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The importance of digital literacy in learning online

Fig. 1. Mozilla Webmaker Digital Literacy Map

Learning online for a degree means that over a number of modules, sooner rather than later, you are likely to master a number of these digital literacy skills; the more the better.

Navigation, search and credibility and vital for any student. Can you find your way around the web and your university’s virtual library, the student forum and Virtual Learning Environment (VLE)? Can you search elsewhere for credible results – remembering to tag and cite these?

Learning online you may never need to code, but other ‘building’ skills are important; the basics of this blogging platform for a start, remixing and re-blogging and accessibility issues.

Connecting might be the most important skill and habit to acquire: sharing, collaboration and community participation are what make the Open University learning experience so special. ‘Connectivity’ is considered by academics such as George Siemens to be the learning theory of the 21st century; that by taking part, connecting and commenting you and others benefit from the insights gained, mistakes corrected, problems solved, issues understood, theories tested …

While ‘openness’ is a state of mind that takes a bit of getting used to; some make feel it is ‘exposure’ or compromising their privacy. Others simply prefer to get on with a task alone, and therefore with less disturbance. You can see that I am an exponent of openness and connectivity.

OLDS MOOC NARRATIVES

OLDS MOOC 1

OLDS MOOC 1 (Photo credit: penbentley)

 

Summary

 

I am use to problem solving techniques having used them in corporate communications and training for some 25 years. The contrast between higher education and learning and development always fascinates me – they are so different. Simply put the L&D drive is usually to deliver more for less and to measure and justify the spend. It has to work and shown to work, saving money and improving results on previous approaches, so typically reducing and eliminating the cost of travel, overnights and being away from work. There will be a budget, schedule and brief. There will be a team of participants, a key player at the client end with their colleagues, support and their own line manager/director. The agency team will in all likelihood involve six or more people: project manager, learning design, subject matter expert, writer, designer, programme and an assortment of graphics designers, visualizers and testers. This seems to be in sharp contrast where those in education have no budget, no time and little support and in the old model of the lone teacher and their class have to come up with everything on their own, plan and create in their own time and often have systems and kit foistered on them.

 

At the beginning of the week I looked at the time allocated to the OLDS MOOC by the OLDS MOOC team and quickly learnt to DOUBLE the time that would be required. And in the two most busy weeks I had working on Personas and Design I spent 12-16 hours on the reading, the activities themselves and maintaining contact with a fledgling group. This kind of commitment became unsustainable as I needed increasingly to commit this time to other projects.

 

I wonder if young people should start work part time at 14 as they did 100 years ago, and do so with a close, online support. They will increasingly benefit from sophisticated learning systems and catalogues and be able to apply what they learn.

 

Context

 

What were the conditions and constraints in which your design experiment was situated?

 

Online, for me this mean STANDING at the dining room table. This is my office. After some Horizon programme on health I now stand all day. Works for me, in fact I find I am more alert and have had no back or no strain since … though the ball of my left foot doesn’t like it and I’ve worn through the slippers my daughter bought me for my birthday. This is context for me. The dog watches me all day expecting to me taken for a work. The ‘footfall’ is such morning and later afternoon that I am disturbed by family members at meal time. Come to think of it, I prepare these meals so that’s another period of disruption to me day. 4 x 3 hours across the day is how I try to operate. That is before breakfast, after breakfast, after lunch and after dinner.

 

I don’t recommend it. In the past I have walked up the road or driven a few miles to an office. In future I would hope at least to have an office ‘down the garden’.

 

This context has the potential to be highly disrupted as the ebb and flow of family life runs through the house – teenage children at, or not at school and my wife who also works from home even more stressed when she has no work than when she does. When she has work lucky her enters her study and is only ever seen at meal times … and perhaps if either she wakes me late at night, or I wake her early in the morning.

