Saturday, October 8, 2016

Is this a load of bollards?

I'm getting into my reading on Learning Organisations and I come across different models, theories, factors, principles etc etc. The short, sharp punchy '5 principles' approach or '3 criterion' explanations appeal to me - then I get to a '10 principles for explaining' such and such and my mind throws a cynical - really?
I can almost go with broad brush strokes to categorise behaviours but when you get to 10, why not go the whole hog and aim for 20? What is it about 3 or 5 or some smaller number that appeals but bigger numbers like 10 just seem ridiculous? Does a long list of 'factors' or 'principles' get in the way of understanding?
We're all familiar with trendy articles that try to entice us to read them with headlines like '3 ways to (lose belly fat) (gain confidence) (insert other title here)'. It works - for me anyway. I think I can handle that small amount of information whereas '100 ways to declutter' might just take too much time to read and leave me with decision-paralysis.
So, I'm trying not to dismiss the '10 principles' that I'm reading about and with my mindset, it's hard not to be cynical! However, I've decided to be positive about it and will try to look at a specific client's learning approach using '5 factors' and '10 principles' and see if the extra dissection helped me in my thinking at all.

Friday, October 7, 2016

A little learning could go a long way...

Reading Carol Levitt's 2011 paper on organisational learning and finding that it is triggering a whole new way of thinking about how one of my clients is approaching 'training'. I suggested to the client that we should write a strategy to guide our approach in the next 2-5 years; without a learning strategy, we are simply going by the 'topics' that need to be delivered. Having a strategy and considering organisational learning models may actually help us to have a more holistic approach. It will stimulate ways to design the training programme that we might not have otherwise considered. Looking forward to the difference this term's #msctel assignment will make to this global organisation.

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Is Viv the next big thing to revolutionise how we use the Internet?

"In A World Dominated By Apple and Google, This Company Wants to Forge A Third Way" by @johnbattelle on @LinkedIn

I like to think of new technologies as a 'spectrum of stuff' and just when you think things have gotten granular enough, someone manages to make another slice between two (in this case, 5) things. On the one hand, we have this amazing ever-expanding functionality that we didn't know we needed until someone created it. On the other hand, we have corporations who want to protect their knowledge assets using closed systems. There are an increasing number of services that would make a big impact on learning and development in corporations. Just as we can 'buy' Google search services to run within a closed system, it's exciting to think we can hopefully tap into new technologies through something like Viv (see the article above) that may force increased handshaking between services. I'm still waiting for our LMS to develop some functionality that has been out there for years now! Development companies need to go more agile and buy in 'add-ons'. If someone else is doing it quicker and can keep that part of their spectrum updated, buy it in. I can see how Viv could revolutionise things. And even if it isn't THE game changer it hopes to be, something else is waiting backstage. Exciting stuff. What an amazing world we live in!

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Going to the Polls 2016

Going to the Polls 2016 (#gttp16) was organised by Paul Foxall, one of Birmingham University’s Digital and Technology Skills Advisors and aimed to showcase "how the use of interactive technology can enhance the student’s learning experience in the classroom". The event was held at the University of Birmingham on April 20th, 2016 and sponsored by TurningPoint, which the University used, as well as ResponseWare.
The day kicked off with Turning Technologies Distinguished Educator, Dr. Fabio Aricó (@fabioarico), the Senior Lecturer in Macroeconomics at the University of East Anglia, as the keynote speaker. His talk was about the use of Peer-Instruction to develop self-assessment skills and to generate learning gains in a flipped classroom environment. His extremely thorough research was backed up by quantitative data to prove the learning gains achieved. 
Peer-Instruction (PI) as a teaching method was made popular by Eric Mazur (@eric_mazur) and there are many studies on its use alongside the Flipped Classroom approach in STEM subjects. However, there are fewer studies on its use with social science subjects and Dr Fabio Aricó's work clearly adds value to demonstrate the application of PI in the subject of Macroeconomics.
His key messages were:
  • Engage in teaching-led research for personal development (Let your teaching lead the research, not the other way around).
  • It's not about the technology, it's about the pedagogy and more importantly, it's about the students.
  • Be concerned about ethics but do not be discouraged or scared as the students are not according to JISC.
  • Choose your demonstrators carefully - the average user of technology may be more convincing than an expert.
  • When you move from 'novelty' to 'norm', then everyone can just get on with the learning
Fabio was also to be praised for his overt attempt to raise his learners' epistemologically awareness. The learners were able to see for themselves through the polling data how much better they understood concepts after discussion with their peers and this gave them buy-in to the method of teaching.

Prof. Prem Kumar (University of Birmingham) was up next and presented on the highs and lows of adopting a flipped approach. His humorous but insightful talk was full of encouragement for lecturers to 'try, try and then try again' when it came to implementing the flipped classroom. He labelled the four stages of learning as Clueless, Naïvely Confident, Discouragingly Realistic, and Mastery Achieved, paying homage to the Conscious Competence learning model. In fact, his labels on these four stages are much more sympathetic than the original - no one wants to be labelled 'consciously incompetent'! His struggles with implementing the flipped classroom approach led him to add a stage before Mastery Achieved: Semi-Conscious Competence or Nagging Self-doubt. This is a stage where "you know there's even more about what you don't know, than what you do know." Prem's talk was very much about the challenges he faced and provided the yin to the yang in terms of approaching self-development - rigourous and data-driven like Fabio's approach, or deeply reflective and anecdotal, like Prem's approach. He raised the point that changing practice was no longer an option - improving the student experience and increasing learning gains in a lecture was part of a practitioner's commitment to teaching quality, now driven by the Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF).

Prem spent a little time talking about the discomfort of the change in practice in the lecture theatre - having to stand and wait while learners discussed things, or thought about things in silence. Having the presence to 'control' the class while using such disruptive techniques was clearly something that needed to be mastered. 

