Reflecting mid-week in the fifth and last week of First Steps into Learning and Teaching in Higher Education (FSLT). In four one-hour webinars, two on Monday and two on Tuesday, I have seen and participated in 12 Virtual Conference presentations by participants in week 5 of this open online course. And, for the first time I can remember, I let out rock-and-roll whoops. Not something often said about teaching conferences. In part this was because I can take credit for some of this course design and it didn’t totally break down; in part it was because the platform has just about stood up; in part because the level of digital capability of the participants has for many broken through the novelty barrier. But mostly because these were among the 12 best presentations I have seen and participated in. Well argued, evidenced, structured, illustrated and in scope for time (not over the “wordcount”).
Just read Niall Sclater’s literature review for JISC: Code of practice for learning analytics: A literature review of the ethical and legal issues. The report asks a lot of important questions. And it mentions, albeit in passing in the “Rationale” section, what for me is the key issue: “Greater trust and a better relationship with the people you collect information about.”
But that word “relationship” masks the hard human issue about education and learning that no amount of data will resolve. Ultimately “authentic” relationship is between embodied (or formerly embodied, in the case of dead writers) individual humans. I don’t want to get all Bakhtinian about it, but while analytics may help ask questions, they will not provide the solutions.
A problem we uncover when surveying students (either “failing” students, or students on “failing” courses) is that they do not feel that their teachers know them or care about them. I do not think these students will be impressed if the response is to fix the broken relationship with an algorithm.
At best analytics can help start a conversation. People have to be willing to take the conversation on. That is: people, not institutions. Analytics may help pinpoint areas where hard work needs to be done, but are not likely to make that work any easier.
Management wants “the” answer to achieving particular mandated targets in order to protect or augment resources (or consolidate and preserve “power”). People (learners and teachers) are not trusted to do this “consistently” (as if they ever could!). So it is hoped that algorithms will: a) discover the right answer and then b) enforce a solution in line with targets and outcomes (which shift with the political wind).
We must not let loss of trust be simply collateral damage.
Other important contributions to the discussion
Semi live , late blogging from the Design for Learning Conference, 27 November 2014, The Open University, Milton Keynes.
Dr Tessa Eysink, University of Twente, Keynote “Learner performance in inquiry learning environments”
Work in progress comparing Inquiry learning with expository instruction. The research was focused on the design and use of small Learning Objects in Psychology: 60 of them. The topic “Classical conditioning”, “used world-wide” was chosen for the trial. The underlying issue to be addressed was that learners find it hard to generate hypotheses interpret data, collect data, and so on. Therefore, learning must be supported.
What other processes are there? Tessa outlined four approaches all of which were purported to improve learning. (Some do. Some don’t.) All appeared very cognitivist in their underlying epistemology.
- Inquiry Learning
- Hypermedia Learning
- Observational Learning
- Exploratory Learning
The trial models were all implemented in the same VLE and “Only the instructional method differed.” This, to me is questionable. The implementations all looked the same at arm’s length, though each was described as a separate environment. Learners were described as of high, middle and low ability. This categorisation was presented as unproblematic. The “High ability” learner was the norm. The other two differed in degree to which they resiled from the norm.
“Inquiry Learning” was “Problem-based Learning” “Hypermedia Learning” was expository or didactic, content-led learning: read all about it, where “reading” may be replaced by consume hypermedia. “Observational learning” was, in essence, apprenticeship or knowledge engineering. Learning comes from observing (or watching a video of…) an expert and emulating or decoding the practice. “Exploratory learning” appeared little different from Inquiry learning. PBL without the problem; self-directed hypermedia learning (?).
A few lessons were presented.
- In the trials Inquiry learning was the most effective and efficient. No surprises, there. While I agree with the lesson, nevertheless it was annoying to see the exposition of a foregone conclusion.
- Generating the subject matter by the students (Learner-led curriculum) leads to learning gain. This was interesting, but if supported by evidence, I did not notice it.