 

This is the context. I could relate this to years in various production and agency offices working on linear then, as we quaintly called it ‘non-linear’ interactive training. More recently experience of the 9 to 5 has been blissful as a team of 8 on a project in an office of 50 or so hunker down collectively to the task in hand. In this context an e-learning project, like producing TV and video (and film) where I have experience, runs almost like clockwork. I say almost because occasionally there is an overnighter or weekend panic.  I have a dream context it would be the new Google-plex, especially with the opportunity to camp out on the roof if you’ve got a deadline and would prefer to hang out around the office.

 

Material

 

What are the spatial characteristics of the settings? What tools and resources are available to protagonists?

 

See above. Kit is one desktop, two laptops and an iPad.

 

A scanner and digital camera.

 

Art materials. A print on the wall is taken down in the morning and replaced with a white board. I resist the guitar, TV and piano.

 

Though there is a game of chess in permanent suspended animation between my son and I. The greater distractions are the ability and desire to read niche books and download papers before I add a fullstop to the end of a sentence

 

This is my office. I don’t know what others tools and constraints others have.

 

Cloudscape is the VLE, it the blog, is our social network and ought to be our singular means of communication. We are all used to and happy with other platforms. To be this comfortable online we have learnt to make our favourite tools sing. I feel as if I have spent over a decade learning the flute, guitar and piano to play in an orchestra and have been told to drop these to play an accordion in a brass band.

 

Social

 

Who are the protagonists, what are the relationships between them, and what are the social and institutional configurations in which they operate?

 

I am used to working online. In 1999 I was in touch with a writers group through my blog that ran ‘til 2004. Our office was a cloud somewhere above the North Atlantic that shifted as other members moved in turn to Japan, then South America, Scotland … then back to North America. Even in an office I work online, typically using a wiki like collaborative e-learning design/build platform. This is genius. Each project may have between 5 minimum and 8 people on it – more where assistance is required or the deadline gets close – which are also points where around the office people start to gather to meet and those working from home come in. I’ve done this too as a postgrad student – I forget which MAODE module but six of eight gelled on a two work collaborative project between New Zealand, Thailand, Germany and the UK. In the OLD MOOC one, then two then occasionally, perhaps three of us worked on the same project. It was touch and go and after five weeks it fizzled because the ‘team leader’ as it were who had been instrumental in galvinising a couple of us to join in felt they could no longer do it. Perhaps she’d got the answers she needed. I do rather think that a couple of meetings and a solution was in place … find the right person to ask how? and you take their response on faith and you are done without having to plan the construction of the Empire State Building. Designing a one hour e-learning intro to multimedia is vastly different to designing a 60 credit MBA module on creative problem solving. I don’t even think they compare if we were to use the metaphor of architecture (Christopher Alexander, 1970). One was a few bricks to make an outdoor BBQ, while the other is a self-build six bedroom house. (with indoor swimming pool).

 

I have written screenplays and TV … no more credits than a short on Channel 4. I hear ‘protagonist’ and I need the antagonist and an entire family of other characters. Narrative is driven by conflict. This is where the metaphor or structure is weak – there should be no conflict where there is collaboration.

 

If there were to be an ‘antagonist’ then it would be Cloudworks. It has a character of its own which I’m afraid I would described as doomed – rather like the Titanic. There was conflict in this narrative and it was always with the platform. Importantly the other characters, the players were the extraordinary array of character actors, the big name e-learning academics who have been schedule in for a star turn each week. They are players in this performance … as they led each week, and happily shared thoughts with us directly. Indeed, contact with the glitterati of e-learning who for an MAODE student have been largely noticeable by their absence during the last three years – figure heads while moderator/facilitator tutors with very varied interest guide the students through … but I’m wandering onto a different stage.

 

As players, these e-learning top guns, perhaps with a vested and professional and academic interest in how the MOOC plays out have been exception – all educators who, escaping the restrictions of distance and online learning, would surely enjoy and gain from ‘teaching’ by giving lectures from time to time, but more importantly sitting down with students in tutorials too. I think the loop into cyberspace with e-learning is coming home and that the desire by students and tutors alike will be to have more face to face, online and in person. I cannot help but KNOW that had those of us in our MOOC group who could have said, let’s all meet in person in such and such a place that that meeting would have bound us as a team to the end of the MOOC. This is why meetings still happen.

