Category Archives: eLearning

Slack

Slack

So, I’ve heard a little recently about Slack. I’ve heard it’s good for improving communications between and within teams. I’ve heard it’s cut down on the amount of unnecessary or unwanted communications. I’ve also heard that, unless everyone embraces it then it will complicate your working practices and be a huge mistake.

So. what is Slack, and could/should we use it? Slack is ‘team communication for the 21st century‘, or a tool (not an app, although there is an app, and web client, and website) to make you ‘less busy’. Using channels, messages, files, integration with other online systems, etc. this has the potential to de-clutter your working practices, enable a cleaner workflow .. all the stuff that surely we could do with our current systems if we worked at it and used them effectively and efficiently?

So, I ask again. Why Slack? Is this just another tool that, if used badly or half-heartedly, has the potential to make even more of a mess of where we are, than we’ve already made in getting here? Is it that one wonder-tool that we’ve been waiting for to kick us into gear to streamline our efforts, to remove unwanted distractions, and to efficiently work collaboratively?

You know what? I have no idea.

Here are some resources I’ve found, and have found interesting. See what you think:

And these less-than complementary articles too are still worth reading, trying to find a balance in the slack-or-not debate:

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Hashtag #4WordPedagogy

Hashtag #4WordPedagogy

Another fantastic hashtag ‘battle’.

Started by Jesse Stommel at the weekend, it’s a simple premise used before: use a hashtag and get the learning community to share their thoughts. Jesse asked us to write some pedagogic statements. In four words. Only four words.

Jesse has summarised his favourites in this Storify list, but here are some of mine, and some of my favourites:


What about you, what would/did you tweet?

Image source: Holly Hayes (CC BY-NC 2.0)

Heuristic Learning & Shakespeare

Heuristic Learning & Shakespeare

I used to write about apps I used or liked as part of my work, or at least I recognised could aid me in my work, but have been remiss on this front for a while. So, with the urging of a few peeps on Twitter (thank you) I’ll start it up again.

This new app I’ve installed actually covers two loves – learning/reading and technology. In my role as eLearning Consultant at Warwick Business School I am responsible for the University of Warwick’s Shakespeare and His World MOOC. My involvement with this course and Professor Jonathan Bate has kick started my love of reading – I studied English Literature A-level. So here we have an app that’ll help me understand the use of technology (and see a fantastic new approach to tech that can aid learning) as well as the understand the Bard’s language.

Back in 2011 I wrote this post about how ebooks, even apps, could be used to greatly enhance the learning experience beyond just the basic text-and-note features the early e-readers offered. It seems it’s coming true (I wish the images in that post had survived a server & hosting service migration)?

Heuristic Shakespeare - The TempestHeuristic Shakespeare – The Tempest (iPad): Like many I find Shakespeare difficult to understand, sometimes just plain obscure. Through the MOOC mentioned above I have learned a lot more about Shakespeare’s influences in the time he wrote the plays (literary, cultural, personal, etc.) as well as the subtleties of his jokes and digs(and careful similarities) to the establishment. This app, therefore brings everything together and makes this one play, The Tempest, so much easier to understand, read, watch, and like.

“The Tempest from Heuristic Shakespeare is the first in a collection of thirty-seven separate apps. Each app is a tool for demystifying one of Shakespeare’s plays and making it more accessible to a modern audience. Sir Ian McKellen and Professor Sir Jonathan Bate take us on journey of discovery using the world-famous Arden Shakespeare texts and their extensive essays and notes. The apps function is to provide an essential aid to understanding and enjoying the plays in the theatre or on the screen.”

Heuristic Shakespeare – The Tempest $5.99 / £4.49
https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/heuristic-shakespeare-tempest/id1099176816

From the outset it is clear this app brings the very best of the internet (small ‘i’ these days) and learning. Not least the range of names and successful Shakespearean actors and scholars like Sir Ian McKellen and Prof Sir Jonathan Bate (both of who I worked with on another MOOC), but the way in which multimedia has been used to enhance the text, not replace it.

For those studying Shakespeare for any level of exam or are just an avid reader or Shakespeare lover this App is as good as any book or cheat-sheet note … if not better! If you ignore the videos where the actors read/act the play for you (a massive boost to my understanding – let the actors handle the difficulty of getting the pace, language and emphasis right, I can concentrate on the words and their meanings) the rest of the features are worth getting the app on their own – Shakespeare’s timeline, productions of the play, a copy of the First Folio pages, etc.

