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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.

‘Look Who’s Talking’ December 7, 2013

Posted by IaninSheffield in Teaching Idea.
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This academic year an idea I had was introduced into our Enrichment programme. It’s an additional slot in our Y12 curriculum which provides an opportunity to explore an optional area of interest beyond the formal curriculum and extend your skills and expertise. At the core of my project, students produce podcasts centred on interviews with other people; their peers, other members of the school community, visitors to school and hopefully people from the wider world. There are two sides to this, the intention being that the students will develop technical skills in the creation of the podcasts and the blog posts through which they’re published, and soft skills surrounding the art of interviewing. As we near the end of the first term, we’ve explored different areas and created several podcasts under the name the group chose – ‘Look Who’s Talking‘ (perhaps I should be blogging our progress?). During a recent session however, I turned the microphone around and asked them a few questions.

I was interested in how we measure and record progress and achievement and how individuals publish that to the outside world. At age 16, is a bunch of categoric grades on a limited scale a good enough reflection of what we’re worth? Here are the slides which acted as prompts during the discussion, and here’s what the students thought:

It was my hope that we’d cover areas in which technology can provide a lead like Open Badges and e-portfolios, two areas in which I have an interest, but although we didn’t get that far, we did cover:

  • Critiquing the progress tracking sheet I used to record the activities they’d undertaken.
  • Monitoring sheets which provide a snapshot of current performance, but lack depth
  • Annual reports which provide deeper comment, although they have flaws and still fail to provide a full picture and constructive criticism
  • Audiences beyond school like potential employers, wider family circle, admissions tutors.
  • The three elements which make up the information provided: grades (and how the tests that produce them have limitations), effort and progress.
  • We need to be able to provide evidence of our experiences and skills.
  • Other mechanisms for recognising achievement or capability (in music, sport etc), Which also come with their advantages and disadvantages. Credibility, currency, validity and the capability to discriminate.

I guess where I wanted to go was, would Open Badges be seen as a useful way of credentialing their participation in the Enrichment programme. Would they have value for them in this programme or other areas which have no formal mechanism through which participation and achievements are recorded and published. But in trying to set the scene by talking about the systems we currently have, unfortunately I clearly tried to cover too much ground. So to move us forward, rather than me outlining what these systems might offer, perhaps the team could interview someone else and find out for themselves? Hmmmm….

Black tie not required June 4, 2012

Posted by IaninSheffield in Resources, Teaching Idea, Uncategorized.
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black tie

cc licensed ( BY NC ND ) flickr photo by sparkypics: http://flickr.com/photos/sparkypics/166671345/

In a recent assembly I introduced ‘Digital Quests‘ to our Y7s to Y10s; they’ve come a long way since the first conception (via San Francisco even!). The idea of undertaking learning beyond the classroom, away from teacher guidance and support and without the possibility of conventional certification would be quite new for many of our students and as a consequence influenced my ‘pitch.’ Given the aforementioned link with Badging, you’ll not be surprised that featured significantly, however I wanted to attempt to set the context within which learning in this way would be located. Describing the what, where, when and how of Digital Quests was fairly straightforward, but the why …

The findings from my dissertation suggested that our students have a rather skewed view of learning, influenced unsurprisingly heavily by their experiences in school. Although some will take music exams, karate gradings and so forth, school provides the bulk of their formal learning. The students I interviewed during my research displayed no appreciation that in fact the majority of their learning actually takes place through informal or non-formal settings. Since Digital Quests fall in the realm (I’d suggest) of non-formal learning, I wanted to try to illustrate the importance of this learning domain, for them now and into the future as lifelong learners. That’s when I chanced upon a highly informative graphic produced by Jane Hart which illustrated many of the facets of the three learning domains, though largely in the context of learning in the workplace. With Jane’s kind permission, I adapted it with the intent of using it to (hopefully) help our students appreciate a little more about the wider circumstances within which they learn. [And I think I’ll shamelessly claim that as a contribution towards our Learning to Learn agenda ;-)]

three learning domains

cc licensed ( BY NC SD ) flickr photo by ianguest: http://flickr.com/photos/ianinsheffield/7338094308/

My hope was that students might entertain the possibility that there are alternatives to the formal learning which seems to preoccupy them and that actually non-formal opportunities were deserving of greater consideration. The crucial factors are bounded by the purple outline which encompass learner autonomy and choice. In other words one of the ‘whys’ of Digital Quests (and other non-formal possibilities like MOOCs, P2PU, gaming/coding communities etc) was that students could choose the what, where, when and how of their learning … something they rarely have the opportunity to do within the formal system.

