Global Perspectives program supports international knowledge exchange

hand painting Earth planet

Since 2022, over 300 students from 28 Chinese universities have benefited from the Global Perspectives program, a partnership between York University’s Asian Business and Management Program (ABMP) and the Faculty of Science.

Established in 2022, the Global Perspectives program offers a series of impactful online, non-degree courses that cater to various academic interests and career aspirations by providing students with cutting-edge knowledge and in-demand practical skills, and fostering international insights in Chinese university undergraduates.

“Through this initiative, we are fostering global knowledge exchange and empowering students to make a positive impact on the world. The programs are also designed to drive positive change by aligning closely with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals to address critical global challenges and promote sustainable development,” says Hugo Chen, director of international collaborations and partnerships at the Faculty of Science.

The Global Perspectives programs – which cover areas like data visualization, water and wastewater treatment, scientific literacy and more – are an adjunct to Chinese students’ core academic curriculum, delivering an immersive experience led by experienced university instructors and industry practitioners. They provide both a theoretical understanding and industry-ready practical skills, preparing students to tackle real-world challenges. English-language tutoring is integrated into the program, ensuring that students also develop the essential technical language and communication skills necessary for thriving in a global academic and professional environment.

Looking to the future, ABMP Program Director Elena Caprioni aims to provide an even greater number of Chinese undergraduates with enriching experiences and invaluable international exposure through these transformative opportunities, helping students gain unique insights and capabilities that enable them to thrive in a globalized world. “While the focus remains on empowering students for a globalized world, the collaboration between York and Chinese universities seeks to create a powerful impact that transcends borders and helps build a more interconnected, sustainable and prosperous world for all,” says Caprioni.

Launch of iClass to enhance LA&PS student learning

A group of five York University students walking down York Boulevard in the fall

By Elaine Smith

York University’s Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies (LA&PS) is introducing iClass (innovative, Collaborative Learning And Student Space), a new eLearning hub that will become operational during the 2023-24 academic year.

The technology-enhanced learning spaces that make up the hub will be housed at 117 South Ross Building, thanks to funding from the Ontario government’s Training Equipment and Renewal Fund, intended to help modernize post-secondary facilities.

Anita Lam
Anita Lam

“Because York University aims to diversify whom, what and how we teach, in accordance with the University Academic Plan, we hope to intentionally design learning spaces that can help facilitate 21st-century teaching and learning,” said Anita Lam, co-chair of York’s Joint Task Force on the Future of Pedagogy and former associate dean, teaching and learning, for LA&PS.

“By refreshing existing spaces and equipping them with flexible furniture, iClass enables students to engage in collaborative and active learning. During COVID, students missed out on opportunities for peer-to-peer interactions, discussions and collaborative group work,” continued Lam. “These high-impact learning activities remain important for students across different modes of course delivery.”

iClass will include three separate types of teaching and learning spaces. One space will be a dedicated drop-in learning space for students to engage in online courses while on campus.

The hub will also feature two tech-enhanced classrooms for instructors to experiment with pedagogical innovations and deliver pilots or special online courses. Both classrooms will be equipped for Hyflex teaching and learning, allowing instructors to bring the outside world into their classrooms in a variety of ways. For example, they can bring in a virtual guest speaker from across the globe, or allow LA&PS students to learn alongside students from another university.

The third type of space that will be part of iClass is a one-button studio that allows both novices and tech gurus the opportunity to create digital content.

“One-button studios offer non-technical users the ability to quickly and easily create audiovisual content,” said Lam. “They were originally developed at Penn State University but have quickly spread to upwards of 100 institutions.”

Lam said there can be many uses for the one-button production studio: instructors can create high-quality lecture recordings for online courses; and students can create audiovisual (AV) content as part of their course-based assessments (e.g. video presentations).

