Category Archives: ECI 831 Weekly Blog

OER Commons!

The whole idea of Open Education(OE) and Open Education Resources (OERs) remains very new to me and I didn’t know much about them up until our last class which was centred around them. After completing last week’s blog post discussing OE and OERs I feel that I have a bit more of an understanding about them and how they could benefit the educational world.  

The Nova Southeastern University outlines OERs to be “are teaching, learning and research materials in any medium – digital or otherwise – that reside in the public domain or have been released under an open license that permits no-cost access, use, adaptation and redistribution by others with no or limited restrictions (UNESCO).”

These types of resources include a wide range of formats such as (but not limited to), books, case studies, assessments, etc.  One aspect of OERs that I came across after posting my post last week was the 5Rs that outline the use OERs:

  1. Reuse – resources can be reused in their unaltered form.
  2. Retain – users have the right to make their own copies.
  3. Revise – content/resources can be altered.
  4. Remix – multiple content/resources can be mixed to create something new.
  5. Redistribute – content/resources can be shared.

OER COMMONS

I have chosen to take a deeper look into OER Commons – an open education resource website that is free and available to anyone.  The main goal outlined on their website, OER Commons is “here to support your remote teaching and learning”.  They also outline that their hope is to help educators gain the necessary skills required to find, adapt, and evaluate high quality open materials to use within their own individual teaching practices.

Is it user-friendly and well-organized?  

My initial thoughts when investigating the OER Commons website is that it seems to be easy to use.  The search bar is extremely hard to miss, as it is the centrefold of the opening page.  Within that search bar, you are able to search for a specific topic, or a more broadly based search through the drop down menus that are provided and you are able to refine your searches once you get the results to narrow down the quantity.  You are able to narrow searches down based on grade level, subject area, as well as standard outcomes which gives you a good starting point.  

Are the resources typically high-quality? 

The first thing I noticed about the resources I searched for was that there was no Canadian Curriculum or standards attached.  This would leave Canadian educators having to use professional judgement in terms of if the resource they are looking at aligns in accordance to the grade level outcome expectations – which I believe most educators do already and do not rely on the published grade level or standards that coincide with a resource.

I think as with any resource that an educator does not create personally, there is going to be some sifting through some lower quality resources before we get to the higher quality, worthwhile resources we would utilize in our own practices – I found OER Commons to be the opposite.  I was pleasantly surprised with the quality of the resources that were available.  I did a quick search for some ideas for my Human Body unit in Grade 8 Science.  

Within that unit I like to spend some time centered around engineering/technology and I was able to find a whole unit with hands-on practical activities that show different types of engineering/technological advancements that I feel will be super engaging – needles to say this has been saved in my recently created profile on OER Commons for use later this year.  I struggled with drawing the line on what I was going to save and what I wasn’t because all of the resources I found around the human body were so good! 

Is it easy to use? Is it easy to navigate/search? 

Using OER Commons is very simple, easy and straightforward.  You are able to begin a basic search as soon as you enter their site on their homepage.  Once you have completed that initial search, you are able to narrow down your search using the fine tuning parameters that they have built in on the left hand side.

Saving resources is also simple and it allows you to begin organzing your saved resources right away. You are also able to save directly to Google Classroom.

There are multiple features that an educator can use within OER Commons:

  1. General resource search – this can be done very broadly to begin with searching via subject, grad level and outcome standards.  Once your initial search has been completed, you are able to fine tune with checkbox options on the left hand side.  This can be done directly from their homepage and gives users a really good starting point when they are looking for resources.  
  1. OER Commons Groups – this feature that is built within the OER Commons website allows anyone to create and add to a specific group of resources.  I feel that this is a great way to collaborate, share, and create new resources that are geared towards a specific topic.  This also allows the user to streamline their searches for whatever they are after.   This feature also allows its users to join a specific OER group and be able to network with other educators around the world. 
  1. OER Commons Open Author – This is another feature that is built within the OER Commons website.  It allows users to create and share a created, collaborated or new OER.  This option helps users create their resource as well as helping them publish it within the site.  TO be able to use this feature, users must first have a profile through OER Commons and they must be logged in.  I feel this feature would act as a sort of training wheels for those who are just getting started with creating OERs.  The process seems to be fairly straightforward and the feature looks like it is very user friendly.
  1. Creating a profile –  with creating a profile within the OER Commons site provides users a few advantages.  You are able to track your activity within your profile.  This will track resources that you have saved, submitted, evaluated, authored and remixed.  You are also able to organize resources within your profile by specific subjects or topics.  With creating  profiles, users are also able to add specific details about themselves such as their location, grade level, subjects/courses taught and any social media links.  

