Tuesday 30 April 2013

Embracing the challenge #ocTEL

The challenge is not the course, the course is fine - in fact as far as MOOCs and online courses are concerned, it's great.  It's my engagement and progress that is the challenge because I am ticking all the boxes of a falling behind MOOC participant at the moment:
1. I have no idea where I'm up to with the course - Week 0 and Week 1 were ok - I managed to do some of the activities.
2. While saying that I have no idea, this is not strictly true as I know that I am not up to date, that I am definitely behind. 
3. While knowing that the idea is to pick and choose activities, dip in and out and even to the extent that I have developed my own 'filtering system' to tackle MOOCs - I still feel slightly worried about my progress and not being up to date (years of conditioning presumably)
4. Struck by indecision - do I try to catch up or do I just forget it and start from what seems like this weeks 'only do one thing' activity?
5. Not only have I not done complete activities, I have done part activities i.e. I joined in the webinar  last Wednesday for part of the time, have made some notes for a blog posting and not even finished writing up the blog.
In summary I have done a random number of incomplete activities
(due to too much work and too much socialising)

Luckily I am not entirely disheartened by this and am now going to go to the ocTEL website and do something - I think I will just pick something I like the look of.
There is very good advice by ocTEL to not worry about being behind but to "keep moving (and skipping, if necessary)".  It is essential advice I would say for MOOCs because unless you are able to spend 24/7 participating then you are never going to be on top of everything.

But how do I and the millions of other people participating in MOOCs and online courses learn how to have the sort of mindset that copes effectively with never finishing, with never completing everything and with swirling around in a slightly bizarre world of information sharing?

Thursday 18 April 2013

Week 1 #ocTEL - it's all very well but.....

Week 1 (2nd week) of ocTEL is focused on TEL Concepts and Approaches.
Using my usual filtering system, read the introduction and went to the 'if you only do one thing...' section.  There are five 'stories' about how technology has enhanced learning - the task is to look at two that interest you, decide which is most powerful and relevant to you.
The first one I looked at was
'How Sugata Mitra designed a physical and social environment around computers so that young children would self-organise and teach themselves new skills through peer interaction and ‘emergent learning’ – watch Mitra’s 2010 keynote'

This is what I wrote on my blog at the time from the ALT conference 2010.
The key note speech after lunch by Sugata Mitra was fantastic.  I have heard him speak before at the RSC Northern conference last year and it is really fascinating to see the videos of his 'experiments' with hole in then wall computers in India and other countries.  It is interesting yet disconcerting to see and hear about his work in schools in Gateshead as it is close to home.  It would be brilliant to instill that motivation and interest in all children and particularly in teenagers to strive to learn and for it to be cool to learn........

I can't remember why I was disconcerted at the time so decided to watch it again and see how I felt..
I think the reasons I had and have mixed feelings were because although it was different and extraordinary, it felt like an experiment. That the children will learn is to some extent predictable - they like finding out things, they are used to using computers, there was one each in the classroom in Gateshead. Once they've got the hang of the idea that this is a different context and they have freedom to do anything then they probably will - especially 10 year olds - they're at the ideal age to absorb stuff.
But does this motivation and willingness continue with teenagers? Sometimes, depends what they want to know, depends what they need to know, depends on the environment.
But my main thought is - hey, just a minute, we would all like to teach and indeed learn in a free and exploratory environment where you could learn what you want and spend hours learning about what you love, to find out interesting stuff.  With no rules, with 'cheating', with no time restraints but it's not like that. It's all very well advocating inspirational and disruptive methods but at the end of the day the current education system requires children to learn what is needed to gain the qualifications they need to be successful. So change the system, change the curriculum, take the pressure off teachers so that they can do their best and then let children have freedom to learn.

