Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Technology to enhance learning with students with disabilities (John Mandelberg and Annick Janson at Sharefest)

Stylized image of Buckethead in the song's vid...Image via Wikipedia
John Mandelberg and Annick Janson spoke about how technology can enhance learning for children with disabilities.

Annick Janson introduced a short video clip of her son who has Aspergers, and has discovered his talent as an artist. Technology has been found to neutralise some of the human interaction elements and as such reduces the stress for students with Aspegers. The video showed some of the strategies used (including technology that enables her son to shine! Technology made a difference because as soon as he was confronted with social situations he would shut down - now he is writing his second book, and has an international career.

The skills and ability to make a well-documented video is a craft. It is interesting that John mentioned the old chestnuts about not wanting to go to a doctor, or fly with a pilot who had learned their craft via simulations. And the other one is that he tells his students never to use Wikipedia because there is so much inaccuracy there. Yet, John sees the Internet as a way that independent documenters can distribute their work. Is it possible to be so innovative and to see the potential of technology, and yet apparently has not reflected on what he is saying about simulations (they used simulations extensively in the Second World War nto teach pilots to fly, and they still play an invaluable part in, for example, space travel). Wikipedia is a self-moderating community, and while there are some inaccuracies, perhaps it would be wiser to help student acquire the digital literacies and evaluative skills to work out if something from Wikipedia is accurate or not, rather than banning its use?

While John spoke in an informed fashion about media, there appeared to be little connection with what he was saying and ehancing learning for students with disabilities - except for in the last 3 minutes, where he pointed out that he self-funded and directed the film (which is about mental health)...more about the learners and how the technology is being used by them may have been a little more enlightening....

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Second Life in the Language Classroom (Belma Gaukrodger at Sharefest)

Belma asked some questions first to see who has learned a second language, is a language teacher, and would like to learn a second language. She then posed the question "What is Second Life", and there were some great conversations around the literal and methaphorical meanings of second life.
A self-process novice, Belma is first and foremost a language teacher, and she has only Internation students.

The lessons are in computer labs, and Belma was wondering how she could help enagage her students. After attrending a PD session with Claire Atkins she was introduced to Second Life and saw an opportuntiy to motivate students. Anecdotally, to date, the approach has been very effective as far as engagment and raising interest in the learning of English.
Logo from the video game Second LifeImage via WikipediaBelma then showed a couple of videos that introduced Second Life as an envrionment and what you can do there. One specific example was Cypris Village which is a space for learning English.

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Online course peer review as a PD process (Stephen Bright at Sharefest)

Stephen Bright opened with some key questions around the case study (funded by ASCILITE). and a wonderfully visual metaphor of the twisted rope and the fibres of the rope twined together make it stronger than the whole of the parts. Stephen teaches at Bethlehem College in Tauranga.

Stephen conducted a small-scale case study with six teaching staff who had a range of eLearning experience from beginner to advanced. The purpose was to develop a framework and process for collegial review of teacher presence in online courses. It was frames in terms of PD rather than QA. The study was conducted to increase the quality and quantity of feedback that teachers get about their courses. Most of the QA stuff tends to be a check list, so re-framing it as PD was a way of making it less imposing. The teachers made their own checklist and the process it was used. Stephen recommended the Garrison, Anderson and Archer (2000) eBook as a primer for eLearning and a model. He aslso used the Seven Principles for Good Practice from Chickering and Gamson (1987) around undergraduate education, engagement, and active learning. Stephen Marshall's Maturity Model was also suggested as a benchmark.

Of the seven people involved, each was given one principle each, then they met to have a brainstorm, and collated their ideas in a wiki. The final step was going through and doing a rating process (what are the must haves, and what are the nice to haves?). This resulted in primary indicators (30 - the must haves) , and secondary indicators (60 - the nice to haves).

The audience discussed how teachers could set high expectations - feedback, timeliness, exemplars, and models, and generic feedback comments in neutral spaces for example. The Collegial Appraisal process was based around a range of roles, wh8ich took about 8.5 hous of face-to-face time and 3.5 hours contributing to the wiki. They spent an average of 2 hours each on self-appraisal and 4.5 hours for 3 review meetings.

