Evaluating online sources

Source evaluation–the determination of information quality–is something of an art.  (Robert Harris 2018)

The sheer volume of information available can make evaluating online resources daunting. In “Evaluating Internet Research Sources,” Robert Harris makes the case for adopting a skeptical attitude toward the extremely wide variety of material on the internet. He makes one analogy I was particularly fond of, suggesting that in order to corroborate information, one must become a discerning conoisseur:

In the art world, several paintings by Vincent van Gogh have sold for more than 50 million dollars each. At such a price, there muist be the temptation for unscrupulous people to paint forgeries. So  how can the buyers be confident that they are getting a genuine Van Gogh? The answer is provenance. Provenance is a list of previous owners, tracing back to the original buyer from Van Gogh himself. Provenance answers the critical question, “Where did this painting come from?” (Harris 2013).

File:Vincent van Gogh's famous painting, digitally enhanced by rawpixel-com  2.jpg - Wikimedia Commons
Vincent van Gogh, Irises (1889) digitally enhanced, original from the J. Paul Getty Museum. Licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International license.

Harris also provides a CARS handy nemonic device for source evaluation, reminding researchers to consider:

CCredibility (trustworthy source, author’s credentials, organizational support, known or respected authority)
AAccuracy (up to date, factual, detailed, exact, comprehensive, audience and purpose reflect intentions of completeness)
RReasonableness (fair, balanced, objective, reasoned, no conflict of interest, absence of fallacies or slanted tone)
SSupport (listed sources, contact information, available corroboration, claims supported, documentation supplied)
Adapted from Harris (2013)

For my research I selected Matthew Bloom’s “Assessing the Impact of ‘Open Pedagogy’ on Student Skills Mastery in First-Year Composition,” in Open Praxis (2019).

As a faculty member and OER scholar at Maricopa community College, Bloom proves to be an authoritative source, and he published his findings in a reliable, peer-reviewed journal. It appeared recently (2019) meaning it is reasonably up to date, and has detailed analysis of the experiment and findings. Furthermore Bloom seems to be aware of any issues in the methodology demonstrating he has engaged with the subject thoughtfully and has been truthful in considering the impact of his assessment. Finally with a comprehensive list of references he provides convincing evidence for the claims made and other sources to support and document his research.

My selected article easily meets the criteria proposed by Harris in his test of source credibility, The CARS Checklist for Information Quality.

#LiDA101 #DigitalLiteracy #diglit #opened #oer #oep

Bloom, M. (2019). Assessing the Impact of “Open Pedagogy” on Student Skills Mastery in First-Year Composition. Open Praxis, 11(4), 343-353. doi:http://dx.doi.org/10.5944/openpraxis.11.4.1025

Harris, R. (2013, December 27). Evaluating Internet Research Sources. Retrieved from http: //www.virtualsalt.com/evalu8it.htm

Digital literacies 101

As an art historian we often talk about visual literacies or the ability to interpret, negotiate, and make meaning from information presented in the form of an image, this builds upon the typical meaning of literacy which typically refers to written or printed text.

I think in many ways there are parallels between visual literacy and digital literacy, especially when it comes to critical thinking. The metaphor I have been thinking about is that a visual skill would be to be able to draw what you see, but a visual literacy would be to understand the history of drawing, compare it to other drawings, and think critically about what it could mean or signify.

According to one of my favorite scholars, Maha Bali, “Digital skills would focus on which tool to use (e.g. Twitter) and how to use it (e.g. how to tweet, retweet, use TweetDeck), while digital literacy would include in-depth questions: When would you use Twitter instead of a more private forum? Why would you use it for advocacy? Who puts themselves at risk who they do so?” (Bali, 2016, p. 2).

For me digital literacies are the ability to interpret, negotiate, make meaning from, and think critically about information presented digitally and our relationship to it.

Part of analyzing my own digital literacy was to create a map of my personal learning network (PLN):

Ironically part of my plan for improving my digital literacy is to cut back on my screen time. I would like to be more intentional about the types of apps and social media I consume. Being more strategic in how and when I use digital tools and thinking critically about why I use them, and when they will help me connect with people versus disassociate, will ultimately improve my digital literacies.

#LiDA101 #personallearningnetworks #personallearningenvironments #pln #ple #lida101blog #lida101challenge

Bali, Maha. 2016, Feb. “Knowing the Difference Between Digital Skills and Digital Literacies, and Teaching Both.” Retrieved from https://literacyworldwide.org/blog/literacy-daily/ 2016/02/03/knowing-the-difference-between-digital-skills-and-digital-literacies-and- teaching-both

Declaration for LiDA 101

Hi! Alena here! One of my main goals for this blog over the next few weeks is to support my learning in Digital Literacies for Online Learning (#LiDA101). I have used a blog in previous courses I have taken including the Provincial Instructor’s Diploma Program through Vancouver Community College and more recently their Certificate for Online/eLearning Instruction.

I do enjoy blogging but often find it challenging to fit into my busy schedule. I also really like the activity because like this semester I do typically assign some sort of blog project to my students and it is good for me to be able to do what I am asking them to do!

On to learning more about digital literacies! #LiDA101


This week I started a new course called Digital Literacies for Online Learning one of four micro courses in a series on Learning in a Digital Age offered through the OERu. One of our first assignments was a #photochallenge in which we had to share a selfie of us using digital technology or something that made us think about learning in the digital age. I picked this selfie of me in a mask because the pandemic has truly been a catalyst for me to explore new technologies. And I am totally going to borrow this challenge for one of my courses! Much like the #artinquarantine activity I have designed it is a fun way for learners to build community and share perspectives of digital literacies and learning in a digital world! #oer #oep #sotl #sotlah #education #openarthistories #arthistory #langara #lida101 #lida101photo #photochallenge

St. Corona

Very excited for my article “St. Corona: Teaching Art History during a Global Pandemic” to be included in the Sixteenth Century Journal’s special supplement Teaching the Early Modern World in the Era of COVID-19!

