#CFHE12 – Moving towards the Net Pedagogy – Week2

Thinking about what I have read, and heard and my own views and ideas I would say that in HE more than in any other educational institution we should really look into an adequate, effective net pedagogy.

For this blog I decided to combine the three questions that we were asked as Week 2 activity and recount one episode of a conversation I myself had with our University admin. We need an entire transformation of the way we do our net learning – whether it is totally online or blended. A year or so ago, I was contacted by one of our University administrators and I was asked, “Hey we need to get into the world of online learning. What shall we do?” After which I asked, “So what is the primary reason? Why should University should go online?” And the reply was – typical – I would say: “because we do not want to be left behind”.

Which in essence is equivalent to ‘ Since everybody is doing it – then so should we”. And that is the position of admin – which might to some extent be comprehensible. Competition is tough and one should keep up with the challenge. So I am fine with that. What I am not fine with is the next step. Which means that inevitably there is the question – “Ok, can we do this in 3-6months?” To which I gape and say – “what go online i.e. make an online presence as a UNIVERSITY in 3-6 months?” I shrug and go on: “Yeah sure if you have someone with a great deal of experience such as those guys we see from some of the best HE institutions in the Australia, UK, US and Canada – and even then I am sure that you will need a substantial amount of time, effort and resources to produce something which is effective – possibly being successful”.

But how do you convince people that teaching over the net involves an entirely different pedagogical approach than in any other ‘lecture’ setting?

How do you get your institution to get to a different model? Well that is a very difficult concept I would say owing to the complexity of the issue we are discussing. First of all, one has to assume that everyone in the said institution is embracing a pedagogy which is not tantamount to the ‘sage on the stage’.

In my institution, I am conscious that many academics are not even aware of a different pedagogy than that which they have been used to experiences all their lives. So much for the 21st century learner! So when it comes to switching to the net… how do you convince people that slapping a PowerPoint presentation into the MOODLE VLE does not exactly mean online learning? – that does not exactly mean anything at all really – given a presentation with a number of slides, containing chunks of text that one cannot really connect with.

And for this reason it is important I think that we need to show how the good people are using the net – not as a source of information but more in terms of helping people – learners use the net to make connections. Connections between people, between experts, between colleagues, but also connections with the information, connecting data in a context that makes sense. So the tools that need to be used and the applications that can be exploited really depends on the learning outcomes that one sets.

Therefore as a first advice to those wishing to start off on the net I would say, that the institution needs to be broken into smaller segments, whereby a team of learning designers, would be able to work with developers, content experts, multimedia artists to bring together communities for learning and in learning rather than simply offering content in an e-version. As I always keep saying – when we go for e-Learning, we need first and foremost to concentrate on the learning and the learner because if we want success we have to concentrate on the human connections.

My Reflections for Day 3 of PELeCON – #pelc12

Day 3 at the PELeCON was short, yet nonetheless inspiring.

I really liked Miles Berry‘s presentation and his demonstration of how he used blogs and portfolios to increase the interaction between the students following the course. The fact that he customized Drupal, with an interface that encourages writing and reflecting seems to me an important step in the right direction. At my University, we have adopted Moodle but unfortunately I believe that the way it is structured leaves very little room for interaction and collaboration. It is true that lecturers can indeed use its discussion boards, but the last time I tried to use both its supported blog and wiki, they were a mess and far from providing a user-friendly interface, the whole layout was not good. Same can be said for the portfolio block which somehow has never been enabled. Ah well… Miles did a good thing, he very simple set up his own Drupal interface and that might be worth exploring for some of my future courses.
Speaking about my own teaching, I have left the conference, pretty excited to try out some stuff with my own classes. One thing which I have noticed which some keynote speakers have done in practice was the merging of Twitter in their presentations. Alec Couros auto-tweeted from his slides, Steve Bunce used a tool – Socrative – which I thought was quite wonderful to create real time class-based interactions, including question-answer as well as real time voting by the participants. I thought it quite cool actually. Jane Hart used Twitter in her presentations, asking questions to the audience and projecting the responses on the screen inside her presentation; another cool tool.
Twitter visualizations were on for most of the time in Lecture Theatre 1. I think that although this was quite good, it did prove to be a bit of a distraction at times, when the speaker was talking. However I think it would have been great if such a visualization tool was actually on during the final plenary, as it would have been interesting to check out the thoughts, and the discussion points which were going around.
Liz Bennet gave some interesting insights into the emerging technologies as well as the Transformative Learning Theory, which I had never come across and which I find extremely interesting to dig into, a bit more deeply (no pun intended!).