You can ' do it yourself' - you don't have to have best practice frameworks, and you end up with more ownership when the teachers develop the frameworks themselves. The framework often ends up as a good match with other benchmark models (e.g. eMM). The staff who participated felt empowered rather than evaluated, and the resulting fraework ends up being available for institutional use.

The full paper is available to download as a .pdf from the Ascilite 2008 proceedings.

eLearning attributes of mobile devices with an emphasis on smart phones and the iPad (Peter Looms at Sharefest)

Peter Olaf Looms opened this session about the attributes of mobile devices, smart phones and iPads with a suggestion that the wait and see approach is an approach but perhaps not the most positive! Do we want to be reactive or proactive? Normally the lead in time for significant developments is a couple of years...things never stay stationary.

A quick overview of mobile technologies and their use was followed by a more in-depth description of some of the uses. So, for example, Peter mentioned that iPads are often used by groups of people (3 or 4 in a group) because the size of the screen is conducive to sharing. However, the smaller device can be more convenient in some circumstances where you might not want to be conspicuous.

Wallace and GromitImage via WikipediaLaptops are seen as work devices, and iPads are not in the same league as far as the range of functionality is concerned - but the aim / use of the devices is ultimately different. There seems to be a lot of focus on products that are based around TV programmes that parents and children can interact through and with (e.g. Wallace and Grommit). Will the iPad replace the picture book? Does it empower the child to interact more (listening to a story can be pretty passive, but don't children interact actively while engaging with a picture book?

Thinking about media consumption per week (e.g. watching TV, playing console games, watching videos and DVDs) surveys can be misleading as there is either social taboos around some media consumption, or the person is truly unsure how much time they spend (an hour may pass in what seems like 5 minutes). There is a wide range of devices that young people use, but they may not have all the3 skills necessary to use them in ways efficacious to learning.
iPad with on display keyboardImage via Wikipedia
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Monday, September 27, 2010

Mixed mode learning environment for midwifery students (Adam McMillan et al at Sharefest)

A woman giving birth on a birth chair, from a ...Image via Wikipedia
A presentation that looked at the midwifery course at Wintec. The midwifery programme is 3years, 45 weeks /year, 4,8000 total hourse, 2,400 practice hours. The students range from 18 to 58, and have a wide range of experience, ethnicities and backgrounds...and have a lot of life exerperience.
Distance education means inclusion, and their learners can stay within their own communities and contexts. The course itself using 'story telling' which are women-centred, practice-centred, commercially-available, and fictional stories. The story-based approach led to a thoughtful blend whereby there are face-to-face sessions (lectures, simulation, objective simulation clinical examination). However, there are also clinical placements, video conferencing, Moodle and Live Meeting.

The distance / geographical dispersement of students meant that the virtual environments have been invaluable for builing community, support and learning. The teachers have all transitioned from clinician to teacher. They reinforce their own practice (affirming), along with perceptions of equality, delivery and support. Honesy is seen as central to the interactions within the course.

Frameworks of practice: In New Zealand midwifery is based on a partnership model (partly informed by the Treaty of Waitangi). The relationships with students are based on this notion of partnership, and there has been striving to become 'guides on the side'.

Attending surgeon's office; examination room, ...Image via WikipediaStaff support includes the Emergin technology centre, information technology services, and capability development. All combined to build confidence and capability. The generic workshops were not particularly beneficial, but the just-in-time contextualised support and training was really effective. Some of the technology was not as robust as it could be, but when it was working and working well it was good. One of the presenters mentioned an example of a staff member who was really nervous, and the support staff stayed with her in the background. He related how, after she saw all the studens were there, popped the headphones on, and started to talk - she lit up! She became bubbly and animated, and the technology faded into the backgound.