- It appeared that the trials were focussed on providing tailored instruction for high ability learners: opens the way to complex, abstract assignments. But questions inclusivity?
- Modelling practice is a helpful adjunct to PBL. But this session modelled expository practice, not inquiry learning.
At the end of the conference, key contributors were asked for three things: a hunch, a wish, and a prediction. My hunch, wish and prediction:
- Hunch: what is needed to design instruction is not so much research (leading to the formulation of a grand narrative) but sensitive observation in the the learning context (petits receipts): in the classroom, action learning, etc
- Wish: educators would learn that everyone is equally remarkable, wonderful and wise to the ways of their world.
- Prediction: Performance monitoring dashboards will not improve learning.
I attended and wrote about four professional development events this week.
- Oxford Brookes University EdD colloquium. Saturday 28 June 2014.
- The ALT MOOC SIG. Blog here.
- an online conference: Giving Feedback to Writers Online. International and Virtual Conference 26th June 2014- 9.30am-2pm BST. Blog here.
- JISC Learning and Teaching Experts Group, 24 June 2014. Storify here.
And I gave a keynote at the Solstice Conference at Edge Hill University on 5 June 2014. Slides are here.
In this post I begin to instrumentalise my synthesis of critical educational development points, which I suggest are underpinned by and support the themes (possibly threshold concepts) that emerged from the events above. There is strong empirical evidence for the benefits of dialogic: epistemic and suggestive feedback. Deliberative reflection arises from and is a skill for distributed collaboration. Peer writing, co-authoring towards shared understanding, is participatory, dialogic, epistemic and may be suggestive. Through interior dialogue and the essentially dialogic nature of literacies we have dialogue with the past: teachers, writers, memories, culture. Curricula, too, are participatory, evaluative, dialogic, social and self-determined. The convener, participants and curriculum are in tension in an environment of ambiguity, concern, community, power and politics. Methodologically, critical ethnographies provide the essential richer picture and learning needs stewardship (“teachers”).
I use a problem-posing, critical-interpretive framework: asking questions that arise. This could be a semi-structured interview guide, an evaluation checklist or a design tool. I am making a card-sort and conversation menu learning activity from this. Such an activity can be used to group people semi randomly and initiate discussion leading to shared, authentic, practice-based examples that can be creatively appropriated into other contexts.
In each section that follows, I state the principle and then pose the questions, mostly in a “How do you …” style; “Have you considered …?”
Learning is active
Learning is active, an aggregation of multiple individual and unique actions and interactions of people with knowledge, tools and contexts. How do you:
- incorporate activity into any learning design?
- decide what activity is useful?
- engage “micro” activity patterns (e.g. 20 minute cycles) with wider (session, course, life-course) activity patterns?
- select appropriate tools?
- use frameworks (approaches, templates, learning plans, etc.) to support activity design and implementation?
Learning is dialogic
Learning is dialogic: individuals share, negotiate, discuss and contend with texts (multimedia), self and others (peers, hierarchies). How do you:
- facilitate conversation and collaboration with and between students (student-tutor and student-student contact) face-to-face or at distance; one-to-one and in groups?
- develop academic discourse (multimedia/multimodal, writing/producing) and give feedback for learning in all modes?
- encourage interior dialogue?
People are different
People are different (diverse identities) in many ways: demographically (age, sex, national origin, etc), as well as culturally and epistemologically (education tradition, world view, doer/reflector, multiple intelligence, multiliteracy, learning preferences, etc). How do you accommodate learner and learning diversity?
- Demographic (legal, language, social, accessible)?
- Epistemological (orientation to knowledge and learning)?
- Identity and community?
- Goal orientation?
Learning is experiential
Learning is experiential, it draws on everyone’s experience. How do you incorporate:
- Work-based learning?
- Life-wide learning?
Learning is reflective
Learning is reflective. Reflection happens in cycles (dialogue with self and others): student life-cycles, action learning cycles, assessment and feedback cycles. How do you:
- Incorporate reflection, individually and in groups (professional, academic, ad hoc)?
- Help students have a voice for their experience and outcomes?
