#dlrn – indie edtech – punk

 

There’s a bit of a jam going on, interpreting the riffs created by Jim Groom and Adam Croom (is the poetry why these guys got together in the first place? I’d like to think that.) at #dlrn. Doug Belshaw, Greg McVerry and several followers of #dlrn15 and #indieedtech joining in.

It’s Sunday here, raining steadily outside so instead of that hike I’d promised myself I have been inspired by Adam to watch the BBC’s Music for Misfits: the Story of Indie in three parts. It’s been helpful, partly because I was able to get to grips with my niggling discomfort with Adam’s USA centric presentation of Indie music; it turns out the UK and USA stories are very different. Jim and punk, well that’s another story – punk was all about DIY – fashion, art, even enterprise which eventually killed it. So these guys were conflating edupunk and indieedtech and all I kept coming back to was the phrase “long tail of edtech” and even Minds On Fire (Seeley Brown and Adler 2008). No mistake, I loved the #dlrn15 presentation and was carried away by their brilliant and fun analogies, but I was wondering where all the other genres, the little guys, fit in, you know, like _____ (insert own preferred genre) jazz?

So one of the things that the BBC programme made clear about the 80s indie scene in the UK was that it was funded, for distribution purposes, by the huge companies – EMI – Heavenly, Sony – Creation. The Indie scene changed and is still changing, but we still need people to find the quality. Is this is a bit like VC or HE funding the thinkers and dreamers Mike Caulfield mentioned during the final #dlrn session? I had forgotten that entrepreneurial part of the tale, instead remembering the earlier 70s indie story as being one of self-publishing and distribution (Zoo Records), which did resonate more closely with Jim and Adam’s narrative.

I was reminding myself about edupunk and it became clearer why Mike Caulfield stated that edtech was stuck in 2008; possibly the statement that kicked me in the gut harder than any other during #dlrn. Jim first coined edupunk in 2008, the Minds on Fire article was published in 2008, MOOCs erupted 2008, but does that really mean that there have been no new edtech ideas, or is it something else, what else is Mike thinking of? I resisted Mike’s statement which has kept echoing around my brain; selfishly personal because I don’t want to feel that now, when I finally have some time and space to think, write, connect about edtech rather than adopt, teach and fight for it, there isn’t anything new to think about. Really? No, I just don’t and will not accept that. It’s why I keep listening out for new voices in music – I don’t care about the big genres, any genre will do, just let me hear something that moves me or gets me moving. Like 3 For Silver (genre = anti-Americana), playing at the harvest festival in Camas a couple of weeks ago. First I saw the bass… DIY’d out of a galvanised wash tub and then I heard the guy sing, this band were so brilliant even my metal head partner (Metallica fan) was dancing rather than head-banging. But each to their own, you might hate the sound, who knows.

Perhaps the big idea side of edtech has slowed down (too much money embedded in the body not enough in the long tail), but perhaps it just means we now have to play the music; we have to use the ideas and technologies to educate, to reach the promise that many of us embraced edtech for in the first place. To fund the long tail with our time and energy. To turn our thinking onto the pedagogy, on using the tech, improving the tech, in order to spread education, openly beyond the cultural silos of the English-speaking nations, so abundantly represented at #dlrn.

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.

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.

Just one open education technology

One technology that I believe is increasingly useful in open education is Google hangouts.
Hangouts provide free video conferencing though it only allows 10 video participants, each of whom is required to install the chat plugin from Google; the chat/text hangout allows 100 participants. The video hangout, however, can be streamed to YouTube and chat enabled there too which can therefore enlarge the scope for greater numbers.
It is possible to share documents and screens, so it can be a good environment for working on collaborative projects at a distance as well as hosting discussions, viewing demos etc. Google ran their own education conference season and it provides an interesting example of what might be possible in the future: https://sites.google.com/site/eduonair/home.

It is important for open education because it is free and yet, with minimum technical requirements, can enable anyone to create a learning experience.

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……

Exploring OER issues

Activity 7: Exploring OER issues

From OER InfoKit  YouTube channel

The JISC report on OER discusses several issues in OER:

  • embedding sustainable practice
  • funding and resourcing
  • time involved in repurposing materials
  • widening engagement
  • licensing and locating license holders for permission
  • multiple OER models
  • institutional policies, practices and coherent strategies
  • technical infrastructures
  • staff skills, understanding and raising individuals’ digital literacies
  • “quality, institutional branding and marketisation” (p9), quality and trust of the materials
  • lack of awareness of OER and their benefits

But perhaps more importantly identifies that progress has been made in significant areas:

“Increased awareness, knowledge and expertise around issues to do with technical, quality, accessibility, and legal aspects have led to the development of systems, policies and procedures to support ongoing OER activities.” (Jisc, 2013, p11)

