Education, iterations, and openness – new possibilities

By Dr. Connie Blomgren

Figure 1: Open Pedagogy
Figure 1: Open Pedagogy. Adapted from Hegarty, B. (2015). Attributes of open pedagogy: A model for using open educational resources. Educational Technology. P4.

Recently, the name change for Athabasca University’s MEd was approved and the twenty-five years of a “Masters in Distance Education” became a “Masters in Open, Digital, and Distance Education”. What does this matter and what does it mean? What does it mean for me, an associate professor teaching within this program and more importantly what does it mean for my current and future students?

Due to the COVID-19 virus the pivot to online learning has been experienced unlike no time previously, yet prior to the current pandemic, 12-16  percent of Canadian higher education students were taking online courses (Bates et al, 2017). Since 1995, there have been many changes to the delivery options for education – we now have mobile phones, YouTube, and learning platforms of various kinds and versions. Over the years and concomitant with the rise of digital tools, educational changes have occurred. So the addition of “digital” to our program name makes sense. But what about “open”? What is open education? And how do I continue to iterate, change, adapt in my role of being a teacher of teachers?

I confess that I know a fair bit about openness in education – its history, its pathway to various definitions and conceptions of what entails openness. There are open educational resources (OER), open science and open data, open access publishing and scholarly journals. And of course, there is the shape-shifting term “open pedagogy”. As academics do, I have selected a camp to inhabit, a definition of open pedagogy that is simultaneously binding yet expansive, and I have chosen Browyn Hegarty’s (2015) eight attributes of open pedagogy as a framing device for my researching, thinking, and being part of open pedagogy.

But how am I living out these attributes? Especially during the pandemic? By flipping my regular face-to-face professional learning opportunities online, like most others have done. In this last year I have taken the Creative Common certificate and completed a mini-MOOC on graduate supervision. Additionally, I attended the Carnegie Project on the Education Doctorate’s 2020 CPED Virtual October Convening – upon the one day that non-members were able to attend.

This convening allowed me to learn more about innovative responses to the changing needs of education doctorate students. Dr. Jill A. Perry presented “What is a Dissertation in Practice Anyway?” to help conference attendees like myself further recognize a problem of practice as distinct from a traditional research problem. Familiarity with what a problem of practice dissertation entails allows for a more fulsome inquiry disposition and moves past solutionist thinking. Through her Challenge Room and Mural activity, conference participants brainstormed and listed ideas to three pre-established questions; we dove into collaborative thinking and extended ideas through discussing them. The digital visual collaboration tool Mural helped us collect our thoughts for the wrap- up and for her post presentation purposes. Dispersed yet synchronously together, we pulled apart our thinking about the importance of a problem of practice, an inquiry disposition.

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Seesaw: Using a Portfolio-Based LMS in Elementary Classes

Teacher Blogger  |  By Marie-Eve L.

SeeSaw LogoSeesaw is a 2 tiered learning-management system designed to showcase students’ work, just like a personal portfolio. There are two different applications or levels to this system: Seesaw Class which is used by teachers and students in the classroom, and Seesaw Family, where parents and other family members can view students’ showcased work. Although this blog will describe both aspects of Seesaw, Seesaw Class will be mostly discussed.

In order to access Seesaw, a student must have a code: either a QR code or a temporary text code provided by the teacher. Other login options are also available (such as email or Clever) as long as they are linked to the student who is logging in. Once the student logs in, they have access to different tabs such as: the journal, where all of their approved work is showcased, the activities, where students can view and complete interactive activities assigned by a teacher, the inbox, where students can receive class-wide messages from their teachers, and the blog (if activated) where they can view and post work that is available to a wider audience than just family members that have access to Seesaw Family.

As an educator, you have access to every class that you teach by clicking on the class to have access to all of the students’ portfolios. Teachers can also communicate with their class as well as with parents through inbox, and can create a class blog where specific students’ work can be showcased to whomever has the blog address. Finally, educators have access to an activity-creating and assigning platform, where they can create and assign interactive activities as well as view and assign activities from a bank of lessons created by Seesaw users from around the world.

A little background knowledge

Liam typing his name and drawing his teacher via the Seesaw AppSeesaw was co-founded in 2013 by Carl Sjogreen Adrian Graham and Charles Lin, who transformed their unsuccessful app Shadow Puppet into a sharing and digital activities center geared for elementary students and teachers. The app is geared toward young student accessibility and safety: Even in the free version of Seesaw, there are no advertisements, and teachers have the same privacy controls as with the paid version in order to protect the privacy of all students. The content created and/or posted on the app never becomes owned by Seesaw, but stays the property of the poster. Seesaw has strict privacy protocols and is compliant with many international privacy laws such as FERPA, COPPA, GDPR, MFIPPA, and the Australian Privacy Act. Data is stored in Amazon servers in the United States by default, although Seesaw for Schools paying customers can choose to have their data stored in Canadian, Australian, or EU servers.

What makes Seesaw a worthwhile tool?

Seesaw, as opposed to other learning management systems, is designed with younger audiences in mind. The overall platform design is bright and simple, and uses both words and icons in order to make it easier for younger learners. Seesaw is fully customizable to suit the teacher’s needs: settings can be set to 1:1 or shared device classrooms, and permissions can be set for students to be able to see and/or comment on each other’s work or not. Settings can also be set so that students can collaborate on work and then “tag” all of their partners so that the work appears on every student’s portfolio but teachers will only be viewing and grading one activity. Teachers have the option to record their instructions for their young learners so they have access to both written and auditory directions. Once in an activity, students can take pictures or videos using the camera icons, and can record their voice using the microphone icon making it easier for “ learners with weak writing skills that may be hesitant to contribute in class activities that are primarily text based” (Rice, 2012 P. 51) .

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