Episode 009

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 @bccampus.ca.

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

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