Posts Categorized: Learning Design

Fun in B.C. Post-Secondary

[Theme Music]

TRACY ROBERTS: Welcome to this final episode of the BCcampus Mixtape for 2022. We’ve had a lot of fun remixing this podcast for you from previously recorded BCcampus offerings such like the Lunchable Learning Radio Show and Open Knowledge Spectrums. And speaking of fun, that’s the topic of this last episode! You’ll hear me, Tracy Roberts, as I chat with Venecia Williams, Jason Toal and BCcampus’ own Selina McGinnis about what it means to have fun in the work that they do and in their everyday lives.

You’ll also hear Selina McGinnis chatting with Clint Lalonde about learning with VIDEO GAMES. This excerpt is originally from Selina’s own Anarchy podcast and is for gamers and non-gamers alike!

[Theme Music]

TRACY: Hi, I’m Tracy Roberts. I live, work and record this on the lands of the Songhees and Esquimalt Nations of the Lekwungen ancestors and families. I’m also the director of Learning and Teaching at BCcampus.

Welcome to the fun show, where I talk to colleagues in B.C. higher ed about fun. Because my hunch is that fun is the method, the vibe, the ultimate engagement strategy we need right now to help us get more connected and engage with each other and with our work. I also ask them to pick us a fun song.

[Theme Music]

Here with me today is Venecia Williams, who is a colleague from the B.C. higher ed sector who is no stranger to the BCcampus audio adventures having recently come to Lunchable learning to talk about UDL (Universal Design for Learning) EDI (Equity, Diversity and Inclusion). And today she’s here to talk about F-U-N. Will you introduce yourself to the people in whatever way you like? And then we’ll dive into the topic of fun.

VENECIA: Hello, everyone. It’s so great to be here to talk about fun. This is a topic I never really think about for myself, although I feel like I’m having fun in my job, but I never really think about how much fun I’m having or definitely when I’m doing course design (LAUGHS). I don’t design for fun for myself, for my students yes for me, no. So I’m happy to be here. Thank you for having me.

TRACY: Right. OK, well, let’s dive into your job. We’ll start there. Yeah. So what is fun about your job or what parts of your job feel like fun when they’re happening?

VENECIA: So it’s interesting when the pandemic started and you know, for lots of instructors, everything just got turned upside down, especially if you weren’t teaching online before. For me, that became a real opportunity because at VCC where I work, there was this new position created for online developers to help instructors who were with Moodle, or just to give a hand to the online aspect of things that we had to quickly transition to. And for me that’s really interesting. I really like to learn about technology, but it was a great opportunity. I feel like as an instructor, I don’t always have time to learn. And then the second year, because, you know, Tracy, we’ve been in this pandemic for a while.

TRACY: It has been a while. Yeah.

VENECIA: It has been a while. I started working with my colleague Heidi and we work with instructors where we make videos about universal design for learning, UDL, and it’s been really fun sitting with her and talking to her and coming up with ideas, writing the script, doing the editing, because that’s a side that I really like. I, you know, I like to make movies, but I rarely (LAUGHS) will go and do something like that. So this has given me a really, really great opportunity to have some fun in my job.

TRACY: So it sounds like if you’re learning something new that feels like fun.

VENECIA: It does. I think if I’m learning something new that I know will benefit students, then it’s fun, even if it’s challenging, which it sometimes is, but it’s fun. I just get to, again ,learn something new and it’s really rewarding, especially if it’s challenging and I figure it out. Then I’m (LAUGHS) really happy.

TRACY: It feels like a win.

VENECIA: Yeah, it does.

TRACY: Yeah. OK, well, what about outside of work? What kind of things do you like to get up to for fun outside of work?

VENECIA: Reading. But I rarely have time for that. So one fun thing I do is dance. So, again, we’re talking about the pandemic. At the beginning of the pandemic, I reached out to a few parents from my daughter’s school, and I said, you know, do you want to get together and exercise? Because we weren’t able to go to the gym and I was eating (LAUGHS) a lot like everyone.

TRACY: Yes, absolutely.

VENECIA: So we got this group together and we would share videos on YouTube and we would workout together and I would try to find a dance. And they found most of the dance out there very difficult. And so I said to them, well, do you want me to choreograph something? Oh, yeah, I know! So side story: I used to live in Japan and I used to teach dance in a club in Japan ages ago. And so I started putting something together and I really love to dance. So it was just really great for me. And then the December of that first year, my husband gave me a gift. It was for a Zumba instructor training. And so (LAUGHS) and so I did that. I don’t know if I’ll ever go and teach anyone else, but I do teach my friends and we have just an amazing time (LAUGHS).

TRACY: That’s so fun. It sounds like. So fun. Yeah. So the music is a big piece of it. Hey, I noticed that for myself too. It just I can be doing something very mundane, but somehow if I had music to it, it….

VENECIA: Oh, definitely. And sometimes people ask me about the kind of music that I like, and it really depends on the mood when I need energy, I’m just really tired and I need to get to the end of the day. I put some music on, I sing, I dance, and I just kind of get through the rest of what I have to do. So yeah, music is, is wonderful for me. It’s really great for my mental health.

TRACY: OK. Well, thinking then, about what you’ve told me so far, what do you think are the elements of fun? What has to come together to make fun occur?

VENECIA: You need some kind of motivation right? I think you have to be interested in it and not think about it too much. Just try to be there within the moment and enjoy it. And I think the same about reading for me when I, I have time and I sit and I read, I just kind of I get lost. If it’s a book I’m interested in (LAUGHS).

TRACY: Right. So there’s an engagement piece.

VENECIA: There is engagement. I think it’s with everything. If you’re not motivated to do something or if it’s not engaging for you, then it’s not fun.

TRACY: Yeah, it isn’t. And, well, if I think about the opposite. Right? To me, the opposite of fun. What do you think?

VENECIA: The opposite of fun for me is boredom. (CROSSTALK) Just boring boredom.

TRACY: Yeah. So that is like no engagement, right? You’re very disengaged, so. Yeah, there’s something there about the engagement.

Anything else you’d like to say about fun?

VENECIA: I just think it’s important. I know it’s really difficult. Even I was saying to you, today has been just a really long day, but I looked forward to having this opportunity to talk about fun because it just allows me to pause a little bit and reflect on fun. And so I think that’s really important. I know, especially as instructors, a lot of us are really busy designing curriculum or, teaching or doing research, but just making the time even, I don’t know, ten, 15 minutes to do something that we like that’s engaging to us. I think it is really helpful and I know for sure when I feel happy, I step into the class happier, but also more determined to make my students feel happy or engaged. I want to share this joy or this fun feeling with them. And I try to put that into my lesson. So it really and of course my interactions with everyone. Right. You know, sometimes I’m grumpy and I feel like, OK you need to either sit down or read a book (LAUGHS) or you need to go dance (CROSSTALK) or something.

TRACY: Well, it’s probably generative, right? When you walk in or with a fun way, it invites you to (CROSSTALK). Yeah. Show up in that way.

VENECIA: And students respond to that. So you know I always try when I can, I normally try to start my class with some music or I’ll ask them what kind of music they like and they will share something. I teach a lot of international students, or sometimes they share something from their culture and they get energetic and they immediately start smiling. And then it really sets the tone for a great class.

TRACY: Nice, speaking of music, did you pick a song?

VENECIA: I will dance to anything from the Supremes that just puts me in a great mood. I’m thinking about my Zumba playlist. I have a lot of reggaeton on it, lots of anything that’s like an afro beat, anything with drums. So it’s really hard (LAUGHS)… I think that’s a very long way of saying it’s hard to pick one. I just, I respond to beats.

[Theme Music]

TRACY: Love the Supremes. Thanks so much to Venecia for that. Next up is someone I always have fun collaborating with and talking with. He is an educational media expert, learning experience designer, visual artist, facilitator, felter, consultant, DJ, extreme doodler Jason Toal.

Welcome and please introduce yourself in whatever way you like.

Well, thanks so much, Tracy. It’s hard to top that introduction, actually. Thank you for having me on. As you mentioned, my name is Jason Toal and I’m a newly minted Educational Consultant with UBC Okanagan in the Centre for Teaching and Learning there. My area is Technology Projects and Strategy. So, it is proving to be a lot of fun, even though it’s been just a few short weeks.

TRACY: Oh, that’s good to hear.


TRACY : Well, let’s get into it. Tell me just like what about it is fun? What is fun about the work or when you’re there does it feel like fun?

JASON: Well, I do even though it’s been a few short weeks at my current gig. It’s been quite a few years that I’ve been doing similar types of work, basically working with educational technology and the employment of it by instructors and faculty in post-secondary. So, I do have some experience to draw from. Just to sum it up in two words: It’s the creative process. Yes. And I found that a technology, let’s say a challenge can often lead to, I don’t want to say the “I” word, but I’ll just say a discovery. A spark. (LAUGHTER) Something that is sort of new and fresh. And so that inevitably will unleash some sort of a design process. I think you mentioned I do like working in visual practice, working with folks that are drawing or using drawing as a means to teach or to learn. And also in the area of audio, if you’re producing a podcast, let’s say, it sort of, to me, that is the fun part.

TRACY: Can I just ask a little more about that. So, I have now got three of these shows in the can, I am starting to notice a theme about problems and the solving thereof. And I’m wondering for you with the work that you do, which I’m imagining is very often in partnership with an educator is do you think it’s for you about helping them to solve the problem? Or is there something that you are solving? Or does it even matter who owns the problem?

JASON: That’s a good question. For me, it is about helping, I can definitely… I’m consistently the helper bee. It sort of ties back in, I think, about my high school years. And I had a lot of friends that were in drama, “dr-ah-ma”..

TRACY: Drama.

JASON: The “theater”. Yes. And I was not involved in the drama club at all. I did end up helping with a lot of the backstage purely for fun. Working on the lights, working on the smoke is particularly fun (LAUGHTER).

TRACY: I bet. I bet.

JASON: Yeah. To answer your question. I definitely think the helping of faculty and instructors that are teaching classes is a big part of it.

TRACY: OK. Well, let’s leave the workspace for a moment and just talk about the wild open spaces outside of that. What do you get up to for fun when you’re not at work?

JASON: Well, I liked the phrasing of your question actually, in the notes. The key word being: outside. And, you know, never has this become more prominent in my head, that fun and being outdoors are connected. And for me that could be working in the garden.


JASON: If I am lucky enough to have a place to dig and plant things. But also, in terms of sports. You know, we’re big outdoor enthusiasts for winter sports. Mostly skiing downhill, and Nordic skiing. That’s what we sort of tried to design our lives around. How can we ski more?

Nice, nice (LAUGHTER). Nice. So, literally playing outside is a big part of…

JASON: Absolutely, yes. I mean, we were sort of chatting about this earlier, there used to be a time when maybe watching movies inside or going through my music library on iTunes was considered fun. Gaming. These things are less fun to me these days, simply because they involve more screen time.

TRACY: Right? Right. Yeah. Right. Yeah, that makes total sense. OK, so maybe just thinking about everything we’ve talked about so far. What is essential about fun, or what conditions have to be in place for fun to occur, what comes to mind for you?

JASON: Something about spontaneity and or, you know, the unexpected. We always frame our trips as adventures. So, you potentially have a destination, a goal, some kind of project, we’re going to this location or we’re traveling this route, but then unexpected things will inevitably occur along the way. Sometimes they’re not pleasant, dealing with those navigating around them enjoying our time along the way.

TRACY: I’m hearing that problem thing again. There’s something about (LAUGHTER) solving problems, that you know, there’s some fun….

JASON: Oh my goodness moving to that. Yeah.

TRACY: Something to that. Yeah.

JASON: Which I do not like. I’m more of a chill seeker, if you may have heard and so avoiding potential stress is my where I like to go.

TRACY: Yeah, I hear you the spontaneity thing. I love when a plan happens without a plan. You know, somebody just shows up at your door rather than like spending weeks trying to nail down details. Yeah, that I love. There’s something fun about that for me.

JASON: Yeah, agreed.

TRACY: Alright, well, um, you were invited to pick a song that for you in some way conjures fun or is fun. How about bring some of that DJ magic to the fun show and set us up with your fun song.

JASON: Alrighty. Well, this was… I hummed and hawed for like, five seconds. And then I it was immediately obvious what song I would have to contribute. So, when I’m on my adventures, and I said, we, by we, I meant my wife, Jenny and I. And so the song that I’ve picked is a bit of a love song. And it was our first dance, both at our wedding and in the living room. It’s a fun party song. That’s really all I need to say. Except I need to say what it is.

TRACY: Oh, yeah, say what it is.

JASON: So, the song is ‘Lady You Bring Me Up’ by the Commodores.

[Theme Music]

TRACY: Awesome, thanks Jason for that song suggestion and for reminding us all to get outside. Now it’s time to chat with Selina McGinnis who is a colleague of mine at BCcampus and definitely a person I associate with fun and games. Selina, would you please introduce yourself to the good people in whatever way you like before we dive into the topic of fun.

SELINA: Yes, absolutely. So like you said, my name is Selina and I am a user experience designer at BCcampus. And I am honored to be associated with fun and I am situated on W̱SÁNEĆ territory and happy to be coming to you from there.

Great. Thanks so much. Talk a little bit about fun at work. What is fun at work when it feels like fun?

SELINA: Yeah. So I appreciate this question because it made me reflect on why that is that I have fun because I do have a lot of fun at work. And I didn’t really think about the key ingredients until you asked this question. So I kind of narrowed it down to I have kind of two kinds of fun at work. And the first type of fun is the kind of fun I have or I have a lot of this type of fun in my life, which comes from challenge or tension and collaboration, whereas the second comes from kind of like unwinding and letting loose. So for the sort of the challenge type of fun, that is basically my job. So it’s the same kind of feeling I get from playing rugby where, you know, there’s a tangible goal or challenge and a bunch of work to get done to get there. You can score, you can win any way you like, but you have to figure out the successful way to do it, given the people you have, the weather conditions, the team you’re facing. And it’s the same with our projects. So I have the awesome job of basically just trying to solve problems with my teammates and there’s just this huge amount of satisfaction and I would say fun that comes from that grind and then success at the end, you know.

TRACY: So can I ask is the… yeah. Is the fun associated with the grind part or is it once it’s the grind is ground and you’ve won in whatever way. Is that when it’s fun or is it fun the whole time?

SELINA: Oh, man. OK. So yeah, that’s a great question. So across the board with rugby or hiking, it is not fun while you’re doing it. I mean, there are moments of fun for sure, but it’s hard work like there’s no rugby game where I’m like, Oh, I wish it would go longer. It’s always like, How many minutes are left?

TRACY: Right.

SELINA: But I think it’s that grind that makes the end so fun. I guess like when you have that success. For me anyways, I mean, it’s always fun to score tries, it’s always fun to get wins at work in terms of, you know, someone says they like the design that you made, but like when you see people using it, then you’re like, yes, it made all of that work worth it.

TRACY: Nice. So what’s fun for you outside of work? Could be indoors, but outside of work.

SELINA: It doesn’t have to be outside.

TRACY: It does not. It does not have to be outside.

SELINA: Well, I do a lot of stuff outside of work. And again, as I’m trying to reflect on this and be like, how can I seem really fun in my life? I participate in search and rescue and I spend a lot of time like taking on hobbies and like personal interest courses. But then I was like, what the heck do I do to unwind? Which is that other kind of fun I was talking about. And so in the post or start of pandemic, post-pandemic period, henceforth known as PPP, I learned to play and now I look forward to doing this every week or so is Dungeons and Dragons.

TRACY: No, really? Tell me everything.

SELINA: Yes. Oh, man. OK, so I reconnected with one of my high school friends recently. I guess not recently, a couple of years now. And we had like these Zoom calls and it was so awkward because he would say, like, what’s new, which is great for the first zoom call?

TRACY: Sure.

SELINA: But then, you know, you’ve been in isolation. The next time you say what’s new, it’s…

Right. (CROSSTALK). Yeah. My sourdough is coming along.
SELINA: Yeah. Yeah. Oh. Or not. Oh, yeah. I was making cider back then. That’s right. And I wasn’t sure if it was going to end up being cider. But, yeah, so they are like, well, why don’t we. One of them was like, hey, I play Dungeons and Dragons. And of course, I was like, Oh, I want to play. And, you know, I had this image in my mind of a bunch of people in a dark basement.

TRACY: Yeah.

SELINA: Possibly in hoods.


SELINA: Around some candles.


SELINA: Playing the game. But it was, we just got online in Zoom and basically it’s storytelling with your friends, and there’s some dice involved to make it interesting.

TRACY: Sounds fun.

SELINA: Yeah, it was fun. And it kind of gave us this thing to laugh about. You know, you have these events in life, and then it gives you something to talk about later. Like, remember that time or you tease each other. Now you have these moments that even though they were like fictional, you have these things to draw on and it’s and it’s just like being in real life. I think we’ve only met a handful of times, but that was super fun, mostly because we laughed a lot and it was something new. Solved mysteries in the most ridiculous way possible.

TRACY: OK, so. If you think about these and other things. What do you think is essential for fun? Like what are the conditions that have to be in place for fun to happen?

SELINA: Yeah, I think that’s a really hard question because I can find so many things that are fun that don’t fit this. But I think for me, really important, these moments of fun where maybe there’s no agenda in the moment, even at work, you know, you have an ultimate goal for your project. But the times that I have the most fun is when we’re like iterating on something. Like, what are your wildest ideas? Let’s just there’s no constraints and you know, it’s satisfying and still fun to come up with the thing that satisfies those requirements for the people you’re building something for. But, you know, they came from this moment of chaos almost. And, you know, same with, I think some of the best movies or the best stories. You know, there’s not necessarily a moral to it. It’s just, you know, it’s just a story. It’s just something you’ve created. And yeah. And then sharable. So something you can either work through with somebody else or some friends or can share with others. So I can have lots of fun of my own making music or whatever, but at the end it is just kind of nice to either laugh about how terrible it was or enjoy how amazing it is.

TRACY: Right. Right, right. So sharing and also this sense of spontaneity or unplanned, that’s like…


TRACY: Yeah.


TRACY: OK. Anything else you’d like to say about fun conditions?

SELINA: No, I don’t. I’m really curious to hear what other people have said.

TRACY ROBERTS: Me too. Yeah.

SELINA: Because actually, you know, when I was thinking about this, I was thinking about Wordle and like, that was really fun. And some people play this every day. And for me, one thing I didn’t mention is that variety is really important. Like, I find like that newness of something or it’s got some risk that I can be bad at it. That’s really fun. And so, you know, I quit playing Wordle after a while because I’m like, Oh yeah, this is cool. I got it. But I’m really interested to see for maybe some people, if it’s consistent, if that’s important to them.

TRACY: I think for the little bit of reading that I have done. There is this sense of, like, liberation is how some people describe and like a sense of, there’s a sense of freedom which makes, you know, that feels like that unplanned, unconstrained thing that you’re talking about. There’s something there’s a freedom to it. Which I think is why we need it now, because it has felt constrained lately.

SELINA: Yeah. Well, like actual constraints, like limitations on where you can go.


SELINA: What you can do, who you can see like probably the most amount of constraint I’ve had in my adulthood anyway.

TRACY: Yeah. Yeah. Well, I want to thank you very much for being here with me. And I would like to invite you to set up the fun song that you have chosen for us. Who’s the artist? Why did you pick it?

SELINA: I get to say that?



TRACY: So fun.

SELINA: Oh, no pressure. OK.

TRACY: You didn’t know that. And so it’s spontaneous therefore fun.

SELINA: There’s a real risk effect. I love it. OK. So the song that is fun is You Shook Me All Night Long, which people might know by AC/DC. But this is the Scary Pocket’s cover featuring Judith Hill, who I love their voice. And I chose this song because music is an important part of my life. And to me, there’s nothing more fun than funk and R&B and jamming with friends, kind of like in that spontaneous way. And this is also a bit of a shout-out to my daughter Ry, who loves AC/DC.


SELINA: Thunderstruck and is a huge inspiration for fun in my life and spicing up the old into something new.

[Theme Music]

TRACY: Thanks Selina for that chat and for being spontaneous with me. For the last part of this episode, we’ll listen to Selina talking with our own Clint Lalonde about what software and education influencers can learn from video game design.

[Theme Music]

SELINA: 5,000,000. That’s how many video games there are in the world. And while there may be video games that you play for a day, a week. There are people who’ve played video games their whole lives, and they keep coming back. Today I’m going to talk with someone who says that they keep coming back to video games because of the social aspects, because of the stories, and to kind of just see what happens and discover. And if you’re one for nostalgia we will fittingly start this series with someone who was around when video games really started. Yeah, that’s right, pinball and pong. They’re also an educational technologist that you’re bound to be familiar with if you’ve been around BCcampus for any amount of time. And if you’re not sure, I’ll give you a little intro song to give you time to figure out who it is.

[Video game style music plays]

CLINT LALONDE: I started, you know I was an early adopter of video games. I mean, it was kind of my first foray into technology, and even before that we always had games around our house when I was growing up and my dad was a huge lover of pinball.

SELINA: Yep, that’s Clint Lalonde self-proclaimed lifelong gamer.

CLINT: And so you know, the first game that we had in our – other than board games – the first sort of electronic game that we had in our house when I was growing up was a pinball machine that it..

SELINA: You had one in your house?

CLINT: Yeah, yeah it was. It was super fun yeah. And then yeah, from there you know when, uh, TV based video games first came out? My dad jumped on it and bought a console for us in like 1978 or 79. Like really early days. Yeah, I’ve been playing video games ever since, and I’m also of the generation too that grew up in video arcades. Video games were just kind of coming to the to the mainstream with, you know Space invaders and those kinds of things in the early 80s, and so that’s when I kind of was entering my teen years and spent a lot of time and a lot of money at video arcades so.
I’ve sort of a long history with gaming.

SELINA: What was sort of the sentiment around gaming in your home?

CLINT: There was no limits really put on to, you know video games and you know the amount of time that I spent. You know, playing games and the amount of times that I spent playing games with my siblings. You know, for one thing, I mean most of it was really social. So I was spending time with my family. We would play board games like we would have like game nights at our home where we would spend time with families. I mean my mom was not crazy about me spending a lot of time in an arcade. I mean, at that time I grew up in a small town in northern Alberta and the video games were also in the pool hall and the pool halls were, you know, shady places in small towns, so.

SELINA: Right.

CLINT: But that’s where the video games were, so my mom wasn’t crazy about me going out and doing that, but it was also very social too because it was like that’s where my friends were. I would spend, I played Dungeons and Dragons when I was a kid too, and we played a lot of strategy games with my friends. So every Friday night we would have like a standing game night so you know it wasn’t frowned upon to play games, mostly because of the social aspect of it.

SELINA: Hmm, that’s really interesting. Uh, I just picked up Dungeons and Dragons. In the pandemic? Uh, yeah. I’ve been missing out this whole time.

CLINT: It was fun, you know. I mean, at the time we were the weird kids, right? So it wasn’t…It was kind of a bunch of outcasts that you know we weren’t necessarily hugely into sports and it was a small town. We didn’t have a lot of outlets, and it was kind of creative and fun and different. And yeah, it was certainly yeah, certainly fun to grow up with that. And you know, haven’t played Dungeons and Dragons now for years, but a couple of years ago I bought a starter set.

[Dramatic music plays]

SELINA: Ohh yeah. If possible, Clint LaLonde just got so much cooler in my mind, but nothing was cooler than the picture he sent me.

CLINT: That is my mom and I having a great time. I was probably, I don’t know 11 years old. I had mentioned my dad was kind of a, you know into gaming and so he bought a really early game console which was a combination of pong and then there was like kind of a shooting game that came along with it but you hooked it up to your television and played it, so the picture is my mom and myself we’re playing pong in the basement of our house, probably circa 1978 or 79, and just having a great old time.

SELINA: You both look so happy and what is that, like what’s the console called?

CLINT: Oh, I can’t even remember what the console was called.
SELINA: You know it’s a really simple. Game of two paddles moving back and forth, like how long can you play a game? Like that?

CLINT: Ohh man, we would play forever. [Laughter] Well and I remember it did have a couple of customization features of it. So right, you got the two paddles one on each side of the screen and it’s like tennis, right? It’s virtual tennis and then you’re hitting the ball back and forth, but there were a couple of mechanics in the game that kind of changed it up. So for one, you could flip a switch and have two paddles on either side, so you’d be controlling 2 paddles, a forward paddle and a back like playing doubles, tennis, right? And so if you wanted to kind of switch things up…


CLINT: …A Little bit you could do that. And then the other mechanic piece was the ball would speed up, so the longer you play, the more it would speed up and then, so that, you know, added new challenges that you were playing and then you could also really adjust the angle of how your shot would go.

SELINA: Oh yeah.

CLINT: So if you hit it right on the edge of your paddle, you could make it fly off at a crazy angle, which would make it really tough for the other person to return. So there were, there was, I mean, it was more than just hitting a ball back and forth. There were ways that you could kind of interact with the game that change the dynamics of the game. Which is one of the great things around, you know when we start looking at learning principles associated with gaming, this ability to be able to impact the game and that interactivity that you can have to kind of change the dynamics of the game is what helps to make it really compelling, right? So the challenge then becomes: How do I position my paddle in such a way that I’m going to get this really crazy angle coming off of it? That’s going to, you know, mess with my opponent and so that becomes the challenge and you’re trying to do that every time, every time. And you’re trying to constantly perfect and practice on how to do that one little move until you get it just right to make like the trick shots.

CLINT: Right, yeah, like how did you learn it was it? Was there a tutorial that said if you hit the ball on this angle or you know was this something self-discovered?

