The Real World of Technology Re-Visited

In May, I had the privilege and honour to present a session at Mount Royal University’s Liberal Education conference.  https://www.liberaleducation.ca/

In May, I had the privilege and honour to present a session at Mount Royal University’s Liberal Education conference. https://www.liberaleducation.ca/

My presentation was a 30-year retrospective on Ursula Franklin’s The Real World of Technology. Franklinewas prescient.

Franklin suggests that technology tends to displace the human and transform the nature of experience.  As technology displaces human muscle and human mind and alleviates the shortcomings of being human, the human is not so much enhanced as much as it is minimized. Franklin says,

As more and more of daily life in the real world of technology is conducted via prescriptive technologies, the logic of technology begins to overpower and displace other types of social logic, such as the logic of compassion or the logic of obligation, the logic of ecological survival or the logic of linkages to nature.

This is not just polemic. A good example of this overpowering displacement is that when, in 2007 the Oxford Junior Dictionary was published — a sharp-eyed reader noticed that around forty common words concerning nature had been dropped. Apparently they were no longer being used enough by children to merit their place in the dictionary. The list of these “lost words” included acorn, adder, bluebell, dandelion, fern, heron, kingfisher, newt, otter, and willow.  Among the words taking their place were attachment, blog, broadband, bullet-point, cut-and-paste, and voice-mail.

Franklin suggests we need to consider machines and devices as cohabitants on this earth, and in Simon Winchester’s The Perfectionists, he writes, “The numbers are beyond incredible. There are now more transistors at work on this planet (some 15 quintillion) than there are leaves on all the trees in the world.” This is the overpowering and displacing effect of technology.

Liberal education is also being overpowered and displaced.  Throughout this symposium, several presenters suggested that automation and liberal education can play nicely with one another.  If they can, it will only be to the extent that liberal education serves the logic of technology.  If more examples and events like this cannot be accomplished to question the logic of technology and its displacing effect, Franklin warns that the house that technology built will not become anything more than an unlivable techno-dump.  Franklin says, “I have long subscribed to what I call Franklin’s earthworm theory of social change. Social change will not come to us like an avalanche down the mountain. Social change will come through seeds growing in well prepared soil – and it is we, like the earthworms, who prepare the soil.” 

My fellow worms, let us thank MRU and MHC for preparing the soil.

Medicine Hat College Wins EBSCO Solar Grant

EBSCO Solar.JPG

Medicine Hat College in Medicine Hat, Alberta, Canada, has recently embarked on several innovation projects in the renewable energy sector with the intent of providing students, faculty and the community an opportunity to learn about emerging technologies. Currently, the post-secondary institution has a micro grid at its Medicine Hat campus that includes an electric vehicle charging station, solar panels and wind turbines. Recognizing the growing opportunity in this industry, the college is providing learners a chance to broaden their skills, so they are prepared for tomorrow’s workplace. The EBSCO grant will allow Medicine Hat College to expand its investment and continue its research into renewables at the Brooks campus.

The EBSCO Solar grant will provide the college an opportunity to showcase a creative and functional solar ‘garden’ that will educate students, residents and businesses in the region on how to effectively implement the use of alternative resources. The project will be incorporated into the natural landscape with the help of Built Environment Engineering Technologies and Trades students. Jason Openo, Director of Teaching and Learning at Medicine Hat College Library, says, “I am most excited about the opportunity this grant provides to our Built Environment Engineering students, who will have an authentic learning experience in designing and constructing for the library a beautiful, solar-powered classroom and community space. This literally equips them with the skills necessary to build a new future for our community and our province.”

https://www.ebsco.com/news-center/press-releases/ebsco-information-services-announces-2019-ebsco-solar-grant-winners

Absolutely thrilled to be have been part of this project. My role was to pull the right people together. So blessed to work with a group of talented and committed people.

The International Dimension of Academic Integrity: An Integrative Literature Review

Canadian Symposium on Academic Integrity.PNG

Over half a million international students now study in Canada. This rapid increase in international enrollments has intensified focus on academic integrity because the stakes are high for both international students and the institutions that host them. Academic integrity violations involving international students may garner scandalous attention, and the international students who become entangled in incidents of academic misconduct face potentially devastating life consequences, including expulsion from academic studies and dishonor in family life. International students studying in Canada, particularly those whose first language is not English, face several hurdles not experienced by their Canadian counterparts. Overcoming these cultural barriers is a shared interest and a top strategic priority because academic credentials are a signal that assert students have mastered academic norms of the new culture. There remains considerable debate surrounding international students regarding their increased likelihood to commit academic integrity violations, and this integrative literature review explores the intersection of academic integrity and international students. It takes a broad and holistic approach to identify areas of conflict and knowledge gaps, with a focus on successful institutional interventions that proactively reduce the likelihood of academic misconduct. Little research details efficacious methods to reduce incidents of academic integrity violations involving international students, but taking stock of current interventions provides some guidance to institutions welcoming international students, and the faculty who teach them, so that they can both be successful in addressing academic integrity issues.

