Intensive Learning Opportunities

Group of Kings students standing in front of Shingwauk Hall, Algoma University.

Photo: Kings students standing in front of Shingwauk Hall, Algoma University.

Earlier this month I had the privilege of hosting over 40 students from King’s University College (Western University) during their visit to Algoma University.  The students spent a really long time on a bus traveled to Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario to spend a couple of days immersed in learning about residential schools and Indigenous communities.

This visit was somewhat unique in that it was completely organized by students. The trip was framed as a unique educational opportunity and as enrichment but not tied to one specific course.  The students were from a mixture of undergraduate disciplines and were at varying points in their respective programs. The organizing group approached me in October of 2017 with the idea for their trip and after months of correspondence and planning it was fantastic to see this experience come together.

The students had two full days of intensive programming on campus. The agenda included a historic our of the Shingwauk/AlgomaU site, discussion with a residential school survivor, an Indigenous youth panel, workshops facilitated by local Indigenous community partners, attending the Gathering at the Rapids Pow Wow, and lots of time for discussion and reflection.  It was a heavy couple of days with a lot of deep learning and with an emphasis on experiencing things first hand.  For many students it was their first time being on the site of a former residential school and it was the first time they had interacted with a residential school survivor in person.

Opportunities For Success
One of the byproducts of intensive learning is the sense of team building and community feeling that grows out of engagement in a transformative educational opportunity.  For me, the creation of a safe space and the generating of a community feeling were an essential part of developing the King’s programming.  Our opening activities, breakout sessions, and discussions were designed with inclusive and safe space practices in mind.  We also attempted to take a decolonized approach to debriefs by using sharing circles instead of Western classroom style engagement tools.

One of the benefits of intensive learning is the ability to incorporate experiential elements. This could looks like visiting local heritage sites, speaking with community members, or engaging in local events. I think the best intensive learning models look beyond the walls of the classroom and engage students in activities that they would not be able to experience as part of their regular coursework.

Space For Growth
One of the obvious challenges of intensive learning opportunities is the limited amount of time.  Facilitators are often trying to make the most out of a short time period by combining a range of learning opportunities and reflection techniques.  Inevitably, something isn’t going to make it into the final agenda.  This can be mitigated in part by providing resources for students to engage with prior to and following the intensive period.  This might take the form of required reading or viewing before the event, a list of take home resources, or a discussion forum organized to occur after the intensive.

In the case of the King’s visit one of the challenges was building in enough processing and reflection time. Dealing with historical trauma and first hands accounts of violence, systemic racism, and abuse can be challenging. We wanted to make sure that students left each day with tools to process the new information they were presented with and to ensure that they left knowing what support resources were available to them. Considering we only had two days together we spent a lot of that time in discussion and we engaged in a number of debrief and summary discussions.

As a facilitator I find intensive learning really rewarding, it is wonderful to be part of a group that is on an educational journey and to see them progressing in their understanding of a complex historical topic. Acting as a facilitator to this type of event is also really draining. Being on point for over eight hours each day is exhausting.  I would recommend building in co-facilitators or guest workshop leaders to any intensive learning program.  A collaborative approach to delivery means that the burden of instruction isn’t falling on one or two people – who will definitely be exhausted by the end of the experience.

Come up with experiential learning opportunities and developing schedules for intensive learning events can be challenging.  Come up with engaging programming that covers a range of topics and fitting it in a two or three days is tricky.  For folks engaged in this type of work I would suggest building in evaluation time, that way staff and participants can provide feedback on what worked and didn’t work.  One of the things I would consider going forward is making sure there is more ‘active’ time build into each day — even just doing activities which require participants to move around the room can help breakup long periods of sitting, which can be hard on attention spans and physical bodies.

Have you participated in any intensive learning programs? Do you like this style of education opportunities? 

Beyond the Lecture: Innovations in Teaching Canadian History

Today Active History announced “Beyond the Lecture” a new monthly series dedicated to renewed dialogue about best practices for teaching Canadian history at the post-secondary level.  This series is edited by Andrea Eidinger and I and is open to submissions.

How do you approach Canadian history in the classroom? Do you use digital history, public history, collaborative teaching practices? We want to hear about the innovative, experimental, and unique ways you are teaching Canadian history. Check out the full call for submissions for more details or get in touch with Andrea or I if you have questions.

Photo Credit:  Students in a classroom making notes and studying reference books in class. Carleton University, Ottawa, Ont, 1961. Library and Archives Canada, MIKAN Number

Revisiting Beyond 150

beyond 150 logo

Remember that awesome Twitter Conference Andrea Eidinger and I organized in August? You can now checkout a select number of the Beyond 150 presentations on the Canada’s History Society website.  Beyond 150 was “designed to encourage collaboration, public engagement, and spark discussion about Canada’s history in a way that is accessible to everyone. It aimed to uplift diverse perspectives, unrepresented histories, and support the work of early-career and emerging scholars.”

