Firstly … yes, I know the ‘error’ in the title! This one is called ‘Week 1 …’, and so was the last one: “Week 1: Induction #ocTEL”. I made a mistake, last week. While last week was technically the first week of the MOOC it was not assigned a numerical identity as it was the orientation / induction week. That’s why, if you’re reading this MOOC series back there are two ‘week 1′ posts!
I want to continue the style I started in my previous post by highlighting each activity as the ocTEL website/email introduces us to it …
… and I start with an confesison. I think I’m all read out. I’ve been reading so much recently, and with Inge Ignatia de Waard’s ‘MOOC Yourself’ (2013) book just added to the list, I’ve had enough. So this week I’ve taken some time ‘off’ and just done the bare minimum.
Activity 1.0: “If you only do one thing … “
Deciding on two of these resources to concentrate on was easy. Do I review Helen Keegan’s PELeCON keynote that I loved at last year’s pelc12 event because (a) I was in the audience during the recording and remember the gasps from the audience as we realised how risky and brave she’d been throughout the project, and (b) enjoyed the whole ARG-thing. Do I look into the ‘technology of touch‘ and the work of haptic technology that enables learning in a safe tactile environment? I want to stay away from something I’m familiar with (so that drops Sugata Mitra off the list, I’ve blogged about this work too), so that leave Eric Mazur and Stephen Downes / George Siemens references.
Eric Mazur, talking about peer instruction (three minutes from where the below video starts) is not familiar to me. Eric talks of the ‘ah ha’ moment that happens outside the classroom, and which is the hard part of ‘learning’ – is it the “information transfer” or the “assimilation of knowledge”? Continue reading →
If you’ve been away (for a long long time) you may not have heard about Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs). If you’ve been away for only a short time you’ll know of these things, but you may not have heard of Futurelearn.
In short, Futurelearn is the first UK-led “multi-institutional platform for free, open, online courses” whose aim is to “increase access to higher education for students in the UK and around the world by offering a diverse range of high quality courses through a single website.”
All good stuff so far. With the experience and weight of The Open University behind it, and partners including the British Library, the British Council and other leading UK Universities (Leicester, Bath, Warwick, Cardiff, etc.) it poses a significant investment of time and energy to ‘do it right’. Futurelearn
“believe there is great potential to change the way people access high quality higher education. With our partners, we are seizing the opportunity to create amazing new learning experiences, twinned with a clear pathway to qualifications for those that want them.”
In this article on the Times Higher Education website today – “Futurelearn’s boss on breaking into MOOCs” – Simon Nelson (Futurelearn CEO) claims the course platform “has the potential to become a social networking site for the student community as popular as Facebook”.
What a great video with so much to say, but I’m concentrating on the elements of the “importance of teacher presence” section, especially given my recent experience with the Coursera / Edinburgh EDC MOOC:
“The role of an academic now is really designing learning environments that engage students. If I’m saying that engagement is the Holy Grail I’d better be engaging in ways they enjoy, not that I’m used to.”
A. Prof. Emma Robertson:
“You have to be there, you have to be paying attention to what they’re saying. And what I find is if you do that effectively in the first two weeks the rest takes care of itself – you’ve established the benchmark that you’re expecting”
Prof. Matthew Allen
“Teacher presence is a very important part of the socialisation of students into online learning, and it’s not that you are therefore dominating and telling students what to learn, it’s that you’re playing the role of ‘guide-on-the-side’, the person who’s there to help the students along but not to become the one they rely upon.”
The rest of the video is also worth watching, for an insight into creating learning environments, strategies for motivating students, and sustaining participation and engagement. A good resource, as are others in the series ‘Learning to Teach Online’.
I’m a Learning Technologist. Regular readers will know I have an interest in using, and understanding how we can use, Social Media and Social Networks with students and learning. It’s not just about helping students understand their ‘digital footprint’, or improving their digital literacy, or how their actions online can affect their employability. It is also about using the different tools and techniques for learning and Social Media and Social Networks are a valuable source of learning materials from many different cultures and backgrounds.
Which is why this book is of interest to me – ‘Using Social Media in the Classroom‘ by Megan Poore. Billed as a book that provides “an overview of different types of digital technologies” it is more important to me and how I work that it also covers more contextual and “constructive guidance on how to safely and intelligently use them as tools for learning”. All good stuff I hope you’ll agree.
This quote from Megan is key to the understanding of the benefits for communication, collaboration, participation and socialisation of, and in, education:
“One of the most exciting features of social media for education is precisely their socialness. They allow us to break out of the paradigm of the monolithic learner into the more intricate and complex world of constructivist, active, and situated pedagogies.” (p. 8)
How I did this was quite simple … I knew I’d fade out after a week or so so I set a goal of one blog entry per week’s activity, including a pre-MOOC post and post-MOOC ‘submission feedback’ post. Now I had set myself this public goal I needed to follow and live up to it. It worked. This may not be to everyone’s taste or motivational style, but after 3 other failed MOOCs I wanted to finish one, just one.
MOOCs were also presented at the 2013 Blackboard Users Conference (#durbbu) by Jeremy Knox: MOOC Pedagogy
Which now brings me to the nature of the different MOOCs available. By now just about everyone knows what a MOOC is – if not there are plenty of excellent resources to help you on your favourite search engine. With more and more MOOCs available, and the organisations offering them increasing all the time, just what types of MOOCs are they, and what do they mean for the student?