CLINT: Yeah, there wasn’t a tutorial and so you know as you’re playing the game, you kind of fluke into these things where it’s like, ooh, I just caught it on the edge and ohh I’d sent it out at a weird angle. I wonder if I can do that intentionally, right? So something happened in the game, you notice it, and then you adjust to try to make that happen again. So yeah, no tutorial to do it, which is another great, you know, learning principle. One that I saw actually that reflected this idea of tutorials and how to learn things was the rise of Minecraft. My son was huge into Minecraft when he was really young. And the really cool thing about Minecraft -not only was it like a really creative game and kind of an expansive game where you can create.. you know it’s very, very open. But there was no rule book and there was no tutorials that came with Minecraft in the early days. Now that Microsoft owns it, they’ve come up with like tutorials and how-to’s and you have built that into it. But in the original Minecraft, that was never there, and so what the community became around Minecraft was people who were teaching others how to do things in Minecraft. And so there is a really educational piece there where you have people who learn something and then immediately want to tell the world on how to do this right? So they create these video tutorials and this is early days sort of pre-Twitch times where you’d start seeing the rise of gamers on YouTube sharing tutorials on how to do this and it became like this…

SELINA: Right?

CLINT: Huge community of gamers that were sharing tips and secrets and how to do things. And, you know, Minecraft never created any kind of tutorials to go along with Minecraft. It was just gamers teaching gamers. And so you know the educational aspect of being able to learn how to communicate to others, something that you have learned becomes a really powerful learning tool to be able to explain things to others in the community that they can do it as well. That was always one of the really cool things about Minecraft that I thought.

SELINA: I could see that being a really cool sense of achievement almost like, “hey I discovered this thing”. And sharing that achievement would be such a huge motivator, and I’ve seen tutorials for games that I’ve played. And people are just like “thank you for posting this.” or “This has changed the way that I play” or, you know, “I was stuck” and yeah, and it almost means more coming from a peer than you know a hint or tutorial.

CLINT: Yeah, and it you know there’s something about that too. That’s that next step in learning, right? You, the person who’s creating the tutorial is not just like a passive recipient of knowledge that, you know, sometimes traditional schools can be, where you know you have this person in authority that’s delivering a message and you’re this kind of receptacle that’s meant to take this all in and it really changes the dynamic because you’ve self-taught yourself something. Or maybe you’ve picked up things from other tutorials and then you want to share it with somebody else to be able to teach them how to do that. It really does sort of shift the dynamic of the teaching-learning relationship to now become this community learning environment where everybody is learning from everybody else and it becomes a very, very social kind of environment to be able to to see that in action. And to see kids doing that, just with no, I mean even the fact that you know a lot of kids at the time would just learn how to use YouTube so that they could share tutorials, right? And so it’s not “I’ve learned the game”. “I’ve learned this mechanic in the game, and now I want to learn a way to communicate that I’ve learned this mechanic in the game, so I teach myself how to do YouTube videos”. So it just becomes this huge, huge learning cycle all the way through.


SELINA: Now I wonder, from the moment that you essentially end up playing Pong, how did your relationship with games evolve until today? Because you say you’re a lifelong gamer, like what other kinds of games have you played, and maybe what drew you to those kinds of games?

CLINT: You know, I’ve always well, I’ve always had technology, I mean buying my first computer, gaming was one of my huge motivations for getting my first computer, which was like a TRS-80 color computer back in the 80s, right? So that I could play some more high-end games that you couldn’t do, that that weren’t really easy to do on the gaming consoles at the time. So, that was really kind of my first motivation and ever since I’ve had computers, I’ve always played video games. I’m drawn to simulation games. I like games where you have these kind of expansive worlds. So like there’s a game called Civilization where you…I love that game and have played that game for many, many years. There was another game I played for a long time called Railroad Tycoon, where you, you know, had the world and you tried to, you know, become a railroad baron, but you had a lot of variables that you could kind of play with as you created this world so you know do I I increase taxes on my people or lower, like SIM city too? You know that was another game that I played a lot. These simulation games, so I really I kind of got into that. The sort of God-mode kind of games where you control the world and you can change the variables and certain things happen in it so I’ve always, you know, been drawn to those games. Also been drawn to games that kind of build on that Dungeons and Dragons tradition. I was a big – and still am- play World of Warcraft. And I love that for the social aspect of it. I mean, there’s a lot of people that play that massive like the first really massive worldwide video game where you could have a group of people come together, work together, and you had to work together in large groups to get over some of the big bosses and some of the big mobs. So you needed to really be able to coordinate with other people. And build those kinds of kills to learn. And it’s massively complex, right? So as you get into it…Which is another thing that I love about games is, you know, the ones that can kind of lead you through…You start off, it’s that another connection to learning here where you have this kind of scaffolded learning piece where games will often start you off at a lower level you know and you start working on some basic skills that will come back later on. That you’ll need to use in these bigger scenarios or situations that you find yourself in. So being able to kind of build on that and start small. Well, games do a great job of kind of doing that, which is something I think we need to do more and educate and good educators do this right? You scaffold the knowledge of what you learn in this little piece here, you’ll bring it back later on in some other context to kind of reinforce the learning so it’s another connection to gaming and learning that I like. And then you know, I’m a big soccer fan, so I like sports simulation games. I’ve played FIFA for many years and I love that. The mode that I love the mode that is not necessarily playing the actual soccer game, it’s the manager mode. [SELINA: So interesting.] Again, getting back to that kind of creative mode where you know you’ve got to develop players and you have training plans for players, or you trade for players and you kind of build the team and you put the formations together. The playing piece is fun, but I’m, I mean I much prefer the actual trying to build the perfect team and I often, you know, would start from scratch. You know, with like nothing and I still do this, I’ll just like blow off whatever I’ve done before and just start at like Ground Zero with like a team in like the 5th Division in England or something and try to get them up to the Champions League just by, you know, over the course of like 10 seasons or something so.

SELINA: So interesting, I didn’t know that was a thing and this is my experience: So I was exposed to video games as a kid and…but you know, I thought of things like first person shooters, things like FIFA, which you know were fun. You could play a match or two and it was fun. But when I came back, games have seemed to have changed a lot since, just like first person shooter and, you know, kind of one-on-one competition to what you’re kind of describing, something more complex. or maybe that’s just what I was exposed to, just, you know, because of what was in my house… Have you seen something like that as well?

CLINT: Yeah, yeah, they’ve become incredibly complex and some of them with really compelling narratives, right? I mean, I’ve never been a first person shooter gamer. I’m.. I get kind of bored with those, you know those pieces. I do like the kind of more expansive ones but you know when you look at some of the games now… I play this game called Red Dead Redemption and it’s a western and there’s a little bit of like you know, shooting and you know first person shooter in that, but that’s really not it. It’s got this huge, complex narrative with all of these different characters and storylines that you kind of follow through. And you know, that’s something that is just was not really possible, you know many, many years ago you would start to have some of them, but you could, you know, run the narrative out pretty quickly, but you know compelling narratives. I mean, the Red Dead Redemption is just like it’s a great piece of cinema. You know, I think of it like a great film or something, or a great novel or something with the stories that it tells and the characters that develop along as they as they go along. So you know, that’s where you can get into, you know, I can spend hours and hours and hours playing that game just because I’m following the narrative.

SELINA: Right? Sonic the Hedgehog clicks coins. That’s, that’s the narrative in my day. [Laughter] Yeah, that’s so true, yeah.

CLINT: Well, and even if you think of something like, yeah, like Mario brothers or you know the early, early games and that. Mario Brothers was quite revolutionary because it took this idea of like a little bit of – and this is a little game history- but like Donkey Kong, like Mario brothers were just like a couple of characters in Donkey Kong. And Donkey Kong, it’s very much like action-oriented, the game, but then Mario brothers when it came along, it did have that action, but it started to build out this narrative of like saving the Princess. And you know all of these other kinds of pieces. And so then all of a sudden they became characters and you followed the exploits of these characters. And part of that was very compelling to the whole experience as well as like now these characters are fun.

SELINA: Right, that’s really interesting. Yeah, because you’re going from Pong and Tetris where you know there’s a definite goal, and that maybe is sort of the end of it. But there’s now this emotional piece where if you don’t get to Princess Peach, then you know in theory, I don’t know, Boweser’s going to throw her off the tower or something.

CLINT: Yeah, well, you’re invested in it. Right? Yeah, it’s like I’ve gotta, I’ve gotta do this.

[Video game music with coins clinking]

SELINA: Now, since you’ve played lots of games. And you kind of touched on parts of games that you know, hold your interest and really help you progress and you talk about the social aspects of things that really keep you motivated and engaging with the games. What parts of games have you experienced that you wouldn’t want to bring to education? Cause I know that there’s this, there’s “gamification”.

CLINT: Yeah, well and I prefer the term game-based learning as opposed to gamification in education because as soon as you say gamification, people start thinking about, you know, levels and points and you know. That piece of it, which is not, you know, I think that’s probably the worst part of gaming that we could bring into education, because we already have, like grading systems that are kind of flawed as they are. And I don’t know, maybe some people. I guess some people do get motivated by ,you know, seeing how many points they have, but… It’s really kind of an artificial motivation. I’m a huge fan of people knowing how they’re progressing and you know, are they achieving a goal? But I don’t know if grades and numbers are necessarily the best way to do that. And the other thing that I really don’t like, and so there’s a guy who named James Gee, who’s written a lot about game-based learning and has come up with some principles for game-based learning and has made a lot of connections between video games and education. And you know the mechanics of why games could be good, what we could learn from video games around education, and he talks about a principle of, you know, these are safe, safe spaces – and by safe spaces he means you know there’s low risk involved – in real world simulations so you get to practice things. And you know one of the things that I’m starting to see… So in education, I think one of the things we could learn is to make as many of those low stakes environments as possible for students. And so you know, eliminating that the high that the tests are being able to practice things over and over again. That’s another concept that he talks about practicing in sandboxes. Or being able to put things into practice where there’s not a lot of pressure on the person who’s doing it. Not a lot of real world consequences, and I think in education there are a lot of real world or at least students feel like there’s a lot of real world consequences if they don’t do well on this test. That’s going to impact this, and it’s, you know, you know my son’s in grade 10 now and starting to think well, if I don’t do well in a test, I’m not gonna get into university and I’m like, no don’t think that way, right? It’s just like just enjoy the challenge of you know, learning the content and interacting with the content and being able to understand it and don’t worry so much about the grade attached to it, yeah?

SELINA: Yeah, because you know, like we want people to be engaged in learning but them participating doesn’t necessarily mean that they’re engaged or that they’re learning. For example, and you just reminded me of this. I recently took a design and innovation course. I was just auditing it so I had no stake, like no grades were on the line for me. But my peers, they were just… I… we did all the learning. We got to the project which was, in theory, supposed to implement all that learning and it just went out the window because they’re like “We need to get an A and this is how we’re going to get it.” We didn’t get to practice anything because it was so focused on the outcome rather than the process, which was a bit of a bummer. But you know, I can’t blame them. I was in that boat at one time too.

CLINT: Yeah, and that’s exactly it. Like the as soon as you attach like this high stakes grade to it, it becomes about getting the grade and not necessarily about the learning and it, you miss the process right? Because you’re just so focused on that end result you miss all of the learning that happens to get you to that end result. You know one other piece of game mechanics that I think education could learn from and that is sort of the individualized you know patterns of progression for different people. You know our education system is set up is. Just because you’re the same age you end up in the same grade like you know at the K to 12 system like all 8 year olds are treated exactly the same. You know they’re all in the same grade, all in the same spot. That’s not the case in video games like you said, I mean you can play with twenty different people in World of Warcraft and everybody is at kind of a different level and has gone through a different progression path to get where they’re at, so they’ve all had this individualized.. Even though we’re all having a collective experience and playing the same game. Everybody’s had an individual path to kind of get where they want to go in the game. And so that’s something I think that can be really powerful in education. If we kind of switch our mindset that just because these people are the same age that we’re dealing with, and you know I’m talking K-12 system now. But just because they’re at the same age doesn’t necessarily mean they’re gonna be at the same stage. Trying to create those individual paths for people is something that I think education can learn from gaming.

[Video game music]

SELINA: So there’s a lot that we can learn from game design as Clint points out. And at least these are the things that he as a gamer, find engaging. But have you heard of one of James Gee’s principles for game-based learning called pleasantly frustrating? No? Well, it’s about to be the catch phrase for this episode.

CLINT: You know he talks about things being pleasantly frustrating. I think you know when you talk about things being pleasantly challenging, you want things that will challenge people but not frustrate them. And so I think that’s a really important game dynamic that we can bring into education too. To be able to help people get to that pleasantly frustrating piece where it’s like, “Oh. You know that kind of twigs”, it’s like “I can solve this. I can figure this out. I know how to do this”. “This is a challenge, but I know how to do this. I’ve got some skills already to help me figure this piece out”, so I think that’s kind of one piece that’s important.

SELINA: Right? I love that. Pleasantly frustrating, I’m going to use that, probably in the wrong sense, but yeah, I totally get that, yeah. [Laughter]

CLINT: Well and Vigodsky talks about, you know the importance of having this “more knowledgeable other”, and that’s the role of the teacher and doesn’t have to be like a traditional teacher, but somebody else that can help you get to that zone or through that zone of proximal development, so that’s kind of like the social aspect of it too, so that would be another piece I would say to bring into it. The more we can bring teamwork and social interactions into the learning process and have people help each other through the learning process. And that’s also another a good mechanic that I think would be useful to have.

SELINA: Thank you, I really appreciate it.

CLINT: Alright and I hope I haven’t banged my microphone too many times I..

SELINA: Oh no.

CLINT: Got a little animated there.

SELINA: You’re very passionate.

CLINT: Yeah, apparently.

SELINA: Frustratingly passionate.

CLINT: Apparently, I really wanted to talk about this stuff.

SELINA: It’s so fun. It makes me want to play video games with people at BCcampus too. I feel really excited about this topic, so I appreciate you sharing all your gaming knowledge.

[Theme Music]

TRACY: Well that is a wrap! Thanks to everyone who made this podcast possible and thank you, our listeners, for listening to this final episode. If you liked this content, please let us know. You can find us on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn under @BCcampus and on Instagram

While this is the last podcast episode for now, don’t forget to subscribe to our newsletter at for the latest information and details on all our offerings. You can also always find more information about our podcast at Thanks again for listening!

OER and Social Justice

[Theme music]

Josie Gray: Welcome to BCcampus Mixtape. This podcast is a remix of previous recordings from BCcampus offerings such as the Lunchable Learning radio show, Open Knowledge Spectrums, and more!

My name is Josie Gray. I am on the Open Education team at BCcampus. If you love to learn, you’ve come to the right place.

I am speaking to you from Moh’kins’tsis, which is what the Blackfoot call the area that is now the city of Calgary. This place is territory that is covered by Treaty 7, which was signed in 1877 by the Crown, the Blackfoot Nation (including the Siksika, Piikani, and Kainai Nations), the Tsuut’ina Nation, and the Stoney Nakoda (including the Chiniki, Bearspaw, and Wesley Nations). This place is also home to Métis Nation of Alberta, Region 3. I am really grateful to be here, and to share this virtual conversation with you today, wherever you are based in the world.

We are nearing the end of the first season of the BCcampus mixtape. So be sure to tune in next week to catch the final episode.

In this episode, I speak with Marco Seiferle-Valencia. Marco is a Brown, two-spirit digital archivist and librarian. He is currently the Open Education Librarian at the University of Idaho Library. He is also a co-founder of the Chicana por mi Raza Digital Memory Collective, which is both a digital collection of Chicanx archives and oral histories, as well as the radical praxis that encourages non-institutional memory recovery as encuentro.

In this episode, Marco shares the work he is doing at the University of Idaho to support faculty in creating low or no-cost course materials that have specific social justice goals. He shares how his own positionality impacts the work he does in open and offers a critical perspective on citational practices in open education scholarship and discourse.

Let’s listen in..

[Theme music]

Josie: So to start, would you provide an introduction to who you are and what you do?

Marco Seiferle-Valencia: Yeah, so my name is Marco Seiferle-Valencia, and I’m the Open Education librarian at the University of Idaho library. I’m also the manager of something called the Gary Strong Curriculum Center. So that’s a small education library, like separate from our main library, and it’s where we actually have like all the state curriculum. So like, when K through 12 educators want to pick out a new textbook, we actually have all of the sort of like “official” approved state curriculums and all the different subjects for them to go check out. I’m also, in terms of professional roles, the technical director of a project called Chicana por mi Raza, which is a sort of grassroots digital memory project. And so we collect oral histories and we collect archives of what we might loosely term Chicana-feminist. I say loosely, because, you know, some of the people in our archive don’t identify as women, they don’t identify as Chicanas, they may be a different kind of Latinx background, and they don’t necessarily identify as feminist either. But that’s kind of the sort of grouping ideology that the project comes out of is looking at, how do we kind of recover this, sort of, submerged history of Chicana activism? The very sort of minimal kind of documentation we have around Chicano rights is sort of macho and male-centric and ignores a lot of the contributions that women who are artists, activists, educators, politicians made in all different kinds of areas across the country. So, we have a few geographic focuses like Texas, and Los Angeles, California, places like that. As well as other sort of like less expected places like Michigan. Like sometimes people are surprised like, “Ah, there’s Latinos in Michigan?” Like who knew. There are. [Laughs] So those are kind of my key, sort of, professional roles. And I always like to, sort of, contextualize myself personally as well. And so, I grew up in Northwest New Mexico. I identify as Brown. I am biracial—my mom is white, and my dad is Indigenous New Mexican. So, sort of a complex interweaving their different identities. And I’ve been a librarian for about, I guess, 10 years if you count when I was in grad school.

Josie: And what brought you to open education?

Marco: It was kind of an accident, to be honest. So, I had moved to this region to actually have a job at a university in the region (that will not be named). I was actually in kind of a completely different field. I was a digital scholarship librarian at my institution before. So, I was at Michigan State University as a digital scholarship outreach librarian. And so, I was in charge of trying to put together you know, sort of outreach and programming for our digital scholarship lab. So, at the time, we had gotten a huge grant and were putting in, you know, this like really exciting, like VR technology and sort of like 360 spaces. And so, I had a lot of digitization expertise, my undergraduate degree is actually in photography. And so, I had been, you know, sort of in the digitization, digital humanities, and somewhat archives. But the sort of like grassroots non-traditional archives, open archives, if you will. Not sort of like traditional special collections work. And so, I moved to the region for a job in that vein, working specifically with Indigenous communities using a well-known content management system. And I immediately had some challenges with the leadership on that team, and you know, was one of very few people of colour working on this people-of-colour-focused effort. And immediately running into some very… predictable and structural issues, we’ll say. And so, I made the really tough decision to quit that job, actually, not knowing what I was going to do and having [inaudible], now I’m in the Palouse region. There’s really not a lot out here.

And so, I got very lucky, and I saw this position in open education open up at the University of Idaho. And I had really never thought that much about open education, right, I’ve been thinking about digital scholarship and digital humanities, and this digital memory work, which had sort of veins in open, you know, these thematic things that I’m going to come back to later but weren’t overtly connected. And so, I thought, well, you know, I’ll try it out. I’d never thought of myself as an education librarian. I’d never thought of myself as an open education librarian. So, I did sort of the crash course thing and you know, gave the presentation and ended up really liking the library. Here at the University of Idaho, we have a lot of really innovative digital projects that actually kind of continue that digital humanities work that I’ve talked about, including that kind of emphasis on, sort of, grassroots or non-traditional or under-resourced archives via some of the software we develop here. And so, I was like, oh, this may be a different place than I was expecting. I really didn’t know anything about Idaho. I didn’t have ties to the region, right. So, I just really came into this role sort of completely blind. And it was very challenging, right? Because you’re immediately in the role as an expert. And I’m like, I’m actually not an expert in open education. And everyone’s like, “Oh, that’s your imposter syndrome.” [Laughter] And I’m like, no, it’s literally… the truth. You know, I don’t have that sort of, like, “Oh, I learned about it in grad school, and I’ve been doing it…” You know, people have some really deep histories in it. And for me, I was very new to it and brought this, you know, very kind of digital humanities focused perspective. And so, I started that role in 2018, and it’s been really exciting. And it’s been really interesting, the ways that I can, you know, have sort of synthesized that past experience in digital humanities, and digital project work, and that digital archiving work. And how those perspectives informed what I saw in open, when I saw those open histories, seeing the same kinds of things repeatedly play out. So, yeah.

Josie: Yeah, one of the great things about open is it is so flexible to be able to take those past experiences and use them to inform the work that you do in open is, yeah, really great way to approach it. In the work that I read of yours, you talk about the Think Open Fellowship Program. Could you provide a little bit of information about what that program is?

Marco: Yeah, so I like to try to, you know, follow a sort of citational practice and give people credit. So that was started by someone who was in my role, like a couple of people ago. And her name is Annie Gaines. And she’s actually a librarian at the Idaho Commission for Libraries now. And so, she started the Think Open Fellowship, you know, using sort of like a $10,000 grant that— I actually don’t know how she got it, because it’s sort of like soft money from inside the library. So, I think it’s very much like she came up with this idea, and then, you know, successfully pitched it and got the funding. And, you know, it’s a pretty big success story in that the state has picked it up and sort of provided funding to the library to support it. And basically, what it is, is it’s a kind of typical incubator program, if, you know, people listening are familiar with those. The kind of idea is that we incentivize faculty with a small financial reward, or award, to change a course from a traditional text to an open text. Different programs, of course, have different, stricter definitions of open, you know, kind of “open as a spectrum.” And so, at the University of Idaho, I think it’s a very pragmatic program, and it’s very low-cost focused. And so, when I came in, you know, vis-a-vis that sort of unusual process of arriving, I arrived halfway through an academic year, and so I came actually into a set of Think Open programs already happening. And I was like, “Oh, so this is interesting.” Like, you know, I think maybe one of them, the book actually still cost money. The solution was to use a really old edition of the book because chemistry hadn’t changed that much or something. And so, you know, it’s a $5 cost. And I was like, “Oh, so this is really interesting,” right? Because like, I’m learning about open, you know, and I’m kind of, I’m feeling like I’m starting out. And so, I’m like, oh, the five R’s and I’m like, “Well, where’s the five R’s in a $5 textbook?”, and it’s like, well, but that… this is part of the thing, right? Is it’s like, you know, Annie’s program I think really had a very pragmatic focus about let’s try to, you know, not constrain faculty to platforms or impinge on their intellectual freedom in any way, and just try to incentivize them and support them and getting, you know, the best possible option that they can come up with that’s as low cost as possible. And so, there are some pure, you know, sort of like textbook-transfer projects that we’ve had through Think Open fellows where, you know, we had a graduate student who was really successful in getting a lot of our core courses switched over the standard physics textbooks, switching those to OpenStax physics textbooks. And having just really great results with that in terms of the cost savings. You know, him saying, “You know, there are some challenges with the content. But there’s also challenges with the traditional content.” And so, you know, the grad students aren’t necessarily as entrenched in a particular format or anything and are sort of like, well, you know, they see there are issues with kind of either approach, and I think are more flexible. And it’s interesting, sort of that trajectory of that project also then kind of hit a limit in where it could go, because, you know, a faculty department only has so much input from grad students. Not every faculty is going to throw out their traditional texts just because Ross Miller has done a really great job [laughs] of making a persuasive case. We also had more intensive, kind of custom digital projects, like a custom music textbook, where it can actually be like, edited in real time, it can actually have students like annotate it, and it plays the music back or plays the score back. And so that was something that we had built actually in the library via our digital infrastructure librarian, Evan Williamson, who’s, you know, just kind of a technical genius. And he was able to collaborate with that faculty and really build this like, very unique offering, that happens to be OER, right? But that’s just sort of one piece of what it’s doing. And so those were all the kinds of projects that had been underway when I came into the Think Open Fellows Program. There hadn’t necessarily been an overt DEI focus—diversity, equity, and inclusion-for those who don’t know or aren’t in the acronym soup. And so because that is something that’s very present for me in my personal and professional identities and also something that’s a thread in my research, you know, I think that sort of was immediately in my mind, which is like, “Well, how does this, you know, how are we engaging with our sort of land grant obligations and opportunities to, you know, challenge limiting curriculums and improve representation?” And so, I think I kind of immediately brought that, sort of, tweak to the program, to what had been a pretty traditional and successful kind of mini-grant program.

Josie: Yeah, that’s really great. Could you talk a little bit about, like, what that shift looked like, and some of the projects that have come out after?

