Ontario Extend mOOC – Module 1

Assorted Lego on a wood floor.

I’m currently participating in the eCampus Ontario Extend mOOC focused on technology enabled learning.  As part of this medium sized Open Online Course (mOOC) it was suggested that participants keep an ongoing set of notes to document and organize their thoughts about the experience.  As a way to document my experience I’m going to be keeping informal blog notes that reflect on what I’m learning and the activities I’m engaging in via the mOOC.

Module 1 of the mOOC is all about “Teacher for Learning” and is really focused on student learning and the ways in which learning happens.  I’ll be working through this module’s activities this week and will be sharing my work below as I complete it:

Identify a concept that is often misunderstood in your discipline. Can you think of an analogy that can help make the concept make sense to students?
Students often misunderstand how archives are organized, which directly impacts their ability to search and effectively use archives.  As a way to help explain how archives work, I often compare/contrast archival organization with how libraries are organized (thematically). Eg. Where do you find all the books relating to World War I vs. how do you locate archival records about World War I is going to be a very different process.

The LibGuide Dalhousie University Libraries has put together about archival research has a particularly helpful chart that helps breakdown the differences between libraries and archives. The Archives@PAMA blog also has a great post about how archivists organize collections, which includes a great screenshot of search results for “horse” in a library database vs. an archival database.  When teaching, I often create a similar screenshot by using our institutional library catalogue and a local archives database.

Create a concept map of your course syllabus
I choose to create a concept map that could be used for the Introduction to Archival Studies course I taught last term.

Archival Studies Mind Map

Try watching a TED talk or conference keynote video yourself to practice your own note-taking skills using Cornell Notes.
I decided to watch Susie Sheehy’s “The case for curiosity-driven research” TED Talk for this activity.  You can see my Cornell Notes here.

Brainstorm a list of WIIFM (What’s in it for me?) from a student perspective.
Why should I care about archival theory? And what’s in it for me?
1) It will make your primary source research easier and more effective.  Seriously, knowing how archives are organized and described makes using them so much easier.
2) Likewise, learning how to navigate online databases can only benefit your work in other classes.
3) Understanding how bias is created in archives can help the development of critical reading and analysis skills.
4) Knowing how archives work will make visiting an archive go much smoother – the archivists are there to help!
5) Archival skills are interdisciplinary, so even if you aren’t a history major there is a good chance you will learn something about research, organization, and how knowledge is created/preserved over time.
6) Endless archival puns.

Respect Des Fawns with a picture of deer
Image by Rebecca Goldman, Derangement and Description Webcomic,  November 13, 2009. CC-NC-SA

What concept in your discipline is like driving a car? Can you identify the component skills required to master this concept or skill?
For this activity I focused on a public history skill and looked at writing exhibit text.  I worked to identify all of the numerous skills and work that goes into creating the text visitors see on the wall when they enter a heritage space.  I initially started this activity by just making lists of the types of invisible labour and skills that go into exhibition text creation.  After looking at my scribbles, I decided that putting this ideas into a graphic might help illuminate all of the component skills that go into exhibition text development.

Writing Exhibition text graphic

Create an introductory activity connected to your discipline to get to know your learners.
I struggled with this one.  I have some standard introductory activities for setting the stage on the first day of class, but they aren’t really discipline specific.  One idea that did seem fitting for a public history class was to have students discuss what their favourite heritage site was, followed by talking about the last heritage site they visited.

In an archives class I have had success with modifying the “Identifying & Dismantling White Supremacy in Archives” poster into a participatory activity where students identify power structures in Canadian archives.

I’m also a huge fan of using self location as a way to open up a classroom session, situate students, and begin to talk about colonialism. (The University I work at is located in a former Residential School site, so talking about this history is very local and important in my mind).

Thought Vectors — What “nugget” from the Faculty Patchbook resonated with you?
I picked a nugget from Patch Twenty-Three: (Un)Prepared by Sherri Spelic.

“It seems no matter how long I work at this, how many students I shepherd through a school year’s worth of physical education, I never, ever feel well prepared. In every class, each section, in contact with each student, there’s a portion of doubt that stays in attendance. Like a spying question mark that sits heavily on my shoulder, at times whispering: “Was that really necessary?” “What makes you think that idea will work?” or “That’s your best solution? This heap of doubt I carry around lives to judge and dissemble.”

This ‘nugget’ really hit the nail on the head around so many of the challenges associated with impostor syndrome. Some of my favourite examples of other works which tackle impostor syndrome include:

There are also a ton of fantastic images that breakdown impostor syndrome. One of my favourites is: Pie graph showing that everyone has impostor syndrome

Find a photo or draw a picture. Narrate why this image represents you and your approach as a teacher.
The first image that came to mind might be a bit of an exaggeration, but it is sometimes how I feel when I get really excited talking about archives and public history. I think the slightly conspiracy side of things might also come up when I start passionately talking about how museums and archives are not neutral and are active agents of colonialism. 

On a more serious note, I think an image that really represents my approach as a teacher is the image of crocuses popping up while there is still snow in the distance. I love the tenacity that comes with the growth of these little flowers. They often appear in the midst of snow and for me they represent a hopeful sign of Spring. In terms of connecting the image to my teaching approach I’d like to think that I’m always growing as both a teacher and learner. Likewise, as a teacher I aim to foster growth, inquiry, and encourage the challenging of structures. We can change the landscape of the future folks.Conspiracy wall

Crocus in a field with mountains in distance

Featured image credit: Markus Spiske on Unsplash

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