#fslt12 MOOC – first reflections

Tomorrow we have our first Review Meeting – we being the team – about the FSLT12 MOOC experience. There is every intention to run the MOOC again next year. I think the intention is to offer it for credit. I may not be involved next year – but whether or not this is the case it is worth thinking about lessons learned from this first offering of #fslt12.

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I thought it would be useful to make a note of these lessons that I have learned before tomorrow’s meeting, i.e. before being influenced by the others.

Overall, my perception is that the MOOC was a success, although I haven’t seen any of the evaluations yet. Feedback in blogs and in Blackboard Collaborate has been positive – but of course this is only the feedback from those who participated, not from the many who didn’t. It is almost impossible to reach the people who registered but then didn’t visibly interact. We don’t know whether they were ‘lurking’ or simply not there. And if not there, why did they sign up and then not engage?

For me it has been a wonderful opportunity to be ‘on the other side of the fence’ – so to speak, i.e. working with Oxford Brookes to convene the MOOC, rather than be a participant. I have been a participant in five other MOOCs before this one. What have I learned from working in this one as a convener?

–       First – it is a lot of hard work – so hats off to Stephen Downes, George Siemens and Dave Cormier who started all this off. I hadn’t realized that despite the ‘hands off’ approach that they appear to adopt, quite how much hard work goes on behind the scenes. I would imagine that this was particularly so for CCK08 and that is maybe why they changed the format slightly for subsequent MOOCs.

–       Having a good handle on the technology is absolutely essential. In a recent Slideshare presentation Stephen wrote that his law of MOOCs is that if connectivity is not distributed then it is not a MOOC . But this requires a degree of technical expertise that cannot be taken for granted. Fortunately for us we had three wonderful technologists – Joe Rosa, who sorted out the Moodle site for us, Sylvia Currie who not only ‘lent us’ her Blackboard Collaborate site, but also managed it all for us and Liz Lovegrove, who uploaded presentations, videos and resources to our Moodle site. And of course George created the WordPress site. So we did encourage distribution of connectivity across different technologies – and in that sense, according to Stephen, we were a MOOC.

–       but we were not a ‘massive’ MOOC and for me this gave it all more of an ‘open course’ feel. Ultimately, after the initial surge of interest, we had the assessed participants and a few non-assessed participants fully interacting in the forums and Blackboard Collaborate. How many others were ‘watching’, I don’t know, but maybe there are some analytics there somewhere that George and Joe have seen. But what I learned from this is that it doesn’t have to be ‘massive’ to ensure diversity. We had a wonderfully diverse mix of learners from experienced to novice, across very diverse disciplines. My perception was that this was an excellent opportunity for novices to learn from experts and for experts to have their eyes opened by the novices. This for me was the most rewarding aspect of the MOOC.

–       I was reminded once again that online, those who are committed to learning put in more than 100% of effort and therefore breadth and depth issues need to be balanced very carefully. In Week 5 Greg Benfield provided some excellent resources on evaluation, but these were not discussed because both assessed and non-assessed participants who were still with us were completely focused on the microteaching activity. On reflection this is no more than you would expect.

–       And I was reminded once again about how hard it is to get assessment right, so that feedback is constructive and leads to further learning. The type of assessment that we were offering was through personalized feedback. This involves developing a relationship with the ‘to be assessed’ participant. For ‘massive’ MOOCs, this simply does not scale up – so there is a lot to learn about how much learners can learn from the Stanford type of MOOC  and ‘mechanised’ feedback, as opposed to the one-to-one type of feedback we offered. Which offers the best learning experience? This would be worthy of a research paper I think.

–       And finally I experienced the troubling thoughts of whether I should be a ‘traditional teacher’ in this MOOC, or whether MOOCs require a different type of interaction. I alluded to this in my last post. What I like about MOOCs as a participant is that I don’t have anyone ‘watching over me’. I can do my own thing. But as a MOOC convener I’m not sure how far my ‘watching over’ responsibility should extend. I have been a teacher (in the traditional sense) my whole working life and I now feel a dilemma between being responsible for the learners I work with and the autonomy that MOOCs promote. I haven’t sorted this out in my own head yet – but I do know that I have played a ‘teacher’ role in this MOOC – which suggests to me that it hasn’t quite fitted with what I perceive a MOOC to be.

–       Finally I learned a lot about working in Blackboard Collaborate – mainly due to Sylvia Currie’s openness in sharing her expertise, but also because I have never before had the opportunity to be a Moderator for so many sessions in a row. This was very valuable and I will probably write another blog post about what I learned in relation to this.