Marco: You know, I think it’s hard for me to quantify, right? Because it’s like, I will never know what Annie Gaines’ experience was like, or whatever. I think something that… and I don’t want this to be a controversial thing to say. But I do think that… my positionality in the university, you know, I’m one of 16/17 faculty librarians, three of whom are obvious people of colour, right. So very, very, sort of low representation for people of colour on campus. The library is probably one of the more diverse units on this campus. And so, it’s like, I’m sort of immediately conspicuous. And so, it was interesting to me that a lot of the people who applied the year that then I came onto campus, and I’m the person who is facilitating the Think Open Fellowship, they sort of naturally had this focus to their work as well. I mention this because I think I didn’t necessarily do some fantastic job of promoting DEI and Think Open Fellowships. But part of the reality of being a minority faculty is that you are sort of a walking advertisement for minority faculty concerns. And so that’s both good and bad, right? It’s the sort of like lightning rod where it’s like, so I tend to be the place where people want to come and bounce bad, racist ideas off of sometimes, or, you know, they want to share things that it’s like, hmm, maybe you shouldn’t be sharing that. But then it also does attract collaborators who are like, “Oh, you know, I noticed, you’re not only a person of colour on the campus, but you know, through conversation, that that’s one of your research interests, and I’m also engaging around those topics. And so, what about if I were to do a Think Open Fellowship”. So, in that first year that I came on, four out of the six projects that ended up being selected did have that strong DEI focus. Folks might wonder about, like, the selection process, which I think is, you know, potentially reasonable question. And we try to use a sort of model where we have like a little, like, panel of faculty librarians who review the applications. And at the time, I think the rubric was really around cost savings, like what’s the sort of potential overall impact. You know, probably angling for a higher impact and when possible, sort of weighting that. But also trying to sort of, I think, evaluate projects for sort of how unique they were in terms of, is this a unique contribution? Is this an opportunity to do something where maybe an OER hasn’t been developed before? Maybe working to develop a different kind of technical solution? And then, of course, evaluating them for feasibility, you know, sort of like, is this something that is actually within the scope of what this can support? I think those are sort of the main criteria. And I do you think that I modified the official kind of proposal, CFP, call for proposal thing, to actually say that projects that include an emphasis on DEI, you know, sort of supporting U of I land grant mission. It’s very conservative state here, and so, obviously, how we word things, we have to be very mindful of no appearance of support for any particular political positions. And so, you know, it’s all it’s kind of threading a tricky needle there. But I do believe that I went ahead and added that. And so, I don’t quite know what the magic is that made it so that this particular year that we had these projects. I think it’s partly that a couple of the fellows that I’ve worked with were people who had developed relationships with, and we were already talking about these issues. I think other people, I had had more sort of a, like a kind of professional acquaintance-ship. Maybe I’d done one or two lectures in that class, but not as strong of a collaboration. And then I think we had a couple of projects that year that really didn’t have any DEI focuses. You know, and I think that’s one of the things that I do think it’s worth trying to, you know, talk about a bit is, you’re kind of in this tension, where if someone isn’t interested in modifying their courses in this way, I don’t really feel that it’s my position to even really try to convince them, right. I feel like it’s more appropriate to support the people who actively have that and to, you know, to suggest things, when possible, when people are open to it. But in general, the Think Open fellows, we have a real range of collaboration, where sometimes I’m seeing people every week, in which case, those tended to be the ones where I did have a bit more input. Other times, it’s like, well I saw them twice a semester, and then when they’re done with the project. So, of that particular year, there’s kind of four main projects that came out of it, and that have that strong DEI focus. Two were actually by grad students, and then two were by faculty. And so, one is a project that is like still very much in progress because COVID hit right when we were starting it.

And the kind of concept of it is filming Indigenous community members in our U of Idaho community and having them talk about that experience of being a person who’s Indigenous and who’s also, you know, a faculty or, you know, staff-researcher on campus, something like that. And talking about the kind of overlap between those roles, tension between those roles, with a real focus on creating curriculum for education students. So, this comes from Professor Vanessa Anthony-Stevens who’s a really amazing education professor who also has a really great anthropology perspective, and a really great perspective from just doing a ton of work with different Indigenous communities in the area. She’s a big facilitator of our IKE program, which is our Indigenous Knowledge Education program, where we’re actually helping Indigenous educators figure out culturally responsive teaching strategies, culturally preservation teaching strategies. You know, trying to actually really create a space that nurtures our future Indigenous educators, as opposed to kind of trampling them down like our typical education systems do.

That was her idea was, you know, we tend to have these like really, really limited curriculums that in terms of how we depict Native American people. It’s pretty common for, you know, kids, even in a region like Idaho where we have these really strong Indigenous histories and presences, current realities, and histories to, you know, they’re like, “I don’t know any Indigenous people,” or, you know, I don’t know, like “Nez Perce people over there and we’re like, over here.” And so, trying to figure out, you know, how can we model for educators, this is a way that you can create curriculum, and also, you know, sort of this meta thing where the educator students are themselves hopefully learning something from the content as well. And so, the kind of idea for that was to replace some of her existing textbook with these curriculums that we created that are kind of focused around these interviews with those different Indigenous community campus members. So, we recorded a couple, but then, you know, COVID kicked in, and obviously, in-person recording was not ideal. And we were very particular about wanting a certain kind of aesthetic on this. And so, you know, one of the things that Vanessa rightly noted is that the sort of overall presentation of the thing, including the textbook or an OER, can be a place where, you know, white supremacy and structural racism also expresses itself. And so, we were very adamant about, like, these are going to be well composed, well lit, well shot, well recorded interviews, right. And so some people might be wondering, like, well, why didn’t you just do them on zoom? It’s like because we hadn’t—especially at that time—figured out a good way to record a high-quality interview that we can then turn into, you know, maybe a clip that includes some footage of that person’s reservation or home space, you know, some space that they want to share in terms of physical region. You know, really wanting to have some options to put in some extra sort of, I guess, you might say B-roll footage that provides that additional context.

Another was with Professor Ashley Kerr, and she was actually working on a Latinx survey course that was interesting because it’s like a sort of history of Latin America, history of South America. It’s a course that’s actually in Spanish, so that added an additional element in terms of trying to identify OER. And she wanted to challenge the traditional text’s really colonial perspective, you know. And so, she had just a number of examples where she was like, “You know, this is really an anti-Indigenous perspective in the text. This is a very anti-woman perspective in the text. This is a very anti-queer perspective in the text.” You know and wanting to really kind of explode some of these, just norms in the traditional texts that were themselves very, sort of, colonial. And so, I appreciated that she didn’t call it “Decolonizing Latinx Spanish Survey History Course.” Because, you know, the whole kind of concept of a Latinx, Spanish history survey course is sort of inherently colonial. [laughter] But I think she did a really good job of taking that traditional text and basically replacing it with a lot of different types of assignments. And so, they included things like some really innovative things, like particular political actors in history, and creating a Twitter account and trying to tweet from that person’s perspective. You know, especially I think this was during the sort of Donald Trump presidency, and there was this like real learning opportunity. How do different kinds of leadership—totalitarianism, authoritarianism, etc, fascism—how does it manifest in a sort of rhetoric in this kind of format? And so, I think she used that to sort of explore like, well, let’s look at some of these, you know, Latinx survey history, let’s look at that history and actually apply that sort of critical digital humanities perspective and allow students to, kind of, try something out there. And then I believe, we also identified a number of open resources from here and there, right, a lot of, sort of, searching on the web and finding things in Spanish that then we translated, or finding just raw materials, things coming from museums, even, where it’s like examples like… barbaric, like, Spanish caste system stuff, you know. And being able to use sort of like original archival elements to say, like, “Oh, look at this depiction, that’s like trying to sort out people by their skin colour and sort of rate different levels of interracial identity in colonial Mexico.” And this is something that we want to like shove away, because it’s so horrific and old and racist and gross. And it’s also very deeply relevant, right? Because colourism is like a major, major issue in the Latinx community. And so, taking sort of like raw archival objects, if you will, out of, you know, Mexican American Museum of History, you know, Ciudad of Mexico history kind of thing, and pulling that out and then having students work on digital assignment through that.

And then our two graduate students did work. One did work on an English 101 and 102, trying to make sort of more culturally responsive materials. She was a graduate student who’d worked a lot with English as a second language learners and had noticed that a lot of the cultural reference points in traditional English 101 and 102 texts didn’t resonate for people, were actively alienating for people, were often racist. And so you know, she had sort of limited autonomy as a graduate student in an English department to rewrite these kind of fundamental syllabi, but she was able for her courses to actually experiment with some different solutions that I don’t know that you would necessarily call them exactly open, you know, things like using captioning on Netflix to allow people to, you know, have the captions in the language that they need, right? And so, to say, like, okay, you know, making sure that it’s just selecting something that she’s checking through and saying, like, oh, is there actually Spanish caption on this to help facilitate this for English as second language learners, or things like that. And so that syllabus is really interesting, because, you know, it wouldn’t pass anybody’s five Rs. But it did get the course cost down quite a bit for those particular sections. I think they were now like a $5 course, and she had found YouTube channels where she was able to actually have Spanish captioning and things like that. And so was able to find that and then have sort of supplemental things that people could do if they did have access to things like Netflix, etc, or, you know, the paid textbook. She couldn’t change the curriculum at the fundamental level where they stopped using the English 101 text, but she said students could get through the course without it because she was seeing students getting through the course without it and suffering. And instead, the course was now rewritten that it was like, yeah, it is actually optional. So, like, if you don’t do it, you’re not actually missing out, and also, hopefully, we’re not exposing people to so many of these, like really tired and racist cultural reference points. And then the fourth project was with a graduate student named Rebekka Boysen-Taylor. She’s a PhD student in the College of Education. And she’s also a seventh-grade instructor at Palouse Prairie Charter School. I think it’s K through 8. And that’s a really interesting school. For me, I went to public schools, and so I’m like, “Is this a Montessori school?” because like, it’s like, let the kids do stuff like they don’t have to sit in their desks, and you know, they do these interesting kinds of projects where they work with Indigenous communities. Like in sixth grade they like build a dugout canoe as they’re sort of learning like the Pacific Northwest history. And so, it’s a very, you know, sort of open environment to try out different things. And one of the things that Rebekka was working with, is you know, they had a kind of standard unit on chattel slavery and abolition. Frederick Douglass was sort of central person of interest that often a lot of the curriculums that she was working with would sort of tell this story of you know, the abolition of slavery using Frederick Douglass as kind of a central figure through that. And, you know, one of the things that popped out for Rebekka was the sort of misogyny of this, you know, the kind of way that his wife Anna Murray Douglass, was basically referred to literally as “Frederick Douglass’s wife,” you know, and very little was said. But at the same time, you know, there’s always this, like, very popular story told about how she is the person who makes his freedom possible, right? So, she gets this like, shout out as the person who’s like, critical to his emancipation early in his life in a very literal, logistical way, and then she somehow just becomes his wife and that’s like, the end of her contributions. So Rebekka, you know, is a white, cisgender woman who is very interested in sort of developing her own anti-racist potentials, I would say. And so, you know, when I met her, she was working on, I think it’s called, like, the white supremacy workbook? Not sure if you’re familiar with that?

Josie: Yeah, I think so.

Marco: And now, it’s like a book, I think that you buy. And at the time, it was like a PDF that you could sort of take on. And it’s intended for non-Black people to kind of, you know, be a workbook that’s like, here’s a bunch of exercises and sort of thought exercises, I guess, you might say. And also, practical writing exercises to help non-Black people unpack their anti-Black racism, and you know, hopefully, address it. And so, I had never heard of that resource, and that was like something she was working on. And I was like, oh, this is like, really interesting to see this like white women in Idaho is like, really, critically engaged around all this. Like, I’m sort of curious what’s going on here. And basically, you know, it just turned out that she has this, you know, kind of intersectional feminist perspective. And as she was reading this stuff about Frederick Douglass and preparing this curriculum, she’s just like, “What about Anna Murray Douglass? Like, this doesn’t sound right, you know.” And so, she looks into it, and it turns out, Anna Murray Douglass is, of course, instrumental in Frederick Douglass’ abolition. But she’s also, you know, a noted abolitionist in her own right. She’s a conductor on the Underground Railroad, she’s responsible for the freedom of probably hundreds of people directly, as well as then all of these support in a million different ways that she provides Frederick Douglass. And not just a sort of, like emotional supportive wife that we tend to sort of want to feminize, but also very real, like, no, this is like a logistical, practical, strategic political operation of which she is a key part. And so, Rebekka knows that and then she really just kind of picks it up. And she ends up working with the Frederick Douglass family and working directly with the descendants. She ends up working with some of the sort of best-known historians of Frederick Douglass in terms of writers, as well as folks at the Library of Congress. And she starts basically to pull together all these primary objects that are these like digital archive objects. And we’re wondering, like, how can we turn this into a curriculum that then supports this intersectional feminist perspective, without being really ham fisted about it, because we’re still in North Idaho, right? And so that’s kind of the launching point. And so, for her first Think Open project, that’s what she develops, is this kind of modular curriculum. And we actually try it out in this seventh-grade class with these kids. And it’s, you know, it’s pretty amazing the things that they’re coming back, and that their parents are coming back and saying. And then this is also a curriculum that gets presented to education students in the college education at University of Idaho, saying, “Hey, these are the kinds of assignments you should be thinking about making in your classes, you know. You don’t just have to teach these tiny, standard, limiting curriculums”.

Josie: Yeah, I love how all of those different projects, like they have different levels of intervention. And they’re also very localized, they’re very specific to the context of the course. In the context that I work in, we’re often trying to create resources that are very— like they’re localized in the context of the province, but not very to like an individual class. And I guess that’s because I work on a provincial level as opposed to in an institution directly with faculty, but it’s so great to hear those examples. Like really prioritizing that localization and making the content really relevant. Yeah.

Marco: Well, I think for me, it’s been kind of a natural fit, because, you know, I was doing what are sort of what we call like a lot of “boutique” digital humanities work. So, supporting these smaller, individual projects—that are often what you might call like, a “micro” history. You know, they are very specific, and they’re often focused around sort of a specific geographic region or a specific group of people, and so that’s a really interesting observation. And I think probably something that for me, I was like, “Oh, yeah! They’re like, you know, super nation-specific.” Although I do think sometimes, I have anxiety about like, okay, but how do we, you know… I feel like with open there’s always this feeling of like, well I should be making the next great thing that everyone can use. And it’s like, well… I don’t know.
Josie: Yeah, there’s like benefits and drawbacks to both models. And like, I think that localization is a lot where the change happens on like an individual student level, an individual instructor level. Yeah, you know, like those OpenStax books that can be used all across… like multiple countries—they use them in Canada, too. Like, they’re super powerful, but they don’t have that, like, localized, you know, knowledge that students like, see their communities in.

Marco: Right. Which means that they almost inherently then can’t be very Indigenous, or anti-colonial, right? Because it’s like they’ve got to be…

Josie: Yeah.

Marco: Sort of that global… Yeah.

Josie: Yeah, we kind of get into the problem of like, how we understand what textbooks are, as these like, you know, “objective” narratives that present “truth.” Right?

Marco: Right. [Laughter] As if. [Laughter]

Josie: So, kind of about your positionality, and how you fit into those projects. How does your positionality inform your work in those projects?

Marco: Yeah, that’s a great question. You know, I think my positionality is something that is complex for me, especially because it’s changed quite a bit fairly recently. So I am a Brown, transgender, queer, disabled person of colour, sometimes man of colour, in the academy, right. And so, I say sometimes, because my gender identity is pretty complex. I lived my life for 31 years or something like as an out lesbian, right? And so, it’s, it’s a very complex situation for me. And it’s interesting because I never quite know how things are reading, right? And so, I think sometimes when I initially start talking to people who are wondering why this man is interested in working on feminist projects, you know, and there being this sort of, like weird contradiction of like, “Well, does it make more sense if you know that I’m a trans man, and I’m interested in feminist things?” Like and is that a weird kind of like, transmisogyny? Like, you know, there’s kind of like a lot to unpack there. And so, each of these projects I come into, these are all very new relationships for me. And so, it’s like, we’re forming the relationship and the partnership as we’re going, which does include getting to know each other. And so, I think one of the things that does stand out for those four projects as compared to those other two—j that I’m sorry to say, I don’t remember for that year, because we just didn’t work that closely. I’m sure I could look them up. But they were more like a kind of just traditional textbook conversion. You know, these were the four projects that I worked closely with were people that I was out to in pretty much all of my identities. And so, I think that that really opened us up to have more candid conversations and more honest conversations where I could say, “Oh, well, you know, I think this is actually sort of transphobic,” or “I think this is sort of queer phobic.” And it’s not that I couldn’t say those things without being out, but I do think that if you’re sort of trying to be closeted, then there can be—which I again, I— that’s sort of like inflammatory language. So not everyone has the option to be out—but I think if you’re sort of like trying to preserve the “stealth-ness,” then it can be kind of tricky to be like, well, I’m not trying to let people know that I’m transgender, but I keep talking about like, well, where’s the queer people in this resource? You know. And so I think with each of these projects that I’ve talked about more in-depth, I found, you know, the person that I was working with, even though they didn’t necessarily have a lot of the same shared identities—I think everybody’s a cisgender, straight white woman that I was working with on these projects—I still think that we had a lot of the same commonalities in terms of those shared values around like feminism, around wanting a more intersectional perspective. And I think each person kind of coming to that with a sort of an awareness of their own privilege. You know, and so, me wanting to be mindful about not sort of taking up like “mansplaining” privilege kind of space, you know, and understanding the way that those kinds of pitfalls can manifest. And at the same time, also, sometimes needing to say, like, “Oh, I’m not sure that that’s like, you know, the best idea.” And so, I do think that it’s like, you know, part of being a person of colour is you don’t know what— you don’t know what any other experience is like, right? So, it’s like, I do sometimes wonder, like, would a person who didn’t have as many diverse identities, would they have necessarily brought the same perspectives? Probably not. But I think that that’s something where white people have an obligation—or people of privilege, whatever your privilege is, have an obligation to be developing those kinds of perspectives and interventions.

Josie: Yeah, I’ve been reading— as part of this project I’ve been reading different people who have wrote on epistemic justice, without using that terminology, but particularly recently found writing on white ignorance and ignorance that comes specifically due to white supremacy and racism. Which allows white people to not understand or to like, be ignorant of, either willfully or not, of the experiences of people of colour. So that’s been really helpful reading for me.

Marco: Now, that you’ve said that, it does make me think that I should also mention that I do think that working on these projects was also very affirming because it was a place where I got to sort of be more open in these different identities, right? And faculty position is still fairly conservative in many respects. And so, there’s not necessarily as many places on campus where I feel quite as comfortably being open as I did and those partnerships. And I think it then partly showed up in these kinds of dynamic interventions, that I could be a bit more my full person in those spaces, and then that brought that additional perspective in.

Josie: Yeah, for sure. In your presentation at Open Ed 2020, you talk a little bit about citational practices, and like the intellectual genealogy—you don’t use that word, but—

Marco: [laughter] I should have.

Josie: But, of open education scholarship, like who we point to as thought leaders or like the origin of the values that we claim in open pedagogy. So, could you talk a little bit more about that?

Marco: Yeah, I will say I feel a little reluctant. Because I don’t feel like I’m an expert on this by any means. I think there are probably other—I hope there are other people who know more. But basically, my perspective was, you know, as I mentioned, I was pretty new to open librarianship. So, in 2019, I believe it was, I took the Creative Commons licensing course to learn how the Creative Commons licenses work and so on and so forth. And, you know, they had a sort of typical introduction to open, you know, I now know is kind of the standard open narrative. But I remember reading it and it—and no disrespect to any Creative Commons, authors who contributed to the textbook or whatever—but to me, I was like, what I’m reading sounds like open education started in the 1990s. Like some white tech dudes invented it, and then like, some other white tech dudes were like, “Oh, yeah. This is great.” And then some, like white education dudes were like, “Oh, yeah. We love this.” And now here we are. And I was like, this is really weird, because, you know, as I mentioned, I’ve been working on this Chicana por mi Raza Digital Memory Collective. One of the big kind of sites of feminist activity in the 1970s, 1960s, 1980s, that timespan, is in education. And I was like, well, that’s weird that you would… why is it like, “Open education starts in 1990 with XYZ cisgender white man,” and not “It starts in, you know, 1970 Detroit, when Lucy Cruz is making her own museum to educate kids about Mexican American history because there’s all these kids living in southwest Detroit—to the point that it’s literally called Mexican Town—and they don’t have any curriculum, you know, there’s nothing.” There’s no curriculum that supports Mexican American history, and you have people in the community who are like, “That’s fine. I got curriculum. I make it, I scan it, I give it out for free.” She’s got a museum, it’s full of like, artifacts, you know, she’s giving out tours. And I’m like, that, to me, is a genealogy—you know, as you say, an intellectual genealogy—of open education. And I am really not an expert in Black feminism, but the tiny bit that I know, I was, like, you know, education is where so much of the core Black feminist thought that we now think of as the Black feminist kind of ideological canon. I mean, that’s where it comes from. So, I was just like, I don’t understand how you can have this history of open that ignores what systematically impoverished, poor people have been doing to make sure that we’re educated. I didn’t understand. And so, I thought, well, maybe there’s something missing in the research. But I think, you know, unfortunately, it’s the very kind of, this sort of meta thing, where it’s like I’m talking about while the “standard narrative,” right? And who’s not in the standard narrative, and how the standard narrative really just serves to sort of uphold typical white supremacy power structures. And I was like, and here it was again, where we’re talking about open education and acting like it’s sort of a technological intervention from the 1990s. You know, and also kind of ignores sort of, like, English open school stuff, you know, it’s like a weird…. I don’t mean to totally denigrate white folks, by any means, [laughter]. It’s like, this kind of like, this sort of history that’s like, so technology focused. I was like, this is very… It just feels very “of our time,” that has a culture that has a very particular attitude towards technology and likes to think of it as being this very recent and very particular thing that sort of particularly mastered by particular people, which happens to be the same old people who we tend to think of as wielding power in this country. And so that was my just immediate and obvious criticism. And as I looked into it more, I was like, “Oh, yeah, it doesn’t actually seem like this piece has really been connected.” And for me, it’s important for my work to be liberatory for me, personally, as much as that’s possible within these very confining systems. And it just seemed natural to kind of connect those things. And, you know, hopefully, seed some conversation in the community about the actual ideological history of OER.

Josie: Yeah, it really got me thinking a lot. I’ve been doing lots of reading on citational practices and like, particularly in the context of white feminism, and its appropriation and all of that. So, I’ve been doing lots of that kind of reading and so when I heard you make that critique of open, I was like, yeah, our definitions do point back to not that long ago, mostly tied to the internet, mostly tied to open licenses, which are under Western colonial understandings of copyright, and…

Marco: Yes, yeah.

Josie: Yeah, so that was a big “lightbulb” moment for me, for sure.

[Theme music]

Josie: Thank you for joining us today. If you liked this content, let us know. You can find us on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn under @bccampus, and on Instagram

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You can also find more information about our podcast at, and tune in next week for the next episode of BCcampus Mixtape.

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—End of Episode—

Student Perspectives on Open and Inclusive Education

[Theme music]

Josie Gray: Welcome to the BCcampus Mixtape. This podcast is a remix of previous recordings from BCcampus offerings such as the Lunchable Learning Radio Show, Open Knowledge Spectrums, and more!

My name is Josie Gray. I am on the Open Education team at BCcampus. If you love to learn, you’ve come to the right place…

I am speaking to you from Moh’kins’tsis, which is what the Blackfoot call the area that is now the city of Calgary. This place is territory that is covered by Treaty 7, which was signed in 1877 by the Crown, the Blackfoot Nation (including the Siksika, Piikani, and Kainai Nations), the Tsuut’ina Nation, and the Stoney Nakoda (which includes the Chiniki, Bearspaw, and Wesley Nations). This place is also home to Métis Nation of Alberta, Region 3. I am grateful to be here, and to share this virtual conversation with you today, wherever you are based in the world.
The conversation that we are sharing with you today was originally published as part of my master’s major research project at OCAD University, a podcast titled Open Knowledge Spectrums. The episode was shared under a Creative Commons Attribution Share-Alike 4.0 licence, and you can find it at

In this episode, I speak with three graduates from in my Inclusive Design cohort: Jaime, Mitali, and Caleb, who I had the privilege to work with and learn from during the two years of our master’s degree. At the time of this recording, we were in the final stretch of our master’s projects, and they volunteered to record an episode with me to talk about their perspectives as students and inclusive designers. We talk about their master’s major research projects (or MRPs), reflect on positive and challenging learning experiences, and discuss how education could be more inclusive.

Let’s listen in…

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Jaime Hilditch: My name is Jaime Hilditch. I’m a designer and author of a children’s book called The Earth Needs a Break from Plastic. I have a background in graphic design and communication design. And all the design work I did, when possible, served companies, people, organizations wanting to do good. So, for example, branding for Fashion Revolution in Calgary, Alberta, graphics for an environmental company working to serve Henvey Inlet First Nations, and exploring dangers of plastic pollution. And I realized through inclusive design, I had an interest in early education as well as design. So my major research project is titled “Pre-Braille Implementation into Early Education,” more specifically in the kindergarten classroom. And we’re working to introduce pre-Braille. And pre-Braille is activities done before learning the formal Braille writing system—so Braille grades one and two. The activities work to build two-handed coordination, finger sensitivity, grasp and release, light touch, finger dexterity and mobility, which are all important to formal learning of Braille. And it’s my hope that with this project, introducing these pre-Braille exercises and activities, students will be more engaged in the Braille writing system if they need to later on learn Braille, there will be more inclusive lessons conducted in the classroom, and starting it at a younger age.

Josie: What brought you to the inclusive design program?

Jaime: So, I was in graphic design at OCAD, and I heard about this program through my professor during my undergrad thesis. And I was working on a project, which was the book I ended up writing and illustrating. And she thought I should, you know, attend one of the sessions, and I did. And you know, being really interested in social design, I thought this was another area that could broaden my design perspective. I think, you know, learning design was very helpful—graphic design—but I was more interested in how it could be accessed by a wider audience. You know, web accessibility and more inclusive education. Yeah.

Josie: Mitali, how about for yourself?

Mitali Kamat: I’m going to give you the short version, because the long version is really long. But um, I’ve been an occupational therapist for a while now. So I’ve been practicing about seven years now. And I’ve tried to sort of… you know how you’re in, you’re practicing in a field, and you’re trying to find what you want to do, or like your niche in that field. So what ended up happening was, I was on that discovery, and I landed in a school, which was heavy on assistive tech—so I’m a school-based occupational therapist, and that’s what I do—and because of the caseload I had in the school, I had to learn a lot more about assistive technology; I ended up getting certified. And there was this 3D printer at the school, or in my department, which was not being used. And we also had this incredible tool guy—or a carpenter—who would sort of customize devices for therapists. So it was like therapists basically engaging in design without actually knowing that they’re doing it. And I started doing like adaptive 3D-printed aids for my students because they had unique preferences, like they wanted to use one type of water bottle that would fit on their wheelchair. And there was not a cut, like, you know, something that was off the shelf that was out there. So we ended up designing an adaptive aid for her, for her wheelchair. So things like that. And I realized that I enjoy that process of actually working with someone to design an adaptive aid or assistive tech device. And that’s when I started reading about it. And I started connecting with organizations, and I came across the book Design Meets Disability. And I read it. And I was like, “Yes! This is… this is what I’d like to do.” Finally, after, like, 10 years of trying, or something. But yeah, then I started basically just googling what inclusive design is, and I came across this program, since, you know, there’s not a whole lot of them out there. Yeah, that’s how I ended up in the field.

