Canadians are lucky to have the creative contributions of Gord Downie, frontman for the Tragically Hip, who passed away this week at the age of 53. He embodied a beautiful paradox in our conversation about Canadian culture. He wrote poetry about hockey and our complicated history, quoting both news and literature, and singing those poems to diverse audiences in hockey arenas.Where America’s poet, Walt Whitman, spoke of “containing multitudes,” Downie connected multitudes. Like Downie, the country he loved resists summation. What is Canada? What is Canadian culture? Who is a Canadian?Canadians do not agree on what it means to be Canadian. Our conversations on the subject end with more questions than we had when they began. Two approaches are often used when trying to capture the essence of Canada. The negative, “I don’t know what it means to be Canadian, but I am not American,” is countered with positive summaries like, “We are a cultural mosaic.” Downie’s work avoids such shortcuts. And somehow, that works. We like the questions.
The poetry of Gord Downie has been on nonstop play this week. Fiddler’s Green, for sure.
His tiny knotted heart
Well, I guess it never worked too good
The timber tore apart
And the water gorged the wood
You can hear her whispered prayer
For men at masts that always lean
The same wind that moves her hair
Moves her boy through Fiddler’s Green
The Teaching Challenge is a website built by the team at the Taylor Institute, partially inspired by the DS106 Daily Create. The goal is to provide a platform – scaffolding – to give instructors concrete projects to try in their courses. Projects can range from building some media – make a video – to more complicated things like incorporating active learning. Participants post reflections on what they’ve tried, how it worked, and share with the community. Some very cool stuff. It’s started basically as a skunkworks prototype, but is growing to become a foundation of how we do things. I believe this forms an important way for people to take risks and try new things – and, when combined with Badges and ePortfolio, provides a meaningful way to document and develop growth as a teacher.
Organized by the Taylor Institute for Teaching and Learning, the Teaching Challenge is a community hub, offering a series of online activities that serve as prompts for educators to explore techniques and to gather feedback from peers, connecting an interdisciplinary community of educators. Geared towards an interest in innovative teaching and learning methods, the initiative’s “challenges” range from incorporating student reflective writing exercises to creating podcasts or screencasts for classroom use.
The Teaching Challenge has also had a positive impact on Andrea Freeman’s career as an instructor. “Lifelong learning is about more than just increasing knowledge,” she emphasizes. “It is about becoming the best you can be. This type of peer-to-peer sharing provides insight that cannot be obtained from teaching evaluations and reinforces excellent teaching strategies. I came to the University with a strong research focus, but teaching is so much a part of our lives and the future of the University. The Teaching Challenge is a simple way for me to find better ways of engaging my students, so that I can be a more effective contributor to learning on this campus.”
I’m really proud of how this project was built – collaboration across the Learning Technologies and Learning and Instructional Design Groups, from concept through software development and prototyping, and integration with existing and emerging programs. Very cool stuff. We’re also using it as a foundation of the Taylor Institute’s new Graduate Student Certificate in University Teaching and Learning, to guide participants through the Learning Spaces and Digital Pedagogy badge (which also uses our badges.ucalgary.ca platform… I love it when a plan comes together…)