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Tweeting and blogging for students: puts spotlight on design principles and pedagogical patterns #oldsmooc

This week OLDSMOOC takes a look at the “teacher as designer” and looks at the teaching pattern (or pedagogical pattern, or learning pattern, or lesson plan, or teaching plan – take your pick!) as the object of reusable design knowledge. A primary aim being to create a “pedagogical pattern” that builds on the work of others; in this way you might reach a better design than if you’d started from scratch yourself. We were also tasked with “pair tutoring on a design principle”.

With regards to tutoring on a design principle, my design partner, Jane Challinor, and I decided to look at “encouraging reflection” and posit this in relation to the use of student blogs.

The principle of encouraging reflection states that “when learners reflect they make their thinking visible to themselves, monitor their progress, and reach new insights. The pattern of conducting an exploration and then reflecting improves inquiry projects”. However, the principle only states that reflection “makes their thinking visible to themselves” yet typically a blog is published on the open web, which not only makes learning visible to the individual but to the wider world as well. Furthermore, it also invites comments from that wider readership as well. Consequently, we asked:

“What are the dangers, or pitfalls, of asking students to post their learning reflections to a blog?”

The context implicated here is an undergraduate Research and Professional Skills module, with the key principle being reflection – namely, is reflection altered when encouraged on the open web and, if so, how is it altered?

Blogging for Reflective Learning

The activity generated good discussion (see here), which Jane summarized as follows:

There doesn’t seem to be any argument with the principle of making thinking visible, only with the use of blogs. Some pitfalls to design for:

  •     accessing, editing and publishing a blog on line
  •     our digital identity and professional practice
  •     privacy settings and online safety
  •     netiquette
  •     giving and receiving feedback
  •     writing for an audience

Now, returning to the idea of “pedagogical patterns” and building on the work of others, we were introduced to a tool called the Pedagogical Pattern Collector [PPC].  Currently a research prototype, the tool has been devised to collect examples of pedagogical designs and make them available for adaptation by others and across disciplines.

I actually wanted to create a pedagogical pattern of my own based on the learning outcomes identified for our project in last week’s activity. That is to say “demonstrate the ability to use a variety of online contacts and social networks to find out information”, and I wanted to use Twitter as a case in point.  However, I couldn’t find any relevant buttons on the design screen once I’d pasted in my learning outcome, so I was forced to adapt a design within the PPC.

This is the link to my Pedagogical Pattern. You will then have to navigate to the “Browser” > “User Generated Content” > “Demonstrate the ability to use a variety of online contacts and social networks to find out information [Digital Literacy Level 2: Understand and Engage in Digital]”. I now realise that the title is too long/explicit to be useful within the PPC User Generated window because all you can see is “demonstrate the ability”.

However, I’m reasonably happy with the design pattern, for a first attempt, although the time allocated for the activity, 1440 minutes, reflects that the activity is to be conducted over one or two semesters. I don’t think that this aspect is obvious in the PPC.

The PPC is definitely a handy tool, but it’s still too clunky. There’s no simple back button and I just couldn’t find any way to develop a pattern from a learning outcome of my own. It’s early days, I guess, but I wonder how many teachers see it as being useful to them in their work. If anyone wants to investigate the Pedagogical Pattern Collector for themselves, here is the link to a PPC demonstration webinar that Diana Laurillard of the London Knowledge Lab gave at the start of the week and a link to a short guide.

It would be interesting to see how others get on and to see what more people think 🙂

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POT Cert Week 8: creating community, plus a whole lot more, with Twitter.

This week, to develop the topic of building community, POT Cert continued to read Ko and Rossen, Chapter 6: Building an Online Classroom, and went on to consider the actuality of using technology to build such community. Considered technologies included not only the LMS, but a range of synchronous and audio technologies. Further reading was also indicated with Envisioning the post-LMS Era: The Open Learning Network (Mott, 2010), and it’s Mott’s article, together with the technology of Twitter, that I wish to expand upon in this post.

Twitter can be used to form connections and to create community, and as I mentioned in my post last week, it can be used as a tool for professional development and as a tool for teaching and learning. In contrast to the concept of learning within a “walled” LMS, Twitter fits well with the notion of open learning and with the idea of learning as actualised through a personal learning environment [PLE]. Moves away from the LMS are being mooted because patterns of usage suggest they’re primarily being used for the purpose of administrative efficiency rather than as a platform for substantive teaching and learning activities. A PLE, as opposed to the “vertically integrated and institutionally centralized” LMS, combines small pieces of the open web to create connections for learning “free of the arbitrary constraints of matter, distance, and time” (Weinberger, 2002). Twitter can be one such piece within a PLE, or indeed be adjunct to a LMS based course.

Within this conception, Twitter can be used equally to facilitate and/or support learning: provisioning student-faculty connection, helping create a sense of community, assisting the discovery of relevant and up to date content, enhancing student engagement and connecting students and faculty alike with professional communities of practice (Dunlap and Lowenthal, 2009 and Ebner et al., 2010).

Admittedly, to anyone who’s never tried it Twitter appears frivolous and a distraction from “real work”, never mind to have any serious pedagogical properties. This is so wrong!

Let me show you how I began to realise the power of Twitter.

Yes, that’s frivolous alright!
But hang on, @timbuckteeth is Prof. Steve Wheeler.
Why’s he off to Budapest?
Research workshop?
Hyper-link to first report on the EDEN workshop.
European Distance and eLearning Network.

Here we can see that a 140 character “tweet” not only allows something very specific to be communicated but, with the insertion of a shortened hyper-link, permits the dissemination of detailed information. What’s more, it also acts as a mechanism through which individuals can create a “peephole” for others to gain an insight into everyday events and discover what’s inviting attention. So, self-disclosure of this nature, rather than simply being seen as a stream of mundane status updates, can be seen as a series of posts that represent an invitation to get to know the individual user and take part in interpreting their events (Oulasvirta, et al., 2010). This is probably what gives Twitter its trivial and lightweight image, but it is this very aspect that makes it so powerful for making connections and creating community.

Below are a selection of articles that hopefully will help to show how Twitter can be used to develop a personal learning network [PLN], connect with professional communities of practice and create a sense of community to leverage learning within an online class.

However before that, just a reminder that the hashtag for the Program for Online Teaching is #potcert, and to say that I’ve also started to create a list of POT Certers that are on Twitter.

  • Horton Hears a Tweet: in this article Dunlap and Lowenthal (2009) explain how Twitter can enhance students’ experience in the online-education setting and attest that through microblogging and social networking activities facilitated by Twitter students and lecturers alike can build personal learning networks (PLNs) and as a result participate in professional communities of practice.
  • Twitteracy: very recent research paper that positions Twitter as a new literacy practice that promotes student engagement and improves learning.
  • Twitter hashtags in the classroom: blog post from George Couros explaining how he uses Twitter hashtags to connect to educators around the world and how hashtags can be used with classes to create community and leverage learning.


Weinberger, D. (2002) Small Pieces Loosely Joined. Cambridge, MA: Perseus Books

Dunlap, J.C. and Lowenthal, P. R. (2009). Horton Hears a Tweet. Educause Quarterly, 32 (4).

Ebner, M., Lienhardt, C., Rohs, M. and Meyer, I. (2010) Microblogs in Higher Education – A chance to facilitate informal and process-oriented learning? Computers & Education, 55(1), pp. 92-100.

Oulasvirta, A., Lehtonen, E., Kurvinen, E. and Raento, M. (2010) Making the ordinary visible in microblogs. Personal and Ubiquitous Computing. Online first. Special issue on Social Interaction and Mundane Technologies. 14, pp. 237-249.