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).
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
Drawing a Tube Map – how hard can it be?! March 4, 2013Posted by ianinsheffield in Resources, Tools.
Tags: #366Web2, Great Bear, Inkscape, SAMR, Tube map, Tubular Fells
Whilst I was working through my 365 project, it struck me that when concluded, to continue to be useful as a resource potential explorers would need a way of interrogating the posts. From the outset I made sure each post outlining a Web2.0 tool was tagged appropriately – with both a SAMR level and a category (or more than one) stating the affordances of the tool. The tags could then be used to filter posts corresponding to the type of tool a viewer might be seeking. However none of that could provide a overview and summary of all 366 posts and tools; for that I’d been considering using an infographic of some sort.
Right from the outset I’d had in my mind a graphic along the lines of the London underground map which had been morphed to use in other ways like Simon Patterson’s Great Bear which swapped the tube lines for fields or spheres of endeavour and the stations for people who were known in those spheres (like scientists, actors, authors etc), or Tubular Fells by Peter Burgess which used similar design principle to the Tube Map, but changed it to suit Lakeland Fells and walking routes. So in my version, Web Tube.0, the Web2.0 tools would be the stations, the categories of tools would be the lines and the SAMR categories become the zones. How hard could it be?!
Well it turned out … very! If I chose to use the London Underground system as a template (leaving aside the potential copyright pitfalls), with only 270 stations spread across 11 lines, I would be well short of my needs. I had 366 tools spread across 34 categories. So I tried using similar design principles (as Peter Burgess did in Tubular Fells), but quickly came to recognise the enormity of the task. The problem wasn’t drawing 366 stations on 34 lines, the real problem was where a tool fell into more than one category and the lines had to intersect … and some tools fell into four categories! In fact about half the tools fell into more than one category compared with less than a third on the Underground map. Then superimposed on top of that would be the zoning for the SAMR levels! Now all of that is doubtless doable and in fact I suspect a programmer could probably come up with some solution, but surprisingly an extensive search of the Web found few possibilities. Most ‘solutions’ suggest using graphics programmes like Inkscape, Illustrator or Freehand, but they seem to miss the problem – it’s not the graphical issues, it’s the computation that’s at the very heart of it. I came across a PhD thesis “Automated drawing of metro maps” which outlined the nature of the problem as follows:
Given a planar graph G of maximum degree 8 with its embedding and vertex locations (e.g. the physical location of the tracks and stations of a metro system) and a set L of paths or cycles in G (e.g. metro lines) such that each edge of G belongs to at least one element of L, draw G and L nicely. We first specify the niceness of a drawing by listing a number of hard and soft constraints. Then we show that it is NP-complete to decide whether a drawing of G satisfying all hard constraints exists. In spite of the hardness of the problem we present a mixed-integer linear program (MIP) which always finds a drawing that fulfils all hard constraints (if such a drawing exists) and optimizes a weighted sum of costs corresponding to the soft constraints. We also describe some heuristics that speed up the MIP and we show how to include vertex labels in the drawing. We have implemented the MIP, the heuristics and the vertex labelling.
(Suspect this is a translation, given the origin of the paper is Karlsruhe in Germany)
I wasn’t reassured when further investigation led me to an application called Context Free which “… is a program that generates images from written instructions called a grammar” Err, yes, well I certainly found an example in the gallery that might help – 24 stations on 3 lines with only 4 points of intersection (& of only 2 stations each) required in excess of 750 lines of code (albeit some blank spacers & others single characters)!
Which is when I decided Web Tube.0 would go onto the back burner. I considered instead a dartboard or Mandala-style diagram which would adequately provide 34 sectors for the categories and outward protruding arcs for the SAMR levels, but I couldn’t easily resolve the issue of overlap where a tool spans several categories. I toyed briefly with the possibility of drawing a concept map (plenty of applications there), but once more it was the issue of the intersects. Recognising that the points of intersection were proving the stumbling block to this form of representation caused me to shift perspective and whilst considering, but rejecting the Periodic Table (overlapping categories once more!), I thought there might be merit in the grid-style layout. And that’s when I settled on:
It’s a simple alphabetic layout following the chronology of the posts and is only that shape for ease of viewing in its entirety; it could easily be a single row sweeping out an extended linear area … not so good for Web viewing perhaps? So at a glance the tools offering a particular SAMR level are easily identified. Finding tools in a particular category, for example concept mapping tools, requires a little deeper interrogation and perhaps at a higher zoom level. Whilst the colour coding helps here, some colours do tend to merge with their neighbours and are less easy to tell apart unless side-by-side.
I designed and created it using Inkscape, an open source, freely downloadable vector graphics editor … which means the output can be scaled without the pixelation you get if using a bitmap editor like Photoshop or GIMP. In addition it provides another useful feature for those viewing the output svg file using certain browsers, namely the capacity to add interactivity to the image. So moving forward it’s my intention to make filtering the complete toolset down to just the ones you’re looking for with a single click – so clicking on ‘Survey’ for example will hide all tools except for the survey ones. I know it’s possible, but I suspect it will take a few more hours work … assuming the audience wants it?! Be grateful for your feedback.