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Less ‘e’ means more learning
Fig.1. My Personal Learning Environment
For someone who completed the Master of Arts Open and Distance Education over a year ago and has done further MAODE modules here and other MA modules elsewhere it surprises even me to recognise I learn, and probably do, more when I am NOT in front of the computer (iPad, laptop or desktop).
These days I have no choice but to read books and when I do this is how I set about them:
Read and attach PostIts
Write up, selectively, into a notebook the bits that I’ve picked out (there is a further filtering process here)
Then type these notes up into a Google Doc (typically into a table).
I have become meticulous about citing as I go along as to want to use a quote or idea and not know where it came from can take a considerable time to recover.
An eBook isn’t only on the Kindle (now Paperwhite), but also on the iPad and sometimes even on the laptop or desktop. I read in tight columns with few words, fast – like a TV autocue. As I go along I highlight. Sometimes bookmark something important or big. And from time to time add a note. On other screens the highlights can be colour sorted, so I may theme these as highlights for an essay, for their narrative value, or simply their quirkiness (so I can blog about it).
Interaction with the content in any and many ways is key. Having a presentation to give or essay to write is crucial, otherwise you can read a book and highlight/bookmark far too much of the thing.
Invariably I follow up references. I may loop off to read parts of these references immediately, which may be a paragraph in another book, sometimes a book I can find free online, sometimes an eBook for £2 or so … occasionally a hefty tome that gives me pause for thought. I have a student library card so can get down to the University of Sussex in 30 minutes. Here I’ve just read a few chapters from a biography on Plumer as I’m preparing something on aspects of Third Ypres, the Battle of Passchendaele. My self-directed reading list my have expanded to some dozen texts by now: divisional histories, several biographies on Haig, several books on military history with specialist books on the machine gun corps and gas. My notes are always created in Google Docs and in this case the folder shared with a fellow student who has added his own notes too. The learning process is akin to making a sculpture out of papier mache – I keep attaching little pieces and am starting to get a clear idea of the thing.
Is reading still one of the most efficient ways to pass information from one person/source to another? It’s quicker than a lecture. Good for many things. Were I studying Law surely reading is everything, whereas Chemistry or Physics you may benefit from and prefer the video/animation, the lecture with charts.
My Open University Years
Fig.1 Odd that, 12 years and I’ve gained hair, glasses and a tie.
In February 2001 I began an OU module on Open & Distance Learning – last year I graduated with the Masters in Open & Distance Education (MAODE). Since then I’ve taken a couple more MAODE modules to stay up to date. Impossible given that any MAODE module is out of date before it goes live?
The next direction has to be horizontally into the Open University (again), or vertically towards a PhD. Or both? Or neither.
Meanwhile, I sincerely recommend that anyone with any interest in the way education is going to follow the BBC tonight.
BBC Radio 4 8.00pm
Is it an OU co-production? These days these things usually are.
Reflection on a decade of e-learning
Having not taken stock for a while it was refreshing and re-assuring to consider the Open University postgraduate modules that I have taken, though it has taken this long to understand the meaning of a module that is approaching its final ‘presentation’. In some cases a better word for this might be ‘sell by date’ especially with a subject such as ‘e-learning’ as at least three of those listed below were on their final or penultimate presentation and it mattererd – ‘H817:Innovations in e-learning’ wasn’t particularly innovative for someone who had worked in the creation of interactive and online learning. I’m used to and value the amount of background theory, but I still feel that in these ‘H’ modules that form the Master of Arts in Open and Distance Education (MA ODE) is considerably biased towards learning in formal secondary and tertiary education, rather than applied L&D in business which interested me most – indeed I know of two people across these courses who quit early on because they were working in a learning creation position in business and felt the modules were not suitably applied. B822: Creativity, Innovation and Change was the exception as however dated some of the content (video content shot in the mid 1990s that included companies that had long since gone out of business and innovations such as laptops the size of a small trunk with a carrier bag of cables) the activities and theory in relation to innovation were timeless – it was also an MBA module. Any of us who have taken part in or hosted learning in an organisation involving games of some kind would have found B822 familiar – much of it also touched on the kind of creativity used in advertising, marketing, PR, events and communications.