There is also a fantastic article “Black Lives Matter in the Medieval and Renaissance Classroom: Using Digital Tools to Enable Student Success” by Horacio Sierra included in the issue.


Can art amend history?

In May I started my survey class with Saint Corona. When my next course starts in two weeks, this is how I will begin:

Welcome to AHIS 1214,

I want to welcome you to this class by sharing with you why I think art history is important. The cover of the June 15, 2020 Time Magazine features a painting by the artist Titus Kaphar. He created the image specifically for the issue devoted to a special report on the American protests following the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis on May 25th. (see below).

Woman holding child

He wrote a piece to accompany the painting that can be found here: https://time.com/5847487/george-floyd-time-cover-titus-kaphar/

Kaphar is one of my favorite artists. Watch this TEDtalk to see why.

We will begin by looking at images of the Madonna and Child, the art historical tradition that Kaphar references in his time magazine cover. We will also be covering European art in the seventeenth century. I want to be very clear the sumptuous paintings we will see were made possible by the wealth generated by colonialism. One of our learning objectives is to make connections between the images and objects viewed in class and our contemporary visual culture.

Kaphar’s TEDTalk is powerful. I hope it inspires you to look closely and think critically in this course. Because yes, I believe art can amend history. We need it right now more than ever.



I don’t know how to teach online… yet. What learning to teach online during a pandemic has taught me about resilience.

On March 13th I did not know how to teach online but as it became increasingly apparent, I was going to have to learn. Since then I have learned the power of not yet.

In her groundbreaking work on the power of a growth mindset Carol Dweck emphasizes the importance of “yet” in successes inside and outside of the classroom. The Stanford psychologist has put forth two different basic beliefs we have about ourselves.

A “fixed mindset” assumes that our character, intelligence, and creative ability are static givens which we can’t change in any meaningful way, and success is the affirmation of that inherent intelligence, an assessment of how those givens measure up against an equally fixed standard; striving for success and avoiding failure at all costs become a way of maintaining the sense of being smart or skilled. A “growth mindset,” on the other hand, thrives on challenge and sees failure not as evidence of unintelligence but as a heartening springboard for growth and for stretching our existing abilities (Popova).

A fixed mindset says I can’t teach online. A growth mindset says I can’t teach online… yet.

So I had to figure out a way to be able to teach remotely. When I first started teaching and felt something wasn’t quite right I started taking classes in Vancouver Community College (VCC)’s Professional Instructor Diploma Program. To prepare for our new reality,  I went back to VCC’s School of Instructor Education and found a course of study for teaching online. I am now almost finished the program, with one course remaining.

Yes it has been hard. My partner and I have been juggling child-care and both working (more than) full-time. We have been forced to create new routines. He takes our children for drives so I can meet colleagues over Zoom. I make new curriculum maps during nap time. I work on assignments after they go to bed.  But these challenging times have also created more space for me to spend time with my daughters. For the past two months we have read more, played more, coloured more, sang more. I remembered what is important in my life. And ironically I have  never been more productive or reflective. Spending time with my four year old and two year old has reminded me that I want them to grow up to be resilient. Together we have embraced our seclusion and used it as a special time to learn new things. Tori worked on using the big girl potty and Evie practiced reading and writing letters. For little ones these are big, challenging tasks. And that’s why instead of saying “I can’t read” we say, “I can’t read, yet.” When they say something is hard, I remind them we can do hard things.

Our kids are new to using the potty and reading, just like I am new to teaching online. My own anxiety about teaching in a new distance format reminded me how scary it can be to learn something new. It reminded me how many of my students feel when they enter class. For many instructors we have been experts for so long, teaching the same way, we forget what it is like to be a novice. And just like I want to model resilience for my daughters, as educators we need to be modelling resilience for our students. These are truly volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous (VUCA) times. For years now higher education has been talking about preparing students for a world not yet created. Now more than ever we need to be transparent about what we are doing in pandemic times: we are “working effectively in groups to solve problems together; reading and interpreting complicated data, events, and texts; undertaking original research; and understanding and making sense of ambiguity (the gray areas).”

2020’s drastic pivot in teaching and learning gives us an opportunity to reimagine our teaching. For some it might be an opportunity to experiment with new technologies. For others changes in format can allow for changes in assessment using Universal Design for Learning.  For all of us we could think about supporting our students by using Open Educational Resources (OER). Most importantly however, Cathy Davidson reminds us of The Single Most Essential Requirement in Designing a Fall Course Online: “Adjust accordingly. We need to be human first, professor second.  We need to design as humans for humans in a global crisis.”

At some point post-secondary institutions might go back to business as usual. But I wonder what we can learn from these truly VUCA pandemic times. One mindset shift recommends replacing “I cannot wait for this to be over!” with “After this ends, what will I appreciate?”

So much of my learning from teaching online I am going to take back to my face to face delivery:

  • I am revising assignments to be more aligned with the learning objectives
  • I am ensuring that assessments are authentic and sustainable (versus disposable)
  • I am writing clearer instructions and more detailed rubrics
  • I am ensuring that content is accessible for all learners
  • I am working to build my intercultural competency
  • I am excited to see how I can build community virtually, and use technology to connect with students across time and space.

Like it or not many of us will be teaching differently in the next academic year. We need to stop focusing on why it won’t work and figuring out how we can make it work. For us and for our students.

As the most resilient person I know, my Dad (and maybe the US Marine Corps), always says: Improvise. Adapt. And overcome.