The five presentations highlighted by Canada’s History Society include:

I’m still so very happy with how #Beyond15CA turned out. I have gone back to a number of these presentations since the event and used a couple of them in the classroom.  Have a great idea for a 2018 twitter conference theme? Let me or Andrea know!

Canada Wide Wikipedia Edit-A-thon Reflection

Women yelling "[Edit] Cdnhist on green and purple background

It’s been a bit over a week since the Canada wide Wikipedia edit-a-thon that was organized by Jessica Knapp and myself.  As the dust has settled I’ve thought a bit about how the event went and ways in which future events could be improved.

Event Successes

I was thrilled with the level of participation we saw throughout the course of the event.  When we came up with the idea we had no idea who would participate or how much interest there would be from the Canadian historical community.  It was great to see people participating from across Canada and from so many different backgrounds. The event resulted in 12.9K words being added to Wikipedia, 259 total edits being completed, over 36 editors contributing, and 60 articles being edited.  It was also fantastic to see participation happening across Canada by university students, faculty, community groups, and high school students.  I was also presently surprised by the number of regional hosts that volunteered without explicit outreach from Jessica or I.

During the event organization stages Danielle Robichaud suggested using the Programs and Events Dashboard.  For anyone organizing an event in the future I would highly recommend using this platform to setup the event.  I might eliminate the use of the Wikipedia meetup page in future events and just opt for using the Dashboard.  Not everyone who participated signed into the Dashboard, but using it allowed us a much easier way to capture stats for the event then manually tracking everyone’s contributions.

I also had my undergraduate public history class participate in this event as part of their coursework.  I couldn’t be happier with how this in-class activity went.  The students were engaged and actively editing.  A few created new pages but a lot of the work that was being done was adding citations and cleaning up existing text. We also had a lot of interesting discussions around authority, who has the power to create history and what different people think is ‘important’ history.  I’d definitely consider using Wikipedia editing again in the classroom and would encourage instructors to use the Wiki Education resources to build assignments, track classroom participation, and provide resources to their students.

Food For Thought

I think it would be great to have more class groups involved in this type of event.  In order to facilitate that involvement I think doing outreach to specific faculty and teachers earlier would be beneficial.  For the case of faculty doing this outreach prior to them developing the syllabus for their class might be best. I think also providing faculty with suggestion of how to setup their classroom activities would be hugely helpful.  Similarly, reminding local hosts that they can apply to have the IP Account Creation Cap temporarily lifted during the event can help make things go smoother on the day of the edit-a-thon.

We created a Slack channel for this event in case anyone needed one-on-one support during the event.  Though a good way to provide that chat functionally the channel wasn’t used and could likely not be bothered with in future cases.  The #EditCdnHist hashtag on twitter worked well for promoting the event and also for facilitating some day of discussion.

Building in a couple of people to help with event follow-up and article cleanup is crucial.  For this year’s event I’ve been slowly working on this.  This follow-up involves things like reviewing the draft articles that were created, improving the articles that were created by new editors, and fixing formatting.  In some cases this work has been slightly hampered by some editors not signing into the Dashboard and having to spend some additional time search out what they worked on.

Did you participate in the #EditCdnHist event?  How was your experience? What could be done to make future events more successful? 

Best New Articles from September 2017

Andrea Eidinger over at Unwritten Histories has released her list of “Best New Articles from September 2017.” I’ve overjoyed by the fact that my “Archival Photographs in Perspective: Indian Residential School Images of Health” article is included on the best new articles list.

Go check out the rest of Andrea’s article recommendations for the past month, there are a number of really interesting and must read Canadian history articles on the list.

Hacking History: Wikipedia Edit-a-Thons as Public Engagement

Women yelling "[Edit] Cdnhist on green and purple background
Edit Canadian History on Wikipedia
Jessica Knapp of Canada’s History and I are organizing a Canada wide Wikipedia edit-a-thon with a focus on editing Canadian History content.  Join us on October 18, 2017 at a regional site or virtually to improve Canadian History content on Wikipedia!

Want to know more? Check out our “Hacking Histories” blog post on Unwritten Histories.  The post explains the details of the event, how you can participate, and answers some of the common Wikipedia questions.

A huge thank you to Andrea Eidinger for her willingness to host this post and for her support of this event.

