Monday, March 30, 2009

Web Tech Guy and Angry Staff Person...

Ever had that meeting where you have been working on innovative approaches to something, and then you hit the brick wall? The person or group who really do not want anything to do with what you are suggesting and are not open to seeing the potential benefits, but rather focus on issues.

This animation: "Web tech guy and angry staff person" looks at some of the common barriers frequently mentioned, and discusses responses while also acknowledging that there is no easy fix. I found it useful for raising awareness of some of the key points and how I might open a dialogue around them in relevant situations.

Technology problems, or social problems...

Out running on Friday, I was totally absorbed by what Morris W. Beverage Jr. had to say (Educause podcast). He started from a point around technology which actually switched me off to begin with, describing technology as 'things' communicating with 'things' rather than, apparently, seeing the key focus as the communication and co-construction of artefacts/knowledge that is enabled through technology.

Anyhow, once I had stopped bristling and listened to what he went on to say, a lot of it seemed to make sense. One point in particular where he spoke about issues in education (for example, plagiarism) are not technology problems, but rather social problems. It make such a lot of sense. Yes, technology such as Turnitin may be developed to attempt to address the problem, but in fact what it needs is a recognition of the reasons behind the plagiarism, which tend to be academic literacy challenges and questions around ethics.

Well worth listening to this podcast as it is likely to strike a few chords no matter what your role is in, or supporting, education.

The Educause blurb is: "Campuses today face a growing number of clashing cultures. Faculty struggle with traditional methods of teaching in an environment where demands for flexibility and convenience are rising. Learners increasingly treat a college degree like a commodity. Battles rage over resource allocation. External constituents exert influence on campus operations and outcomes. This session addresses these issues and the role IT departments need to play to help higher education not just survive, but thrive."

Friday, March 20, 2009

Duathlons and the importance of purpose...

I was wondering if to include this posting, but after thinking hard I realised that in fact it had been a fantastic experience and one that I wanted to share.

In November 2008, a group of 5 friends (colleagues at Unitec NZ) got together to spend some time together while also getting fit and healthy. A plan was made to begin training during the lunch hour, and to spur us on a goal was set to compete in the More FM Women's series - to be exact on Sunday February 22, 2009 in the Pt Chevalier duathlon (Auckland) . This was quite a big ask, as several people had never competed in a duathlon before.

We managed to meet on several occasions, and all did a wee bit more training outside of lunchtimes too. There was a great sense of working together to achieve something - a connection beyond that normally experienced in the general run of work projects. As the day loomed near, a couple of people suffered injury, and others had family commitments, but myself and Kelly were determined to still compete. This was Kelly's first duathlon, and she shared tales of cycle training with the whole family that had me in stitches! Before the day we swapped notes on what sort of breakfast was advisable (full, cooked breakfast not such a good idea :-) and met at some unearthly hour on the Sunday morning of the competition.

The air was buzzing - people everywhere setting up bikes etc. To settle my nerves (Kelly wasn't nervous!) I went for a warm up trot around the block, and then we were underway. It was a tough race (a short distance which required a fair bit of anaerobic effort), but there were women of all ages, and fitnesses giving it their all - with families there to support them. Kelly did a fantastic job, and we shared a heart-felt (if rather soggy) victory hug at the end.

There was a sense of mutual achievement (emphasised by the results that we got the next day - Kelly had finished in the top half of the field in her first competition, and I'd won by a couple of minutes). I guess it's a long-winded way of saying that when there is a real goal...a real purpose for doing something collaboratively, it's much more likely to succeed. Even though some of our friends didn't make it to the competition, it took someone to come up with the idea, the group to form, the purpose to be set, and then for the support to continue. It could be a model for almost any was as much about the process of training and working together, learning about each other and ourselves, as it was about the achievement of the end goal - but one, I feel, would not have happened without the other.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Learning Light: Literature Road Map

The Learning Light literature road map (pictured above) is an interactive format where the user selects an area they are interested in from drop-down lists. This takes them to a bank of literature around that subject. The review of literature has particular relevance to e-Learning research in the workplace.

The University of Sheffield Dept of Information Studies (2007). Saber Professional Solutions Ltd & Learning Light. Retrieved 18th March 2009 from

Monday, March 16, 2009

Social Media and Education: The Conflict Between Technology and Institutional Education, and the Future

A few days ago I was out running and listening to podcasts, one of which was by Sarah Robbins-Bell entitled "Social Media and Education: The Conflict Between Technology and Institutional Education, and the Future" (which can also be watched as a streaming video). I was very impressed with the accessible way that she described the potential of Web 2.0 and social media with learners, and the potential of these types of ICT to enhance teaching.