Is it visually appealing? 

The OER commons is a very appealing website.  They have done a great job with the design, layout, and color schemes.  The design of the site is super welcoming and there are not a whole bunch of competing colors, graphics, or pictures.  There has been a lot of thought and care put into the layout, color and design of the website which has made it super attractive and welcoming.  I also like how there is limited text within the site.  There is a very clear motive behind the purpose of this website and it is to be able to complete your search for particular resources.  There is a catchy tagline – “Explore. Create. Collaborate.” which I thought encompassed the main goal behind the OER Commons as a whole.

Would it be valuable to educators that you work with?

I would not hesitate to recommend OER Commons to my colleagues.  The site is simple to use and the resources that are on the site are very high quality.  There is also a nice variety of whole units with lesson plans, single lesson plans, activities, etc.  I think OER Commons opens a whole new door in terms of searching for resources to help you teach a topic primarily or even as a supplemental activity that is already ready for you to use it!

-Bret

Open Educaiton & OERs?!?

Up until last week’s class, I was not very familiar with Open Education (OE) or Open Education Resources (OER).  I had heard the term before, but never really took the time to understand what they actually encompassed.   Thank you to Gillian and Leigh for sharing some resources.  I was struggling a bit with this whole concept!  From the article Leigh shared, PK-12 OER: Key Benefits and Sustainable Implementation, the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation (2015)outlined that open educational resources (OER) are “high quality teaching, learning, and research resources that are free for others to use and repurpose.”  

This article goes on to further discuss that these resources can range from full courses, digital textbooks, images, and assessments and they can be regularly updated and reused in a variety of settings.  Both of these resources have helped me better understand what encompasses OE. I see the draw to engage with these types of resources or use them in your teaching practices.

As educators, I strongly believe in the culture of sharing and not reinventing the wheel – working smarter, not harder.  This was especially true during my first years as a teacher, when I would beg, borrow and steal resources from anyone who was willing to give them.  I listened to the podcast Teaching in Higher Education – Creating and Extending Open Education with Terry Greene that Gillian recommended.  He went on to discuss his thoughts on Open Education and mentioned that if you are sharing resources, you are essentially taking part in Open Education whether you created the content or not.  

I feel that I am able to take the most away and apply to my personal teaching practices when I engage with other educators regarding ideas, resources, or strategies – to me this is a branch of open education!

When thinking about OERs, I have a hard time not thinking back to my undergraduate degrees and stressing about being able to afford an expensive textbook that is REQUIRED for the completion of the class.  I was fortunate enough to be able to afford to purchase these, but I did have some friends who weren’t so lucky.  Some tried to make due without the text and others pooled their money to be able to afford the text.  This is where I believe OERs can and should be recommended to be used so that there is equal opportunity for all students to have access to all resources required to complete the course. 

Post secondary education is already expensive enough as it is and adding the high cost of textbooks only piles onto student debt and stress.  Like Gillian, I too came across the article Impacts of Open Educational Resources written by Oliver Dreon as I was doing some research into OE and OERs.  Dreon goes on to say “…OER is an equity strategy for higher education: providing all students with access to course materials on the first day of class serves to level the academic playing field in course settings.”  The use of OERs or a promoted culture of sharing resources in the post secondary institutions could work towards providing a more equitable educational playing field.  

I appreciated the article that Leigh shared which articulated how these OERs could benefit the PK-12 educational world.  PK-12 OER: Key Benefits and Sustainable Implementation, outlines 4 major benefits for utilizing OERs in the PK-12 grade range.  The first they outline is the benefit of creating empowered teachers.  OERs have the ability to increase teacher collaboration and student learning when adopted division wide.  Next they outline that OERs provide increased opportunity to access high quality teaching material.  Following this, they outline that OERs could provide divisions with the ability to reallocate funds that were previously put towards resources, such as textbooks, that can be reallocated and used differently.  Finally, outlined arethe capabilities OERs have in creating a more collaborative culture throuhgout education as a whole.