There were many technical issues, and one of the things that had to be worked on was building a trust relationship with Regional Hubs. Many of the problems revolved around IT units not allowing the communication tools to access through the firewalls, and this meant that students had to go home to access meetings. Some issues were around institutional infrastructure (including equipment problems and reliance on a third party infrastructure). Technical knowled in some institutions was at best patchy and there was some confusion between videoconferencing and web conferencing.Screenshot of a Microsoft Office Live Meeting ...Image via Wikipedia

The team approach was invaluable, but relied on buy in support from Wintec. The students (when it was working well) realised the value, and were really grateful that they didn't have to drive and travel to attend face-to-face sessions.

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Using QR Codes, video clips and trades training: A pilot study (Kevin Hall and Mike Crosson at Sharefest)

Source code in QR Code. Coded text is "Mo...Image via Wikipedia
Kevin Hall and Mike Crosson are based at Wintec and have been piloting QR codes and video clips in trades training - partly to encourage students to do some revision. QR codes are described in Wikipedia as "A QR Code is a matrix barcode (or two-dimensional code), readable by QR scanners, mobile phones with a camera, and smartphones". The idea is that it makes it easier for students to access and use conent on online courses.

The speakers demonstrated live how to create a resource in Moodle and an associated URL (and how to create a much shorter link by also using Tinyurl). All content has been trialled in advance to make sure that it is mobile compatible. The benefit for students is that they don't have to mess around trying to get a URL ' perfect', and makes it really easy to grab a link from (with) a mobile phone.

Image via Wikipedia
The first thing we were asked to do in the practical aspect of this session was to download the reader onto our phones from www.i-nigma.mobi, and then we logged in to the Moodle site at mobile.elearning.ac.nz. People then grouped up and those with phones that were 3G capable trialled and demonstrated. The presenters also went around and lent out phones. The initiative is only in pilot phase at the moment and the presenters have been surveying students to find out what phones they have, and investigating options.
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get excited and change things: How the library is engaging with Unitec's new eLearning strategy - a case study (Fran Skilton and Penny Dugmore)

Fran Skilton started by giving some of the driver around strategy at Unitec in general and in the Library in particular. The two key points made were the Living Curriculum and Innovation in Teaching. Complementary to this are the principles of learning and teaching (recently improved).

The library has been involved with the new eLearning strategy and have been providing, for example, environments that embed literacies. Two of the librarians joined the  seventy-eight community elearning coordinators on campus.

E-resources seen as equal partners to paper-based resources, and often preferred by some students. The library have deliberated decided to purchase other formats as well. The lending stats are decreasing, but their door stats are increasing. There is demand for the library to remain open longer. There is a shift towards being a learning commons.

The librarians are changing as well and technology is no longer seen purely as the domain as geeks. The instant messaging version has been upgraded, and there has been a large number of queries from students. Several teachers have also asked to have the chat widget for the library to be installed on their Moodle sites as well. People's attitudes to student communication online are changing. Library Guides are being updated and have become quite organic. The look and feel are sometimes a controversial subject of discussion.

The training in the library needs to change as well. With the introduction of the elearning strategy the library has started collaborating with other institutional partners. These are all seen as exciting, positive breakthroughs, and the future will include further investigations into the potential still to be explored. 
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Confessions of an Online Facilitator (Sarah Stewart at Sharefest)

Sarah Stewart talked about facilitating online, from a personal viewpoint, around her experiences of facilitating 'open courses' (run in Wiki Educator). She also explained what an open course actually is.

The wiki is used mainly as an LMS type approach, but pulls in a lot of other media and platforms. The focus is on facilitation (as opposed to teaching). The facilitators' course is not locked up in a password protected environment, and there is no fee to participate (although there is a charge if you would like personal feedback on your own facilitation).

Other platforms Sarah mentioned that are used on the course are blogs, Twitter, and Google groups. Email was seen as the technology that most participants would already be familiar and comfortable with. The course if for people who would like to learn and interact online, develop learning networks and communities, etc. The course is designed around encouraging the participants to actually use the tools and to actually facilitate events and discussions. The final assessment for the course is to run an event.  Uses a lot of Nancy White ideas around facilitating conversation in virtual communities (e.g. Online Community Handbook).