I’m looking forward to our review meeting tomorrow to hear what others think.

Teaching and Learning in #FSLT12

Today has been the last day of the #fslt12 MOOC, at the end of what has felt like an intense week of participants presenting their microteaching activities in Blackboard Collaborate. Without exception these have been impressive and as one of the course conveners it is humbling to work with learners from whom I learn such a lot.  It has been a privilege. The recordings of the microteach presentations, which happened on Wednesday and Friday of this week can be found here  They are well worth watching and listening to.

I have also been so impressed that participants who did not choose to be assessed have entered into this activity and have been willing to present their work and receive feedback from their peers. No matter how experienced or confident we are in our teaching, there is nothing like being peer reviewed to make us take stock and critically reflect on what it is we are doing.

I have also received this evening an email from one of the MOOC participants sending me this link to Carl Rogers’ work. All he said was,

Thought you might like this Jenny.
http://www.infed.org/thinkers/et-rogers.htm

.. and I do like it.  I feel a strong sense of resonance with Carl Rogers’ ideas about facilitation and the importance of relationships in teaching and learning. These are ideas that I think I have always aspired to – but recently with the advent of MOOCs, my thinking on this has been challenged – because in MOOCs, at least in connectivist MOOCs, or in massive online MOOCs of the Udacity type, the role of the teacher changes …. and for me it has become difficult to continue to understand what, as a teacher, my relationship with learners should be.

In connectivist MOOCs the role of the teacher changes because of the associated  ‘hands off’ approach to teaching – or at least that is my experience of connectivist MOOCs. In these MOOCs the teacher is a convener of an event or learning environment, where learners learn from each other and co-construct knowledge. Stephen Downes explains his thinking on this in his post The Role of the Educator  This post demonstrates how complex (or even confused) the role of the teacher has become since the advent of MOOCs.

In the Udacity type of MOOC, the scale of these MOOCs means that the teacher is necessarily even more distant. I haven’t had experience of one of these MOOCs yet – but this blog post seems to describe the situation. This post would seem to support the idea that a relationship between teacher  (whoever that might be) and learner (whoever that might be) cannot be denied as an important factor in learning.

For me FSLT12 has been an open course rather than a MOOC.  My main reason for thinking this has been that in it, I have felt myself to be more present as a teacher/facilitator than I would expect to do in a connectivist MOOC or Udacity type massive open online course. That might be because I have been required to assess some participants’ work. And it might also be because I have been involved in the planning of the structure of the course and therefore am at least in part responsible for its success. But probably mostly because I have felt a sense of responsibility, not only for the success of the FSLT12 MOOC, but much more so for the participants’ learning experiences and I know that this sense of responsibility doesn’t quite fit with a connectivist MOOC philosophy. In my past experience of connectivist MOOCs, this sense of responsibility is not overt, if indeed it exists at all. And that’s OK. I haven’t expected anyone to be responsible for me when participating in MOOCs, or that I would have any sort of a relationship with the MOOC convener.

You will gather from this post that I am still confused about the role of the teacher in MOOC environments. I am still thinking all this through – so I would be very interested to hear what others think. For me it’s all a bit of a dilemma. In MOOCs, am I a teacher, or not, and if I am, what kind of a teacher am I? In FSLT12, I have felt like a teacher/facilitator, but I have not thought that FSLT12 is a MOOC – rather an open online course.

#fslt12 Final Week – Microteaching

This week the focus is teaching and the evaluation of teaching.

This #fslt12 course  is based on a course which runs face-to-face at Oxford Brookes University. The First Steps course is an element of the Oxford Centre for Staff and Learning Development’s (OCSLD) HEA accredited Post Graduate Certificate in Teaching in Higher Education (PCTHE).

#fslt12 has been aimed at new lecturers, people entering higher education teaching from other sectors and postgraduate students who teach. But in true MOOC spirit we have also had some very experienced ‘teachers’ join us who have openly shared their experience.

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In the face-to-face course the key activity is to ‘microteach’ –  i.e. teach a short 10 minute session to a small group of peers and receive feedback from that group.  In order to try and ensure alignment between the face-to-face course and what is offered online, we are trying out this activity in #fslt12.  On Wednesday and Friday of this week, #fslt12 participants will showcase the teaching sessions they have prepared in the live sessions and receive feedback from their peers.

