Down the rabbit hole … May 19, 2013Posted by ianinsheffield in Musings, Resources.
Tags: formal learning, informal learning, YouTube
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After watching a YouTube video, have you ever been enticed to click on one of the thumbnail links to other videos which appear after the video has finished? Or maybe followed one of the thumbnail links to other videos which are listed to the right of the main frame? I know I have. Which set me thinking about how YouTube can be bent to serve our learning needs in three ways, based on the three different approaches to learning I’ve previously reflected on.
The boundaries between formal, non-formal and informal learning are fuzzy to say the least, since we must address several factors which influence the type of learning: independent versus institutionalised, structured v unstructured, teacher-directed v learner-controlled, certificated v open, scheduled v time-unbounded, intentional v unintentional, purposeful v serendipitous.
Eraut1 (2000) identifies five features of formal learning:
- a prescribed learning framework
- an organised learning event or package
- the presence of a designated teacher or trainer
- the award of a qualification or credit
- the external specification of outcomes
So here is where we would see YouTube videos created (by a teacher/tutor/lecturer) to support students undertaking a course of study leading to a specific qualification.
The EC2 (2001) Communication on Lifelong Learning defined non-formal learning as
learning that is not provided by an education or training institution and typically does not lead to certification. It is, however, structured (in terms of learning objectives, learning time or learning support). Non-formal learning is intentional from the learner’s perspective.
(Whilst producing similar features to Eraut’s characteristics formal learning, they also added the dimension of ‘intentionality.’)
This where we might see a learner taking an a non-credit art class for pleasure is directed to YouTube to learn more about a particular technique. Or perhaps an amateur astronomer attending a session at a local society on the techniques required to take a long-exposure photo, drops by YouTube to reinforce what she learned.
The EC2 also defined informal learning as:
resulting from daily life activities related to work, family or leisure. It is not structured (in terms of learning objectives, learning time or learning support) and typically does not lead to certification. Informal learning may be intentional but in most cases it is non-intentional (or “incidental”/ random)
These are the serendipitous moments where you set out with a specific goal, then were led down a completely different, perhaps even more stimulating path by the other videos YouTube offered you. You have no idea where these journeys might lead, or what riches of discovery they might offer, though we must also acknowledge that at times they may simply serve to distract or divert attention.
So perhaps we have to accept that using YouTube in a school-context, where formal learning is the dominant form, YouTube is to some extent a double-edged sword. Whilst it can be used in a structured programme for intentional outcomes, it also comes with the rabbit hole of opportunity. Do we use a tool like Quietube or ViewPure which filters out many of the distractions or choose to celebrate the potential richness and additionality that informal learning might bring? I guess it depends on your viewpoint … and your students?
Should you wish to explore further, Colley, Hodkinson and Malcolm3 discussed the field of formal, informal and non-formal learning in much greater depth, providing an excellent summary and overview; well worth a read.
1Eraut, M.R., 2000. Non-formal Learning and Tacit Knowledge in Professional Work. British Journal of Educational Psychology, 70(1), pp.113–136. Available at: http://www.ingentaconnect.com/content/bpsoc/bjep/2000/00000070/00000001/art00008 [Accessed May 18, 2013].
2European Commission, 2001. Making a European Area of Lifelong Learning a Reality, Available at: http://eur-lex.europa.eu/LexUriServ/LexUriServ.do?uri=CELEX:52001DC0678:EN:NOT [Accessed May 18, 2013].
3Colley, H., Hodkinson, P. & Malcolm, J., 2002. Non-formal learning: mapping the conceptual terrain, a consultation report, Available at: http://www.infed.org/archives/e-texts/colley_informal_learning.htm [Accessed May 19, 2013].
ePortfolios … Part Deux April 29, 2013Posted by ianinsheffield in Management, Resources, Tools.
Tags: eportfolio, project
The previous post outlined the reasons behind our investigations into ePortfolios. Here are some thoughts following those explorations.
ePortfolios mean different things to different people and are defined subtly differently. For Sutherland and Powell1 an ePortfolio constitutes a
… purposeful aggregation of digital items – ideas, evidence, reflections, feedback etc, which ‘presents’ a selected audience with evidence of a person’s learning and/or ability.
and this is where the highly informative and extensive JISC Infokit begins.
George Siemens summarises other definitions and also examines in more detail the components forming an ePortfolio, their benefits and uses and the steps necessary to implement a system, then create the portfolios themselves. Lorenzo and Ittelson produced a helpful overview through an Educause ELI Publication, covering definitions, issues and different types (student, teacher, institutional), rounded off with some useful case studies, though these are all understandably within a higher education context. To find material more closely related to primary/secondary (K-12) education, you need to dig a little deeper, but there is plenty there. Dr Helen Barrett produced a Google site which explores how ePortfolios might be provided through Google Apps and John Pallister provided a detailed and informative account of how Wolsingham School engaged its community in the eportfolio process … and product!