David Matthew is a learning technologist from the University of Bedfordshire and he talked about 'Textwall for the shy'. His definition of 'shy' was anyone who was previously unengaged in the classroom or felt unable to contribute in some way. Working in the Health and Social Care department at the university, a key conflict of using Textwall with the students was the modelling of practice. The students were likely to have to turn off their mobiles in a Practice situation. However, this also became a good incentive to aid learning, almost as a reward for participating and contributing in class. Like Fabio, the experience was that after the novelty factor had died off, both staff and students could just focus on the learning and the affordances of the tool could be taken for granted. 

Other presentations on the use of clickers were of less interest to me, I must admit, although it does form a necessary part of learning about any technology. 

One presentation that did make me sit up and take notice was Annette Margolis' use of Socrative as an alternative to clickers. Annette works in the Language department (apologiesbif I have got this wrong, but I will follow up and find out!). She engaged us in her Socrative exercise and used it as a way to illustrate how she triggered active learning in the students by making them choose an answer when there was possibly no one right answer. She encouraged us in peer discussion before the results or consensus of the room was revealed and this led to further insights into the way our minds were working. 

Annette inspired me to go away and create an example for Textwall users (Fig 1) to demonstrate how using voting could result in an activity that was higher-order thinking on Bloom's taxonomy. 

Fig 1 - Possible example for ethics discussion, demonstrating how the 'no right answer' technique can be used to trigger active discussion or learning

Designing questions can be a difficult task and questions used to trigger discussions in the lecture are of a different nature to questions used to test knowledge and understanding. When the delegates were polled about whether they thought they needed training on this, the answer was a resounding (and surprising) no. Either the audience was very clued up and pedagogically expert, or they were (in Prem's words) Naïvely Confident.  This topic will probably become another blog post at some point.

There was an overwhelming consensus that the event had been successful and that we should form some sort of online community to support each other in our progress.

I must compliment Paul Foxall and his colleague, Debbie Carter, on their choices of presenters and the range of topics covered, ensuring that all aspects of using student response systems (SRS) were covered as well as could be in a day. I made some valuable contacts, learned much and look forward to participating again in future in the 'polling' community. 

Monday, January 4, 2016

Reflection on blogging

I've tinkered with blogs since 2000 and lost a few along the way. Posterous was a firm favourite for a few years until it disappeared. It was the most intuitive to use. Blogger and WordPress are rather difficult to navigate if you're a novice but I persisted with WordPress for a bit on various projects:

Why I blog:
I quite enjoy blogging and looking back at my posts going back to 2007, it's a relief to be able to find reflections that I made years ago still available for me to refer to. Blogging has served as my memory bank. I think there's even benefit in looking back at the posts from years gone by and reflecting on those. Things can look different after time has passed and new knowledge and skills can further enhance my practice. I can look at my practice through new lenses as I learn about different theories. Things that I took for granted as praxis, I can now attempt to put into words.

In addition, I have a back catalogue of Tweets, Google Presentations, Google Sites, podcasts etc that all serve to record my experiences and interactions with others. I'm glad I have been keeping a digital recording of my professional life. It all went quiet for me when I went into the private sector in 2013 and I feel that I lost some valuable reflections on my developments at the time. I can only try to capture them now that the blogging habit has been reinstated.

Blog et blogging : définition par tags

Why I tag:
By tagging (or labelling) each post, I can recall a related set of blog posts by selecting a tag, regardless of chronological order. The discipline is in tagging posts, and sometimes reviewing previous posts to update tags as necessary, otherwise the system won't work for you. You get out what you put in. :-)

Why I add images (or not):
I do like to add images to blog posts where possible but do not make it a 'must-have', especially if I'm just 'dashing off' a quick idea. However, I can always come back and update the blog post with a relevant visual at a later date. It can help to identify the post more easily when you are scrolling down the web page.

Why I read other people's blogs:
Usually, this is a way for me to keep up with my colleagues who are working on similar things. In recent years, my work has changed focus and I felt less drawn to keeping up with this blog, and reading those from my blogroll. However, the MSc has given me fresh impetus and reminded me of the value of blogging.

Downsides to participating with blogs:
Learning to control the flow of information into my sphere of awareness is a 'digital literacy' that I have had to master as part of my profession. In some 'communities of practice', where I wish to be seen as expert, I feel the pressure to be the first to reply to a post or comment, and it takes some discipline to take a step back. In a 'contributing student' approach, it can also be a set back when there is insufficient participation from other members to provide a critical mass of viewpoints or discussion resources with which to work with.

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Being succinct, being focused

This is a short Christmas post to record the fact that I have probably created my project and written my MSc TEL design project rationale 10 times over simply because I cannot decide on the angle I'm taking. How do other people do it? Choose one focus area and zoom in on it? Especially if you only have 1000 words! I'm as bad at this as I am at shopping - I can never decide if I have too much choice and I tend to walk away empty-handed. Unfortunately, walking away empty-handed is not an option when the deadline is looming! So many possible perspectives and so little time. My compromise is to store up all the ideas that don't fit into this one 'episode' for the future, and to focus on getting this one small bit polished and ready.
Things I've learned about essay-writing so far:
1. Start with a question or a stance when reading a book eg "This is not going to work for me because", or "This is going to work for me because..." Record key ideas relative to your stance.
2. Mind map the various ideas and for a small essay, focus in on one idea only. You can make reference to the others to show you thought about them
3. From the moment you pick up a book or go to a website, record the reference, otherwise it's a pain to go back and collect them!
4. After writing your essay, look back at the brief from the point of view of a tutor and see if you can 'mark' it - does it meet the objectives?

Does anyone have any other tips that helps them?