With invaluable assistance from York planners, Facilities Services and AV support services, among others, Lam and Nathan Chow, LA&PS director of information and learning technology, worked together to bring iClass to life. For Chow, this project offered a unique opportunity to “showcase the business value of [information technology] (IT), and how IT teams can meaningfully collaborate on strategic initiatives that allow instructors and students to thrive in new learning environments.”

“Coming out of the pandemic, faculty members realized that they needed both space and time to try new educational technologies and teaching methods, so iClass is an attempt to offer instructors a campus space for pedagogical experimentation and play,” said Lam. “Our iClass space complements eClass, by offering an in-person playground for transformative teaching and learning activities and practices.”

Lam adds: “As a pedagogy-first initiative, iClass suggests a different way of designing and redesigning learning spaces at York. Because these spaces can transform teaching and learning experiences, they can have a profound impact on how instructors and students engage in 21st-century learning.”

“We are thrilled to introduce this innovative hub that is set to transform the learning landscape at the Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies,” shares LA&PS Dean JJ McMurtry. “This project is a testament to the dedication and collaborative spirit of our community. Congratulations to Anita Lam, Nathan Chow, and the Teaching and Learning and e-services teams who worked tirelessly to bring iClass to life.”

Centre for Indigenous Knowledges and Languages launches learning resource

In celebration of National Indigenous History Month and the United Nations Decade of Indigenous Languages (2022-2032), the Centre for Indigenous Knowledges and Languages (CIKL) has launched a collection of Indigenous language resources, which focus on the languages currently spoken by First Nations, Inuit and Metis peoples.

The collection can be found on the CIKL website in two parts, each with its own webpage. One focuses on general resources – from in-phone apps to online videos – for 38 distinct Indigenous languages belonging to six language families. The second is dedicated to language learning at York University, identifying language teachers and researchers, as well as courses focused on Indigenous language learning.

The websites are representative of CIKL’s mandate to bring together Indigenous and non-Indigenous faculty, researchers, students and community members, with a focus on centering Indigenous knowledges, languages and ways of being. The collection of language learning resources aims to promote and preserve Indigenous languages by providing resources to learn and explore.

The site embodies the spirit of a quote – translated from Kanien’kéha – by Tekáhkw, a Kanien’kéha speaker & faithkeeper: “The earth carries knowledge that has the power to inform our minds as we are moving about upon it. Our language is the key to understanding the knowledge that the earth carries. The responsibility of a teacher is to lead students through experiences with the power to inform their minds and enlighten their thinking. Enlightenment is the process of learning and the pathway to peace.”

Among the York courses highlighted by the website are:

  • ‘Introduction to the Ojibwe Language and Culture,” taught by Brock Pitawanakwat, CIKL associate director, associate professor and coordinator of the Indigenous Studies program, which provides students with the opportunity to delve into the rich linguistic and cultural heritage of the Ojibwe.
  • ‘Introduction to Kanien’keha (Mohawk),’ will be offered through the Indigenous Studies program and will be taught by Jeremy Green, CIKL associate and assistant professor in Indigenous Studies. The Indigenous Studies program is thrilled to offer the Mohawk language for the first time at Keele campus and hopes to add additional courses if student interest continues to grow.
  • ‘Anishinaabemowin (Ojibway) Language and Culture,’ taught by Maya Chacaby, lecturer in the Department of Sociology at Glendon. The course appears alongside a diverse range of courses at Glendon aiming to create a dynamic learning environment for the study of the Anishinaabemowin language and culture.

The CIKL language resources were put together by Cassidy McInnis, a CIKL workstudy student and recent graduate, and the overall project was guided by Alan Corbiere, CIKL associate and assistant professor, Department of History. By offering these resources, CIKL strives to provide valuable tools for learners, researchers, and the public alike. Visitors to the site are encouraged to engage with the available materials, allowing them to enhance their understanding of Indigenous languages, whether they are beginners or advanced learners.

To learn more about Indigenous languages at York, visit the website here.

