Category: Academic Community

Digital Sanctuary: New-Fashioned Hospitality, Slack and More

Starbucks machine on first floor of Hurley Convergence Center, UMW.
Nothing says “welcome!” like a Starbucks machine.

The past couple of days at Digital Pedagogy Lab have me thinking about the confluence of hospitality (a point of southern pride at UA, and perhaps also here in Fredericksburg, Virginia) and the new-to-me-concept of digital sanctuary (introduced by Amy Collier; more below!)

Hospitality clearly means something here at University of Mary Washington.  Beautiful architecture, brick sidewalks and fountains delight the eye; covered walkways provide shelter on rainy days; librarians adorn their outward-facing windows with declarations of “we will help!”  The Hurley Convergence Center offers all kinds of space for gathering and building community (not to mention a Starbucks machine on the first floor).

We at DigPedLab have been treated to a hot lunch every day in the student center cafeteria (even with school out of session!). A “Digicart” is ready to drive us when we need assistance, ensuring that no-one should struggle to be part of this group.  We have been offered pronoun buttons–they/them/theirs; she/her/hers; he/him/his–that help us not only signal easily about our preferred pronouns, but even more fundamentally hold space for any and all to be welcome and comfortable in their own personhood.

We Unconferenced, Now What?

On February 3, 2017, faculty and staff from 14 different colleges and over 25 divisions or academic units gathered for the first, annual University of Alabama Online Learning Innovation Summit.  Several participants remarked that this was the first time they had come together at UA to discuss online learning with such a diversity of disciplines and perspectives.

After a plenary session around online teaching, with a look at the projects of this year’s Innovation Scholars and Mentors, we broke into small group discussions around fostering academic community, communicating effectively with students, creating useful videos, using ThingLink, and user-generated media.

In the keynote by John Seely Brown, we were invited to consider for 21st-century learners the role of play and imagination, the importance of tinkering to stimulate lifelong learning, blended epistemologies in which learners create both content and context, and participatory knowledge strategies.

We heard from some of you after OLIS that you felt more encouraged to offer students a framework within which they can “tinker” or “play” to find more depth of knowledge, and that you were inspired to look for ways to allow students to participate more deeply in class activities.  One participant remarked, “I already focus on imagination and play in my courses, but I will do so even more and will guide students to reflect on how flexible thinking will help their future success.”

We’re providing you the OLIS Survey Results so you can learn how the unconference was experienced and what new ideas have emerged.  For an “in the moment” read, take a look at #olis2017 live tweeting, as well as the photo stream.

We look forward to exploring with you the potential outcomes (teaching ideas? tools? initiatives?) of OLIS and hope you will not only join us next year, but bring even more of your colleagues!  In the meantime, we would love to hear from you about how you are moving forward with exploration and implementation of new tools and ideas in your teaching.

 

What Innovation Looks Like

On January 26, 2017, eight Innovation Scholars and three Innovation Mentors were honored by the College of Continuing Studies (CCS) for their forward-thinking proposals to bring innovation to online teaching and learning.  Not long after, they served on a panel at the opening plenary session of the Online Learning Innovation Summit (#olis2017), jointly hosted by CCS, The College of Arts and Sciences, and UA Libraries.

The 2017 Innovation Scholars have proposed a range of projects aimed at increasing student engagement, building academic community and exploring emerging technologies in their online courses, and will work with the Innovation Team throughout the year to bring these projects to fruition. Innovation Mentors, recognized for the innovations they have already brought to their online courses, will be available to the online teaching community through posts on this blog, and in a fall workshop.  You can learn more about their projects here.  Subscribe to this blog for updates as their projects progress!

One of the greatest outcomes thus far has been the community that is forming around innovation in teaching, with all of its questions and possibilities. With two recent opportunities to come together, the Innovation Scholars and Mentors have not only shared their own projects, but have begun to explore ways in which ideas from one could be applicable to another–in other words, their ideas have the potential for multiple applications, and innovation is as contagious as we might have hoped!

Click here or on any of the reception photos below to see the full gallery. Photos taken at OLIS will be available soon. (If you would like higher-resolution versions of any of these photos, please contact the Innovation Team!)