Click here to enter the Blackboard Collaborate room. (See time zones below)

Wed 20 June – Check your time zone

Frid 22 June –  Check your time zone

I will be able to reflect further on this activity at the end of this week, but it has already raised some interesting challenges.  These include:

  • feelings of exposure. I think it’s fair to say that it’s one thing to practise your teaching in front of a small face-to-face group, but quite another to practise openly online in front of anyone and everyone
  • 10 minutes. This will also be a challenge face-to-face, but how do you demonstrate your teaching skills in just 10 minutes
  • technology. I also think it would be fair to say that however this activity is presented it will involve a greater degree of technology than it’s face-to-face equivalent.

Finally this activity also demands the skills of evaluation from those involved in peer review.

Greg Benfield from Oxford Brookes University has provided some excellent resources this week, which include two audio video presentations in which he introduces the topic of evaluation, reference to key readings and some sample videos for us to use to try out our evaluation skills.

The microteaching activities are beginning to be posted, both by participants who are being assessed and by others, and we expect some more over the next few days. Have a look in the Moodle wiki and on people’s blogs

It promises to be another interesting week.

Open Educational Resources and Pedagogy

Dave White’s presentation to FSLT12 yesterday included a number of thought-provoking ideas.

In the past I have heard Dave speak a number of times about ‘Visitors and Residents’ in the online environment. You can find out more about this on his TALL blog – Technology Assisted life-long learning – TALL for short  (his joke – not mine :-))

But this week’s talk took a different focus. It centred on the relationship between open educational resources (OERs), open academic practice and changing pedagogy. The title of his talk was even longer than this:

OER: The quality vs credibility vs access vs pedagogy vs legitimacy vs money debate

Click here for the recording of the session.

As Dave pointed out, OERs come in all shapes and sizes and Creative Commons  licensing of these is very important in determining our use of them.  But despite being in all shapes and sizes, we can take the iceberg metaphor and categorise them as

  • those above the water-line, visible, above board, properly licensed – the kind of resources produced by an institution to market itself
  • or those below the water line – where licensing is not so important.

These below the water line resources are easy access , free and easy to remix and repurpose, without much attribution.  This happens a lot below the water line.

Slide 6 - Dave White presentation

(Slide 6 from Dave White’s presentation)

But perhaps the most important point/question raised by Dave is 

What effect has access to OERs, above or below the water line, had on the way we teach and learn?

I remember when MIT first opened access to their educational resources, this was accompanied by a statement to the effect that it was not an issue for them to open their content to the world – because the educational value and quality they provide is not so much in their content, but in their teaching and learning. To get this we have to pay to go to MIT.

So as Dave said, when thinking about OERs we cannot neglect ‘contact’. It is not all about ‘content’. So how do OERs ‘drive pedagogy back into what it’s meant to be’? (quoting Dave from the presentation). For me they do this in a number of ways:

  • Now that we have more clarity around what we are allowed to do with OERs (through Creative Commons Licences), we can remix, repurpose and feed-forward OERs (to quote Stephen Downes). We can be more creative.
  • Perhaps OERs also enable us to challenge the ‘status quo’ – in the sense that ‘credible, quality’ content might no longer always be in peer reviewed journals, articles and academic sites, but might instead be on ‘John or Jane Doe’s blog’ or deep below the water line (iceberg metaphor).
  • They do tend to force more critical thinking and the framing of critically relevant questions, e.g. what is a credible, quality resource? How do we recognize it?  And this in turn raises the whole question of whether learners have the skills to navigate the web to find the quality resources.
  • And from the teacher’s perspective, as Dave pointed out, we will have to come up with assessment tasks that don’t allow the student to simply find the answer through an easy access easy to find OER. This has always been a challenge for teachers, but even more so now.

Dave’s final slide quotes Harouni (2009).

“I must value not answers but instead questions that represent the continued renewal of the search. I must value uncertainty and admit complexity in the study of all things”

For me living with uncertainty is the big paradigm shift we might need in today’s digital world. Roy Williams, Regina Karousou, Simone Gumtau and I have been exploring this in our papers about emergent learning  – and Dave Cormier raised this as a key point in his presentation to the in the ‘New Places to Learn’  – NewPlacesEvent HEA event held at the Said Business School in Oxford in April of this year.

Hopefully discussion about how OERs affect pedagogy will continue in the FSLT12 Week 4 Moodle discussion forum  There is still lots to talk about.

#fslt12 Week 4 with Dave White

This week we welcome Dave White to the FSLT12 MOOC. Dave will be speaking to the title

The Impact on Teachers of Open Educational Resources and Open Academic Practice in the Digital University

Date and time: Wed 13 June 3.00 – 5.00 pm BST

Link to the session here

Check your time zone

Link to Resources to prepare for Dave’s session

Dave tweeted some time ago that he was preparing for this session. I have heard Dave speak a few time before and blogged about him, so I know I can look forward to this session.