Josie: Thanks. And do you want to share a little bit about what your MRP is?

Mitali: Yeah. So my major research project, I’m working with blind and partially sighted participants who have an art and design background or who are in the arts, to come up with tools and strategies that could reimagine what drawing looks like for blind, and maybe come up with a drawing toolkit that will help them create, help them access education programs and even industry.

Josie: Cool. Thanks. And Caleb?

Caleb Valorozo-Jones: So I have a bit of a weird background. So I have a certificate and diploma in music production and business. And through doing a lot of like music production and marketing, like on an indie level, I started building websites, and I was designing stuff for people because I knew how to use Photoshop—which was all that you need to know at the time on the local level—and got more and more into it, and learned about interaction design as a field so then I got a degree in interaction design. And now I’m doing a master’s of inclusive design at OCAD. So kind of like a weird transition from like doing music and like pop culture-based things to more design and service design.

Josie: And what was it about the inclusive design program that really appealed to you?

Caleb: That’s like, complicated because like, I think I’ve always to a degree been passionate about inclusive design. Although it wasn’t like called that when I was younger. And like design education, especially like in high school to when—because like, I went back to school as a mature student—like the degree did not exist when I had graduated high school. And when we took design in high school, it was communications class, and you had to do certain things that— It was primarily graphic-design based, and like—no offense to Jaime—that’s just not what… I’m just not into it the same way. Like I like to digital design and like multimedia design. And you had to take art, and I was terrible at art classes, and I wasn’t into it. So we didn’t really have the vocabulary to understand that like how things are designed or industrial design, or like all these things that can encapsulate inclusive design. But it was largely because like, my sibling is autistic. And he has other learning disabilities, and they required a lot of assistive technology and accommodations going through schools, and what they have IEPs in Ontario. And it was such a battle to just do the simplest things, like get a computer with like assistive technology, so that they could participate in school. And my family was kind of like always embroiled in these battles about it and seeing the same thing, like my mom is also dyslexic and has ADHD. And like, there’s whole complexities around the education system that like… like now I identify as neurodivergent, as well, but didn’t have those same access needs or barriers to be a “problem” student. And so I was always kind of like, very aware of the lack of access and inclusivity for certain people, because we make exceptions and inclusions and access needs or exceptions for people all the time. But we just don’t consider it that if it’s not above and beyond what we want to do. So I became very aware of that. So when I was doing my interaction design degree, they always talked about, “You have to make it accessible. And it’s easier to make it accessible before, than after, the fact. And it’s cheaper,” which is like always how things are framed in education, because it’s capitalism. But we didn’t really like go beyond how to do that beyond like WCAG. And like, I was like, well I want to know more. And because I was kind of passionate, especially about like neurodivergent and autistic accessibility and the getting involved and following people on Twitter in those communities, you eventually find out about the IRDC and learn about those projects. And they were so cool and finding out about how it’s linked to the program.

Josie: And you want to share a little bit about what your MRP is.

Caleb: Yeah, so my MRP is Dungeons and Dragons for neurodivergent adults. So a lot of neuro-diverse programming—or program for neuro-diverse populations— focus on having them change their behaviors to fit more into society. And there’s specific therapies that are very harmful and can cause a lot of psychological damage and PTSD. So this is looking at, instead of asking neurodivergent people to change themselves or come from a deficit-based approach, using hobbies or activities that use a lot of role play and imagination and creative opportunities to imagine and construct neuro-diverse spaces that are a) safe spaces for neurodivergent people, but also to have them work and build on the skills that they identify as needing, so like, self-advocacy, self-determination, etc, which all happens in Dungeons & Dragons, but unless you’ve played you might not know that. But it’s, that as alternative. And also helping neuro-diverse people who may not have access to support systems or funding for accessing programming. So it’s like, a more inclusive, hobby-based, less expensive way to do it.

Josie: Yeah. So one of the questions I’m exploring through the podcast is this idea of openness. And how people think about openness, and how people understand openness. And I was wondering how you three have experienced openness in education? And that could be in kind of, whatever way that word makes sense to you.

Jaime: So for me, before I went to OCAD, I did a diploma in art and design at Kingston University. And so it was a one-year program, and the first six months you’re encouraged to explore. So we tested out fashion, 3D animation, fine art. A lot of those I realized I was not good at, at all. I remember creating a fashion piece with one arm hole.. but actually, sort of inclusive because then I was like, well, you know, this could be for someone who is pregnant, or it could be for someone who has hurt their arm. Anyway. So we did have briefs, as most design projects do, but there was always room to go speak to people in the community—which would inform our designs—guerrilla marketing and campaigns, and collaborating with one another. So we did eventually—after the Christmas break, so halfway through—we focused on one of those areas, and I chose the communication design. But we were still able to work on projects with people in fashion, and people in, you know, 3D modeling and stuff. So I think those, you know, learning from people in different areas was very beneficial and just really interesting.

Josie: Yeah, for sure.

Mitali: I don’t remember a whole lot of openness, honestly. I think the only times I can remember are like when we had sort of, project-based activities. So I remember when I was in undergrad, there was this one, one time, that we had to do like… audio-visual presentation. And I ended up, with my friends, making a movie out of interviews from these people who are working in a school with children with disabilities back in India. And I was completely out of the context of what our curriculum was. Yeah, I think I didn’t have a whole lot of opportunities for openness in my programs until I got to OCAD, I guess. And getting— the only things I remember being, like flexibility and like, the creativity to go out and explore and do whatever makes sense to you out of this school or this learning goal was probably everything that was project based, I would say.

Josie: Mhmm. The videos you describe, so you were— was that in the States?

Mitali: That was not in the States. I was in India, in Mumbai. And I was at a point where I was getting frustrated with the curriculum, and I really wanted some real world, like, experience. So we ended up going to this school. And they had, you know, a lot of children with multiple disabilities and Down syndrome. And in India, you don’t have the education system that’s like, sort of funded by the government. So you don’t have like IEPs, and all of that. So you have these schools, which are special-education schools, which support students. So we went to that particular school, and it was my first sort of… exposure into real-world application of students in a school environment with regards to OT. So, yeah.

Josie: Yeah, I think that’s a great example of just like, how making learning more “real world” can be so much more impactful and motivating and feel like it’s worth the time. How about you, Caleb?

Caleb: In terms of, like open education resources, I think, not a lot of exposure to that stuff. With having taken like design fields and stuff—and I don’t know if Jaime had a similar experience—but because there is a lot more informal or like, grey literature, about design.. Like there’s like oodles of blogs and media posts. And most companies now post their, like, design systems, so that you can understand how they develop them. And, and like Microsoft’s Inclusive Design package, I forget what they call it—

Josie: Toolkit, I think.

Caleb: Yeah, their toolkit. So there’s a lot of resources in that sense, that we have access to in learning, and that they were free and were referenced. Because they are like industry examples and case studies and resources, so they’re useful in that regard. But like Mitali said, I— my instinct is to say there was not a lot of openness in education, but like, the more I think about it… And in my interaction design projects and the briefs, like yes, we had to do specific things to learn specific hard and soft skills, but we could do whatever we wanted with the project, usually within approval of the professor.. Like I still— [laughs]. No, I shouldn’t tell that story, [laughter] but like, if they didn’t think it was a good idea, you wouldn’t do it because you, you’d get a bad grade. And ultimately, even if it was the most fulfilling project for you, your scholarships and funding and bursaries are ultimately based on your grades. So you’re not going to do that in pursuit of it, unless maybe you have better like, ethics than I do to like not compromise your principles… [Laughter] But to me, I was like, yeah, well, I’m not going to lose my funding.

Josie: Mhmm. Yeah, that the topic of grades in that context is so tricky, and I feel like it’s one we’ve had in practice with this cohort in the last year, right? Like how grades are so limiting, but also how they still have a lot of power over the type of work that we do. And like, as long as there are grades, we can’t not consider grades. I follow a lot of people on Twitter that talk about “un-grading” and changing— Like they still have to submit grades, but they change their grading practices. So it’s more about… Like, they’re not grading the work, they’re more grading how students reflect on their own learning over the semester. And like, that’s the grade. There’s a lot more collaboration between instructor and student, and a lot more self-reflection and self-grading. So yeah, those conversations are very interesting. And, when you want to… when you want to give students the ability to like, explore and do things maybe outside of what’s expected, stepping back from grading is pretty important, just because they’re so limiting, and they’re so oppressive.

Caleb: And I love those systems, but also like, the thought of that sends me into like a panic spiral because it’s like, we’ve learned nothing else other than to achieve the grade.

Mitali: It does make you happy also. It’s like—

Josie: Oh yeah!

Mitali: It doesn’t mean anything! [Laughter] Like it really doesn’t.

Caleb: Yeah. Because I also hate it when professors are like, why are you so obsessed with grades? And it’s like, because…

Jaime: We’re made this way?

Josie: Grades got me scholarships.

Caleb: Yeah, like, how do you think I am here? If my grade drops, so does the money…

Josie: In past educational experiences, what are some times you have felt included, or excluded, or otherwise? Like, what kind of challenges have you faced in the education system.

Mitali: I feel like my largest barrier or challenge, has been being on a visa… [Laughs] I didn’t realize how much that limits your options, like even in my master’s program for occupational therapy. You know, all of these students had the chance to go and explore an externship. You know, they went to Ghana, and they went to, I think multiple other places where they got to explore. And, because of money and because of visa and because of all of these things, that was just not an option for me. I mean, the process was so different from back at home that the time it took to sort of navigate and understand what kind of environment I was in, I was pretty much out of school by then. So you know, you just kind of follow this traditional path that, you know, most people have taken before you. And it’s safe, and you know, you’re going to graduate and get a job at the end of it. Yeah… not a whole lot of room for exploration, even at OCAD. OCAD, though, I did try to like— I had the chance to sort of edit my program to my needs. But it took a lot of, sort of, reaching out myself and trying to see what I can get replaced with, you know, what I needed to do.

Josie: Yeah, you did a lot of self-advocacy work.

Mitali: Yeah, like, this is my second master’s. So I was like, I don’t want to get through another program and be like, I’m not happy with what I learned, you know. So I did replace a lot of things with more experiential learning, like an internship, an independent study project. Anything that’s a project for me, I found was like, a good place to learn. [Caleb: Yeah] Something that was not an assignment or like, like a graded assignment or something like that. Yeah, I think that has been my biggest challenge or barrier, I would say, is navigating the international aspect and trying to find scholarships, and trying to find classes I can take, and stuff like that.

Josie: Mhmm. Yeah, I think that challenge of being an international student, for sure. I think you faced a lot of barriers with that. And it’s interesting that OCAD—or at least the inclusive design program—isn’t better equipped to deal with those barriers, considering it’s a program that aims to be welcoming of international students and to build more global communities.

Caleb: I wonder how much… well a) that will change. And I just find it interesting too like, with Mitali doing all this self-advocacy to get all these experiential and like more custom and well suited to your learning goals. And why like, we kind of talked about this prior, like, in class when you’re discussing about like electives and like, wanting to learn and trying to take electives at other schools, and the whole system kind of seems like you can do this, but they don’t really want you to.

Mitali: It’s true.

Jaime: Yeah.

Caleb: It’s not exclusive to OCAD. That’s just, I’ve noticed that other schools. Like even when I was trying to take electives in my undergrad and wanting to take them at a different school, because it was something I was interested in learning, and it was just like, such a headache.

Josie: Mhmm. Yeah. Jutta has talked about doing co-design sessions to see how we can improve the inclusive design program. And it would be interesting to see—it sounds like it used to be—but interesting to see how the inclusive design program could be more flexible and easier to personalize it to specific learning goals. Like I think those barriers are things that could be made… less

Jaime: For sure.

Mitali: It was interesting when she said that like, because it does make sense. Like, you know, it’s kind of like an individualized education program, or like plan. Which would be like, a perfect fit for an inclusive design program, right? You are basically using something that has been used for students who need that, to see if it works better for everyone else? And that makes sense. Yeah, I think it would be really nice if they can do that.

Josie: Yeah, Caleb or Jaime, do you have experiences or challenges you’d like to share?

Caleb: I have, like, two thoughts about it. And like, my first thought is always—not always—but like my first thought is kind of experiencing the education system as a queer person, as a queer man. And that’s always been a concern, like— It’s less so in post-secondary a concern because like, it’s impolite, especially in Canadian society to be like, outwardly homophobic. But that doesn’t mean like you don’t experience microaggressions. I know everyone experiences microaggressions for various things. But like, I have definitely had those moments in education. And I think like with any person who’s experiencing microaggressions, or oppression, or being marginalized in the classroom, that is going to take away from your experience. And you’re not focusing on learning, you’re more focused on your safety. And I’m sure that has been experienced by lots of people, having sexist or racist or xenophobic professors. Like, I’ve not met anyone who has not had that experience. And I know schools have policies to deal with these situations. But I think the reality for students is much different. And as much as— I feel like students are told a lot like, “Oh, well, you’re buying this education, like you’re the customer. It’s catered to you.” But there’s not that— There’s such a huge power imbalance that even making complaints or advocating for yourself, it very much does feel like you’re putting yourself at risk. And you’re risking your grades, which depend— Like it all, it all ties into, like the system where you feel excluded and also like, could hurt your academic or your professional career if once you graduate that you’re a “problem” person.
And then I think a lot about, in my undergrad, when I was sick, and I had to have surgery, and I was on, like, accessibility, the Student Accessibility office. But it was a nightmare to deal with, and like to deal with teachers, and systems that like we’re not doing what they were meant to do. And just being a person with temporary accessibility needs. The hurdle for people who are not able bodied, or disabled, or sick, or experience chronic illness, I like, I can’t imagine having to go through schooling or post-secondary schooling with that. That’s, to me, like one of the biggest problems with exclusion—in society in general—but specifically education where they… they say they have these policies, but it’s still so difficult for the students themselves to enact them.

Josie: Yeah. Post-secondary is very ableist and not designed to support disabled people at all. And I think with COVID, we’ve seen a lot of like disabled people who’ve been asking for accommodations to be able to take their classes remotely and being told for a long time that that wasn’t possible. And now all of a sudden, oh, all of a sudden, it’s possible. And will those accommodations still be… will those be provided now as accommodations? Especially for people who are immune-compromised and chronically ill, where it’s still a huge risk for them to go back in person, even once people start to get vaccinated. Yeah, I’ve been reading a lot about the different kind of accommodation requirements that have come up with COVID, and around like, people not having quiet places to work or take tests because they’re at home and not having their own space, and with this online proctoring and how ableist those systems are and how racist those systems are. Yeah, academia is not a safe place for a lot of people.

Caleb: Did you see the thing about the York student in Myanmar?

Josie: Yeah, the email.

Caleb: Yeah.

Jaime: Yeah. Oh, yeah.

Caleb: It was—I don’t know if you saw it, Mitali—but it was a student who’s in Myanmar, who’s going through a military coup. He asked to reschedule his midterm because they were shutting down all the internet, the cell. And the teacher was like, incredibly rude and dismissive and questioned his sense of reality…

Mitali: Oh my god.

Caleb: And said, like, “Well, you better pass the exam, it’s going to be difficult.”

Mitali: [Laughs] Sorry. This is not like, laughter…

Caleb: No, it’s… incredulity. And that people were so shocked. I’m like, no, like, this is so exemplary of a lot of the mindsets. A school may have a policy, but that professor is a barrier to enacting that policy.

Josie: Mhmm.

Mitali: Yeah.

Jaime: Kinda reminds me of a classmate of ours talking about being like a half a semester behind because their accessibility was delayed, and like he couldn’t get the transcripts.

Josie: Yeah, accommodations not being the default, and having to go through all these hoops to get those required accommodations.

Jaime: And then having to catch up while you’re doing a giant project. And I think similar to Caleb, less so in post-secondary, but in high school and younger. I am a person of quiet nature, and I also have anxiety. So many times, but depending on the class or the project structure, I wasn’t able or didn’t feel comfortable contributing. So I think it’s really important to acknowledge the different learning styles, and mental health, and language barriers, and you know, to create a safe and inclusive space to learn. I did have some teachers in high school that would try and make these accommodations. But I was definitely extra work on my part to go and speak to them, even if I wasn’t comfortable doing that on my own and advocating for what I needed. But in terms of inclusion, I think this year in class with Jutta, definitely co-designing a class outline was something I’d never experienced before. I think that was really exciting.

Caleb: That just made me think, Jaime, basically, like what we’re kind of discussing is that it all— it puts the onus and the effort on the student. But I had a great professor. I only had her for like two classes, she was one of my favorite professors. But at the start of her class, she would do a survey so that we didn’t have to, like, speak up in class. Because a lot of times teachers say, “Who has accessibility accommodations?” and you have to put your hand up, and you’d be singling yourself out, and people who wouldn’t want to do that. And she said, “Regardless of whether you’re registered with the accessibility office, do you have any accessibility needs? Do you have any concerns?” And it would be in the survey, and like it also said, like, “What’s your preferred name? What are your pronouns? What accessibility needs? Are there any concerns that you have about this class?” And like, yeah, the onus is on the student, but you don’t have to, like, go initiate that conversation or out yourself in any capacity. She was initiating, and she was laying the groundwork for setting up that dialogue.

Jaime: That’s great. I wish I had that.

Josie: How do you think inclusive design practices can make education better?

Jaime: So many things. I think, you know, we all talked about this a little bit, but tailoring studies to unique interests. Kind of creating your own your own degree, your own study path. As well as something that includes cross disciplines and collaboration, combining different faculties. So like, even science and fine art. You know, having these conversations that would not typically happen. I think that’s one thing.

Josie: For sure.

Mitali: Yeah, definitely. I think it would help to have the intersections, right. I mean, the more that we get to… sort of interact with students or professors from different fields and different backgrounds. And I think it depends on what level of education we’re talking about, as well. Like, I feel like once you’re at a graduation and post-graduation level, you would assume that you a little bit know where you’re going. Whereas it would be harder to identify goals for someone who is very, very young. You have to, you know, come up with a lot of creative methods to do that. Yeah, I think tailoring a program according to your goal—like overarching goal—would be ideal, according to me. Like, so my goal at the end of this is I want to work on this one project, or I want to be able to learn how to do this. And whatever skills I need to get there, hopefully, the university or the program can equip me with those tools or those resources to get to my end point.

Josie: Mhmm.

Jaime: I also think it’d be interesting to look at post-secondary education models in Europe, ones that are free to attend. You know, cost is a big barrier for education post high school. I don’t know the school specifically or how they operated, you know, I have to look into that more. And I also think we’ve touched a bit on this in class, these schools in Europe are maybe more tailored studies, and they’re free to attend.

Josie: Yeah, cost is a huge barrier, right.

Caleb: Cost definitely. And I also think, like, the thing that I love most about open education and open education resources—and obviously I’m not the resident expert here, that’s Josie [laughter]—but just kind of the sharing of knowledge, in a sense that knowledge does not have to exist or be captured in one way. Like I was reading a survey and report of graduate students and professors, and the majority of them have at least one parent who has a PhD. And there’s like insights into the education system and participating in post-secondary education that you’re not going to have in terms of its culture, and also the understanding of its materials and the way it works, that if you don’t have that knowledge, like I don’t have that knowledge, my parents don’t have post-grad degrees. We always talk about the accessibility of journal articles and learning materials in terms of their accessibility for disability and needs, but also, the concept of plain language and understanding knowledge. I think that’s like the biggest opportunity for open education resources is just giving more people access to knowledge that is not paywalled and is also at different levels of knowledge scaffolding. Because journal articles can be like so, so painful when you want to learn about topic or get into it. And a lot of the time, it’s easier to read and start at these, like, simplified blog posts. But like, there’s somewhere in the middle that you can meet with open education and making it more inclusive in the sense that getting more people into different topics.

Josie: I think you’ve made great points, both talking about like for first generation students, post-secondary is like such a system in that it’s like, you have to learn how to navigate it and how it’s structured, and who to talk to, and like what kind of supports are available that, like if you don’t have those support networks that can help guide you through that, that’s a huge barrier for students who are first generation. And talking about paywalled articles and more access to information, but also more like public facing scholarship, where the goal is to make knowledge more accessible in all of those different ways. Like not behind a paywall, written in plain language, actually relevant to people outside of academia, digitally accessible, like can be worked with assistive technologies, those are all part of it.

Jaime: But a lot of times during the early part of the project and literature review, finding these journal articles, and be really excited about them, and then just… just not comprehending because it’s such scientific— Yeah, I guess… I don’t know the type of language. But it’s quite difficult to understand, and you have to, you know, review multiple times. And so, I’m trying with my MRP to make it very plain language, also something I’m comfortable with writing as well.
Josie: Yeah, it’s such a skill, right? Like you get people who do academic writing all the time. And they have such a hard time writing in plain language. Like it’s… both of those things are skills.

Caleb: Because I think it’s shown itself to be a very large problem. Like, with dissemination of information and knowledge surrounding COVID. And people’s understanding of how it works and the dangers it poses, because so much of it is written in academic language and scientific language and then disseminated through journalists who are trying to—and like, I know there’s science journalists and whatnot—but I think that’s perhaps one of the problems with it. And like trying to explain to my family about like, “Well, they’re saying a different thing every day. It’s changing. They keep saying different things.” I’m like, “You’re watching like, science and academia happen in real time, like, probably for the first time in your life.” We’re not used to that, like as a society, like we don’t have… it’s a completely different world.

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Josie: Thank you for joining us today. If you liked this content, let us know. You can find us on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn under @bccampus, and on Instagram
Subscribe to our newsletter at for the latest information and details on our offerings.
You can also find more information about our podcast at, and tune in next week for the next episode of BCcampus Mixtape.

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—End of Episode—

Pedagogy Over Technology

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Tim Carson: Welcome to the BCcampus Mixtape. This podcast is a remix of our previous live recordings and our other BCcampus offerings such as Lunchable Learning, Open Knowledge Spectrums, Praxis Pedagogy, and many more. If you love to learn, you’ve come to the right place.
My name is Tim Carson and I’m the provincial trades rep for open education at BCcampus. And I’m coming to you today from the unceded territories of the Katzie and Kwantlen peoples in Maple Ridge.
This episode is an opportunity I had to sit down with Chad Flinn, who is the dean of Trades and Technology at Medicine Hat College and is entitled “Pedagogy Over Technology” and it was great to have Chad Flinn on the show. He’s a great friend. He’s an awesome colleague. He’s also an amazing educator and an emerging leader and advocate for the evolution and reformation of trades, vocational education, and training. It is my honour to present this episode for you today.

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Tim: Hey everybody, welcome back to Praxis Pedagogy podcast. It’s been a minute since we’ve been on the show had a bit of a break, an extended break, so it’s been good to have that break, but it’s also good to be back and good to have you with us. Today we have a very special guest, a colleague, a friend, and all-around good guy. Dean from the Medicine Hat College in Alberta, dean of Trades and Technology, is that right Chad? Dean of Trades and Technology?

Chad Flinn: That is correct. Yep, Dean of Trades and Technology.

Tim: Well perfect, Chad Flinn. Welcome to the show.

Chad: Thanks, good to be back. It’s been a hot minute since I’ve been on the show. So, it’s good to finally [laughs] We’ve been talking about doing this, and we’ve tried a couple of times.

Tim: That’s right.

Chad: But yeah, it’s come a long way from when I was actually on, more often than not.
Tim: Yeah, that’s right. I was going back and listening to some old episodes and we’re like, wow. I remember getting together and doing all those things.

Chad: Remember doing that live in the basement or at BCIT, there back in the day. [laughs] And now here we are on zoom.

Tim: [laughs] Yep, and we did a few episodes live on YouTube with the famous Ed Logan from Ontario. Shout out to Ed.

Chad: Yeah, no doubt. It’d be good to get back into a conversation with Ed.

Tim: Sorry if you hear some strange noises in the back, that’s just my dog.

Chad: [laughs] I thought maybe it sounded like; you know those guys that chew all the time. They bring out the can and they’re smacking it to get their chew. Are you into the chew now?

Tim: No, no, not into the chew, not even close. I’m into coffee, I’m in the coffee. It’s early, but yes, it’s all good. All right, Chad. So, because it’s been such a hot minute since we’ve had you on the show, bring us up to speed and brother, what’s been going on with you?

Chad: Well, it’s funny you should mention, Tim. I just had my one-year anniversary at the college yesterday. So, because you’re in a position for a while you have to go through a probationary period. It was a one-year probation, so I met with my president yesterday just to reflect on the past year and man what a year it’s been. So previous to this I had a short stint working for Sask Polytech as a learning technologies trainer. Previous to that, you and I worked at BCIT, you were in the plumbing department, and I was an electrical instructor. So, over the past year, the amount of learning that I have had to go through stepping from a learning technology edtech fanatic, into an administrative role has been absolutely mind-blowing.

Tim: Oh, I can’t imagine. [laughs]

Chad: And that’s one of the things the president asked me yesterday. He was like, so what were your expectations going into it and how were they different? And I was like, OK, well.

Tim: You ready?

Chad: Yeah exactly. Well, my expectations going in, I said honestly having come from industry and working as I was an operations manager for an electrical instrumentation firm in Fort McMurray. I was an assistant area manager for electrical instrumentation up in Fort McMurray. I had management experience at a [yada, yada] and I had all this management experience in industry. Never having managed in academia before.

Tim: Right.