I meant to do more work on this this evening and spend time looking at the other videos and look at others comments - but no more time. That's the problem - i could spend hours doing online learning stuff but work and life intervene - fortunately :)

Wednesday 10 April 2013

Big ?'s about Technology Enhanced Learning #ocTEL

One of the activities for week 0 of ocTEL, in addition to writing an introduction about yourself,  is what is the most important question about TEL for you?  I'm not sure what my big question is.  Does technology enhance learning? Yes. Does technology enhance life? Yes. With the condition for both that it is used effectively and with consideration and 'for the greater good'. But that's true about everything.  So maybe the question is 'how can I/we use technology to the best effect to enable students/people to learn?'
I decided to have a look at what other people are saying about their big questions.
I looked on the ocTEL website first intending to go to the forums but got distracted by the Twitter Conversations Visualised which is 'a graph of the Twitter interactions using the #ocTEL hashtag' created by Martin Hawksey @mhawksey.  It's brilliant.
I looked through the various forum posts and picked out words and phrases that summarised the subjects that people were asking their questions about.

I then went to the jiscmail list and discovered that Tom Franklin had posted a table which summarised the recent posts of big questions and put them into categories.  Very helpful and another quick win for me.  
So here are a list of words that are the most popular big questions in alphabetical order.
It's interesting and reassuring to see that the most popular, apart from the directly relating to Moocs ones, are about engaging people either students or staff and ensuring that the engagement is effective and has impact.  
My big question is still how can we use technology enhanced learning to engage learners and enhance the student experience and this is a question shared by many other participants of this course and those involved in TEL.

Monday 8 April 2013

One thing.... #ocTEL

The induction week 'if you only do one thing...' is to write an introduction about yourself and your experiences with TEL / technology as a student / teacher / learning technologist and how it affects the way you absorb, reflect, discuss etc. etc.
I have used TEL in a variety of roles while working as an ICT teacher in a secondary school and sixth form college, as an eLearning Manager (VLE and staff ICT training), as a Head of Learning Resources (elearning and library services) in a FE College and currently as a Student Information Points Manager in a University.
I've used VLEs and learning platforms to learn including my MSc which I did online and a variety of other online courses and MOOCs.  Also as a tutor using VLEs, virtual classrooms and web conferencing facilities.
The greatest benefit of TEL is as a means of communicating and sharing.  It enables communication through email, text and social media and opens up the possibilities of working with people collaboratively.  It provides a way of learning that is accessible and inclusive. 

(This is my second attempt at writing an introduction blog post - the first one I wrote spontaneously and re reading it realised it was too 'TEL and Me' - it's still here 

if you want to read it). 

TEL and Me

This post started off as the introductory activity for #ocTEL but ended up being too wordy so it's here instead.

I'm not great at drawing a distinction between TEL, eLearning, ICT, computing, technology etc. so  this post has aspects of them all - and the fact that they are all endlessly fascinating and useful.  When I first start using computers the thing that appealed most was that they could automatically work out codes and do something with a series of letters or numbers - that you could input an instruction and a task would be carried out - wow, how clever is that.  Also that you could create things that look or sound beautiful - again by inputting a series of instructions.

And, if that was not enough, you could find out about practically anything in the whole world and see a picture of it just by typing in a few letters!! Ok, so you've probably got the message by now - technology is a learning experience and learning is a better experience by using technology.
I first started using ICT when I completed my PGCE ICT and then went to teach ICT in a secondary school and sixth form college.  It was really good fun as well as lots of hard work teaching ICT even though it was mainly PC based before mobile and gadgets.  Despite the bad press lately, some of it justified, about the boringness of ICT in schools there is a lot to be learnt and gained from knowing the basics and building on those basics so that everyone has the know how and the problem solving / thinking skills to be successful.  TEL is an enabler - a way of learning that engages students and it's great to help people find out how it can work for them.  ICT / computing should have a broad scope so that it appeals to everyone from making video clips of performances to writing code to control robots - it all has value.  I still have mixed feelings as to whether it should be taught as a discrete subject. 
I then became interested in VLEs and staff training in ICT so moved onto an FE college and worked as an eLearning Manager.  The interesting aspect was seeing how the VLE could be used to provide access to learning from a variety of places and times - the 'anytime anyplace' idea.  But also how learning resources can be a variety of formats, that it didn't have to be text based in the form of a worksheet, that there could be images and sounds, that it could be dynamic and changing.  The VLE developed to include assessment and feedback and a platform for communication through discussion boards and forums and messages and texts and virtual classrooms.  My role developed to be Head of Learning Resources (eLearning and Library Services).  This opened up lots of opportunities for interacting with students and ensuring that they had access to high quality online learning resources.  The major development was the use of mobile technologies - resources that can be accessed in mobile formats and also mobile devices.
The Student Experience is the aspect of learning and student life that interests me the most and I currently work as Student Information Points Manager at a University.  The important thing is how information is communicated effectively - how can students access the relevant information in a timely manner in a suitable format?
Personally, I still think ICT/TEL/technology is fascinating and interesting and will continue to be so as it changes and develops.  Communication and collaboration using mobile devices is convenient and effective.  Learning should take place in formal and informal environments and should be accessible wherever and whenever it is needed or wanted.  
Moocs are a mixture, and reflect the advantages and disadvantages of online learning and the the use of TEL - they are easy to access but difficult to understand, they provide an environment for learning but it's sometimes difficult to work out what that learning is, there are numerous opportunities for communications but who are you communicating with and which is the best way to communicate, you can share but is there so much information it is sometimes too much to absorb or even acknowledge.  But it offers a place and an opportunity to experiment and reflect.