York presents second annual Sustainable Development Goals virtual teach-in day

tablet united nations sustainability goals unsdgs

In collaboration with the Teaching Commons, the SDGs-in-the-Classroom Community of Practice is offering its second UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) Teach-in Day.

The event, called “The Right Balance: Teaching and Learning the SDGs through Collaboration and Connection,” takes place May 8 from 9:45 a.m. to 2 p.m.

The online half-day event will offer panel discussions, interactive sessions, and experiential learning about teaching, internalizing, connecting and collaborating with the United Nations’ 17 SDGs. The program will also share approaches to working with the SDGs through student, interdisciplinary/interdepartmental and other unique partnerships, as well as encourage strategies for engaging students in SDG-focused lessons.

The York co-chairs of the event are Assistant Professor Sandra Peniston (Faculty of Health), PhD student/SDG project coordinator Nitima Bhatia and SDG project coordinator/curricular expert Tracy Bhoola.

Visit this page for further programming information and register for the event here.

Professor provides GNL experiences with Latin American partners

Students working together

By Elaine Smith

Marlon Valencia, an assistant professor in the Department of English at Glendon College, is using remote course delivery to ensure students can benefit from experiential learning opportunities with academic partners across Latin America.

Valencia had always incorporated experiential education into his courses, but it was the necessity for remote course delivery that really sold him on the value of Globally Networked Learning (GNL).

GNL is an approach to teaching, learning and research that enables students, faculty and non-academic researchers from different locations around the world to participate in, and collaborate on, knowledge-making processes and concrete research projects. 

Today, Valencia, who is also director of the English as a Second Language program and coordinator for the Certificate in the Discipline of Teaching English as an International Language, incorporates GNL into all of his courses.

Marlon Valencia
Marlon Valencia

“I had no option but to incorporate GNL, because I was teaching a practicum course,” said Valencia. “Our students traditionally go to Cuba for three weeks to observe classes and teach, but we weren’t able to do that in 2021 and 2022, so I saw this challenge as an opportunity to build strong relationships with international partners and provide students with good experiential opportunities via Zoom and Webex.”

As a native of Colombia, Valencia already had ties to faculty there, and his work as a member of the scientific committee for the Colombian Applied Linguistics Journal fostered connections with faculty elsewhere in Latin America. Today, his partners include faculty from five universities in three countries: Universidad Autónoma de Occidente, Universidad Distrital Francisco José de Caldas and Universidad ECCI in Colombia; Universidade Estadual Mato Grosso do Sul in Brazil; and Universidad Técnica Nacional de Costa Rica in Costa Rica.  

“I love collaborating,” said Valencia. “It’s part of my nature.”

Each term, his students learn to enjoy collaborating with their overseas counterparts, although it can be a bumpy ride for them at first.

“I let my students know that working with international partners requires a lot of flexibility and negotiation,” he said. “It’s not always something we appreciate in Canada; students expect everything to go according to the course outline, and if it doesn’t, they may experience a great deal of anxiety. However, sometimes, for instance, the school calendars of our international partners don’t match ours, so it requires patience to work out a solution.

“It’s a good opportunity for life lessons. They will get insight into other cultures and learn that time can be malleable.”

Valencia’s first-year course entitled English in the World; The World in English, which looks at how English developed worldwide from a broad historical and political perspective. As part of the course, his students were paired online with students from ECCI in Colombia for informal conversations about why they were learning English and what English means to them. It was a way of bringing their course readings to life.

“I wanted them to understand what teaching English internationally would be like and what English means to others,” he said. “It was an eye-opener. As first-year students, it might have been the first time they engaged in conversation with someone who spoke English as an additional language. It was a rich experience. They often got together for longer than was required and some of them became friends. Some of the students told me it was the best part of the course.”

As part of the course The Nuts and Bolts of English: Grammar for Teaching and Learning this semester, Valencia’s students worked in partnership with students at Universidad Autónoma de Occidente to create a program for one of the university’s student radio shows, UAO Speaks English, which is broadcast on YouTube.