- Acquire peer and colleague contribution and feedback?
- Include practice and theory?
Learning takes place in communities
Learning takes place in communities or groups of people (institutions, disciplines), settings (classrooms, work-places, online, etc) have community development aspects where there are roles (teacher, student, admin), and rules (tacit and explicit). How do you:
- involve prior learners, disciplinary colleagues and trans-disciplinarity in programmes of study?
- Incorporate wider notions of identity and citizenship, and shared (or examined) values?
- Include core texts and narratives of the community of inquiry?
- Develop role-based competencies?
Learning is participatory
Learning is participatory: Everyone is learning. How do you:
- Encourage differential participation: peripheral, core, guest, “lurker”?
- Acknowledge your own and your students’ memory, feelings and opinions?
- Ensure authenticity to learners points of origin, disciplinary knowledge base, and practice as it is in the field?
Learning is outcomes-led
Learning is outcomes-led. There are curricula (No curriculum is a curriculum.) Many curricula are underpinned by wider professional and regulatory frameworks codified in law and customary practice. Outcomes are assessed and evaluated, often by other agencies. There may, of course be many “unintended outcomes”, many of which may well be beneficial, though not necessarily expressed in the curriculum. How do you:
- Refer to benchmarks and standards; codes of practice?
- Assess your learners?
- Engage learners with criteria?
- Develop communities of assessment practice?
There is an active conversation about teaching online, teaching teachers online and teaching about giving feedback online to people who teach online and face to face.
I am attending an online conference: Giving Feedback to Writers Online. International and Virtual Conference 26th June 2014- 9.30am-2pm BST (now!). Content now available here.
Teresa Guache of the Open University of Catalunya is giving the keynote on giving feedback on academic writing online. “Loads of things for thought,” says Marion Waite. Teresa suggests a multi-modal approach using synchronous and asynchronous academic multimedia. Teresa provides excellent empirical evidence for the benefits of dialogic: epistemic and suggestive feedback.
I also attended the Solstice conference, where there was a session on online feedback in all dimensions. They had an excellent feedback instrument (discourse instrument: form) to collect pre-feedback, framing information, in session discourse analysis, and post-session semi-structured discussion. (this is in paper only on ALG02 table).
Clara O’Shea and Tim Fawns from Edinburgh wants us to experience what their students do. Move is into writing guidance we might give one another. Living the experience. Part time students who are doing a programme over 2 to 5 years. Online assessment module: classwide PBworks wiki-based assessment. Self selected groups of five. Group has to produce 5,000 word multi-modal ; co-authoring and critical friending other groups produces a class-wide grade. Is any of this peer marked? Peer writing: co-authoring towards shared understanding is participatory, dialogic, epistemic and may be suggestive. The polls are interesting, but the mode of the instrument is being pushed to its limit.
Ros Stuart-Buttle speaks about church-school leaders online course (3,000 people over ten yeard!). Encourages online collaboration as well as interior dialogue. This is an important dialogue to emphasise in professional reflection. Ros distinguishes between individual private writing (journal shared only with the teacher) and public (blogging) to promote interior dialogue. “The students need to be advised to have a private and a public reflective space…” summarises sue schutz in the chat. It is through the interior dialogue that we have dialogue with the past: writers, memories, culture. Through interior dialogue the essentially dialogic nature of Language can be subject of understanding (Bakhtin, Bhabha). Deliberative reflection must be a part of distributed collaboration. Ros takes a critical ethnographic approach. Has analysed over 500 documents. The prompts she gave at the start of the project were closed and directive. Soon realised that this made for a good forum discussion but not what she wanted from a reflective journal. Moved away from explicit and concrete task to throw the topic back on the learner to interrogate in their own context, with reference to the study materials, wider reading (the literature), peers (colleagues and students), as well as own experience (Brookfield’s lenses again).