She emphasises the role tertiary education in helping students develop critical literacy skills to enable them to evaluate and analyse the resources and information that they locate, and the knowledge creation that they become involved in. Key concepts that she mentions are active participation and collaboration, especially in blended sessions...if the students are on Facebook instead of participating in a session it is to do with the design and facilitation of the session...not, necessarily, the learner.

The Educause site provides the following summary of the session: "Today's technology enables users to form and join communities of common interest to learn and share information. In opposition to the privileged learning spaces of higher education, social media encourage learners to seek out their own answers and construct knowledge as a community rather than as individuals. Twitter, Flickr, Facebook, and Second Life offer new learning spaces, but how do they fit into the learning expectations of institutions?"

Bookmarking and sharing with Twine

Over the last few days I have been using a new tool - Twine -designed for bookmarking, describing, tagging, sharing, finding and commenting on resources and tools on the Internet. I've found it really easy to use, and it has performed seamlessly on both my Mac and my PC. There are also a wide range of people using Twine, especially around the subject of eLearning, Web 2.0, and collaborative creation of knowledge. So far, I have found no down sides!

Supporting academic development to enhance the student experience

"Students' learning experiences and study success can be significantly enhanced through a combined approach that embeds Literacy, Language and Numeracy skills enhancement explicitly into discipline content. An essential aspect of this approach is the provision of academic professional development that is engaging and helps staff review their methodology in a supported and sustainable manner.

This paper describes stage one of a pilot research study and ongoing initiative between one of the vocational disciplines (Automotive Engineering, which is part of the Unitec Applied Technology Institute) and the Academic Development Unit at Unitec New Zealand. At this stage, using a 'tradeshow approach', fifteen Literacy, Language and Numeracy related tools and strategies, as well as mini-demonstration teaching sessions, have been chosen as a way to introduce and discuss effective practice in collaborative and contextualised professional development sessions.

The findings from a pilot study around the tradeshow approach, including the iterative cycle of evaluation and improvement in response to participant feedback, are shared. The study has helped identify and evaluate how this new capability building approach has assisted with supporting and motivating discipline specialists in their initiatives to embed and add value to students’ learning experiences and study success."

Describing a number of key strategies and tools, this paper will discuss the results of the study as well as lessons learned and associated implications.

Please cite as: Owen, H., & Schwenger, B. (In press). Supporting academic development to enhance the student experience. In. Darwin: The Higher Education Research and Development Society of Australasia (HERDSA).

Supporting academic development to enhance the student experience

Monday, March 2, 2009

Some resources for thinking around ePortfolios

I am preparing to facilitate a discussion / workshop around ePortfolios for faculty and students this week at Unitec NZ, and while carrying out some of the background research found a plethora of resources:

  • Ray Tolley's discussion of Helen Barrett's Radar Diagram, and an associated list of 10 questions that "could be used by tutors to discuss with their students such things as learning styles or areas needing more attention etc. Students, too, could use this as a personal self-assessment exercise, comparing their results with 'ideal' results at stages throughout the course".
  • Sarah Stewart's thoughts, ideas, discussions, and challenges around using ePortfolios with health professionals and students studying within these areas. She also has a well put-together Slideshare around the subject "ePortfolio for health professionals".
  • Online Learning in the Arts (Birmingham University) reflects on a workshop run by JISC at Aston University, Birmingham, UK. This reflection and the discussion that follows brings to the fore the importance of the technological tail not wagging the pedagogical dog.
  • A discussion around, and links to resources concerning the "Benefits (and drawbacks) of E-Portfolios in Work Based Learning".
I've put another more extensive list together as well if anyone is intersted:

Resources for ePortfolios

ePortfolios under discussion...

I would like to thank Ray Tolley for his thought provoking comments and links. It's always good to receive comments that challenge thinking, make you mindful of assumptions, and also clarify your own this case about ePortfolios.

Dear Ray

Thank you very much for your interesting observations. I was intrigued with what you were proposing as a middle way, and have visited the sites you recommended. (This interestingly led to a trail of fascinating resources, but that is another story ;-)

Thinking long and hard about what EFolio offers, it is the underlying ethos that I am struggling with. If a system such as EFolio were recommended by an institution (with the option for learners/faculty to use another tool/suite of tools) then this is conducive to fostering creativity. My concern would be, as soon as an institution mandates a system then this has a tendency to foster conformity.

On the other hand, I am also aware that, if ePortfolios are to be used as part of an education programme as a reflection and an assessment tool, then some level of consistency will be desirable. There is also the point made in one of the videos on your site that saying "here is my ePortfolio" has a lot more kudos with future employers than "here is a link to my Facebook site". I would, however, argue that this comes full circle back to the notion of purpose(s), and maybe one of the skills that students would develop at an institution if given free rein, is to explore which tools are going to be most appropriate for reflection, social networking, professional showcasing and so on.

Thanks again for the thought-provoking comment. Very much appreciated. Cheers. Hazel