Beyond the ‘how to’ guides – a search

Project visits by the SSBR team supporting the JISC Institutional Innovation Programme have flagged up a need for some ‘beyond the how-to’ type of guides. Whilst the guidance about how to use a certain technology are obviously helpful, there is a need for some additional guidance about the wider issues in using particular technologies, for example, looking at embedding the technologies into an institution, good practice pointers, looking at a technology from various perspectives and so on.

There are myriad technologies being used in the Institutional Innovation Programme, but for starters the ones that were suggested in the recent project visits were Wimba Create, Luminosity and PebblePad. Many projects are investigating these products (and of course out with this programme) so a little asking around for resources and sharing the results can benefit many.

Wise colleagues have pointed to useful information which is “not about one of these particular tools but might have some ‘transferable’ general suggestions that could be applied to using Wimba – the JISC guide to Elluminate is pretty thorough and definitely more than a basic ‘how to’.”

Also flagged up was the WebPA project, that have just released some guides to using their system that are the kind of thing that have given this project such longevity way beyond its funding period.

With specific reference to PebblePad, their website includes 30 case studies and a number of student ‘stories’ from their recent conference. Although many project teams may have already read the JISC Effective practice with e-Portfolios guide, published in 2008, there is some very useful information in there and it could be worth a revisit – hindsight based on knowledge gained in a project can often give it a different slant. The guide covers e-Portfolios from various perspectives, and has a number of links to other work/studies at the end of the guide. The guide includes the quote:
‘The picture has often been a complex one, with confusion over what an e-portfolio is. More recently, consensus is gathering, and clarity is being brought to the discussions, as our experience with using e-portfolio tools grows.’ (JISC (2007) e-Portfolios: An overview of JISC activities)

It could be argued that 3 years on this is still the case, but our experience is still growing and it is projects such as those in the Lifelong Learning & Workforce Development programme that are informing this consensus and taking the work forward. Any guidance produced by projects is a valuable output for the Programme and the wider community. Keep them coming!

the future of publishing & the young generation

There has been a lot of interesting debate and discussion recently about the future of publishing with the prevalence of technologies and social networking. Add this to my existing concerns about the ‘them and us’ notions and views that some people seem to have of ‘students’ and the whole Lifelong learning agenda, I was pleased to stumble across a video and thought it was very clever indeed, you need to watch it to the end to get the full message: see video in Will Thalheimer’s post.

Can we share learning outcomes and other related info?

ASN, XCRI, LEAP, Curriculum Design and more meeting, Bolton 22 march

March saw a meeting to explore possible links between common areas of interest such as XCRI, LEAP, Curriculum Design and Delivery and included fellow CETIS colleagues, colleagues from down the road at Manchester Metropolitan University (MMU), and from ‘across the pond’ in the USA, namely University of Washington and JES and Co, Arizona. The meeting was a very interesting, educational, intense and productive session. Wilbert Kraan, CETIS Asst Director, organised the event after meeting Diny Golder, Chief Exec of JES and Co/ASN at a conference and realising that their fantastic work spanning many many years has much relevance to some of the issues that we are grappling with. The agenda went something like this:

• Overview of the Achievements Standards Network (ASN) it’s infrastructure, tools and models.
• Other relevant work that they have explored (and serendipitously so had MMU) is that undertaken at the Australian University of Southern Queensland.
• Overview of the eXchanging Course Related Information (XCRI) spec, it’s infrastructure, tools and models.
• Overview of the Leap 2 specification for portability and interoperability of e-portfolio information, it’s infrastructure, tools and models. Plus Leap2 in Atom and Leap2 in RDF.
• Information about the JISC Curriculum Design programme and links with this work.
• Crossovers and applications between all of the above.

The gist of what they all do:

In general there are 3 main parts to the ASN work:
1. Framework to describe something
2. Repository to store it
3. The services to make it work

XCRI exposes course information in a format to allow sharing and portability between learning providers (and ultimately for learners). “Opening up the offerings of learning providers creates new possibilities for value-added services and information channels for universities, colleges, and training providers.”

LEAP deals with learner information and exposing such information to be used and exchanged between e-portfolio and e-PDP tools.

The JISC Curriculum Design and Delivery programmes are, as the name suggests, looking at all aspects of the curriculum from planning through to approval and quality assurance to delivery / implementation. The main area of interest that was obvious to the work of the ASN was in the Curriculum Design aspects, and in particular being able to share and expose information about learning outcomes.

Why are they relevant to each other?
The Achievement Standard Network is interesting work to track as it can inform many areas of work especially many JISC programmes which CETIS support, such as Curriculum Design and Delivery, Lifelong Learning and Workforce development, Open Educational Resources and many more.