Assessment blues: How authentic assessments saved my teaching soul

Openo, J. (2018). Assessment blues: How authentic assessments saved my teaching soul.  Journal for Research and Practice in College Teaching, 3 (2), 171-174. Retrieved from  https://journals.uc.edu/index.php/jrpct/article/view/908/816

Openo, J. (2018). Assessment blues: How authentic assessments saved my teaching soul. Journal for Research and Practice in College Teaching, 3(2), 171-174. Retrieved from https://journals.uc.edu/index.php/jrpct/article/view/908/816

Abstract

I was either going to quit teaching or I was going to make assessment mean something to me. My interest in creating engaging and meaningful assessments did not start with students, it arose from my desire to stop the stultifying process of inviting meaningless student work (that I had assigned!). I was, after all, ultimately responsible for doing this to them and to me.  Authentic assessments are the answer.  Authentic assessments are ill-defined and open-ended tasks that provide opportunities for students to apply their learning on real-world problems relevant to their discipline (Conrad & Openo, 2018). Students work collaboratively and practice communication, problem solving, self-management and teamwork in mastering course content. I didn’t know about authentic assessments when I first started instructing, but that’s the direction I headed in instinctually.

The international dimension of academic integrity: An integrative literature review

I am presenting a session at the sold-out Canadian Symposium on Academic Integrity next week. Here is the abstract and the integrated model that my brilliant graphic designer Andrea Woods came up with.

Abstract

Over half a million international students now study in Canada.  This rapid increase in international enrollments has intensified focus on academic integrity because the stakes are high for both international students and the institutions that host them.  Academic integrity violations involving international students may garner scandalous attention, and the international students who become entangled in incidents of academic misconduct face potentially devastating life consequences, including expulsion from academic studies and dishonor in family life.  International students studying in Canada, particularly those whose first language is not English, face several hurdles not experienced by their Canadian counterparts.  Overcoming these cultural barriers is a shared interest and a top strategic priority because academic credentials are a signal that assert students have mastered academic norms of the new culture.  There remains considerable debate surrounding international students regarding their increased likelihood to commit academic integrity violations, and this integrative literature review explores the intersection of academic integrity and international students.  It takes a broad and holistic approach to identify areas of conflict and knowledge gaps, with a focus on successful institutional interventions that proactively reduce the likelihood of academic misconduct.  Little research details efficacious methods to reduce incidents of academic integrity violations involving international students, but taking stock of current interventions provides some guidance to institutions welcoming international students, and the faculty who teach them, so that they can both be successful in addressing academic integrity issues. 

To cheat or not to cheat? This integrated model outlines the research-based reasons why students choose to commit or not commit academic integrity violations. Most have some theoretical correlation. International students face intensified pressures around success, rewards to be gained (permanent residency), and social norms (some may come from countries where corruption is commonplace). Conversely, some international students may have stronger ethical beliefs related to respect for authority.

To cheat or not to cheat? This integrated model outlines the research-based reasons why students choose to commit or not commit academic integrity violations. Most have some theoretical correlation. International students face intensified pressures around success, rewards to be gained (permanent residency), and social norms (some may come from countries where corruption is commonplace). Conversely, some international students may have stronger ethical beliefs related to respect for authority.

TechTrends review of our book

This positive review of our book came out 04 March 2019.

Mulder, D. J. (2019, March 4). Review of Conrad, D., & Openo, J. (2018). Assessment strategies for online learning: Engagement and Authenticity. Edmonton, AB: Athabasca University Press. Tech Trends. Retrieved from https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007%2Fs11528-019-00380-8

Mulder, D.J. TechTrends (2019). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11528-019-00380-8

With a title including the phrase Assessment strategies, you might think that this book is full of how-to chapters that offer nitpicking advice on evaluating students’ learning. You would, however, be mistaken. Dianne Conrad and Jason Openo’s approach takes the reader on a philosophical, yet accessible tour of high-quality assessment options for authentic learning in online spaces.