Chad: I said so coming on board and I had it in my head what I thought a dean did because of my time at BCIT basically. And then I said it’s like that meme where you got those four quadrants like what my mom thinks I do, what my friends think I do, and what I actually do. What I thought going into it was I thought I was going to be just an operations manager. I thought I was going to make sure that the day-to-day of the Trades and Technology Department would move forward. And yes, that’s true. That is one small aspect of the job, it turns out. I’m very very lucky in the fact that I have such a fantastic faculty that I don’t have a lot of problems with that. I don’t like to say they run themselves, but they self-manage a lot and they’re really open to new ideas, and we have great discussions, and I don’t have a lot of issues in that regard. So, also because we are at a small college, we wear a lot of hats, and we were talking about that yesterday as well. So typically like at BCIT you would have a dean, then you have an associate dean, and some schools have chairs. Where at BCIT we have a dean and then we have our coordinators. Not BCIT, at Medicine Hat College.

Tim: Right, right.

Chad: And so, all those other positions that are in between there, like the chair and the associate dean, we don’t have that. So, I have to kind of take on that aspect of it. So again, operationally I have a lot of stuff, but again, thank goodness that I have such a faculty that I don’t have to worry about that. But then there’s the other stuff where we don’t have AVPs, like associate vice presidents. So, a couple of things that got put on my plate, because I love technology, I love innovation, I love creativity. Whenever something would come up like the work-integrated learning was a huge thing that came across Alberta. Alberta got this Alberta 2030 report where they want all the PSIs or post-secondary institutes that have some form of work-integrated learning in absolutely every program. So even if you’re…

Tim: Really?

Chad: Yeah, even if you’re in like social sciences, they want to make sure that you have some touch to industry, which is very interesting. So again, we have work-integrated learning, we’ve always had work-integrated learning when we talk about trades. I mean, that’s what we do, right? So, I thought, OK, I’m going to jump in on the work-integrated learning initiative. Medicine Hat College had a very rudimentary one. So, we’ve been working the past year really stepping up the game and getting a framework built and now we’re getting policies in place and procedures, and I got a team working on that. So typically, that wouldn’t have been something that fell in my wheelhouse, as a dean. Luckily for me that it did. We also have a center of innovation that we’re starting up. So that’s because I’m in trades and technology and I had just a love of innovation that was an area that kind of fell into my portfolio as well. So again, building a strategic plan for that, working in industry. We’ve got a few people that are actually working with us now on projects, which is super exciting. So those are the kind of things that really kind of push forward. And so, like I said to my president yesterday, I love the operations. I love my faculty. I love that side of the house, but I also love that I get to play in these sandboxes as well. And so, my expectation for the job was high going in and it’s far superceded and exceeded anything I ever thought it could be.

Tim: Right. Wow.

Chad: Long story.

Tim: No that’s good, man. That’s good. Yeah, because you know, having a role like you do, I imagine that you could get bogged down in a lot of the operational details and aspects of what you need to do and all that, and/or personnel issues, right? I imagine that could bog you down pretty quick. But having lots of people taking kind of the self-directional perspective on what they’re doing sure frees you up a lot, right?

Chad: It does, and not also micro-managing. I’ve never, in any role I’ve ever had, I trust the people that are working with me, and so I don’t sit there, and I don’t require them to have to always tell me or come to me the decision. There are certain things that obviously are higher level things that might affect the entire institute or entire school. Yes, you have to talk to me about it. But within your own program, that’s your program. Yeah, I’m an electrician by trade. And then I’ve got a master’s in Learning and Technologies, if you’re a heavy equipment trainer or technology, or AST or carpenter, I don’t know that, I don’t know how to teach that. So, you have the freedom in which you want to run with that. If you want to run those ideas past me, we’ll have a conversation about it for sure. I don’t need you to come to me and ask if you should be doing this part asynchronous, or this part synchronous or you know, can I make videos for this, or should I be blah blah blah like there’s that’s up to you and I trust you, right? And so, and again, because I’ve got such a great faculty that they do that sort of stuff, and they’ve come up with really innovative, crazy, good ideas. And it’s kind of spilling out.

Tim: That’s awesome. That’s really good. And you know, because we’re friends and we talk a lot offline and online and I’ve seen your posts and all that other stuff. It’s amazing to see what can happen when you have a group of people who don’t need that real close management style. Yeah, right, they’re used to working in groups or without a lot of oversight. That’s really good. So, it probably didn’t take a long time to develop a foundation of trust between you and your teams when you first started, am I right?

Chad: And little, I mean, yes and no. I mean some people, because there had been previous.. I mean I’m stepping into a position that somebody else had. So there’s those relationship building that you have to go into and then like you do things differently than the previous, my predecessor did, so. Some people are very comfortable with that. Some people not so much so. Having those conversations of just being, trying to be authentic, trying to form relationships, really getting to know people. I made an effort to spend time with every single one of my faculty and staff. And get to know them as people, not just as an AST trainer or carpentry or plumbing/gas fitter, just as people. And so I made a big push on that, and so yeah trust built after, I was actually talking to my assistant yesterday about it, my trust is built over the past year, but, it’s like it has taken a lot of work because there has been those previous expectations and they didn’t know me. And I do do things differently than like, quite differently, than others had done it, and I give a lot more rope than others, and so they weren’t used to that. And so it did take time for them to realize that, like I don’t have to check in or I can go in to talk to him about this. So like any day and any kind of relationship., it takes time to build up and to prove that you’re authentic, yeah?

Tim: Yeah, no for sure, for sure, that’s good. So what’s on top your mind for this coming year then?

Chad: This year it’s, I think we’re really focusing on Alberta is going through a huge change with their Apprenticeship Act. I think you and I have talked about this offline before too, but they’re looking at trying to create this parity of esteem between trades, education, or TVET and academia. So typically you can go two years into a program. You get a diploma, and four years you get a bachelors and after that you can go into grad or with trades typically what will happen is you get your trades ticket. And that’s it. It’s kind of, yeah, I hate to say it, but it is a dead end. Now you can go find other institutes. There are some out there- shout out to Royal Roads – that will take previous life experience and then work with that right? And you and I have both gone through the Royal Roads program, having not had an undergraduate degree but what they really want to do here in Alberta is that if you get a trades ticket because of the amount of time you’re in class, they want to look at that as an equivalent to a diploma. So when a student comes out with their ticket. And whether it’s whatever like gas fitter, electrician, plumber, they get their Red Seal. They get their certificate of qualification, but they will also get a diploma so that you’d come out of Medicine Hat College with your ticket and a diploma in electrical technologies or whatever. Still trying to figure..that’s all getting worked out, so then you actually have those two years of credit. So if you want to go on to get a bachelors. You can take that, or if you want to go on to a masters that accept diplomas, then you have something to back that up. So that’s an area that really, we’re looking at doing. Also, we’re looking at how the industry and they’re really trying to tie together industry, post-secondary institutes and the students and the government is in there, but they’re trying to become more of a liaise than just telling us how to do things much like in B.C. we have the ITA that kind of controls all that. Here in Alberta we have what’s called AIT. AIT, we’re looking at partnering with the post-secondary institutes where we will have control of the curriculum. We will have control of the actual resources that are being put out and so we will work together. So right now, I’m part of a working group and just how that’s going to look, which we’re looking into things like the log book, which I know we, like the blue book, or whatever you want to call it, but that book that most of us had going through our apprenticeship that our journey people signed off on that, whether we’d done things or not.

Tim: Yeah, yeah.

Chad: So one of the big discussions we’re having about around all that is, proof of competency should not just be a signature. Proof of competency should be proof of competency. So now with the technologies we have, we can take pictures. We can show videos we can actually provide proof that a student has a competency in an area and then from that they can get a check mark or digital badge or whatever, and then that gets into a whole other discussion around blockchain and NFTs and all that fun stuff ’cause we’re looking at how to do that. Decentralize it, as opposed to having it, you have to be stuck within a certain system, so there’s a lot of work that’s going into that over the next year here in Alberta and we’re trying to… the legislation is passed for our Apprenticeship Act to change. It’s coming into effect now in January, but it’s the other work behind the scenes to get all this curriculum building and the new model of how we want to do these things. And then also, we’re trying to make sure that we are holding industry more accountable as well. Because like with trades, some you get some people who go out and have a great experience. I had an amazing experience during my time where I got a lot of great hands-on experience. My boss would take side jobs on residential stuff just so I can touch on a little bit of residential, but then you hear these horror stories of students that are treated like labourers and not students. Apprentices that are treated like labourers and don’t get that experience, so we’re really trying to hold industry to be more accountable for that as well. And bringing them into the educational process ’cause with apprenticeship is so siloed it’s you know you work for a bit, you work for your 50 weeks or whatever, but then you go to school but they don’t really connect. I mean, there’s this school, yes, and it’s.. you’ve got the theory and all that, but it’s we don’t tie it all together. And at the end we just kind of say, OK, you’ve got all this now your 6000 hours, like 5000 hours, whatever it is. 4500 hours. Then you know, you pass the theoretical side of things at the school. So let’s mash those two together and call it a certificate of qualification. Then you go on to write a multiple choice test and you are now a Red Seal whatever, right? So we’re trying to move outside of that, which I mean I’d love to get rid of that multiple choice. A friend of mine, Mike Smith, from an undisclosed college would talk about burning it down and getting rid of that because what does that really prove other than they get really good at memorizing? But again, it’s really easy, it’s really easy to mark.

Tim: No kidding.

Chad: So I see the value in it, but Mike would want to get rid of that, yeah?

Tim: Yeah, I don’t think Mike’s alone in that adventure. So a ton of stuff there. When you’re looking at bringing back the book and going into almost like a digital log where apprentices can track their progress through the system through not just year to year, but almost essentially job to job and skill to skill, task to task. Is there any talk or is there a hope to use that as.. in combination to the Red Seal exam or even because I know in Alberta you guys have the provincial TQ? So is there any talk in marrying that together where apprentices can essentially get credit for certain aspects of their exam where they don’t have to quote unquote, write that piece.

Chad: That hasn’t come up in the conversations I’ve been, but I think it’s a natural progression like I think it will end up in that direction. I think ’cause there has been like little quips about the Red Seal exam, and I think anybody who’s on that working group that I’m part of was, they say that it’s problematic, but there’s a reason for it. But I could see that Tim. I mean, I’d love to hear your thoughts on that too. Like what do you think if we had eportfolios? Do you think that gets rid of like having to prove the Red Seal. And what would we do with that Red Seal? Like, how can we assess for it? Because it becomes.. here in Alberta, you can get your…you can pass your TQ and you don’t even have to get a Red Seal. Right, you can. You don’t have to take that Red Seal exam.. you you’re still a plumber here in Alberta and you say, OK, I’m never leaving Alberta, so why even bother getting my Red Seal.

Tim: Yeah, and that’s been a problem, I think, nationally, when it comes to people being able to move from one job to the other and I’ve seen that from two arms lengths away where you know apprentices have moved from one province to the other to even go to school and then go back to their home province to work. And I think having a digital portfolio is probably the best of both worlds, and I look at trades like cook and hairstylist and we have a good friend, Sally Vinden who’s been on the cusp of that whole change with hairstylists where they actually have a practical and a written for their Red Seal. Which really just makes sense, because it’s a natural progression from the practical theoretical experience that apprentices have when they come to our schools, right? They’re going to be sitting in the classroom, yes, but they’re also going to be going to a shop or some kind of lab and not just in trades, but you’re seeing that in other areas of vocational education too, like nursing and lab tech and X-ray and all these, all these different subsets of that. There’s lots of hands on that happen, and the question that I think you and I wrestle with as well as a lot of other people is how do we assess that properly, right? Yeah, we can create a rubric and have all that stuff and check boxes off, and that’s great. But how does that integrate into their final mark, right? And traditionally, those practical exams have been weighted low compared to the theory. And I wonder if there’s room in the dialogue to see those numbers balance out a bit more. You know, because we could all say that there are people in the trades where they wouldn’t even need to come to school, they can just write the exams and off they go. And then there’s people who come to trades because they’re, for whatever reason, they’re not really good in the theory, right? But they’re great with their hands, and so why would we want to penalize apprentices with, uh, with an exam that’s meant to be more of a gate than an actual assessment tool. And you know our good friend Nikki-shout out to Nikki- would be shouting from the rooftops right now about all the assessment stuff that’s going on. But I think that there’s going to be have to be some kind of progression to proving that you can do the work outside of A,B,C,&D.

Chad: Mmhmm. Agreed. Even when I was in industry as an operations manager and I had a resume come across my desk and somebody would say they could bend pipe. But then when so you look at the resume, sometimes you have time to call the references, sometimes you don’t. You don’t call all the references, whatever, at the end of it you hired this person because you know they checked all the boxes, but then you get out and their pipe bending is absolutely horrific. And so if I had had access to somebody’s portfolio like when somebody goes for advertising or for marketing or art, fine art, they bring that in. They show their portfolio. Well why can’t we do that in trades? And sometimes they’re called artisans, right? So why not? Why don’t we have these portfolios? And I have had people bring their photo albums in to show me some of the work they’ve done and that makes a difference. So why can’t we put that in there? And it’s now so easy, our students can take pics. Our students do take pictures. They’re snapchatting and TikTok-ing all their work. Half the people I follow on TikTok now are tradespeople that are electricians. They’re posting almost every day about some of the amazing work they do well that becomes something. And if we could somehow link that to a portfolio, well, then they’ve got proof that they could do it.

Tim: Yeah, and this is part of that wholesale burning down and rebuilding of the trades education system because I think that we miss the boat educationally sometimes because we’re behind in the curriculum that we’re teaching. You know where, in the plumbing world, materials have been evolving and new technologies have been brought into the construction world so much, that why would they come to class and learn about a joining method that they have never done and never will do. And yet it’s part of this archaic, archaic may be a strong word, but archaic curriculum package that they have to read through and then write an exam on something that you know very few people actually really do, but somehow it made it into the curriculum.

Chad: Well, aside from like humanities, I mean this could go broad over almost every single discipline in a post-secondary institute. The moment, the curriculum is always outdated, always. I don’t care what field you’re in. You can be in nursing. You can be in electrical, you can be in informational technology the moment you show up and you buy that obscenely expensive textbook, it’s completely out of date. So maybe we need to rethink education, this is Mike speaking now, education as a whole, and think about well, do we..are we here to teach our students about the latest technologies? Because we can’t, we’re always behind, or are we here to help facilitate to learn how to learn? It’s this discussion you, Sally, and Lucy and Mickey and I have had ad nauseam. Should we work on those metacognitive skills, should we be working on those essential skills, and yes, we do it under the context of plumbing or we do it in the context of electrical or information technology or architecture. But we’re teaching our students more holistically, as opposed to the technologies and the hands-on stuff they should be getting out in industry. The same thing goes for like here in Alberta, too, with this apprenticeship stuff that they’re going through, they’re doing what they’re calling an apprenticeship expansion where they’re trying to bring in other disciplines into the apprenticeship model as well. So somebody who’s working in data analytics, well they could come to the college and we could teach them about algorithms and all that. And then after two years they get a diploma and try to get a job or we can partner with industry and we teach them how to do certain things that the industry is telling us that they need. Then they go out and they work for a bit in data analytics. So much like we do in industry except for now we, our, curriculum is always so behind on everything. And that’s what I’m saying. That’s one thing I could say as a dean, in having my feet in trades and in technology and being part of all these other committees, we’re seeing that in everything, aside from like a course on Chaucer, Canterbury Tales, like that maybe doesn’t change, but everything else is rapidly changing all the time. So why are we so focused on this curriculum when we need to be focused on other things I think, like we’re in this area where we can actually do some good for people.

Tim: Yeah, so do you think the curriculum needs to be um… well, there’s probably two parts to this question. One, do you think curriculum needs to be released regionally-that it can evolve and adapt regionally-as well as, do you think curriculum should be built or could be built with more interested stakeholders at the table A.K.A students or recent grads?

Chad: Yeah, I think what needs to happen is a opposed to- and this is I think a problem across PSI’s everywhere-is we have us sit down as our subject matter experts who’ve been in the college system now, I haven’t been on the tools for 12 years, but then I think that I’m part of committees where they’re designing curriculum for trades, right? And so, but I don’t see a lot of industry there, and I definitely do not see students there, and I don’t see former students there. So how powerful could it be if we actually have the students having a voice in there and industry having a voice? And yes, we have articulation communities and we have our program advisory committees and all that sort of apprenticeship committees. But it’s not the same as if we get them in there as an actual stakeholder as opposed to just like showing up to a meeting once a quarter and giving their two cents, it would be very interesting to see if we could design curriculum around that sort of thing.

Tim: Yeah, I absolutely agree. What do you think are some of the barriers to getting industry to the table to help with curriculum development? Because I don’t think Alberta is unique in the challenge.

Chad: I think it’s an old school mentality. The big thing that I think we’re going to run into is it’s always been done this way, why? Why are we changing it? It’s working. They’re getting students coming through, you know, apprenticeships. It’s very busy. Yeah, we have low… I can’t really…You’d know the stats better than I would, but from the time an apprentice starts, to the time they get the Red Seal. Is what? 50% actually make it through, so, but they look at that number and celebrate it.

Tim: Yeah, Yep.

Chad: And so I would say that’s 50%, it’s great we got a lot. If you have 700,000 start then you can have 350,000 people at the end of it, but I think that we got to get past that idea and it’s just it’s very different, like the change is hard and trades traditionally, even in the time that you and I’ve been in the trades over the past 30 years, we’ve seen it change substantially. But even like the mindset of you always treated your apprentice like they were garbage, because that’s the way you were treated. We’re starting to finally see that change, even though it’s taking some time. It’s just I would love to like, well, we always will burn it down and then build it up right away, but I think it’s going to be slow changes and getting the right people in the right positions and taking those students, moving them into faculty positions, moving them into administrative positions, moving them into government positions. That’s how that’s going to be a slow change, and I think that’s how we’ve got to where we are right now, just all that slow change from before, so I think we keep working ahead. I think in having these types of conversations, but not just with you and I, but with everybody that is interested in having them, then we can do something about it.

Tim: Yeah, I totally agree. Talk to me a little bit about the perspective that industry has of post-secondary in your context there in Alberta.

Chad: Well and how? Like as far as trades is concerned or…?

Tim: Yeah, as far as far as trades is concerned like what’s the perspective of industry to post-secondary?

Chad: It’s.. I mean for in my area, let’s just talk about Medicine Hat then, which is a small city about roughly, with the surrounding areas, we have 170,000 people here, right? The college, it has a presence because it is the college right? Everybody talks about, they don’t say it’s MHC or whatever. They always talk about this over-arching brand of “the college”, so I think there is an understanding that it’s there, it’s necessary. But it’s been islanded, and I think a lot of institutes are like that in this, and the ones I’ve been involved with anyways… and I don’t say that it’s a bad thing, it’s just, is the way that these things are, but… they will…an institute will design things and then go out to industry and say OK, here’s what we’ve designed: What do you think? Or are you on board? Or here’s what we’ve designed: Please enroll. Now that it’s, it’s been the way things have been done, it’s the way things are done internally in colleges. Today we have, and I think we’ve talked about this too, the problem is you have these instructional designers that will build things and then they will go to the trades department, say “here use this” and they… “But don’t worry, we’ve got a workshop for you.” Whereas how many times, how do we have people being brought in? BCIT was good. They had a great team there that would start to bring people like yourself in or me and to have conversations right? But what we need to do and what I think I’m excited about Medicine Hat College is. They’re really trying to like, yes, they maybe have been an island because that’s the way post-secondary institutes have been, but now they’re laying down a lot of bridge work and trying to bring in industry before they even come up with one single outcome for a course. Because that’s, I mean, if we talk, I mean Sally and I, we’ve talked about this, about backwards design. You need outcomes and work backwards, right? It would be interesting, or it is interesting and this is already starting to happen in our colleges, what is… what would the difference be from something that we as a college would design versus what an actual industry stakeholder would want. And it’s, sometimes they’re aligned, but there’s some things that we miss, and it goes back to my point about our curriculum will always be out of date because our fingers are not always on the pulse of what’s going on in industry. So, if we could put those bridges down, bring the stakeholders in before we even design a course. If we bring the stakeholders in just to say, “what are your needs?” And then from there, we decide OK, you know you need something in a sustainable energy professional. OK, well, let’s talk about that. What would that look like to you? And so, having those discussions then building something and having them go OK, let’s…we’re going to go away for a bit. You come back and then you build it and you bring it to them. And you say, what do you think? And when they say, “I wouldn’t have that part in there,” then take that part out. As opposed to just these stakeholder consultations that sometimes happen where we just show and we say “OK, well, thank you for your input” and maybe just go ahead with what we want to do anyways. It’s interesting when you actually listen to them and start moving things around because of the things that they’re saying and, boy, wouldn’t it be interesting to see what kind of institute you would have doing that? Where are you actually bringing the stakeholders in as opposed to being prescriptive, you’re being collaborative.

Tim: Yeah, it’s always more powerful when you’re collaborative like that, and it certainly goes a long way in building trust between the two entities, right? Because I mean there’s a…I think there’s a long history of mistrust from industry to post-secondary education. And you know, I’ve heard this statement tons of times where, you know, we’ll send you to school to learn the book stuff, but I’m going to train you how to really do it?

Chad: Yeah, totally.

Tim: And even that whole language behind are we educators, or are we trainers? Right, that’s a huge shift for a lot of people who are teaching. Because they come out of a system where they were trained to do certain things and now, they’re looking at teaching and it’s like well, I’m training them to do tasks. And it’s like, well, I’m not sure that that’s why we’re here, but okay, and then you move on to try and change that perspective.

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Tim: Thanks again, Chad for the wonderful time we spent together on this episode talking about pedagogy over technology. I also want to thank you the listeners for taking the time to listen to this encouraging episode. And I also want to encourage you to register for the Trade Summit series happening later this month at BCIT where you can attend either in person or virtually and you can register for that event at I also want to take some time to encourage you to sign up for our newsletter, you can go to and sign up for our newsletter there. Visit the website and take a look around. There are some great tools there for you to use and consider in your own praxis. If you like this content, show us some love on our socials. You can find us on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn under @BCcampus. We’re also on Instagram at Now again visit for more information and to subscribe to our newsletter to get all the latest BCcampus information and offerings. And you might be able to catch one of these episodes live. Tune in next week for BCcampus Mixtape, you’ll find more episodes on and subscribe wherever you prefer to listen to your podcasts. Thanks again! Have a great day.

[Theme music]

—-End of Episode—–

Leveraging Creative Commons Licenses

[Theme music]

Josie Gray: Welcome to BCcampus Mixtape. This podcast is a remix of previous recordings from BCcampus offerings such as the Lunchable Learning radio show, Open Knowledge Spectrums, and more!

My name is Josie Gray. I am on the Open Education team at BCcampus. If you love to learn, you’ve come to the right place…

I am speaking to you from Moh’kins’tsis, which is what the Blackfoot call the area that is now the city of Calgary. This place is territory that is covered by Treaty 7, which was signed in 1877 by the Crown, the Blackfoot Nation (including the Siksika, Piikani, and Kainai Nations), the Tsuut’ina Nation, and the Stoney Nakoda (including the Chiniki, Bearspaw, and Wesley Nations). This place is also home to Métis Nation of Alberta, Region 3. I am grateful to be here, and to share this virtual conversation with you today, wherever you are based in the world.

If you are listening to this episode when it is released, it is Open Access week! The theme of this year’s Open Access week is Open for Climate Justice. For more information, you can go to For those of us who are settlers on Indigenous lands, one thing for us to remember is that conversations around climate justice must absolutely centre the voices of Indigenous Peoples, who have cared for these lands for thousands of years and the land defenders who have put themselves at risk to protect the water, trees, and land.

The conversation that we are sharing with you today was originally published as part of my master’s major research project at OCAD University, a podcast titled Open Knowledge Spectrums. The episode was shared under a Creative Commons Attribution Share-Alike 4.0 licence, and you can find it at

In this episode, I speak with Dr. Amy Nusbaum, an assistant Professor at Heritage University. She shares projects she led to take advantage of the permissions of open licenses and adapt an introduction to psychology open textbook to make it more inclusive. In one project, psychology students provided suggestions on how the textbook could better fit their local context. In the other, Amy leveraged open tools to crowd-source the evaluation of the textbook through the lens of diversity, representation, and inclusion. We talk about open pedagogy, the importance of support, collaboration, and funding, and the real impact that small changes can have.

Let’s listen in.

[Theme music]

Amy Nusbaum: I am a first-year faculty member in psychology at Heritage University, which is in central Washington, in an area outside of Yakima, Washington. I just finished my PhD in experimental psychology at Washington State University—I guess just… it’s almost been a year now—after getting my undergraduate degree there as well. So I’ve been in Pullman, Washington, for a while now. I am a first-generation college student and really struggled with college costs, generally, but specifically, textbooks costs as a student, and so as a graduate student, as I was finding ways to get involved with these kinds of practices. I really fell into the open education world ,and I’m excited to continue getting to do that work with my current students and my current job.

Josie: So open education was something you came to as a student, is that right?

Amy: As a graduate student, yeah. So, during my time as graduate student, most of the students in my program end up teaching independently. So I, from years 2 through 5 of my program, was teaching courses. And, you know, was frequently running into students who couldn’t buy their textbook. And you know, as a student with a background who also couldn’t buy their textbooks at times, like, I couldn’t tell them to “Suck it up and buy it,” right? Because I know that’s not how life works. And so, by way of, I think, teaching practice and just experiences with those kinds of students, I got more interested in open education. And I was definitely coming at it from the angle of free textbooks, which I know is sort of how a lot of people get into it. I’m now more involved in sort of the other aspects of openness, but definitely got into it from the free textbook side of it. And then, sort of took a while to convince some other people in my department that that was a way to go. But for the last few years as a graduate student, we were using open textbooks in our intro psych classes, which are all taught by graduate students. And it was sort of— then trickling down to some other courses as well.

