Revisiting some old notes

I am something of a hoarder – I tend to keep things and this includes materials from old courses.  As you would probably expect, I rarely look at these.  However, I recently decided to have a look at some old notes I found in one of my bags (I think I put them there to read on a train but never did).

I think looking back at the notes we make is a very useful experience in reflecting on our personal development, for example, it often shows when/how I was first introduced to a term or acronym and can be viewed in comparison to current practice to reflect on professional development.

Quotes from texts also help remind us of fundamental knowledge and perhaps where we are not doing what we should!

From these particular notes, mainly on instructional design and online learning, some bits jumped out:

  • The role of the professor is “master-guide” (Hype Versus Reality on Campus: Why e-Learning Isn’t Likely to Replace a Professor. Any Time Soon, by Brent G. Wilson and Lee Christopher) – useful in the MOOC debate.
  • Knowledge management is “how groups of people make themselves collectively smarter”, i.e. like training but not for the individual, in this instance knowledge is “a capacity to act” so KM is helping people make better decisions (Knowledge Management: From the Graveyard of Good Ideas, by William Horton)

Above are from the The e-learning handbook : past promises, present challenges / Saul Carliner and Patti Shank, editors.

  • “There are seven good reasons why portfolio-building is helpful:
  1. as a tool for self development;
  2. to asses prior learning;
  3. to gain accreditation;
  4. to share good practice;
  5. to evaluate training;
  6. to enhance performance;
  7. to change a culture.”

The above is from Warren Redman in 1994 (Portfolios for Development: A Guide for Trainers and Managers) but these points remain fundamental.  The arguments for and against ePortfolios must always remember these essential items.

Redman also made the following points which could easily come out of a L&D article of 2013: “increasingly there is a recognition that the key attributes needed by people in a constantly changing work environment are:

  1. flexibility;
  2. self-motivation;
  3. communication skills; and
  4. a willingness and ability to develop new skills”.

In looking back at our professional roots, such as these old notes (I think I made these about five years ago) we recognize the value in not repeating the mistakes of the past and also helps us remember that ‘new’ ideas are often not really new at all.  One advantage of the academic route into a profession is that, via literature reviews and other approaches, you can be familiar with historic projects and theory/practice development.  One fear in a less-university led world would be that historic knowledge is lost to information overload and we fail to build on the practice of the past.

Thoughts on three very different MOOCs

I have recently undertaken a number of ‘MOOCs’ on topics of interest, most recently:

  1. Science, Technology, and Society in China I: Basic Concepts (Coursera)
  2. Internet History, Technology, and Security (Coursera)
  3. Today’s Blended Teacher (Blended Schools) – see some previous posts for work on this (note I skipped the last week)

Now I started all of these very much expecting to just ‘pick’ at certain resources.  This approach is partly based on how I perceive the free/open web – MOOCs, to me, are just another web resource. The key difference is that most are still using some form of hidden web tool such as a Learning Management System (LMS), collaboration and may offer accreditation.

In the instructional approach MOOC courses follow they are offering a structure comparable to section headers in Wikipedia, or the mix of media a newspaper website uses, the structure given to a webinar, etc. etc.  The value of most courses comes from collaboration, with instructor/expert and participants, not their static resources.  Of these three, Blended Schools, running a nice Google+ community and Hangouts, offers more in the collaboration area than the Coursera offerings which both effectively followed the same model:

  1. Lecture video (IHTS supplemented with some excellent creative commons – materials including videos with the experts the course was about)
  2. Knowledge checks within videos (a nice feature of the LMS/VLE platform to keep the flow going)
  3. Some additional reading
  4. Assignments – STSC 3 written papers/IHTS weekly quiz and final test (with optional extra credit written papers).
  5. With forums around all of this (I did not really engage with these nor any of the IHTS meetups which were arranged – the instructor even meeting up in ‘class hours’ around the world with some participants)

