Thursday, October 20, 2011

Driving teacher change through brokering in an online community ecosystem

Knowledge-planet (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Online or virtual communities of practice were a theme that appeared in many of the presentations in the Research stream of ULearn in 2011 (and you can acces the papers from the research stream by clicking here).

One such presentation was given by Jocelyn Cranefield. Jocelyn started by giving a bit of context around the research she is doing. She started by looking at the importance of knowledge as a driver of educational change. The research context was the NZ School sector in 2006 and emphasised the importance of embedding the knowledge of "what works". What Jocelyn is looking at is teaching communities and the transfer of professional knowledge (knowledge that you need for your profession and you use it to do what you do. Such knowledge is likely to be very personal to you, and tied up with your beliefs).

One of the issues of the nature of knowledge when it comes to PD, is that it can get quite entangled. The intertertwined structure gains stetegy and rigidity over time. The research question was "How do online communities of practice facilitate the transfer and embedding of professional knowledge?". In traditional Communities of Practice (CoPs), knowledge is transferred via situated learning, but there is little understanding of how online envrironments support knowledge transfer.

A segment of a social networkImage via Wikipedia

Jocelyn conducted an interpretative study using qualitative data, which included purposive selection plus emergence, 45 interviews (including teachers, lead teachers, and principals), as well as forums, blogs, and IM that gave snapshots across time. She wanted to find out what happened offline as well as online, the relationship between the spaces, and how knowledge crosses over.

There was a great analogy in the presentation where researching interventions can be a little bit like putting an egg into a cake and then trying to work out what the effect of adding the egg has had. So, Jocelyn looked at both a top down view, as well as a bottom up view and then looked for emerging themes.

Some of the findings include: it came across very strongly that normative persuasive forces were at work. There was also a combination of  focusing, persuading, aligning, adapting, and owning. There were, for example, in the different spaces, different cultures of practice. The connector-leaders used a range of brokering practices including filtering and focussing, reinforcing and contextualising and helping others. There was also a combination of different mechanisms, roles and technologies promoted in this process.

The knowledge embedding cycle includes six stages of organisational change with specific activities and issues at each stage - and the online CoPs played a different role at each stage.The six stages Jocelyn identified are:
  1. Coming on board
  2. Setting out
  3. Staying on course
  4. Anchoring
  5. Settling
  6. Plotting the course
It is well-worth reading more about Jocelyn's research in the conference proceedings, in particular because she offers some useful terminology for describing some of the new roles and interactions emerging from virtual communities of practice.

For more information you can download the conference proceedings from ULearn 2011 by downloading this .pdf file.

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Apple tools Smacdown - some inspiring ideas?

iPad with on display keyboardImage via Wikipedia
The session started in a lively fashion, and the folk facilitating were certainly enthusiastic. To get a good idea of the smacdown you can visit the site here. Overall, the idea is that each the audience get the chance to share "the interesting, cool, funky and fun things we can do using Apple products". Each presenter has exactly 2 minutes to demonstrate the function or neat idea.

The site itself has an archive of suggestions from 2010  (for example this one from Fiona Grant), as well as ones from this year. The presenters from this year have all the hyperlinks as well as a brief description of each of the ideas and tools that were shared on the site (for example Marcus Norrish). It's well worth having a browse through as often they offer extensions to ideas, along with how students reacted and/or how they have made a difference to how people work.

I really enjoyed the participative aspect of the session, as well as the really practical applications and experiences...and a format that could easily be adapted into other learning situations! ;-). One of the things I guess was a bit of a niggle was that the focus was very much on the tools...but that could in part be the format of the session. Still - it is well worth having a look through to see if anything catches your imagination...or maybe point your students in the direction of this site, and see how they develop some of the ideas!!!
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Implementing models of blended learning: Examples from the Southern Central Divide schools

PrimarysImage by crdotx via FlickrNiki Savis and Darren Sudlow started by introducing the regional eLearning clusters in NZ. Initially, Trevor Storr and Darren looked at the notion of blended learning, which they felt opened up opportunities for students to learn; underpinning this was a focus on personalised learning. Darren pointed out that personalised learning is an interesting term that has been inerpreted in many different ways.

