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.

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…

Get excited and make cool shit.

Get Excited and Make Cool Shit

Bought this at the Student Print Show and Sale on March 19, 20 and 21, 2010 (Friday – Sunday) at the University of Guelph (Zavitz Buildling).

Print by Lizz Caston.

I’m not your guru!

from my wardrobe:

I'm not your guru

from Jesse Brown’s Search Engine:



from Seth Godin’s, Linchpin:

I’m always amazed when I meet a writer who can’t use a computer, or a lawyer who’s uncomfortable with LexisNexis, or an executive who needs a corporate IT person to help him navigate an e-mail system. If you’re a marketer unable to leverage your skills by using online tools, you’re merely linked to machines owned by the corporation. That’s power they don’t deserve.

The world just gave you control over the means of production. Not to master them is a sin.

DREAM and DO.

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Art.

Quotes from Seth Godin’s Linchpin:

An artist is someone who uses bravery, insight, creativity and boldness to challenge the status quo. And an artist takes it personally.

…art is the ability to change people with your work, to see things as they are and then create stories, images and interactions that change the marketplace.

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Design. Honestly.

Inspired this week by an encounter with A.M. García while at AccessAbility.

Antonio García is a Chicago-based strategist, writer and brand consultant for the industries of design + innovation. When he’s not shaping and sharing the stories and futures of authentic brands, he draws, designs and djs.

Here’s some of what he shared with me about design:

  • Authenticity is critical, especially communicating across cultures
  • Designers need to be observers, translators, communicators, ethnographers
  • It’s about “keeping it real”
  • It’s about more than “keeping it real”, it has to come from the heart
  • Understanding social mores helps align your work
  • Be flexible. Tell stories. Share insights. Be curious. Be worldly. Be inspired.

Think of yourself as a platform

I think the real leaders in my life, the people who have influenced me the most, share a common thread; they excel in creating the conditions in which good things can happen. Think of yourself as a platform. A utility or an environment that enables sharing, builds relationships and is extensible, allowing others to easily create other platforms on your building blocks. Be open source, sharing codes and secrets about what you do and why you do it. Join communities. Build communities.

Talk. Share. Learn. Create. Publish. Architect. Design.

A lot of what I do professionally is to create the conditions for education to happen. I work with a stellar team to configure tools to meet the needs of instructors and learners. We promote and support the effective use of these tools to better education. I’m passionate about it.

I’d love to know you’re passionate about. Let’s go for coffee sometime?

Software that knows you & the future of ePortfolio tools

Trudging up the hill this morning, with Spark 98 in my ears, listening to Nora interview Yorick Wilks about the Companions Project (Yorick, by the way, has one of the best names I’ve heard lately).

COMPANIONS aims to change the way we think about the relationships of people to computers and the Internet by developing a virtual conversational ‘Companion’.

This will be an agent or ‘presence’ that stays with the user for long periods of time, developing a relationship and ‘knowing’ its owners preferences and wishes. It will communicate with the user primarily by using and understanding speech.

We’ve seen the kernels of these connections in tools like Apple’s iPhoto faces and Google’s Similar Images. There are similar tools, but these jump to mind.

This got me to thinking about the future of ePortfolios, and other tools built on the foundation of collecting student work that to exhibit learning and achievement over time. I think some of the ideas behind the Companions Project could effectively be built into eP tools. Here’s the kind of thing I’m envisioning:

The learner is presented with a simple question: What are you learning?. The learner responds with a topic of research, theoretical examination, fact-based inquiry, or whatever’s relevant to their current situation. The student-to-“eP agent” conversation continues:

agent: What resources have you been looking at?
learner: Book X, public lecture Y, thisURLhere.com
agent: Tell me more about thisURLhere.com, what did you take away from it?

agent: I see in your repository that 20 months ago, you uploaded a file called “ABC*5555_Final”. We’ve scanned that article, and notice that “Author B” is included in your bibliography. “Author B” is one of the contributors to thisURLhere.com. How has your thinking changed from when you uploaded this article? Would you like to read more about Author B’s work?

agent: We’ve scanned your digital images (with your permission, of course), and noticed some potentially relevant pictures of your trip to “Mount Wonderful”. Would you like to look at those now, talk about them on them, and include these images and reflections in your ePortfolio?

The learner could grant permissions to the eP companion to scan their emails, documents, web history, and data related to their academic activity (transcripts, past grades, library record, etc). The engine behind it would make inferences and connections between these digital artifacts, and then prompt then be prompted to comment and reflect on them. The natural extension from this would be for the companion to branch out to other learners’ eP repositories and make connections and suggestions between them.

Eventually, the eP agent could ask, “Would you like me to create a draft presentation based on your collected artifacts and reflections on this topic?” or “You’ve clearly demonstrated activity and growth in the subject area of Woodland Ecology, and I notice you’re in your fourth year of studies. Would you like me to assemble a presentation for future employers?”

Sign me up for the beta.

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“In a digital world, the gift I give you almost always benefits me more than it costs.”

If you have yet to read Seth Godin’s new free ebook, What Matters Now, you probably should:

download free pdf

Broad thinking about “Things to think about (and do) this year” featuring:
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