This similarity in model is perhaps a result of the two Coursera items being, effectively, stripped down and very introductory undergraduate university offerings.  That said, the assignments were far from what I would expect of an accredited HE course – STSC relied on peer grading (which has led to lots of comments/complaints and even an offer of the instructor remarking papers for people with a particular grievance) and as with most multiple choice quizzes (which do not use remote proctoring or lock down browser) IHTS was open to cheating.  Indeed of the three papers (all c.500 words) on STSC I struggled to see the major benefit in the final paper (possibly due to my misunderstanding of the topic/question I must admit) and thus deliberately did not spend as much time on the answer.  This in itself was an interesting experiment in that the peer grading showed a clear trend that my own perceptions were correct (assignment 1 nearly gained full marks dropping down by assignment 3).  STSC did provide a rubric to help write your answer – now I am normally in favor of this as I think it helps frame the research and keep students on track.  However, I wonder if in a MOOC it is particularly at risk of misuse in allowing for people to ‘avoid class’ but still pass the assignment.  That said, if we take a MOOC as just another web resource (albeit one hidden away on a community or LMS) then rubrics can be a useful guide to the capabilities you should have developed – i.e. the arguments you should be able to form from engaging with the other resources (including people).

Overall I came out of the two Coursera items with some new knowledge I can apply in my work and some fundamental historical basis for knowledge I already held.  However, they’ve done nothing to suggest courses at this scale are more or less effective than ones I have done in the past (such as my online MA) – they are just different.  Indeed, as pointed out by people elsewhere the real problem is likely to be MOOCs led by institutions with limited online instructional design expertise who ignore the work done by so many people over the last few decades.  The problem, no doubt will be picking out the courses which are actually useful to you and not just vanity projects for the instructor, marketing by an institution, making money (via the ‘in app purchase’ route of getting you in then selling you reading, accreditation, etc) or other reason.

Tin Can: missing the optimal audience?

A post pulled together from different thoughts I drafted commuting in the last week

It might just be down to my media sources of choice but it seems Tin Can is continuing to only really make major waves in corporate learning and development.  This is perhaps understandable considering the relative importance of SCORM to different learning industries.  Indeed, at one stage, whilst SCORM was the first thing Learning Management Systems for corporates needed the likes of Blackboard and Moodle struggled to provide robust SCORM players to their customers.  As schools and 16+ education providers created many of their own resources this was not as big an issues as for L&D departments handling elearning packages from 3rd party vendors and importing multitudes of external ‘off-the-shelf’ content.  Things have changed though and combinations of OER, badges and TC potentially could really transform the landscape.

Whilst I can see uses of Tin Can in the corporate environment, it is of course being seen as a way to acknowledge the 90% of the 70/20/10 model, I wonder if the most useful implementation would actually be with younger online learners.  Whilst accreditation is important in the corporate environment and online testing is often dominated in firms by compulsory training around compliance, health and safety, IT skills, etc. the accreditation element of Tin Can could be far more useful for schools.  For example, rather than setting a pupil a worksheet with questions to complete, a school teacher could setup a task where learners must show their learning path by submitting their activities via Tin Can.  This could show what they have read and done to learn the topic.  It is this use of resources which can now be revealed to the teacher and avoid the ‘doing homework to get teacher of my back’ syndrome.  Its all a bit 1984 but tracking your students could open up a whole new way of looking at what ‘schooling’ entails.