Note: I wont review each of the subsequent 36 apps, if indeed they do get round to them all, but suffice to say this approach is a quality one, offering everything I could ever have wanted when I was 16-18 and studying Shakespeare myself.

Heuristic Shakespeare The Tempest 1  Heuristic Shakespeare The Tempest 4

Heuristic Shakespeare The Tempest 5

Heuristic Shakespeare The Tempest 2  Heuristic Shakespeare The Tempest 3

Now on to the actually purpose of the App .. and it being called ‘heuristic’. For me a ‘heuristic’ learning experience is all about having the freedom or opportunity to use my experiences to discover or solve something myself. I may be led to the subject, question, or the problem, but the process of learning and solving or answering the question is for me to work out. I wont use, or even know, the best or most efficient process to use to do this, I’ll no doubt flounder around while i figure out what I need to be doing, but it’ll be my decision, my design process, and my skills that’ll take me through this and towards a solution.

And this is exactly what this App offers … the ability to use/choose what version of the play I want: either the text of the play, the pages from the First Folio, actors performing the words, understanding where the play. This is amazing and there should be more opportunities for people to learn like this, Shakespeare or not.

If you’re an English Literature teacher, or a student who’s used the App please let me know what you think of it? Did it help? What aspect of the App you found most useful, interesting, distracting, good for comprehension, good for revision, etc.?

 

Learning

It’s just ‘learning’ now. OK?

So, we’ve had eLearning, e-learning, elearning, and ‘e learning’.

We’ve had mobile learning, mLearning, mlearning. But not ‘m learning’.

(We’ve also got the VLE, LMS, CMS, and many more besides, but that’s for another post).

I believe we are now at a place with web development where we should drop able all these different ways of saying ‘learning’. We should not need to be talking about the different platforms or devices students use to access their ‘learning’; they should all be scalable and accessible to accommodate students using a smartphone, tablet, laptop, desktop (or any other device I can’t think of now). Access to learning resources should be across the board, easy, and not determined by the device. Pretty much everything the students need is now online – books, resources, notes, assignments – so the moniker of ‘e’Learning (for ‘electronic’) is void. Students have devices now which do not tether them to either a physical location or a specific IT network that I’m pretty sure we can drop the mLearning (for ‘mobile’) too.

So, where are you taking your LEARNING now?

Image source: Alan Levine (CC BY 2.0)

Video Filming David Hopkins

How ‘long’ is too ‘long’?

For a few years now I’ve been spouting the same lines when it comes to planning a video for an distance learning course or MOOC: “preferably no more than 4 minutes, definitely no more than 6.” Anything more than 6 and we’d consider splitting it at a natural point in the subject, or working with the individual and their content and seeing where a natural break can be made, or other ways to shorten the video.

This has been supported by experience (from distance learning courses I’ve supported at both Bournemouth and Leicester University’s) and the MOOCs I’ve supported and developed while at Warwick, as well as articles like this.

As with everything, there is enough evidence to be found to support and to disprove it.

Yes, I agree that if you have a ‘teaching’ resource, where the academic/teacher is speaking to camera then there is an optimum length that someone will sit and be ‘talked at’, and this is where I see the 6 minute limit coming into play. These kinds of resources are often loaded to a VLE or a MOOC and as part of a set of resources for the topic or week’s subject area.

But there are other approaches to video content where I don’t see this working. What about case studies or mini-documentaries? What about a conversation, when a short 4 minute clip just isn’t enough to get in to the details? Do you still stick to the short-is-best message? In order for these to work you will often need to make it longer so the content and ‘message’ of the case study can be put across.

Let’s not forget, the video is nothing on it’s own. It must always be put into context for the student – why are you presenting the video for them to watch, what do you expect them to think about when they watch it, is there something they need to question as a result of the video (and/or linking it to other resources to build their wider knowledge about the subject area), can they critique the resource and present their findings back to the group, etc.?
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Mobile Learning

Mobile Learning vs eLearning

I like infographics, but I don’t like this one on the LearnDash website: Mobile Learning vs eLearning. I find it inaccurate, or at least misleading. Here’s the comment I left, in case it doesn’t get published:

I disagree – to compartmentalise tablet or laptop users as either one or the other is misleading to people wanting to know about new online learning techniques based on their preferred method/device of learning. Is a laptop user, sat on a train, not mobile? Is a tablet user sat at home on the sofa still mobile, or just too lazy to turn the laptop/desktop computer on?

