14 February 2023
Virtual Showcases: Building community connections to share, learn and grow together
Our Virtual Showcase sessions are designed to feature innovative programs and instructors who are using digital tools and approaches to…
What could you create if you stepped back from your day-to-day teaching routine? What could be possible if you gave yourself time to celebrate creativity in teaching? Literacy educator Lori Armstrong found out her answers to these questions at the AlphaPlus Makerspace.
Lori has worked in countries including Canada, China, Ecuador, Egypt and Colombia — with teaching experiences spanning kindergarten, high school and adult literacy. Over the last eight years, Lori has focused on adult education, and in 2020, she returned to her hometown of Thunder Bay, Ontario.
While working in her role as a computer instructor for the Thunder Bay Literacy Group, Lori was trying to figure out easy-to-use and consistent technology tools for her adult learners. She discovered and joined the AlphaPlus Educator Network. “I loved the format of regular meetings with peers to discuss the sharing, instruction and good use of technology,” says Lori. “So, the next year, when I was invited to join Makerspace, I jumped at the opportunity.”
The AlphaPlus Makerspace is a combination of a course and a community of practice led by AlphaPlus team members Tracey Mollins and Guylaine Vinet. In the program, a small group of literacy educators experiment, pilot and reflect on how digital technology can enhance learning creatively.
The 2022-23 Makerspace that Lori joined was focused on video storytelling, and in the first few meetings, they investigated video tools such as Flipgrid and Edpuzzle. In the next several sessions, the group explored storytelling structure and elements. Then they moved into a creation phase, during which participants worked on individual projects, regrouping periodically for peer support and feedback.
“Tracey and Guylaine understand that the whole point of adult education is to recognize all of the skills, experience, knowledge and creativity a learner brings — and trust them with it,” says Lori. “They bring this perspective to providing a stimulating and safe Makerspace experience. And they offered flexible timelines, which allowed me to work in small steps that I could fit in when I had the time.”
Tracey explains that Lori brought her thoughtfulness and creativity to Makerspace, expanding her experience from video-storytelling skill-building to a chance to think bigger: “Lori took the opportunity to synthesize ideas about her practice that she has formed over years of teaching and explore the concept of the personal web.”
“I’m a Métis person and come from a blend of Western settler and Indigenous cultures. The personal web integrates both ways of learning and seeing the big picture. It acknowledges adult learners’ needs beyond academics in four areas: belonging, safety, fun and power,” explains Lori. “With digital teaching, there are so many tools and options; we need a way to prioritize approaches to address learners’ questions and needs. The personal web is a tool for pausing, thinking about the connections in our lives and focusing on where to direct time and energy.”
I’m a Métis person and come from a blend of Western settler and Indigenous cultures. The personal web integrates both ways of learning and seeing the big picture. It acknowledges adult learners’ needs beyond academics in four areas: belonging, safety, fun and power.
Lori completed her video and wrapped up her first Makerspace in early 2023. Since then, she’s started sharing her reframed perspective with her colleagues and peers. She presented the personal web at an AlphaPlus Gabfest as a way of understanding what could be getting in the way of learners doing what they want to do and generating ideas for unique, individualized supports. And she’s bringing the concept into her new role at Lakehead Adult Education Centre.
Because of her Makerspace experience, Lori has created a meaningful body of work, built her comfort with sharing digital stories and made valuable new connections with fellow educators.
“Teaching can be fast-paced without time for reflection. Makerspace has offered the deepest reflection and synthesis I’ve been able to do so far on my teaching perspective, bringing together my values and cultural influences,” says Lori. “In this program, educators can be learners, discovering new tools, making mistakes and exploring. I could not recommend Makerspace enough to friends and colleagues in education.”
Would you like to feel more energized by teaching creatively? The Makerspace program is returning in fall 2023 with a focus on using open educational resources to co-create activities and lessons. Contact Tracey at firstname.lastname@example.org for start dates and registration details.
17 May 2023
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