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].
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?
When might a safety manual be a story? February 24, 2013Posted by ianinsheffield in Musings.
Tags: #etmooc, storytelling
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Whilst I was thinking about the process of storytelling during a previous post and how
Storytellers hold your attention, stir your imagination, compel you to want to hear (read/see/experience) more, invoke an emotional response … make you care.
I wondered also how that might map across different media. To what extent are the authors of these media also storytellers. To what extent do they draw in their readers and lift them beyond the simple consumption of information? Do all media merit some degree of storytelling to capture the minds of their audience? At that point I wondered whether it might be possible to place different media on a spectrum stretching from basic conveyance of information through to passionate involvement.
Would you agree with those placements or would you change the order?
These clearly aren’t the only (largely) print-based media which could be positioned on the spectrum. How about school textbooks? Perhaps there’s something to think about there …
Image sources in the graphic:
Time to turn the page? February 22, 2013Posted by ianinsheffield in Musings, Reading.
Tags: digital textbook, ebooks, textbooks
Just had my interest piqued by a post from Dai Barnes (Digital Textbooks – Yes or No?) and having initiated a reply, once I reached 500 words, thought it only polite to retreat to this blog. I have to confess to several similar conversations with students as the one Dai had with his daughter; even the most tech-savvy. In some ways I am perplexed – why on Earth *wouldn’t* someone want to swap lugging several kilos of paper around for a few hundred grams of tablet?!
There are (at least) two things to consider I’d suggest:
1. Workflow. What textbook publishers have done is replicate a paper book, add some extra features that paper books don’t have (interactive content, rich media, links etc) and add the things they think a reader would need (notes, bookmarks, highlighting etc). What it appears they failed to do was observe the workflow of the average teen … or any textbook user for that matter. How do they use a paper textbook? A ‘Go to page’ feature for example will never work the same as riffling through pages and perhaps happening on something useful. Being able to add bookmarks or highlights which you can index, filter and search just isn’t the same as adding Post-Its which stick out so you can quickly return to significant sections. It’s not that these features are worse than their original counterparts; quite the contrary. It’s that they’re different and require a rather different workflow, which brings me to…
2. Expectations. The way we use a book is set at an early age when we begin to teach our youngest how to read, at home and in school. Most current teens began their reading in paper books. The skills they were taught as they moved through school were all paper book oriented: browsing, using an index or table of contents, not allowing them to make notes in the books (for the most part). When they meet digital books for the first time, they become frustrated because they simply don’t work in the same way they’ve come to learn and expect. They can’t deal with them and don’t have the time or see the need to relearn. It’s not just teens; I see the same behaviours in adults. Many love having an ebook reader for fiction or extended reading, but would be horrified at having to use one as a textbook. I remember when I started studying seriously again a few years ago and it became necessary to read vast numbers of academic papers, my first response was to print out the pdfs for later reading and annotation. It was all I knew. It didn’t take too long however before I forced myself to learn to read and work on screen, even in pre-tablet days because in the end it was so much more efficient.
Now what if our youngest were introduced to reading using digital books? What if they weren’t exposed to paper books? What if, as they became older, they were taught the skills to manage their reading digitally and to exploit the features that digital books provide. What would their reaction be when if, as a teen, they were presented with a paper textbook? We’ve all seen surely the videos of cute toddlers trying to pinch-zoom a magazine?
On the other hand what if publishers or authors revisited what a learner needs from a textbook, then threw the notion of a book out of the window and started from scratch. What would the product look like? Perhaps authors brought up in the traditional world struggle to envision anything other than the traditional page-turning format. I’m not sure what the next-generation textbook should look like, but I do know that whatever it is will probably be designed/assembled/crowd-sourced by a young person.
James Clay and Zak Mensah had quite a thorough discussion around some these issues in one of James’ e-Learning Stuff podcasts, as indeed did Fraser Speirs and Bradley Chambers in Episode 5 of Out of School.
“I wanna tell you a story” February 19, 2013Posted by ianinsheffield in Musings, Teaching Idea, Tools.
Tags: #etmooc, digital storytelling, storytelling
I hope those (more mature?) UK residents for whom the title quote has meaning will forgive the reference to a long-lived and for many, well-loved English variety entertainer, Max Bygraves. But his catchphrase neatly encapsulated what entertainers need to do – to tell stories. Or at least to adopt the role of storyteller. Storytellers hold your attention, stir your imagination, compel you to want to hear (read/see/experience) more, invoke an emotional response … make you care. Storytelling can be for entertainment and pleasure, but also help understanding, solicit co-operation or build coalition … or even sell a product or service. As Joe Sabia outlined, the influence of digital (and other) media on storytelling may not have changed the essential elements of storytelling, but I’d suggest they have enabled the following:
- Reach – access to a much wider audience through the Internet and the social networks which magnify.
- Richness – diversity and profusion of media through which stories can be expressed.
- Revealing – allowing a wider range of creators, for whom traditional storytelling may have been less accessible, to appreciate that they have something to offer and the media through which it might be delivered.
- Recycling – where content created by others can be reused to tell the same story in a different way, or weave an entirely different narrative, or be mashed together from different sources.
- Requesting – the audience need no longer be passive receptors and can be invited in to contribute to, or influence the direction of the story
As teachers, perhaps we need to scrutinise more carefully the role of storyteller and how might exploit the techniques and processes of telling a story so that the experiences to which we expose our students become more compelling.
The ‘story’ I chose to tell for this #etmooc assignment was inspired by a single image a colleague showed me just last week. I wondered whether it could form the subject of a story, but rather than put it up front and centre, I chose to approach it obliquely. Other storytelling techniques such as 5-card Flickr put imagery front and centre in order to stimulate the imagination. I elected to use simple words to conjure images which would hopefully lead the reader in a direction such that the final reveal was a complete surprise. Progressively revealing more and more of the image hopefully served to stimulate the imagination further.
Master storyteller? Well not yet. With such little text, each phrase, each clause, each word needs to be chosen with care and precision. I could have done with a little more time, but you can only tinker so much and eventually you have to ‘ship.’ I think maybe the image reveal could have been done a little better and though I considered making it visible on every frame, thought it might detract from the story and the reader’s need to conjure their own image as they absorbed the words – doing that whilst pondering the imagery would have been too much I felt. One final thing, boy isn’t finding a piece of appropriate CC music for the backing track time consuming?! Wasn’t entirely satisfied with the final choice, but the days are only so long.
Progressively revealing an image is a useful technique on large screen displays, perhaps using IWBs to tease out the storytelling in our younger students. Rather than show a whole image at once, use the IWB spotlight or eraser tools to reveal just a small section and ask students to first describe what they see, then as different scenes are shown, how or if they might be related. It’s surely the process of filling in the background for oneself that stimulates imaginative thinking?