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Tag: TEL

#ocTEL ends with a leisurely dip.

Before #ocTEL rolls out of town, I spent a couple of pleasant hours today looking over some of the course materials and posts from the last couple of weeks. Although I’ve been deleting the daily newsletter for the last couple of weeks because I wasn’t able to engage sufficiently with the course material, or do justice to the discussions, today I did have some time so I took a peak at what’s been going on.

The first item that caught my eye was James Little’s blog post evaluating his participation. The opening line certainly struck a chord, “I’m finally joining in at the end”. Ditto. Importantly though, his post articulated the reality of balancing, or juggling, the requirements of MOOC participation while daily life goes on unabashed. Here, he rightly called attention the philosophy of the course designers, who from the outset gave advice on “how to keep calm in the face of abundance”, advocating selectivity and that participants pace themselves and indeed, take time out. All the same, I have to say that I’ve been a bit bothered by how my own engagement in this course has panned out, and I can’t honestly put my finger on (i) why I’m bothered and (ii) why it was so patchy. I suppose I just have to acknowledge that maintaining engagement and holding a steady course isn’t always possible, or indeed expected and that dipping in and out will do just fine, if that’s how the cookie crumbles.

Taking a dip
Taking a dip

Any way, after that I then tracked back to last week’s “if you only do one thing” activity which offered a paper by Tim Cochrane as an examination of why TEL, or more accurately mLearning, projects fail and what might be learnt when they do. I enjoyed reading this paper and was especially interested to learn of the researcher’s affinity with the PAH Continuum, pedagogy-andragogy-heutagogy (Blaschke  2012;  Luckin  et al. 2010), which he uses as a critical framework to measure how much pedagogical change a project achieves; that is, a change in pedagogy from teacher-directed pedagogy to student-centred andragogy and ultimately to student-directed or negotiated heutagogy. Equally, I was interested to learn of the researcher’s advocacy for establishing, prior to the deployment of a project, supporting Communities of Practice [COPs] that include all of key tutors, or lecturers. Useful article.

I wasn’t able to complete the task set with the reading; it asked that I think of a project I’ve been involved with or have experience of and write down a list of points relating to the “key successes” and “key failures”. However, I did take a look in the discussion forum where I enjoyed reading and learning of the experiences of others, especially the fact that they were all able to powerfully learn from experiences that might not strictly be deemed as having been successful.

Moving on to read the final week’s activities, I was able to look back over the course and reflect further on my participation. Actually, I was quite surprised how much I did in fact cover, but what really stood out for me the most was the hour or so that I spent in week 5 watching the webinar in which Martin Hawksey gave a run-through of the #ocTEL platform and the technology needed to host a course along the lines of a connectivist style MOOC. Awesome stuff, and strangely I’d quite like to understand this technology some more. Viewing this webinar gave me a real insight into the power of technology, but at the same time it left me with the sense that I was somehow powerless and that without a better understanding or level of skill in terms of “writing the web” then, for better or worse, I’m at the mercy of others. Intriguingly the course ends with the question “Finished ocTEL? What’s next?”. Indeed, what next?

Actually, there’s mention of #ocTEL 2.0, which is something I’ll definitely look out for as I’d like to do this again. There’s much to learn.

Finally, a big thanks to the #ocTEL team. The opportunity to “take a dip” is appreciated.

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Make it personal, keep it simple: finding and creating resources. #octel

In Week 4, the fundamental question that #ocTEL asks is “how can we take advantage of technological developments in order to create and source relevant learning resources?” Actually, the question continues “for our students”, but I’m going to ignore that bit. I’m just going to throw in here the idea of “self-organised learning” and, on the very same subject, quote Steve Wheeler in his blogpost today, when he refers to “the ability of the learners themselves to direct their own learning, and to be able to call upon the resources they need, when they need them”, before I move on to relate how I’ve engaged with the question and with this week’s activities.

The first activity was about finding and reviewing resources and, in terms of ease of use and usefulness, comparing a number of resource repositories. The repositories were split into two camps: “official” ones, such as  Jorum and Merlot, and “open” ones like YouTube, TED and iTunesU. I have to say that I was disinclined to do this activity as I’ve done it before. It’s so time consuming, and never mind that it seems to smack of either desperation or wild anticipation akin to a lucky dip. However, I was interested to read Imogen Bertin‘s post in the forum “iTunesU – you need to learn how to search it…”. Interesting, as having undertaken a detailed review and comparison of the repositories, Imogen reports over all lukewarm enthusiasm for the “official” repositories both in terms of their search function and in terms of the resources found. However, the “open” repositories fare somewhat better, especially iTunesU. Imogen says,

if you know how to search it, then it’s actually very good. […] there is a rake of useful stuff on there, lots of it free, but how to search isn’t obvious at all.

