So Why SoTL?

This post is my response to the SoTL #2 Engage with SoTL activity, included in the Scholar Module of Ontario Extend

Right from the first time I found myself in front of a classroom, I knew I needed to conduct research in education. Teaching and learning are incredibly complex activities, and as a twenty-something TA flung in front of a group of undergraduates, I was acutely aware of how little I knew about all of it.

Years and multiple degrees later, I still feel as though I’ve only begun to scratch the surface. I certainly engage in scholarly teaching practice – I regularly consume and implement recommendations I find in academic research, engaging my students in continuous dialogue about what resonates, what doesn’t, why. I also help other educators do the same, which is an incredibly fulfilling component of my professional practice.

However, I want to do more. I want to contribute. So, I few years ago I applied to Athabasca University’s Doctorate of Education in Distance Education program. I’m on a pathway to becoming an academic researcher. Even though I’m only a few years into the process, I’ve already transformed my course design, pedagogical approaches, and faculty support strategies based on the scholarly research I’ve been exposed to via the program.

My EdD cohort travelled to Athabasca’s campus during our orientation week. In the years that have followed, I’ve watched us all transform into emerging researchers and scholars of teaching and learning. 


I’ve never really stopped to ask myself why I’m motivated to engage in SoTL activities. I’m so immersed in it, and have been for so long. But why?

I guess I’ve always felt an immense pressure to do right by my students. There they are, showing up, investing their time and money in this learning experience. I’ve been a student long enough to know how awful it feels to learn under an educator who couldn’t care less about you. To be stuck in a course that feels like a total waste of time, no more than a check in a box, devoid of any personal meaning.

I engage in SoTL because I want to effectively collaborate with students to create and support the ideal conditions for deep, personal, transformational learning. I engage in SoTL because I know that technology-enabled learning can be so much more human than a bunch of pre-canned, “scalable” SCORM packages. I engage in SoTL because teaching is a massive responsibility, and I want to do everything I can to use my position of privilege and power for emancipatory purposes, and to share and discuss my findings with others.

Engaging in SoTL activities adds a rigorous framework of inquiry to the huge questions and goals that are inherent to my teaching practise, to the profession generally, and offers the potential for me, little old me, to make a positive and lasting impact on my students, and maybe even on my field.


Sidney Helped

This post is in response to the Map Your PLN activity in the Collaborator module of Ontario Extend. 


I signed up for Twitter in September, 2016 but didn’t really do anything with my account for at least another year after that. It wasn’t a platform that came naturally to me, and truth told I still feel a bit fumbley and slow when I compare my Tweeting to my other online social activities.

I was a late adopter, but I eventually made the choice to engage. I started noticing that at conferences, participants didn’t exchange business cards anymore so much as point to their conference nametag, which they’d written their Twitter handle on. I started by adding all of those people, and immediately my feed started to feel interesting and relevant. I kept adding people, then their people, clicking on anyone who appeared to be working in education, particularly higher education, folks interested in ed. tech, scholars commenting on pedagogical theory and praxis.

My meandering stroll through various iterations of Ontario Extend have allowed me ample time to familiarize myself with Twitter. The Daily Extends really helped me learn to navigate the platform, and most importantly, learn to post and respond in ways that I wouldn’t have known intuitively. In this MOOC iteration, I find I’m less interested in posting on Twitter. Instead, I post in the forums. I didn’t really make a conscious choice to do this, but perhaps for me the LMS suggests a closed, rather than open audience. Perhaps it’s because my Twitter PLN is now established, and I have the confidence to post and respond to conversations outside of Ontario Extend.

That’s not to say that #ExtendMOOC conversations aren’t happening though. Last week I barreled through Experimenter then doubled back to work on Collaborator. I mean it when I say I’m getting the mega badge this time.

I arrived at the final activity, this one, asking me to map my PLN. With no gas left in the tank, I put Ontario Extend away for a bit. I had a meeting to get to. As our meeting was wrapping up though, it occurred to me that I was talking to Cambrian’s resident data mapping super genius. Terry’s been kind about my liberal interpretations of the instructions, so I thought I’d push the envelope even further by asking Sidney to do my homework. Sorry, can’t embed on my free version of WordPress, click below to view:

Sidney Did My Homework



The Introvert’s PLN

This post is in response to the Extending Your PLN activity within the Collaborator module of Ontario Extend. 


