Guelph: Putting the Higher in Higher Ed., since 1964

rock climbing

cc: flickr.com/photos/macieklew

If you know Guelph, you know that Gordon Street Hill is more than a change in elevation. The University sits atop the hill, allowing one to rise out of the depths of downtown and ascend to the glory of higher education.

Now don’t read me wrong, I love the UofG. I’m an staff member, a volunteer and an alumnus. As I said in a previous post, it’s a comprehensive, world-class institution, dedicated to excellence in education.

Again, don’t read me wrong, I love Downtown Guelph. It’s a creative place, with some wonderful, intelligent people doing awesome things.

“The Hill”, however, presents some considerable struggles connecting the University and the Community; physically, culturally and mentally. I’ve talked about this a couple times recently.

I’ve been thinking about this over the past couple months, as we were putting together ePortfolio Week. A tool like an ePortfolio is a powerful one because it’s focus is on the user as opposed to the course. As such, it an serve as a platform for connection between academics, extra-curricular, career and community life. One of the goals was to have an event take place downtown, to make a direct link between “life atop the hill” and “life below”.

eP week lecture

I’m heartened by the fact that I’m not alone in the discussions around the need for University-Community engagement in Guelph. There has been some great work done through a number of partnerships recently to connect the two: Institute for Community Engaged Scholarship, Café Philosophique, Café Scientifique, Guelph Jazz Festival and Colloquium. There are certainly other initiatives I’ve left out.

What are other Universities doing to bridge these gaps? How can we continue to build University-Community engagement? Do physical structures help? Better transit? Funky new initiatives and partnerships?

Envisioning 2020

TEDxGuelphU

This year’s TEDxGuelphU conference, envision 2020, will convene leading thinkers and doers of the community:

This is the second TEDxGuelphU, a student run initiative at the University. Props to this year’s organizing team for putting together an awesome event. Tickets for the live audience are sold out. The event will be livestreamed on on the TEDxGuelphU homepage.

Master of Karaoke?

Karaoke Star!

cc: flickr.com/photos/derekgavey

From the “Research Interests” section of my application package:

“My course work will focus on media, technology and literacy. The proposal for my research project is to focus on media-enhanced presentation styles that encourage improvisation and participation. Specifically, I will be examining PechaKucha, Ignite, PowerPoint Karaoke, and Battle Decks events. My final project will explore how these presentation styles can contribute to meaning-making and community building in an educational setting.

My research will focus on these presentation styles as a new type of literary form; a digital, participatory, fluid and multi-modal script. Through an examination of these presentation formats, I’ll discuss how the enforced structure of these styles affects the information presented, suggesting that the rules demand a creative and intentional approach to meaning-making. I will look at ways in which this enhanced script creates a new performative experience, establishing new relationships between the presenter, audience members and external online participants who are contributing to the discourse during the presentation. I will explore the interplay between the live events and the online commentary, examining how the boundaries blur between the "real" presentation and the "backchannel" conversation, and how this interplay can serve to enhance or distract from the intended meaning of the performance.

My research will draw from and advance the work done by Guelph’s Media Education Project and the international Improvisation, Community, and Social Practice research project. I will be working with educators to explore how these presentation styles can be incorporated into course delivery and student assessment.  Together with these educators, I will explore the new literacies necessary for students to be able to effectively participate in and learn from these new presentation styles.  Beyond the context of the University, I will build partnerships with the technology and arts community and community-based organizations, with the goal of creating a community engaged approach to this scholarship.”

@barrydahl put it well: “Cool – you’re going to get a degree in PechaKucha and Karaoke. I’m looking for a program in slot car racing and ping pong.”

I’ll show him!

Master of Everything/Degree in Nothing

I’ve had some interesting conversations with folks lately with regards to my re-entry into grad studies. These comments range from humourous, to supportive, to vaguely critical:

A Masters of Arts in a liberal, flexible program? Where’s that going to get you, Kyle? It sounds like “a Degree in Nothing”.

Michael Amick, who I’m working with on a presentation for eLearning 2011, suggests that it’s actually degree in everything. Let’s go with that.

One Twisted Venn Diagram

cc: flickr.com/photos/love4loaded

Master-y

masterlock

cc: flickr.com/photos/spyndle

As I mentioned in a previous post, I’m on the eve of re-entry into the world of academe (as a student). My short-list has been shortened and shaken around a bit. What’s surfaced is the Masters Program from the School of English and Theatre Studies (SETS) at the University of Guelph.