OERs can help fill the gap or completely take away the shortfall of materials that are made available by school divisions for student use.  Leigh also shared the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation (2015) that explains the K-12 education sector suffers from a scarcity of effective materials and that OERs can provide flexible and affordable materials to bridge the gap and for this reason, school divisions should look more seriously at enlisting OERs to help provide the best materials for their students.

It is also hard to not think about the quality and quantity of resources and materials that school divisions are able to procure. As in the video “Why Open Education Matters” outlines, a lot of schools are unable to afford the up to date or proper amount of learning materials which forces them to use insufficient or outdated ones.  In my Grade ⅞ classroom, there is not enough Math, Science, or Social Studies textbooks for each one of my 27 students to use on their own – we are currently operating with a 3:1 student/textbook ratio for Math, 1 textbook to use for Social Studies and not near enough for a class set of Science textbooks.

OERs would be a simple solution to the lack of material and eliminate the need for students to have to share. Not only would it eliminate the lack of resources, but also ensure teachers and students are working with the most up to date and relavent information. OERs would also enable students to have access to these textbooks anywhere outside the school, as we do not permit school materials being taken home.

I feel that these benefits outlined should be taken into consideration when/if school divisions are trying to decide whether or not to promote OERs.  I think school divisions should look at the possibility of implementing OERs based solely on the stretched funds that most divisions are strapped with.  They could relocate these funds towards an underfunded aspect such as transportation.  I realize that this would not be an easy undertaking, but these OERs and open education seems like a very attractive avenue to help school divisions in numerous ways not only financially.

-Bret

The Age of Slacktivism

Can online social media activism be meaningful and worthwhile?

I have a difficult time answering this question – I often find myself questioning the motives of those who are participating as an online activist.  I think social media activism can be somewhat meaningful and worthwhile, but it has lost a lot of its luster, due to the fact that everyone and their dog seems to consider themselves one.  While doing some research into online activism for this post, I came across an article entitled “When Everyone is an Activist Online, Is Anyone?” written by Ella Glover.  She outlines that “social media has once again turned something hopeful into something toxic and that activism is now seen as mandatory or expected.”

https://www.blakespectrum.org/blog/2020/10/07/social-media-activism-spreads-ignites-change/

I felt I needed to actually understand what Social Media Activism encompasses to be able to properly answer this question.  I came across a blog of a former student of Alec’s – Catherine Ready who was able to shed light on her thoughts regarding Social Media Activism.  Through her blog, I was able to find a simple yet effective definition of exactly what social media activism is.  It is essentially using the platform of an online forum to lead or support a cause.  It’s essentially activism behind a screen.

In her article, “When Everyone is an Activist Online, Is Anyone?” Ella Glover’s message throughout the article resonated to be “if we aren’t publicly condemning something bad, or pushing for something positive on our social media platforms, we’re not doing anything at all — whether we are out in the streets or not”.  In all honesty, this is exactly how I feel in terms of social media activism.  I often wonder how much of an effect likes, retweets and hashtags actually carry  and whether people are engaging for the right or appropriate reasons. 

A lot of the time, I am finding myself wondering how TRUE people are when they engage in online/social media activism or whether they are just paying lip service to achieve a certain look or be seen in the appropriate light.  I often see meaningful posts, but hardly see any sort of follow through in person, in the community or away from the keyboard – AKA the keyboard warriors or armchair activists are everywhere!  This thought leads me to wonder, are they helping the cause by posting on social media!? To me, with social media activism, there is a lot of over-promising and under-delivering with boots on the ground.

https://memegenerator.net/instance/73209102/ralph-wiggum-picking-nose-landscape-im-helping

Over the last two years, with the arrival of COVID-19, we have found ourselves online or engaging with our social media apps more frequently.  Speaking from experience, my time on these apps has increased, but I have also noticed something else – the content on these apps can be soul crushing, extremely negative, hard to handle and affecting my mental health.  I think social media activism has played a bit of a role in the increase in this type of information with jumping from cause to cause without any sort of action or resolution.  In her article, Ella Glovers reminds us that “we are not equipped to handle the constant barrage of information at once.  The pressure to juggle an infinite amount of injustices in our minds, while also worrying about our own lives is problematic.”  