I’ve got a confession to make. I can find socializing exhausting; I love being by myself. Sometimes, I think I’m a closet introvert.

This is a bit problematic in my role. Actually, more than a bit. you see I’m pretty much constantly surrounded by people, from the moment I walk into work until the moment I leave. Most of my days are spent in collaborative conversations. Hours upon hours of them! Even my cubicle is surrounded by people. Awesome people. But still. My secret introvert gets tired and needs to find some alone time to recharge.

This is likely why I want to curl up in the fetal position for several days after a conference. The being “on,” networking, putting a face to digital names is all so important, yet so exhausting. I used to be terrified of public speaking, and even though I’ve worked through that to the point where I don’t really feel any jitters before a big presentation, I still feel absolutely exhausted afterwards. After Cambrian’s first major PD event, Open Day, I fell asleep waiting for the lecture capture videos to render.

Catching ZZZs after a Big Day of Being “On”

While I really value my PLN and have been working actively to both grow and nurture it, it can be really tricky to find a balance. My spouse chastises me for tweeting after we turn the lights off, but it’s the only time I seem to find for my growing Twittersphere. As I mature in my role, I’m starting to get to know more people at my institution, and in my wider network. These connections are fantastic and important. They must be nurtured.

However, I think it’s also important to recognize when I need to withdraw a little bit, and reflect. We’re both tree and forest, and it’s important to make space for both. When I do carve out a bit of solitary time, I find I bring more energy to my collaborative conversations, I’m more interested in what’s going on in the PLN, and I’m just generally in a better frame of mind, which has a positive impact on the people around me. 

So, I guess my tip for extending your PLN is to do so with care, including self-care.


The Collaborative Campfire

This post is in response to The Collaborative Dining Table activity included in the Collaborator module of Ontario Extend. I was asked to depict a dining table, but I have a difficult time following instructions. 

In this activity, I’ve been asked to choose one of the projects I worked on in the past year, and represent the key players involved in the project as if they were sitting with me at a dining table. It’s April, and snowing, and so my imagination wandered outside:

Deb, Jess, and Heather

Here’s Deb, Heather, and I, chilling by an imaginary fire, talking about the awesome collaborative project we just completed in our EdD course on Leadership and Project Management in Distance Education.

It was a challenging assignment in terms of the requirements. Working in small groups, we were asked to pick a social justice issue that could be remedied with an innovative educational intervention, and supported by a particular leadership theory / strategy. The deliverables were a paper and a 30 minute presentation.

While Deb, Heather, and I have the EdD program in common, we each come from diverse backgrounds and bring our experiences and strengths with us to the collaborative campfire. I was excited to work with them, in what will actually be our last collaborative assignment of the EdD program!

We’ve all got backgrounds in education, as well as curriculum and instructional development, to varying degrees. Heather also brings a strong policy background, and Deb is quite well versed in appreciative inquiry. We’re all highly motivated, emotionally intelligent collaborators, so the project was quite a dream.

The Tools

Google Suite

Our “camp gear” consisted of a shared Google Doc I setup and named Central Station. We figured out logistics, dumped content, and discussed project items asynchronously via Central Station. The GDoc also contained links out to the GSlides we’d use for our presentation, the GDoc we’d use for our paper, our shared Zotero folder, along with a few other helpful links. I’ve found that one shared starting point is a highly effective way to manage projects that have a few moving parts. The idea is you open that GDoc first, and all of the relevant “stuff” is right there.


In a fully online program, with synchronous sessions devoted to seminar presentations and lectures, it is SO REFRESHING to see my classmates and hear their voices, to have an organic conversation (rather than the endless text-based discussion forums, oy).