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Lecturing

The curriculum thread this week focuses on ‘lecturing’. Rhona Sharpe has provided an excellent and thought-provoking video

The ideas raised by this video are being discussed in the Week 4 Moodle forum

Activity 3 Microteaching

The first two activities, reflective writing and collaborative bibliography, have both been very successful with excellent contributions to both. Many, but by no means all of the reflective writing examples have been on people’s blogs and the collaborative bibliography activity took place in the Week 2 Moodle wiki 

The third and final activity is ‘Microteaching’. The idea is that we share examples of our teaching practice

I think Rhona provides us with an excellent example of good practice. Within her video presentation she employs many of the strategies of good teaching.

One or two people have already submitted their microteaching activity. I am looking forward to seeing more and hopefully to having plenty of people present their work in the live sessions in Week 5.

So on to another set of stimulating discussion in Week 4.

​Learn by unlearning; see by unseeing

I am just back from a couple of days at a conference at Stirling University  Scotland.

Roy Williams, Simone Gumtau and I presented a paper and ran a theory clinic (see  here for details)

As with all conferences for me – it’s difficult to come away and clearly articulate the conference’s value, or what I have learned, or been provoked into thinking about and exploring further (at least in the short term). And as with all conferences, I went to some sessions that ‘left me cold’, but to others which left me knowing that there is lots I need to think about further. The Stirling conference (overall) fulfilled the latter more than the former. I was introduced to lots of new ideas.

Recently I wrote a post about being a glass half empty person . After this conference I realize that is not quite correct – but that my interest in learning is stimulated by ‘unlearning’ and by ‘unseeing’ – an idea further stimulated by a paper presented by Jason Thomas Wozniak, Teachers College, Colombia University, USA.

I was lucky that this was the last session I attended, as for me it pulled together ideas from some of the other presentations that had been simmering in my depths somewhere and also related to our own papers in unexpected ways and particularly to the idea that what is not present is as important as what is present – which I first began to think about after reading a paper about 6 months ago by Terrence W. Deacon (2011).

This idea of ‘The Other’, learning not from what is, but from what is not, also seems critical to avoiding echo chambers and ‘group think’, a topic which has been discussed many times by MOOC followers. Jason Wozniac reminds us that

‘There is a long history of ancient and modern philosophers like Seneca and Foucault who sought to defamiliarise themselves with habitual manners of perceiving and thinking in order to acquire new approaches to reality.”

Wozniac’s work with learners in Brazil has sought to encourage learning through ‘making the world strange’. Paul Standish, another speaker at the conference, seemed to be aligned to this idea, albeit through different expression, when he urged us to ‘reclaim the concept of the amateur in a positive way’. I take this to mean that we have much to learn from the amateur and unexpected ways of thinking. Standish pointed out that teachers often close down dialogue and said that teachers need to learn how to be an authority without being in authority.

Wozniac also writes “Habitual perception conceals or makes us numb to many aspects of the world. We become in essence de-sensitized, and our participation in the world is impoverished’ … and he quotes Ginzburg, 2001, p.13) ‘To understand less, to be ingenuous, to remain stupefied: these are reactions that may lead us to see more’.”

Wozniac’s team attempted this with Brazilian learners, i.e. to encourage learning through unlearning and seeing through unseeing, through a series of exercises involving art, poetry and dialogue. This reminded me of when (years ago) I attended life drawing classes and for weeks we were not allowed to draw the figure as we saw her, but instead each week had to draw her from different perspectives, e.g. the figure as a mathematical representation, the figure as a landscape and so on. We, along with Wozniac’s adult teachers and students, were developing ‘negative capability’ (Keats 1935, p.72, quoted by Wozniac) .

‘That is to say that these teachers were ‘capable of being in uncertainties, mysteries, and doubts, without any irritable reaching after fact and reason” (Wozniac, 2012).

This idea of promoting uncertainty and mystery in learning is very closely related to the work I have been doing with Roy Williams and Simone Gumtau on emergent and embodied learning ….. And it seems to me that a focus on uncertainty necessitates consideration of what is not there, or ‘The Other’.

For Julie Allan (keynote speaker) this ‘Other’ was expressed as ‘Aporias’. She encouraged us to think in terms of expressions of doubt, e.g. How can we raise achievement and promote inclusiveness , or how can we promote autonomy and support collaboration (which seems very relevant to the FSLT12 MOOC ).