As an experienced online instructor and course designer, I enjoyed reading the book. The research that went into this book was comprehensive, and it captures a diversity of perspectives related to creating authentic assessments in online learning spaces. While I would not say this book is breaking new ground, I believe I would be welcome in the cocktail party of the appendix. I suspect other readers familiar with the landscape of online learning would feel the same way: while much of the content is recognizable, it is laid out in a way that made it feel fresh, and it invites the reader to join in the conversation. I believe this book might best be suited for graduate students studying instructional design or educational technology, or faculty members who are new to online teaching and learning. They will surely find Conrad and Openo effective tour guides able to call attention to both foundational principles as well as practical applications for incorporating authentic assessments in online learning.

Thank you, David, for such an excellent review.

Research ethics and SoTL

My April 2019 contribution to FAX, MHC’s Faculty Association monthly magazine.

T. S. Eliot said April is the cruelest month; the lilacs emerge from the dead land and their scent stirs memory and desire.  In a less poetic way, April is that time of year when many of us get a chance to look up and look around.  For many (not Trades instructors or those who teach the Spring semester), the grind of teaching and marking lets up, and for a very short while, we have a chance to focus on other possibilities, like our reading lists and long-awaited writing projects. 

And, perhaps as you reflect upon on your past year of teaching and learning, you have the inkling of an idea for Scholarship of Teaching and Learning Project but don’t know when or how to get started, especially because the application for research ethics feels time-consuming and daunting. One of things I have to complete in April as part of my dissertation is my research ethics application for Athabasca University, and as I approach this, I thought I would share some resources that have been helpful to me.

Athabasca University requires all of their graduate students to complete the Tri-Council Policy Statement 2nd Edition (TCPS 2) Core training.  The online course on research ethics is an introduction to the 2nd edition of the Tri-Council Policy Statement: Ethical Conduct for Research Involving Humans (TCPS 2). It consists of eight modules focusing on ethical guidance in TCPS 2 that is applicable to all research regardless of discipline or methodology.  The purpose of TCPS 2: CORE is to provide an introduction to TCPS 2, primarily for researchers.  It is actually quite interesting and only takes a couple hours to complete.

MHC’s application for research involving human subjects corresponds to the TCPS 2 expectations, and while our application may be slightly different from other institutions, many institutions provide examples of successful applications and walkthroughs for how to complete a successful research ethics application.  Some of my favorites include:

Fedoruk, L. (2017). Ethics in the scholarship of teaching and learning: Key principles and strategies for ethical practice. Taylor Institute for Teaching and Learning Guide Series. Calgary, AB: Taylor Institute for Teaching and Learning at the University of Calgary. Retrieved from https://taylorinstitute.ucalgary.ca/sites/default/files/Ethics%20in%20SoTL-Taylor%20Institute%20Guide.pdf (great guide of how the TCPS 2 is applied to research conducting in a teaching and learning setting)

uWaterloo’s Guide to completing a human research ethics application (step-by-step instructions for how to complete certain sections of the application, including data ownership, storage, and destruction)

University of British Columbia’s Behavioural Research Ethics Board hosts a number of previously approved applications to give a sense of the information members of the research ethics board will be looking for.

One of my favourite comments from the UBC site is, “bear in mind that regardless of the quality of your application, the REB is likely to have some comments and requests for clarification.” That is the REB’s role after all.  I have seen it said that the Research Ethics Board should be a partner in research.  That spirit of partnership doesn’t always play out at other institutions, but it does here.  Members of MHC’s Research Ethics Board encourage a revise and resubmit approach, and I am willing to provide as much assistance as I can.

So don’t let the prospect of research ethics stop you. It is a productive and necessary step to conducting quality research, and the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning can be high-quality research.  Some people still don’t know what SoTL means; others think of it as scholarship-lite.  But SoTL is now recognized within the Roles and Mandates Policy Framework for Alberta’s Adult Learning System.  SoTL is research to better understand the teaching and learning process and generate new knowledge around curriculum, teaching practices, and how students acquire knowledge.  It is a valid component of strengthening understanding of teaching and learning and improving practice.

I am also very interested in in Joshua Eyler’s umbrella ethics approach.

Ecampus Research Unit. (2018, October 29). Dr. Joshua Eyler on umbrella IRBs. Oregon State University [institutional blog]. Retrieved from https://ecampus.oregonstate.edu/research/podcast/e135/

               

On knowledge and power

This is my final reflection for 806 - my final course requirement. I have also submitted my proposal revisions and had them approved. I am now truly ABD (All but done, all but dissertation).

