Immersive Learning Research Network Conference 2019

The fifth annual Immersive Learning Research Network conference was held this month in London, England. This conference brings together an international group of developers, educators, and research professionals from a range of  disciplines who collaborate to develop the scientific, technical, and applied potential of immersive learning. In particular, conference participants share their research in an ongoing effort to continually examine the elements that create effective immersive learning experiences. 

I had heard about the conference from one of the organizers, Jonathan Richter, who had presented a keynote at the Virtual Worlds Best Practices in Education conference in April. I had presented at that in-world conference. Jon had let me know that there was still room for poster presentations at iLRN19, so I had the honor to represent San Jose State University at an international community event.

Bethany at iLRN 2019

My poster synthesized research on the affordances of virtual worlds, and my experiences as both participant and in-world builder for the last year and a half. All of the conference events were great, but I was particularly inspired by Jim Purbrick’s presentation Lessons Learned in Virtual Worlds. As a former developer for Second Life, (and current engineering manager of Oculus VR in the UK), Jim articulated the increasing importance of understanding the social aspect of collaborating in open virtual worlds. Of course, I think the best way to do that is join the educators and librarians who have been holding events and conferences in virtual worlds like Second Life and OpenSim for the last 10 years. So if you have any such interest, do let me know!

If you’re interested in the research, the conference proceedings (linked here) contain 18 final papers selected from 60 submissions. These papers fall into seven different categories; STEM, disciplinary applications, special education, history, pedagogical strategies, immersion and presence. I’ve also linked here to a PDF version of my poster. (From the QR code on my poster you can access additional information and videos about virtual worlds I have posted on Canvas.)

I hope San Jose State will have an even bigger presence at the conference next year, when it will be held in June at Cal Poly San Louis Obispo! 

Generous Thinking: Farewell Semester – Hello Summer Reading!

On the heels of my last post about Open Digital Pedagogy & FERPA and in line with a previous post, Live-Tweeting as Public Engagement, I would like to conclude my semester of guest-blogging for eCampus with a turn towards a summer read:

Generous Thinking: A Radical Approach to Saving the University by Kathleen Fitzpatrick (@kfitz on Twitter).

Fitzpatrick’s previous book, Planned Obsolescence: Publishing, Technology and the Future of the Academy, was built on her earlier blog of the same name, a blog that established not only a public representation of her work, but also a community of early academic bloggers who were struggling with the same ideas. With Generous Thinking, Fitzpatrick implores academia to expand outwards, to work in public, to work with the Public. And, for us, that means modeling this for our students in addition to bringing them along for the ride through our research, teaching them through active learning engagement, and articulating the value of education as more than a vocation.

Fitzpatrick queries:

“So it’s important for us to ask ourselves: Do we understand the people who are not on campus to be an audience–a passive group that merely takes in information that the university provides? Do we understand them to be a public, a self-activated and actualized group capable not only of participating in multidirectional exchanges both with the university and among its members, but also of acting on its own behalf? Or even more, do we consider them to be a complex collection of communities–not just groups who interact with one another and with us, but groups of which we are in fact a part? How can we shape this understanding in a way that might begin to create a richer, more interactive, more generous sense not just of ‘them’ but of the larger ‘us’ that we together form?” (8)

As we embark upon graduation season and watch many of our students ascend the stage, shake hands with various truly proud and enthusiastic representatives of SJSU, look out into the wide crowd of cheers, accept that marker of their success, and proceed out into the world —  have we given them the intellectual understandings to do the very thing that Fitzpatrick is asking of us in academia?

Those of you who have been participating in the eCampus professional development seminars, sessions, and lunch n’learn over the past year are taking up this challenge to teach through active learning strategies in such a way that students become life-long learners and the leaders within this larger community of “us” that Fitzpatrick implores us to embrace.

All of this community building is situated within values — what do we value in a master’s granting public university? What do you value?

I’ve learned a lot about my colleagues and shared values over my career here at SJSU, but what I didn’t realize is that we don’t all need to share the same values. We do, however, need to work towards respecting each other’s values. That point came clearly from Dr. Beronda Montgomery (“Mapping a Mentoring Roadmap and Developing a Supportive Network Strategic Career Advancement”), who I met at the HumetricsHSS workshop back in October 2017. Dr. Montgomery’s plant metaphors (see “From Deficits to Possibilities: Mentoring Lessons from Plants on Cultivating Individual Growth through Environmental Assessment and Optimization“) articulated the way in which I’ve been governing my career. At that workshop, groups were tasked with creating a set of values for “measuring” Humanities work. My group took Dr. Montgomery’s mentoring analogies to heart and created a plant that grows with the sun:

We struggled to articulate this messy non-linear visualization of values, but in the end, determined that they were all intertwined and propelled by “public good” — the very value that is the foundation of our state-funded, public university.