The students will be guest hosts on Thursday, April 13 at 5 p.m., discussing key concepts such as language contact, plurilingualism, Canadian English, and living with more than two languages.

“I’ve appeared on the show myself and I had stage fright in the booth, but the Colombian students producing the show were naturals,” Valencia said.

In addition, Valencia incorporates GNL into Teaching English as an International Language practicum course. The students observe professors at partner universities in Latin America teaching prospective English teachers there and then have the opportunity to deliver lessons to those students online.

“I definitely want to include GNL in all teacher education courses,” Valencia says. “GNL is one way for students to see what’s out there in the world and it’s affordable and easy to make happen. It allows students to explore the world’s possibilities and its limitations. It’s all about enriching their educational opportunities.”

The Glendon-hosted episode of UAO Speaks English will air April 13 at 5 p.m. Check out the trailer, Things Only Canadians Can Understand.

Help build a better future – become a sustainable living ambassador

Globe and York branded box for the Microlecture Series launch

York University’s new Microlecture Series in Sustainable Living empowers individuals to take action in righting the future for a more sustainable world. Aligned with the University Academic Plan Building a Better Future, York upholds sustainability – environmental, social, and fiscal – as a vital compass for decisions and initiatives. 

Launching during SDG Week Canada, this first-of-its-kind series offers faculty, staff, students and members of the public the opportunity to learn about sustainability from six of York’s world-renowned experts. Recognized as a sustainability leader in post-secondary education, York designed the innovative series as a free, open access program featuring “microlectures” that focus on a diverse range of topics related to sustainability.

Those who complete the series, correctly answer test questions and commit to put their learnings into practice will earn a digital badge and become an “ambassador in sustainable living.” As an ambassador, individuals can inspire others to do the same, amplifying the impact.

It’s a small commitment that aims to drive big change.

“Creating an equitable and resilient future requires all of us to become involved and make our planet’s sustainability an immediate priority,” says York University President and Vice-Chancellor Rhonda Lenton. “Participating in the Microlecture Series in Sustainable Living and earning the sustainable living ambassador badge demonstrates a commitment to building a cleaner, more prosperous and just future, and will inspire others to make small changes that can have a big impact.”

Participants can:

  • learn how microplastics journey through and impact our ecosystems (Shooka Karimpour, assistant professor, Lassonde School of Engineering);
  • unravel the relationship between energy and economic growth (Lina Brand-Correa, assistant professor, Faculty of Environmental and Urban Change);
  • explore why the most vulnerable amongst us often face the highest flooding risks (Usman Khan, associate professor, Lassonde School of Engineering);
  • discover the difference between a hazard and a disaster in context of emergency management (Eric Kennedy, associate professor, Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies);
  • consider how colonialism has impacted the way disasters impact Indigenous communities (Yvonne Su, assistant professor, Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies); and
  • dive into the reasons our lakes are rapidly warming (Sapna Sharma, associate professor, Faculty of Science).

The Microlecture Series is a way that anyone, anywhere in the world can learn from York’s academic leadership and research expertise.

Each one of us has an important role in creating a more sustainable world. York community members are encouraged to watch the Microlecture Series and become an ambassador in sustainable living. Join York University in creating positive change.

AIF funds a wide range of teaching and learning projects

Hand holding light bulb with illustration on blurred background

By Elaine Smith

Over the years, York University’s Academic Innovation Fund (AIF) has promoted an inspired shift in teaching, learning, the student experience and internationalization of the curriculum. With the deadline approaching for applications to this year’s AIF, here is an overview of some of the examples of the past projects that received funding.

Will Gage
Will Gage

For Will Gage, York University’s associate vice-president, teaching & learning, the start of the winter term is a sign that it’s time to remind faculty members to submit their applications for Academic Innovation Fund (AIF) grants. And what better way to do so than to share some examples of projects that received grants in the past?