We scheduled a kickoff session in Zoom to help us arrive at one particular social justice issue (we had a long list to narrow down, but through discussion and compromise we landed on our topic fairly quickly). We also scheduled a Zoom session to practice the presentation and iron out final logistical details a few days before we were scheduled to present. Otherwise, we worked asynchronously, commenting in the GDoc and GSlides, texting each other every now and then, and just basically letting the project happen before our eyes.

My Favourite Collabs

I’m really lucky in that I get to collaborate on many projects with many different people as a central element of my Instructional Developer role. It’s been really nice to see myself included in several of the Collaborative Dining Table activity responses so far. I hope that this signals that I’m having a positive impact in my various circles. I’m always happy and excited to help, and I still feel a bit surprised and flattered when faculty seek out my input and support – even though it’s my job, it’s still pretty awesome to be validated at work nearly every day.

In terms of my favourite types of people and processes, I think that I’m most engaged when faculty approach me with a huge vision and absolutely no idea how to implement it. I feed off of that energy, and I think my years as an Education Advisor, Instructional Designer, and Developer have helped me learn how to ask the right questions to move from big amazing idea to actually attainable project plan, without losing the magic of the original concept. I’m always impressed by the creativity, work ethic, and student-centeredness of those around me, both at Cambrian, in my EdD, and in my wider PLN.

I just wish there was more time to do all the things (and earn all the badges)!

Revisiting the Open Faculty Patchbook

This post is a response to the Take a Deep Dive activity in the Experimenter module of Ontario Extend. 

It’s hard to believe that Terry published the first patch, “Patch Zero: The Base Patch” back in February, 2017. So many awesome collaborations between my Teaching and Learning Innovation Hub and Terry, through the Educational Technology Committee and through eCampus Ontario, have happened since then.

Back when I first learned about the Open Faculty Patchbook, we didn’t have a Hub yet. We were a few staff on campus, doing the best we could from various corners of the building. My office was actually a small classroom with a boardroom table in the middle of it. There was an eyewash station in the corner that I converted into a tea station. The ceiling leaked. It was always cold. However, I look back on that time with a bit of nostalgia. Everything felt so new and exciting, so many great things were ahead of us. Since that time, we’ve launched a beautiful Teaching and Learning centre, we’ve grown our team and found an amazing leader to help us operationalize. We’re starting to mature.

My Old Office: Chalkboard Converted into a Gallery Wall

Back in February 2017 though, I felt a bit adrift. I was the only Instructional Designer on campus, reintegrating into the post-secondary sphere after spending several years working in a healthcare context. I was meant to offer faculty support, but I really didn’t know where to go to grow my own practice, to stay current, to ask questions and receive timely answers.

Thankfully, I had a supportive VPA who recognized and supported my need for professional development. She sent me down to Advancing Learning that year, and that’s where I met Terry.

He was facilitating a session about the Open Learning Patchbook. I left having made a commitment to contribute a post. A couple months later, I made good on my promise, publishing “Patch Nineteen: Be Kind Online“. It was so cool to see my name in print, and to receive a hard copy of the Patchbook as a surprise. I went searching for that copy today, and it appears to have gone missing!! It must be great if it’s grown legs.

Contributing to the Patchbook helped me find a voice and a community beyond Cambrian. It helped me to envision my first open assignment. It got me thinking more seriously about completing my Doctorate in Distance Education, reminding me that I love to write about my craft, to learn more about it, to share that knowledge.

Terry’s experiment has made space for 27 (27!) people to contribute to this digital community quilt. That’s 27 voices taking 27 risks. A successful experiment, I’d say.

So Why’d I Get Involved?

This portion of the post is meant to respond to the Lab Report activity in the Ontario Extend Experimenter module. 

I loved the idea of sharing stories. I’m a pretty confident writer, so I didn’t have reservations about sharing my written work. My hangup was more about my ability to contribute something meaningful to a conversation about tech-enabled learning that was largely comprised of people who had been supporting these activities for longer than I had. I wasn’t sure if I’d have something meaningful to add.

So, I started reading through the existing Patches, and realized that everyone was reflecting on their current practice, offering up the best advice they could. I’d been having many conversations about humanizing the online learning experience, so I decided to write about that.

