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Month: April 2013

POT Cert Week 24: looking back at my learning #potcert

This week is the final week of the POT Cert course and in order to be awarded the Program for Online Teaching Certificate, yah, I need to create a post that links to all my posts for the year, and make a brief statement about what each shows about my learning. So, here it is, a look back at my learning.

Looking back.
Looking back.

Week 23: I decided to make a short screencast presentation on the topic of personal learning networks (PLNs). In developing this presentation, I learned that although I thought I knew something about personal learning networks, it’s very difficult to actually demonstrate how one works. I also learned that it takes way more time and skill to execute a screencast presentation than I’d previously imagined.

Week 22: No surprise, I really enjoyed the topic this week, personal learning networks. The suggested readings really pulled together a lot of things for me. I was particularly glad to have learned more about Alec Couros and his approach to networked practice. I enjoyed writing my blog post too because I was able to connect it to activities in my own personal learning network.

Week 21: This week’s topic of learning theory was really tricky to post about. Not that I don’t understand learning theories by and large, just that it’s such an enormous topic. I was unable to watch Jenny Mackness’s video because I didn’t realise that my browser had fallen out with YouTube, so I decided to write a reply to Larry Sanger’s article, “Individual Knowledge in the Internet Age” instead. In truth, I just wanted to get the post out of the way; it wasn’t a great post, but I was glad that I posted something and that Jenny was interested enough to make comment because a very interesting discussion ensued.

Week 20: I called this post “the “golden triangle” of pedagogy, ed tech and instructional design”. Although the topic of the week was instructional design, I was interested to think about how all three of these disciplines fit together in the learning process. I had noted that I prefer to use the term learning design instead of instructional design, and Jim Julius enlightened me in the comments as to why there’s a variance in the terminology.

Week 19: Although web-enhanced, hybrid and open classes was the topic of the week, I took a slight detour from the text book to think about self-directed and self-determined learning, namely andragogy and heutagogy.

Week 18: The course, or learning management system is a topic that I seem to have been thinking about almost every week throughout the POT Cert course.  What’s best, the institutional LMS, a self-hosted platform, or an assemblage of web tools cobbled together? Although I very much agree that “it’s time to think of the Internet, not the LMS, as our platform”, I still can’t fathom this question, and it appears that I’m not alone. See Lisa’s recent post on the subject.

Week 17: A bit of fun this week. Starring Lisa and Jim, I created an animation, which highlights Lisa M Lane’s tips for online course management.

Week 16: This week was all about preparing students for online learning”, so taking Ko and Rossen’s advice, and adhering to the course brief, I started to make an FAQ file of potential sticking points within my envisaged course. A very useful exercise that I must return to.

Week 15: Screencasting and multi media – I embedded a poll into my post and practised making a screencast.

Week 14: Audio and video – I tried out audioboo, soundgecko and eyejot. I was impressed with the possibilities that audio tools offer in the online classroom.

Week 13: Images and screenshots – I learned how to annotate images. However, I also learned that I’m a real novice when it comes to the using the photo sharing site Flickr and making the most of images in my work. This is definitely an area that I need to improve.

Week 12: Mid-term reflection.

Week 11: Class resources and intellectual property, this was a tough topic, but there were lots of good resources provided. The upshot being that I learned about Creative Commons and I now use a Creative Commons license on my blog posts and other work that I put out on the web. I also got to understand the reasoning behind remix culture. A good week’s work.

Week 10: With regards to the topic of open platforms for teaching and learning, I chose to investigate blogs, and how best to engage and develop students as bloggers. I also considered using blogs as ePortfolios.

Week 9: Student activities was this week’s topic, and the textbook chapter was very good in providing solid advice for organising, supervising and assessing group activities. I was particularly interested to learn how to facilitate effective group activities that prove to be satisfying for all concerned because in my experience of group work, there’s usually some element that doesn’t sit right for someone. I recalled an article about how to design effective online group work activities, which explained that the key to successful group work is to “design tasks that are truly collaborative, meaning the students will benefit more from doing the activity as a group than doing it alone”. The course textbook also provided a long list of student activities.