There are natural linkages between all the areas we discussed, and each individual area has a knock on effect on the others. Initiatives to help expose and share information such as learner competencies, learning outcomes, course information, curriculum models and so on are all beneficial to each other; it is such a vast and complex field that no one project or organisation could tackle it. It is critical in many developments to keep in mind the transferability of the findings and replication (indeed for funding bodies the wider application and sharing is an imperative.) To also have an international appeal broadens the scope and potential application of such work.

I’ve written up an account of the meeting, formed from my hastened notes as the discussions went on. I’ve added it as a seperate file as it is quite lengthy but is was a long meeting with lots of information! I’ll try to revisit it and break it down into digestible chunks…

I thought of the question ‘can we share learning outcomes?’ after I had written this post, as I tried to zoom out of focus and to think of how someone who wasn’t in the meeting may think, and for me, I suppose that was the question I went into the meeting with (but I hadn’t yet formulated it.)
My expanded notes from the meeting are in a seperate pdf file.

“Rethinking the Curriculum for Interesting Times”

I’ve just left the JISC Curriculum Design and Delivery Programme meeting, a 2 day event held in sunny Manchester. Several people may post about the overall meeting, but I thought I’d post some of my thoughts about some of the issues I found interesting amongst the wealth of knowledge and ideas that were discussed, and to focus on one session in particular.

Today (Day 2) kicked off with a stimulating presentation: “Rethinking the Curriculum for Interesting Times” by Keri Facer, Professor of Education, Manchester Metropolitan University. Professor Facer is not directly involved in the Programmes, but was invited to discuss current issues and trends which may impact on the concerns focussed upon within the programmes. This session included a recent history and overview of children’s technology use and expectations, and how technology has become commonplace in all aspects of life. Prof Facer then went on to challenge traditional perceptions of using technology in education and discussed the informal and formal aspects and blurring of these boundaries.

One statement that perhaps resonated with many working in this area was the statement that there is often a missing notion of pedagogy in the introduction of technology in an educational setting– and gave an example of when those in a school were asked why they had bought several hundred mobile devices for students, the reply was “we just think it will be good.”!

Prof Facer pointed to the hugely complex education environment in which children are growing up, making the transition through various strategies and modes of delivery. Not many people are aware of aims of the country’s national curriculum or it’s key aims (which include nurturing responsible citizens, who are confident and effective learners). Also, with the role of parents and their input into education and supporting their children, she argued that we need to think about big picture; micro managing doesn’t work.

Prof Facer gave a whirlwind tour of the technological developments and some nuggets gleamed from her research about the pervasiveness of technology in the home and the differences in expectations and skills from the younger generation. She noted that there are now 2 almost wholly online schools in the UK, stating that ‘distance matters less, geography still counts’ and we need to be focussed much more on the individual rather than the institution.

I found of interest the statement that the “ability to think long term is correlated with socio economic status” – positing that the traditional model of careers guidance often doesn’t work and there is a need for effective mentoring that is lifelong and supports learners through various transitions.

Another stance that was novel was the idea of “Managing diversity as a resource rather than a problem” and I think the approaches to this will hopefully be refreshing and fascinating to see to say the least. Prof Facer argues that this is going to be critical; “Personalisation has huge drawback in that it allows you to exist in the world you already had, the encounter with new people can take you to new places” which may be tangential to statements about personalisation in the past. The new horizons should indeed be an exciting and engaging experience, and merely replicating the traditional models does not do justice to the potentials afforded by both the new technologies and any potential new pedagogies.

The presentation explored a number of approaches and ideas for the future of education, warning that We should think about what the ‘do nothing’ option would lead to. This includes the importance of critical thinking; perhaps school could be more about conformance and university more about higher thinking. We need to support thinking about issues and situations rather than content delivery. Non traditional learners may be a massive growth area; Prof Facer argued that there is a social justice in looking an non traditional university students rather than focussing on an elite few. She stated that education needs to rediscover the dialogue with which the community learning is focussed on, many lessons can be learned from such approaches.

One thought I had never heard articulated in such a context was that our model of adult-child relations is in question, that the current one has only been around since end of 18 century. In the last few years, this has been turned on its head. The traditional notion is that adults teach the younger generation and this focus has perhaps shifted and adults are not the knowledge source or mentor that they traditionally were, nor are children the ones with less knowledge – indeed, in terms of technology use and familiarity, they are often bounds ahead.

It was a session that I think certainly got people thinking (and as one person put it later ‘burst a few bubbles’) and was an excellent and inspiring start to the day, with participants ready to tackle some of the challenges Professor Facer posed. Indeed, it could be argued that no action is not an option.

“We are always focused on ‘how’ do we do stuff and we need to reclaim the right to ask ‘why?’”

