Thoughts about video as a learning technology

I am considering the use of video in the context of tutoring a STEM subject on a higher education graduate course. There are several ways students encounter video: as part of their module materials, as an activity where they are required to produce one themselves, as recordings of long tutorials they were unable to attend or for review and, finally, tutor created videos.

It is likely that students will be fairly media literate  nevertheless the quality of video module materials would be critical to the way they perceived the course. The Open University (OU) once had a reputation for promoting lecture-type videos by men with beards and jumpers and this may have taken quite a few years to escape from, but the university probably now has. All module material videos now include transcripts for accessibility but these transcripts also serve another purpose – enabling students to scan the content. Harvard’s eDx is using a more sophisticated video embedding technology which includes a separate transcript but also includes a rolling transcript next to the video pane. This functions to allow the student to read and listen, review and scan ahead. At the OU the videos are sometimes external resources but more often they are produced in house and in contrast to its reputation no longer attempt to replicate the lecture hall. Were they still to feature the traditional OU tutor character they would be unlikely to impress these media savvy students.

Still from film
Still from Educating Rita 

We tutors often berate students for failing to attend online tutorials. And it is true that, in my experience, if students are not assessed on attendance most will not attend. However at this time there is no easy access to data that would provide us with viewership figures. Our online tutorials normally last around an hour. We need to know how our students access and watch the recordings of them. I suspect that they may use the inbuilt facilities in the OU Live recordings to find parts of the tutorials they will be able to use for helping with assessment rather than seeing this as a deep learning experience. The OU live environment also constrains the tutor. But this may not be a bad thing.

Many tutors are now producing, sometimes shorter, quick fire video messages using YouTube for dissemination. Some of these have a distinctly professional feel  but the majority will be more simple offerings.

It is a very good question, with interesting implications, whether or not these amateur productions enhance the overall OU offering. I have been producing quite a few of these, usually aiming to be less than 5 minutes long. I use a tag “open university ” when I publish and this makes me question whether there needs to be a more formal approach. At the same time short to the point video messages which could, for example, include feedback to groups and even individual feedback perhaps using another online video grab from Collaj, would certainly help to create more presence between tutor and student.

If tutors were able to use these video technologies to help students reflect more deeply on feedback I believe those of us working online would find that this also improved our communications with students. However, I believe that there continues to be a danger that the face to face lecture is replicated via video. I Don’t believe that this continues to be the most appropriate use of the technology because student attention is too early diverted elsewhere.

 

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).

 

Assessment design for learner responsibility by David Nicol

Ten Principles of Good Assessment and Feedback Practice Good assessment and feedback practices should:
  1. Help clarify what good performance is (goals, criteria, standards). To what extent do students in your course have opportunities to engage actively with goals, criteria and standards, before, during and after an assessment task?
  2. Encourage ‘time and effort’ on challenging learning tasks. To what extent do your assessment tasks encourage regular study in and out of class and deep rather than surface learning?
  3. Deliver high quality feedback information that helps learners self-correct. What kind of teacher feedback do you provide – in what ways does it help students self-assess and self-correct?
  4. Encourage positive motivational beliefs and self-esteem. To what extent do your assessments and feedback pro cesses activate your students’ motivation to learn and be successful?
  5. Encourage interaction and dialogue around learning (peer and teacher- student. What opportunities are there for feedback dialogue (peer and/or tutor-student) around assessment tasks in your course?
  6.  Facilitate the development of self-assessment and reflection in learning. To what extent are there formal opportunities for reflection, self-assessment or peer assessment in your course?
  7. Give learners choice in assessment – content and processes To what extent do students have choice in the topic s, methods, criteria, weighting and/or timing of learning and assessment tasks in your course?
  8.  Involve students in decision-making about assessment policy and practice. To what extent are your students in your course kept informed or engaged in consultations regarding assessment decisions?
  9. Support the development of learning communities To what extent do your assessments and feedback pro cesses help support the development of learning communities?
  10.  Help teachers adapt teaching to student needs To what extent do your assessment and feedback processes help inform and shape your teaching? 

Nicol, D. (2007). Principles of good assessment and feedback: Theory and practice. From the
REAP International Online Conference on Assessment Design for Learner Responsibility, 29th-31st May, 2007 . Available at http://ewds.strath.ac.uk/REAP07

Exploring authentic assessment

Authentic Assessment

Redefining objectives: A government school in Faridabad. From Livemint.
From http://compromisocalidad.cl/

I find myself having a rather immature emotional reaction to this subject. It stems from experiencing years of inauthentic assessment at a grammar school during the 70s when the only thing that mattered was memory. This also is pretty much the only thing I don’t have, as I have intelligence in bucket loads! (I’m not saying this to blow my own trumpet, only in order to try to throw light on how frustrating, and damaging, experiencing false assessment can be.)