 

The constraints are (negative drivers):

 

  • Working online
  • Working with strangers
  • Working without pay
  • Working without the likelihood of the project being realised
  • The unlikeliness of meeting face-to-face
  • Cloudworks – Why send us to Mars when there are familiar landscapes where we could work?
  • Time (each participant runs to a different schedule and agenda).

 

Positive drivers:

 

  • When meet someone with a common goal
  • Leadership from a project that others wish to follow
  • Using a variety of tools with which we are familiar to communicate
  • The comprehensive nature of the OLDS MOOC
  • The liveliness and commitment of the OLDS MOOC team
  • Time (it is my own, but other commitments jostle for attention)

 

Intentional

 

What are the protagonists beliefs, desires and intentions, which shape the problem space?

 

This ‘space’ does exist where there is a fixed landscape, even one that is online via a blog, a common social group or website. This ‘problem space’ where the protagonists meet has to have a sense of space and place. In Cloudworks, and this is my second effort to work in it, the reflection of real-life hubs and nodes simply do no exist. I still find it impossible to log directly into my own cloud, let alone find those of the groups I took an interest in or get back to the base camp. In our group we rapidly debunked to email and Google docs. I’ve done this on other platforms too – in a student group where Elluminate had failed twice, or the tutor was clueless at how to operate that construction from the mind of Professor Brainstorm, we debunked successful and repeatedly to Google Hangouts – the ultimate bond being a ‘pyjamma party’ which reminded me that none of us wanted to do any of ‘this’ unless it was fun. .

 

Force Map

 

 

This may pre-empted the MOOC by a week but expresses three things in relation to team work

 

  1. top down hierarchical
  2. democratic
  3. everyone pitches in

 

For me this might illustrate working on a programme of work or curriculum for a school ten years ago, working on a creative project in the last five years where everyone has direct contact with each other and finally, online collaboration where not only can you be inside each other’s heads and beds (see Google Hangout above), but there can be, for good or bad, other interlopers and powers getting involved.

 

This could also be drawn up in a series of Activity Theory plans … not just from first to third generation, but in the final episode in which an activity system, like icicles in spring, melts.

 

Challenge

 

In advertising and corporate communications we might create a campaign to launch a new beer in a country, launch a new range of cars, or run a Government health awareness campaign over three years and it is reduce to A SINGLE PAGE OF A4.

 

The most important question is:

 

  • What is the problem?

 

If there isn’t a problem there can be no answer, no advert, no campaign. The same applies to academic research – the proper research question has to be to address a problem. If there isn’t a problem then the enterprise is already a shopping trolley with a missing wheel. This applies to EVERY training video, every interactive DVD, or web-based learning project I have been involved with. It there isn’t a problem to fix then the learning is unnecessary. If you cannot express it as a problem, then stop.

 

The advertising brief continues:

 

  • Who are you speaking to?
  • What do you want to say?
  • How do you want them to respond to this message?
  • Is there anything else we need to know.

 

And all of this must be researched and worked on until it can be kept to a SINGLE SHEET OF A4. i.e. a sentence or two in response to each of these questions.

 

I apply this to running a 12 week series of classes in Primary School, a day long workshop on revision techniques, a 9 month squad swimming programme, an hour long e-learning module, an 8 minute short film, a poster campaign for the local sailing club, teaching 3,000+ swimming teachers how to fix breaststroke …

 

Theoretical / Pedagogical Framework

 

See above.

 

Actions

 

I proposed a ‘design’ that has worked dozens of times before – a weekend workshop with no need to do anything online. Indeed, having been made to think it through that was the conclusion.

 

I keep an OLDS Mooc journal.

