Teaching With WordPress: A Late Contribution to Week 1 #TWP15

My motivation to participate in this MOOC on Teaching With WordPress is captured in a post I wrote on my personal/professional blog a short while ago.  It is best to read that here rather than me reiterate it.

The essential ingredient of the post was captured by the metaphor of deterritorialising the curriculum and playing with the idea of students being the curators of their own learning.  And this is the desire that lies behind and envelopes my wish to participate in this course (even if it struggles for air amongst all the life-stuff and work-stuff), and to take up David Wiley’s invitation to explore what is possible when we learn in the wild.

The course I am considering opening up is a postgraduate certificate in teaching and learning in higher education.  It is aimed at faculty members and postdocs to enhance their skills and knowledge around teaching.  The underlying philosophy is constructivist and opening it up allows me to introduce a more connectivist aspect.  But how much?

Is this my BIG QUESTION?

I KNOW that participants gain a great deal from the course as it is.  This, I believe is because we are not about ‘training’.  Learning minor techniques can be done anytime and anyhow.  We push participants to reconsider their underlying values in the context of exploring and practicing techniques.  They engage with the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning and they redesign aspects of their teaching.  So why potentially disrupt this?  I am not sure I want to, but I do want to examine the potential of the open to further enhance what we have.  In particular I want to relinquish my role as the necessary point of passage to core materials.  I want them to identify and evaluate resources that are relevant to their situations, and to do this collaboratively.

Maybe my big question is more like this: what might the relationship between students curating their own learning and being assessed by the institution look like in reality?

6 thoughts on “Teaching With WordPress: A Late Contribution to Week 1 #TWP15

  1. Hi Simon,

    It sounds like you are grappling with getting the mix right between the slightly “off centering” self organizing approach and the structured guidance that you are providing. We struggle with the same thing at the Centre for Teaching , Learning and Technology at the University of BC (where I work). We are continuing to experiment with different approaches (which was how the TWP15 course was born). I wonder if there is a question of confidence embedded here somewhere? When did we begin to lose confidence in our ability to teach ourselves and learn from what is available to us? What do we value most about learning? Is it that we can quickly absorb and integrate the expertise of others for the sake of improvement and efficiency? Or is it than we can follow a line of inquiry that we determine for ourselves and that may lead us to unexpected connections? Your big question (in the true spirit of a big question) opened up many more questions for me.


    1. Hi Cindy. The idea of a ‘Domain of Your Own’ really captured my imagination. I already use WP for my out loud academic thinking and writing. I am more productive that way even if there are few comments in response to my blog posts. But the blogs and Twitter have linked me with so many good people and new ideas and resources. It is active learner centredness in action. Our course is all about getting faculty to think and practice in a learner and learning centred way. The reflective aspect of the course does do that and I am careful to model the praxis in how we do things in the course. Apart from a few folks who begin implementing the ideas immediately we do not really offer participants a structured opportunity to ‘do’ this kind of learning themselves. My idea is that by building more curating and sharing we can facilitate this. We’ll see.


  2. Great post – and great questions here. I’m very much in the same space, looking at what seem like very similar challenges (see http://jeffdmerrell.com/2015/06/07/designing-for-open-twp15/ ). That includes having an existing course which, I think, does a pretty good job of putting learners in control of much of their own learning. And wondering – how much to I want to mess with that?

    I think your comment about “relinquishing control” to the passage of core materials is the bit that appeals to me. That’s exactly it. Moving more toward the open nudges students further into self-directed exploration.

    Apologies for not having any insights here – just wanted to give a nod to a fellow experimenter.


    1. Hi Jeff – thanks for the nod. Yes, the challenge is how to enhance rather than change. My fear is that my desire to encourage student-as-curator and use an open platform outside the LMS may actually undermine what is a good course.


  3. I read your other post referred to at the beginning of this one, as well as this one, and it sounds like what you’re trying to do is really interesting. I, too, want to de-centre myself and encourage a focus on resources rather than content. But so far I haven’t done much of that at all. I keep thinking I want to, but then when it comes down to it I keep designing my courses the same old way: I create the curriculum, and students go through it.

    I guess I struggle with just how to change that. I teach philosophy to undergraduate students, and most of the time it’s first-year courses. So they know very little about philosophy to begin with (in Canada, it’s not common to have philosophy before university). It’s hard for me to ask them to go find things to read because they won’t know where to look! But one thing I did this term was ask them, towards the end of the term, to find things out in the world that have philosophical content or that are examples of philosophical activity. The idea was, for an “Introduction to Philosophy” course, to get them to see that philosophy isn’t just something one does in the university, or that one publishes papers and books on; it’s something useful in everyday life. They’re still finishing up those assignments so we’ll see how it goes!

    Also, I wanted to say that the way you describe this course on teaching and learning in higher ed sounds a lot like how we were thinking of this Teaching with WordPress course: we aren’t focusing on the nuts and bolts of just how to use WP (there are plenty of resources out there on how to do it, videos, etc.), but trying to get people to think through what openness can allow them to do, what their course goals are and how they might implement them on WP as more of a blank slate than a pre-designed VLE. It’s more about the pedagogy than the tool, really. And openness can really help with something like teaching and learning: I get such benefit from connecting with people across the world on teaching and learning topics that I couldn’t get just by talking to people at home–so many more ideas, resources, etc. Indeed, connecting with people on the open web has become my number one, go-to method of professional development. Which is part of why I was so excited to help with an open course on teaching and learning, this one on WordPress!


    1. One of my hopes is that either through using WP or completely within the LMS I can shift more responsibility for identifying useful resources to the course participants. I am playing with the workload allocation so that i reduce the amount of class time and create small group activities between class for them to discuss papers, identify papers and resources relevant to their disciplines (we cover all disciplines). For instance, this year I identified a range of video resources to illustrate flipped teaching or interactive lectures. They could do that. Also, a recurring question is to do with discipline relevant scholarship of teaching and learning – again I could set tasks for them to find some of these. A parallel hub using WP would be a good mechanism for this student-as-curator while keeping the assessment and grades within the LMS. I have just played with setting up an RSS feed from the blog to the LMS – it worked.


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