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The Interconnected Model – Part 2 March 28, 2015

Posted by ianinsheffield in CPD, research.
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As I mentioned in the preceding post, I wanted a way to explore the RiskIT Week programme we recently undertook in school. This is our third year of RiskIT and I felt it was time to focus in a little more closely on how it works, so wondered whether the Interconnected Model might provide a useful lens. Let’s consider how the Model might look for a particular individual then.

During the preliminary week of RiskIT, colleagues offer brief sessions sharing interesting practice where they enjoyed some measure of success. Let’s imagine Sarah attended a session where Paul was showing how he’d used Google Slides to on a collaborative group project with his Y10 class.

riskit1Sarah was sufficiently inspired to try it out in one of her Y9 lessons (1) and could then add that technique into her professional repertoire (2), becoming slightly more capable as a user of learning technology and having a new way through which to undertake collaborative work. Subsequently whilst reviewing a project she had done with the same Y9 group, she found that several of the students had transferred what they had learned in the RiskIT lesson to help them complete their project (3). This caused Sarah to reflect on the consequences of the lesson in a deeper way and helped to further embed what she had learned about collaborative work and Google Slides (4).
Of course different participants might have completely different models.

riskit2James was recently at a subject co-ordinator’s meeting where someone had demonstrated using Socrative as a lesson exit ticket system (1). Having been concerned for a while that he wanted a quicker way of scanning his classes for how much they had understood during lessons, he decided to try it with his Y11’s to establish how well the group had understood the introduction of difficult concept (2). The intention was to use the feedback from the class to prepare the follow-up lesson. Unfortunately, he hadn’t allowed sufficient time at the end of the lesson for the students to power up the laptops, log on, access his exit ticket, then log off and put the laptops away. He got very little usable information. Following a rethink (3), in preparation for a repeat with his next group, he asked if those who had them would use their smartphones (4). This time everything was completed in a few short moments (5) and he had the feedback he needed (6).

Although reflecting on the activities in this way is useful for me, it would be so much more powerful for colleagues to reflect on their own undertakings with a view to exploring what went well and what might need further attention (and how to go about that).

As I’ve started to look at our RiskIT in this way, I can see where our emphasis might need to shift for next year. Although the project closes when we share our Risks amongst each other, what we don’t do so well is to share our reflections on the outcomes. But then again, would people be able to find the time to read or hear about their colleagues’ experiences? Perhaps the most important bit of all?

In the concluding post of this series, I’ll consider some of the implications that taking a perspective using the Interconnected Model has revealed.

The Interconnected Model – Part 1 March 24, 2015

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I recently came across an interesting paper1 on teacher professional growth in which the authors propose a model to examine and explain teacher change as a complex, interwoven learning process. Where professional development programs based on a deficit-training-mastery model have largely failed to effect teacher change, those initiatives which enable greater agency and which allow (encourage?) teachers to become active learners who reflect and act on their learning have proven more effective.

Clarke and Hollingsworth developed the Interconnected Model (IM) to describe how this might happen, locating change in any of four connected domains:

  • Personal domain (teacher knowledge, beliefs and attitudes),
  • Domain of practice (professional experimentation),
  • Domain of consequence (salient outcomes),
  • External domain (sources of information, stimulus or support).
the interconnected model of professional growth

creative commons licensed (BY-NC-SA) flickr photo by ianguest: http://flickr.com/photos/ianinsheffield/16710551680

The mediating processes of ‘reflection’ and ‘enactment’ can translate changes from one domain into another, so for example, undertaking a new practice in the classroom might cause one to reflect in such a way as to change one’s attitude to a particular approach. By using the IM as a lens through which to view different professional learning experiences, we can perhaps gain insights to help inform our approach to professional development or professional learning.