Josie: Cool. So, you were able to kind of make that shift in your whole department.

Amy: I certainly wouldn’t claim credit. [laughter] I think there was some seeds that were planted, and I have a tendency to be obnoxious about things that I want to see happen. So, I was poking, I think, some correct buttons, but there were definitely other people in the department who were doing some advocacy work on their own. Dr. Carrie Cuttler who’s been involved in open ed in different levels, was already using books in her particular classes. And so, there were a few entry points, but I will take some credit for being annoying and not letting people forget about it.
Josie: Yeah. Great strategy. [Laughs] So how does open education show up in your teaching?

Amy: As a framework, open education is everything that I do, right. So especially in the last few years I think I’ve taken open education to be more than just free textbooks, and really a conversation about who gets to decide what’s important? Who’s teaching content? What’s included in content? What are we asking students to do with their work? Because from a purely pedagogical perspective, I really hate assignments where student writes it, I grade it, and then it goes away for forever. So I think the thought process of open education really permeates everything I do. I think the two big examples are in terms of course costs. There are no costs in my courses from using mostly openly licensed materials, at least free materials. And then most of my classes have assignments that are also in the open pedagogy sphere. So things like, they’re creating infographics based on research articles that make their research articles more accessible to a general audience. Or this semester, my capstone classes are working on a wiki-education project where they’re editing and adding to Wikipedia pages. So, it appears differently depending on the particular class, but I really think it’s a holistic approach to what it is to teach and what you’re asking students to do.

Josie: Right, absolutely. The textbook is such a great entry point, but it does open up a lot of other possibilities in the general open education space.

Amy: Yeah.

Josie: So, from your experience, you talk about the financial benefits for students, but how else does open education support greater equity in post-secondary education?

Amy: I think finances are a big one, obviously. Having access to your textbooks early, though I know there’s some debate in the research world of whether that accessibility hypothesis holds. But I think it really… it evens the playing field. You know, I think of how— I knew a friend in undergraduate that was able to keep all her textbooks, and so like, when she was studying for the psychology subject GRE, she just had all of her textbooks available to her. I could never do that. I had to sell them back so I could buy my next round. So even if we’re not talking about, you know, a particular class or spending money in one class, those decisions I think are a bit of a domino effect. You know, in one of my papers, we look at whether students are going to select classes based on their— whether there’s an OER designator by the class, and we find it affects students course decisions, right. So, you think about things like—and I’m not going to make a causal claim here because there’s no evidence for a causal claim—but thinking about relationships that exist. And for instance, lowered percentages of low-income or Black and brown students who are persuing, like, medical degrees. Textbooks in those fields are also really expensive, right. So it would be really interesting to look at whether there’s a correlation there, whether students who can’t afford their textbooks are looking at classes when they’re registering and being like, “I can’t have that $300 textbook, so I guess I should find something else to do.” I think it goes beyond the one class that the OER text exists in, and is really a cascading effect that can have a lot of downstream issues. And so, I just think OER is… is often talked about in that one-class situation, like my class is using textbooks, but I think is we think about it at a broader level, we’ll actually find even more exciting stuff that we can do with these kinds of approaches.

Josie: Right, yeah absolutely. So, from your perspective, where is open education falling short?

Amy: Yeah. I think we very much run the risk of replicating the current systems of—you used the word systems of exclusion, which I like—if we re-design something where it’s generally the same people writing or working on OER that were always working on commercial textbooks, and the only difference is that they’re free. Free is certainly better. But as we’ve already talked about, there’s lots of other reasons why OER are good.
I think right now we’re falling short in terms of the people at the top of our movement. I mean there was lots of drama around the OpenEd conference in 2019 for some of those reasons, right. And I think that you’re seeing people start to realize that… “Well, crap. Did we just do the same thing and make it no cost?” And so I don’t necessarily think it’s a fatal flaw, but I think the movement is at a point where we’ve got traction, right. A lot of people know what OER are. A lot of students have had them in our classes. And so we’re, I think rapidly approaching a point where if we engrain what we’re doing right now as “this is what open ed is,” we run the risk of just being a copy-paste of a publisher’s—or a commercial publisher’s—format. So again, I don’t think it’s a fatal flaw, but I think it’s somewhere that we need to work on in terms of making sure that we’re following people who should be followed. Or maybe not having follower/following situations in the first place. [Laughs] I don’t know what exactly it looks like!

Josie: Right, like valuing those critical perspectives that cause us to reflect and consider what kind of system we’re creating.

Amy: Yeah, I talked earlier about the idea that open pedagogy really transcends just free textbooks, right. It’s how we think about who is important enough to talk about things. And I think that has to be reflected in our discourse outside of the classroom also. And making sure that we’re, you know, involving from community colleges, who aren’t necessarily always valued in the way that they should be. Or the student perspective. And I think people who get to OER often… want to do those things, it just perhaps hasn’t been modeled for them. And so I think making sure we’re following our own values is going to be important.

Josie: Yeah, for sure. I know people talk a lot about, like— I don’t work within a post-secondary institution, but people who do often talk about the lack of supports that there are for faculty to do open education work, to like create OER or to adapt. Have you had that experience, where either the supports have been there or haven’t been there?

Amy: Yeah. So I think a little bit of both. As a graduate student for most of my time I felt really lucky because my research mentors were pretty much of the mind that as long as I was doing what I needed to do for them, they weren’t paying much attention to what I was doing outside of the lab. So, I was lucky in that I was able to work on those kinds of things. And, you know, as long as I was willing to work 60 hours a week to fit all that stuff in, then that was fine. And so I don’t think my story is traditional in that sense. I was a single, child-free person, who could do whatever she wanted with her time, and that’s not a good system to replicate, right.

Josie: Mhmm.

Amy: I have seen a lot of faculty members, especially non-tenured, or non-tenure-track faculty members, who report really wanting to do these kinds of things. But they’re teaching four full loads and don’t get paid over the summer. So when, when is that going to happen? Some universities certainly have internal supports for that, so my graduate institution did have a grant program that was pretty prolific, just in terms of the amount of money it was able to give out to support either faculty or graduate students to create OER. So those are the kinds of programs that are great. My current institution is much smaller. So while it’s— they’re incredibly supportive of OER, and I think I’ll definitely be able to take the time to do that. There’s not like and internal grant program for that, because it just doesn’t make sense in this context. So, I think the answer is both, and. So, we—again sort of the colloquial “we”—need to think about how we support people who aren’t at institutions that have that internal support. And what it looks like to do that in an equitable way.
Josie: Yeah, for sure. I think that’s a lot of the big questions people are asking about that wider sustainability and allowing more people to participate where there aren’t always supports to do so.

Amy: Right, and it’s not an easy question, right. Money doesn’t just come out of nowhere, and we’re not making money. I was doing a presentation for our faculty at my new institution about a month ago, and someone asked like, how do you equitably support people? Because if you’re writing a textbook for a traditional publisher, you probably don’t make that much. But you go into it, you sign a contract on your own, you understand the conditions. How do you do that in a situation where the person is not able to make money? And one of the things we talked about, you know, is having appropriate state-level support, right. So in the state of Washington, we have decent support. It’s not as good as it could be, and so I think that’s like— State and federal governments are a way, or provincial governments are a way to get that kind of support. You know, the money we need is not… a whole lot, right. If you look at the state budget, it would be like one tenth of one tenth of a percent, right. It’s nothing in their eyes. But to us it could be everything. And so, being creative about how we access those the streams of a financial support.

Josie: Mhmm, for sure. So, last year you published an article describing a project to diversify the OpenStax psychology open textbook. Could you tell me more about that project?

Amy: It was sort of a two-headed monster, and it honestly wasn’t originally intended to be that way. But it just.. shook out that way. So, the in-class version: I was teaching an intro psychology for the fifth or sixth time. It was a class that I felt like I’d gotten the basic mechanics of and so was ready to do something a little more expansive. And so, as a class, the students took on the project of basically editing their own textbook, right. So, I like these kinds of projects because… textbooks need to be edited… But also, again it gets at this idea of who gets to contribute knowledge, right? Like I believe my students have valuable things to contribute to a textbook. I don’t think they realize that they have that power in themselves, or at least a lot of them don’t. And so for a couple reasons I like that project. It was a multi-step, semester-long project. The students, they could write on other things that were sort of outside the diversity scope. So, they could add general research articles as well, and make other modifications. We ended up with something like 900 annotations on the textbook. They used to like annotate directly onto the textbook. I then had a team—through the funding that my graduate institution offered—I was able to pay a team of undergraduates, who had previously been in the class but we’re now more advanced students, to go through the comments and basically select the ones that would be appropriate for a textbook-level content. I love my students but not all 1000 of those comments [laughs] were ready to be put into a textbook. So there was this next layer where undergraduate employees were going through and sort of selecting comments for their rigor and just the general sense of fit with the textbooks. And we ended up with something… somewhere around 80 comments that ended up integrated into the local version of the textbook that WSU uses. So, from the beginning of WSU’s time using the OpenStax book, they had taken advantage of the license and made a local Pressbooks copy. And so we were able to make it hyper-specific to our students. So, there were, you know, in the treatment and disorders section of the book we were able to link directly to our counselling services, right, and so there were some edits that were like that. There were some, like, for instance where Washington has a really high population of Latinx immigrant farm workers because the central part of the region is a big farm worker area. And so, a couple students added information in like, the diversity sections, that were specific to what students’ families often look like. And so, there were a wide variety of changes, but that was the student-lead part of it.

Around the same time, I think it was after OpenStax 2019—no 2018. I had reached out to OpenStax to ask about leading a project to diversify the national version of the text. This was an effort specifically aimed at diversification, and so it wasn’t just a general revision process. And they were super gung-ho and so, I was like, “Cool, okay now what?” And so, ended up basically doing a whole lot of cold emailing. So I set up the layers—like from the tech side had that all set up. And then looked for people who were doing research in areas that I thought made sense. Like, looked for some affinity groups that I thought made sense. So like the Black psychologist groups and things like that. Sent emails to our psychology teaching groups. I think on one day I sent like 1200 emails…

Josie: Wow! [laughs]

Amy: It was like publicly available emails, which means that like a lot of them are wrong by that point. So I remember I took a picture at one point of all of the “Return-to-sender emails” I was getting in my inbox. There was like a hundred of them. So it absolutely was not efficient whatsoever, and I would probably do it a little bit differently. Oh! And OpenStax also provided me—this is where all of the return emails came back—they provided me with like their list of people who are using the book and had said, “Yes, we can be contacted.” And there are a lot of people using that book.

Josie: Mhmm.

Amy: So it was a massive undertaking, and I’m not sure I realized how massive it was when I was like, “Yeah! Let’s do this.” But, got back some really awesome comments. So those were similar process to what the students did. It was a layer on a Pressbooks copy. And I basically… Once they were all collected, as I said, OpenStax was going through their own wider revision process at a time. And so I basically sent them on to their team, and was like, “Here. Here’s a bunch of really great ideas for how to make this book better.” And to my knowledge, some of those where then inserted into the national, sort of, core textbook that is used for intro-psych classes.

So those were the two projects that were sort of going on at the same time. One, a hyper-local effort to really both empower my students to be like “Yes! You can do this,” while also creating a localized version of the text that made sense for us, and then a more national effort geared at diversification of the book on a wider level, reaching out to subject matter experts.

Josie: Yeah. So you’ve mentioned and Pressbooks a few times. Could you describe what those tools are, just for those who aren’t familiar?

Amy: Pressbooks is basically like an online publishing tool. It allows people to publish open textbooks in a way that I think is familiar to students. So it doesn’t just look like, you know, someone just put a Word document on a website and said, “Here, read this.” At least in my experience, it’s incredibly helpful for working with other open textbooks because it’s really easy to utilize licenses and like, copy a textbook that someone used across the country into your own format and then just give students a link to yours after you’ve made edits, so you’re not accidentally editing someone else’s stuff without them knowing. is then an annotation tool—or I think they call it a social-annotation tool. You can embed into Pressbooks, so super great functionality between those two. And then when a student goes to read the textbook, there’s sort of a sidebar that pops up from Hypothesis, where they can highlight things and comment on them, other students can see what they’re doing. And so, it’s basically the idea that if you have a physical textbook, you’d be able to literally highlight it and write things (if it belonged to you). It’s sort of taking that idea and putting it into the virtual space. With the added benefit that other people can see and sort of collaboratively do that process.

So that’s how students were putting their annotations on. So they’d highlight a section and say something like, “Add this sentence here,” and they’d write their work. That’s also how we did peer review, so students could then see what their peers had proposed and make comments. It’s how we did grading. So it was really nice to keep both myself and my teaching assistants from getting overwhelmed with the process of doing something that was out of our learning management system, that was a little bit novel, because it was able to all be housed in one spot.

Josie: And so, with the instructor-focused project, did you do any kind of vetting about who could participate?

Amy: I mean, I vetted in the sense that I was sending direct emails. But I also posted things on social media and some Facebook groups and stuff like that. So sort of, but not really.

Josie: Was that really something that was— would’ve been important? Or were you more looking for general— like open to general contributions?

Amy: I think I was open to general contributions because I knew that there was— like it’s not like these things— Like someone made a comment and they were automatically in the textbook. Like I knew that there was going to be several more stages of looking at comments, and sort of a peer-review-like process. And so, if some malfeasance slipped in, I guess I wasn’t super concerned about it being problematic. And I think I was very clear in the call that I wanted—or was interested in—perspectives from people who— I can’t remember how I phrased it. But I made it clear that it wasn’t just Psych-PhDs who should be commenting. It was people who had perspectives or experience in the field of psychology, I think is what I said. And so, I think if there was a… highly structured betting process, that would’ve excluded some of the people who I was interested in reaching.

Josie: Mhmm, for sure. And so, what were the responses like?

Amy: On that side of things, they were pretty highly focused in the social psychology, the disorders, and the sort of sex and gender sections, which makes sense from several different angles. But mainly because a lot of the work in psychology that’s focused on diversity happens to fall within those subject areas. So, I guess that wasn’t particularly surprising.
There were comments like, “This would be a good place to talk about intergenerational trauma in Black Americans and Native Americans.” So in the section of the textbook where we’re talking about how chronic stress can lead to… like negative consequences down the line, someone came in and was like, “It would be really good to talk about how this is true both in an individual person, but also across generations.” And we’re talking about things like the consequences of slavery or the Holocaust—there was a study that was done recently on that. And so that was one example that I can think of that was, you know, pretty easy to embed in the textbook. Like, yeah, you’re absolutely right. We should talk about how the stress is experienced disproportionately.
There was another one that I can think of where the person said that the textbook doesn’t do a good enough job talking about the disproportionality in the ability to access mental health services. So there’s a section in the text that talks about how lots of people don’t—who can benefit from mental health services—don’t seek them. And the number’s abysmally low. It’s something like 13% of people who could benefit don’t seek services. But those numbers are even lower if you’re not looking at just white people, right? So, you know, you have some sentence were someone’s reading it and it’s like, “Wow, that’s unfortunate. We should do something about that.” But there’s— It’s even worse, like when we think about other systemic problems, and that information just wasn’t included.
So, there’s a lot of things like that, that weren’t even massive changes. It’s not like—well, there’s a couple places where entire sections could be added—but most of it was fairly minor stuff that just hadn’t been included, and it’s the kind of stuff that sparks really great conversations in classes if we’re talking about it.

Josie: Yeah, wow. So after you received the comments, you handed them off to OpenStax?

Amy: Yeah, because they were doing, again, their sort of full-fledged revision process of the text at the same time. And so I basically said “Here’s some stuff we did!” And they then had the option to integrate it or to not integrate it.

Josie: Right. And then the second part of your study was like, looking at how those edits impacted different students. So did you edit a few chapters yourself for that?

Amy: Yeah, so the way that I did that— So for the study part of it, the research part of it, I was interested in looking at whether… basically reading the diversified version of a textbook would change how people feel about their sense of belongingness on campus. That was my approach because we know that, one, we have gaps in retention and graduation based on a number of factors. I chose to focus on people who are marginalized by their race and by first-generation status. We know that those groups of students persist and graduate at lower rates and then their white, continuing-generation counterparts. When I say continuing generation, I mean people whose parents had bachelor’s degrees. And we… one of the hypothesized reasons for this, with some data to support it, is that those students don’t feel like they belong on campus as much. Because they don’t see themselves reflected in their peers, they don’t necessarily see themselves reflected in their faculty or their staff. And so, like, we should be able to do some things about that, right? We can’t necessarily overnight—or at least as an instructor, I can’t overnight fix… the college affordability crisis, right? But I can try to make students feel like they belong in my classroom, because they do. So, that was the approach I took, that if we provide students with materials that reflect them as human beings, that’s one way of saying “Hey. You and people like you belong in this space.”
So I took a sort of hybrid version of the textbook. So I took some of the edits that were done by my students and some of the edits that were done by sort of that the wider audience, and specifically focused on two sections: so the section in social psychology that focusses on discrimination and the section that focusses on gender and sexuality. Again, because those are places where it’s fairly simple to make these kinds of changes, right. If you’re not talking about diversity in those sections, then you’ve got a problem.
So I recruited a group of students, like 400 of them or something, through our department subject pool. These were not people who had participated in my class. They were totally separate group of students. In fact, they weren’t allowed to be enrolled in an intro psych at the time. And students were assigned to either read the sort of standard book—so the OpenStax book that had none of the modifications made. Or the “modified/diversified” book, even though I don’t love that name. And then they answered a bunch of questions, as we have them do in research studies, but these ones were specifically focused on their sense of belongingness on campus.
And I was, to be quite honest, not… I wouldn’t say I was hopeful that we would see some great finding. But I was sort of ready for that to not be the case. Because in my head, you know, I think is that as an instructor and as a person in the department, that all of these changes need to be really systematic, right. Again, we can talk about OER in one classroom, but those changes, you know, are going to have longer-term impacts. Like we’re going to have to look at the effects across, like, a multi-year period of time using OER. Not just like having someone read a book for ten minutes. So I didn’t have incredibly high hopes going into it. But what we found is that, specifically first-generation students who read the diversified textbook felt like they belonged on campus more than if they read the sort of standard text. So in the standard condition, we see a belongingness gap. So students who are first generation, whose parents do not have bachelor’s degrees, feel like they belong on campus less so than students whose parents do bachelor’s degrees, right. So we have this gap. When they’ve read the modified textbook, so the text that was “diversified” in some sense, that gap shrinks. It’s still present, but it’s much much smaller. So that was a really cool thing, right? Again, it wasn’t years of effort or even an entire class’s worth of effort. It was one snippet of one textbook, right. And so that was… I think a neat finding, in that it was affirming that even small changes matter. I think sometimes (myself included) we get bogged down in, “We must have all free textbooks in all classes tomorrow!” As opposed to like, “What does this allow me to do for the students that I have now, in the context that I have now?” And I think these results say that that matters. It’s certainly not the end-all be-all solution. I think we should be working towards those sorts of grander solutions. But it still was meaningful, and it still mattered, and I think that was a nice finding.

Josie: Yeah, for sure. Yeah, absolutely. So what would you recommend to people who want to take on similar projects?

Amy: I’d say, start small. The class project was wonderful. My class had 120 students. There’s no way I could’ve done it without a team of undergraduate teaching assistants helping me. So it depends very much on the context that you’re in. At the intro level, there are some interesting things that can be done. I think if we’re talking about making substantial changes to textbooks, focusing on your upper-division students might be more productive. These are students who have used textbooks for a while, right, and are imbedded in your discipline. So I think, taking appropriate-size chunks is helpful, not cold-emailing 1200 people [laughs] like I though was a solid plan. So, starting small.

Again, recognizing that the small things that you do matter. So maybe it’s that, you know, one summer you swap out some of the images in your textbook. That was one of the things I had done in the text, unrelated to either these projects. I was just sort of flipping through, and all of the images of couples were super heteronormative and super white. And so I just went to Unsplash—or one of, you know, one of the options with openly licenses photos—and put some queer people and brown people in there. That was like a really easy swap. It took me maybe an hour to do for several sections of the textbook. Again, starting small, but recognizing that those small things are still important things.
And then I think in involving students, whether that’s a lower level or the upper level, or honestly make it a project with your research lab, right. If you’re a PI or principal investigator studying the effects of a particular drug on the brain, right. A lot of the common discussions about addiction are not well-versed in science and are very blame-y of people who are struggling with addiction. And so, you know, we often think about this from a pedagogical lens, but it’s also really hard to communicate things, like your research, to a general audience, like people reading a textbook. So I think there are some unique and creative ways we can come at this problem that aren’t just class projects, or aren’t just someone laboring for an entire summer to completely revamp an entire textbook.

Josie: Yeah, and do you think that the crowdsourcing approach that you describe in your article, do you think that was successful? Would you— how would you do it differently?

Amy: It was successful in that there were some very good comments. I mean at the end of the day there was material created that would substantially improve the work. Was the cost-benefit ratio something that I would try to replicate in the past—or in the future? No. [laughter] I think, as a graduate student, and I think some now, I suffer very much from an obnoxiously gung-ho spirit that just says, “Well I want to do this, so let’s do it!” Which is good in some ways and then bad in others. I think getting some sort of internal support from organizations you want to work with is incredibly important. Like there were a lot of groups who were willing to let me send things out on their list serv. But how many emails do we get come through our list serv, right? So, you know, if you want to do a project aimed at, for instance, you know one thing that I will say the OpenStax book lacks is a chapter on gender and sexuality. It’s like a tiny section in the motivation unit? I don’t know why. Most textbooks have an entire chapter devoted to that. And so if I, as a human being—this is not me—but if I was like “Hey, I’m going to spearhead an effort to make that chapter, I think making sure that you have the buy-in of the organizations that study those things or the society for the teaching of psychology or, or whatever. I think those things are incredibly important as opposed to, trying to lone-wolf it. I think sometimes we do that a lot in OER, like, we are confronted with this massive problem. And again, maybe some—I’m not the only one with this obnoxious gung-ho spirit. [laughter] And so we try and tackle all of the problems immediately all by ourselves, and we burn out. And so I think utilizing networks that exist both in the OER space, but also trying to loop in other people, right? Other people are interested in this idea. If you want to get a researcher mad, talk to them about how their research is like misrepresented in a textbook and they will spend years [laughter] fixing the textbook, right. And so I think getting other people involved to see the benefits of these kind of things, using those networks that exist, those are important and I think will continue to be more important as we figure out what OER looks like five, ten years.

Josie: Mhmm. For sure. And do you think like having the kind of open…… like anyone-can-participate method was effective? Or would you want to have it more organized in the future?

Amy: I think a little bit of both. I think I liked the idea that it was still easily accessible. Right, so I think about— Like the area that I live in right now is a very rural area. We’re about a mile away from the Yakama Indian Reservation. Lots of people have issues with internet access. Putting up a boundary… like that involves you having to fill out a really lengthy questionnaire or like propose your changes in a really formal way, is going to leave out people like tribal mental health professionals, who probably have a lot to say about where our textbook can do better. So I think… if things are added, I think they have to be done really mindfully of those other challenges that exist. And again, being conscious of not replicating the previous systems of exclusion that exist.
I think there were certainly ways I could’ve organized it better. You know, I think has a lot of nifty ways of like, using hashtags or organizing material within their own systems that I could’ve used better. But again, I was one person who had never done a project like this, so I just went for it. So I think that gets back to the idea of looping in networks. Like, could I have reached out to someone at and said, “Hey, can you brainstorm with me, the best way to do this?” Yes, I could’ve. No, I didn’t do that.

Josie: Right. So I guess in terms of creating new OER, what do you think is needed so that those projects consider diversity and representation from the very beginning?

Amy: Pay people who are not just cis straight white dudes to help you with the effort. That sounds very simple, and I don’t necessarily mean it that way. I think it really gets back to the idea of, who are we asking to be important enough to work on these kinds of projects? Because that’s really what we do when we create textbooks, or even when we decide what we’re including in textbooks. We are making value decisions about who should count as “fancy” or “important enough” to be doing this work. And so I think from the very beginning, it has to be inclusive in terms of who’s working on the project. And I very much— I want to be very clear, that I do not mean you should harass Black and Brown scholars to do free work for you, and then like give them a brief acknowledgement section. It has to be diverse in terms of the team, but it also has to be— It can’t be just replicating hierarchical approaches. So I think that’s step one.
I think step two, you know there has to be consideration of all elements of the textbook process. So I think… Sometimes… If I say “diversification”—which again, I don’t love the word but I seem to have sunk myself in a hole of using it a lot—of a textbook, some people might just mean, “Oh, I just need to make the pictures, you know, less just white people.” Which is a good thing, but also whose research are you talking about, right? There’s been studies done looking at doing very systematic studies of like whose research is talked about in various textbooks: overwhelmingly white men. Which is not surprising, but you can’t just put pictures of— You know, if you’re talking all about the work of men and then you have some pictures of women doing science, that’s not helpful. Like you’re still codifying this idea of “Men are scientists” and they’re important enough to do the work. So, it has to be about content, it has to be about graphics, it has to be about the process. Like, it has to be about at all. If you’re doing the project on the beginning, don’t make it so in three years, someone else to come along and do a diversification project, right. [laughter].
And it’s going to be hard. Like, I think it’s not an easy process, trying to change fundamentally how we treat knowledge. That’s what we’re doing or at least it’s my head what we should be doing. For a lot of us there are 25 years of schooling engrained in our head about, “This is who is smart, and this is what counts.” And so bucking that, or working against that, is a lot of un-training our brains, and that’s hard work. And so, I guess I just, I don’t want— I made a joke in the beginning of this, but, I don’t want to take it lightly that it’s something that’s super easy to do. But it has to be done, like period. At the end of the day, it has to be done.