Week 8: Following on from week 7, this week’s topic was about creating community, and it considered the use of technology in such an endeavour. Technologies considered included not only the LMS, but a range of synchronous and audio technologies. I read “Envisioning the post-LMS Era: The Open Learning Network“, and considered the role that Twitter might play in all of this.

Week 7: I was “absent without leave” for this week’s topic of building community in the online classroom, so instead of posting anything of substance on the topic, I spent my time instead looking over the discussions that were already under way and offered comments where I felt I could add something of value or interest. I related my experience of using Twitter and consolidated my learning in my next blog post.

Week 6: This week was fun, as under the theme of internet skills and tools, I managed to demonstrate my fledgling knowledge of HTML code and understanding of the three different kinds of algorithms used for handling information: technological, personalised and social.

Week 5: Within the topic of the online syllabus, I found the recording of “The Interactive Syllabus” to be very useful. It highlighted the importance of taking account of the amount of clicking that a learner will have to do in order to arrive at the required location and gave practical instruction on how how to design this in. Rachele DeMeo’s presentation in Week 23 also demonstrated the importance of visual design in an online syllabus.

Week 4: Pedagogy and Course Design II – I entitled my post “designing authentic learning with ‘real’ people – a portfolio approach” as these are the key elements that I want to be present in the course that I have in mind.

Week 3: Pedagogy and Course Design I – I entitled my post “a ‘clean’ approach to course design” as I wanted to make the point that I was not converting an existing face-to-face course to an online format.

Week 2: In this introductory stage questions like “where the hell do I start?” were very real, and thanks to Lisa and the a whole bunch of people in the POT Cert community, I managed to make a start. I identified a textbook as my guiding force and was given lots of help and support in thinking about a platform for delivering an online course.

Week 1: Introduction and start blogging. Looking back, I’m struck by the imperative in the first week’s session to “start blogging”, and quite right too. I’d like to shout “start blogging” to everyone, because learning the discipline of blogging and forming a blogging habit has, for me, been one of the real gains from this course. I’ve not just learned about the course content, but I’ve developed my style as a blogger and in doing so, I’ve found my voice. By blogging, you not only reflect on and consolidate your learning but through the comments of others your learning continues to grow as you continue the conversation and make connections.

Looking back over all, I can say that I’ve achieved my goals for the POT Cert course. I’ve developed my knowledge and skills in relation to teaching online and I’ve put together the broad outline of a course that aims to deliver a practical introduction to digital literacies. To check my progress, I completed a self-assessment for online teaching, which proved to be a useful recap exercise. Notwithstanding the pedagogical aspects, it underlined that in order to deliver effective online programs rigorous planning, attention to detail and effective time management are at the heart of what’s required.

Finally, in all honesty, I joined up to the POT Cert course with no real idea what it would involve, but the experience has exceeded any expectations that I could have imagined, not only have I learned valuable stuff, but I’ve met lots of wonderful, open and generous people who’ve welcomed me into their community and helped me discover a new way of working. It’ll be a pleasure to pay my gratitude forward and help out with the next POT Cert course. I can definitely recommend it.

Thank you.

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The passionate affinity that’s PELeCON #pelc13

Tying into the topic of personal learning networks (PLNs), my previous post highlighted the fact that I was about to attend PELeCON, or rather the 8th Plymouth e-Learning Conference, where I was looking forward to meeting up with people whom I consider to be a significant part of my PLN. I attended the conference last year, where I’d experienced its friendly, energetic buzz so, in spite of a 9hr journey, there was never any question of me not returning again this year. And, I have to say that I wasn’t disappointed; not only did I meet familiar faces en route, Doug Belshaw and Steve Bunce, but I received a warm welcome from Catherine Cronin and Mary Loftus, part of the the Irish contingent who had sensibly travelled the evening before, and all of whom were congenial in making further introductions to what turned out to be another terrific conference. Equally, it seems that others who attended the conference share similar sentiments too.