“For more than a decade, the AIF has provided faculty with funding to pilot, develop and test their innovative curricular and pedagogical ideas,” said Gage. “We are proud of the diverse, useful, practical output that has resulted, many of which have been incorporated into the classroom or the student experience.”

For example, an AIF grant is supporting a project related to a topic that is crucial to the University Academic Plan: the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The ‘SDGs-in-the-Classroom” Curricular Innovation Hub is a pan-University, interdisciplinary, scaffolded strategy that aims to infuse the SDGs into more York classrooms more quickly.

Nitima Bhatia and Tracy Bhoola, members of the SDGs-in-the-Classroom Community of Practice, are working under the oversight of Sandra (Skerratt) Peniston, an assistant professor of nursing, to bring this effort to life, thanks to an AIF grant. They led the team that created an SDGs toolkit to make it simple to integrate the SDGs into courses on any subject.

“SDGs do touch on every single discipline, but many people may not realize that, so we want to spread the word across campus,” said Bhoola.

Added Bhatia, “The toolkit has launched, but we are adding resources every day, so it’s a living, breathing resource.”

In time, the toolkit will be located on the hub, which will be home to resources about SDGs, collaboration opportunities and videos created by SDG Curricular Champions. Bhatia and Bhoola are also involved in five workshops being held in conjunction with the Teaching Commons to train faculty to incorporate SDGs into their curricula, and they will be making presentations to the faculty councils about the accessibility and relevance of the tools.

“We really want to get the SDGs into York’s DNA,” said Bhoola.

The 17 Sustainable Development Goals
The 17 Sustainable Development Goals

Robin Sutherland-Harris, an educational developer at the Teaching Commons, has used an AIF grant to develop a speakers’ program for the community of practice that is dedicated to equity, diversity, decolonization and inclusion in teaching and learning. Sutherland-Harris, the project lead, works with co-leads Ameera Ali, another educational developer, and Jessica Vorstermans, an assistant professor of critical disability studies, health policy and equity, to line up speakers for their monthly meetings and set the group’s agenda.

“We launched the community of practice in Fall 2021,” said Sutherland-Harris. “It’s for anyone who deals with teaching and learning at York and we’re always accepting members. We started with 40 people and now have more than 70.

“During our first year, our monthly sessions largely featured members of our community sharing topics of interest or expertise. However, we felt that especially those who are less established or not in the tenure stream were devoting a significant chunk of work to preparing presentations. We wanted to have funding to help support and recognize their labour, and that got us talking about applying for an AIF grant.”

The team plans to apply for a second year of AIF funding to support their monthly lectures and plan for their upcoming May conference.

A partnership between the Schulich School of Business and YSpace is preserving guidance and insights gleaned from York and Schulich alumni in a video database that any faculty member can access. Based on lectures given by these visiting experts, The Entrepreneurial Mindset/Skillset eLearning and Video Database Initiative, offers faculty short clips on myriad topics, such as venture capital and protecting intellectual property, said Chris Carder, executive director of Schulich’s Office of Innovation and Entrepreneurship.

“Normally, when professors want to use video content for a class, they need to go out and find relevant stories,” said Carder. “Often, however, they are coming from American sources. At Schulich there are so many interviews done and appearances made by York and Schulich alumni and we’re saving it all.

“This program wouldn’t be possible without the AIF grant. I’m grateful that York has such a program that encourages us to push the envelope.”

Another current project, EE With, Not In, focuses on experiential education (EE). Led by Natalie Coulter, director of the Institute for Digital Literacies, and Byron Gray, manager of the TD Community Engagement Centre, this collaborative project supports students in their EE experiences in the Jane and Finch community. It uses a reciprocal approach that is respectful of community knowledge and expertise in the community, rather than being grounded in assumptions and stigmatizations.