I wanted to make good on my promise to Terry, and I wanted to push myself outside of my comfort zone, so I went ahead and did it. Rereading my Patch, I think it still holds up today. I think my confidence level has really grown since then, and I’d be far more likely to enhance the post with visuals or a video, share it out on Twitter, shamelessly self-promote on campus.

Photo by Niklas Hamann on Unsplash

I’ve got some roots now where there were none before. I’m not just one little tree, I’m one little tree in a big forest of trees.

This feeling of connectedness, both on campus and across many distributed networks, makes me far more willing to take professional risks, to experiment in ways that are closely anchored to my pedagogical goals, to put theory into practice in unique ways. Now I can encourage others to do the same. I get to encourage them to find their own voice, to try their own innovations, and I get to help along the way.



Oh CRAAP, it’s a Test!

This post is responding to the “Holy CRAAP” activity in the Curator module of Ontario Extend. 

I found and discussed a series of Indigenization Guides earlier in this module, and now I’m applying the CRAAP test to evaluate the efficacy of the resources.

Currency: They’re current!

Relevance: One of my favourite elements of these guides is that they’re customized for specific target audiences, so the relevance is quite high for a multitude of stakeholders.

Accuracy: These Guides have been well consulted in a collaborative effort between BC Campus, the Ministry of Advanced Education, Skills and Training, and a steering committee comprised of leaders in Indigenous education. Teams of Indigenous and ally writers from across BC collaborated on the content. I do wonder if some modifications need to be made in an Ontario context; however, the foundational knowledge will remain the same. The guides are also quite careful to avoid painting all FNMI peoples with the same brush, and this active avoidance of homogeneity allows for accuracy as well as scalability.

Authority: Yes, as stated above, the guides are well consulted. It would be nice to see some reviews from an informed Ontario lens. Perhaps I’ll nudge a few faculty experts on campus and encourage them to conduct a review.

Purpose: The guides are meant to support systemic change and progress toward meaningful Indigenization of the curricula. They do present an argument in support of this change, so there is a bit of rhetoric at play, but for the most part they offer foundational knowledge.

One last time, here’s a link to the guides! Check em out. 


This post is responding to the “Find Your Fit” activity found in the Curator module of Ontario Extend.


Last week was Open Education Week, and we went gangbusters with our outreach efforts, both on campus and in the community. It was exciting, and exhausting. I could write thousands of joyful words about faculty interest in and adoption of OER. I feel like last year we started a conversation about Open Education. This year it’s starting to happen. It’s fabulous.

But anyway, this particular activity asks me to find an OER, indicating where I found it and how I can use it. In my other life (the nocturnal one), I’m a student in a Doctorate of Distance Education program. I’m in the process of completing a collaborative assignment that asked us to work in groups to identify a social justice issue, brainstorm an appropriate educational intervention, and suggest a leadership model / theory that best supports the implementation of said program. It was a doozy of an assignment.

We just presented our case last night, making an argument for the need to transition reconciliation efforts from token gesture, to truth and trauma-informed indigenization efforts. We suggested that transformational leadership and learning approaches are required to truly shift the school culture. I won’t bore you with the details here, but if this is an issue you’re passionate about, I’d love for you to check out our case study and recommendations. Please let me know what you think!

A major takeaway from researching this assignment is the abundance of high quality, targetted OER that’s been developed to support the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Final Report and Calls to Action. There is not a shortage of information, that’s for sure.

Pulling Together: Foundations Guide by Kory Wilson is licensed under CC BY-NC 4.0 

Take for example the Pulling Together guides. Available on eCampus Ontario’s Open Library, the guides are specifically designed for a variety of target audiences: Curriculum Developers, Front-Line Staff, Student Services, and Advisors, Teaching and Instructors, Leaders and Administrators. The authors also developed a Foundations Guide. Taken together, they are: 

intended to support the systemic change occuring acorss post-secondary institutions through Indigenization, decolonization, and reconciliation

(Wilson, 2018).

Like most post-secondary institutions, Cambrian is actively working on the TRC’s Calls to Action. I would love to see us utilizing these and other OER to help us gather as a learning community to find and forge pathways towards Indigenization.