Saturday, June 24, 2017

Continuing professional development habit - Blogging as portfolio

It's really hard to form the habit of continual development without a formal qualification to drive you. I've been thinking this through in the context of the Erasmus Future Teacher 3.0 project that I'm currently working on as part of Learning Apps (see About FT 3.0 tab)

The plan is to create a Digital Thermometer to help people measure where they are on their digital teaching journey. Then there's a Digital Compass to direct them to a set of Digital Journeys they can take. 
How do we keep people going through a cycle of journeys after the project ends?

After completing my CMALT, I should have continued to use the core areas of competency to reflect on my on-going journey, but I didn't. I'd reached an 'end' to the journey. Refreshing the portfolio in 3 years' time felt like I had lots of time to relax and to do other things. I didn't develop the habit of continuing to blog as a result of CMALT because it wasn't part of the qualification requirement.

I then embarked on the MSc TEL a few years later to continue my professional development journey (gaining my Prince2 and Agile project management qualifications in between).

What I'm now curious about is whether I can get into the habit of continually developing my portfolio. I recently had to curate my recent works as evidence of my ability to meet a person specification. I had a fun time going through my back catalogue of presentations, materials, and reflections, but it was also time consuming. Much better if I could keep on top of things and feel like I could reflect my professional capacity more easily at any time, and not just at one point in time.

I also miss the habit of blogging (triggered by my very active life as an e-learning consultant) and the fun we had in creating podcasts with the likes of David Sugden, James Clay, Ron Mitchell etc). Ron, Alistair and I are currently recording our audio discussions as they lend themselves to being a podcast. It's great to be able to hear people's thought processes when they are designing a lesson for you! (View the Future Teacher link above to listen to the discussions which have been added to the learning objects.)

I looked into ways of triggering the habit of adding to a portfolio and in the end, it boils down to this. It has to:
  • be easy to add to
  • allow me to categorise entries so I can curate when I need to
  • be easy to share with others when I need to
And so, I've come back to my slightly neglected blog! Email into blog is one of the easiest ways to add things to a visible site. If I want to, I can keep things in draft until I'm ready to share it. It allows me to tag stuff, so I can find it again easily. I could go through items and tag it with a new tag if I need to group it for a new audience. Curation sorted!

Very pleased with this idea. What I need to do now is to determine a set of tags for each area of competence that I would like to keep adding to, set reminders on my calendar or aim to add to it every day, and then have regular reviews to ensure I'm not focusing too much on one area of competence over another. I'm also keen to cycle through different models of e-learning for reflection purposes to deepen my understanding of their principles (or work out what works best when). TPACK might be a useful starting point, but for learning technologists, would we be using Learning Technology as our subject specialism for our Content Knowledge? It may not work so well for us.

In terms of accountability, I'm thinking of asking other learning technologist friends to start the journey with me. Maybe we can make part of the journey "read someone else's journey and provide them with feedback". This could be a really hippy but fun experiment for my Masters project.

It certainly ticks the box in terms of being based on intrinsic rather than extrinsic motivation.If we can build this into our Erasmus project with the ultimate aim that people continue on their journey after we have 'finished with them' (you know what I mean!), then I might feel like my day's work is done!

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Rethinking pedagogies, reusing pedagogies

When it comes to delivering training, my preference to use a social constructivist approach is based on my belief that everyone has something to contribute and that I am not necessarily the expert, or the only expert about a topic. I like to harness the ‘resources’ of other people’s expertise in my teaching. I feel that people generally gain more satisfaction and active learning from participation than absorption. This feeling is supported by years spent delivering training and getting feedback; being involved in their own learning has been very gratifying for many teachers. (There are also many comments from these teachers that their students don’t care to be active learners. They just want to be fed the answers. That idea is for another blog post.)

I came across an interesting piece of research via a New Yorker article called “Why facts don’t change our minds”. Two professors, Sloman and Fernbach, found that “when it comes to new technologies, incomplete understanding is empowering.” Our incomplete knowledge about stuff actually helps to protect us as a group. We use a “division of cognitive labour” to help us make progress; if we all spent time working out how to programme the web before we used it, we wouldn’t have gotten very far. The ability to accept someone else’s thinking or outputs and to use it stops us from being in the dark ages. This is where people are willing to accept being trained or mentored by others they trust (The idea of social capital to be discussed in yet another blog post :-)). They essentially piggyback on others to get a step up. There is no point reinventing the wheel; just use the knowledge others can provide. Luckily for us as trainers, this behaviour means we have many attendees in our upcoming webinar on ‘Online learning: What works?’. This is part of the Future Teacher 3.0 series of webinars that you are welcome to join.

This trait can also work against us as people can have strong feelings about things they don’t understand, and talking to others with similar feelings can reinforce misconceptions. Many of my fellow trainers have encountered naysayers in our groups, or people who are so resistant to new ideas they are practically ‘dismantling the wheel’. This can also be dangerous in a community of knowledge where misconceptions can be spread like wildfire due to ‘confirmation bias’. Sloman and Fernback suggest that to counter such aggressive ignorance, people should be challenged to explain their thinking based on facts and research. I remember a teacher who proclaimed that using technology didn’t work since there was no improvement in his classes. This teacher had simply brought laptops into the class, but did nothing more. He didn’t redesign his learning activities to take advantage of the affordances of the technology. This is why we are approaching the topic of online learning ‘from the ground up’ by looking at strategies for designing active learning, rather than describing how to use online tools. We’ll be looking at ‘visible learning’ and ‘effect sizes’, a concept researched by John Hattie and I hope to have time to introduce Puentedura’s SAMR model. The latter has been criticised for not being based on empirical research, but some tools are useful despite not knowing their pedigree ;-). If it helps a teacher to evaluate their approach to learning activity design and to make a difference to the learner, a blunt instrument is better than no instrument at all.

This brings us full circle to the idea of using a social constructivist approach to the upcoming webinar. Much as I would like to have lots of discussion and chat over a ‘presentation-style’ webinar, the numbers attending mean that this is going to start off more like an interactive lecture, than a small-group discussion. That’s not necessarily a bad thing; there are possibly some threshold concepts we need to communicate before people can have a reasonable discussion. Rather than continuing on my preferred ‘teaching style’, I am going to practice what we preach and consider the best alignment of practice with the optimum learning gains we can achieve. My co-presenter, Alistair McNaught, and I look forward to seeing you online on March 31. Future sessions will also feature my esteemed colleague, Ron Mitchell.

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.