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Josie: If you want to check out Amy’s research on open education and the diversification project in particular, I’ve linked to her research page in the show notes. You can also connect with her on Twitter at @Amy_Nusbaum and Nusbaum is spelled N-U-S-B-A-U-M.

Josie: Thank you for joining us today. If you liked this content, let us know. You can find us on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn under @bccampus, and on Instagram

Subscribe to our newsletter at for the latest information and details on our offerings.

You can also find more information about our podcast at, and tune in next week for the next episode of BCcampus Mixtape.

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—End of Episode—

Diverse Approaches for Learning

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Leva Lee:

Welcome to BCcampus Mixtape. This podcast is a remix of previous live recordings from BCcampus offerings such as the Lunchable Learning Radio Show, Open Knowledge Spectrums, and more. My name is Leva Lee.

Helena Prins: And my name is Helena Prins. We are both on the learning and teaching team at BCcampus. If you love to learn, you’ve come to the right place. I am joining you from the beautiful homeland of the Lək̓ʷəŋən speaking people, which include the Songhees and Esquimalt Nations.

Leva: And I’m joining you from where I live on the ancestral and unceded homelands of the hən̓q̓əmin̓əm̓ and Sḵwx̱wú7mesh speaking peoples. Today’s episode features an amazing conversation with Junsong Zhang. Junsong is currently a Program Manager, Simulations, at the Centre for Teaching, Learning and Innovation at the Justice Institute of British Columbia.

Helena: Let’s listen in.

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Junsong Zhang: Well, thank you very much to have me. I’m really happy to be here and chat with you about a few things.

Leva: Yeah. So you studied at the Center for Digital Media and you’ve got a master’s there, from there and also at UBC, where you got a master’s in education. So, tell us more about this background and what drew you to the work that you’re currently doing?

Junsong: Yeah, that’s a great question. I actually did my master’s in education at the UBC with a focus on pedagogy and curriculum. And I was introduced to building a virtual world for learning via Doctors and Jane’s work. And took some courses at SFU too, around multi-media learning and cognition. Also has an opportunity to work on a research project around use of technology, fact of land for systems. So all these course work on research inspire me, and I wanted to become better at design. And if you watched Dr. Strange, there is a line says, ‘you’re a man looking at the world through a keyhole’. And I definitely felt like that. I felt like I was looking at a design for a keyhole. So, I really want to expand what I know about design, about learning technology, about the social media. So, I’m on to see how design is done outside of the realm of education, and how to work with a team to build solutions in the digital age. So, I applied for the Master of Digital Media Program. It was really cool experience, also intense on the chaos at the beginning, but I learned a lot about design thinking, user experience design, agile project management and communication leadership skills by working with people from diverse backgrounds such as computer science, UI UX design, art to d3D design business. And I wouldn’t know what I know now if I didn’t go there. It was an audacious decision for me. So risky, uncomfortable and intimidating really, because my peers are very talented. They can code, they can design, they can do animation, they can just make out things easily. And I had to spend a lot of day and nights just trying to even just sketch something. So, and some of them are even unicorns. That’s what we call them, because they can do everything they can code design and you know everything. So part of the learning is for me is about how to take risks and also deal with a lot of ambiguity and being uncomfortable, you know. And the model, the project I did at Center for Digital Media, was super interested in designing with VR or mixed reality.

So, I had a lot of projects on that and I realized that there are lots of potential with emerging technology, especially now that devices are more affordable and with the right design, this technology can really help us to learn better. And I think what I learned from UBC and also Center of Digital Media, how to me, helped me to become a better instructional designer and helping to land where I am right now.

Helena: Ah! Such a fabulous background there. And I love your imagery of keyholes and unicorns. That’s awesome. And I think your current title, simulation manager is so cool. That’s why we wanted to have you on the show, too. Why do you do in this role? Can you tell us a little bit more about your title, and what you do?

Junsong: Yeah, definitely. It’s a quite interesting role and Center for Digital Learning and innovation that JIBC is still a position that under the umbrella of instruction design technology, but with a bit more focus on simulation design. So, just to give some context, JIBC has on tradition, is an experience of learning as a guide in pedagogy, and simulation is part of it. Simulation activities of JIBC range from in-class role play, to full scale prevention emergency exercises involving multiple stakeholders. At JIBC, we have also developed our own tool called Praxis ,to guide learners through events and situations where they’re called to apply their knowledge in authentic contexts. With a new developments in mixed reality, we have also partnered with the Center for Digital Media, and because I’m an alumni, I love to do, sort of reach the people. And then we’re working with them to build 3D or VR simulations. And we’ve done this project for fire investigation, paramedics, and soon we’re working on an active shooting, VR simulation for police recruits. Just super excited. We just got excited- our proposal is through. We’ve signed a document and paperwork with them and we’re gonna kick it off soon. And also at our center, we’re really looking at expanding our capacity to create immersive learning experiences for all areas in public safety. And we’ve been working with JIBC foundations, which is of great help. They’re fantastic. We called donors to contribute and help us build the capacity in the center. But broadly speaking, I also design online courses for different schools, such as leadership, conflict resolution, culture natural law enforcement, emergency management. And there are lots of external projects from youth justice, family justice or corrections. And this is what I like about my job too, that you get in different projects, you get internal projects and external projects, and those projects range from interactive online course designed to multimedia based projects that requires close collaboration from our web specialists, narrators, video producers, SMES and instructional designers. Just a great experience working on different projects. And I also got different opportunity to work on projects like UDL, technology integration. You might have heard of PebblePad. We’ve been piloting that too at JIBC. And next year we’re gonna do a bit more curriculum development around work in digital learning too. So lots of fantastic opportunities around simulation, around expensive learning and instructional design in general.

Leva: That sounds amazing and nothing, I mean, can’t say enough about how important it is the work that you do at the JIBC and the kind of support that you’re providing for frontline people studying to be frontline workers and having that experiential learning, which is so important. Are there any other sort of standout projects that you mentioned a few there already, but that you’d like to mention now that you’re working on?

Junsong: Yeah, maybe I just give two examples in our projects. Maybe I’ll start with UDL ’cause many of you are aware that I’ve been working with Shauna and a few of my colleagues, Helene, Lee, Dave, on a series of workbooks and workshops over the past year or two, probably actually two years already. And finally, in June 2021, we finished our last year the workbook focusing on assessment design. Right now we’re working on the three workbooks and turning them into an open book. We actually called Harper from BCcampus to help us, which is great.

Leva: Oh! Harper. Shout out!

Junsong: Exactly, Harper is very talented. I loved his background music and sciences, it’s fun. So, this wasn’t just really rewarding, we received a lot of positive feedback from JIBC and staff and also from folks in the community. We’ve all also learned a lot through writing and putting things together. Personally, writing these three workflows feel like a marathon for me, and something that I never imagined myself embarking on really, and yet there we were. When opportunity comes, I took it and I learned and continue working on the project. And we made it. Lots of great ideas and revisions from our teammates Shauna, Lee, Dave and Helen. And we loved how we collaborated on this project, writing, the facilitating workshops as a team. We hope we can continue some of this projects in the future too. The other part I wanna mention is the VR project we did for paramedics at JIBC by collaborating with Centre for Digital Media. I sort of mentioned it previous already. In fact, we’ve been working with them on a number of projects already. So, this one is really a special one for me because it was the first project we did at JIBC. And we wanted to use this project to raise awareness of how emerging technology could help build the… help the future of learning and help the gap, fill in the gap of learning in the classroom and also work in the field. So, just to give you some context for this project, the paramedics program at JIBC focused a lot on simulation. We have practical simulation manuals, detailing how instructors would describe this scenario for practice, but a lot of times the simulations take place in the classroom, and students rely a lot on verbose donations from those instructors. For example, students ask, ‘What can I see?’ The instructor says, ‘You can see a 32 year old male, lying, succumbed on the ground and bleeding’. So, imagine how the conversation goes in the classroom. So the students typically wearing their uniforms, carrying the emergency cases of a standing in the middle classroom and try to map the physical environment where they’re supposed to save lives. You see, in school, our student rely on verbal explanation from the instructors to assess hazards, and determine their next steps or in the field, or they’re actually required to observe the environment, identify risks, and save lives independently. So the gap between what is learned in the classroom and what is required in the field, is quite obvious for me. And the goal of our project is to design and build a user centred, immersive experience that could help students to assess a situation and make decisions on their own. And part is also reducing the trauma they might get from the field. Because if you don’t experience or you don’t see, you don’t sense and feel how it looks like, then you’re walking into a lot of scenarios on the street or in the theatre, you might get shocked. So, part of that is also for us to see if we can reduce the trauma, ’cause, you know, I learned this from our paramedic and program manager. They told me that 33% of paramedics are actually traumatized, and they can’t work. So, BCVHS are trying to, you know, talk to us about if we… about the possibility of using AR/VR or 360 videos ,or mixed realities to help reduce the trauma or, you know, help paramedics to better prepare for the field. And the project itself was a success, for sure. And the students and instructor loved it. And we hope to continue working on it and bring that experience to students.

Helena: Wow. That’s two amazing projects that you highlight. I love the trauma informed approach that you highlighted there of the last one. I do wanna go back to the first one on UDL and we think about technology and UDL, and how do you see the marrying of tech and UDL? Do they enhance each other?

Junsong: Yeah, that’s a really good question. I think first, no, UDL is a very comprehensive framework for learning design, modern means of engagement, representation, action and expression with an ultimate goal to cultivate expert learners. But within the guidelines, you’ll see a lot of similarities of the theories with adult learning principles or expensive learning, ’cause it talks about reflection and talks about engagement. So, UDL is very comprehensive, for sure. It is an umbrella for many, many theories. So, institutionally speaking, if you’re adopting a new learning technology, in a way it is already UDL itself because we get to offer learners different opportunities to engage with instructors throughout content or assessment. For example, if we’re turning a text based simulation into a 3D moment, and student get to see, feel, interact with objects instead of just reading from the manual. So, that’s basically creating multiple means of representation and engagement from the UDL perspectives. And that’s also why sort of s5p tool is quite popular nowadays ’cause it’s very easy to use, and you can create a lot of interactive content. Another thing I wanna mention is that UDL works very well with design thinking too, which we talked about in our UDL workbook. The heart of design thinking is about being iterative. Form an idea, put on ipad, get feedback, and test it, right. So when we’re implementing UDL frameworks, we want to tell everyone that it’s great to start something small and then a small idea, tried it out, tested and reviewed, which is basically the same approach we take with design in a product, or design and technology for designing. So when I think about UDL for technology can be overwhelming. If you trying to follow every guideline in UDL, is always good to start with something small. For example, in some of the course design, we really just want to add an additional layer of incorporate an opportunity for self- assessment and engagement and reflection. And that’s what we did in that class. So, I think offering diverse tools and technology it’s already UDL. Yet when you’re using the new type of technology, you don’t have to adhere to all the UDL guidelines because it’s too too big. Just pick something that works for you, try it out and repeat.

Leva: That’s wonderful to learn more about how you marry those two, the idea of UDL and tech, and the interactive approach that comes from design thinking. We’ll be sure to link in the show notes, the workbooks for the guide books that you’ve been working on with Shauna and team. So, as we winding down our visit with you, we have a couple of more questions. We were wondering what you’d like to do during your downtime, and that if we would find you in your downtime playing VR games after hours, or would you be liking to embark on other hobbies?

Junsong: Yeah, I mean, I actually play a lot of mobile games nowadays. So, like legal League of Legends and Pokémon. I play occasionally, to be honest, because there’s some sort of limit in terms of VR games. A lot of people get motion sickness if they’re in the VR games for too long. So, I think the general rule is that you should not go longer than 40 or 45 minutes, and that sort of informs our design too. We don’t wanna keep the experience in there for too long -10 minutes, 15 minutes. That’s what we’re aiming at this point. But if you go 20, 25, that’s fine too. But there are a lot of cool games in VR already. They are so immersive. Some of the games are really scary, like the zombie ones I played with my friends last week, I basically screamed all the time (LAUGHS). And then I love the lightsaber VR where you slash beats and pumping music as they slide towards you. That was a fun one too. And you feel the music and you acts, you know, you embody something. And I actually played a game last year, VR game with my mom. It was a shooting game. She actually did better than me. She’s 63 now, and then she actually got higher score (LAUGHS). We had a lot of fun. And so if you haven’t tried it with your family, I think you should try it. It’s very, very interesting.

Helena: I would love to meet your mom. Really.

Leva: I’m gonna have to ask my son what the games are to play. But yeah, that’s his realm. That’s interesting. So, as we wind down now, we have one more thing that we’d like to invite you to do is to pose a challenge to our listeners, in the… a challenge for them that’s related to our topic. So, what challenge have you chosen for them today?

Junsong: Yeah, we’ve been thinking about simulation or simulation means lately to us on our team. So my question for you, to your listener, will be, ‘what type of simulations are, widely used in the past and present in your institution or organization? And what is the impact of simulations to learning and assessment?

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Helena: Such important insights from Junsong on learning, assessment and digital spaces. Next, we’ll hear from three of our fabulous Facilitating Learning Online (FLO) faciliators. We asked Beth, Gina and Annie to share their biggest tips for facilitating learning online. Here is what they had to say:

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Beth: Hi there. My name is Beth Cougler Blom, and I’m the original designer of FLO Synchronous and one of the coauthors of the FLO Facilitation Guide. I think one of my biggest tips for facilitating learning online is to show up as the real human being you are. That includes vulnerability and includes authenticity. Our students want to see who we are. At the other end of the computer, that goes a long way toward helping them connect with us and then with each other. Good luck with your work.

Gina: Hi, I’m Gina Bennett and I’ve been involved with FLO as a participant, a facilitator and a manual writer for several years. And my online facilitation tip for you today is pretty basic: Post-It Notes. When I’m facilitating a live session, whether in Zoom or Skype or collaborate, I make sure to remember key housekeeping details, like remembering to record the session, by pasting a sticky note directly on the screen where I can’t miss it. That’s it.

Annie: Hello, my name is Annie Prud’homme-Généreux. I’m director of Continuing Studies at Capilano University. My favorite edtech tool is dotstorming. And dotstorming is basically a virtual way of doing an activity that we used to call dot voting or dotmocracy. This is an activity where learners would each put an idea on paper, post them around the room, and then they would be given a certain number of stickers to go around vote. And those ideas that got the most attention would be the ones that we would take for further discussion.

Helena: Yes, so as Annie explained there, dot-voting is a crowdsourcing activity that taps into the wisdom and resources of your group. It starts with a divergent thinking activity that gives everyone a voice and generates many ideas. It looks very similar to padlet or jamboard, but it has that added voting feature. So, learners can easily add multimedia or text based poster board, which is viewable by all in real time, and each learner can then vote for their classmates post. The instructor can control the anonymity of posts, visibility of the votes and the number of votes that each learner can award. It’s very intuitive to set up. In fact, I set one up for our listeners. It’s also free to try. There’s a trial period and it’s fun to use. So, the one I’ve created for you, we’ll add the link to show notes, it’s about adding your favorite icebreaker, and then you can vote on the ones that you see there. Some of my team members added some of their favorite icebreakers. So, yeah, we’ll just hope you’ll have fun doing that and participate.

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Helena: Thank you for joining us today. If you like this content, let us know. You can find us on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn under @BCcampus and on Instagram

Leva: Subscribe to our newsletter at for the latest information and details on our offerings. You can also find more information about our podcast at and tune in next week for the next episode of BCcampus mixtape.

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—End of Episode—

Creativity, Collaboration, and Community in Higher Ed

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Leva Lee: Welcome to BCcampus Mixtape. This podcast is a remix of previous live recordings from BCcampus offerings such as the Lunchable Learning Radio Show, Open Knowledge Spectrums and more. My name is Leva Lee.

Helena Prins: and my name is Helena Prins. We’re both on the Learning + Teaching team at BCcampus. If you love to learn, you’ve come to the right place. I am joining you from the beautiful homeland of the Lək̓ʷəŋən speaking people, which include the Songhees and Esquimalt Nations.

Leva: And I’m joining you from where I live on the ancestral and unceded homelands of the hən̓q̓əmin̓əm̓ and Sḵwx̱wú7mesh speaking peoples. Today’s episode features two interesting conversations, one with Saeed Dyanatkar from UBC Studios on “Innovation and Collaboration,” and Emerging Media Lab Community of Practice, and one with Mirabelle Tinio, Ed Tech advisor and instructor at Langara College on “Connection and Community.”

Helena: First up, Saeed. Let’s listen in.

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Leva: Saeed Dyanatkar is the executive producer of the award-winning UBC Studios and Emerging Media Lab at the University of British Columbia. He has been leading and facilitating innovation projects that focus on applications of emerging technologies in Teaching and Learning for over a decade at UBC. Today we are fortunate to have say, join us to talk about the EML and creating an innovation hub with permission to fail. Hi, Saeed.

Saeed Dyanatkar: It’s a pleasure to be here. Thank you for inviting me.

Leva: It’s great. Yes, we wanted to learn more about your work at UBC. You are executive producer of UBC Studios and the Emerging Media Lab. So tell us, how did this all get started?

Saeed: Well, the UBC Studios have been here for a while, but the emerging media lab started in 2006, and then a group of faculty members and staff decided to get together. And then it’s time for the use of emerging technologies such as VR and AR. And I have to mention a couple of people that I really am grateful to for their collaboration and support. And that was Ben Brian Wilson from Vantage College at UBC and also Racu, who was a faculty member here at the time. We basically get together to see how potentially we could use this emerging technology that is being used outside of university in the industry and then how we can adapt it. There was a small group of faculty members and staff who had shown some interest 2 and they wanted to see it, learn how to use it, and how to use it in their classrooms and at work. So we decided to meet on a regular basis, and then after almost a year and after managing to complete a couple of very interesting projects, university and I am part of the IT Department, so the CIO, Jennifer Burns and the rest of the SLT saw the value in this and decided to support it. So the Emerging Media Lab, established in 2017, officially funded by the university.

Helena: Wow, such a neat story of how it came together. So how did the lab become such a creative space for collaboration? Do you mind sharing your secret sauce with us, Saeed?

Saeed: Sure. Well, I can’t take credit for all of the work that has gone into this. The study actually started in 2011 when a group of colleagues, including Brian Wilson, Alan Chalk, and Lucas Wright from the Library CTLT, got together and we decided to use augmented reality and create a project as a proof of concept. That was before Pokémon Go, when augmented reality became mainstream, so it was really hard to explain what you were talking about unless we showed something. So we created something for the library and that was very successful. And people could basically point their phones at different pictures of the history of the library and UBC and see video or more information about that specific event. And a year later, working with one of our faculty members who is amazing, Dr. Maja Krzic who’s one of the pioneers of using technology in education at UBC. I explained what augmented reality was. She said, “Let’s do something with it.” And I said, “That’s great.” So we decided to use augmented reality in soil science and we applied for funding. It was so new at the time. As I said, there was a bit before Pokémon Go. We didn’t even feel comfortable mentioning augmented reality in the proposal. Instead, we called it location-based content, and then we got funded by UBC and also BCcampus. So that was a very interesting and eventually very successful project. As far as I know, that was the first use case of augmented reality in Canadian universities. I’m not sure about the US, but at least in Canada. So that was when students could go on location and then pick up their devices and see the content that was already created by experts and university professors about the soil. As you can imagine soil. You don’t see the layers of soil unless you dig a hole, and you can’t do that all the time. So, it’s really helpful if someone else has already done it, and then you can watch it later when you go to a specific location. So that’s one of the examples before EML. My point was that since the beginning, we have always started to work in collaboration across different units and across different disciplines. So, when EML was established, we tried to do the same thing. The first thing I did was invite the faculty members who were interested, and they joined EML, as we call faculties in residence, and they’re different disciplines when they get together and they start talking to each other and brainstorming. At EML was just the best part of my experience working at UBC. It’s just so amazing to hear all these great ideas floating around the room and then people talking, “Oh, this is exciting. Let’s do this.” That’s how EML started. And then now at EML, the biggest part of EML is as students. So students, usually undergrad students from computer science or the arts, they are basically the engine behind EML. Faculty members come in as, basically, subject matter experts. So, they come up with a problem with the question. And our focus is always on the problem, not the technology. We don’t promote technology for the sake of it, and usually we find something that could solve the problem first and then explore that. And EML is a kind of platform agnostic. So, we don’t necessarily look at technology and find a use case for it, it’s the other way around.

Leva: That’s great. So I really heard some interesting things, like working with brave faculty. It sounds like this person, Professor Maja, was somebody who really got things going for you. And I really liked your story about soil. And at the time, you know, it was before the Pokemon Go craze and when everybody was getting into some sort of augmented reality experimentation. So, and then I love how you, in general, also engaging students. So one thing that we were wondering about is if you could tell us a little bit about how you select your projects, because it sounds like you have quite a busy operation there now.

Saeed: Yeah. So the projects, as I mentioned, are based on problems and questions that faculty have. At EML, at least, before pandemic, we had regular drop-ins and demos for faculty to come and explore different emerging technologies. And when they try something like virtual reality or augmented reality, usually people get very excited. That’s the first reaction say, “Well, let’s do something about this or let’s see if you can use this for my problem in the classroom.” And their reaction, usually the first reaction: why? Because, as I mentioned, we don’t want to use technology for the sake of it. So we always talk to the faculty to see if there is a good reason for using this specific technology. And then, if there is one, we basically assign resources for one academic term, and those resources could be lab space, equipment, and an interested student team and faculty. We work with the team as a peer. There’s no hierarchy. So the faculty are basically part of the same team and they work together, and that’s the first phase. We call it proof of concept. And at the end of that term, there is something more to this, and then we take it to the next level that will be explained later. But one thing about the EML that is really important to mention is that there’s permission to fail. So it’s okay if something doesn’t work. All we need to do is basically document the process, make sure we learn from it, and then share it with others because EML is also an open lab. So we try to make it very clear at the beginning when working with faculty that anything we do at the EML is supposed to be open. And we share our work regardless of success, even if it doesn’t work. We share the reasons, documentations, and then we try to make the projects interdisciplinary. So if there is a proposal that comes in, we usually consult with other faculty members. So to answer your question about how we select the projects that are coming in, we try to make sure that they’re not already done. We don’t want to compete with the private sector. If there’s something that’s already been done by a company, we just direct them to that specific service provider. If there is something that we can try for the first time and learn from it, we usually take those projects on every now and then. Otherwise, we make connections. EML is almost like a hub that connects people together.

Helena: Thank you, Saeed. There’s just so much there. I love the collaborative aspect. I really like to hear “permission to fail.” I think that makes people braver, right? You’re willing to try something if you have that permission. The fact that it’s open and you share it. An element that I’m also very curious about is accessibility. How do you address accessibility in tech and innovation? Because, as you know, the recent pivot to online really brought to the forefront the inequity of access, and there were barriers to access that learners experienced early. So how do you address that?

Saeed: Yeah, that’s a very good question because as I mentioned, a couple of technologies we use at the EML are virtual reality and augmented reality, and the forum, for the most part, they are visual. So we have a big problem. When I say we, I mean the whole industry, in terms of accessibility for that type of medium. That’s the problem we haven’t been able to solve completely, but at the same time, using this technology is providing access in a different way to other users. For example, if someone is physically disabled or, for any reason, can’t participate in in-person activities, a visual representation of the same activities or experience would be really helpful for them. For example, one of the projects we did was for geography. It was a visual tour of Stanley Park. And the last thing a geographer wants to do, basically, based on what they told me, is to take away the experience of field trip. So the idea of replacing a filter using virtual reality wasn’t really the reason behind this project. It was really meant to be a means for a group of students who may not be able to attend those field trips, either because of financial reasons or physical limitations, or if they knew, I guess, the realities of a pandemic. If they were not in the same location at the same time. So that was the idea behind it. And we are hoping that this kind of access will create some sort of global access to users across the globe. So, for example, if someone can travel to Canada or Vancouver to experience Stanley Park, then they can at least try the virtual reality version of it and vice versa. So, we are hoping that other universities and other countries will create the same kind of experience for our students then we can travel, literally.

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Leva: Building upon Saeed’s idea of how innovation happens when we connect and collaborate, let’s hear from Mirabelle Tinio and her take on the value of community and connection in and beyond the classroom.
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Helena: I know you wear many different hats at Langara College. Why don’t you tell us about that, please?

Mirabelle Tinio: First and foremost, I am a French instructor. I’m currently teaching an intermediate French course. And next semester I will be teaching a French conversation course, which is always a lot of fun. We sing songs, do interviews of francophones, and go on an outing. I’m also the Chair of Modern Languages at Langara College. And this involves administrative work and sometimes collaborative work, which is what I’m most excited about in this role. I’m also a student pursuing Master in Education, focusing on adult learning and global change. And one more hat, I am also an Ed Tech advisor. In this capacity, I facilitate book clubs, lead workshops, do consultations on Ed Tech tools with faculty and staff. So that’s four hats and sometimes also wearing toques so that’s five, if that counts.

Leva: Yes, that’s a lot of hats there, Mirabelle. So, I know that you’ve been doing a lot of thinking about connectedness with students and we want to hear little bit more about your thoughts on that and specifically your perspective as an instructor.