Many people find themselves in a position where they refrain from posting on social media due to their occupation.  Some “activists” may not find it safe to be posting online in fear of losing their job or facing discipline for thoughts posted online.  This can be particularly true for those who work in civil service.  This is the driving force behind what and how I post on my social media platforms.  I am very rarely posting on any of my social media planforms out of fear of repercussions from offending someone, or how it may be interpreted.  When I do post, I leave personal opinions, biases and thoughts out, primarily based on the fact that I am a teacher.  I find that educators are often held to a different standard to the rest of the public and may be more susceptible to mistreatment based on their social media. 

Concluding Thoughts

I am not saying that it cannot be meaningful but in the current state,  I don’t find social media activism to be meaningful, purposeful or worthwhile.  I feel at this moment it falls on deaf ears due to the creation of a “topical activism”, outlined by Ella Glover as jumping from movement to movement before any results. 

Online activism is in a state of slacktivism;  In her article “The Realities of Slacktivism” Siobhan Mullaly outlines that social media activism can often come across as lazy and fake when it is not followed by genuine action and as a result the term “Slacktivism” was coined. This new term makes it hard to think of it as meaningful or purposeful.

https://www.alternativesjournal.ca/community/activism/the-realities-of-slacktivism/

Daze Aghaji, a 20 year old British climate activist summarizes online activism in Ella Glover’s article in a way that is hard to ignore.  She states that prioritizing online activism is acting in such a way as to be counterproductive to the boots on the ground style of activism work.  She goes on further to say “burning myself out, constantly commenting, and trying to get involved with loads of different social issues at the same time, is not actually going to help the issue.”   Francisa Rockey, another young British activist, outlines that if we really want to make a difference “ those who are interested and have the time should spend less time talking about what people are not doing and shaming people, and more time coming together and doing the work.” 

I think both of these quotes speak profoundly to the current state of social media activism and where it needs to go.  If we want this type of activism to again be meaningful, purposeful and carry more weight, we have to put our money where our mouth is, and get our boots on the ground to create meaningful action and change, giving up the keyboard warrior status and getting out from behind the screens.

-Bret

Project Update #2

Howdy ECI 831! 

My wife hit 30 weeks on Saturday and we are getting very excited and anxious to meet our little monster! I cannot believe how fast it has gone since finding out I was going to be a dad in mid April.  We are starting to slowly acquire the baby items that we will need immediately and the baby room set up is almost in full swing, we are still decluttering/purging, but we have a solid plan in place!

My digital project is humming along quite well.  I have made some minor tweaks to how I will set it up on my blog site.  I will be focusing on creating 4 or 5 posts per trimester.  This is going to help me organize my thoughts as well as be able to capture the entire 9 months in a better light.  There is so much information available and this format will force me to be concise and include what I have found the most important information.  I have also made the decision to focus on new dads as my primary target audience.  As I mentioned in my first project post, there is not as much information ready for new dads and feel that this is the appropriate way to frame my project.  

I have completed 2 posts so far, focusing on our first trimester journey.  The first post outlined a few resources that I have found extremely helpful and reassuring.  The first resource I found useful was a YouTube account, “Dad University”.  The goal behind this account is to help new dads by providing useful points.  The second resource was a first time dad handbook entitled “We’re Pregnant! The First Time Dad’s Pregnancy Handbook”.  The third resource was a more complex text book style book that outlines everything pregnancy related; this resource entitled Pregnancy, Childbirth and the Newborn.  All of these resources have proven to be great for us in terms of understanding what we will be going through.

My second post outlined a book that I read on the recommendation of my wife.  “Like a Mother – A Feminist Journey Through the Science and Culture of Pregnancy”.  I thoroughly enjoyed this book as it gives a very detailed account of the female perspective through pregnancy.  I am very happy that I read this book, as it has helped me connect to my wife and better understand what she is going through.  I highly recommend this book to any parents!

https://www.libbyvanderploeg.com/blog/2018/5/22/like-a

Going forward, posts will be grouped with multiple weeks together to help streamline posts and to be able to cover the entire 40 weeks in an appropriate manner, summarizing major points of information concisely. There will be more posts this week – stay tuned!

