Statement of Professional Role Philosophy

“And gladly wolde [s]he lerne, and gladly teche.

– Geoffrey Chaucer, The Canterbury Tales

When I was 20 years old, I was offered my first post-secondary classroom: I facilitated peer-led supplemental instruction workshops for the Centre for Initiatives in Education at Carleton University, supporting first- and second-year courses in psychology and English. This opportunity that started as an on-campus job with a good hourly wage quickly ballooned to overtake my whole life; exposed through training sessions to evidence-based teaching practice and active learning strategies, I became fascinated with the idea not of teaching, but of helping people to learn. I found much of the world of the university opaque and confusing, but with the goal of supporting my workshop participants effectively I could advocate for myself and learn more about what I wanted to be and how I wanted to be understood. Before I knew what I wanted to major in, I knew I wanted my own classroom; before I knew what graduate school was, I knew I wanted to reshape the academy.

Those early experiences in peer-assisted learning created my persona as a teacher: I wanted to be a helpful guide who moved students to make critical connections within the material themselves, not a lecturer on the dais reciting grand truths. It was also critical that I learned how to teach as I was learning how to learn and how to be university student; constantly confronted by classroom practices that were not supported by the research into teaching and learning, I came to sharply critique the institution. It was an important lesson to me to remain always a learner – of how to teach, but also of how to read critically – and shapes my sense that to love and build a strong institution is to demand that it be better than it imagines itself to be.

Digital pedagogy has always been at the centre of how I define myself as a teacher and central to how I contribute to the work of my colleagues. The training at the Centre for Initiatives in Education was grounded in ethical pedagogy: student-centred, inclusive, and accessible teaching practice. In our quest to pursue ever evolving strategies for active learning in the classroom, it was also a training open to the opportunities of educational technology, and as early as 2002 I was experimenting with innovations like “clicker” classroom polling devices and blogging for education. In my role as a Team Lead at CIE, I learned how to communicate the value of these technologies to my colleagues and discovered a talent for talking about technology with people who describe themselves as resistant to it. This is work I’ve continued throughout my academic career and I’m proud to be seen as an accessible resource for my colleagues. I enjoy helping faculty members find educational technologies that simplify their workflow without sacrificing pedagogy, and I take real joy in the problem solving that comes with that territory. In many ways, this work echoes my earliest experiences of teaching: I see faculty support primarily as a kind of peer-led supported experience, rooted in recognizing the individual’s expertise and working to shape a solution that achieves their goals.

Too often, we foreground the “technology” in educational technologies and fail to ground ourselves in an ethical digital pedagogy. For me, this means a praxis that prioritizes inclusivity/accessibility and openness. I am a proponent of Universal Design for Learning and thinking through what accessibility means both within and apart from established structures in the institution; in other words, how can we ensure we are not only accommodating students registered with Accessibility Services, but also serving students with learning needs that may not be documented due to financial or cultural/familial barriers? Ethical digital pedagogy demands not only that we employ available tools to meet the needs of those students but that we prioritize accessibility when exploring new technologies. I’m also an advocate for Open Educational Resources, and phased out traditional textbooks in favour of open e-resources in much of my own teaching as early as 2012, but I am also committed to expanding our understanding of openness in educational technology to include prioritizing using and publishing in OA digital journals (like The Comics Grid, where I serve on the editorial board) and being philosophically open about our classrooms, our teaching, our grading, and our research. This also includes resisting and seeking alternatives to closed digital systems that treat student and faculty work as a commodity to be leveraged for corporate profits: while resources like Turnitin and offer useful tools to faculty, the cost incurred by students and faculty making use of them is very high.

I believe that the role of the Coordinator, Educational Technologies is to guide the institution, as well as individual faculty members, to make choices that are pedagogically responsible: student-centred, inclusive, accessible, open and, as a result, deeply ethical. I hope I live up to this mission by building strong relationships and creating spaces for difficult, critical conversations. And I also hope I help faculty find the joy and meaning in technology, and that I empower them to demand more of their tools and of their institution.