Meanwhile, the Collective Inclusive Pathways to Access (CIPA) project is working to increase the success of students with disabilities in work placements. Currently, their access is heavily reliant on an accommodations model predicated on disclosure of a medical diagnosis. Led by nursing professor Iris Epstein, the project will develop a CIPA resource for professionals and those responsible for creating accessible EE. 

The AIF fund allows faculty to exercise their pedagogical creativity. Don’t miss out on this year’s call for applications – check your Faculty’s fast-approaching deadline for submission.

Coming soon: Innovative professional development online

Image is a featured image for YFile

By Elaine Smith

Although she realizes that faculty members across Ontario may never binge-watch professional development videos focused on learning innovations, Michelle Sengara hopes the learning modules being created will still be a hit with dedicated teachers.

Michelle Sengara
Michelle Sengara

Sengara, director of innovation for York University’s associate vice-president of teaching & learning, and her team are collaborating with Sandbox, Inc., a digital media agency with a specialty in e-learning, to turn evidence-based research about innovative teaching and learning methods into professional development modules. E-Campus Ontario is currently funding the development of these modules and it will be home to the finished products, making them available to teachers everywhere in the province.

“Our aim is to make these modules as catchy as the Explained series on Netflix, which explains large concepts in 20-minute episodes,” says Sengara. “We want to offer innovative content and innovative production values. We use animation and interviews to make professional development interesting and engaging.”

The research fuelling the project is derived from York’s perpetual course model project, an effort that explores innovative course design. Its aim was “to experiment with new ways of thinking about what we teach (curriculum), how we teach (pedagogy) and how we define and measure success (assessment),” said Sengara, who led the initiative. “Rigorous research carried out on these course prototypes has yielded incredible insights on the effective design, development, and delivery of instructional experiences.”

Based on the research, she and her team identified six topics that deserve further exploration in order to revolutionize online teaching and these professional development modules are an attempt to mobilize those knowledge assets in a more innovative and meaningful way:

  1. How to Build Community in Online Learning Settings;
  2. Micro-credentials: Designing Flexible Courses to Upskill and/or Reskill Learners;
  3. Cultivating a Growth mindset as Instructors;
  4. Competency-Based Evaluation: Alternative Assessment Models for Skill Acquisition;
  5. The Who, What, Where, When and Why of the HyFlex Instructional Method; and
  6. How to Use Affective Communication to Teach with Compassion.

They’ve also designed a template for the modules for consistency. Each will discuss what the topic is about, why it’s important and how to do it, giving the series coherence. In addition, the team is building the modules with an eye to academic integrity and robustness. They can be used individually, as micro-credentials or as a resource that can be used in other professional development courses or communities of practice; the opportunities are myriad.

Image shows a flow chart titled Creating Cutting Edge Learning Experiences
The basic template developed by Sengara’s team

During the pandemic, Sengara’s team and Sandbox worked to create the first module, building the foundation for an efficient and effective collaborative process, and did beta testing with users on the resulting video content. However, most of the interviews at the time had to be done on Zoom, so they are being redone in person to ensure that the finished product has more staying power. Since the first module has already been tested by potential users, the team can incorporate their feedback into this new version.

“That’s the development process,” said Sengara. “We learn and iterate. We plan to make the first two modules the blueprint for the others with the same structure and same animation. By testing and gathering feedback along the way, we’re able to brainstorm and see what other ways we can push boundaries and make the modules more innovative.”

The first two modules will be live on eCampus Ontario this spring, with the others to follow later this year. Not only will they provide educators with innovative instructional ideas, but they’ll offer Sengara and her colleagues the opportunity to collect data across Ontario about professional development and academic innovation.

“York will take the lead on collecting this data, in collaboration with the development team at Sandbox,” she said. “We want to publish and give presentations on the next frontier of professional development when it comes to teaching and learning in this digital and disruptive age.”

They also hope to obtain funding for professional translation to make the modules more accessible to French and Indigenous language speakers.