My Pelican at PELeCON 2012

Is this a Pelican?

Leigh Graves Wolf made us play. It was great fun actually and interesting to see how people could create so many interesting pelicans from the bits and pieces of scrap which she gave us. I still though cannot make any head or tail of my own pelican, but it was fun.
She also illustrated an interesting project, which is the one snapshot a day project, where a guy decided to take one snapshot of the creation of a skull, every day for a year and finally see a transformation of his own thoughts and experiences throughout the year. I think this would be a really great project that one can take up with kids, even young primary school children as they delve more deeply into a specific theme.
Beyond that, it was also really interesting that after one follows so many people who are doing such great stuff for learning, one can finally sit back and enjoy their talks face-to-face. Jane Hart was one such example. Jane Hart is very well known for Social Learning in the Workplace, but her Directory of Learning Tools is one of the most visited and used directories in this field. I have to say that it is one of the first links for reference which I provide to my students as soon as I have my first lecture with them. Jane Hart spoke a lot about enterprise learning, and the smart worker, but I believe that much of what she said and described can easily be applied to Higher Education. The importance of creating engagement in learning is opposite to complacency and compliance. Unfortunately what most of our schools seek to achieve is precisely that – conformance to rules; quite sadly I have to add. Governments and other people who hold power, may think twice about the importance of maintaining control through a complacent society – Economy – global economy – very clearly – is indicating that what society needs are people who are creative, who have initiative and who have absolute control over their learning achievements. This came out clearly from, I believe, all the keynotes who were present. It’s a pity that decision makers were not present to hear what these people have to say. But decision-makers so rarely are willing to listen, aren’t they?
Anyway so the conference drew to an end – there was a short plenary discussion during which, and in the course of discussion, I made up my mind, that when I get back, I will buy my soon-to-be three-year old son a camera. I want to see the world through his eyes and be part of his learning experiences. It’s one of the beautiful and fun moments in life worth sharing. A colleague had already sold me on to the idea, but after this conference I am excited to give him this gift for learning. During the prize draw there were a number of cool prizes, amongst which the new iPad, a 3G Kindle and others. I wasn’t one of the luckier ones, but then again, there will be an opportunity next year. I am already booking the dates for next year’s PELeCON – April 10-12, 2013. Thanks to Steve Wheeler and all his team at Plymouth for these three very inspirational days!

E-learning applied to Virtual Museums

An application of e-learning which is becoming more and more popular is the concept of a virtual museum. Museums are places in which we can all learn and also appreciate artifacts of nature or of mankind. However, sometimes museums are considered to be old-fashioned or boring, especially to children and teenagers.

A virtual museum can be visited online, and some also allow a 3D walkthrough. What’s nice about them is that one would be combining the educative nature of museums, with the interactive/fun nature of technology. I believe this might be a way to encourage children and teenagers to learn from museums and exhibitions…

Why do people choose to learn online?

E-learning programs and online courses target students of all kinds and at all levels. Have you ever thought of why students may choose an online course rather than a classroom based course?

In my opinion common reasons why students may opt to take one or more online learning courses are:

Schedule conflicts – The time the course is offered or location it is being delivered may present conflicts with other important activities the person is following.

Availability – Course not offered at a physical educational institution locally. Course may also be full with no places left.

Homebound – Student may be homebound due to illness, problems with mobility, specific disabilities etc.

Cost – Online courses tend to be cheaper than the “normal” physically delivered courses since the provider can cut of various costs such as those related to use of premises.

Speed of delivery – Online courses often allow the student to choose the speed of learning, that is, the student has a say in deciding how long to go through the course and when to finish.

Customisation – The student can choose what to learn, in that he/she may skip parts already familiar and use the time to research on areas found to be more challenging in the course.

Can you think of anything else?