Thursday 4 April 2013

Anyone for cricket? First day of ocTEL #ocTEL

Today is the first day of ocTEL the Open Course in Technology Enhanced Learning which is being organised by the Association for Learning Technology (ALT).  I've been looking forward to it because of my involvement with ALT and also I'm keen to participate in another MOOC.  I've taken part in three MOOCs so far with varying degrees of success and engagement and have learnt a lot.  I've learnt what works for me as far as approaching an online course with masses of information and participants.  The most important thing that I've learnt is to put my filtering strategy in place straight away - there is too much information and I have too little time.  Next start selecting - select activities and people to find out about and to engage with.  It's quite liberating to dip in and drop out and to view success as a constantly changing variable.
As I've been working all day I hadn't intended to look at the course guidance and materials until now but suddenly around lunchtime I started to receive a lot of emails to my gmail account.  The first three were from ocTEL - a newsletter, welcome and week 0.  Ok that's fine, a quick glance then back to work.  I quite liked the reference to cricket 'play gets under way at the civilised hour of 11.00.....Like cricket, it's best if you don't rush.' Then there was a bit of introductory blurb to reassure people.  In the week 0 email were the week's aims and if you only do one thing.... This appeals to me as I'm always looking for the quick win first then the detail or maybe to make that sound better, looking for the essentials then the options.
However then lots of emails started flooding into my email box.  Another quick look - the emails are coming from the OCTEL-PUBLIC jisc mail list.  OK that's fine, I'll just leave them there but I don't remember signing up to a jisc mail list for this course because my jisc mail login is connected to my work email not my gmail.  What are people emailing to the list about? It seems to be the introduction contribution - obviously as I haven't read the activities at this stage I've no idea what the tasks are.  Then come the inevitable emails to the list which are unfortunately going out as emails with the subjects along the lines of unsubscribe me or I don't want these emails.  Luckily a couple of people posted useful advice as to how to unsubscribe or change the settings to receive a digest etc.  
I suspect that most people didn't remember that they must have opted in during the registration process to the jiscmail email list - I don't remember doing this.  But it's easily remedied and worse case scenario, you have a lot of emails.  
But i decided that i didn't want a constant stream of emails coming to me - I want to go and get them when needed.  I first tried through the ocTEL website in the profile section as I thought that might stop the notifications but it didn't work.
But that didn't work so I went to the jiscmail website which i was sort of trying to avoid as I had to set up a new account with my gmail so now I've got two accounts.  It doesn't really matter.  I chose to stay on the list but read the emails on the jiscmail website.
So now just time for a very quick glance through of the background information and guidance for activities.  It's useful that there is a week 0 and it is a long week.  There is lots of useful advice and help but I'm not sure why the introductions etc. weren't on the forum to start with rather than on the jiscmail list as now there are some on both.  
Tomorrow I'll go back and read a selection of other peoples posts.  For me I find it easiest to post a summary every few days on my own blog and link via twitter with a hashtag.