To date a wide range of people from all over the world have participated in the course to date. The course has to cater to every level of digital literacy. Those participants who are very experienfced have been very generous with their time offering mentoring to other participants. As a facilitator Sarah had to think really hard about how she facilitates such a wide range of people. Adults don't read instructions, and she found much of her time was spent re-directing people back to the course to become more autonomous. There was a need to encourage smaller learning groups to develop within the larger group of the community.

A safe environment was critical to the effectiveness of the course, especially as many participants were very worried about the technology and about making mistakes. Need to develop an environment where people can make mistakes, to play and learn. Careful matching of people with similar interests, but as a facilitator she has had to listen very carefully to her participants. Try not to bombard people with technology, and including instructions with everything were two other recommendations she made. She has definitely moved from a teacher to a facilitator role.

One thing that she stresses she has learned is that she has to give up control to the students. It has been quite hard as her learning objectives might be rather different to what the learners are keen to do.
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A Black Box Approach to eLearning Course Design and Review (Steve Lowe at Sharefest)

Steve Lowe started the sessionby explaining that he has been playin g with Moodle for about 10 years. His system (used in a loose sense...aka total chaos) is trying to get some sense into the chaos.

One of Steve's points was around the fact that eLearning was seen as a money-making machine, and then told the horror story of a course where over 200 students enrolled and only one graduated. There was little feedback around why the course wasn't working. There was QA but the process often becomes a bottle-neck (zombified) that stops change happening. ELearning cannot be managed as a machine because it is more organic, and has a lot of variables that have a lot of different purposes and create a wide range of outcomes.
You haven't lived until you've died in MUD. --...Image via Wikipedia

When they did MUD they had a million users. Richard Bartle "Designing Virtual Worlds" is a recommended book that looks into how Bartle and his crew increased their income substantially - their model was charging a small fee per month, collecting large amounts of data, and then acting on it. Russel and Norvig (2003) "The Intelligent Agent" (neuroscientist who says we are not quite as clever/complex as we might think we are).

Steve handed around some little gizmos to demonstrate a few key points around design, and some central questions that we need to ask about things such as common goals and outcomes. People are essentially flawed and will often be working toward a common goal, but may have private agendas and be doing other things as well. He suggested that many resource developers have a central script "read, paraphrase, write".

The general message was to evaluate, pay attention to feedback, and question the systems that are established.
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Can you teach a manual skills like shorthand via e-learning (Joanne True at Sharefest)

Lange Manzanar j8CC-802AImage via WikipediaJoanne began by offering some background to the one part qualification National Diploma in Journalism; four semesters, part-time. that they wanted to offer that included Teelin shorthand. It is really difficult to describe shorthand with text (there are limited manuals), and there were some real difficulties around offering a manual skill online.

However,they used what they had available including tutor notebooks/workbook, and also made a video available of the tutor herself, and used a dictation booklet too.

There was a feeling that the students would be asking “why do we have to do this?” so one of the first things they did was give reasons, There is a strong use of learning outcomes. Multimedia was offered in two forms – either by clicking on a link and the video plays in their browser. In a situation with less bandwidth students could right click and download the video.

The videos covered, for instance, the alphabet for shorthand and around how to form the letters. The video that was shown featured the tutor talking through the alphabet and the formation of the letters. Students can watch the videos as many times as they want.

A number of worksheets were made available, and provided lots of opportunities for practising recognising and writing the different forms. Then the students were offered further scaffolding (e.g. flashcards) and other exercises.

Had real life students for the first time this year, and most already have jobs, hence they are studying online. As a nice side-benefit, students are printing off things such as the flashcards and are finding that the children of the students are learning the shorthand with them because they turn it into a game. There are also online, self-check quizzes that students can complete. There are a lot of .pdf files to download with the idea that they can print off the worksheets if they want to and keep them in a file.