With all of the recent outcries about education failing our next generations, I counter with the recognition that on Monday mornings, people are busy searching the Internet to discuss plot development, character assassination, CGI dragons, Medieval tortures, monarchies, wartime strategies, and an 8-year long epic drama. Or, the excitement over the most recent solar eclipse witnessed with special glasses here in San Jose. Or the ethical dilemma with uses of machine learning and artificial intelligence. Or, the study of California’s devastating wild fires. All of this is discussed and studied here, on our campus. We are creating these conversations among faculty, among students, among the Public by the very virtue of being a public university graduating under-served communities, first-generation college students, among several other valuable and valued communities.

I’m a little far afield from digital pedagogy today in this final post. But, our pedagogical strategies rely upon our values and our passion in continuing to teach at this public institution. Digital pedagogy, flipped classrooms, active learning, high impact practices all allow for an inquisitive fascination with the evolution of the world.

“By finding ways to connect with readers and writers beyond our usual circles of experts, in a range of different registers, and in ways that move beyond enabling them to listen to us to instead allow for meaningful dialogue and collaboration, we can create the possibilities for far more substantial public participations in and engagement with a wide range of kinds of academic work” (135).

As we work publicly through all of these pedagogical practices, we model for our students how to engender this “larger ‘us’ that we together form.” Join me in congratulating them this week for their successful navigation of higher education and their continuing journey as that “larger ‘us.'”

Open Digital Pedagogy & FERPA

In these posts this semester, I’ve covered some big, sweeping topics — and continued that conversation in the Digital Pedagogy Workshop last month. As the semester begins to wrap up, there’s one or two final elements to using Digital Pedagogy that we haven’t covered. As we ask students to engage with High Impact Practices, participate in our RSCA activities, represent the public face of SJSU, we also need to consider the boundaries of openness.

What follows are a series of responses that the 3 authors of the introduction to Digital Pedagogy in the Humanities have discussed or experienced in our long journey towards completing this project.

[from DRAFT “Introduction” of Digital Pedagogy in the Humanities, authored by Rebecca Frost Davis, Matthew K. Gold, and Katherine D. Harris. Reference to draft version of May 1, 2019 — due for final digital, open access completion in 2019 on a searchable & user-friendly digital platform]

Continue Reading…

Active Learning Certificate Program

Okay!! How does it sound, being in a place full of different faces, different thought processes, different needs, staring at you hoping to find answers to some unknown questions? Scary Right?

Yes, Indeed it is. It’s tough being a teacher. Being a graduate student and having years of schooling, I have realized how difficult being a teacher is when I received this opportunity to assist them. Yes, I realized working here at eCampus, how the teachers work hard to help students, how every student in the class they have matters to them, and how important is it for them to make sure every student gets benefits out of their classes.

Teaching requires you to have a job skill that combines the expertise required for many jobs. You should be a great presenter, an actor, an entertainer, a reporter, an examiner, a motivator, an artist, and the list goes on and why not? We have examples below to prove that:

Great Teachers
A teacher who changed my life

We at eCampus provide resources to give your teaching skills just the right garnishing so that it can be showcased the right way to the world.  When you have the passion to teach, why not just make it worth the while, why not enjoy doing it by getting the best out of it.

The Active Learning Certificate Program gives a nudge to your existing skills and also helps to endorse them.  The program consists of varied workshops to help you know more about how to approach teaching in ways that engage your students. The focus is on implementing activities in your class to improve participation and collaboration and not just simply sit and listen the lectures.

The topics addressed in each workshop gives you the elixir of exemplary teaching. The program helps you understand the habits of mind, strategies to deepen student collaborations, recommendations of ways to induce brainstorming, build connections, techniques for using groups effectively in class, methods behind the art of explaining concepts by real world examples, ideas for managing the class timing, references for preparing tests the optimal way, strategies for improving class outcomes, and additional tips.

This program was offered this spring, and we had a diverse cohort of instructors who participated and took a step closer to support their passion for teaching. View the list of faculty members who joined the program during Spring 2019:

Participating faculty members Spring 2019

We know you would really go further and beyond to make your efforts bring better results, so why not start by taking this extra mile of joining the Active Learning Certificate Program and get the classroom that is challenging, interactive, creative and aware. Sounds interesting right?