edCamp takeaways

apple part of edCamp logoI went to my first edCamp last month and although I was only able to stay for one session – on Flipped Classrooms – it turns out that everything I learnt during it is useful! Time well spent. One teacher, whose name I didn’t write down and I am so sorry for that, teaches media and technology at an alternative school (for students with special needs) in Portland and has a media background. He had some particularly good suggestions and applications to use with students and for teachers to use when producing their own videos:

  • Use numbers in the video – especially when creating a skills demo so that students can easily communicate when they got lost or stuck
  • www.soundtrap.com seems to be a particularly effective sound editor, a big step up in terms of ease of use from Audacity. Has a 5 project basic free account.
  • Open Broadcast Software is a video editing application. I have just started using this, will report back again when I’ve used it some more. But it is a light touch option, gives a preview, not a big download and looks like it has everything one would need to produce edited video.

Someone else suggested using EDpuzzle to track student’s understanding of what they are viewing in any video assigned to them. I can’t wait to use this application, and don’t worry you can add any school name to sign up if – like me – you are using this as an online tutor or are just researching.

To go with this application, I suggest exploring the badly named MoocNote where students can take notes while watching any video.

I am looking forward to my next edCamp! Thanks go to the wonderful organizers in Portland and everyone who pitched a session this time through.

 

More about video for video feedback

I spent the last couple of days emerging again into the world of edtech having hibernated over the winter. On Tuesday I went to a Meetup in Portland that attracted way more people than the basement room was built for, nevertheless it was a good way to meet people – we were all close!

I met a couple of guys who had driven down from Seattle for the event. They talked me through their video platform startup, circleHD.com. It sounded pretty interesting and I am still testing it. The main positive points from an edtech point of view, was that a teacher could have a free account, could store videos and share videos from their platform and, and this is the important bit, get some analytics from views. They say that are also including an annotation – which I haven’t found yet but will come back and write more when I have.

movenote in action
Capture from movenote review page

Yesterday I attended AcceleratED16 – a conference for education adminstrators (senior leadership team in UK speak) organised by OETC (an organisation that promotes edtech and arranges discounts for its members).

During one of the sessions on the professional development track Jennifer Scypinksi demonstrated using movenote to deliver a weekly newsletter presentation to staff.

I have been looking at it today in order to evaluate its use as a feedback tool to students. And I think it could be very good indeed. I have made one recording so far, though I nearly gave up because I had to fiddle around for hours to get Adobe Flash Player to listen to my microphone (switched from Chrome to Firefox in the end to get it to work). I am generally pleased with the result and I think it has real possibilities. I will need to rerecord this one because I’m not happy with the camera position.

After that I am going to compare movenote to screencastify and will post the results here.

Personal learning environment – my space?

Personal learning environments (PLEs) are simply a collection of applications, websites and technologies that we use for studying. Because I also learn from people, I have included my personal learning network (PLN) incorporated with my PLE. It also changes all the time and this one was created a couple of years ago. I would make Twitter a much bigger part of it today if I were to redraw it and I would include Moodle too.

A representation of my PLE (mixed with my PLN)

My PLE also includes things which I am not representing on this image, because they don’t have icons. For example I am typing on a Chromebook and this little notepad computer has become the place where I study most of the time. I don’t write assessments and I can’t use Mendeley on it, but for reading, making notes and searching it is great and very portable. But the most important thing for me is that I am not at my desk, if I were at my desk I would be worrying about work rather than working on my studies. So I do think that PLEs need to also include a sense of the physical environment as well as the technological one.

When I first did this exercise I looked at a lot of other people’s PLEs and saved their images to Pinterest. Pinterest then became more interesting as a space for keeping diagrams, images of other research topics – as well as a shopping wishlist!

Follow Mandy's board PLE on Pinterest.

So where are PLE headed?

The very nature of PLE are that they are fluid, the applications and technologies will change as our needs change. So at the moment I am using Twitter much more than I have done in the past. Partly this is because it is encouraged by the course I am taking (MA ODE) and many of the students are using the #H800 hashtag to support each other and share experiences. It does make me wonder though whether the use of Twitter is therefore not really part of my PLE at all for this module but has actually been usurped by the module team? However, because I still follow many other people who are constantly introducing me to interesting resources and material, I think I can be relaxed about this.

I have also moved from eBlogger to hosting this blog in my own WordPress environment. As I learn from reflecting and I am using my blog for reflecting it therefore also needs to be included in my PLE. I purposefully chose to keep my blog away from the OU’s hosting service for it (still part of Moodle), because I wanted to use my blog more openly and, in the end, of course am intending to attract an audience. I don’t think that happens via the university’s hosted blog service. I certainly hardly ever read any blogs that are there, but at the same time recognise that for students who don’t want to have to start their own account anywhere else, it is more convenient to satisfy course requirements by taking the simplest route.

Issues

Students should be free to make choices and work together. Whether these choices are free of influence is a different matter and probably one that will become more interesting to look at in the future. At the moment I think we are in a time of settling in. We are getting more used to incorporating different technologies into our learning as students and our teaching as teachers. It is only when those technologies are embedded that we will be able to really see the effect they have had. There is a tension between innovation and experimentation and being able to give students a good learning experience.