Let’s explore this further with a simple example from personal experience, but perhaps common across teaching practice:


In developing a new activity, or simply modifying an old one, we might use our current knowledge to plan then try out the activity with a class. Reflecting on how effective the activity was, we might then readjust our knowledge-base to accommodate that new learning for future use. Or if the outcomes were not quite as we might have hoped, we might draw further on our knowledge-base to readjust the activity to undertake a further iteration of the loop. Don’t we regularly do this if we have two or more classes running parallel through the same scheme of work? Whether the activity works first time or not, we often take another lap or two around the loop to accommodate the different learning needs of subsequent classes.

Try as we might, sometimes the activity just doesn’t seem to be successful, so here we might draw on the external domain, by perhaps discussing things with a colleague or searching for potential solutions on the Web. You might like to consider how we should adapt the diagram to reflect that.

In the next post, I’ll attempt to use the Interconnected Model to explore a recent initiative in school – RiskIT.

1Clarke, D., Hollingsworth, H., 2002. Elaborating a model of teacher professional growth. Teaching and teacher education 18, 947–967.

Caring about sharing January 11, 2015

Posted by ianinsheffield in Musings, Resources.
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sharing is caring

creative commons licensed (BY-NC) flickr photo by Niklas Wikström: http://flickr.com/photos/niklaswikstrom/5214708665

In a recent discussion with a colleague regarding our learning platform, I was brought up short by a comment they made. One of the affordances of the platform is the capability to share resources and ideas both within our school and between colleagues in sister schools, which strikes me as only a positive thing. Not so perhaps. The colleague observed that whilst sharing and collaboration are fine in principle, the reality is that the performativity demands placed upon individuals, departments/faculties and schools, mean that we are in competition with one another. As individual teachers we compete for recognition or recompense; we strive for things which make us stand out from our colleagues so that we can meet the criteria which allow us to jump through the next threshold hoop. Departments are continually judged against one another by the exam results our students achieve, the approaches we adopt and the opportunities we offer beyond the formal curriculum. League tables and competition for students place schools in competition with one another, rather than encouraging co-operation and collaboration. I was minded of a conversation I had with a colleague a few years ago about an interesting resource they had developed. When I asked how she was going to share that with colleagues, the reply was guardedly unequivocal; whilst we might have a general principle of sharing with one another, she felt she needed to retain sole access to certain interesting resources so that in the eyes of the students, she would be able to stand out from the crowd.

How depressing. When combined with teachers’ hesitancy or reluctance to make their materials open; the possibility of losing rights and control of their materials; concerns over quality judgements of their resources; and possible copyright claims against embedded content that they have downloaded and reused (Davis et al 2010), it’s perhaps a wonder that any ideas or resources are shared at all. But there are indeed teachers out there sharing and sharing generously, as successful repositories1 like TES Teaching Resources, Jorum, MERLOT, and the OER Commons attest. Or indeed by the exchange of ideas and materials that takes place continually through social media platforms like Twitter and Google Plus.

Why then should this be? Perhaps these teachers have found ways to overcome the organisational, cultural, legal and technological barriers (Charlesworth et al, 2007)? Or perhaps they recognise the value of participating in a community of sharing which delivers benefits including:

  • exposure to models of interesting practice;
  • conservation of time and effort by avoiding duplication of resources;
  • scaffolding and mentoring for teachers new to the profession or to a different curriculum area;
  • Inspiration for teachers wishing to redevelop or redesign the curriculum.

(Philip & Cameron, 2008)

For me though, it’s  simple moral issue; one of reciprocity. The Internet and the connections it brings has provided me with a never-ending stream of resources and ideas from which I continually draw. I can trace this right back to a website which provided so many worksheets, teaching ideas and wonderful links to support me in my Physics teaching and my students in their learning. Amazingly it’s still going strong under the name of its author – Andy Darvill’s Science Site, Andy being a Physics teacher and early pioneer of using the Web to provide online resources. It inspired me to do the same for my students (and anyone else who dropped by), though my site is no longer around (other than through the WayBack Machine). I gained so much from Andy and others like him, I felt obliged to attempt to pay back some of that generosity, if not directly, then to the community at large. That’s the way it should work shouldn’t it; the more we gain, the more we contribute? Surely we can do better than 90 9 1?