In addition, Sengara and her team have created a strong partnership with Sandbox Inc., one that reflects the priorities of the University Academic Plan and should allow the partners to “continue to produce relevant, meaningful professional development content.”

“We need ways to quickly produce relevant content and get new ideas into the system,” Sengara said. “We want to create just-in-time content so we can spark new ideas that are part of an ongoing professional development conversation.”

York professor co-creates digital learning platform to destigmatize dementia

Two people sitting on floor, one with laptop, one with workbook

A team of researchers has launched a digital learning platform to guide learners through an immersive experience to inspire alternative ways of thinking on dementia.

The digital learning resource, called Dementia in New Light: A Digital Learning Experience, invites users to explore ideas around dementia through a cinematic display of audio and visuals.

Christine Jonas-Simpson
Christine Jonas-Simpson

Created by Christine Jonas-Simpson (York University), Pia Kontos (KITE Research Institute, Toronto Rehabilitation Institute – University Health Network; University of Toronto), Sherry Dupuis (University of Waterloo), Julia Gray (University of Toronto Scarborough), Alisa Grigorovich (Brock University), Romeo Colobong (KITE Research Institute, Toronto Rehabilitation Institute – University Health Network), the website seeks to destigmatize dementia by creating emotional connections to new ideas and perspectives.

The team was recently recognized with the 2022 Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) Institute of Aging Betty Havens Prize for Knowledge Mobilization in Aging, in part due to this project. Dementia in New Light also received the 2022 University Health Network Local Impact Award for Technology & Innovation.

Learners will explore an immersive experience that will help them to see the complexity of identities and relationships, the harms imposed by stigmas, the possibilities for fostering a society that values people living with dementia, and more.

“People living with dementia are often misunderstood and stigmatized,” says Jonas-Simpson, a York University Faculty of Health, School of Nursing professor. “Stigma creates social isolation, exclusion, and inequality, which diminishes the health, well-being and quality of life of persons and families living with dementia. Our digital learning experience challenges stigma, while engaging learners in different ways of thinking about dementia – inspiring a world where everyone can thrive.”

The new website uses scenes from Cracked: New Light on Dementia, a film that presents qualitative research on persons living with dementia, family care partners and health-care practitioners and was co-created by a team including Jonas-Simpson and York University Professor Gail Mitchell.

Dementia in New Light logo
The digital learning resource, called Dementia in New Light: A Digital Learning Experience, invites users to explore ideas around dementia through a cinematic display of audio and visuals

York University master of nursing student Miao-Ying Huang is impressed with the online tool.

“I am really appreciating the highlighted themes – relationships, stigma, identity, current culture of dementia care, and possibilities. These are all very important concepts to explore if we are to re-imagine dementia.”

Huang says what stands out is how “the fractals and interconnectivity of themes are so beautifully represented.”

The development of the digital learning experience began in February 2019 – with funding from the Waugh Family Foundation – and was completed in July 2022.

“Our process was inclusive of the perspectives, goals, interests of people living with dementia, family carers, practitioners, educators and youth. They were collaborators in the development of the curriculum and design,” said Kontos.

Jonas-Simpson hopes educators in York’s School of Nursing, as well those in other disciplines, will use the digital learning experience as a key resource and teaching tool when engaging students in thinking about dementia through a critical and relational lens.

Learn more by watching this trailer for the website.

AMPD professor loves teaching, the classroom, virtual or not

People at theatre

Ian Garrett, a theatre professor in the School of the Arts, Media, Performance and Design (AMPD), considers the impact of technology and its role in driving positive change in post-secondary education.

By Elaine Smith

Ian Garrett finds teaching to be as inspiring to him as learning is to his students.

“I love being challenged and working through ideas with students,” said Garrett, an associate professor of ecological design for performance in the School of the Arts, Media, Performance and Design. “I have no interest in being an island. I get lots of viewpoints and perspectives.”

