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Sunday, November 30, 2008

(My) Learning Networks: (CCK08 Final Paper)


This project has given me an opportunity to reflect on my learning networks and also given me a focus to experiment with new technology. My initial conception was to interleave Webcam clips of myself speaking with Camtasia Studio captured interactions
of myself using CMap software. This approach has been good as i have improved my knowledge and understanding of both CMap and Camtasia, making me much better equipped in the future to use both these products much more fluently. I still used this approach in my presentation, but my initial strategy was superceded, once i found out how useful and easy Windows Moviemaker 2 is. Windows Moviemaker 2 is a revelation and with video clips prepared in advance it is easy to add titles, extra narrations and transitions to create a finished product within hours (that is for anyone, who has not even used the package before).

Webcam clips are saved in WMV format, as can Camtasia screen recordings (although this is not automatically available, but easy enough to create a new format based on WMV). Afterr importing all clips into Windows Moviemaker 2, The Final output in WMV format can then be uploaded to Youtube for easy access. The youtube video can can be also embedded directly into blogger. (the file is 25mb Large and the uploading and subsequent processing for both youtube and blogger may take 30-45 mins before the video is available to embed in a blogpost.

[NOTE: Prior to realizING i could achieve all that i needed to in the WMV format, AVS Video Converter 2.6 was used to convert the WMV file to a flash format (9mb), using the following conversion option – SWF best quality and to MPEG 1 format using Create ZEN Vision - Normal Quality (34mb)]

The final output views fine, but is not as polished as I would like. I have had a few retakes on my shots to camera, as I was not at all happy with the way I screwed my mouth up and my general shots to camera demeanour. It will do for now, but I look forward to learning how to speak and deliver better to camera in the future. My presentation now follows on ‘My learning Networks’. Forgive the prologue at the end. I was getting tired at this point and I know really the prologue should be at the beginning. What I wanted to do as a final final word was to expand on a main point in my presentation. Enough talk… On with the show.

Outstanding Questions
I am already a convert to connectivist principles. My outstanding concerns are how best I can convince other teachers that adoption of connectivist principles and attitudes will enhance their teaching and their students learning.

Approaches to adopting Connectivist principles

Once again I am a convert. I need to make sure I d on not get lazy and that I do explore new ideas and new technologies. I am most interested in encouraging other teachers to adopt connectivist principles. I believe this is best done under the umbrella of a course and I have found the formula used in the CCK08 a worthwhile and effective approach. I have also outlined previously the SCORE 2.0 approach which i have used successfully, which I need to expand, develop and improve upon. By running these professional development courses, this will aid my own professional development. Perhaps I learn well in both roles, so I shall look at further courses as a student, as well as teacher. But over the last 2 years I have learnt the value of blogging and this course has reinforced that, so I shall continue to blog also, with renewed enthusiasm to nourish my connectivist learning.

Final Word
I like groups for learning with loose connections feeding in and out as appropriate

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Feed and Nourish and the Grass Roots will Flourish (CCK08: Paper 3)

and all be well in the land of Ed :-)

Writing this paper i feel incredibly upbeat about new connectivist technology and pedagogy. I've included a musical metaphor to convey my feelings. for Music read 'connection'. It's a bit if a weak tie, but i thought as it is the last paper and the course is coming to a close, we might as well go out in party style. Hope you enjoy it.

There ain’t no stopping us now!
My experience is primarily with higher education and in this arena I believe there are fantastic opportunities to adopt different teaching and learning approaches. By this I am referring to the use of technology because this is where the greatest innovations and benefits can be found. The reason that the greatest benefits can be found, is due to the ability to share and disseminate good practice easily using new technology. I am sure that there are numerous examples of good face to face teaching that occurs, but who knows about that, who learns from that - perhaps a few close colleagues and the lucky students.

Fortunately in higher education, online safety is not such an issue that it need interfere with online teaching and learning strategies. So the most fantastic thing is that there are enough HE institutions playing with and benefiting from innovative new approaches that those that do not join in the game will know about it – via decreasing recruitment figures. Arguments from HE Institutions with regard to safety, security, privacy, guaranteed delivery of service, etc will not be at all strong enough to stop the powerful combination of new technologies and new pedagogies for teaching and learning.