And our second keynote speaker Tom Popkewitz  talked of ‘double gesture’ i.e. by considering what is – you also necessarily identify what is not. For example he writes:

Today’s the “urban” family and child has new classifications of “troubled youth” and “the dropout”. Without too much effort, it is easy to realize that there is no “troubled” or “dropout” without theories about the child who is not troubled and who is different from the child “drop-in”.

According to Popkewitz you can’t understand the self without understanding ‘The Other” and trying to control the future has never worked.

As Paul Standish said, the aim of education is to lead to freedom. What I learned from the conference, is that this is the freedom to see things as we have never seen them before, to think things we have never dreamed possible, to embrace uncertainty and ‘strangeness’ and to welcome defamiliarisation. This freedom will no doubt feel like strange and unfamiliar territory, but to quote Michel Foucault

‘There are times in life when the question of knowing if one can think differently than one thinks, and perceive differently than one sees, is absolutely necessary if one is to go on looking and reflecting at all.’

References

Deacon, T.W. (2011) Consciousness is a matter of constraint- My New Scientist
Magazine issue 2840.

Ginzburg, C. (2001) Making it strange: The prehistory of a literary device. In Wooden Eyes: Nine Reflections on Distance (pp. 1-23). (Martin Ryle & Kate Soper, Trans.). New York: Columbia University Press)

Keats, J. (1935) The Letters of John Keats (p.72) New York: Oxford University Press

Popkewitz, T.S. (2012) Is there an Option: Theory as an Empirical Fact. http://www.stir.ac.uk/education/future-of-theory-in-education/

Wozniak, J.T. (2012) Exercises in Making the World Strange: Cultivating new ways of perceiving the world in teacher education programs and adult literacy and philosophy classes. http://www.stir.ac.uk/education/future-of-theory-in-education/

#FSLT12 Week 3 with Etienne and Bev Wenger-Trayner

We have had what feels like a bit of a pause over the weekend – many UK participants were maybe taking a break for the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Celebrations. Its not often we get two Bank Holidays in a row, Monday and Tuesday. But people are beginning to drift back now.

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Etienne and Beverly Wenger-Trayner

The Open Academic Practice thread of Week 3 features Etienne and Beverly Wenger-Trayner,  who will be presenting in the live session on “Theory, pedagogy, and Identity in Higher-Education Teaching.” Wednesday 06 June, 2012, 1500 BST.  I am really looking forward to this session. I have been following Etienne’s work for quite a few years and now that he has married Bev, I will be following Bev too 🙂

Click here   to enter the Blackboard Collaborate room.

Check your time zone

Feedback

The First Steps Curriculum this week is covering Feedback, i.e. how to give feedback to students. Research has shown that despite teachers best efforts many students are only concerned with the grade and don’t even read the feedback we give them, i.e. they jump through the necessary hoops to get their qualification, but don’t appear to be interested in learning for its own sake. See for example, this paper

Gibbs, G. & Simpson, C. (2004-05) Conditions Under Which Assessment Supports Students’ Learning. Learning and Teaching in Higher Education, Issue 1.

An internet search will result in finding a PDF of the paper and it is well worth reading.

Of course there are many students who are passionate about learning (and they are such a privilege to work with) – but also many do just need and want that piece of paper. As a teacher, it can be disappointing when this is the case, but never more so than when the student is a PhD student. A question for teachers is whether feedback can be used to engage students (not just PhD students) and leverage higher quality learning. Apostolos Koutropoulos has initiated a discussion about this in the #fslt12 Week 3 Moodle Forum

I interpret Apostolos’ comments as relating to feed forward. I have long felt that unless the student is ‘bone idle’, or clearly on the wrong course (i.e. their strengths simply do not align with course requirements), then if the student fails, the tutor has to carefully question their own failings. As Apostolos writes – ‘feed forward’, i.e. catching the student before they ‘go wrong’, can raise standards and make the learning experience more satisfactory for learners and teachers. Reading University has done some work on feed forward

Activity 2 Collaborative Bibliography

Finally, Activity 2 is due to be completed this week. This collaborative bibliography wiki activity  is beginning to yield some interesting outcomes. The purpose of the activity is to consider the requirements of a literature review and how to critically review a piece of scholarly literature.  There is a link on Oxford Brookes’ own website which is a helpful starting point, but some other helpful resources  have been posted on the Moodle site and I’m sure there are many more out there. It would be useful to gather some together. For example

I like this blog  and The Thesis Whisperer is another great blog for PhD students or those working with PhD students.

And finally another great source of information for PhD students is #phdchat on Twitter

So there’s never a dull moment in FSLT12 🙂