I have been exploring the OER Research Hub’s impact map and based on the results (though there are not many participants yet) explored the issue of widening participation more deeply. The impact map for Access is representing evidence gathered about the hypothesis that OER will widen participation in education. Without any evidence presented from K12 and most of the evidence originating from the USA, it would appear that there is more evidence to support the idea that access is not widened nevertheless there is a slight skew towards more broad access in higher education and at colleges but less in informal. In the HEFCE survey 55% of people who work with OERs found increased access for learners to be of most significance. As Emma Blake (2014) points out there is also a dearth of evidence from other regions than the first world. However, the Open Educational Resources Survey from Unesco (2012) shows promising responses from developing regions and also shows that OER activity is spread across the different educational sectors.

This same Unesco report also highlights the need for policies and funding to help support the establishment of OER. And here the impact map demonstrates clearly that once an OER policy is adopted then this bring financial benefits to institutions and student, particularly the open textbook movement. Where countries report that they do not have a policy, this is not necessarily the end of the story because many are in the process of creating one.

The third issue I want to address is that concerned with digital literacies, it seems from the review that although digital skills are improving amongst staff, when combined with the need for students to cooperate in the production of OER things get a little trickier. So perhaps although students are engaged with OER they are not necessarily getting the best out of them.

It seems as though sometimes we forget that in the fast paced technological era there are some things that always do take time. The impact map is a little disappointing in terms of the results that it displays, but this is due to the voluntary nature of how evidence is included but also that it depends on individuals proposing the evidence. This could certainly skew the perception of the information that it delivers. It is my experience in K12 that making a change and assessing its impact takes many years, for example, were I to propose a digital reading list to year 7’s the interesting result (their English GCSE results) would take five years to come through.

Identifying priorities for research

Identifying priorities for research

Advising a fundraising organisation on priorities for research in open education, choosing three from the following list:
  • Sustainability – many OER projects have received initial funding from organisations such as the Hewlett Foundation. How sustainable are they after the funding stops?
  • Pedagogy – are different ways of teaching required to make effective use of open education?
  • Barriers to uptake – what prevents individuals or institutions from either using or engaging with open education?
  • Learner support – how can learners best be supported in these open models?
  • Technology – what technologies are best suited to open approaches?
  • Quality – how can we assure the quality of open educational content?
  • Rights – how do we protect the intellectual property of individuals while encouraging wide distribution?
Instinctively I would recommend focussing on the following for research priorities, I would also suggest that a target type of student would also help to clarify some of these issues:
Learner support, primarily because although many people start open education courses, particularly MOOCs, far fewer finish. The make-up of the student body, i.e. people in the field of education and already well-educated, is also indicative that these initiatives are not reaching their intended audience. 
New Republic 
Pedagogy, it is only logical that in order to enable a system of open education, the method of teaching will have to change significantly. Is it enough to simply provide materials, some resources, a few computer quizzes and the occasional forum? Plainly not. But if not then what?
Barriers to uptake, this would go well with my first choice, partly because these are two sides of the same coin. 
Clow, D., (2013). MOOCs and the funnel of participation. Third Conference on Learning Analytics and Knowledge (LAK 2013) [online]. Available at http://oro.open.ac.uk/36657/1/DougClow-LAK13-revised-submitted.pdf (Accessed 21 March 2014)

Jordan, K., (nd) MOOC Completion Rates: The Data [online]. Available at   http://www.katyjordan.com/MOOCproject.html (Accessed 21 March 2014)

Open Education – first scribbles

My experience with open education.

Open Education and the Future – TEDxNYED from David Wiley

This presentation isn’t really my experience of open education, though a couple of the things Wiley said struck a chord. “If you don’t want to share, why teach?” That was a good one, and another “Successful educators share most thoroughly with the most students“.

But I put this here just to get me started…. I, like one of my fellow MAODE students also first came across the concept of open as in open source software when I was studying at the Open University. I also was able to take advantage of the OU’s definition of open education, as in open entry, by completing my own Bachelors degree there, something I would have been unlikely to be able to do at any other university because of my dreadful A Level grades. Now as a tutor at the OU that open entry is something we continuously struggle with on level one courses. Students start out unprepared for university level study and yet when that one student succeeds, surpasses their own expectations and is able to progress with confidence onto higher levels it makes up for those who really can’t.

As a teacher I always used other teacher’s resources and also helped to establish a Moodle based website where whole courses could be freely exchanged, shared and updated. But this falls squarely into Open Education Resources (OERs) rather than open education. I see the OU as being the pioneer to allowing anyone access to education, provided they could find a way to pay for it, but that the definition of open education has changed more towards the idea of open as in free. But only free access to the resources, perhaps to a course structure, and if organised well, then also access to other students. A stumbling block is the notion of how a student feels successful, is it through assessment, certification, badgification?