I began this program on May 25, 2015, and on March 1, 2019 (slightly less than four years later), I received this email: 

This email is to advise that Jason Openo (EdD Program) completed and passed his candidacy oral examination on December 13, 2018.

Jason's supervisor, Dr. Connie Blomgren, has confirmed that all revisions to Jason's proposal are now in place.  Degree Works has been updated and as far as FGS is concerned, the candidacy portion of the program is now complete.

Please update your records accordingly.

Congratulations Jason and good luck with your research!!

Heraclitus suggested that “no man ever steps in the same river twice, for it’s not the same river and he’s not the same man.”  I’ve heard it so often, it sounds trite, but it has never been more true.  This journey has truly been a transformative experience. One of my revisions asked me to be very clear about what I believe about knowledge creation, and this final set of revisions forced me clarify my conception of power. Here is a short description of how I answered those questions, and in the process, came to know myself better than ever before.

I believe in an inter-related structure of reality, best described by the phrase that what affects one directly, affects all indirectly (King, 1967).  As much research shows, the experience of alienation, precarity, and unpreparedness of part-time online faculty can and does negatively affect students and the quality of their academic programs.  What affects faculty affects the students, the institution’s reputation, and the value and legitimacy of online education.  All teaching and learning is inter-related.  I believe knowledge must play a role in the improvement of the human condition (Franklin, 1990), and from that stance, I approach my research with a critical temper and belief in democracy as a way of life.  At its simplest, to be critical means to orient one`s approach to critiquing and changing society, rather than solely trying to understand or explain it.

One tradition within critical theory is pragmatic constructivism (Brookfield, 2005).  Pragmatic constructivism “rejects universals and generalizable truths and focuses instead on the variability of how people make interpretations of their experience” (p. 15).  Originating from William James, pragmatic constructivism

argues for an interactive, co-evolutionary relationship between mind and world, individual and environment: mind is a creative participant in mind-world interactions, individuals are agents in individual-society interactions, and those who do science are, by logical extension, as implicated in truth-making as the world which they try to objectively describe.  This co-evolutionary process does not release cognition or selves from the environment’s orbit, allowing them to spin off freely through space, but rather situates them in a larger context in which they are active and creative agents. (Lempert, 1997, p. 43)

Or, as Brookfield puts it, events happen to us, but experiences are constructed by us (2005, p.14).  The mind and the world exist in dynamic tension co-creating each other, and the researcher exerts influence during the research process.

If there is a co-evolutionary relationship between the mind and the world, the individual is continually engaged in a process of creating the world.  Harnessing this power of co-creation generates social intelligence.  Social intelligence arises from lived experience, and Kadlec (2008) argues that Deweyan critical pragmatism recognizes that power imbalances do exist, but they are not fixed.  Experience, and the experience of “unalterable changefulness,” can alter patterns of dominance.

Tapping into the critical potential of lived experience under conditions of unalterable changefulness begins with the therapeutic recognition that there is no such thing as a unified field of power directed entirely by stable and fixed interests.  The first implication here is that there are always new opportunities to exploit cracks and fissures in various structurally entrenched forms of power (Kadlec, 2008, p. 69).

Pragmatic constructivism suggests experience is a co-evolutionary process, and reality is relationally established by language-based, mind-world interactions.  Dewey’s philosophy of experience is similar; Dewey outlines a dual and dynamic nature of culturally inherited knowledge and knowledge forged in experience.

We live from birth to death in a world of persons and things which in large measure is what it is because of what has been done and transmitted from previous human activities.  When this fact is ignored, experience is treated as if it were something which goes on exclusively inside an individual’s body and mind.  It ought not be necessary to say that experience does not occur in a vacuum.  There are sources outside an individual which give rise to experience. It is constantly fed by these springs (Dewey, 1997, p. 40).

The first reality is the one passed down and handed down to us.  The story and actions we inherit.  The second reality is the one we come to understand and create based on our experiences derived from our interactions and evaluation of our inherited reality. This informs my conception of power.

The conception of power in this study is derived from Dewey's critical pragmatism, as described by Kadlec (2008), and the mind-world interaction.  The arrows represent an exertion of power or influence that is not reflective of scale.