The reason for such enthusiastic bonhomie, it seems to me, is that PELeCON is not just a conference. By combining networked and online presence with an annual physical event, PELeCON is more akin to what James Paul Gee would call a “passionate affinity space” than a common-or-garden conference.

A passionate affinity space, and the learning that goes on in it, requires some people associated with the space to have a deep passion for the common shared endeavour. It does not require everyone to have such a deep passion, but it does require them to recognize the value of that passion and respect it, in some sense.

Quite right. I’d like to think that not only have I developed a valuable personal learning network, but through PELeCON, I’ve found a great “passionate affinity space” in which to learn as well. The satisfied smiles on the journey back to Ireland would suggest that I’m not the only one who thinks this way.

Being Social PELeCON 13 Back: Steve Warburton, Doug Belshaw, Zak Mensah, Mark Smithers Front: Mary Loftus, Helen Crump, Catherine Cronin, Pamela O'Brien
Being Social PELeCON 13
Back: Steve Warburton, Doug Belshaw, Zak Mensah, Mark Smithers
Front: Mary Loftus, Helen Crump, Catherine Cronin, Pamela O’Brien

Ok, but what did I learn?

After, attending a delightful first session in which Steve Bunce engagingly got everyone finger knitting in order to demonstrate possible approaches to involve children in computer programming, I made my way to listen Mike John’s presentation, “Talking with lecturers: What happened to Web 2.0?”. I was especially keen to hear of his observations in relation to the uptake of Web 2.0 amongst university lecturers as this chimes with my own interests and recent research. The thrust of the presentation was in terms of the gap that exists between the hype surrounding Web 2.0 and the actual take-up of such networked and participatory practices amongst lecturers. Citing examples of activity levels in everyday applications, he pointed out that Web 2.0 gets few ticks from lecturers in their professional practice, and concluded that within higher education, Web 2.0 “is a minority sport; it’s not a mainstream activity”. All very interesting observations, but as Donald Clark noted, the presentation relied largely on the presenter’s observations and not on actual data.

In her excellent presentation entitled “Enacting Digital Identity”, Catherine Cronin called attention to the fact that “different contexts have different legitimacy practices” and highlighted the dis-joint between academic learning practices and networked learning practices (see slide 44).

The theme of digital identity, or online presence, or personal online branding even, re-occurred on the final day of the conference in Joyce Seitzinger’s practical keynote, in which she referred to the term “cloud academics” and talked about her emerging role, akin to a “personal digital coach”, with its focus on instilling networked practice for personal learning, teaching and research amongst lecturers.

Then, giving the final keynote of the conference, Donald H Taylor, with his insight from industry, painted the big picture. Flagging the enormity of impending disruption and change soon to be wrought upon higher education as venture capital seeks optimum return, he plotted pace of change axes to locate those either too tardy, or just plain unwilling, to change and to mark them as being somewhere on the road to “comfortable extinction”. A memorable phrase indeed, and one that made me think back to the lecturers that Mike John observes on the other side of the gap, to the different identities that must be enacted within academic and networked practice and to the “cloud academics” that Joyce Seitzinger’s presentation brought forth.

All of the PELeCON keynotes captured something of this air of change, but more importantly, they all went some way to laying out ways in which education might effectively meet these future challenges, be it Grainne Conole’s advocacy of learning design, Doug Belshaw’s belief in open badges as a “trojan horse”, Steve Bunce’s knitting hypotheses or Karin George‘s hands-on leadership.

Finally though, the air of change came to PELeCON itself when Steve Wheeler announced in the closing session that the “passionate affinity space” that has become PELeCON will no longer be found in Plymouth, as the conference is looking for a handier location and is to henceforth become the Professional Enhanced Learning Conference. All of which can only be a good thing, if it allows more people to access the event and to share the passion. And I’m sure that wherever PELeCON lands, it will still be a unique friendly event with excellent keynotes speakers and ever topical presentations. 🙂


Gee, J. P. and Hayes, E. R. (2011). Language and Learning in the Digital Age. Taylor & Francis. Kindle Edition.

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