Hello everyone! This is Xinli saying hi to you by Lake Ontario, one of my favorite spots since we moved to Canada three years ago. Thanks for giving me the opportunity to share a small part of my life and my journey with open education resources with you all. I look forward to connecting with many of you and continuing my OER journey along with all the wonderful people in this lovely community.
I was born in a small village in the northern part of China; I’m a proud first-generation university graduate and ph.d. I’m very fortunate that I graduated debt-free thanks to the low cost of public universities in China and generous scholarship in Singapore. My first encounter with OER happened in 2009 when I was preparing to become a doctoral candidate in mathematics. We were asked to pass an oral exam consisting of three courses in mathematics. One of the courses I chose was Fourier Transform because it’s closely related to my Ph.D research topic but the course was not offered by the university so I had to study on my own. I found Stanford University Professor Brad Osgood’s course on YouTube: The Fourier Transform and its applications and got myself ready for the exam, and subsequently for my future research thanks to his generosity in sharing his lecture notes, teaching and wisdom. It’s only years later that I realized I benefited from open education resources. I took Jenni Heyman’s Making Sense of Open Education in 2018 which is the starting point for me to become a member of the family of OER advocates. Our students today face many challenges while completing their post-secondary education: the financial burden is a reality for many of them. Can we do something to help them? Open Education Textbooks and Resources might be the answer many people are looking for.
I became an OE Fellow with eCampusOntario in 2019 and have been working on adopting OERs in my daily teaching practice: I introduced GeoGebra, an open math visualization tool to my linear algebra class in order to help students understand math concepts better, and adapted an open linear algebra textbook with built-in H5P elements. These interactive problems can help anyone who’s reading the book self-assess whether they have understood the topics in the book.
You can find it here: https://ecampusontario.pressbooks.pub/linearalgebrautm/
I’m grateful that I had the opportunity of working on this project, with the wonderful team from Pressbooks and look forward to more collaborations in the future.
First off, if you are interested in doing OER work and impact a bigger community besides your own institution, do pay attention to their call of new participants for next round.
I had the pleasure of working with Jenni Heyman as the Hub Coordinator and Nkaepe Olaniyi as my Mentor while participating in this project. It’s great to work with these ladies and I’ve learned a lot while I work on the open textbook. You can find my presentation online: OE4BW: open and interactive Linear Algebra textbook for all
If you also happen to work with open textbook on Pressbooks and H5P, I’d love to connect with you. You can find me @xinli_w on Twitter.
I have been working on a project since the end of last year: adapting an existing open linear algebra textbook: Linear Algebra with Applications by W. Keith Nicholson to make it more interactive.
You can read or download the adapted version here: https://ecampusontario.pressbooks.pub/linearalgebrautm/
To see the H5P elements, it’s best to view the book using your web browser. Once you download it as a PDF file, you won’t be able to see those H5P interactive elements. Enjoy!
First I have to thank one of my favorite podcasts: Hidden Brain for motivating me to write about this post today. They recently published an episode titled “Close enough: the lure of living through others ” and it resonates so much with me.
Do you ever find yourself going through video after video about a certain project you plan to do? Perhaps you are looking for instructions on how to do it, or simply looking for inspirations from others that have done it. It’s almost mesmerizing when we watch experts do what they are best at. And we somehow feel we can do it as well after we watch enough videos which is really an illusion. I find the same analogy also applies to our students: they watch us solve problems in class, and they may even find YouTube videos on the same topic and watch a few of those. And they tend to believe they can also solve similar problems after spending so much time watching. We all know how that turns out when we mark students’ test papers. They don’t know how, even though they’ve spent a lot of time watching others do it. Watching is not equal to doing. It’s a simple fact and yet many fall into the false belief that if we watch enough, we’ll become that expert in the videos.
I have to admit sometimes I make the same mistake: when I’m attending online courses, I watch others having discussions and feel I’m also part of them, even though I didn’t post a word; I feel I’m expert in the subject matter after browsing through what’s offered in the course, without actually spending much time on the listed learning objectives, only to find myself at loss when I come across the same problem somewhere else. In order to avoid this from happening, I tend to register way less courses nowadays, so I will have enough time to really sit down and study.