Bret

Digital Project Update #1

Aloha Everyone! 

How have things been going?! Currently, we just (Oct.2) entered into the 3rd and final trimester and things are getting real, real fast!  We are starting to get more excited (and anxious) each day!  We have been feeling the crunch with our stress levels, to do lists and credit card statements.  This weekend our house got a good thorough cleanout, and we are trying to get small odd jobs around the house, yard, and garage done while we still have the time and energy to do them. 

https://www.dreamstime.com/young-family-moving-new-house-things-cartoon-illustration-flat-style-baby-cat-image118302384

I have 2 goals driving this project.  First, I want to document the whole experience to be able to look back upon and secondly I want to use this as a way to sift through information and develop a plan for when our little arrives!

How Goes the Project Battle?!

So far, over the last couple of weeks,  I have been focusing on how I wanted to structure this project and the types of content/posts I want to include.  I had been struggling to decide on a way in which  to structure the digital project. My initial plan is to “travel back” in time, splitting my project into trimesters and structure it more like journal/blog entries; recounting what we were working through at each trimester stage! 

My initial thoughts are to try to have smaller reflections or journal entries each week to try and capture a broader picture of the whole experience, lessons learned and decision that were made.

Here are some ideas that I am throwing around to focus blog entries on for each: 

1st Trimester 

  • Finding out & initial feelings
  • Resources 
  • Future Dad role!? What do I do now?
  • Telling friends and family
  • 1st Ultrasound (Car)/First attended ultrasound
  • Reactions and feelings during appointments
  • Gifted items vs Bought
  • House Set up
    • Baby room 
    • Our closets
    • Office
  • Information Sifting
  • Nutrition & Exercise
  • Parenting 101
https://www.vectorstock.com/royalty-free-vectors/cartoon-ultrasound-vectors

2nd Trimester:

  • Book: Like a Mother – Written by Angela Garbes
  • Diapers 
    • Cloth vs Disposable
  • 20 week Ultrasound
  • Feeding plan
  • Prenatal Classes
  • Post Birth Care
  • Information Sifting
  • Parenting 101
https://www.awesomeinventions.com/funny-baby-handling-tips/

3rd Trimester

  • Big Baby Gear Items
    • Car seat 
    • Bassinet 
    • Swing 
  • Birth Plan 
  • Post Birth Care
  • Information Collection
  • Ultrasound Updates
  • Parenting 101
https://www.babylist.com/hello-baby/best-new-baby-products

In conjunction with these topics, I am planning to sprinkle in some possible writing prompts that I have found online as a switch up.  I am planning to make my first post this week to get the ball rolling with this project! This is just a quick blueprint and will likely change courses multiple times throughout the course of the course! 

I am looking forward to thinking back to how it all started and documenting our journey thus far!

Has anyone out there completed a pregnancy journal/reflection/blog? If so, what were some things you were glad you captured?

Week 4 – Twitter

Although I am a frequent user of social media apps like Facebook, SnapChat, Instagram, TikTok and Twitter, I remain a social media looker rather than a poster.  As mentioned in Week 2 blog post, I rarely post on these platforms in my personal or professional lives. This is out of  fear based on how I could be portrayed, the fear of offending someone, or fear of misrepresenting my employer and landing myself in hot water; it’s just easier in my eyes to not post.

https://www.businessinsider.com/how-to-block-social-media-apps-from-yourself

Overall, the platform I enjoy the most is Twitter.  I feel that there are many educational avenues we as educators can explore and implement into our classrooms, but with that said, there are also some aspects that may be concerning. 

https://fortune.com/2017/02/16/twitter-time-out/

In a previous course (EC&I 832), I wrote a paper outlining and investigating the implementation of social media into our classrooms.  Within that paper, I was able to outline some important aspects which social media could bring into our classrooms.  The major advantage to implementing social media into our classrooms would be its ability to break education outside the restricting walls of the classroom.  Twitter allows you to follow, converse (message), and collaborate with like minded individuals around a specific topic; essentially putting access to experts at the fingertips of your students.  

http://zesium.com/how-to-incorporate-social-media-in-classrooms/

A major draw to Twitter for me, is the increased ability to collaborate, communicate and share resources.  This app allows you to immerse yourself with individuals who are travelling along the same educational journey as you and your class.  It also makes it easy to share resources through the following, messaging, hashtagging and mentioning features.  These features allow for the sharing of resources with those who are in the same room, or across the world!  