A couple of days later, a Y7 student came to ask me about signing up for the Cryptography course on Coursera, so at least some seed clearly fell away from the stony ground.

Close … and maybe a Small Panatela if not a Churchill? March 4, 2012

Posted by IaninSheffield in Inspiration, Musings.
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Back from a much warmer and sunnier (at least than Sheffield in February) San Francisco and the DML Badges Competition and DML Conference 2012. It’s been a real privilege to be able to attend these two events and certainly not something I’d normally have the opportunity to enjoy.

The first day, as I mentioned in the previous post,was spent at CAS prepping for our pitch.

CAS

cc licensed ( BY NC SD ) flickr photo by ianguest: http://flickr.com/photos/ianinsheffield/6805497380/

There were a lot of people there, many teams having half a dozen and more members. Having just a single representative from each half was quite rare, but perhaps allowed us to make faster progress. Along with many serious and intense discussions, it also seemed that folks were having fun and enjoying each other’s company too. Less frivolity on the second day as teams readied for their pitches. We were one the first tranche and our pitch seemed to go OK – just one tricky question from one particular member of the panel of three judges. Didn’t recognise him at the time – one Mark Surman? Well I don’t suppose he knew me either.

A real shame about the pitches was that we didn’t get the chance to see each other’s presentations and enjoy hearing interesting and knowledgeable people talking about their passions. But given the complexity of the whole process and in the interests of fairness, I guess that wasn’t really a possibility.

presentation

cc licensed ( BY NC SD ) flickr photo by ianguest: http://flickr.com/photos/ianinsheffield/6942532521/

But what of the result? Did we win? Well sadly no; not in name anyway. (All the winners are listed here) Given the pedigree of many of the winners (Carnegie Mellon Robotics Academy, Smithsonian National Design Museum, University of Michigan, Disney-Pixar, Intel, Microsoft, Badgeville and many more), there’s no shame in that I feel. Though in a way we still won because the solution offered by Richard with whom we were partnered has in fact been funded:

This partnership will allow Moodle to extend their current work, enabling badges and permit Mahara to add badges to their Gradebook resulting in a deeply representative electronic portfolio.

Given the importance and pervasiveness of Moodle and Mahara, funding the development of this infrastructure was crucial for Badges and in fact two other technical solutions were also funded – one for WordPress and one for the Peer-2-Peer University.  Since our ICT Quests are delivered through Moodle, we’ll still enjoy the benefits from this development.

And what of the DML Conference? Despite only being able to attend on the first day before I had to return home, I was able to enjoy listening to words of great wisdom from John Seeley-Brown, take part in two seminar/panel discussions (“Women and Girls Engaging with Technology” and “Are Badges the Answer? Perspectives on Motivation for Lifelong Learning”) and be inspired and entertained by the Ignite Talk speakers in the evening.

Oh and did I mention it was all in San Francisco?

Questing … in- or non- formal learning about ICT? October 2, 2011

Posted by IaninSheffield in CPD, Inspiration, Musings, Teaching Idea, Tools.
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Things have moved on somewhat since my previous post. Whilst working on a structure which might deliver some of the elements described in that post, I became aware of the Digital Media and Learning “Badges for Lifelong Learning Competition.” This competition:

is designed to encourage individuals and organizations to create digital tools that support, identify, recognize, measure, and account for new skills, competencies, knowledge, and achievements for 21st century learners wherever and whenever learning takes place.

The first two stages involve people/organisations working in separate strands, one the ‘Content and Programs’ focused largely on the pedagogical aspects and the second ‘Design and Tech’ addressing the technical elements of delivering a badge-based credit and achievement system. In the third stage, entrants from the first two strands will be ‘married’ based on their submissions and will then work together towards a final deliverable project proposal.

Assembling an entry for the Stage 1 strand simply meant arranging my planning for our self-study ICT extension activities into a format suitable as a submission.

Some of my hopes are:

  • That some of our students will learn a little more about how ICT can help them in their learning through school and later in life.
  • That students begin to take more responsibility for choosing learning paths.
  • That we are able to develop a system which celebrates their achievements by revealing it to a wider audience.
  • That our system can be further developed by partners with greater experience and skill in the technical aspects of badge creation, management and awarding.
  • That what we produce might be of interest to other organisations, educational or not, who might benefit from those resources.
  • That our library of Quests swells because other individuals/organisations contribute their ideas and inspiration.
  • That some of the Quest participants feel sufficiently enriched to become contributors to the ongoing project.

You can find my submission in the DML Competition or here:

View this document on Scribd

The deadline isn’t until 14th October, so if you have any comments or suggestions, I’d be delighted to hear.