Thanks to an invitation from my TRU colleague Brian Lamb, I was lucky enough to find myself attending A Day for Learning at Thompson Rivers University in Kamloops last week. It was a wonderful day and I fear that I have taken away much more than I contributed to the success of the event.
The day underscored for me that I need to have these types of events & discussions at my institution. Set aside some space and time, bring together the right people and spend a day talking about teaching and learning, innovation & dreams. It is easy to become insular in any position within an organization, and this event illustrated how valuable it is to bring a diverse group of people from across the institution together. Personally, it came at exactly the right moment for me as I have been grappling with issues of leadership and what that means. This day was a shining example of the types of things leaders like Brian, Irwin DeVries and Christine Adam do, and something I want to recreate at my institution soon.
I also had the opportunity to meet and hang out with a couple of very smart people; Jeff Miller from UBC and one of my EdTech inspirations, Jim Groom from UMW in Virginia, who both came to TRU as a special guest speakers for this event. Although it sounds contradictory, Jeff gave (in the course of 90 minutes) an expansive, yet beautifully concise, overview of how higher education has changed, taking us back to the birth of higher ed in our province right up to MOOC’s. It was an engaging and interactive session that showed what a skilled and knowledgeable facilitator Jeff is.
Jim followed with a presentation on innovation that revolved around the wonderful Culture of Innovation video that came out of UMW a few months ago. I found the video utterly inspiring the first time I viewed it several months ago for a number of reasons, not the least of which was for the type of institutional buy-in that Jim and the DLTL crew has managed to garner with their ideas and innovations. But having Jim there to break down the video and explain (in as much detail as he could in an hour) the methods behind his madness grounded the inspirational aspect of the video for me. I want to flesh out some thoughts, especially around the concept of A Domain of Ones Own, in a future post as it is the type of initiative that aligns well with my underlying philosophy of the importance networked learning.
There were other takeaway moments. Three students sharing their observations about learning and what engages and motivates them to learn, including the revelation from a particularly focused online student who made Instructional Designers around the world gasp when they boldly stated that they never did coursework in their online courses, only assignments.
There was also a poignant and moving opening address from TRU elder Estella Moller, which evoked some pretty powerful personal memories of my roots growing up with a father who taught trades at a college in a predominantly First Nations community in Northern Alberta. As a long, but important side note, if you are interested in the history of higher education and First Nations in Canada, I urge you to watch the 20 minute documentary on the history of Portage College that shows how it came to be. It is a powerful story of determination, resistance, community action and the belief that education is a transformational experience and the key to a better life.
I think I have more to say about the ideas that came out of the day, but for now just end by expressing my thanks to Brian, Irwin and Chris for including me in the day, and hope I can return the invitation in the near future.