Process? Product? Both?
Our students will be recording and reflecting on their ongoing learning, activities and participation yet at some points the collection of artefacts they’ve aggregated will need turning into a product provided for an audience or audiences. It’s this process-product interaction which steered us towards considering an ePortfolio solution to service those needs. But, as I asked in the previous post, is it really a full-blown ePortfolio we need? Or might there be other options?
There are several continua across which different solutions can be mapped.
- Control: the extent to which the solution is in the hands of the institution or learner. Is it locked down or open, rigid or flexible, fixed or customisable, learner-centric or institutionally driven?
- Alignment: the extent to which a solution meets the specified requirements
- Cost: always a thorny one! Accounting for the hidden costs is often problematic, especially attributing a specific value for aspects such as people’s time, whether the teachers’, technical support or administration.
- Features: the range of features the solution offers.
Here’s one example within which, from back to front, feature-richness and alignment increase, and indeed, likely does cost. And control? Well that could probably be argued either way. Some solutions may be feature-rich, more costly but be well-aligned with our needs whereas others might be more flexible, cheaper, but less well-aligned. So how to reach a more objective decision?
In some sense it could be possible to ascribe a numerical value to each of the potential solutions and thereby place them more objectively on each of the continua. A weighting could be applied to each continuum based on the degree of importance i.e. if cost is critical, that could be weighted more highly. In this way each solution could be scored and compared with other alternatives … but that’s quite some job. Particularly so when you begin to explore the possibilities out there:
|Easy Portfolio (app)||https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/easy-portfolio-eportfolio/id516212900?mt=8|
|Google Apps for Edu||https://www.google.co.uk/|
… which is of course just a flavour of what’s available across the spectrum and is far from exhaustive, leaving us with much pondering, ruminating and exchanging of views still to be done.
1Sutherland, S. and Powell, A. (2007), CETIS SIG mailing list discussions [Online] Available at: https://www.jiscmail.ac.uk/cgi-bin/webadmin?A1=ind0707&L=CETIS-PORTFOLIO#3 (Accessed: 13 August 2012).
How often are you in your Element? April 27, 2013Posted by ianinsheffield in Inspiration, Musings.
Tags: Element, flow, Ken Robinson, passion, TED
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Have just finished reading the “The Element: How Finding Your Passion Changes Everything” by Ken Robinson. If you’ve ever seen any of the thought-provoking (and often entertaining) online footage of Sir Ken, you’ll already be aware of his point of view, if not then this TED Talk is a good place to start and the recording of his visit to the RSA gave him the chance to talk specifically about this book.
So what is “The Element?” Well it’s the place where the things you love to do (personal passion) and the things you are good at (natural aptitude) come together. When someone discovers their talents and passions and enters their Element, they’re more likely to enjoy a more fulfilling life and contribute more fully to society. Robinson contends that all of us have an Element (or more than one!) yet the majority of adults fail to discover what it is. Yes there are indeed things we enjoy doing, but it is much more rare to find those things about which we are so passionate (and at which we excel) that when engaged in them we lose all sense of time, are energised rather than exhausted and find ourselves in what Csikszentmihalyi calls a state of flow. Finding your Element requires exposure to opportunities where your aptitudes can be manifest, then seizing the moment and nurturing emerging talent. Sadly for many, that never happens.
An article in this week’s TES, “In Praise of Slow Starters,” features five high achievers of which only two reached their potential as a result of their school experience and more specifically, due to the encouragement and support of a particular teacher. The many individuals to which Robinson refers also suggests that most people find their Element in spite of, rather than because of school and that school, or more accurately, education seems to have little impact on helping young people find their Element. Whilst education may indeed be about much more than helping people find their passion, perhaps if it did serve that need, far more people would leave with a sense of purpose and achievement rather than resentment or apathy?
Even good schools probably don’t set out (overtly) to bring out the passion in each student, but by providing a broad and rich curriculum (formal and non-formal) they expose their charges to more opportunities through which nascent talents have the chance to emerge. Sadly recent trends and interventions by the Government have caused the (whole) curriculum to become restricted and narrow, rather than broadened and enriched. Schools and the people in them have become accountable by measuring student progress using crude baseline data generated by assessments which assume a rather narrow view of intelligence. Robinson charges us to recognise that intelligence is diverse, dynamic and distinctive and we need to generate conditions within which that diversity and dynamism can be nurtured and flourish. To find out what someone’s Element might be and help them to recognise it, we need to understand who they really are. Left to their own devices, what are they naturally drawn to? What kinds of activities do they engage in voluntarily? What absorbs them the most? what sorts of questions do they ask and what points do they make? Now seeking to do that whilst attempting to cram in a bucketload of content and raise someone’s grade from a D to a C (because that’s how we’ll be judged) may not be easy … or even possible? But if we continue to ignore what might be possible, will we simply continue to accept the student disengagement, disenchantment and disenfranchisement that often preoccupies teachers and schools?
ePortfolios … or maybe not? April 23, 2013Posted by ianinsheffield in Resources, Teaching Idea, Tools.