The model was developed with 4 days intensive face-to-face at the beginning to develop relationships, and then became more online. The participants worked together online. One point made by Niki and Darrne was that there was a large range of different contexts and they found that they had to move out of their 'home' environment, and out into the spaces that the participants were using. They found that there was an early dip where Niki and Darren wondered if the participants would get there, but in about June of the first year, the momentum started to build.
Primary 1 - Foaming Unique hand painted sleeve...Image by HIKKERS via Flickr
The Star Trek syndrome was a term coined by one of the boldly go where no-one had been before. Originally it had been envisaged that there would be a discipline, and secondary focus, but in the end the facilitators had to adapt as there were quite a few primary participants....and this has been fantastic. The first year was tough going, though, in the terms of buidling up the teachers' capacity. There were many achievements!

Participants indicated that time was a key issue, and it was difficult to make time for the engagement in the dicussions and online spaces. There was also a confidence gap. In the pilot there were some 'stars', and a general move away from presenting in an academic style toward presenting to the community.

By the end of it the teachers had achieved quite a bit, and had really built a sense of community. The working community of practice has been a key part of the success. Confidence has grown, and some of the project leaders have taken over some of the key aspects of the community.

Several super examples of succes were shown, and some key points pulled out such as weaving in with school policy, working with the Board of Governors, and going beyond the classroom and into the networked community.
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Promoting school collaboration through eLearning

Set up for Adobe Connect WebinarImage by sridgway via Flickr
The Virtual Learning Network (VLN) brings the learning to the students, and opens up choice and opportunities to study a curriculum that suits the student, rather than being limited by a school's curriculum. Rick Whalley introducted teh VLN primary initiatve and indicated that there is the potential to provide "all of our students in the Primary Sector with learning opportuntiies". The initiatve is unperpinned by the Ps that are identified in the LOC handbook, and is also based on the notion of reciprocity. So, in order to access learning opportunties schools also need to contribute to or support learning opportunities (for example, if a school can't offer a course, they can contribute to paying a teacher from another school who is offering a course).

Epstein-Bilingual CurriculumImage via Wikipedia

Most of the courses that are offered at the moment are focussed on languages, but are opening up to include, for example, astronomy. the online classes only last for half and hour, and the maximum number of students is 12 per session. Adobe Connect and the audio conferencing in part dicatate the number of students in a class. The reason that the phone lines are used is that many schools do not have the bandwidth for audio. The asynchronous aspect of the course are hosted in Moodle (, where, for example, the PowerPoint from a session is uploaded, along with audio files and other resources. Other tools that are used are Skype, video conferencing, and Web 2.0 tools.

A tag cloud (a typical Web 2.0 phenomenon in i... Image via Wikipedia
The VLN primary is part of wider educational communities such as VLNC, ESOL, Virtual Professional Learning and Development, ICT PD and so on. One of the aims is to grow a Community of Practice of talented eTeachers in the primary sector. The PD for teachers is also offered online. One of the future visions of the initiative is brokering collaborations between NZ schools.

Opportuntiies are available for all NZ primary schools, and Rick ( was asking for people to contact him if they have any questions, or would like to join up for 2012.
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First steps: The experiences of an academic team journeying into blended learning

Journey - First StepImage by Melody Campbell via FlickrPhilippa Buckley and Fiona Gilmore presented today on a study of teacher educations as they develop a web based teaching approach. There was emphasis on working with students in an online environment. One of the key points is that they were very aware of what they wanted the students to get out of the course by the end. They were used to workign with a distance mode, but not within a technical framework.

They have been working on a number of smaller courses, and then weave them together in a way that was meaningful. The process involved course restructuring, as well as situating the study. The courses were 15 credit. Mass lectures were introduced, along with dula delivery cohorts, and teacm teaching. Courses were put on Moodle - which was quite challenging. Philippa and Fiona didn't have the technical skills to start with, and were working within a tight timeframe.