Ian Garrett
Ian Garrett.

Throughout his tenure at York University, Garrett has seen teaching evolve. He remembers when he was the only faculty member in the Theatre School at California Institute of the Arts with a course website, since he knew how to design and build one. Today, it’s a given.

“Technology has exploded,” he said. “I built one of my large courses as an online class and it has informed a lot of my in-person teaching. I’ve had the opportunity to invest time in elearning and think about it. It has caused me to rethink my priorities and my methods of assessment, which is reflected back in my other courses.”

In considering assessment, Garrett has looked at his goals and at the purpose of grading.

“I think that earlier in my career in teaching I believed you had to earn your grade and it was a chance to see if students could rise to the occasion,” he said. “Now, a lot of my teaching is about driving student success. My goal is to get my students to do well. My assessment is guided toward their literacy and mastery of the topic. I do give quizzes, but my courses are project-oriented. I’ve discovered more engaging ways of seeing if the students can process the necessary information.”

An Academic Innovation Fund grant initially helped him move his course online and as he did so, plagiarism was a concern. He has learned to ensure that the outcomes from his design assignments are unique so he gets a better sense of what a student can actually do; the outcomes are more personal to each individual.

Garrett believes strongly that technology drives change. A lot of the work he does in design requires hands-on skills with technology and he was also an early adopter of putting course materials online. He wants students to be conversant with technology.

“The integration of technology creates a more holistic learning experience,” Garrett said. “For instance, I can direct them to other resources such as the library electronically. Before Zoom, I would have guest speakers regularly using video conferencing. It brings in other expertise and promotes the ability to look outside the classroom. It expands the classroom and helps the students feel like they are part of a larger experience.”

Garrett is an advocate for globally networked learning (GNL) and believes internationalization broadens the student’s experience. During the pandemic, he worked in collaboration with students enrolled in his Ecoscenography course and with students from two Australian universities to design sets for the Climate Change Theatre Action Festival, held in Calgary this past summer. Despite the 14-hour time difference, they found a way to create designs together online.

“We can have global classrooms and are able to interact with people across the globe in real time,” Garrett said.

He also supports experiential education and expects it to remain a valuable addition to the classroom experience.

“I’m always looking for ways to get students out of the space we’re in, whether that’s through a field trip or a placement,” Garrett said. “I want to get them into an environment where the work [of making theatre] is happening.

“For instance, in my Sustainable Staging Techniques course, I asked the students to create proposals for change on campus that required them to learn about how the campus works in ways they hadn’t though about. They were busy talking to people from Facilities & Services, for example, and they could see their work in action. Our theatre work isn’t separate from the rest of society, so it’s really valuable to connect with other systems.”

Garrett agrees that students want more agency and says AMPD’s theatre program is headed in that direction.

“There are so many options for what students can do, so we’re trying to break down the rigid structures of the past and make the program less prescriptive,” Garrett said. “Students want to make things to tell stories and to explore all the different ways they can express their ideas. There are so many different outlets and modalities for their creativity and technology is less expensive than ever. There are podcasts, short-form videos … the challenge is how do we support students so they have the common skills initially and allow them to specialize.

“They may not know what all the options are, but it’s part of our job as faculty members to help them find what their passions are. AMPD is so diverse; it can be overwhelming in terms of choices. I like the excitement of students making connections among the options.”

In preparing students for the future, Garrett believes that “the most important thing we can do is to help students learn how to learn. There will always be new technologies and new subject fields, but we can help students to learn how to solve problems, how to learn new tools and skills, how to decide which ones are important and how to apply them to their own work. We can teach them critical thinking and how to come into a new environment and cultivate the new skills they need.”

In looking toward the classes of the future, “I’m excited about exploring mixed reality technology and its ability to affect the way we deliver courses. Research into virtual reality and live performance may allow us to have the same in-person experience simultaneously. Being in a classroom will mean sharing either time or space together.”