1Open eLearning Content Repositories

Charlesworth, A.J., Ferguson, N., Schmoller, S., Smith, N., Tice, R., 2007. Sharing eLearning Content – a synthesis and commentary. HEFCE
Davis, H.C., Carr, L., Hey, J.M., Howard, Y., Millard, D., Morris, D., White, S., 2010. Bootstrapping a culture of sharing to facilitate open educational resources. Learning Technologies, IEEE Transactions on 3, 96–109.
Philip, R., Cameron, L., 2008. Sharing and reusing learning designs: Contextualising enablers and barriers, in: World Conference on Educational Multimedia, Hypermedia and Telecommunications. pp. 453–462.

Definitely HandsOn … December 2, 2014

Posted by ianinsheffield in CPD, research.
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hands on

creative commons licensed (BY-NC-SA) flickr photo by Building Unity 1000 Families: http://flickr.com/photos/buildingunity/303497031

This post might go some way towards explaining why (once again!) posts have lost their regularity recently. For the last five weeks I’ve been participating in the 3rd edition of the HandsOnICT MOOC and it’s rather sucked up my time. I’m not a ‘serial MOOC dropout‘ who visits to get a flavour of the content, the practice or the community; if the topic being covered will address a need for me, then I’m in and will do my utmost to see it through. And so it proved with HandsOn – Design Studio for ICT-based Learning Activities (DS4ICTL); I committed to the full five weeks … and full-on it proved!

This was no gentle stroll through a few interesting creative exercises or discursive mental conundrums. No watching a few talking heads, then answering a few auto-marked questions or writing a reflective post or two. DS4ICTL is delivered through a Moodle implementation, (supported by ILDE) consists of five modules of study, each with several activities including peer mentoring, facilitated by a group of experienced online tutors, in seven language streams and using Open Badges to credential the learning. Phew! I was attracted to learning about the design-based approach when creating online/elearning activities. There seemed to be plenty in there that might prove both fresh and useful in supporting me in my role in school. Additionally I’d be working on a project I needed to undertake as part of my work schedule. Good authentic, grounded learning then.

During the first week, the activities sought to familiarise us with the work environments, discussion and reflection areas and introduce us to our peers. Then over subsequent weeks we chose a project, explored the context within which it would be developed and brought some of the principles of design into realising our resource. Many of these principles were new to me and required some degree of persistence to become more comfortable with them. Perhaps that’s what contributed to the time it required each week to work through the activities? I’d decided I was prepared to allow five-ish hours a week, but actually it often transpired to be more. This was a MOOC; there was no compunction for me to do that, but somehow this was different. It mattered. It felt … professional. (And I mean that in several ways)

Given the amount of time it required, one would hope I gained something from the experience and of that, I have no doubt:

  • It extended my learning – I became more familiar with how to use design principles in creating learning activities; about using personas, scenarios and prototyping; heuristic evaluation; andragogy and heutagogy.
  • It extended my personal learning network – despite the large numbers in the MOOC, there were fewer in the English language stream and only a handful who were clearly out to complete in the scheduled time. Since we were often exchanging views and ideas with the same people, it allowed a greater degree of familiarity than we might usually expect in a MOOC.
  • It developed my skills – we worked in several environments for different aspects of the course, thereby gaining a breadth, if not depth, of experience in new workspaces.

I was impressed by how quickly issues were resolved, either by the tutors who were clearly committed to the course, or by peers, who were clearly switched on. As a result, I now have the framework within which to build a resource I’ve been meaning to produce for some while. It’s sufficiently developed (and hopefully robustly designed!) and ready to deploy, so that colleagues will hopefully be enjoying the benefits in the very near future.