H804: Implementing Online, Open and Distance Learning (2001)
H807: Innovations in Elearning (2010)
H808: The Elearning professional (2010)
H800: Technology enhanced learning: practices and debates (2011)
B822: Creativity, Innovations and Change (2011)
H810: Accessible online learning: supporting disabled students (2012)
H809: Practice-based research in educational technology (2013)
I’m continuing with these modules to demonstrate that the standard I am now able to achieve is sustainable so that working in academia, even studying for a PhD is viable. ‘H819:The Networked Practitioner’ is a new module. Reading through the course notes and first units (it came online today and goes live next week) I can see the care, clarity and thought that has gone into it, as well as the substantial use of a variety of online learning tools for ‘connected’ or ‘networked’ learning … what some might call ‘social learning’ but here has more structure to it that that (parameters, goals, set tools etc:). It is tailored, every step of the way, to the production of a conference piece – there is considerable latitude here, but what is meant that you have a presentation that may be given in a variety of formats featuring a choice of core themes develop through the module but set in your ‘world’ or field of interest or expertise.
A teacher is taught to teach something in class, not simply to teach.
I feel that I have learnt over the last three years how to teach online, but I haven’t developed a subject specialism, prefering to date to behave as if I were in an e-learning agency serving the needs of many, disperate clients. For this module, and potentially for one or two beyond, I hope to develop and demonstrate how the history of the First World War can be taught using e-learning – apt as we approach its centenary. In parallel I will be taking a Masters in British First World War studies with the University of Birmingham. This is also a part-time course, and ostensibly ‘distance learning’ – though in this instance the distance component is handled by my driving to Edgbaston once a month for a day of intensive face to face seminars and tutorials. This in itself will make for a fascinating constrast with the 100% online experience of the Open University.
In the back of my mind, whatever the subject, my interest is in how to address the global problem of there being 123 million people who want to study at university, but only 5 million places. Even if every university modelled itself on the Open University there would still be a massive shortfall – the answer must be in Open Learning that is supported, possibly by a huge cohort of volunteer alumni, as well as qualifying participants as they accumulate credits. Somewhere in here there may be a question for me to address with doctoral research.
It’s disengenious of me to say that I’ve been studying online for a decade.
I did a module in 2001 but did no further online learning in the subsequent decade – though I did qualify as a swimming teacher and coach! The reason for thinking about a decade as a period of time in which to study is that some would say it takes this long to become an expert. This comes from a piece of research carried out at the Berlin Conservatoire in relation to muscians and the years of training and practice they need to put in to get them to the concert hall as a soloist. Actually it wasn’t years so much as tens of thousands of hours required – 40,000 I think it was with kids introdcued to the instrument early and pushed by parents and institutions getting the furthest youngest. Martin Weller, Professor of e-learning, suggests that a decade is still the time scale in which someone might be deemed a ‘digital scholar’. John Seely Brown, who has applied learning and e-learning to business in the US, notably at Xerox’s famous research institute, suggested earlier this year that scholarship or expertise of the kind we are talking about may be achieved in five years because online learning can speed things up. People do take two degrees in tandem if they study online. Is there a fast track to a PhD? My perspective as a parent with teenagers is that they could begin a part-time online degree in their A’ Level year and graduate at the same time as getting their A’ level results or the year after.
Kiss the frog
Fig.1. ELearning Network team exercise
Throughout my career I have relished the company of like-minds that comes from being part of a ‘trade association’. Since I was a teenager I was part of the IVCA – the communications industry and the extensive use of video in training and communications.
Over the last decade, with the digital takeover and the demise of video in favour of faster, personalised delivery mechanism and smart learning online new associations have emerged. Personally, a Master of Arts in Open and Distance Education (MA ODE) has convinced me that video is a blunt, even bland and potentially forgettable and disengaging response to a learning need – well written text can be read at a pace set by the participant.
I joined the ELearning Network doing a bit online and following various stories. Last Friday I joined 30 or so for a day long series of talks. I was impressed. It worked.
Over the course of five hours there were five presenters – the format was engagement rather than lecture.
It gave me the perspective of the industry I wanted as I contemplate taking my interest in an academic approach to the next step – PhD research.
Where is the ‘smart e-learning’ and what can I isolate into a piece of original research that warrants three years of research and a 100,000 thesis?
I gained insights on:
- Composing questions
- The role of games and gamification
- Design for social interaction
- Designing interaction: games, social, tutorial …
In the process our table invented a game called ‘Kiss the Frog’ where participants have to battle against the odds and each other to ‘kiss the frog’ – so that they too can become a frog and live happily ever after and a game to explain genetics in relation to colour-blindness.