Because it was participatory research, ethical issues had to be considered in depth. There needed to be transparency around the results and what was being said in the research study write-ups. Two questions shaped the study: "How did a group of teacher educators develop and effective blended teaching course? How did the process challenge conceptions and existing teaching practices?"

question markImage via WikipediaThe development team followed a model where the academic staff member with the overview, worked alongside a technical advisor. The team of academics "knew what they wanted to do but did not have a clue how to do it!" This meant they took a very long time to get a time poor environment. The initial steps forward were small, and were based around a culture of making concrete decisions and thereby keeping things moving forward. The communication style of the team was very open and direct. The technical support person was key, and differentiated the way that she worked with people. The access and transparency of Moodle was a bit of a surprise, and led to a culture shift.

They set out to developp and create a professional community that had a strong collaborative focus "It was a huge team on one site, And you know what they say about too many cooks. But you managed not to burn anything". Around the innovative pressures, one participant said "I just feel that my technical abilities are not matched and I see that it consumed so much of my time and that the workload doesn't reflect that, I just don't see how I can sustain that. And I found that really frustrating to the point I was in tears." And this was a factor that lurked behind them.

The results so far include the recognition that the professional conversations were essential and were focussed on the pedagogy, where they started to think about their online teaching in a very different way. Much of the shifting in practice has since been transferred to the face-to-face students. The conversations have been very rich, and have really enhanced the practitioners involved in the programme.
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Innovate to survive: being prepared to teach in times of crisis

hi vis vest 7Image by Andrew Kelsall, Graphic Designer via FlickrI felt this was a a presentation from the heart, with some superb practical suggestions! The experience, and the whole 'learning journey' of the teaching team was extremely powerful. In the presentation, Julie Mackey, Philippa Buckley, Des Breeze, Nikki Dabner, and Fiona Gilmore spoke about teaching in the aftermath of the Christchurch earthquakes. "your well-founded plans for blended e-learning are shaken, stirred and re-blended before you have had a change teach your first lesson!" Julie was 10 minutes away from her first session in the computer lab when the first earthquake happened, so they didn't have the intial set up time.

There are contrasting definitions and applications of blended learing, included that all learning is blended in some way. Blended learning has a 'transformative' potential in a crisis situation, and included some learning within a professional community. The presenters advised that they were encouraged to be innovative, as access to physical resources were limited. Luckily, the server rooms were still operational (they are not completely based in the cloud yet). The only resources available were those that were already online, and each other.
CHRISTCHURCH, NEW ZEALAND - MARCH 18:  Austral...Image by Getty Images via @daylife

The context was such that many people were living in pretty dire conditions. "You know you are from Christchurch when you live in one suburb, shower in another, get water from yet another, and yet you still greet people with a smile as if they were long lost friends". All this was going on while they were still thinking about how to engage with students who were not particularly well-prepared to participate in a blended course.
Earthquake severityImage via Wikipedia

There were no buildings to meet in, but the team began to feel confident that they could facilitate the course with "a bit of style" in spite of the crisis situation. The whole way of working had changed. It was necessary to clear an emotional space before sitting together in the house that was still standing and had electricity, and the talk began and escalated. Someone (diffident) had the idea of having a book they did. What happened next was really special - the students flooded back in the other direaction. The conversations grew, and the students continued writing about texts and asking about books. There was some significant pedagogical growth that occured within that moment in time.

Some key questions to think about: whether you and your education institution are ready include:
  1. How well prepared is your institution to function electrocially with off-site back-up, cloud computing etc?
  2. How would you contact and communitcate with students if your campus was closed suddenly?
  3. How would you collaborate with colleagues to plan and teach from geographically separate loactions (for example using LMS, remote IT access, cloude computing)?
  4. How well do you and your colleagues understand the capabilities of your LMS and the potential use of other digital technologies including social meida to enhance and support learners and their learning?
  5. How open and well-prepared are you and your colleagues to use blended or online learning pedagogies?