So from a deeply personal perspective I am hyper-aware that assessment of knowledge is a very different thing than assessment of memory. When I finally discovered the joy of learning, it came hand in hand with being assessed for work I was doing, whether that was simply writing an essay (in the peace of my own room) or producing a film in a group of like-passioned people.
Therefore I am tempted to define authentic assessment as judgement of students’ knowledge and learning through means other than memory.
However, it is clear from reading Whitelock and Cross (2012) and Mueller (1993) that this requires a far more thoughtful and positive response! The former demonstrate that the argument over its definition has raged for many years but the latter produces quite a simple definition:

“A form of assessment in which students are asked to perform real-world tasks that demonstrate meaningful application of essential knowledge and skills.” 
Having taught KS3 & KS4 the problems of authentic assessment are very obvious; sheer numbers of students requiring frequent reporting of progress; the simplest and quickest way to get information is to set a summative computer marked test. Nevertheless changes in use of materials in exams are certainly a move in the right direction, for example in English language and literature, students are supplied with texts to analyse and are not required to quote by rote. This differs hugely from my experience in the 70s having to memorise poems, novels and Shakespeare plays. Unfortunately our current government seems intent on returning to this type of testing and eradicating coursework.

Whitelock, D. and Cross, S. (2012) ‘Authentic assessment: what does it mean and how is it instantiated by a group of distance learning academics?’, International Journal of e-Assessment, vol. 2, no. 1 [Online]. Available at http://journals.sfu.ca/ ijea/ index.php/ journal/ article/ view/ 31 (accessed 30 June 2014).

Mueller, J., (1993). What is Authentic Assessment? (Authentic Assessment Toolbox). [Online] Available at: http://jfmueller.faculty.noctrl.edu/toolbox/whatisit.htm (Accessed 30 Jun. 2014)

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.

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.

Comparing MOOCs

A cMOOC v. an xMOOC

(cMOOCs and xMOOCs are defined here by Stephen Downes)

This is DS106 v. an iversity course also called digital storytelling.

This blog was supposed to be comparing one of the original xMOOC platforms with DS106, but instead I decided to compare an equivalent platform offering a similar subject. I was more interested in the treatment of the subject and pedagogy being the main focus of the comparison rather than the technology, but nevertheless….

the technology, just to get this out of the way:

DS106 is built using a WordPress (WP) content management system (CMS). Highly modular with lots of addons available, WP allows anyone with a modicum of web development experience to build as complicated a network of websites as they want. And DS106 has become a pretty deep website, with many offshoots and choices for visitors (including a link for teachers who want to use the resources as an OER source for their own courses).

iversity is a MOOC platform built specifically for this purpose and generally mirrors others like Udacity, FutureLearn and Coursera. The major difference is that this one was built in, and operates from, Germany, though it still uses English as its language.

Another major difference is that iversity offers academic credit in the form of European credit transfer (ECTS) where as DS106 does not, in the traditional sense of the word.

iversity courses appear to be led by Professors, only, though there are seven people in the storyMOOC team and twelve visiting guest lecturers. This even differs from many of the other xMOOCs. But now at least we are getting closer to looking at the teaching.

DS106 is designed as a way to enable students to learn about digital storytelling by reading/watching/listening to background material and then telling stories digitally. They set their own assignments, they choose their own methods and there doesn’t appear to be anyone in charge, in fact one of the original pathways is even called “headless DS106”. The only thing that we know for certain is that the idea originated at the University of Mary Washington and was created by Jim Groom, after that it appears to have taken on a life of its own. An ongoing environment that continues to grow within a structure without dates and times “The Open DS106“. This course has become the standard bearer for a connectivist approach to teaching online. This is because it relies on the connections between and experience of the people undertaking the course itself in order to progress the students.

Both courses have a curriculum: DS106 has 12 Units (open ended), iversity has 8 chapters (based on weeks of study).

ds106

iversity

1: Bootcamp storytelling basics
2: Getting Through Bootcamp / Personal Cyber Infrastructure – serial formats (on the TV, web and beyond)
3: What Mean Ye Digital Storytelling? – storytelling in role-playing games
4: Listening to Audio – interactive storytelling in video games
5: Telling Stories in Photos – transmedia storytelling
6: It’s All By Design – alternate-reality gaming
7: Advanced Audio And Radio Show Production – augmented reality and location-based storytelling
8: Telling Stories Within the Web – the role of tools, interfaces and information architectures in current storytelling.
9: Reading Movies
10: Making Movies
11: ximeR and M@$#up
12: Final Projech

The major superficial difference between these two curricula are that one appears to be more embedded in an academic framework, in particular it is using academic language to convey what might arguably, be pretty similar material. But there is little doubt that ds106 is all about doing, producing, experimenting and learning that way. iversity requires listening and watching the experts telling the students about the subject. iversity also broadcasts via Facebook and also had a twitter feed which attracted 323 followers. DS106 seems to have completely avoided Facebook but has several hashtag feeds, each focussing on a different aspect of the module (making a numerical comparison a little more difficult). Perhaps this is because it is not person centric so therefore there is no one leader to follow. @dsradio has over 500 followers, @ds106 a couple of hundred and @ds106dc nearly 700.

The general approach and philosophy of ds106 seems to really have a life of its own, it is revelling in creativity and that creativity is exemplified by its own approach to teaching, assessment (peer) and openness. There is little doubt that iversity’s storyMOOC is also celebrating creativity, but its approach is steeped in its own appraisal of that creativity, this contrasts strongly with the overwhelming sense of joy that participants in ds106 appear to be experiencing. This surely is what learning should be about?