The conception of power in this study is derived from Dewey's critical pragmatism, as described by Kadlec (2008), and the mind-world interaction.  The arrows represent an exertion of power or influence that is not reflective of scale.

As the stress fractures emerge, educational developers can exploit these fissures and cracks by exerting formal influence within the institution through strategic planning processes and resource allocation.  They can also exert influence through networks of support with other administrators and with faculty (Roxa & Martensson, 2009; Roxa, Martensson & Alveteg, 2011), highlighting that power relations can be dynamic and internally contradictory.  Professional development is conceived as an activity that provides a congruence of interest between the mission of the institution, the role and function of teaching and learning centres, and the faculty who identify with the desire to provide high-quality instruction.

Faculty development for online faculty also represents part of a more mature wave of online education, one that recognizes that technology is a small part of the solution. As the web turns 30 and online education turns 20, educational development for online faculty is essential if online distance education is to reach its potential and fulfill its promise.

We are at a moment of convergence portending a second, more mature, wave of work that transcends “technosolutionism” – one that requires an integrative vision committed to student success and deep learning and looks to the larger “social compact,” and even more broadly to a more profound cause and urgency around the future of human capacity. (Bass, 2018, p. 35)

It’s not the same river and I am not the same man. I know this because I finally feel ready for the task ahead.

I passed! So what? (Or, remembering a hike in Yuma, AZ when it's -40C)

On December 13, 2018, I passed my proposal defense unanimously with only minor revisions (the revisions turned out to not be so minor, after all, but that’s a different story).  On December 14, I flew down to Yuma, Arizona to be with my mom after she had Whipple surgery (they removed part of my mom’s liver, pancreas, and gall bladder).  Some people have cancer; my mom has cancers, including breast, lung, pancreatic and liver.  While I was sitting by my mom’s bedside, I reflected on my most significant academic achievement. 

So what?!

My life wasn’t any different and tons of work remains.  As I watched my mom sleeping and struggling to breathe, I couldn’t help but think, “Life is too short. Life is fragile. This is such a false accomplishment. Will getting the title doctor feel any different than this total letdown I am feeling right now?  And how much longer can I burn the candle at both ends – working to be a loving husband, devoted father, director, student, instructor – what’s the point?” 

The fact that I was closer to the finish than I had ever been, that I had published a book and a few articles – all seemed pretty silly.

When this tyrannical meaninglessness comes to strangle me, it’s time to find the altar in the wilderness. Yuma is a warm and beautiful place, and I went for a hike on Telegraph Hill.  The reviews for the trail described it as “paved straight up,” and it was. It was gruesome because I’m out of shape.

Telegraph Hill (Now Cellphone Hill) in Yuma, AZ. |t’s “paved straight up.”

Telegraph Hill (Now Cellphone Hill) in Yuma, AZ. |t’s “paved straight up.”

Too much time on the computer, so much so that I have “mouse elbow.” 

I counted steps 50 at a time, lungs and thighs burning.  The view was gorgeous, and at one point, I asked myself, “What will you be able to see at the top that you can’t see from here?”

The answer: “Your self-respect.”

That’s why I am following Dr. Blaschke’s advice to just “keep going.”  I am not dealing with septic shock or the horror of watching my organs fail like she was, and I wondered, If I was facing imminent death, would continuing my doctoral work hold any meaningful motivation for me? Would it help me keep fighting?

Maybe.  Maybe passing the candidacy defense is a smaller accomplishment in retrospect than it feels during the lead-up to it.  But there is this small transformation of identity.  I am no longer a “student.” I am now a “candidate,” and it took a while for this subtle transformation to take hold.  I am about to become a researcher.

And I actually care about heutagogy, and the practical limitations of heutagogy in courses where students expect and want structure, and programs that expect things like grade distributions as part of accreditation processes. I have worked to apply heutagogical principles in the leadership course I teach at the University of Alberta. I actually care about evolving and maturing online education; this stuff matters to me. I want to see what it looks like at the top.

The view from the top of Telegraph Hill.

The view from the top of Telegraph Hill.

The way down was almost as hard as the way up. Turf toe and old knee injuries. But there is the comfort of a cerveza and a fried avocado with chipotle ranch dressing waiting for me - these mundane but delicious celebrations that comprise a human life.

Then, it will be time to get on those revisions. There will always be revisions.

But there won’t always be time for a game of cribbage with my mom.  

Book Review

Leary, T. (2018). Book review of Assessment strategies for online learning: Engagement and authenticity. Canadian Journal of Higher Education, (48)2.