Professor Facer’s presentation was video-ed so will no doubt be online shortly.

Learning Design – revisited, reinvigorated, resurrected?

CETIS ran a Learning Design event in Manchester on 20 May.
The idea behind this event was to provide an update on recent work in the area, but also to elicit feedback and suggestions about where this work could potentially go. The event intentionally focused on IMS Learning Design work (as opposed to the more general “learning design”) which included projects from the JISC Design for Learning Programme and other initiatives taking place in the UK and Europe. To give the whole theme adequate time for participants to really get their teeth into the concepts and rationale behind the latest developments plus invaluable hands-on experience with any relevant tools would probably easily fill a week. Nonetheless, this snapshot of where we are at currently seemed to be received positively, and ideas for future events are already underway (and further suggestions welcome.) Indeed, one “twitter-er” has commented œI have returned from Manchester with my enthusiasm for Learning Design rekindled.

Presentations at this event included:

  • Professor Oleg Liber, CETIS/ University of Bolton: Origins of IMS Learning Design & the conceptual framework
  • Helen Beetham, JISC Consultant: Overview of the JISC Design for Learning programme, developments & future directions
  • Professor Martin Weller , Open University: Role of LD in “bridging the gap”; overview of Compendium work at OU plus thoughts on a “flickr for learning designs”
  • Mark Barrett-Baxendale, Liverpool Hope University: Using LD with practitioners
  • Dai Griffiths, University of Bolton: TenCompetence background & overview.
  • Phil Beauvoir, University of Bolton: Demonstration of latest developments: Recourse
  • Paul Sharples, University of Bolton: Demonstration of latest developments: widget server

The day wrapped up with an panel discussion, comments and questions. What was clear was that there is still scope for a lot more discussion and debate of the issues. Interesting questions were posed, such as “what is the role of the teacher?”, “what is the role of the user?”, and comments such as LD seems to be a process, likened to a mortgage application (?! How very dull that would be!)
The scope of the Learning Design work was questioned – does it need to broaden to encompass other information etc, or should the focus be narrowed to a specific toolset etc? Are we as a community focussing on practice, process or tools? (or all?) The debate is sure to continue…

‘Cool’ or just ‘Sad’? – What motivates learners to participate in and use technology?

This session at the JISC CETIS conference 2007 discussed the motivation factors behind learners use of technology, asking can we embrace the new technologies and social software that is now so pervasive, and should we try to incorporate these into more formal learning situations?

The group consisted of those very experienced and knowledgeable in this area, which naturally gave rise to a very lively discussion & debate of the issues.
Andrew Ravenscroft from London Metropolitan University kicked off the session presenting his views on œEducation 2.0? Designing ambient pedagogies and meaningful experiences for future learning.” Andrew gave an insightful overview of a project developed in collaboration with other partner institutions which has produced an Open Source tool called InterLoc (collaborative Interaction through scaffolding Locutions) that is incorporating mobile, multimodal and Web 2.0 tools and approaches.

Andrew argued that they are trying to tackle motivation issues in the design of the learning and believe that they are genuinely realising new pedagogies in this area. With regard to the debate over formal v informal learning, Andrew argued that the distinction is a slippery dichotomy, with lots of ambiguities abound in this area; maybe where we are is as close as we want to go, may not be able to go further? In the system that they have developed, they are trying to give the learners ˜active practice by doing and also developing their digital literacy, underpinned by the belief that learning is not separated from technology and questioning ˜How can we make the practices using learning technology ˜feel more like natural technologies that they use?
The system promotes synchronous dialogue “ Andrew argued dont really get quality interactions with asynchronous communications and what is perhaps needed is a œGrolsch pedagogy “ slowing things down.
Many of the developments and comments prompted lots of discussion and debate, which continued throughout the session.

Hazel Hall from Napier University addressed many of the issues arising in the session in her presentation œMotivating Learner Engagement in Online Environments: the relevance of social exchange theory. Hazel provided a background overview of social exchange theory and discussed its applicability in the education sector, particularly when analysing the use of technology. Although social exchange theory may sound very complex, Hazel assured us that it is ˜not hard really, its common sense and explained it to us beginners in a very easy to understand way! Her work has been investigating the use of blogs by students, which is led by teachers and is part of the assessed work on a particular module. Trust was noted as a highly important factor, and the results re existing social relationships were interesting. Hazel noted the need to encourage people to work online with a view to giving them the advantages of working face to face, feeling part of a team. This sparked an interesting discussion about replicating the informal, gossip type dialogue – ˜mundane interaction is the glue of interactions

The discussions continued and participants also pondered on related questions:
Social Technology – Is the motivation to use it part of a “them and us” syndrome?