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    Authentically mobile: Designing learning on the move

    Five Mobile SystemsImage by via Flickr
    Dr Jan Herrington was a key note at ULearn and started with a good humoured reference to the recent Australian loss in the Rugby World Cup :-)  She then moved on to showing a photograph of her father's classroom and what can be deduced from the picture. You could see the teacher standing at the back and all the students were sitting at the desks looking forward. The technology included a newspaper, an inkwell, and a big cupboard full of resources such as maps. She then brought up a picture of a more modern classroom...and there were more similarities than differences. The main difference was what was in the student's pocket - ie a mobile phone. However, Jan also pointed out that many schools have a non-mobile policy and use words such as not permitted, disruption...and that was just for the teachers.

    At the moment there is little use of mobile devices in schools. Jan showed an image of a progressive school ('Funky School') in New South Wales with students working in different spaces and in different ways. She moved on to talk about how getting students to design solutions and resources is a much more powerful way of learning, than reading about it, or answeing questions.
    Student Using Cell Phone By the Campus LakesImage by kcolwell via Flickr
    Jan spoke about innovative pedagogies that used a couple of mobile devices in 2006/7, and looked at the potential of these devices. The particular focus was using technology in early childhood education. The unit typically was about technologies, or using them, rather than looking at the learning that could be enhanced by access to a number of devices ... they were teaching "'hammer' rather than capentary". As part of a rethink they got the students to create a genuine product that they would share with others, and in the process were modelling an approach to learning. The main focus was creating digital stories on the iPod with a very definite authentic focus. The students found the task pretty challenging, but, at the end fed back that they had gained in confidence and were really pleased that they had been involved in completing it.

    It was great that Jan then gave some guidelines for designing authentic tasks, and then went through some concrete examples, and how they related to, for example, epert performance. This means access to the way an expert would thinkg and act as well as access to learners in various levels of expertise and sharing of narratives / stories.

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    Tuesday, October 18, 2011

    What do men and women earn once they have doctoral degrees, and do they stay in NZ?

    Many thanks to Eddie Reisch who shared the following reports and findings. Makes for good reading, whether you are based in NZ or not.

    The Ministry of Education has released reports on 2010 enrolments, what men and women earn after their tertiary education and whether people with doctoral degrees get jobs in New Zealand.

    2010 tertiary education enrolments

    This report provides a summary of information on students enrolled in tertiary education in 2010. In 2010, there were 466,000 students enrolled in formal tertiary study with tertiary education providers. From 2009 to 2010:
    • The total number of students (including international students) decreased by 0.5 per cent, and the number of domestic students decreased by 1.1 per cent.
    • However, when measured as equivalent full-time students, total study increased by 1.8 per cent and study by domestic students increased by 1.6 per cent.
    • The shift from the lowest level qualifications (certificates 1 to 3) to higher-level qualifications (levels 4 to 10) continued. There were 13,300 fewer domestic students enrolled in level 1 to 3 certificates and 6,070 more students enrolled in higher-level qualifications.
    • The number of domestic students aged 18 to 24 years increased in by 3.9 per cent. The participation rate for 18 to 19 year-olds in tertiary education increased by 0.8 percentage points to 48.4 per cent, and for 20 to 24 year-olds by 0.4 percentage points to 34.4 per cent.
    Graduate RecognitionImage by FUMCPC via Flickr

    The full report is available on the Education Counts website, along with updated enrolment statistical tables.

    What do men and women earn after their tertiary education?