Rivers Speak Community Play

Rivers Speak Logo reads "The Rivers Speak, Gigdoowag Ziibiik, Les Riveres Parlent"
Rivers Speak Logo

I recently had the opportunity to attend the Gigidoowag Ziibiik (Rivers Speak) Community Play.  This fantastic project was the culminating event of Thinking Rock Community Arts‘ efforts to engage community members in story telling and art making.  Since 2013 Thinking Rock has involved over 1500 individuals in hands-on making and storytelling with an emphasis on reflecting on local rivers and waterways.  This initiative also worked to create spaces for cross-cultural conversations and involve both Indigenous and settler communities. 

The Rivers Speak play included over 30 cast members of all ages and was held on the traditional pow wow grounds of Misswezhaging (Mississaugi First Nation).  This community art project was a joy to see come to fruition.  The play was based on the stories, oral histories, and memories collected by Thinking Rock since 2013.

The play intertwined settler and Indigenous perspectives on water, community, and family — it followed Marie (settler) and Ira (Indigenous) community members who lived locally but passed away within recent years. The play was guided by two local elders and the narration was a mixture of English and Ojibway.  It also included audience participation components – for example the audience walked through an outdoor living stage and were invited to participate in a round dance at the end of the play.

It was an extremely powerful experience to participate in as an audience member and it was beautiful to see such a nuanced story come together based on community narratives and memories.  The work undertaken by Thinking Rock is a great example of community engaged history, community arts and participatory story building. I’m looking forward to seeing what projects Thinking Rock tackles in the future.

Reflecting on Camping and the Parks System

Group of women carrying a canoe overhead
Unidentified group of women carrying a canoe, Winnipeg, 1940s. Library and Archives Canada. MIKAN 4328425

I’ve went camping twice this summer and stayed at three Provincial Parks in Ontario as part of that experience.  I’ve been thinking a lot about the complicated nature behind the parks system, the dispossession of Indigenous people from parks and the lack of acknowledgement of the traditional usage of the land by Parks.  None of the parks I visited this year had signage about the history of the park or about the park’s relationship to the local Indigenous communities.

Last year I visited Pukaskwa Nation Park.  It is the only Park I’ve visited to date that is actively working with the local First Nation community to reinterpret the site and to include a discussion of the community’s history on the land. Pukaskwa’s staff included an Indigenous Cultural Interpreter – who was from Pic River First Nation, the local First Nation community that was impacted by the creation of Pukaskwa.  The were also in the process of creating an Anishinaabe Camp for cultural programming and the “Bimose Kinoomagewanan” trail signage was created by local elders and youth from Pic River.

Pukaskwa serves as one example of parks addressing their problematic past.  I would be interested in knowing of any other examples out there.  As visitors what can settlers do to encourage more critical interpretation? As a first step speaking with the folks staffing the visitors centre and interpreters to ask them about what they know about the park’s history can help.  If they don’t mention the traditional Indigenous territory of the land ask why. Ask them why there is no discussion of the land prior to the park being established and if there is any plans to change that.  Talk with the people you are camping with – have those important conversations about land and history – even if it makes you or them uncomfortable.

For additional context I would suggest reading Anne Janhunen’s The Holiday Spirit Will Prevail’: Settler Colonialism and Indigenous Erasure in Ontario’s ‘Cottage Country‘ presentation and Robert Jago’s “Canada’s National Parks are Colonial Crime Scenes.”

Webinar: Editing Wikipedia Part Two

The recording of the final webinar of the “Wikipedia as Outreach and Activism for Canadian History” series I hosted with Jessica Knapp from Canada’s History Society is now available. I was the main presenter in this webinar  which focused on “Diving Into Wikipedia Editing Basics” and included an introduction and technical walk through of basic editing skills.  It included how to make basic edits to fix content, how to add citations and references, and how to use the article wizard to create your first article.

It was wonderful to work with Jessica on this webinar series and I love that it gave me an excuse to work on some of the Wikipedia projects that have been languishing on my to-do list.

Webinar: Editing Wikipedia Part One

The recording of the third Wikpedia focused webinar in the series I’m hosting with Jessica Knapp from Canada’s History Society is now available. I was the main presenter in this webinar and my presentation focused on the basics of editing Wikipedia.  During my talk I tried to answer some of the following questions: Why should we contribute to Canadian History on Wikipedia? What are the basic principals of editing Wikipeda? How can I contribute to Wikipedia? And how do I get started?  I also talked about Wikipedia as a form of outreach and about the community building that can occur through editing Wikipedia.

Next week’s webinar will build upon the basics discussed in this webinar and include a step-by-step walk through of some of the editing basics.  So if you’re interested in learning how to edit an existing article, add a citation to an article, or how to use the new article wizard this is the webinar for you.  Join us at 2:00 pm ET on Wednesday August 3rd..