Pedagogy First gets going again

Pedagogy First is a Programme for Online Teaching Certificate Class run by Lisa Lane and her colleagues at Miracosta College.

 The class is free, offered by the Program for Online Teaching (not an accredited institution), run by volunteer faculty and participants, and open to everyone. We offer a certificate for those who fulfill the syllabus requirements, and open participation for anyone not interested in the certificate.

The course started in September – broke for Christmas and started again a couple of weeks ago. It will continue to run until the end of April. Participants are very enthusiastic and many seem to be ‘flying’ in the development of their ability to use technology to enhance their teaching.

It is great to see participants experimenting with different technologies and being confident enough to share these with others. Last week the focus was on images and screenshots  and explored the use of FlickrMbedr and the annotation of photos. There were a number of great blog posts this week, but Norm Wright’s introduction   to a 3D rotating image cube caught my attention.

This week the focus has been on Audio and Video with equally successful results. For example, Trisha Hanada Rogers was on the course last year and this year has come back to demonstrate how she uses what she has learned in her teaching.

For more examples of how participants are experimenting with new tools see the Pedagogy First site.

I have been invited to talk about learning theory later on in the course. I know now, having seen the work produced by participants in the last two weeks, that I cannot match their technical skills, but hopefully I will be able to contribute some ideas from my past teaching and learning experience.

I’m looking forward to seeing what’s on offer in the next weeks of Pedagogy First.

Digital Storytelling in the US Army

This week Jonathan Silk, a US Army Officer stationed at the United States Military Academy at West point, NY, shared his digital story telling practice with the CPsquare community. For this digital storytelling work he won the 2012 Pepperdine Award for outstanding work in community development.

CPsquare group shot

Storytelling is used in many organisations as a knowledge management strategy. Through storytelling tacit knowledge is elicited and shared for the benefit of the whole organization. Jonathan has shared his own story in a blog post ‘Why I tick when I run’.

In the US Army, storytelling has been used to great effect within the MILSPACE Community of Practice  to share leadership stories from the field; this has been the subject of Jonathan Silk’s action research.

The key point that came out of Jonathan’s CPsquare presentation and the discussion, was that although storytelling is a powerful tool for binding a community, it needs to be managed carefully in terms of the technology, in terms of the stories and commitment to gathering those stories, and in terms of learning from the stories.

The technology

The MILSPACE community uses an ordinary video camera. Videos are edited on a Mac with Final Cut Pro . The Army has a designated person to do this editing and to date has over 1500 video stories of 3-5 minutes in length.

The main issue for the MILSPACE community has been to make the videos easily accessible to community members, easy to search, and easy to comment on and discuss. JCarousel is used to support this and recent work has focused on tags and video titles. Appropriate titles have been found to be very influential on the number of times a video is viewed (see Jonathan’s report for further details).

Managing story collection

The MILSPACE community has over 20,900 members and focuses on the leadership development of cadets, lieutenants and captains in the US Army. Stories are collected in the field. A dedicated team went out to locations such as Iraq and Afghanistan to create the videos. Leaders were almost universally keen to be interviewed and understand that sharing their stories and learning adds value to the whole community.

Video interviews can be conducted with a single leader or with a group and are usually around a given topic, e.g. eight leaders have given video interviews on the topic of ‘Your first 30 days in a country’.

The stories can be highly emotive and elicit deeply reflective thinking. This requires careful, sensitive and experienced management by the interviewer. Trust and positive relationships are essential to the story collection process and it is understood that the videos are ‘owned’ by the interviewees. No videos are published without the consent of the interviewee, although they are carefully screened for any potential security issues.

Learning from the video stories

The collection of over a 1,500 videos does not necessarily mean that they are used effectively for learning. The MILSPACE community is currently exploring means of increasing discussion around the videos. Recent work has involved developing a more structured approach to the management of discussion around the videos, through establishing groups of topic leaders (peer panels) who make personal contact with interviewees and seed discussion and comments around the videos to build learning relationships. This is work in progress.

Final thoughts

It is not difficult to understand what a powerful effect video stories could have on the learning of a community, particularly one such as the US Army where as Jonathan Silk has put it the cycle between action and reflection is so fast and chaotic that it’s difficult to capture the learning.

This potential has been recognized and supported by the hierarchy in the US Army, which has devoted technology and manpower to the process.

Perhaps the most difficult part of the process and potentially the most interesting is yet to be fully developed, and that is an exploration of just how do video stories add value to a community of practice.  This is a process that has recently been highlighted by Wenger et al in their publication

Wenger, E., Trayner, B., and de Laat, M. (2011) Promoting and assessing value creation in communities and networks: a conceptual framework. Rapport 18, Ruud de Moor Centrum, Open University of the Netherlands.

I found Jonathan Silk’s presentation very interesting and valuable, because it helped to clarify the issues surrounding the collection and management of video stories.  It will be interesting to see how the work develops.

(This post has also been copied to the CPsquare blog).

Can’t see the wood for the trees!

Well, we’re moving on to Week 2 and I haven’t even got ‘What is connectivism?’ sorted yet. I was beginning to despair but have just come across this – posted in one of the forums and probably elsewhere – An interview with George Siemens on Connectivism

So here are my notes and some questions:

The learning process is being changed by what we’re able to do with technology. We can create and share more. We can do this with people at a distance who we don’t meet. The starting point for learning is the connection – which opens the door – so the act of learning depends on the ability to navigate these networks. Our knowledge is networked. Technology opens the door further. Not much to argue with here.

Connectivism didn’t start from nothing, but is a natural progression from existing theories. Nor here.

In connectivism the emphasis is on the connection, either at conceptual level, neural level or social level.

Would it be fair to say that there seems to be a lot of emphasis on the social level?

So how do we use this theory in education?

1. We need to encourage openness – a capacity for communicating with others, a willingness to share and externalise ourselves. I don’t see this as being very different to the communities of practice ideas. What happens to introverts in connectivism?

2. We need to think of the act of learning as the formation of a connection and so encourage our students to see that

  • the world is highly complex and we don’t know the outcomes of learning
  • we need to be adaptive to stay current and informed
  • we need to give students links to networks and help them to navigate networks – this is probably harder than you would think
  • we need to help students become critical thinkers – an old chestnut and not easy
  • diversity of networks is needed and students need to learn what’s worth connecting to and what’s not – another tricky one
  • we should bring in experts from all round the world; use resources that have been created by others
  • the curriculum can’t be defined in advance; we don’t know what the students know and therefore we need a participatory pedagogy – negotiating the curriculum – the most interesting one for me and one that I have tried to implement in the past

The idea of a negotiated curriculum has around for a while, but the stumbling block in education is always assessment. Ultimately a lot of what is mentioned above is constrained by assessment.