I learnt this the hard way when I used a beta version of AppInventor with some students on a GCSE project; unfortunately the hosting of this application was changed halfway through their project and this caused a few problems. I had assumed that something hosted by Google would be more stable – now I know better. Considering the stability of any technology being incorporated into an assessment has to be a priority. Although everything turned out okay in the end, it was unnecessarily stressful at the time. When I was teaching my approach was always to stay ahead of the curve with technologies and I think that my students appreciated that they were getting to try out new things and it often made the tasks they needed to do fresh and exciting. But sometimes, as is the way with all technologies, there were delays and frustrations too.

This shouldn’t, however, ever stop us from assessing new technologies in order to find fresh ways to approach learning and teaching.

Evaluating video/screencasting softwares

Evaluation of Screencasting Software (SCS) including webcam support

Collaaj

I am in the process of writing a paper about Screencasting Software (SCS) and at the same time I am playing about with different software, probably as a procrastination method, but also because I want to see what is on offer.

This was made using the free version of Collaaj which allows a 2 minute recording to be uploaded. This video took up about 12 MB so theoretically one could store around a hundred 2 minute videos (actually less, but lets not quibble).

It would also be good to play around with the kind of mouse used. This would need to be done in windows (or whatever OS) settings. It is possible to download and install custom mouse pointers (see deviantart.com, search for mouse cursors, go to personalise etc etc).

 

Reflecting on our group project

Averting disaster

These screenshots represent the first page of our prototype website viewed on my mobile phone.
The objective was to work in a group to produce a resource enabling people to learn about local history (of some location) using mobiles and social networking.

I think, rather remarkably, we succeeded in doing exactly this and we haven’t even yet fallen out.

Having read ahead through the materials I knew this task was coming up and it wouldn’t be exaggerating to say that I was absolutely dreading it. My earlier experience, during Block 1 of H808, of feeling responsible for sending the group off down completely the wrong track was not yet a distant memory and I was quite determined not to do that again! But I also made the decision not to allow that to stop me from just getting on and doing my best to ensure that we all succeeded.
I was quite happy when I was assigned to the local history project, because it was similar to a project that I had started to work on several years ago and I felt that that work might be useful to this. In the end it really wasn’t helpful except as a talking point and a reference for myself when it came to creating a template for teachers to use to set up their own activity. However it also quickly became apparent that almost everyone else wanted to be doing something else which created a slight air of negativity that needed dissipating. It was interesting that quite a few people saw little to no purpose for their own learning to be doing this project, needing it instead to be something tangible that they would be able to use in their own environments in order for it to have meaning. This is something that we struggled with throughout the project.
I additionally chose this project because it played to my strengths; I understand mobile technology, I understand web development and I understand how to mash everything together using social networking. My personal challenge was to step back and allow others to demonstrate their own strengths, for example with organising the site or getting to grips with appropriate theory and working through the module required design challenge it. My contribution to working through the module requirements was to create a Gantt chart for us and continue to encourage everyone to use it. I think most people did end up using it and venture that when people didn’t was when they became unsure about what they should be doing. I also decided to toughen up a bit and if other people were struggling with aspects of the project to resist imagining it was my responsibility to untangle them. That was also the reason I didn’t want the team leader role even though I took on several aspects of it and shared other aspects particularly with Lawrence.
It was interesting to see people shine though and everyone did at one point or another. Our meetings were generally amiable and only occasionally did anyone (including me) succeed in taking us off track. My weakness in meetings was that I had such a clear idea of how the project was going to pan out, not specifically our vision, but the practical side of it, that I was continuously pushing towards that outcome and sometimes not taking into account or enough heed of a suggestion that might take us too far off that track. But at the same time, there was often an unhappy equilibrium between just getting on and doing things, without asking others for permission, and trying to seek consensus.
Following the process outlined by the module had its issues but overall it provided a means to an end. It was interesting, if sometimes a little frustrating, to see a learning design theory in practice. Once we allowed ourselves the liberty of assigning different tasks to different people (at the point when we split up the theoretical and case study research), the whole project became a lot smoother. Before that there was a constant concern that one or two people might not be getting something done and might be holding up the group.
I would be sad if now I were to read that some people were unhappy with their own contribution or unhappy with anyone else because I sincerely believe that everyone in the group contributed critical aspects to the overall process and the product, because whether or not they achieved their personal goal, as a group, we achieved our collective one.

Exploring rhizomatic learning

Answering some questions

Firstly, my understanding of rhizomatic learning is that it is based on the idea that learning creates itself, it is similar to a tree root structure that has no imposed structure, but where the roots grow where they can and where they will be strongest.

