I basically fell off the weekly blogging schedule in part because in the last 6 weeks the JIBC-University of Guadalajara student-centred and mobile learning faculty development project (known as the UdG Agora) basically took over my life in a good way, of course.
A bit about the team – Alan has already done a great summary of so many aspects of the project, and Nancy’s been reflecting over on her blog as well. The Agora is a product of a great team of JIBC-assembled and UdG people (more on that in another post), but it was really brought alive by the amazing group of instructors – Alan, Brian, Barb, Kike, Nancy, Terri, and Ken – who gave 110% for 12-14 hour days in the weeks leading up to the 16 days of work in Mexico and most especially during. It definitely wasn’t a 2 week walk in the park (or beach for that matter) and I’m supremely grateful that they were able to keep the pace – these people are pros, in the best possible way! Each person was invited because of what they could bring that was unique, important, and different to the project, and I was thrilled that we got Alan and Brian’s technical wizardry, Nancy’s incredible facilitation skills and energy (she speaks great Portunol also, btw), Barb’s zen and great attention to detail, Kike’s well respected teaching skills, and Terri and Ken’s ability to step in at the last minute and identify and fill in gaps that needed to be filled (alternative assessments and flipped learning). I really didn’t anticipate how incredibly committed to the project this group of instructors would be, and even as we are supposed to be relaxing a bit and catching our breath before the online part begins on August 17, there continues to be inspiration and reflection in the background – truly incredible.
A bit about the model – When the project landed it felt like a good opportunity to critically reflect on faculty development approaches and to challenge ourselves to design a different kind of learning experience for the UdG faculty. The UdG folks dropped a few nuggets to help guide us: they wanted something hands-on, they didn’t want to be lectured about constructivism or other theories, and current approaches had faculty doing a lot of listening and not a lot of doing that carried back to their teaching. Of course, this isn’t particularly unique to UdG and it provided a good opportunity to reflect on the kinds of experiences that seem to work and not work.
Studios – a new approach required new language and I came up with studios because we wanted something that was different than classes or workshops. Studios are common in art education, and they are messy, hands-on, open workspaces where students actually do stuff. I thought about my art classes at CEGEP de Limoilou and Capilano College, where there was no powerpoint, no projectors – just experienced instructors, a bit of structure and a task, and materials to accomplish the task. A studio structure requires a mechanism for ensuring that meaningful activity occurs in studio time, and this is how we landed on challenges.
Challenges – At the time that this project landed on the JIBC desk, I was fairly new and addicted to playing Sim City on my phone. The version of Sim City that I was using (the new one sucks) was a perfectly balanced combination of intrinsic and extrinsic motivation, and I became quite interested in the mechanics of the game and its ability to keep me on task. What worked was how achieving small activities accumulated into a larger construction of something meaningful, and this was visible through incremental, yet highly achievable daily activity. It felt like the studios needed to be a vehicle for accomplishing challenges that were experiential, achievable, and meaningful.
When UdG suggested that faculty should have to implement challenges with their students and show proof, this is really when the structure came together conceptually. We struggled with how to address multiple levels of expertise in a studio format and Alan came up with the idea (inspired from yoga, LOL) to have different levels of challenges within a studio.
Implementing challenges in the classroom is a key part of the design, and we actually changed the delivery schedule to ensure that faculty would actually be teaching while they did the implementation phase. This is the part that we are embarking on from mid August to mid October, and #udgagora will continue to be the space to watch that evolve.