 

Obstacles

 

Two, maybe three … or was it four complete strangers, all busy full time elsewhere, most of us new to this game, trying to commit to something were increasingly we felt lost. From beginning to end I had no idea whether there were 10 people, maybe 25 people or just 3 doing the MOOC. If there were a 1000 then I never had any sense of this, not a stream of tweets and messages, not long lists of names. None of it. In sharp contrast the last two MOOCs I have taken an interest in I felt as if from day one there were 10,000 people sharing the same Ferry energizing in and out by transporter

 

Results

 

To work online is to complement meeting face-to-face. Projects I join or initiate in the real world might begin online, become a conversation and relationship but then develop and embed by meeting. If it is a speculative, even an unpaid project (I’ve done a number of these), then people get the measure of each other and are far, far more likely to commit to the end.

 

  • Roles are established
  • Motives are understood
  • Diaries are compared
  • Problems identified and resolved

 

This can be done online but needs at least a Skype or Google hangout level of interaction. There is a reason and value to seeing a person’s face. There is a reason why the face is so expressive – it is a vital form of comprehension, communication and connection.

 

A three person team became two, then none.

 

Despite expressing interest in four other projects NOT ONE of these people came back in any shape or form to express an interest in my contributing to their effort. I pitched in some ideas, was ignored … so in turn ignored them.

 

Reflections

 

I keep a learning journal. No longer a person diary, but a record of everything I do that relates to work and personal development – which for me is learning, with a significant nod to learning online and e-learning / e-coaching.

 

These posts happen to be in my Open University Student blog as the OLDS MOOC complements the postgraduate courses I have done over the last three years to complete the Masters in Open & Distance Education.

 

I was able to being the OLDS MOOC with a clear diary – this became busier after week 5 and as the only group that I had joined that showed traction faded away it became less easier to justify staying onboard. I do however follow the activity, read through the weekly activities and dip into some knowing that in my own time, or should the course be repeated, that I will re-join in order to do the subsequent weeks.

 

As a ‘narrative’ I would prefer to write three or four short stories. There is a narrative to specific busy weeks, particularly my/our love hate relationship with Cloudworks,  ‘Personas’ where I was able to consolidate knowledge of the extensive use and development of Personas at the Open University Business School, extending my interest in design based research, bringing my knowledge and understanding and practical application of Activity Theory into focus, using Activity Cards, which was the highlight of the my time on the OLDS MOOC, bringing a pack of cards into the real world, to shuffle, pick through and then lay out on the kitchen table and share – this would be an invaluable activity to use with colleagues in  workshop. And formulation of my own conception of Learning Activities, which I reduced to THREE, from Grainne Conole’s Seven and named them ‘The Good, the Bad and the Ugly’.  Working in corporate Learning & Development e-learning modules run for 45 minutes to an hour, they don’t require the kind of thinking that is required and justified by a 30 or 60 point module in tertiary education where the OLDS MOOC is squarely aimed..

 

 

 

Supporting educators to rethink their learning design practice with the 7 Cs of Learning Design

‘Teachers want support and guidance to help them rethink their design practice, to think beyond content to and activities to make pedagogically informed design decisions that make good use of technologies’.  

I’ve just been listening over the OLDs MOOC hangout for Week 3 and particularly enjoyed the Q&A with

Professor Gráinne Conole

The sentence above stood out from the 60 minutes, as well as how this was put into context for the MOOC in Week 3 and coming up in Week 8.

Personally I wish we’d had something like this to begin the week. I got in early, did a couple of activities then followed the noise from the active design group I’ve joined. Give others a turn. Let things roll over. This works. Leave gaps and sometimes others will come along and think, OK, he’s done that so I can see how it works, or might work for me. I won’t bother with that tool, I’ll try something else and see what people make of it.

I cherry picked and as this hangout suggests and recommends, I’ll go back and pick out more as required.

I enjoyed downloading, colouring in, cutting out then using the Activity Cards. This is more my thing than the EXCEL spreadsheet – which I planned on a sheet of paper then transferred over. I might use an APP to generate such a thing. I find EXCEL somewhat heavy handed, or I’d want to design it in a way that I like.