It has been refreshing not to blog for a month. It is easier to reflect.
Had it become compulsive? A necessity to post whether I had something to say or note?
Now qualified with a Master of Arts in Open and Distance Education am I inclined to be more circumspect and scholarly?
Is this ‘jazz writing’ as I call it resistance to or an alternative to ‘proper’ writing, whether academic or storytelling.
I miss what I have missed and the need to catch up. I have been busy with a trip to walk in and out of the old line along the Western Front at Ypres. I have read copiously and widely on psychology, neuroscience, e-learning and history. I have seen a movie a day.
On reflection I am better off WITH rather than without the regular habit of capturing thoughts and ideas as they are experienced. I gain from the e-portfolio, the aide memoire, if nothing else.
Stumbling upon the work of Baroness Susan Greenfield, for example, prompted by a radio talk has had me reading her take on neuroscience.
Where do I stand academically? Where and what next? And the madness of being.
Masters in Open and Distance Education (MAODE) with the Open University, UK (OU)
H800: Technology-enhanced learning: practices and debates
H807: Innovations in eLearning – Learning outcomes
H810: Accessible online learning: supporting disabled students
B822: Creativity, Innovation and Change
H808: The e-learning professional
This completes the Masters Degree. I graduate on Saturday 27th April 2013
Currently (March 2013) I am taking H809 as a bridge towards doctoral research or professional consultancy. Complete in June 2013.
H809 Practice-based research in educational technology
I joined the #H817open MOOC for one component of this module. I will register for 2014
H817: Openness and innovation in e-learning.
- Why skiing is my metphor for life and learning (mymindbursts.com)
- Martin Weller and the MOOCers (mymindbursts.com)
- Openness in Education WK1 MOOC (mymindbursts.com)
- Making swim coaching a tad easier with SwimTag (mymindbursts.com)
- How to visualise learning – think Lava Lamps! (mymindbursts.com)
- How more deeply embedded is a visual memory if you crafted the drawing or painting that is the catalyst for its recall. (mymindbursts.com)
- No. 5 aha moment: the Web as a universal standard (downes.ca)
Things I wished I’d known when I started the MAODE three years ago (I’ve finished, I’m doing H809 as CPD – already!)
A thorough introduction to the platform and tools as a common 16 hours to all modules.
An afternoon, face-to-face tutorial? Through OU Students regionally if not with your tutor. Perhaps through Alumni support groups in Google Hang outs or some such?
This may sound like anathema to the online, distance learning purists, but I wonder if the OU will have to ‘turn itself inside out’ and have undergrads on campus – not just postgrad doctoral students. As ‘traditional’ universities offer everything the OU and a handful of other distance learning specialists around the world used to have as ‘unique selling points’ they will be able to offer it all: e-learning support for resident students, e-learning for distance learners and blended learning for everyone in between.
Turn the Michael Young building into the OU’s first Hall of residence.
If I go into academia I will want to teach even if my ‘job’ is research. I can think of no better way, intellectually, to master (literally) my art and subject than by supporting others. Knowing some star ‘educators’ in other institutions I wonder if tutors would gain also from greater contact. The weekly tutorial (at a price) is feasible through Google Hangouts.
H809, understandably is a module to take once you have several modules under your belt, however, H809 light, say these first couple of weeks, might be an invaluable, even open and free ‘stand alone’. I would have scrutinised more closely, fewer papers had I known what I know now.
These first few weeks has been applied learning – using the OU Library not simply as an exercise. Invaluable.
(p.s. cats were fighting in the street. I got up to survey the aftermath and couldn’t get back to sleep. Why not catch up on H809 as a few postings from fellow students suggests I am getting a tad behind this week).
Don’t get behind. The ‘tick boxes’ on the VLE ‘ladder’ are a blunt instrument. Every exercise deserves a ‘tick box’ too, though I understand why the OU wouldn’t do this – it starts to smack of primary school. It really is the case (like exercise), that a a couple of hours every day is better than trying to do it all at the weekend, or worse, abandoning it for a week/10 days because catching up is a monster. If this happens seriously think about abandoning that week – keep up with everyone else first as learning with them is better than learning alone.
Isolation is a state of mind, or a behavioral issue. The sooner you learn to tip the contents of your mind out on your lap the better. Learning together is a joy.