And on that score, Imogen kindly enlightens us.

itunes u
iTunesU. You need to learn how to search it.

She also declares that “YouTube rocks!”, and attributes this to its great search engine.

It’s an excellent post, with a great follow up conversation, but my point is this: with the likelihood of such patchy results, why bother to go looking for such content in the first place. Wouldn’t it be handier to have a filtering system in place whereby relevant resources come to you. I mean, why not harness the power of your personal learning network [PLN]?

When a member of my PLN posts a link to a potentially handy resource, I bookmark it in the hope that it’ll be useful to me at a later stage. This way I’ve started to develop my own database of searchable resources. It means I’m not starting a search from scratch as I already have a bank of resources, resources that to some degree have been vetted by my peers. This is how I’ve found a number of great resources recently. Just for the record, I searched iTunesU with the term “digital literacies”, and what do you know, it came up with the exact same resources that I already have bookmarked, plus one! So thanks, Imogen for bringing this to attention. 🙂

A further activity this week related to creating you own materials. You were asked to choose a tool with which you’re not already familiar and consider its application in your context. A number of suggestions were offered for review:

and the following questions were amongst those provided as prompts:

  • How easy was it to understand how this tool worked?
  • How quickly and easily would you find it to use?

In terms of context, I paddle my own canoe. I’m an individual (tutor, facilitator, guide, learner…) who simply wants to develop online learning resources that add interest and stimulate interaction with the learning experience. Consequently, I need “low-threshold, low-barrier” technologies that are easily learned and easily accomplish my teaching and/or learning objectives, and more often than not, have sharing and collaboration features built-in to them.

With this criteria in mind, I took a look over the suggested tools. Straight off, Xerte failed to grab me because it didn’t actually tell me what it did. It opened with “Welcome to the Xerte Project”, whatever that is, and went on to tell me that:

Xerte Online Toolkits is an award winning suite of browser-based tools that allow anyone with a web browser to create interactive learning materials quickly and easily. Content can be delivered to all devices using standards compliant HTML5

Err, I’m sorry, I just want to know what the tool does. Can I design a quiz, record audio, make a video or animate a scenario etc? I didn’t appreciate all the technical terminology either. Therefore, at this stage, I’m not inclined to investigate Xerte any further, despite enthusiastic recommendations in the “what people are saying…” section of the website. Glomaker and Cmap fared similar fates with me I’m afraid. However, Camtasia, Jing and Screen-o-matic were more the sort of tools I’d be looking for, and pretty much said what they did on the tin, so to speak:

Enhance Your Online Conversations With Jing.
Jing gives you the basic tools to start sharing images and short videos of your computer screen.

  • Capture What You See
  • Record What You Do
  • Quick & Easy Sharing

The tools I require need to be intuitive and easy to take up in the first instance, maybe with the option of progressing to more advanced capabilities over time. In fact, I just recently used Screencast-o-matic to produce a presentation for another course I’ve been taking, and I found it to be very straight forward and easy to use. I can certainly recommend it. Co-incidentally, the presentation was on the topic of personal learning networks and how developing a PLN has helped me learn and make progress towards my learning goals. I’ll provide the link here, in case anyone would care to take a look.

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The (dodgy) foundations of technology enhanced learning #ocTEL

Ooh, this is sneaky. After three weeks, I’m jumping back into the #ocTEL MOOC. I’m fortunate in that this week the course comes to the end of Part I, the Foundations of Technology Enhanced Learning (TEL), so I’m just going to quickly post about the brief interactions I’ve had and the insights that I’ve gleaned through my “legitimate peripheral participation”.

Legitimate Peripheral Participation: #ocTEL MOOC.
Legitimate Peripheral Participation: #ocTEL MOOC.

Week 1: TEL Concepts and Approaches

The challenge for week 1 was to see what doing a course, or taking up a learning opportunity feels like, and to get a feel for the learning landscape and the underpinning theories of TEL.