Resistance and barriers to change are 1) HE Institutional leaders and managers that are not sufficiently interested or aware enough to change a learning organisation into an organisation that learns (or to put it another way change a learning organisation into a learning organisation :-)) and 2) Teachers who fail to see the benefits, cannot spare the time or be bothered to see the benefits. Firstly just to say the whole thing with regard to embracing pedagogical and technological change is a no-brainer to me and to be fair to unenlightened colleagues they need exposing to the new ways with formal/informal support and compulsory professional development.

The only thing stopping us is me and you (not for long though)
The no-brainer benefits mentioned previously are primarily around the fact that social and active learning facilitated by new technology is more interesting, enjoyable and enhancing than isolated, incredibly slow feedbackish ways that do not take advantage of new technology. Delivery of education will be enhanced by new pedagogies and new technologies and it will be led from the grass roots and it will be too powerful to ignore.

In the short term there are two difficulties to overcome:

1. Teachers who don’t get it i.e. the benefits and
2. Teachers who give up too easily, when use of new technologies and new ways, do not work instantaneously.

Both can and will be solved by professional development opportunities. In particular I think it is important to remember that good practice in traditional methods of teaching have been built up over many years. It would be wrong to think all new online initiatives are going to work smoothly in any given situation and context. Teachers need support to take some risks. The good thing is teachers can be supported much more easily through the use of new technology and new ways of delivering professional development.

What kinds of opportunities can we embrace if we are able to make fundamental and systemic changes?

A few Ideas:
  • The widespread dissemination of good practice
  • The Speed with which this dissemination can occur
  • The speed of feedback both to learners and for professional development
  • Much higher levels of enjoyment in learning
  • Better productivity, by teachers through collaboration
  • Easier access to influence decision makers (subtly by actions, results, student feedback and promoting the benefits of the new ways publicly
Resistance is Futile?
The tools are phenomenal; people’s imaginations, goodwill and knowledge are phenomenal, what we can learn from voices of resistance is that we can easily overcome their objections by action. If you believe in the tools, use them, promote them, record your success and learn from perceived failures. Help others – good will wipe the floor with resistors. The resistance is futile :-)

We have the power!
We need strong ties, we need to collaborate. We need support, we need to know when we need deep learning to achieve our life, work and social aims. We can do all of this if we choose to strengthen ties and connections

As i write this i must add that i think about this primarily from a distance learning perspective. For those face to face teachers that also employ social and active learning techniques i am in total agreement with this. If you are a face to face teacher that thinks that they do not need to bother with new technologies and online pedagogies because you are already doing a great face to face job, then you are doing your students a dis-service

Monday, November 10, 2008

Changing Roles for Educators (CCK08: Paper 2)


The field of interest that I work in is teaching and learning. My focus is primarily on distance learning, but I still do some face to face teaching. In the UK new teachers in Higher Education in the last 10 years or so are encouraged to complete a postgraduate teaching certificate on professional and higher education where they are exposed, at the least to the concepts of small group work, experiential learning, reflection, the integration of learning outcomes, learning activities and assessment and the importance of formative as well as summative feedback. I would say that on the whole participants on these courses are much wiser and more aware of teaching methods other than the straightforward unengaging lectures that may have been more the norm twenty years ago.
What a lot of current modern day teachers in higher education may not be aware of is the affordances of modern day social software tools and the powerful learning potential for students when they participate, collaborate, share, create, re-invent and connect. McGee and Diaz (2007) note that:

applications defined as ‘Web 2.0’ hold the most promise [for teaching and learning] because they are strictly web based and typically free, support collaboration and interaction and are responsive to the user. These applications have great potential to be used in way that is learner-centred, affordable and accessible for teaching and learning purposes.” (McGee and Diaz 2007, p. 32)[i]

Additionally, as a by product of these social software tools there is vastly more knowledge and ways to access this knowledge which means the role of educators do need to change i) to reflect the societal and technological changes that have taken place in recent times and ii) because these new tools can enhance learning.

