make technology appropriate for their contexts, just like he did as a technopédagogue for Vitrine technologie-éducation from 2014 to 2016. Alex comes back to this role after a few in Ottawa (creating cybersecurity learning pathways and a Massive Open Online Learning Experience on public engagement), and in Saguenay-Lac-Saint-Jean for participatory-action research at COlab.

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