Week four and we are so nearly at the end of the five week Coursera / University of Edinburgh MOOC: ‘eLearning and Digital Cultures’. From ‘being human’ (last week) to ‘redefining the human’ we will be introduced to the perspective that the “notion that the human’ is a social category which is made, not a biological or philosophical matter-of-fact”, apparently!
Videos are again the staple of the weekly resources, and the discussion boards are full of analysis, sympathy, and criticism with the themes and characters within. However, there is far more criticism than in previous weeks – have we now arrived at a stage where we, the students, are either more confident in opinion or we are just more comfortable with the subject?
Robbie is not human, but can demonstrate human-esque experiences (loneliness, happiness, faith, etc.). The big question here is why we continue to treat ‘Robbie’ as non-human when he has all the traits and characteristics of an entity that is human – he has a life-span, he is self-aware, he understands the importance of his existence, he ‘dreamed’, and the importance of his impending demise, he knows what is is to be lonely. Are these not human characteristics? While you may argue that he was made not grown … aren’t we all made, at conception? He became “self-aware” .. well, children become more and more aware of themselves at different ages. Is this not what happened to Robbie, albeit in a different way. Yes, he is not organic, but is that the only condition to being classed as ‘human’ that Robbie does not fulfill?Robbie clearly has human characteristics, but how many were programmed and how many were developed, learned, or ‘evolved’? Is that the true definition of human, the ability to evolve, is it more than just organic material?
Week three and into ‘block 2′ of the five week Coursera / University of Edinburgh MOOC: ‘eLearning and Digital Cultures’. Are we leaving the bliss of utopia behind, or will be building on the fear of a controlling and dystopian ‘master’ as we become ‘human’?
“What does it mean to be human within a digital culture, and what does that mean for education?”
This week is introduced from the perspective that “we tend not to question, in our everyday lives, where the boundaries of ‘the human’ lie”. As with previous weeks we have a few videos to watch and criticise analyse as well as a few papers and web resources to read in order to define or answer what it means to be human in the future.
The advert from Toyota has had a lot of discussion in the Coursera forum but I have a more cynical approach to it – stop trying to intellectualise something that is pure marketing. Do you really think Toyota is trying to make some kind of moral message on the future of technology, or just trying to replicate other successful advertising or cinematic sequences? The end of the advert is very reminiscent of the end of The Truman Show, where Truman (aka Jim Carrey) has a choice to stay in the world he now knows is fake, yet safe, or leave to an unknown but world that allows freedom of choice and experience. Isn’t this also what education is becoming … isn’t this why we’re also doing this MOOC, for the freedom of choice?
The second advert, this time one of the adverts in the series from BT (UK) which is supposed to represent “authentic” human contact, taking a cheap shot at the Instant Messaging and Facebook generation in an effort to show how a simple phone call is the real thing. No, a conversation in person is the real thing, a phone call is the next best thing. If we take this scenario into the real world, into my day to day work, then I would rather walk along the corridor to someone’s office and talk to them properly than a phone call or email. In an online learning environment this is obviously not possible, and neither is a phone call (one tutor to ‘x’ number of students, that could be a lot of calls) – this is why Instant Messaging or discussion boards and/or conference calls (Skype?) are popular, and will remain so.
Having to watch, and comment/analyse, films introduced as “evocative and sometimes disturbing visions of what the future of information technology might hold” is always going to get your attention.
“Who is set to benefit from the personal, constant attentions of information technology, and who might lose out?”
How is education being visualised in “A Day Made of Glass”? You could argue that most of these ‘tools’ are already available in one form or another in society and that schools already do most of what is shown here – maybe not exactly as shown, but some of it: smart boards, NearPod App (teacher presents to student device), tablets, etc. What is shown isn’t as far fetched as you may think, it’s just the way in which it is presented rather than what is presented that is different. How the technology is used outside of the classroom is more ‘futuristic’ and is where you could argue its worth – should children be given space (in or outside) that is free from technology, free for them to experience the world as it is and not through some sanitised technology that reveals the real world through a camera lens?
“Poor use of technology is a significant waster of time and money in the public sector. UK Higher Education is not exempt from this problem. This course will help those planning and delivering teaching in HE to make the best use of technology in their work and avoid pitfalls and hiccups.”
Starting in April 2013, and running for 10 weeks, the online course will “help those planning and delivering teaching in HE to make the best use of technology in their work and avoid pitfalls and hiccups”.
You can follow the course, and the run up to it, on Twitter with the hashtag #ocTEL and Twitter account @ALTocTEL
The course will cover aspects of (and is not limited to … nor is it finalised yet either):
Induction: how this course works, who can help
Openness and standards
Options for the material, sizing effort, lead times, hardware and software needs, costs
Like many of my peers I read around my ‘subject’ a lot. Sometimes I print copies out and store them, other times I save to favourites (on Twitter mainly, very rarely to a browser), or to Delicious (when I remember to use it). The Australasian Journal of Educational Technology is always worth looking at as the papers are interesting and varied.
Do those who develop online materials for online students fully understand the importance of support, guidance, design, engagement, collaboration, assessment, timetable, social or professional pressures? Have they ever been on the receiving end of an expected 10-15 hours per week of study, on top of their already busy life? From my own experience it wasn’t until I took an online course in 2008 that I realised the difficulty in balancing work, home, and study – once I fell behind it was near impossible to catch-up, all due to the fast-paced activities that allowed little or no time for reflection or breathing space.