It cannot be discounted that pursuing a degree from the University of Guelph in many ways is convenient for me. As a resident of Guelph, and an employee of the University, the logistical aspects of participating in this program are highly attractive. It’s actually for these reasons that I had discounted pursuing further studies at Guelph. It seemed “too easy”, and the voices in my head were telling me to take a more challenging path.

I have many ties to the University, being an alumni, a volunteer and staff member. I am familiar with many of its programs, faculty and staff. I’m repeatedly impressed with the caliber of scholarship and teaching that comes from Guelph. It’s a comprehensive, world-class institution, dedicated to excellence in education.

From the SETS website:

The School of English and Theatre Studies provides life-changing experiences for all our students, offering a top-notch, student-centered education and the opportunity to combine the academic with the social through school events, guest lectures, and student societies. Students work with high profile creative writers, directors, playwrights, and scholars recognized for the quality and dedication of their teaching.

SETS has a number of amazing projects on the go; Canadian Adaptations of Shakespeare, TransCanada Institute, and two that I’m really looking forward to getting involved in,

Media Education Project

Media Education Project, a “digital learning commons providing materials, resources and inspiration for media educators”.

Improvisation, Community and Social Practice

Improvisation, Community and Social Practice, “defining a new field of interdisciplinary inquiry…fosters innovative partnerships with community-based organizations…highlights collaboration with arts presenters, educators, and policy makers…inventive flexibility…creative risk-taking…”

Why wouldn’t I want to study here?

All I Want for Christmas is an Open Education!

Open

cc: flickr.com/photos/cat1205123

It’s high time I started another degree. I’ve been shopping around for a couple of years now, and (mostly), I have it down to a couple institutions:

Both very attractive programs, and I’m sure I’d learn a lot.

As I’ve been shopping, I’ve been reading Don Tapscott’s latest epic, Macrowikinomics. It’s a great book. I found myself thinking “Hey, I’m not crazy! Other people think like this too!” (Or, maybe more to the point, at least I’m not alone.) In Chapter 8, Rethinking the University: Collaborative Learning, Tapscott proposes that we need to embrace open and collaborative learning in a “Global Network for Higher Learning”. He questions,

Why is the university the unit of measurement when it comes to branding a degree? In fact, in a networked world, why should a student have to assign his or her “enrollment” to a given institution, akin to declaring loyalty to some feudal fifedom?

There’s been some great scholarship and initiatives on the concept of “open courses” of late. Shouts out to Alec Couros, Stephen Downes, Dave Cormier, Bryan Alexander, George Siemens, David Wiley, Jim Groom and others for being trail-blazers on this.

What I’m after though is an open degree.

From what I’ve researched, a number of institutions will allow a small number of courses to come from outside the program and still be counted towards the degree (usually no more than two, although I’ve seen at least one allowing four…maybe under special circumstances, and with major administrative hassles). So, here’s my question, and my pitch: I’ll concede that I have to have a home institution, but what I’d like to do is take “one half less one” credits from other institutions, so that >50% of my credits come from my “home”.

Now, I may be missing something. There may be a program out there that allows this flexibility. If there is please let me know. If you work at one of these magical, enlightened institutions I will sign up! I am an excellent student. Believe me. And, if you want to help me with my quest, in any way, shape or form…

Teaching and Learning Awesome People Exchange Program

This week, I spent two days this week in Ottawa, consulting with the staff from the Educational Development Centre at Carleton University.

A number of Ontario Universities are in the midst of a review of their Learning Management Systems. I was honoured to be asked to visit so that they could “pick my brain” to see what they could learn (good, bad, scary, and exciting…almost exciting) from my experiences and reflections having recently been involved in the University of Guelph’s migration from Blackboard/WebCT to Desire2Learn.

I was able to share some ideas around implementation and configuration, as well as communication and training/orientation plans. I’m far from an expert in LMS administration, but after over a decade of working with features, bugs, and the occasional “gotcha”, we easily filled a couple days of conversation about lessons learned and best practices (or at least ”better practices”).

Finishing up, I started to turn an idea around in my head that’s been lingering for awhile now. Let’s call it the “Teaching and Learning Awesome People Exchange Program” (which conveniently can be shortened to TALAPEP. Catchy? Not really, no.

So, under TALAPEP, awesome people working in Teaching and Learning (or similarly-mandated) centres would be given the opportunity have placements in other centres or exchange jobs with people nationally or internationally who work in similar (or almost similar) capacities. “PEPpers” could be matched up according to technologies used, or projects underway, or whatnot.

Do programs like this exist already? They should.