In addition to the demanding time commitment, there were other aspects of the course I found tough:

  • Maintaining station within the course timeline. I found that when I slipped slightly behind, despite the notion that participants could work at their own pace, I floundered. This was because I felt out of place; uncomfortable commenting on the posts of those further forward and less in touch with those following behind. Furthermore, committing to supporting and learning from those at the same point in the course with you meant you had less time to devote to those further back on the timeline; those who might in fact benefit from a little extra encouragement.
  • Peer mentoring. Commenting on people’s posts in discussions is fine; I’m used to that, but providing the formal feedback using a scoring rubric was much harder. Applying the rubrics were fine, but trying to offer supportive feedback when criteria hadn’t been met, especially when you’re dealing with fellow professionals who you don’t know, isn’t easy. There’s the temptation to be more lenient than perhaps we might with our students; after all it’s only a MOOC that someone’s taking part in out of interest. It’s hardly a high-stakes environment. On one shoulder I had the hard-nut angel that was my professional integrity and on the other the sweet angel who sees no value in upsetting someone for no reason. Who won? Well you’ll have ask those whose contributions I evaluated. I’d also add here the frustration I’d sometimes feel if an assessment had asked the learner to provide links to ‘a’ and ‘b,’ but the learner only provided ‘b’ with no explanation why ‘a’ was missing. Obviously there’s no compulsion to complete everything or even anything within the MOOC, but when a peer is relying on you being clear in order to fulfil their own obligations … well, like I said, frustrating.
  • Pitching responses appropriately. Linked with feedback I also found it harder than usual knowing how to pitch responses to people’s comments. When someone participates in a course in a language which is not their first, I have nothing but admiration, though that naturally demands more thought when responding to their contributions, so as not to offend. (Good experience and useful practice though, given the increasing number of students we’re welcoming from overseas).
  • Navigating the different environments. It wasn’t that I couldn’t cope with this, so much as finding it frustrating flipping from one back to the other … especially when the navigation didn’t ease those transfers (due to technical reasons arising caused by having to have different language streams). Although I managed, I suspect a MOOC novice, or someone less confident with online learning could find it rather overwhelming or intimidating.

In summary then, DS4ICTL proved to be a valuable experience; perhaps the most useful MOOC I’ve had the pleasure of participating in. It was well designed, well organised and well supported. All credit to the designers and facilitators; it must have been a mammoth undertaking. I’d suggest either reducing the content slightly, or spreading it out over an extra week, just to reduce the weekly demand. If the demographic of potential participants is those who are reasonably well along the digital literacy continuum, then it’s probably pitched well, but it’s a little too complex for novice learners I’d argue. If there was another HandsOn MOOC on a different topic, I wouldn’t hesitate to sign up.

The badges earned through the course can be viewed here. As with all digital badges, they have metadata attached enabling a viewer to establish who the issuer was and under what circumstances. Might have been helpful if the learning outcomes for each award could also be listed and even some of the evidence? Most of the badges also transferred across to my Backpack.

What if the World goes “Meh?” November 3, 2014

Posted by ianinsheffield in Musings.
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creative commons licensed (BY-NC-ND) flickr photo by Singing With Light: http://flickr.com/photos/tattoodjay/4129779298

Was catching up a few podcasts over the weekend and dropped on one from the DS106 series on Radio Edutalk. Until now I’d not picked up any episodes in the series, since I’ve not been involved in DS106. The episode I caught was the Good Spell Episode 16 with Mariana Funes and John Johnston who were discussing the effects of audience, or lack thereof, when you’re producing online artefacts. The hosts were talking about how it sometimes feels to post creations online for review, and then get no feedback. As Mariana put it:

Sometimes you might invest a huge amount of time on something and the World goes “Meh.”

As a blogger this is certainly an issue you have to come to terms with; if a tree falls in the forest and no-one is there to hear it yada yada. Perhaps it’s simply an aspect of our web literacy we need to develop; how to cope with criticism, praise, constructive feedback … or even nothing at all.

It prompted me to think about the work our students produce and what the effects might be on less mature learners if we don’t respond adequately to the effort they’ve invested. It’s clearly got the potential to do far more harm than simply fail to help them make progress with that particular task. Their whole outlook on learning could be affected. I wonder if we take that into account when we’re  worrying about the ‘marking’ load?

After this I’ll certainly be picking up a few more DS106 episodes.