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 2 and 3

I was not planning on tackling the Create activities from the last two weeks (see previous post for more information on the MOOC) but decided that a couple of the activities were worth a think.

A Concerned Parent

In this blog post, you will be playing the role of a teacher faced with an important question from a parent.

Make a blog post in which you respond to this message:

“My daughter has told me that you are using online tests in your class. I am very concerned about this practice. What prevents the students from sitting at home with friends using their books and Google to answer every question? My daughter is not a cheater, and I am concerned that her honesty will become a disadvantage in your class. It is very important to us that she maintain a competitive class ranking, as she is hoping to attend Miskatonic University. Thank you for taking the time to respond to me.

Mrs. Lovecraft”

The concerned parent got me thinking as the use of online tests by secondary (aka high school) students is a concern for me in my academic support volunteering work.  It is clear that this homework can be seen as something the kids try to get through quickly without really thinking.  Thus my response to the parent would be something along the lines of the below

Dear Mrs. Lovecraft
I appreciate your concerns.  Please be assured that online assessments are part of the wider learning process and your daughter will achieve the highest grades by not cheating on these tests, instead using them to help learn the course material.  I also use data on assignment completion to identify where students may need extra assistance.  Therefore, if there are any areas where your child is struggling this will be highlighted for me by her online assessment scores.  Those students who do simply attempt to look-up the answers will find that they can answer some of the basic questions quickly but their scores will drop as we progress into more complex areas.  Again, their data will highlight this apparent failure to progress, many questions are authored in a way that incorporates random presentation of answers and complex thinking skills meaning students need to think about the tests, their online and classroom activities to achieve high final grades.

This is something I regularly tell the kids I volunteer with, homework needs to be not something you do to stop your teacher nagging but something you clearly see as worthwhile.

The “When Will We Ever Use This?” Blog Post

Students often ask us, “When will I ever use this in the real world?” Consider a handful of standards taught in your class.

  • How are these concepts used in the real world?
  • How might you use those applications as inspiration for projects in your classroom?
  • How well do your current practices reflect the real-world applications of the standards you teach?
  • Consider offering a full lesson plan based on these reflections

This issue cropped up this last week when I was asked why we should study the English Civil War.  My response was that it is important to remember England has really had many more than the one given the name and that understanding the different conflicts can show the evolution of the country.  However, the particular point I made was that every civil war holds some similarities, even though the English Civil War looks very different initially to Syria and elsewhere today the same key societal factors are at play – power, money, marriage, religion, arms Continue reading “Today’s Blended Teacher: The Blended Schools MOOC – Week 2 and 3”

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.

The implications Google perhaps does not see with Reader

Google, of course, knows a lot about me, they know what I search for online, via Google Docs they know a lot about my interests, via my old Blogger site they have a record of my personal development for a couple of years, they know my friends and family via Android contacts and much more.

However, the announcement to close Google Reader has got me thinking that it is perhaps a sign of how a multinational, living in the era of ‘Big Data’, can struggle to engage with their users and thus fail them horribly.  This failure is unlikely to impact hugely on Google’s bottom line (as savegooglereader.org has picked up they could get over a lot of the bad PR just by spinning it off into a different company)  but enough failures, over a length of time, and they will start to notice loss of customers and that would, eventually, hit the bottom line.  Google infamously has not supported users in the traditional sense, most services offering a Google Group or other limited form of a manual with the expectation being that by using search someone will have posted an answer to customer queries.  Similarly, updates have been rather ad hoc and forced upon people (although Google Apps for Education and some other services have started to alert users better) and I do not remember ever seeing a traditional survey from Google.

Reader is perhaps the single most important website in my life – it aggregates some personal information (local news sites), entertainment (podcasts via RSS), and formal (journals) and more informal (blogs, etc) professional reading.  There are also a host of notifications setup with Page2RSS.  Sure I use Twitter to keep up with some things and LinkedIn and Facebook but only in the same way that I go directly to the BBC and Guardian.  Virtually everything else is via RSS and Google Reader.  If they needed to make money out of Reader they could have, adverts for additional journals and news sites would have been relatively easy to map out from my folders and the titles of read stories.

Personally I am holding off transferring away from Reader to see how the playing field levels out – not least as it is a clear opportunity for Microsoft to build something with a great W8 app, but also cross browser compatibility, to take on the crown of the champion of RSS.  Indeed the live tile approach and RSS could merge quite nicely (and perhaps already does with some apps?) and Reader already works better in WP8 IE than it did on my old Android phone.

All in all, it is another reason to use Google products less often and as I posted previously they probably do not care but it means:

  • Phone – I bought my Windows8 phone as something of an experiment but in many ways I prefer it over Android.  I doubt I will go back, the UI is great and most things I need to do I can.
  • Calendar – I have continued to use as WP8 very nicely allows you to import Android contacts and access Google and Yahoo services via the phone in unified interfaces – Microsoft playing ball with everyone else more than Google.  Who’d have thought it!
  • Docs – I still use Google Docs (sorry Drive) but things on my phone also go to Skydrive.  Docs is really the only area Google has me locked in.
  • Search – Google still often seems to trump Bing (on my phone) so I do not expect to switch from Google here but I could and I doubt it would make too much difference.
  • Video – YouTube is still the first port of call but SlideShare and others are stepping up.  Kudos to the YT team though for the improvements over subscriptions as I now visit daily to check what is new and use my ‘watch later’ list.
  • RSS – lets wait and see what happens in the next month or so but by cutting off Reader at the very least Google pushes Audio users away to podcasts via iTunes.
  • Google Alerts – I have a few of these setup, perhaps one G product to benefit in that it might gain some use away from Page2RSS and other alerts.

On previous blogs I have posted on my current tech usage – it will be interesting to reflect on what the GR changes mean in a few months time.