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Reflections on the Festival of Learning

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FOL2018 CarolineHow many of us have been to conferences that we may have enjoyed, but we also forgot what we heard soon after? Or did not find any of it relevant to our practice? I know I have. The Festival of Learning this year was anything but that! Under the theme “Higher Education – Handle With Care”, the sessions I attended indeed focused on fostering a caring environment that is meant to improve education for the student. In this context, the faculty are seen as caretakers and caregivers. A very interesting perspective!

So a semester later, what sessions and conversations am I still pondering on my bike rides to Richmond campus? I’m pondering the ones that either made me uncomfortable, or enthused. Or the ones that directly affected how I might do my job at KPU. Here they are!

Jesse Stommel kicked off the conference with his views on compassion and empathy, and how we can make sure it exists in our classrooms. Within the first few minutes I was intrigued to hear compassion linked to pedagogy; but what really made me perk up was his idea during the Q&A of showing compassion for fellow faculty in more practical ways – some that I think the library could help with.

  • Takeaway #1 for me: First Year Experience for Faculty. Yes! We often talk about first year experience for students but what about faculty? I know we have an onboarding process for new faculty at KPU but I’ve lost track of what it does for new faculty to support them in their pedagogy and overall introduction to teaching at KPU. I know in the library we used to deliver workshops on this (using library resources in the classroom and in your online courses), but we have lost them in all the shifts our organization has gone through. Join them with delivery from the Office of Teaching & Learning and I think we could provide great support for new faculty. Perhaps it’s time for reconsideration.

Monique Gray Smith, was the third day keynote. I don’t think anyone in the room could say they did not learn something! Monique spoke of the art of listening, choosing our words, and identifying student gifts – many of which have been highlighted already by other contributors to this blog. But my takeway was not about teaching, it was about tea!

  • Takeaway #2: Tea cures all. It does. Monique’s suggestion to bring a pot of tea to the classroom – to use it as a tool increase relationship building, make connections and raise the comfort level. Yes tea! While I know the idea of bringing objects into the classroom is well known through public schooling, to hear it mentioned in the post-secondary environment was refreshing to say the least!

Numerous other sessions I attended also definitely sparked my interest, and their delivery is worth noting. Gone are the days when you sat in seats and presenters talked at you during conferences! I role played at We need an instructional designer stat, developed a survey on the fly with Making Pressbooks Better, and participated in a fish bowl at Communities of Praxis. But we all know that sometimes the coffee break conversations we have at conferences can make us think as much as sessions we attend. A conversation on the exclusiveness of the Open movement that actually went on for over an hour, still gives me pause. This conversation actually took the place of a session for me. A group of us sat in an empty room and I listened to colleagues and practitioners who felt outside, and left out of the open movement. To hear such frankness on a topic has made me adjust how I approach my work in this field. The next coffee break conversation that I am still considering is how our quick fix society and parenting tendencies are having an effect on childhood resilience, and can contribute to the anxiety in post- secondary which is often portrayed as the end of the ‘hand holding era’. Uh oh. A fellow parent expressed her views that we are too quick to solve our child’s problems meaning they don’t act on their own behalf, and lowers their resilience as they enter their adult life. I took this to heart over the summer with my own children – if you interviewed them, they might regret that I had this conversation! It was a classic example of work life touching my family life.

  • Take away #3: Have difficult conversations. They are uncomfortable, but something good can come out of them.

Thank you BCcampus for taking such amazing care of your conference attendees – yoga, childcare AND chia pudding all at the same conference? Over the top! A loud shout out to the Centre for Teaching and Learning for supporting my enrollment at the Festival of Learning. As Jesse Stommel noted in his presentation, if your organization sent you, it means they care and you should feel lucky! I like that!


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