Lets take an example.  I remember when at school we would be asked a question about a topic.  The teacher knew we would effectively be limited to the school library’s resources.  We might be adventurous and find a CD-ROM, related TV/radio show or even venture to the public library but that would be about it.  In some cases the teacher would end up with multiple copy jobs either copied from a textbook or encyclopedias.  Today it is of course Google and the risk that any activity will simply be met with a cut and paste job from the web.  Whilst TurnItIn and the like can indicate where this has happened it does not reveal the learning path.  References/bibliography in traditional work was a hint towards this path but could also raise as many questions as answers.  For example, I remember one of my MA essays, which happened to be the only one I ever had marked by the head of the department, had something like “you couldn’t/shouldn’t have read this much – this is a dissertation length bibliography”.  Now what I had done was to have skimmed through a considerable batch of resources, as the question asked for an evaluation of different options (related to search engine mechanics) I went through a number of old resources to try and understand why the evolution happened and how Google (AskJeeves and maybe some others) worked in the way they did.  I even found an article on Ceefax/Teletext which had a huge amount of similarities to the hopes attached to the Internet (learning anywhere, breaking education barriers, etc).  Tin Can then could provide a capturing of what someone does for an assignment and a bibliography becomes either redundant or simply a list of the references actually quoted in the paper.

To me this offers a more manageable and clear use case than corporate learning where ‘informal’ may be something worth capturing and sharing but volume vs relevance will be a difficult balance.  Would my line manager want to know about every YouTube video I watch?  If we are just talking about the good ones why are we not already sharing those experiences via team collaboration sites?  One aspect is automation versus manually logging an activity, simply speaking you need to be enforcing manual (i.e. a student fails the assessment if they do not log a relevant path) or automatic (potentially too much noise).  In either case I would see more use for a teacher in the data than a manager or L&D department.

What will of course surprise some teachers is that, to an extent, this is nothing new.  Many Learning Management Systems (aka VLEs etc) have offered tracking of accessing resources from the system, for example accessing links supplied by the teacher.  Indeed this might be news to some corporates who have been stuck in the SCORM/course model and not appreciated the full range of, albeit bespoke/proprietary, options in the LMS marketplace.  The potential with TC will be to build on this to track multiple sources in an open way.

What we should be looking to use Tin Can for is to harvest the learning paths of individuals, in corporates this might be harvested by knowledge management to highlight the best ways for learning but in schools it offers much more – how are people using resources, what search techniques need improving in the learners, how are they synthesizing (rather than copying and pasting resources), etc etc.  If we map this to models such as the SCONUL information literacy model it offers even further possibilities for assessing ‘core’ skills.  Overall, hugely interesting times and new ways to consider what learning design means in a hyper connected world.

I’ve recently installed the WordPress application on my phone so I might start posting rougher notes again.

Vetiquette – the new Netiquette?

I recently attended the CIPD’s HRD Exhibition and amongst the free seminars was one which covered Vetiquette.  Now the presenter seemed to think that everyone would have heard of this, but I must admit not remembering it if I had.  Indeed a Google search shows that unless you start adding some ‘-vet’ and ‘-pet’s it is not a term with a particularly big footfall.  The basic idea in the talk was that Netiquette was somewhat out-of-date as it came out of early web discussion boards and email; vetiquette relates to the modern web of video conferencing, multimedia collaboration, etc.  I did not think too much about this until this weeks BSN MOOC grouped Netiquette within digital citizenship.  How much citizenship and literacy overlap are probably a matter of opinion but it made me take another look at vetiquette…

Safari books online has Vetiquette as the below:

VEtiquette, is coined to represent the special subset of behaviors required in a virtual team and to explore the difference in context that virtual work creates that makes special attention to such behavior particularly importantVEtiquette, which stands for “virtual etiquette,” is required in work that is typically real time and synchronous. Vetiquette guides team members’ behavior as they collaborate virtually either while speaking or writing using Internet, mobile, or video technologies. It can be summarized as, “Be effective, or don’t be heard.” This extra attention to virtual interaction matters because the effectiveness of the team depends on it.

Thus for the Blended Schools MOOC we perhaps can consider the need for vetiquette in fostering young people’s belief to be effective/heard but not pushy/rude when online.  This is personally interesting for me as my workplace performance reviews in the past have identified a need to be more assertive in getting my ideas across.  This is perhaps my oh-so-polite Britishness coming through in online environments or might simply be that I find the behavior of others too pushy and ‘tone myself down’ as a result.  As we all move towards a globalized world this will be increasingly important and it is difficult to get the balance right across borders.  It can also be easier to pick a level of appropriate virtual behavior with someone if you have met them in person.