We learnt about the background to 7Cs. The background and context was invaluable. Credibility ought not be taken for granted. Work like this needs to be put on a pedestal and people told of its credentials and worth – i.e sell it to me!

7Cs is an OU with OU Learning Design Initiative with JISC through the Curriculum Design Programme. Activity Profile and Course Map. Trialed thoroughly.

Gráinne Conole continued this work with the JISC funded CARPE Dium learning design workshops at Leicester whiuch provides a ‘ rich storyboard of learning design’.

More on this from:

Gabi Witthaus
Ming Nei

More at http://www.olds.ac.uk/
And http://e4innovation.com/

Overarching conceptual framework

A lot Cs here:

Conceptualise – vision for the course, who is it for, what is the nature of the learners and personas
Course features – the essence of it.
Creative activity – capture, communicate and consider
Conceptual
Combine – into course map and activity profile
Consolidate – running it as face to face, or VLE, or more specialised learning design tool, or ….

From Gráinne‘s blog:

7 cs of learning design from Gráinne Conole

7Cs element
Learning Design tool
Conceptualise
Course features
Design Narratives
Personas
Analysing context: factors and concerns
Capture
Resource audit
Repository search strategy
Create
Course map
Activity profile
Task swimlane
Storyboard
Communicate
E-moderating framework
Mapping forums, blogs and wikis
Communicative affordances
Collaborate
Collaborative affordances
CSCL Pedagogical Patterns
Consider
Assessment Pedagogical Patterns
Learning outcomes map

With current thinking on 7Cs

Various systems offered and can be tried.

Listening to OLDs MOOCers it appears that the 7Cs framework has been received well

  • It articulates what teachers already do.
  • There are 7 aspects in a whole design process.
  • What level are you teaching, what level of support do they need etc:
  • Teachers (all of us I would say, educators, learning designers, L&D managers) are bewildered by the range of tools, the range of approaches so fall back on their own content. So use the tools to think about the activities, the core essence of hte course.

Gráinne introduced the work of Helen Keegan, Augmented Reality and risk.
More on use of augmented learning

7Cs has been found useful in Australia

  • Indigenous Culture on locality.
  • Introducing elements of serendipity.
  • Activity profile
  • Is it the right mix of learning for what you want the students to do.
  • Correlation of time mapped out to what students are achieving … so she is poor at communication in Spanish … and there is little communication in the course she is doing.

Is this the right tool set?

  • Covers all the aspects of design.
  • Getting a taster for these in the course.

‘A huge amount in the MOOC is mix and pic, so take your time, come back to the resources. Six months down the line, you discover which ones you like’.

  • Some love the activity profiles some don’t, so find the mix that works for you.
  • Some with learning outcomes.
  • Some with the content.
  • Some with the characteristics of the context of the learners.
  • Different tools will mean different things to different people.

‘We’re offering a Smörgåsbord of offerings that you can develop and use over time. Pick the ones that are relevant to you, don’t feel that you have to use all of them’.

Larnica Declaration on Learning Design

(More coming up in WK 8 to act as a springboard to reflect)

  • What is learning design?
  • How has it come about?
  • Why is it different to structural design?

Professor James Dalziel

2011 ALTC National Teaching Fellow

  • Driven by people in Europe and colleagues in Australia.
  • What is learning design? How has it come about?
  • How is it distinct from instructional design?
  • Major Epiphany moment Sept 2012
  • Two days in Cyprus
  • Timeline of key moments since 199 learning design

REF: Key books on design science (Dianna Laurillard)  Teaching Design as a Science

It’s aimed to be pedagogically neutral so that it can be used across a range of methodologies and pedagogies.

  • Tools for guidance and support
  • Tools for visualisation
  • Tools for sharing like Cloudworks

What works for you

  • It depends on the nature of how people want to go about things
  • Visual
  • Linear
  • Connect and be sociable
  • Open, unstructured … to form some kind of navigatable way through, as well as enjoying the serendipity. Having the options of the long and short routes.
  • Is something more needed in the middle ground. B MOOCs.

BLOG
http://www.larnacadeclaration.org

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