  • Should we be using social technology in an educational setting or let students get on and use it as they see fit, and just hope that informal learning and collaborations will take place?
  • If students use it for their own purposes (including education), do they feel more empowered in the management of their learning (personalisation)?
  • What about those learners who are not as technologically adept, or prefer a different learning paradigm, or who do not have access to the same technology as their peers? Are they being left behind or are they developing different strategies?
  • How can we harness the way technology is used socially by students and put that into an educational context (and perhaps, more to the point, should we be attempting to do so)?
  • Can we take the parts of the design that students like from the non-educational tools and incorporate that into the design of educational software? Would it work? Or is it a way for students to carve out their own private space away from tutors?

As one may imagine, consensus was not always apparent, even regarding the relevance of thinking in such a way. The discussion is summarised below:

  • Complexity of area
  • Fit for purpose “ effectiveness
  • Blurring of technology and spaces
  • Openness & structured systems?
  • Range of choice “ not either or
  • Need to think about impact on staff and students – social environment
  • Personalisation “ challenging for institutions
  • We are listening to learner preferences “ now more than ever
  • Coolness “ transitory, and coolness- functionality
  • Sad is the new cool!
  • Dont have to be cool in universities
  • Not permitting use of technologies “ needs to be challenged. Control
  • Learner designed learning, integrating user owned technologies
  • Rapidly changing environment
  • Self learning as a private space- dangers of intervening in this
  • Not ˜them and us “ is it possible to empower all?
  • Need effective and reliable VOIP tools

Which left us to decide on a summary picture and sentence. Being a debate on whether something is ˜sad or cool opened up to many humorous possibilities “ penguins looking upset (cool as in cold – yet sad?!) and a man dressed as a woman (and thinking he was convincing.) However, the analogy of the ˜dad dancing at the disco, embarrassing the teenager was very apt, as he may think he is cool but could well be very sad indeed….
YouTube clip of dancing dad

Copies of the presentation Slides are available from the
Conference website

Bashing learning designs – emerging issues to share with the experts

The JISC Design for Learning programme held an unusual event on 23rd October, and took forth the findings (amongst many others) the following day to an invited group of learning and teaching practice experts.

The first days ˜Design Bash was targeted towards projects within the programme to explore the opportunities for sharing their project outputs, which included many varied learning designs.
See Sheilas write up of the Design Bash for more information about the activities on the day. The Support Project for the programme is managed by CETIS and their experience of the successful CETIS Codebashes inspired the format of the day (i.e. ˜get them all together in one room and see if the stuff works)

As you can imagine, there were many common issues emerging, and these were presented along with brief overviews of each project, to the ˜Learning and Teaching Practice Experts Group meeting the following day with the view that they could advise on how to take forward the findings of the programme, ideas for dissemination and wider issues of how to take forward the outputs and outcomes into the e-learning programme. (i.e. where does it all fit, how can we use this work, what shall we fund next?)

Some of the emerging issues are summarised below (and will be discussed in a separate report.) Several are unsurprising and echoed by many similar initiatives, nonetheless they are worthy of consideration and it could be argued that in order for elearning to be successful many need to be addressed. Other issues are more specific to the world of learning design, yet are similar to debates around sharing and reuse that are familiar eg with Learning Objects (motivation, cultural change, contextualisation etc)

  • Outputs dictated by institution & context
  • How to make various designs etc as findable/ meaningful/ contextualised/ scalable as possible
  • Balance between providing structure and freedom
  • Import and export “ needs to be a 2 way process
  • ˜skeleton Learning Designs may be needed
  • Reflective practitioners, what about the rest?
  • Re-thinking pedagogy?
  • VLE as focus of elearning activity “ constrains institutional support
  • Need tools for learners to drive their learning
  • How technology changes the learner and teacher role within traditional classroom settings
  • How designs are described to enable disaggregation to allow for sharing and repurpose
  • Looking at macro and micro levels of learning design – and all those in between
  • Process is important “ how to capture that?
  • Interoperability, IMS LD, mapping between designs
  • Pedagogic Planners “ need further links with each other and with all projects across the Programme.
  • Programme needs to link in with other learning design initiatives (global)

The experts provided invaluable reflections and feedback about the projects and the overall programme, and a wider perspective on the needs of the community and how to take the work forward. It was evident that there is a need to find ways of making potential of projects actually convincing to practitioners and institutions. It was suggested that we build on existing and improve it, to clarify where we are going now rather than set off in a perhaps tangential direction. The focus may be to work with practitioners to see how learning design (and learning design tools, approaches etc) fit in with institutional needs and embedding them into practice. JISC are open to ideas and suggestions for future directions and feedback from the day is still being synthesised “ more to come¦