In an age of accessible web design, and course design, many organisations design their materials, indeed their learning platform, to offer the same experience to their students irrespective of the device used. In fact, this is key to the learning that a student is not disadvantaged for using their own device, irrespective of it’s age, operating system, screen size, etc.

And this doesn’t even cover the statement “eLearning is designed to be more static and be accessed at your desk.” Really? In this day and age, you still think that? What do you think? Am I being harsh?

Image source: Paul (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Learn Appeal Capsule

Learn Appeal – The Learning Capsule

At the end of 2015 I met up with Lesley Price, just a catch up to chat about retirement (unfortunately not mine), keeping busy, moving house, and The Really Useful #EdTechBook. Lesley also had something else to show me.

Whilst waiting for food to arrive Lesley plopped (only word for it) a blue lunchbox on the table and said … “try this out”. Um, OK?

Connecting to the Capsule Wi-Fi, then typing an IP address to my phone’s browser, I was suddenly connected to a learning management system complete with a choice of courses / content, interactions, videos, etc. This box had it all and, if we’d told people on tables around us, we could have all accessed and learned something new together. Right there and then!  Continue reading

gate

MOOCs and ‘facilitation’

What are your thoughts on this – moderation and/or facilitation of MOOCs?

Considering the time, effort, and cost of developing these free courses (more information is available here or here or here, among other sources), what are your thoughts on how we manage the course, the comments and discussion during the run, and the subsequent comments and discussion during re-runs?

Do you have support, from technical and/or academic backgrounds monitoring the course to keep comments on track and answer pertinent questions? Are these paid positions or part of their role? Do you actively check the comments? If so, what for, why, and what do you do?

Do you design-in an element of real-time collaboration on the course (facilitation of discussion, round-up videos, Google Hangouts, etc.), and if so are these sustainable over multiple runs of the course? If you’ve done these before, but then designed them out of the course for re-runs, why?

All comments and feedback welcome – I’m trying to understand how we move MOOCs forward and maintain institutional ‘control’ where there is little (financial) reward.

Image source: Greg Johnston (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Sharing or maybe not?

Networks – establishing and maintaining them

So, how would you provide an insight into creating and maintaining a professional network, in 140 characters? This was a challenge I took up from David Walker this morning.

Tweet

Actually, once I included Twitter handles of David, Sue, and Sheila, I only had 108 characters left. This is what I said:

Tweet

Replies both David and I received include, from Sheila MacNeill, “the more you give the more you will receive” and  a PLN “takes time to cultivate but pays huge dividends as a forum for sharing/Q&As” from Sue Beckingham.

I’ve written previously on networks, and how they work for me:

Many of us are aware of our networks and the impact we/they have on others. For some, like me, the network has grown out of no real plan or long-term goal. For others it’s been carefully managed and nurtured to be what it is. Whichever your approach it is fair to say our respected networks are important to us, both personally and professionally. Therefore we must care for it, and how others see us through it, in order to maintain our position in other peoples network. If we don’t do we end up being removed from networks and getting ‘black flagged’ or a bad reputation?

What would you say, to David or anyone else, about how your PLN, your learning network?

Image source: Kristina Alexanderson (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Customise me

Don’t give it to me unless I can customise it

My first car was a 1993 Rover Mini Cooper 1.3i, in British Racing Green (obviously). I bought it second hand in ’97 from John Cooper Garages (JCG) in West Sussex, and the legendary John Cooper himself handed my the keys (and made my mum a cup of tea while I did the paperwork).

Like so many people who own a Mini it didn’t stay ‘standard’ for very long, as I read through the Mini magazines on the kinds of things I could do to personalise the car. I went to Mini events, like the London-to-Brighton Mini Run and the 40th anniversary party at Silverstone, and looked over the show cars and private cars that were parked up, as well as the stands and auto-jumble traders. I bought the whole set of JCG brushed aluminium door furniture (window winders, door pulls, etc.) and chrome accessories (bling!), as well as doing more mechanical upgrades like vented discs and four-pot calliper for both front and read brakes, and a full-length straight-through (manifold to rear ‘box) DTM-style exhaust system (ooh, that was awesome!).

This was the start of my love affair with tinkering and messing with anything that’s standard to make it personal for what and how I like it.  Continue reading