Yesterday I posted a speculative tweet:
Wondering if anyone is using a good eportfolio system they could recommend?
— Ian Guest (@IaninSheffield) April 22, 2013
Several people were kind enough to respond, but it quickly became clear how open I’d left the question. Since some responses revealed avenues I might not have otherwise considered, that actually proved to be rather serendipitous. (More about the responses in a post to follow). So perhaps it would be more sensible to outline what we’re actually looking for and see whether anyone can suggest other alternatives I’d not even considered.
Where we are
For some while now, we’ve been concerned that we don’t have a formal system:
- through which students can record participation in co-curricular, school- and non-school-based activities, other than a brief section in their planner.
- by which staff (curriculum, pastoral and leadership) can monitor and/or comment on student activity and participation, other than by checking individuals’ planners.
- which feeds the aforementioned data into our reporting system. This process is currently a summative event undertaken by form tutors in negotiation with the students and for various reasons significant facts sometimes get missed.
- which will provide an overview of all activity being undertaken and/or filtered down by for example Year group, interest category etc.
Where we want to go
So in summary we’re looking for a solution which:
- allows students to record participation in co-curricular activities (long-term and fine-grained):
- in different ways: online, by email, text(?)
- in different forms: text, photos, scans, links
- allows students to search, filter, organise, edit and append their records
- is longitudinal, following students through school, year on year
- can be monitored, searched and filtered by staff
- allows staff to see summaries:
- for different groups of students
- under different categories
- over time
- feeds information into our reporting system
- potentially at least, allows the students to leave school and take their record with them.
The above constitute our “Essentials” whilst the following might be considered “Desirables.” We need a mechanism which will:
- showcase academic/mainstream curriculum work
- allow staff to comment/provide feedback
- allow peers to view/comment/contribute
- allow ‘outsiders’ to view: parents, potential employers, admissions tutors
- allow outsiders to contribute, comment etc e.g. work experience feedback.
Now the more astute amongst you will recognise that the essential criteria don’t precisely constitute an eportfolio. JISC1 summarises things quite succinctly:
…an e-portfolio is a product created by learners, a collection of digital artefacts articulating learning (both formal and informal), experiences and achievements.
the operation of which can be represented diagrammatically as:So if we go looking for an off-the-shelf eportfolio system, will it be over-specified for what we need? Or maybe there are no eportfolio (or other) systems which do offer the specific functionalities we need? As Frasier would say “I’m listening.”
The sheep was shorn March 12, 2013Posted by ianinsheffield in CPD, Resources, Teaching Idea.
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Had the great privilege to attend and present at the inaugural Derbyshire TeachMeet last night, organised and compèred most ably by Jim Smith (@jim1982) and hosted by the most accommodating Hope Valley College. I was impressed by the number of staff from HVC who attended and who also contributed some excellent, thought-provoking presentations. But coupled with them were others from near and far, many presenting at a TeachMeet for the first time who also provided stimulating and inspirational ideas. I needn’t name them individually since they’re all listed on the TeachMeet site.
Each and every presentation gave me food for thought, but one theme stood out. At many of the TeachMeets I’ve attended, IT was very much at the fore, often driving the content of the presentations or acting as the catalyst for the teaching idea that was being shared. Here it very much took a back seat and played no part in many presentations. In other cases it was simply the enabler of the activity, allowing the teaching idea to take centre stage. With such a large proportion of people attending their first TeachMeet, perhaps there was no imperative to live up to what had gone before, no preconceived idea of what might be appropriate so attendees therefore had the freedom to speak about absolutely anything. Which all made for an extremely eclectic mix and consequently meant there was something there for everyone.
Identifying one presentation which stood out amongst such riches is always a challenge, but for me Louise Hollis on Literacy in Languages claimed the Academy Award because she managed to squeeze such a wealth of great ideas into her few minutes. Simple and effective strategies which would be easy for anyone to apply in any subject. High quality, high concentration. Thanks Louise and thanks to everyone else too … especially Jim for getting the whole thing off the ground. Already looking forward to the next installment of TeachMeet Derbyshire.
Resources referred to in my preso can be found at http://www.tizmos.com/IaninSheffield