    This paper looks at the relationship between young peoples’ tertiary education qualifications and their employment and earnings once they finish their tertiary study. It has a particular focus on differences in the post-study earnings between males and females, using the Employment Outcomes of Tertiary Education dataset. Some key findings include:
    • Earnings generally increase with the level of study and there is a premium for completing qualifications for both males and females.
    • When controlling for participation in the labour market, males earn more than women after their tertiary education.
    • These differences persist over the course of employment, but females’ earnings increase less than males’ over the four years post-study so that females earn less than males at all levels after four years.
    • Females have a better return to tertiary education than males when measured by earnings premium over the national median earnings by gender but this may be in part due to the low overall baseline wages of females compared to males.
    • There is evidence to suggest the better returns for women entering the workforce from study are due to gaining greater access to work.
    • It is likely that labour market influences that have not been quantified in this study, such as industry and occupation worked in, also influence earnings differences between men and women after study. Future studies will make adjustments for these.
    Graduated!Image by ralph and jenny via Flickr

    The full report is available on the Education Counts website.

    Do people with doctoral degrees get jobs in New Zealand post study?

    This study also used the Employment Outcome of Tertiary Education dataset to analyse what percentage of a cohort of recent domestic doctoral graduates was employed in New Zealand and their industry destination up to four years post study. The results show that:
    • around 65 per cent were employed in New Zealand four years after they last studied. This was a lower rate of employment in New Zealand than domestic bachelors and masters graduates from the same leaving year.
    • younger graduates, Asians, and graduates in ‘Natural and physical sciences’ were less likely to be employed in New Zealand four years after they last studied
    • the domestic employment rate of the New Zealand doctoral cohort was lower than in similar leaving cohorts in Canada and the United Kingdom.
    Happy GraduateImage by Rennett Stowe via Flickr

    The full report is available on the Education Counts website.
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    Tuesday, October 11, 2011

    Quick Response (QR) Codes: Examples of use in education

    You may, or may not have used or heard of Quick Response (QR) codes...however, some educators and trainers are exploring how and why they may be useful. For a quick explanation of what they are please watch this video.

    So, some examples of how QR codes are being used in education.
    • Trades training - 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. They create a resource in Moodle and an associated URLand trial it 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 it makes it really easy to grab a link from (with) a mobile phone. (source)
    • Tertiary - Kamuka Pati at Unitec is trialling the use of an iPod and QR) Codes with his construction students. Every group of students is issued with a touch iPod before a class begins. Kamuka has prepared a set of QR codes for his class and each topic (see this video for a demonstration of a QR code being used on site). These QR codes are pinned on the board in the construction zone and this provides students contextualised on-demand information (such as access to 3D models, videos and pictures) that helps the student gain a better understanding of the ‘what and how’ just when it is needed. (Please click here for a more in-depth description, and feedback from the students).
    • K12Vicki Davis, is using QR codes in many ways with her students. She explains: "There are so many great things, but to me, using these in museums and in the "real world" can create some deep learning experiences -- see, now these QR codes are just attached to text, but what happens when they have video, audio, and more attached to them.  Your child who is fascinated by the caveman exhibiltion at the Smithsonian will scan the QR code and have delivered to his cell phone video, audio, perhaps even books (in a Kindle like way) relating to his topic"(source).
    • Primary -Michael Fawcett describes his experience (and gives and example): "I took QR code ideas back to class.  I've played with them before, but last week i had a real use for them.  We have clearfile portfolios for students to share their learning with parents.  Jason wanted to share a blog post that was and audio recording and we couldn't figure out how to do it.  Enter Kaywa QR code generator.  I asked jason if anyone has an iPhone or iPod Touch in his family.  Big thumbs up from Jason. I grabbed the screen with his post on (and comments) using Aviary's Chrome extension; generated a code and combined them into an image.  I added the url of the post too just in case.  We tried it out on my Android phone and... voila - "Jason Says" loud and clear - ) (source).

    Convinced yet? If you are and would like to know more, this video gives a really clear overview of what QR codes are, how to create and read them, and gives some examples of them in use in education.

    Image source - QR Code Cupcakes by clevercupcakes

    Friday, October 7, 2011

    Is it working? CAN we move from ‘I think we know’ in education?