Utilizing Twitter in your classroom can also promote a sense of community and belonging with your students.  Some students may struggle socially, but they may excel using technology.  Using Twitter can give these students an avenue to feel they belong to a group and be a regular contributor to their classroom community; perhaps more regularly than in their classroom.  This can be accomplished by creating a class Twitter handle for your students to follow, or creating  class Hashtag for students to organize their contributions.

https://www.weareteachers.com/build-classroom-community/

Twitter also provides its users with unique ways to receive feedback.  They have the ability to receive feedback from not only their immediate community but they can also receive it from others scattered across the world.  They can reach out to experts to give them feedback as well. Having access to reach out to experts is a unique experience and something I wish I had as I worked through my education.  This can be accomplished by understanding and utilizing the hashtagging features to curate the same content, to be sure their content is seen by those they are seeking feedback from. 

https://larryferlazzo.edublogs.org/2020/03/03/short-ted-talk-video-the-secret-to-giving-great-feedback/

I feel that with the technological boom and social media (Twitter specifically)has the ability to increase student participation and engagement.   Twitter provides ample opportunities to create authentic learning opportunities for your students.  Students can post their work, use various modes to represent their understanding/learning, and provide and receive feedback that are not the typical types of activities.

With the popularity of Twitter and the flood of misinformation or fake news that seems to be polluting our feeds, we can use this as a learning/teaching opportunity to promote critical thinking skills.  Students must be aware of how to interpret and make meaning of what they are reading, checking sources and accounts and how to spot bots who may be spreading this fake news.  Critical thinking skills fall into the ELA curriculum (comprehend and respond strand) and could be a unique way to increase and improve these skills.  These critical thinking skills can also be an avenue to implement digital and information literacies, along with global citizenship education.  

https://www.dictionary.com/e/misinformation-vs-disinformation-get-informed-on-the-difference/

With the positives, comes the negatives.  Although there are numerous positives that Twitter can offer our students, there are also some significant drawbacks.  Of course the main disadvantage or limitation in using these platforms would be access to technology both inside and outside the classroom.  Many of our classrooms are very diverse and with that the access to technology can vary significantly. 

https://otbds.org/access-to-technology-and-barriers-to-digital-inclusion/

With that said, many urban schools are very densely populated which results in a higher student to device ratio; I am currently faced with a 3:1 ratio.  Along with this ratio, educators are also tasked with ensuring that there is equal access to devices for every classroom in a school. This limited access to devices can be a major detriment to implementing the use of any social media in your classroom.

http://caffeineandlessonplans.blogspot.com/2015/09/tips-for-teaching-in-overcrowded.html

Another significant drawback being the ability for bots to create profiles and try to interact with users.  With that said, if you are going to utilize these platforms, it would be beneficial to teach your students how to spot a bot; does the user have a profile picture? Do they have a randomly generated twitter handle? Do they have any followers? Some simple things to help your students spot a bot.  There will be a steady stream of aggressive, mistrusted, unfiltered flow of information that students must deal with.

https://sfmagazine.com/post-entry/october-2019-these-are-the-bots-youre-looking-for/

Another area of concern would be the security of the user and the user’s data.  Students must be taught about the dangers that come with using a social media app.  They must be taught proper etiquette while interacting on these platforms, what is appropriate and what is not, and what to expect while they are online and ensuring that they are keeping themselves safe.

https://it.wisc.edu/news/3-tips-for-more-secure-social-media/

All in all, there are many positives and negatives to utilizing social media in your classroom.  It is essentially up to the teacher and what they are comfortable with.  Some teachers may be super eager to get these platforms up and running in their classrooms, while others are very hesitant.  Educators should implement what they are comfortable with and what fits into their teaching practices.