Last semester I had the chance to explore how would using Geo-Gebra in my Linear Algebra course affect student’s learning experience. My initial goal was to find out whether using it would improve student’s engagement in the class. I had taught this course for a few times by then, and one observation I made was how quiet the lectures were, compared with my other sections. In fact many students who took Linear Algebra last semester with me also took my other math course: Intro to Math Proof and we were discussing this interesting finding. They agreed that our Linear Algebra lectures were too quiet. They told me that Linear Algebra classes were not as engaging, and interesting as the other course even though my teaching style didn’t change. I had to do something.
I managed to secure a small funding from my university and did the following experiments. Once every two weeks, I will have four TAs going in to my lecture and sit among students. We will do one Geo-Gebra activity that helps students visualize and understand a new concept. For example, when we were learning the topic of eigen-value and eigen-vectors, students were asked to go here: Exploring Eigenvectors and Eigenvalues Visually and follow the steps:
- Set the matrix M to be (1 0 ; 0 2)
- Drag the point u until you see the vector u and Mu are on the same line. Record the value of lambda. How many times do you see u and Mu lying on the same line when u travel through the whole circle? Why?
- Based on your observation, what can we say about the eigenvalue and eigenvector of M?
- Set the matrix M to be (3 5; 1 -1) and repeat what you did above.
- Check your lecture notes about the eigenvalues and eigenvectors of this matrix. Are the results consistent with what you observe?
TAs will be walking around the lecture hall and answer any questions students have. Some are about the applet itself, some are about the mathematics involved. By the end of the activity, a majority of students feel more comfortable about the two new concepts.
We did similar activities for a few other topics, and in general they helped students in understanding the abstract math ideas better. However, the interactions between students were not improved much. Most of them were working alone, and the class for most part was still pretty quiet. I’m in the middle of getting the data in place and measure whether the engagement level has improved or not, but my guess is there probably isn’t a significance improvement. Next semester if I’m to do these activities again, I will add at least one step: share your work with your neighbor and exchange what you have found with each other. And I will invite volunteers to talk about the questions, instead of me explaining them.
I will come back to this post once there are new findings.
I’m pleasantly surprised by how well-organized eCampus Ontario extend mOOC is, and hoping to make some meaningful and long-lasting connections with the community here.
As I’m going through the materials of module 2: Technologists, I started thinking of why digital literacy matters, and how much does it matter to “good teaching”.
Being digital literate starts with knowing the problems we want to solve. Is it about improving student’s engagement? Is it about deepening understanding of key concepts? Is it about communicating more effectively? Or is it about having a fun and open learning environment? While I was teaching in Singapore, every faculty member from my department took part in the popular Coursera online course: Powerful Tools for Teaching and Learning: Web 2.0 Tools.
That was the first time I took some time thinking about what exactly are digital literacies and why they are important. Our students today are different from students decades ago; in fact they are probably more digital literate than us in many aspects. In order for us to improve our teaching and reaching our students, being aware of what tools are available becomes very important. On the other hand most edtech tools have their own limitations. Before we use any new tool, it’s a good practice to try to understand what they are meant to help with, and what potential issues we may run into.
I believe most of the problems we are trying to solve have low-tech or no-tech solutions. Using digital tools is just one way of solving it. Perhaps before we dig in the endless list of “cool” tools that are out there, we should ask ourselves can we come up with a no-tech solution to address the issue at hand, focusing on the students, and what’s best for them.
I find the most useful way to adopt new tools effectively is by discussing it with colleagues and the bigger teaching community (we have a wonderful teacher community here: teacherforlearning channel! ). It comes to each one of us to share our experiences and spread it out, especially what don’t work. Don’t hesitate to share something that you tried and didn’t work. It might save someone else plenty of time and frustration in future. I stopped using Mentimeter a while ago because I didn’t like the paid version, and it’s hard to edit mathematics there.
For those who are taking the same course with me, you can find my extended activities of Module 1 here: