Blog 58

Teaching in Focus (TIF) annual teaching and learning conference at York

Celia Popovic, Teaching Commons

When I arrived at York back in November 2011, my first impression was one of a challenge as I had to negotiate a rather large building site in front of Kaneff Tower. I could not enter the building from the front and instead had to find my way via York Lanes. I was told that the subway would soon be arriving.

In the 5 years since then, one of the events that give me the greatest pleasure is the TiF conference. This year on May 17 and 18 we will see our 5th conference held in the Victor Phillip Dahdaleh (forermly TEL) Building. The keynote speaker is Professor Nancy Chick from the University of Calgary. Nancy is a SoTL scholar – the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning can be broadly interpreted as research into post-secondary teaching, conducted by instructors. She will be exploring what counts as SoTL, and advising on how to share our findings, not least through scholarly publications.

This builds on last year’s TiF where Dr Nicola Simmons (Brock University and 3M Teaching Fellow) and Professor Karin Crawford (University of Lincoln, UK) explored issues of SoTL and student partnership.

Each year, while the keynote sets the tone and provokes discussion, I am equally thrilled by the contributions made by York instructors. The community comes together to share and learn from one another. What works in the classroom? How best to engage students? What have you tried that you heard about from elsewhere and have implemented at York?

This year promises to be at least as exciting as previous years, if not more so. In addition to a conversation between the President’s University Wide Teaching  Award winners, with Will Gage, AVP Teaching and Learning, we are particularly enthralled by a new addition to the conference – the Maker Space sessions.

‘Maker Space’ is a term that is becoming increasingly popular as institutions start to offer spaces where students and faculty can explore various forms of technology and teaching or learning approaches. Earlier this month Rob Finlayson (LTS) and I visited Niagara College in their fabulous setting to find out about their newly installed Maker Space. Niagara College takes ‘making’ to a new dimension – see this image of one of their teaching room – specifically designed for a wine tasting course!

While we were highly impressed with the wine making facilities, the brew house for their craft beer course and the exceptionally tasty and beautifully prepared lunch in the student run restaurant, it was their Maker Space that grabbed our attention. A room off the Library has been refurbished to provide access to video and sound recording facilities, a 3D printer and various software programs. A pile of lego bricks entices even the most convinced technophobe to get engaged.

We are exploring the potential for something similar at York, but in the meantime will be offering a taste of this experience at TiF. As you can see from the schedule - we have built in time for conference participants to experience the Maker Space. Take this opportunity to try out some technologies that may be new to you, which can be used to address some key issues in teaching. You will have the opportunity to make something in a short time, giving you a taste for what might be possible in future courses.

Five and a half years later, I am so pleased to see the way the conference has and continues to develop, and I hold out hope that the same will be true for the subway!

So don’t delay – mark the date in your calendar (May 17 and 18) and don’t forget to register:

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