Baking Your Cake…. and Eating it Too!

As I round out my experience with the Extend East cohort, I’ve been reflecting on the experience and what I’ve taken away from it.  Although this comes at the end of my time with the cohort, it really belongs with the Experimenter module.  The whole process of Extend was a chance to play with new creative challenges, perspectives, ideas, and tools.

I’ve often considered the practice of teaching and learning to be similar to building a cake.  There are many layers which go into building the cake, and you need to check your recipe from time to time to see if it is still delicious or if it needs to be tweaked.  Through Extend, I’ve added many new layers to my cake.

Using the cake as my guide, I thought I’d document some of the layers I love the most from my experience with Extend to date.

One of the most foundational layers for me was Twitter.  Honestly, I’d had a Twitter account for years and I’d tweeted maybe a half-dozen times.  I’d never really understood the power of Twitter.  I admit that I was nervous when I found out we needed to Tweet for the Daily Extend.  However, I soon found that it can be a rewarding way to share what I’ve done and interact with others.   I’ve gone from a Twitter-phobe to an enthusiastic user.    It’s opened me up to a world of new connections.

Domains of Our Own (DoOO) and WordPress also are part of the foundation of my new cake.  The opportunity to start a domain of my own and host it at Reclaim is really encouraging me to spread my wings as an Experimenter.   It’s let me experience many new things about setting up websites and how to run a blog using WordPress.  I know I will continue to learn more as I go.  My next steps are to build a front page/landing site and to install a curation type of tool.  This layer is one that will keep expanding as there are many different ways to expand my online presence with the website.

Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (SoTL) involves bringing research to teaching in a systematic way.  As teachers, we should be continually striving to improve our practices. SoTL applies research and evidence to support the practice.  I had been playing around with SoTL, although I didn’t have a name for it in my classes.  I collected input from students and outcomes and applied that in making changes in my classes, tools, and teaching practice.  However, what I was missing from this scenario was the back end evaluation which made this a full cycle and allowed for continuous improvement.  This is an area I’d like to continue to expand, applying research methodologies to continue to improve the flavour of this layer of my cake.

The Open Faculty Patchbook is a site I was introduced to through Extend.  This site, developed by Learning Design and Support (LDS) at Fleming College gathers “patches” from faculty.  It’s a compilation where each contributor shares a story about teaching and learning.  As this has grown, it’s also been gathered together into a book that will be provided to new faculty.  What a great way to give new people the benefit of others’ experiences!  This initiative has been so successful, it’s spun off into the Open Learner Patchbook to give the other side of the perspective and let students have a voice about their experiences.

Widely available and openly shareable resources.  Who knew?  Extend gave me a taste of Open Educational Resources (OER) and my practice will never be the same.  Lately, the trend has been towards curation when designing courses, rather than reliance on a single textbook.  OER makes this approach much more palatable by presenting many more options for content.  OER Commons has become one of my new, favourite hangouts.

As someone who spends most of their time involved in distance education, the Collaborator module and Personal Learning Networks (PLNs) brought me out of my isolation.  This digital network facilitates learning and the sharing of thoughts and experiences of people and organizations.  You can interact at whatever level you wish, be that lurking to read or giving people a taste of your own work and sharing with the group.  The development of a PLN has made a significant impact on my practice and brought me out of isolation and into a vibrant network of people who constantly amaze me with their insights, creativity, and humour.

I’ve included Ontario Extend as the icing on my cake.  Ontario Extend is what holds the layers of my cake together and makes it into  a sweet and delicious treat.  Every day working with the Extend is like a celebration – it’s fun and wacky and brings me many gifts.

If you haven’t tried Extend, I encourage you to give it a taste!