Mirabelle: Yeah, at the pandemic has taught me so much about how important it is for students and instructors to feel connected. When we moved online in March of 2020, my class had already gelled in the in-person environment, but I was a little anxious that moving online students might feel disconnected and not as supported. Interestingly, my students said that they were glad that courses continue online through Zoom, and this actually helped them to maintain a sense of normalcy. I was interested in my student’s wellbeing and frankly, I also wanted to hear from them. It was reassuring to hear about their struggles and share my own and share challenges and successes. For example, when technology did not fail us, we all celebrated the success. We would systematically start classes with a short check-in, for example, I might ask students to type in the chat, what was a challenge and success that they had experienced over the weekend in French, of course, or I would ask them to annotate a shared screen to circle the image of a face that expressed the emotion they were feeling at the moment. I believe these short check-ins really helped to build a sense of community and I’ve continued to set aside time for these check-ins at the start of my classes. I think when we take the time to ask students how they’re doing and really listen, this is one way to humanize education. And especially right now when there is so much hardship with flooding, the pandemic, job loss, etc. I think it is really important to consider the student holistically, as a person who has responsibilities and struggles outside of school. If students share struggles that we as instructors are not equipped to address. Sometimes all we can do is point them in the right direction to more professional support, but this is still something valuable. In North America and in Western cultures, we tend to be very individualistic, but we are all connected. What I do will affect my students and my colleagues. What my students do will affect the class and the entire college. We may not feel connected all the time, but we are, and so being intentional and creating opportunities to feel that connection in a positive light can help us build resilience during trying times.

Helena: Oh, that’s really it. So much there for me. I love that you celebrate successes, even if they are small, you mentioned check-ins, but really humanizing education by listening and acknowledging who our students are, right? And then being intentional about all of that. So, thank you for sharing that with us. And I know that your interest and connectedness goes beyond the classroom. So, how does all of that apply to the classroom and beyond?

Mirabelle: As you know, I am also student, so I’ve been learning about sociocultural learning theory and Lev Vygotsky, who developed social cultural theory in the 1930s, viewed learning as a socially mediated process. Learning or development is the result of participation in social cultural activities and leads to transformations in values and attitudes. It’s not merely the transmission of skills or facts. It’s so much more than that, and so for learning to stick, it has to be meaningful and relevant. We also have to be challenged to see varying perspectives. And the easiest way to ensure students are exposed to variation is to learn with others by including group work. And of course, for example. Essentially, what we have in our classrooms are communities of practice. Skills, values, attitudes, developed within the classroom or the community of practice in the class trickle out into society. And eventually these people and relationships constitute the global community with its strength and its weaknesses. And one of the weaknesses is the power structure. Inherent in the curriculum is the transmission of values and attitudes. In order to decolonize education and dismantle inequalities, we need to consider the student-teacher relationship. According to Paulo Freire, instead of maintaining a relationship where the teacher has the knowledge and the student passively receives it, he said that, and I quote, “Education must begin by reconciling the poles of the contradiction so that both students and teachers are simultaneously teachers and students.” And by trying to find ways to work with students as partners, we can hopefully slowly dismantle the hierarchy where certain voices and stories are heard and other voices are silenced and stories are not shared. In order to work with students as partners, for example, learners can also be called on to co-construct knowledge, collaborating with each other and instructors to expand their knowledge base. And one example that I have been experiencing in my studies is we’ve been working with our classmates who are from other parts of the world. And we’re co-writing an essay, learning about each others learning contexts and finding solutions to work on challenges together, such as hunger in South Africa.

Leva: Oh, Mirabelle, I can really hear the passion you have for this studying of all communities and about connection and about care for your students and how you’re employing those ideas into different activities and techniques in your teaching. And so, I know that we really benefited a lot from your knowledge and your practice as well when we did the book club together. And so, I’d like to a little bit about book clubs because we discovered your work and then we connected with you. You’ve hosted several book clubs. So, tell us about that? And how that fits into your commitment to connection and community building?

Mirabelle: Yeah, thank you so much for that question and for having reached out to me last spring. I was just so happy when I got your email invitationto collaborate on the book club. Book clubs have given me amazing opportunities to have discussions with staff and instructors, with whom I wouldn’t normally interact in my institution and throughout the province. It has also allowed me to get to know and work with you two, which has been so rewarding and so meaningful. Just recently at Langara College, we opened up the Spring 2021 Book Club to external, sorry, the Fall 2021 Book Club to externals. And this has led us to such enriching and engaging conversations regarding challenging topics such as surveillance culture and the ethics of EdTech. So, thank you so much for that opportunity. I hope we’ll keep doing book clubs together in the future. Leva: I know, we’re going to have to cook up some collaboration that we can offer the sector that can move them further along on some of these interesting experiments. I really enjoyed the applied aspect of what we did and doing nothing can beat the hands-on work. Helena, what do you think?

Helena: Yeah, there’s many things I want to respond to. First of all, I’m South African, so I really appreciate that your team is solving, you know, addressing the problem of hunger in South Africa. Thank you for that, Mirabelle. But also, it just really resonated with me when you called classrooms, potential communities of practice. And I think we felt that around the book club, too, right? It’s people coming together and connecting in a different way and helping each other, building each other up with resources and support. So, really love that. Now, I’m very curious what challenge you picked for the sector. We usually ask our guests to put forth a challenge, and I wonder what you came up with.

Mirabelle: Yeah, so my challenge is to invite someone over for coffee or a chat, this could be in-person or via Zoom, and to share a strategy you used to connect with students. And then of course, if you want to put it in…

Helena and Leva: Twitter.

Leva: If you do Twitter.

Mirabelle: You can tweet it as well and that would be great. And it doesn’t have to be too time consuming. Just reach out to someone and make an intentional, intentional effort to connect with someone.

Helena: What a salient message about committing to connection in and beyond the classroom. Thanks, Mirabelle.

Helena: Thank you for joining us today. If you like this content, let us know. You can find us on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn under @BCcampus. And on Instagram subscribe to our newsletter at or the latest information from details on our offerings. You can also find more information about our podcast at and tune in next week for the next episode of BCcampus Mixtape.

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Personal and Career Planning in Higher Ed

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Leva Lee: Welcome to BCcampus Mixtape. This podcast is a remix of previous live recordings from BCcampus offerings such as the Lunchable Learning Radio Show, Open Knowledge Spectrums, and more. My name is Leva Lee.

Helena Prins: And my name is Helena Prins. We are both on the learning and teaching team at BCcampus. If you love to learn, you’ve come to the right place. I am joining you from the beautiful homeland of the Lək̓ʷəŋən speaking people, which include the Songhees and Esquimalt Nations.

Leva: And I’m joining you from where I live on the ancestral and unceded homelands of the hən̓q̓əmin̓əm̓ and Sḵwx̱wú7mesh speaking peoples. Today’s episode features an impactful interview with professional career coach Isabeau Iqbal about personal and career planning in higher education.

Helena: Let’s listen in.

[Theme music]

Leva: We are so pleased to introduce you to our next very lovely guest, Isabeau Iqbal. We invited her to speak to us today on setting goals and planning. She is a career coach who works with ambitious perfectionists ready to move forward in their higher Ed careers. She has worked in post-secondary institutions as an educational developer and facilitator for over 19 years. Isabeau is certified, with the International Coaching Federation and is a Gallup Certified Strength Coach. She has a Ph.D. in education from the University of British Columbia. Welcome to Lunchable Learning, Isabeau.

Isabeau Iqbal: Thanks for welcoming me and happy to be here. It’s great to have you here.

Leva: It’s great to have you here. Maybe we could start by asking you how you got into coaching.

Isabeau: Yeah, I got into coaching as a client of coaching. Back in my mid-20s was my very first time as a client of coaching. I didn’t know what coaching was. I met somebody at a networking event. Her partner at the time was training to be this thing called the coach, and it sounded like it was, it would be interesting, and it could potentially help me with some of the things I was working through at that time.

So that was my very first encounter. And then, you know, I don’t think I was coached for a really long time until I was reintroduced to it as an educational developer. So, I started working as a developer in 2003 and at a Teaching and Learning Center at the University of British Columbia. And someone hired a coach to come in and do an event with us, like with the team there at the center. So then I started to be a client of coaching more often and loved it, but never with the intention of becoming a coach. Fast forward, I did my PhD, a few years after my PhD was starting to wonder what I would do with my own career. You know, I was starting to think, OK, well, I could kind of see what was in front of me. I also was thinking about, you know, the years ahead in terms of retirement, to work, whatever the word is, the retirement isn’t the right word anymore. And one of the work, one of the pieces of work that I love the most with educational development, is the one-on-one consultations with faculty members.

And there were a lot of people around me who seemed to be getting certified as coaches. And so I kind of put two-and-two together at that point. And I thought, this feels like it would really be something that I would enjoy doing. And so I decided to get certified as a coach at that time and to start my own practice. So I knew that I would do it in my role as an educational developer, my part time role as an end developer. But I also was very clear that I wanted to start kind of my own coaching practice outside of my work.

Helena: That’s a wonderful, rare story, Isabeau. And I’m curious, if you don’t mind sharing with us, what are some of the common themes that you encounter in your career coaching practice?

Isabeau: Yeah, so as I mentioned in the introduction, I, that most of the people that I coach are what I call ambitious perfectionists. So there are folks who are in higher education who in some way relate to perfectionism. And so the really the common themes can be boiled down to I’m dissatisfied, and I want to change. Right. I mean, really, that’s very, very global. And that can probably describe like every single client of coaching, but more specifically is either that they’re feeling stuck in their current role and are not quite sure what to do, or they feel like they’ve got a number of decisions in front of them and don’t know how to make a decision. They feel like there’s a right choice and a wrong choice. Some people are wanting to exit out of academia. Other people are starting in their role and wanting to setting to set themselves up well and then kind of a final, yeah. So those are sort of some of the themes and have specific variations of that. And I would say the other one is around leadership. Leadership coaching. I coach as part of an academic leadership development program. So these are folks who really appreciate being able to think through problems with someone who isn’t right in their context. Yeah.

Leva: Yeah, I can see that that would be really helpful. More of an objective stance there. So this made me think, as you’re speaking there, of maybe some of the approaches that you might suggest that people would find helpful to address as they’re navigating their career in higher ed.

Isabeau: Yeah. I have found that starting with connecting with your values is a really powerful starting place, and I think that we would all agree we have some sense of what our values are. We might be able to put some words to these, but maybe we haven’t really spent the time to think about what those are specifically or how we would define them. So working with the values and first that, you know, is the foundation, we come back to that because when things feel out of alignment, it’s often because we’ve chosen a course of action, or we’ve made a decision that isn’t in tune with our values. So that’s one. The other approach is really looking at strengths. And I find that higher ed folks are it’s interesting, either they really want to dismiss it, or they feel like, well, yeah, I mean, I know I should be doing this, but I really want to look at my areas of improvement and other people are really like hungry to know their strengths.

And I can never quite predict where somebody is at with that. And I find it so interesting because, you know, we live with ourselves and obviously our entire life and yet it’s so hard to name our strengths, often so, so difficult. And so an exploration of strengths and acknowledging the strengths that we have and that we bring it tends to be really powerful for people like really moving to do that. So values, strengths. And then the other piece is in terms of I don’t I think this is very much COVID related, but also higher education related is we tend to drive ourselves very hard. And with COVID, it seems that the exhaustion and the feeling of being unsettled has just amplified. And, like sometimes just receiving permission, giving yourself permission to rest and to care for yourself. Like it makes for a really profound shift also in terms of people’s ability to will to take care of themselves clearly. So those are kind of three approaches that I find are fairly universal.

And then of course, everything is then tailored to the individual situation.

Leva: Yeah, that is, that is the thing that, that we’re feeling as everyone is, is tired and we can’t emphasize that enough is to be careful to take care of yourself or to take attention, to know where you’re at and pay attention to where you’re at and to take care of yourself. How about yourself? How do you keep your work life balance then, Isabeau?

Isabeau: Well. I love the outdoors. So for me, that is a place that I really go to for resetting. I find that if I have a hike planned. So for me, it’s hiking, cross-country skiing, snowshoeing right now in the summer, obviously it’s hiking. And when I have something to look forward to on the weekend, it it carries me throughout the week and then it also helps me with the with the following week. So that has been huge for me. And sometimes it’s with other people and sometimes it’s alone and it seems to have a positive effect either way. Being with my family, I find very, very grounding. And there have been so many times I feel in my own life where I’ve been overly stressed, overly busy. Feel crummy about the way that I show up as a mother. Not that I’m like, it’s the presence piece is really, really key for me. Sort of be present for my family members, for whatever is going on for them. Those are two really, really big ones. So then I try to have fun. though it’s super challenging to have fun.

Leva: It is.

Isabeau: It is challenging.

Helena: (CROSSTALK) You want to have fun this year and we want to provide fun for others too, because it’s been a bit of a challenging time.

Isabeau: Yeah. Yeah. So yeah, that looks like different things for me. I like to sing and that’s something I do weekly. I have an absolutely fabulous singing teacher and that is something that I’ve really stayed consistent about.

Helena: That’s so fabulous. Really. So, Isabeau, we did ask you to prepare a challenge for our listeners, and we’re very curious. What’s the challenge that you picked for them?

Isabeau: Yeah, I think I you know, I listened to your last episode also with, Oh, my gosh oh, my goodness, I’m forgetting her name.

Helena: Sarah.

Isabeau: Yes. Sarah. Thank you. Sarah So I think it’s similar. So this this is really a practice of whenever you are feeling a moment of stress, however you define that and is to put your hand on your heart and simply take some big breaths from your diaphragm. And you can do this when other people around, you can do this when you’re alone. It’s such an easy practice to do. And just like the, you know, the warmth of your hand against your heart and then that that expansion that comes from just taking a breath. So this is my challenge to the listeners is to try it out. If you remember, try it out multiple times so that you can try it out once.

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Helena: Thank you for joining us today. If you like this content, let us know. You can find us on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn under @BCcampus and on Instagram

Leva: Subscribe to our newsletter at for the latest information and details on our offerings. You can also find more information about our podcast at and tune in next week for the next episode of BCcampus mixtape.

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—End of Episode—

The Ritual of Self-Care

[Theme Music]

Leva Lee: Welcome to BCcampus Mixtape. This podcast is a remix of previous live recordings from BCcampus offerings such as the Lunchable Learning Radio Show, Open Knowledge Spectrums and more. My name is Leva Lee.

Helena Prins: and my name is Helena Prins. We’re both on the Learning + Teaching team at BCcampus. If you love to learn, you’ve come to the right place. I am joining you from the beautiful homeland of the Lək̓ʷəŋən speaking people, which include the Songhees and Esquimalt Nations.

Leva: And I’m joining you from where I live on the ancestral and unceded homelands of the hən̓q̓əmin̓əm̓ and Sḵwx̱wú7mesh speaking peoples. Today’s episode features an insightful conversation with Sarah Lefebure, a counselor in the post-secondary system about health and wellness.

Helena: Let’s listen in.

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Helena: So Leva, did you have a nice time off?

Leva: I did! I have to admit though, I was not motivated to do much but I was resting, reading, eating a lot. I did finish a few books though which is huge for me as I’m not intentional about it. It doesn’t happen. Too busy, too tired, but I think I’m getting my reading mojo back. So good news for me!

Helena: Yes. Any particular book that stand out?

Leva: Well, I read a few things. Non-fiction mostly. A meditative book called, “The Things You See Only When You Slow Down by Haemin Sunim, but I would say Atomic Habits by James Clear stands out for me.

Helena: Why is that so?

Leva: It’s very practical and helpful to frame things you want to do in doable chunks thinking about systems that you can put in place to support you, to create a new habit or two. Maybe break a bad one or an old habit that you want to stop and they do that by suggesting four things that you can do to support you by making, doing that habit or creating a new habit: obvious, attractive, easy, and satisfying.

Helena: Oh, interesting. I don’t want to put you on the spot here live on air but have you applied any of that learning yet?

Leva: Well, Helena I have to say that I have. And it’s quite gratifying. So, when I was looking at those four things. I was thinking oh that’s kind of like when chefs talk about mise en place. And that concept of having everything in its place. And ready to go before you know start an activity or you know begin your work. So, I know that I want to get. And I guess I’m sharing this work with a lot of people. So, I better stick to it, is I want to get more fit. So, a practical example is that to make it obvious. So, visually I have, you know, my yoga mats kind of in a place where I can see it. I have an exercise ball that I roll to warm up my muscles. So, that’s kind of hanging on a bag on the doorknob. So, it’s not like I have to waste any time looking for it. Thinking where is it but it’s always there. To make it attractive by doubling up. Listening some tunes maybe finding tunes for our radio show. So, let’s listen to a little bit at Spotify. It’s always kind of enjoyable to listen to some music for fun and then making it easy.

I get up in the morning I put on something that I can exercise in, so when I do set the time for my exercise. I’m already kind of half, already dressed. Like if I put on my tights or something like that and then making it easy and then making it satisfying would be giving myself a little bit of a reward so I intentionally think about what would that be and I have a little bit of aromatherapy thing that you can spritz on kind of it’s like a cool down after a workout that a friend gave me and so I would say, “OK, I can spritz myself with that nice lavender mist after I do my workout,” so those things, I mean those are things probably many of us do but I just feel it having an assist just feels like you’re very supported in what you endeavour to do and I find that these tips from Atomic Habits were very helpful for me.


Helena: Here with me, I have someone that I consider quite brave too. The lovely Sarah Lefebure. And she’s a counsellor at Okanagan College. Welcome Sarah.

Sarah Lefebure: Thank you, Helena.

Helena: We’re so happy to have you here. We want to start by just hearing your story how did you get into counseling and why and how did you end up at Okanagan college?

Sarah: That’s a great question and it could be a very long story. But I’ll try and keep it brief. It took me quite a while to figure out what I wanted to do with my life. But I always loved stories and I always loved helping people. And actually, when I was doing my English undergrad at UBC. I often daydreamed of being an English professor. But what I really liked the idea of was having office hours. So, fast forward a number of years when I figured out that I wanted to be a counselor. And it all made sense because now I get to have office hours all the time. And I don’t have to mark papers. So, when I figured out that I wanted to be a counselor I was really excited about supporting youth. Especially in their process of figuring out what they wanted to do with their lives. And who they wanted to be. The whole process of developing their identity was really important to me. And I was lucky enough to land a practicum at a college in Quebec city. Where I was doing my Master’s degree. And I was just hooked on working in colleges from that point on. So then I sort of leap frogged across the country. I had a job at a College in Montreal and then at Camosun college, I was very lucky to have some temporary work there for a number of years and then when a permanent position opened at Okanagan College in Penticton. My family and I embraced the opportunity to come and live on the beautiful traditional territory of the silk Okanagan and we’ve been here for five years now and it’s just it’s my dream job. I love love love working with students.

Helena: The year didn’t quite start as we were hoping for it to start right? We’re not on the other side of COVID yet. What we see is our peers, our family, our systems seem to be really tired. So, Sarah what do we do? Give us some advice.

Sarah: Oh, absolutely Helena. It’s so natural, for us to be feeling tired and frustrated and disappointed right now because there was such a rapid change right towards the end of 2021 with the ways that we’ve had to adapt again with this new variant. My first piece of advice is to be honest with ourselves about what we’re feeling. I notice that the Canadian Mental Health Association’s theme for 2022 is “Name It Don’t Numb It” and I think that that is really really important advice right now. We’ve been going through this experience for such a long time, you know, in March 2020. I think a lot of us approached the initial COVID restrictions as a sprint and it turned out to be, you know, more than an ultra-marathon and that has been draining for a lot of us and say the urge to numb whether that’s through, you know, typical things like substance use, Netflix, overworking, scrolling social media, the list goes on. That urge is really strong and it can be very counterproductive for our mental health so when CMHA talks about naming it, you know, giving yourself an opportunity to check in with yourself. So this could be in your own thoughts, could be in a journal, or could be with someone that you trust, whether that’s a colleague or a loved one, just to say, “hey, you know what? I’m feeling really deflated by where we’re at right now and this is all feeling really tiring having to continue to adapt and follow these restrictions.” It doesn’t take it all away but sometimes in my experience. It can make the feelings a little bit better.

Leva: Hi, Sarah. Yeah, that’s really good advice and the naming it instead of numbing I think that’s a good way to kind of remember that and remind ourselves that, yeah, lot of us kind of do sort of want to push it a little bit under the surface and it’s hard and yeah we’re always so busy too, like as educators taking care of others and thinking about our students and then we have our own families to look after so thinking about self-care then maybe you might also have a few suggestions and what is it that you do yourself for self-care and maybe that might be helpful for listeners?

Sarah: Absolutely, great question. Self-care is probably the thing that I feel most passionately about Leva because you know especially as educators and like you said with family responsibilities and other commitments in our lives things can feel so overwhelming and busy and I think what I found really worked for me, when things kind of clicked to really build in a steady self-care routine. Well, there were two things one is to build those elements of self-care in first. You cannot fit them in afterwards into a really busy schedule they need to be prioritized so like kind of the building blocks of your week and the second part really is attached to that for me having routine helps me to maintain my self-care. So for instance I need to get into bed before 10:00 o’clock did I do that last night on a school night? No, but I can keep aiming for it. And because then I give myself 8 hours in bed to hopefully sleep for most of that time and then my alarm goes off at 6 so that I have about half an hour or 45 minutes before the rest of my family gets up and we start our day and that’s my time. I’ll do a little bit of meditation little bit of journaling and a little bit of mindful movement whether it’s yoga stretches or sometimes even just putting on my favorite song and dancing to it. Another example of routine is that I always go for a walk on my lunch break and that is a non-negotiable for me even if it’s snowy even if it’s raining I just put my hood on and sometimes it’s a very short walk but I get outside and get a little bit of fresh air and a little bit of movement.

Helena: You sound very disciplined, Sarah.

Sarah: Thank you, Helena.

Helena: I thought Netflix was my self-care strategy, but now I’m thinking I’m using that for numbing so I will have to revisit my strategies. Leva, do you have an effective one?

Sarah: I’m sorry Helena, everything in moderation.

Helena: Yes, that’s…

Leva: Well the movement part is good for me that I do admire if you can be disciplined and I think maybe one of the things I can do to support myself is to have good rain gear ’cause right now I don’t really have a proper..

Sarah: OK

Leva: Yeah, especially in footwear.

Sarah: Yeah and absolutely we often there can be those barriers to say well I can’t go for a walk because I might fall so looking at is there anything that’s getting in the way of something that you think would be helpful or beneficial for your wellness and trying to reduce or eliminate those barriers can be really helpful.
Leva: I’ve tried queuing up like walking buddies and things but it is also very difficult ’cause everybody schedules are different but those are really good tips that you put in especially about proactiveness, a routine ’cause I think that sometimes we flip feel like we’re floating ’cause we don’t have a routine. So wellness routine is a great idea and then your movement is a true part of that.

Sarah: And bearing in mind that we often think oh I need lots of time for self-care but a lot of the things that I’m talking about can be done in 5 minutes chunks so even when you’re busy you know your goal might be a 20 minute walk but if you can stick to a 5 minute one, if you don’t have time for 20 or it’s really rainy for instance. That can still have a really big boost.

Helena: I really like that I think we can be more creative around our self-care strategies and I’m wondering if you have any other strategies that you think we should have in our toolkit to weather the ups and downs of 2022 that’s going ahead of us.

Sarah: OK I have yes they do have a couple of other ideas. I think one thing that I want to say is don’t wait to be feeling like doing these things. A good tagline is to follow the plan, not your mood. So again if you set a schedule or routine for yourself and I guess that’s why I’m successful at walking every day is that that’s just what I do. My lunch break feels kind of incomplete if I don’t vote for a walk I don’t always feel like it when I set out but I would say I always feel better when I come back in. So follow the plan not your mood and then I also would recommend building in a mindful self-check in for yourself. and I think this too is a really good thing to fit into your routine in some way so it might be you know if you drive to work or if you’re still working from home before you sit down at your computer take a moment to just check in with yourself and you can close your eyes take three deep breaths and just ask yourself, “what’s true for me right now?”, “what am I noticing?” You might scan for sensations, emotions, any tension, no judgment, no need to buy into stories about why you’re feeling what you’re feeling. Just acknowledge, name it, like we were saying earlier and be kind to yourself and just be like oh I’m feeling some stress or this is suffering or this is frustration whatever it is you can meet it with kindness and then just take one more breath and set an intention to do something kind that might be supportive of what you’re feeling or help it to shift a little bit so maybe if your neck is stiff some stretches or if you have a headache perhaps you need a big glass of water, could be as simple as those little adjustments. I like to do this when I’m washing my hands because let’s face it we’re washing our hands a lot these days so as you’re washing for 20 seconds you can take those three deep breaths and just check in with yourself.

Leva: OK, be kind to yourself. We have to have that as a mantra for sure.

Sarah: As a post-secondary counsellor, I guess I really love the feeling of a fresh semester whether it’s September or January and the beginning of the year always feels like a great opportunity to look at what’s been working and what hasn’t been in my life rather than setting your resolution, I prefer to choose a word that captures how I want to feel in the year ahead.

Helena: It’s such a great idea and you know I sometimes take that word and make it part of my password for work. Because then every time that you type your password, you are reminded of this intention that you bring into the year and that’s kind of uplifting if you choose a positive word, right. But then I have had words like persevere which types very cumbersome with all the E’s so pick your word carefully.

Helena: So Sarah, we’re near the end now of a wonderful conversation with you but we don’t want to leave without challenging our listener. So do you have a nice challenge that we could put out there for them?

Sarah: Yeah and I read that you were hoping that this could be something for kind of for the week ahead especially. So, my challenge is that for this week, please set aside at least 10 minutes a day for self-care. Schedule it in. So think about whether it would work better for you in the morning or on your lunch break or before bed. I set at least 10 minutes. If you have half an hour, go for it and think about what will work best for you. Do you want to do the same activity every time or would you like to mix it up a bit? Work with what feels good and nourishing for you. And yeah allow yourself to brainstorm. If there are a variety of things that you might like to do. Then you could have a list and each day you can choose OK I’m going to have a 10 minute dance party my favorite playlist. Or I’m going to go for a walk with my friend or snuggle with my cat. Whatever fills you up, please do it.

Helena: Thank you for joining us today. If you like this content, let us know! You can find us on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn under @BCcampus and on Instagram

Leva: Subscribe to our newsletter at where the latest information and details on our offerings. You can also find more information about our podcast and tune in next week for the next episode of BCcampus Mixtape.

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