Make time to get your head into gear in the first few weeks. If you have to give it more time than the course notes suggest put in the extra hours so that you ‘get it’ otherwise you will struggle all the way through. You can’t do much about is as an EMA approaches if you’re still asking ‘but ?’ about weeks 1-3.
There is no need to print anything off! Get an iPad and a Kindle. Get your digital literacy skills up to speed ASAP.
Write it all down. The default button in this OU Blog is private. Use it as a learning journal, portfolio, digital notebook, aide memoire.
Take the initiative. Meet online in week one. Buddy up, agree a time. Nothing beats meeting your fellow travellers. Google Hangouts work. The nuttiest one I remember was a ‘Pyjamma party’ – all above board and ‘propper’ but given the time differences some were in bed and woke up for it. I guess it requires the ‘hyper gregarious’ character in the group to do this.
Don’t get distracted:
Most don’t blog at all … it should fit in to the regular programme.
Contribute to student forums always, even use RSS feeds but get used to putting the next activity first otherwise you can expend too much of the week’s allocated hours discussing the first couple of activities. Enough is enough. Get the other activities out of the way then come back.
Design-Based Research:A Decade of Progress in Education Research
I skim through the article Design-Based Research:A Decade of Progress in Education Research? by Anderson and Shattuck, noting in particular the section on iterative design
Bridging the chasm between design and execution
I found this article on design based research not only fascinating, but oddly synchronous with the MAODE (Master of Arts: Open and Distance Education) module I am currently doing – H809 Practice based research in educational technology – as my interest is in how we construct learning programmes for use through our various Internet connected devices.
‘DBR is a methodology designed by and for educators that seeks to increase the impact, transfer, and translation of education research into improved practice’. (Anderson and Shattuck, 2012. p. 16)
We are currently stripping down a couple of papers.
I can see that I will automate this process, do a review of who, what, when, why a paper is written. Then check as a skim read for other signs that make it credible for my interests (or creditable at all).
- Being Situated in a Real Educational Context
- Focusing on the Design and Testing of a Significant Intervention
- Involving multiple iterations
- Involving a Collaborative Partnership Between Researchers and Practitioners
- Evolution of Design principles
In action research, the educator is both researcher and teacher
(Kuhn & Quigley, 1997).
This becomes inevitable. And is played out in just about anything we do if we think either that there is a problem with it or that it can be improved and we want to improve it. On the one hand as player and participant we are in the best position to understand what is going on, on the other we may be so adapted to certain behaviours and to the familiarity of a situation that we cannot see it with either fresh eyes or the eyes of an objective observer. These are techniques and attitudes that can be taught.
Mingfong, Yam San, and Ek Ming (2010) identified four design characteristics that they suggest must be aligned to create effective interventions. These are:
- Frameworks for learning,
- The affordances of the chosen instructional tools,
- Domain knowledge presentation,
- Contextual limitations
(Mingfong et al 1020 p. 470).
Design practice—whether in the manufacture of cars or of fashions—usually evolves through the creation and testing of prototypes, iterative refinement, and continuous evolution of the design, as it is tested in authentic practice. (Anderson and Shattuck, 2012. p. 17)
“Research through mistakes.” (Anderson and Shattuck, 2012. p. 17)
I came across this in the OU MBA module B822 ‘creativity, innovation and change’ – where mistakes are recognised as a test and a way forward, rather than a barrier to change or innovation.
Grayson Perry – is one of several artists and creatives who talk positively of mistakes. It’s how we learn.
Martin Sorrell – on mistakes in business
There are many others – a search ‘mistakes’ in this blog will find more.
Journal of the Learning Sciences, vol. 13, no. 1; Educational Researcher, vol. 32, no. 1; and
Educational Psychologist, vol. 39, no. 4.
Anderson, T, & Shattuck, J 2012, ‘Design-Based Research:A Decade of Progress in Education Research?’, Educational Researcher, 1, p. 16, JSTOR Arts & Sciences IV, EBSCOhost, viewed 8 February 2013.
Mingfong, J., Yam San, C., & Ek Ming, T. (2010). Unpacking the design process in design-based research. In Proceedings pedagogy
Kuhn, G., & Quigley, A. (1997). Understanding and using action research in practice settings. In A. Quigley & G. Kuhne (Eds.), Creating practical knowledge through action research (pp. 23–40). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass. Looi, C.-K., Chen, W. the 9th International Conference of the Learning Sciences (Vol. 2). International Society of the Learning Sciences.