When I did draft a netiquette policy for a previous job I included both the traditional ‘net’ and ‘et’ issues, as well as those identified as ‘vetiquette’.  I guess I really saw all of it as ‘netiquette’ within information/digital literacy.  There is a little bit about what I did on this presentation but in general:

  • The policy was drafted by looking at existing netiquette policies from around the web.
  • It was not really enforced, instead it was embedded in training resources for teachers and students.  It was up to individual instructors how they might adopt, adapt and enforce it with their own students.
  • One would hope that as time passes people will be increasingly confident in this area and the need to train people in vetiquette will be something for schools rather than the 16+ education providers.  Thus it is great to see it being considered in the BSN MOOC (see last two blog posts for more on this).

Today’s Blended Teacher: The Blended Schools MOOC – Week 1 – Pie in The Sky

I am currently picking up bits from the BlendedSchools.net MOOC, currently being run via a combination of Google+ and a SoftChalk course.  I have seen BlendedSchools present at events and thought it was an interesting idea for them to offer such a course for free, in addition to their traditional services including offering of professional development.

So far, most of my interest has been in seeing the US-centric conversation’s similarities with the UK including concerns about school systems delivering the highest quality education.  Much of the Google+ discussion in week 1 seems to have centered on the limits of professional development in the US.  However, the main issue, that teachers see personal development as a set number of hours/days a year, would be the same as the UK’s approach via inset days.  This is not to say this is unique to teaching, I once attended a trade union health and safety course to be shocked that most people wanted to drag the day out as an escape from their day jobs.  Even in the banking sector there seems to be a need to encourage staff to realise learning does not end with school/college/university graduation, within the wider L&D agenda.

This week’s MOOC ‘create’ activity offered a number of options the below is my response to:

The Pie in the Sky

This activity is ideal for theorists or for pre-service teachers who do not yet have their own classrooms.

Write a blog post describing an ideal blended classroom in the year 2013.

You may post this blog using any tool you would like. If you want to build your blog using Blended Schools Networks’ BSNshare blogging tool, you can view the tutorials above for instructions.

  • What sort of content is delivered online? What is delivered face-to-face?
  • Which assessments use the Internet? Which assessments do not?
  • What benefits does this environment have for students?
  • What sort of resources are being used in the classroom?

My Pie in the Sky

I have mentioned on blogs and in conference discussions in the past my belief that we need to totally overhaul the predominant model of British K-12 schooling.  In the USA, and elsewhere, we have seen the growth of online K-12 schools.  What I would see as ideal in UK, in 2013, is a ‘hub and spoke’ approach.  The responsibility for learning will be shared between pupils, parents and teachers.  Large amounts of knowledge work will be completed electronically via video, reading and other asynchronous technologies.  Students will then congregate in synchronous learning ‘hubs’ which are both virtual and physical.  Physical hubs could make use of unused shops and other buildings to offer students across the community access to the latest technology, such as 3D printers, whilst most learning is undertaken remotely from home, public libraries and other low-tech study centers.  The ratio of study center to student would partly be determined by the area’s technology, if high speed home internet is easy to establish there would be less need of hubs.

Formative assessment and tracking technologies, such as the Tin Can API, ensure students are ‘attending’ school via appropriate learning outcomes, not bum on seat time.  This also allows for learning time to start later in the day (as recognized by science, teenagers need to sleep later than some other ages groups) and be more flexible for those who have major extra curricula interests such as acting and sport careers.

As with any ideal blended learning solution, the focus would be on valuable synchronous communication to develop student capabilities in communication, timekeeping and problem solving whilst allowing them to learn at their own pace at other times.  Reflection, through blogging, would be a key aspect aspect of this model, ensuring the key attribute of understanding the importance of lifelong learning is achieved.