Each week has a video with the tutor introducing the subject / skills, then some practice exercises, followed by worksheets, and then some other exercises such as listening to an audio file as a speed exercise. Written work can be scanned in, or students can take a photo of their work before submitting it to the tutor.
The challenges include 'going solo' and there is a lot of focus on individual work; time is also an issue as is motivation. There are times when the students and teachers meet online and talk things through, and use of the discussion forums is encouraged. The assessment is at the end of the course, and there is no way to stagger the assessments to encourage motivation and give ongoing feedback. The tutor keeps in very regular contact with the students, and checks in with how they are doing. The tutor finds it tricky not being able to ' look over the should' as students' work, and it is more difficult to give timely feedback.

An eLearning team developed the course and the resources, and worked with the tutor who provided the materials. The first students who are going to be assessed is October next year, and it is hoped that an invigilator can be organised (who is also an aspect of another part of the course).

The overall impression is that it is definitely possible to do this, and to increase effectiveness and make more things interactive would require extra budget to, for instance, create flash objects that would assist with forming the letters. It seems to be that conundrum of wanting to offer the flexibility that enables students to choose when, where and how to learn, and yet to also challenge the notion that online learning is cheaper than face-to-face. To be most effective these types of course require investment.
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E-learning: Making change happen at the institutional level (Peter Looms at Sharefest)

BRISTOL, UNITED KINGDOM - FEBRUARY 24:  A scho...Image by Getty Images via @daylifePeter Olaf  Looms began by introducing the notion of eLearning, and then explored in greater depth the big picture of eLearning, what's in it for us, for the teacher, for the institution, for the key stakeholders, and to what approaches can be used to introducing eLearning that make sense.
Peter looked at various views about eLearning, and suggested that it used to be (and in some cases) still is a 'serious' business, and learning should not have elements of fun. He intriduced a range of images that encapsulated different feelings and views about eLearning and the fact that there are some quarters where there are issues to grapple with to make eLearning effective.
elearningImage via Wikipedia
The characteristics of eLearning were explored including collaboration, appropriate learning, and appropriate delivery. What are we trying to achieve?, needs to be a central question for all that we do. Some kinds of competencies seem to be easier to learn today because of the hand to eye coordination, for example, that young people are gaining from playing virtual games.
Peter posed the question, Does video have a role to play in eLearning? And it was agreed that video was a key part of learning and sharing. He also gave an example of microscopes in class plugged into a laptop; the kids bring in the bugs, and everyone can see the bugs at the same time and can analyse them together. Mobile learning also plays a key part in eLearning, and he considered informal learning / learning out of school.
The point was made that engrained in our culture is the notion that learning is somehow difficult, uncomfortable, not fun...and often we ' trick' people into learning  by not focussing on the fact that they are learning. Education via stealth (Tony Baes, 2009) - not usually a means to an end and we are actually learning something elese. Students acquire many core ICT skills through their learning in other content domains. People don't talk about ICTELT - they talk about learning.
Convenience and flexibility are a couple of the pros for students / learners that caters for a wide range of interestes and competencies, although flexibility takes a degree of maturity to exploit as well.
For teachers there is the potential to do what you have always wanted to do - however, there is likely to be increased preparation time. " The influence of a good teacher can never be erased". Teachers can teach students who are global (reach).
Nineteen percent of kiwis are working more than 50 hours a week. Are we using CMC responsibly...can we leave our work behind when we get home, spend time with families rather than burning out. Linley Boniface (2007) called this the " Open all Hours" syndrome.
A woman typing on a laptopImage via Wikipedia
Cost efficiency versus cost effectivness was raised as an issue. Only if things are are doing are making a difference should we continue to do them. Status and rankings do have an influence on what we are doing and where the funding is available. Much of the innovation that takes place tends to happen in silos, and is conducted by dedicated individuals (especially in tertiary). Perhaps it is time to consider more formal approaches to change management? (But it isn't that easy - it is often really difficult to get teachers to consider doing something different to what they are currenlty doing).
Peter suggested that Kotter's eight principles are worth thinking about:
  • Need to establish a sense of urgency (why should we do something, and why should we do it now?)
  • Create a coalition of people who feel much the same as you do (more than one individual)
  • Develop a clear vision around what you want to achieve (need to be able to describe this coherently and simply, in plain language, and preferably by telling a story)
  • Share the vision (has to be expressed in a way that can be understood by the various stakeholders, and from their different perspectives)
  • Empower people to clear obstacles (financial, attitudinal, challenge of time etc)
  • Secure short-term wins (timescale is significant - need shorter-term milestones that show shorter-term 'wins'. Anything too long-term people will forget about)
  • Consolidate and keep moving
  • Anchor the change (so that things can't slip back once the regime changes)
Well-designed, facilitated and evaluated eLearning offers many pros, but as with other initiatives the preparation needs to be done in the background to secure buy-in from all stakeholders, and funding...and also follow-up, iterative cycles that evaluate change, feed back in improvements, and inform on progress.
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Thursday, September 23, 2010