I am not convinced largely because I believe that this is an approach that already exists, this is simply a label to describe something that does not have a central proponent. For example how people build open source software, they have skills that they bring to the project, which may have originally been thought up by an individual or a small group, but they will frequently have to learn more in order to be able to produce something that works.
I would be unlikely to use this approach but it would, maybe obviously, depends on the circumstances. It is an approach that might lend itself more obviously to some things (like creative projects) rather than a specific subject with outcomes.
What happens to “outcomes” and “objectives”? Assessment would have to be very different and having looked, briefly, at Dave Cormier’s class (http://ed366.com/) it seems that this approach may be suited to those who want to experiment with the ideas of learning itself. I don’t know, I was put off by not being able to find a description or structure, I was unable to understand why I would invest any time in this.

One of the issues that might arise from this approach might be our natural need to be right or wrong, to be praised, to feel successful. The success needs to come from the learning itself and that might not be enough.

Background to MOOCs

Thoughts from interview 

in which George Siemens and Dave Cormier are interviewed by Martin Weller, about a range of issues concerning MOOCs.

  • The basis of thinking about MOOCs are not necessarily to criticise the idea of MOOCs from a personal, or first world, perspective, as it seems many do, but instead to take the approach that if Universities around the world really are willing to publish courses open to students from everywhere then just this should be celebrated.
  • One of the major issues is the perception that a business model has to be attached to the MOOC. It seems, to the speakers, that as soon as this happens the MOOC loses its focus and purpose.
  • The technology and presentational methods of MOOCS need to continue to be innovated; it is not enough to throw another MOOC onto Coursera (or anywhere else) and consider the job done. (They all pointed to DS106 as an example of where this didn’t occur).
  • Burn out of staff delivering the course. Interesting idea that as staff energy flags, so does student participation and this can be mapped! They talk about around twenty people being an optimum number for a massive course. My experience certainly is that the Moodle MOOC I attended which had at least 10 people working solidly during the MOOCs window, was more successful than those where there was only one or two visible “leaders”.

Thoughts from Maturing the MOOC

Conflicting perspectives on MOOCs divide education communities

Split between “elite” universities (in the US) who are keen to explore the potential of MOOCs (and are able to do so financially) and smaller universities who don’t have the same kind of resources. 

But perhaps the criticisms that MOOCs are unable (currently) to help students with complex learning needs, though less visible, are more important.

Learning Practitioners disagree about the value of MOOCs

Though MOOCs could be innovative, they also can be seen as packaging over content. The format itself has many issues that are yet to be resolved.

Formal comprehensive analyses of MOOCs mostly concur that they are disruptive and possibly threatening to current HE models 

Dramatic change is imminent :), so say various government think tanks.

Reporting of MOOC learner experiences is positive

Even though many don’t complete the courses on offer this doesn’t mean that they are not positive about their experiences. Nevertheless there is little data to support this.

The MOOC is maturing – and engaging with its business and accreditation issues

Two biggies, sustainability and accreditation are both high on universities priority list for MOOCs and therefore these issues will be solved one way or another.

Could MOOCs be used in “my area”

One of my colleagues is very keen to produce a Computer Science MOOC for young people (K12). I think this would be a great idea. Now just to find someone to pay us to create it, run it, market it, host it……

An OER course

A digital skills course using OER

This is a short 5 week online course aimed at adult learners who want to improve their understanding of the digital skills necessary to engage with an increasingly digital world.
Excellent digital skills framework resource at the OU Library which students could use as self-assessment, but this skills course is aiming at adults who may not be quite at level 1 yet.We were only supposed to use the following OER banks, which meant not being able to use http://www.oercommons.org/ which, when I happened upon it following a link or two, turned out to be the very easiest to search:

The main conclusion I came to however, was that one needed to have a very clear idea of audience and structure before starting out. My choice was an adult online audience and it turned out that one resource was head and tails above all the others for this particular student group — OpenLearn.

A brief review of issues follows:

  • Ariadne: often broken links
  • Jorum : searching not easy, previews don’t work
  • MIT: too advanced for purpose
  • CNX: too difficult to use and many non-English texts without a way to filter these out.
  • Merlot: ratings useful, description of learning material also useful and search good, but out of date links.
  • OpenLearn: despite my criticisms in my earlier blog about this OER, I found this to provide excellent resources and ones that I could pick and chose from easily.
I would always look for existing suitable resources before deciding to create my own so I have no hesitation in using OER. However, ease of searching for and finding the right ones quickly would inevitably mean that I would end up on relying on those OER that were the easiest and quickest to use.
The course is not complete by any means but here is the beginning:
Week number
Topic
Sub-
Topics
Resources
Evaluation
(G=good, M=medium, B=bad)
Week 1
Using a computer or mobile smartphone and getting connected
Hardware
Software – Browsers and apps
Connections

 

Both of these were bad in terms of suitability.
Week 2
Creating and caring for your digital identity
Creating a profile
Creating accounts
Establish your icon
OpenLearn (Online Safety)

 

OpenLearn Identity online

 

G
Week 3
Searching and evaluating
Using search engines
Search terms
Evaluating results
Finding like-minded people

 

G
G
G
Week 4
Organising your digital things, offline and online
Bookmarks
Online/Offline
File storage
Cloud storage

 

G
Week 5
Communicating and collaborating
Forums
Skype
Web 2.0
Collaborative applications
From OpenLearn

 

M