    Data and TypesImage via WikipediaConor Bolton recently posted to another community of which I am a member, where he was reflecting on what he has been trialling with his students this year, and what he has observed to date. He concludes "In spite of the challenges, I think my practice is becoming more evidence based; it is based upon sound theory and research and while the implementation has a way to go and the evidence is shaky the process is starting and the teaching as inquiry cycle is becoming more evident (I hope)". Conor also refers to Greg Whitby's post: "From I Think to We Know".

    It really started me mulling over the implications of research-informed educational practice, as well as  the 'benchmark' approach requirement of many Ministries of Education to 'prove' that national initiatives have been positively effective and have increased student achievement of learning outcomes. I also tend to agree with Darcy Moore who replied to Greg Whitby's post - I believe there is no way of categorically illustrating a direct cause and effect correlation whereby a specific intervention has a positive or negative effect on learning.

    I am now going to scab something from the oracle, Wikipedia ;-) around Design-based research theory:
    "Methodologically, the Learning Sciences is distinguished from other fields that study learning in humans in its methodological treatment of the subjects of its study, learners, their localities, and their communities. The Design-Based Research methodology is often employed by Learning Scientists in their inquiries because this methodological framework considers the subject of study to be a complex system involving emergent properties that arise from the interaction of more variables than are initially known to researchers, including variables stemming from the researchers themselves (Brown, 1992). As such rather than attempting to isolate all the various factors that impact learning as in traditional research, the learning sciences employ design based research methodologies which appeal to an approach to the study of learning – in particular human learning both inside and outside of school – that embraces the complex system nature of learning systems. Learning Scientists often look at the interactions amongst variables as key components to study yet, acknowledge that within learning environments the interactions are often too complex to study all or completely understand. This stance has been validated by the findings of Cronbach and Snow (1977) which suggest that Aptitude-Treatment Interactions, where variables are isolated in effort to determine what factors “most” influence learning, will not be informative but rather inaccurate and potentially misleading if used as a ground for educational decisions or educational research of complex learning situations such as those characteristic of human beings in their lived experiences." (emphasis mine).

    (For more 'academic' resources than Wikipedia about Design-based research, this bibliography is useful, and if you have a preference for videos, here are some interviews with folk who use and have developed the theory and model further).

    Design-based theory offers a way of acknowledging the unavoidable 'biases' of the person designing the data collection tools and collecting the data - the very fact that decisions have to be made around the what, where, when and how of data collection, and the influence that, for example, even an impartial observer can have on the dynamics of a group. The theory encourages the reflection on these design decisions as well as acknowledging that findings gathered along the way are likely to influence further design decisions as well as what is happening in the learning situation.

    My brand new StethoscopeImage by Lidor via Flickr

    I also feel it is worth reflecting on Whitby's assertion: "Doctors can make assumptions about a patient’s health but unless the assumptions are tested, you cannot diagnose and treat. It’s the same rigour that must be applied to the practice of teaching. The relational aspect of teaching will not be subverted by the use of data but enhanced by it". The analogy isn't comparing eggs with eggs - while a doctor assumes you may have anaemia because you are pale, tired and dizzy, and can prove this through a blood test - what is to say that it is not a symptom of a way bigger cause. Also, as design-based research theory suggests - there is no equivalent of a 'blood test' in education.

    Anyhow (climbs off soap box) - I guess the thing to bear in mind is Whitby's reply to Moore: "it becomes the conclusion rather than the beginning of insightful and reflective discussions. What is critical is not the data per se but the quality of questions that arise from examining the data and feedback without prejudice or judgement."
    Rubik's CubeImage via Wikipedia

    I would add, though, that any thinking about how shifts in teaching practice effect students' learning experiences would be positive if it is influenced by 1) What the teacher is aiming to do and what the students are also aiming to do, and 2) reflection on data collected in several different ways - surveys, emails, elicited / not elicited, LMS usage data, and community feedback for example. And in this way, the picture is likely to be much richer and informative - although it must always be the case that an educator looks at themself as the collector / interpretor of that data and ask on how they are being influenced by their own assumptions as an educator, as well as a social human being with a history, a number of communities, interests, relationships and so on.
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