I was very interested in the one laptop per child project and this felt to me like a project that had the potential to really change access to digital resources for the people who needed it the most. It was disappointing to discover that small use of this project wouldn’t work, my school wanted to buy a set, and server etc, for our link school in South Africa but couldn’t. The purchase was restricted to numbers over 12000 and this meant that it was governments who had to buy in. That ended up not feeling very open.

Wiley talks about people giving of their time in open education. I am trying hard not to see the irony of a professor on a six figure salary (just guessing) talking of teachers giving their time.

Over the last couple of years I have taken part in a few MOOCs and completed one. I also use resources shared under the creative commons licence in my studying and in my teaching.

And a Prezzi presentation to go with these musings:

Trying to choose and evaluate a specific technology – as a group!

The learning outcome for this week 4 of H817 was to be able to evaluate a learning innovation. It is now Thursday evening and I have learnt a lot but nothing to do with the intended outcome. However,I do want to get something out of this frustrating experience and the thing that occurs to me is that I would like to break down the activity and try to understand why this went so terribly wrong.
First of all, my own contribution was made too early, was completely wrong and I’m afraid it sent the whole group off into different directions, each equally confusing. I tried to step back through the error and get us back on track but that didn’t work out. And this was the first lesson learnt about collaborative work and is associated to using a forum without editing capability:

Students need to be able to correct their own mistakes

The forum is organised as FIFO (first in first out), by default, this means that anyone starting to read will read from the top down. If they get at all distracted by, for example a link along the way, it is likely they won’t make it to the bottom, even if that is where the correction is. But also that correction might not be placed next to the message that contains the erroneous information.
To be fair, this is particularly a Moodle issue; the majority of other forum systems I have used have allowed the poster to correct and amend their own messages at any time. Moodle is set up on a university wide basis, so even if this module (or any other encouraging student collaboration) wanted something different, it is likely to be quite tricky to change.
But on a broader question, is a forum therefore a useful environment for collaborative work? I have found forums useful as a tutor in order to collaborate with other tutors, but this is because a problem or issue is worked on in one thread only. And this leads to the second lesson:

Breakdown the activity

Various of us tried to break this multi-step activity down; I did, but skipped a step and going backwards didn’t work. Others tried but instead of taking the original activity and starting from the top these attempts were also repeating the whole activity.
What might have worked would have been to break down the steps into different threads from the outset, perhaps drip-feeding them one by one as they became populated with material. The threads could have been something like:
  1. Context & Goal: As a group, you need to decide on the context and the goal you want the technology to support.
  2. Shortlist: suggest items for the management team’s technology shortlist.
  3. Choose a technology: Each (see following lesson for discussion about terminology used in describing an activity) member of the group should choose a technology from the shortlist from point (2) and post the reasons for their choice (to the tutor group forum) here.
    1. At the end of the thread, nominate a group member to collate the suggestions from point (3) in doodle.com.
  4. Reviews: Review all the suggested technologies and why they are being suggested.
  5. Voting: (post the link to the Doodle vote here) Then each member of the group should vote for their preferred technology in doodle.com.
One of the barriers to progression seemed to me to be the way that we also had to wait for contributions from students we didn’t know whether they were lurking, on holiday, just reading everything, too busy, working, lost, looking after family….. and so to the third lesson:

Avoid wording that slows down the process

In point 3 the module team used the word “each”. This assumes that every member of every tutor group is going to a) be active b) take part in a timely manner. It set up the activity for failure from the outset and when I realised what it was requiring I simply dropped out of the discussion. But I also felt that we were being asked to do things in an unnatural order which leads me to the fourth lesson:

Collaborative work needs careful design

If this activity had been designed in a way where one thing flowed naturally on to the next, we might have found it easier to manage and been successful:
  1. Context & Goal: As a group, you need to decide on the context and the goal you want the technology to support.
  2. Shortlist: suggest items for the management team’s technology shortlist.
    1. Include a review
    2. Include a reason for your suggestion linked to the context and goal from point 1.
  1. Voting: 
    1. Nominate a group member to collate the suggestions from point (2) in doodle.com.
    2. (post the link to the Doodle vote here) Then each member of the group should vote for their preferred technology in doodle.com.

As I said, I have stopped working on this activity altogether, apart from the fact that the final selection the group has actually managed to make is one that I have already looked at in detail so feel no need to continue with it, I also have simply run out of time this week. The idea of collaborating on the 2nd part of the week’s activities, to produce a report, fills me with horror and so I will cut my losses and move on.

I feel as though I am letting my fellow students down, that I am letting my tutor down but I don’t feel that I am letting myself down.