What to do? – Appropriate Response and overcoming impediments to change

Teacher training has to be at the forefront of any responses. This will be led from the grass roots until such times decision makers finally see the value to the business, the students and the teachers. Once recognised and valued as part of an organisations strategic plan, more official time can be allocated to staff development and help with by easing the pressure on staff to integrate new methods into there already demanding workload, The importance of this approach is underlined in section 3, ‘the value of educator professional development’ in the ‘teaching the teacher’ video from the e-learning for educators Missouri website:
In short for unenlightened institutions, impediments to change revolves around a lack of understanding of decision makers of the potential of new technologies and new ways of teaching and learning. Additionally a lack of understanding on how new technologies can be employed to change working, communication and dissemination practices means that many cultures within higher education institutions have not evolved to take advantages of new attitudes and new ways of working.

One response that can impact on both cultural change and speed the development of teachers into using new technologies within their own teaching and learning is to adopt IT systems that promote a social networking mentality amongst users, as opposed to the widespread clunky content management systems. Angel LMS is an example of how an institution might like to tie it’s administrative and management objectives to an IT system that is more likely to change the culture of institution to a social learning networked environment:

I have no first hand experience of the system myself but I am suitably impressed with what the author Tony Seuss has to say. Combining the theme of cultural change and teacher training is the Cloudworks project led by Conole (2008)[ii]. Using a social networking principle as a means of communication and interaction Conole (2008) explains:

Cloudworks allows you to find other people's learning and teaching ideas, designs and experiences as well as sharing your own. You can also get access to many learning design tools and resources to help you create learning designs.” Cloudworks website (2008)[iii]

In terms of actually changing the mindset of reluctant or time poor teachers the most effective way is for teachers to get hands on experience and therefore the proposal of Bowskill (2004) [iv of using informal learning projects as a vehicle for collaborative professional development in online communities is an attractive approach in enabling teachers to swap ideas and get practical hands on experience.

Ripples – combining an existing learning metaphor, that utilises new technology to embrace social and active learning

My own experience and studies into Web 2.0 tools and online synchronous classrooms (web conferencing meeting rooms) is that by the using these tools to run professional development courses on the very subject of ‘web 2.0 (social software) tools for teaching and learning’, a powerful way is found of teachers gaining practical hands on experience and becoming wise to a new mentality of learning i.e. participating, sharing, contributing, collaborating, externalizing.

To combine general good teaching and learning practices with new technologies I have devised and implemented a model of learning for distance learners which is conceptually aligned with Race’s (2001)[v] Ripples model of learning, with an online synchronous class (could be a face to face class) and the facilitating teacher at the core promoting social interaction, practical active online tasks and the notion of a community. Web 2.0 tools are used outside the class to assist the building of community, development of practical skills, reflections on learning, the giving and receiving of feedback and to develop the autonomous learning skills of the learner. The role of the facilitating teacher leading this course or other courses in this style is to simultaneously support and help students whilst developing their ability to work with others and be a confident autonomous self directed learner. The Model has been named the Synchronous Community Orientated Reflective and Experiential 2.0 (SCORE 2.0) Model.

I have initially posted information about this approach on an earlier blog post (SCORE 2.0) and I am working with a colleague to publish more formally on this approach soon. Initial feedback on user engagement and satisfaction with learning has been good.

Methods that give practical experience in the use of social software tools to teachers, administrators and decision makers will speed the process of uptake both in teaching and learning and in developing a learning, participative culture. Institutions slow to recognize and cultivate social networking cultures will eventually suffer a competitive disadvantage.

[i] MCGEE, P. & DIAZ, V. (2007) ‘Wikis and Podcasts and Blogs! Oh, My! What Is a Faculty Member Supposed to Do?’ EDUCAUSE Review vol. 42, no. 5 (September/October 2007): 28–41. [Retrieved: 03/08/08]
[ii] Conole, G. (2008) Cloudworks: a social networking site for collaborative learning design Retrieved [10/011/08]
[iii] Cloudworks website(2008) Inspiration for creating new learning activities? [retrieved 10/11/08]

[v] RACE, P. (2001) The lecturer's toolkit - A practical guide to learning, teaching and assessment (2nd ed) London: Kogan Page [Retrieved: 02/08/08]

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