John Hillsdon explores more philosophical and existential aspects of writing. Acknowledges his own impostership. Mixes synchronous and asynchronous discussion in online writing retreat. “On the crest of a wave… a threshold moment.” Existence and presence are linked. Brings in Habermas. Ideally humans can achieve communication and this is emancipatory (improvement). Uses Activity Theory as instrumentalisation of social constructivism as a means of developing emancipatory learning. Are emancipation and improvement equivalent? For distributed cognition see Gavriel Salomon.
Salomon, Gavriel, ed. 1993. Distributed Cognitions: Psychological and Educational Considerations. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Had to return to my own online feedback task!
What you test. You get what you inspect not what you expect. That said, tonight I tested my webcam and the podium computer in Brookes Boardroom 1 where we are hosting Tea Lab tomorrow. I was fully expecting it not to work on at least three fronts: the composite USB webcam/microphone, the room audio output to speakers, and the Java version. But, today it worked! So what can I do but hope that the same fates attend tomorrow. Now just to think about how to let it happen.
We (OK, I) made a bold (OK, foolish) assertion that T-Lab meetings would be live broadcast for those who wanted to participate remotely.
This could be achieved with various solutions:
- a Wimba Classroom in a Moodle site as long as the kit in Boardroom 1 can handle it. AND as long as people could get into the Moodle without too much hassle.
- Is there a web cam in BR1 or can one be installed easily?
- Can Wimba work outside Moodle?
- a Google Hangout live streamed to YouTube (which I have seen work once and fail spectacularly once)
- But can we do this with our Google Apps for Education?
- a Bb Collaborate session on Sylvia Currie’s SCOPE community
- LiveStream through my LiveStream account (flakey with the personal free version)
Ideally I would like the G+ Hangout solution. But can we do this in our G Apps for Education set-up?
On FSLT13 Badges were awarded for completion of each of the four activities. Participants who wanted to collect the FSLT13 badgesl needed to register and enrol on the Moodle – AND needed to sign up for a Mozilla Backpack. Badges do not carry any academic credit but are a fun way to signal engagement with the course. Badges were be awarded using the WP Badger plug-in for WordPress, which implements the Mozilla open badges framework, Mozilla Backpack and Persona.
Why badges? We are doing this course to explore some of the developments on the cutting edge of contemporary learning and teaching practice. Badges for lifelong learning are on this rapidly approaching horizon: see Mozilla Open Badges Blog, HASTAC What’s on your badge list, and James Michie’s excellent and balanced presentation on badges on his Open Online Course #crit101.
Well things didn’t look promising at 1600. Cloudworks database error, and YouTube livestream not streaming. The QT feed from the OU worked. But the uni-directional presentation with no back channel or discussion forum (well there is Twitter!) made it a bit well… lacking?
Twitter was sort of engaged but mostly with the tech problems for the first 40 min or so, not the ideas. But after about 40 min the tech comments died away as many left the room. Then there were some interesting questions and a few conversational turns.
Design as an issue was something Jane Seal, I and others addressed a few years back (in Seal et al 2007). Through the fog of technology there were some interesting points made.
It always seems to me that LD and instructional design and some key players in this MOOC do believe that the teachers role is to control learning. That is the technology is used intentionally to intermediate the relationship between teacher and learner rather than to disintermediate that relationship. I accept that disintermediation is impossible. But design can be used to make explicit or to obscure. LD can appear to reduce teaching to a form of engineering (no disrespect to engineers). Engineering can be a good model for teaching, but it is not the only one (uniparadigmatic).
Just read Andy Saul’s excellent post on blogging the iPad project.
Using blogs for peer mentoring is a very good idea. It is the way the “blogosphere” works. Bloggers carry on conversations on their blogs. I am slightly less certain about the need to make the readership a closed group. Maybe I am just being conservative, but I have established blogging patterns and platforms and do not really want yet another.
If the readership is open, then through the mechanisms of trackbacks, pingbacks, categories, tags and blog rolls we can have the conversation using the native language of the Web and not be confined to a single platform.
I guess if the blogs are being used for commenting on academic work there is some case for privacy. But for private one-to-ones doesn’t e-mail do the trick?