Facebook For Learning? Boleh!

This is a balanced Slideshare that shows some of the pros and cons of using social media with students (especially Facebook). It also has some great examples of how you could use Facebook with students, and a link to a video where students speak about their opinions about using social media in the classroom. Nice visual presentation - well worth looking at if you are interested in using Faceboook in education, or are working with teachers who are interested.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Netsafe embraces social networking: Learn, Guide, Protect

Image source
A couple of weeks ago (August 26th 2010) I was lucky to be invited to a preview of NetSafe’s new cyber safety school initiative: Learn, Guide, Protect. I must admit to a certain frisson of negativity as I feared another 'lock it down, lock 'em up' solution. Instead, I was bowled over by the way that Netsafe has gone out and listened to what people would like, which has resulted in a superb conceptually shaped site where community members create the content, comments, feedback etc - and self-moderate. The idea is that educators develop "an online repository of material schools can use and adapt to promote a student-centred approach to digital citizenship and cyber safety" (Nancy Groh).

The site is still very much in its beta version (in the words of Sean Lyons, one of the key developers, beta = some things don't work yet), but those that do work, work well. The resources members contribute are entitled 'bits' (and yes, there was general chuckling around this) for several reasons, not least because a posted 'bit' could be made up of several other resources, and have ideas for using the resources in a range of contexts. Community members can link to and embed resources, add tags (to their own and other members' bits), edit, flag, and also do more exciting things such as vote for, comment on and 'remix' other bits (which enables members to add to the original posting).

To give some background to the underpinnings of the initiative it's worth looking at the Learn, Guide, Protect (LGP) framework that gives the community space its name. The framework is designed "to help schools develop a culture of responsible, safe use of digital technologies" (Nancy Groh).
Learn, Guide, Protect concept model

"The Learn Guide Protect framework has three components:
  • Learn: Bits designed for students to help them develop positive, ethical behaviours in cyberspace and build the skills and attributes of a good digital citizen,
  • Guide: Bits to help educators integrate the concepts of digital citizenship across into the curriculum all learning areas and into school culture,
  • Protect: Bits to guide senior school personnel in developing local policies and strategies on effective, safe use of technologies.
To get a more in depth insight into the Learn, Guide, Protect initiative, please click HERE.

Netsafe community (beta) space
Netsafe community space

 Netsafe would be delighted if you visited and contributed to the Learn, Guide, Protect site. They will continue to work on the site’s functionality, in particular for in preparation for the launch in October at Ulearn in Christchurch. Please feel free to also offer Netsafe feedback over the next few weeks, as it is vital.
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Conservation Week NZ

It's nearly conservation week, and a great time to think about what we can all do to help the environment in general, and in New Zealand in particular. So "show New Zealand you love it by taking part in Conservation Week events in your area".

You can visit the official site and choose your region on an interactive map to find out what’s happening.

You can also share your photos by following the instructions on THIS PAGE.

Click HERE to download a .pdf flier (mainly for schools).