I was intrigued by Helen Blunden’s post where, having looked at the learning activity graph, she identified herself as a ‘social autonomous’ learner. What struck me, when I looked at the learning graph, was that it seemed to be the activities that helped to define the type of learner. I would have said that I’m a social autonomous learner too, but looking at the activities it had me pegged in the individual autonomous learner category. Blogs, dissertations etc., yes, that’s me alright. However, the activities denoting a social autonomous learner were pitched as collaborative commentary on resources, group projects and problem solving; well, I can do those too. So I’m not too sure that the social – individual binary is that big a deal; it looks to me like it’s a matter of context. In my opinion, what’s more important is the difference between directed and autonomous learning and where one is on that journey. I’m glad that I read and commented on this post because a useful discussion developed as Phil Tubman joined in as well. He made the point that assessment often drives the type of learning activity.

Week 2: Understanding Learners’ Needs

This week was all about understanding learners’ needs. As the introduction made clear, “the centrality of understanding learners’ needs is obviously not unique to Technology Enhanced Learning (TEL), and some of the principles in this area are common to all teaching. However, TEL brings with it new contexts that make additional demands of learners”. Some of the key issues to consider being:

  • technical competence and a set of aptitudes often bracketed together under the ‘digital literacy’ heading
  • language and culture, from understanding of the jargon of a domain to different cultural norms about interacting with individuals and groups via the medium of technology
  • individual sensory, motor or cognitive impairments that affect what is accessible via technology
  • learning preferences and disciplines, such as the ability to schedule self-paced learning

Getting down to business, the “if you only do one thing” activity was to take a look at one or two questionnaires that claim, or should that be aim, to predict whether a prospective student is ‘ready’ for online learning. I’m already familiar with one or two of these instruments from my Program for Online Teaching course, so I wasn’t inclined to explore this particular topic much further. I was happy to read the thoughts of others. In her “mini blog”, Jane Challinor noted that the focus of the questionnaires seemed to be largely in terms of access to technology, motivation, time management and computer literacy. She also went on to wonder

whether we shouldn’t use something similar [pre-course readiness questionnaire] with all students on conventional courses as I am pretty sure that some do not appear prepared for the experience! 🙂

Definitely! I’m all for a pre-course readiness questionnaire, or initial assessment, and not just in terms of gauging access to technology and time management skills either, but to gauge actual levels of skill; that is, skill in relation to computer literacy, digital literacy and academic literacy. Initial assessment would be used to indicate general levels, but what I think would be really fantastic is then to carry out further diagnostic assessment and really identify a student’s specific skill set; that is, can they demonstrate basic use of a range of tools and sites for finding and recording information online, can they cite in text references etc. That way, you’d get a better picture of an individual, often with what amounts to a ‘spiky’ profile. Furthermore, you’d not only know where the majority of the class was starting from, but you’d also know their individual strengths and weaknesses too. Be it online or face-to-face, I think this would be really helpful to both lecturer and student alike. After all, a readiness survey is a bit late once you’ve enrolled on a course. And it can’t be a surprise that I advocate this type of readiness questionnaire/initial assessment because it’s common practice in adult literacy teaching, where you just don’t know where individuals are starting from.

Week 3: Designing Active Learning

This week’s topic centres on designing active learning, with the “if you only do one thing” activity, asking “what is learning?” In order to answer the question, you’re asked to think about the last time you learned something; describe what you learned; how you went about learning it and what strategies you used. A table, with an overview of categories of learning “suitable for instructional design planning”, was provided to help stimulate thinking. Well, I’m happy that I’ve caught up with the course, but as yet I haven’t browsed the comments of others this week, and I’m wondering if anyone else, like me, is struggling to clearly decipher and be inspired by either the table or the question.

Never mind, a quick look over this blog in recent weeks and months is enough to tell you that I’m an individual/social self-determined learner. I’ve learned facts and concepts (know that), I’ve learned procedures, picked up inferences and made deductions (know how), I’ve learned how to participate in online environments (knowing in action) and I’ve identified learning goals and have strategies in place to achieve these goals, and I can also reflect on my learning (elements that could intervene in all the other categories). I have learned to learn. I think what’s bugging me about this question is that there’s an assumption that it’s up to someone else to design your learning. Wouldn’t it be better if more emphasis was put on learning to learn and individuals were able to design their own learning pathways. Imagine that!!

Reader, yes, I know. You may say I’m a dreamer, but I wonder if I’m the only one. Anyway, I’m off now to more seriously engage with the reading on active learning, and get ready to participate more fully from next week onwards. I’m also going to look back over the last three weeks’ resources, especially the concept of heutagogy, and build on these somewhat ‘dodgy’ foundations 🙂

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