Thursday, December 23, 2010

What to do when things don't go quite as you expect in a learning activity :-)

Flickr, a Web 2.0 web site that allows its use...Image via WikipediaIf you are involved in education, training, or facilitation of pretty much any session, there are sure to be times when things don't go quite as you expect. This video shows what this teacher did, and by choosing the strategy she decided to, increased the value of the learning experience.

Although the example you see here is with 4th grade students, it's a model and set of principles that could be applied across pretty much any age range.

The description from the site reads: "See how Web 2.0 tools and 21st century literacies are woven into a project-based Language Arts unit. In this video you will learn about the learning activities that led up to the culminating product, The Top 10 Wiki. The Top 10 unit is aligned to standards, big ideas and essential questions, and integrates a variety of instructional strategies both off line and on line."

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Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Project Based Learning: Explained

Students from Rhodes Park Secondary School, Za...Image via WikipediaThe description on the site reads: "This simple video makes the essential elements of PBL come alive and brings to light the 21st Century skills and competencies (collaboration, communication, critical thinking) that will enable K-12 students to be college and work-ready as well as effective members of their communities".

The video could certainly be useful as a starting point for discussion...with students and teachers. It could be a great way to encourage teachers to reflect on their own teaching practice, and work to put together a plan that engages their students more actively.

With students it could be used to start a conversation around why they are learning using a project based approach, which would link very neatly with this video where a student (Colby) talks about his own experiences with PBL over four years.

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The Life Practice Model: a real life example

NEW YORK - MARCH 30:  A student reads on a dot...Image by Getty Images via @daylifeFor authentic student voice you can't get much better! In this video Colby takes us through his four years of his time at school, and describes what and how he has learned, and with whom.

The description on the site reads:
"Hear a freshman tell the educational story of the last 4 years of his schooling, from August 2006-May 2010, after his parents decided that traditional school wasn’t fully meeting his needs. Colby attended Turning Point Learning Center, an innovative public charter school in Kansas, utilizing 1:1 laptops, and Web2.0-infused Project Based Learning."

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Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Phil Plunkett talks about embedding numeracy and the 'clothesline' intervention

In this video Phil Plunkett from Unitec NZ speaks about a strategy he uses for embedding numeracy in an active, engaging way for students.

You can access the complete blog post here: The Clothesline: A kinaesthetic activity for numeracy.

Phil Plunkett talks about a slide gauge and creating tactile tasks in numeracy

The video features Phil Plunkett describing a ‘deliberate act of teaching’ in numeracy, and shows how a visual, tactile task and specially designed tool can make it easier to link the abstract and concrete, while also providing ‘hooks’ to help students remember underlying concepts.

You can access the complete blog post about the initiative that is described in the video.

Reading deeply: A Sociocultural approach to an audio-visual 'text'

This activity is designed to develop students critical reading of text, in this case of a cultural, audio-visual text. Alternatively, a traditional, printed text could be used. However, the texts students need to read are becoming increasingly complex and hybrid, requiring a range of multi-literacies.

The resource was designed for certificate in music students at level 3 in response to diagnostic testing (and in-class observation) that indicated critical reading and critical thinking to be significant literacy needs of these students. Developing students critical literacy skills is essential in all disciplines, at all levels; for this reason, this activity is useful, and adaptable to a wide range of contexts. At higher levels the texts and tasks need to increase in complexity and need contextualising to the discipline, but the skills and strategies remain the same.

The music in the video was: "Harmony", by Mseq, 2010 - Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution (3.0)
Formats available: Microsoft Video (.avi), MPEG-4 Video (.m4v)
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Monday, December 6, 2010

Seeds to Success with Skype

Image representing Skype as depicted in CrunchBaseImage via CrunchBase

If you are looking for some ideas around how to encourage students to incrementally become more self-directed, while also learning skills such as asking relevant questions and listening actively to the answers - this is a video to watch. Although it is age-specific, many of the skills and points made could easily be generalised to any learning situation.

Watch the video at: Blip m4v direct link (video file)

The description from the site reads: "Paula and Jan, 4th grade teachers from Louisiana and Kansas, share their lessons learned, experiences, and celebrations as Skype buddies. Included are ways to find other classes to connect with and how to find projects to get started".

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Friday, December 3, 2010

On choosing to teach: a professor reflects (Part 2) - INVITED BLOGGER OF THE MONTH (September 2010)

This is the second part of a three-part recollection and reflection: "On choosing to teach: a professor reflects", by Peter Mellalieu. To read part one, please click this link.


In the first part of this series I outlined the events that led to my 'call to teach' at Massey University in the late 1980s. I recalled the earlier influences on my life such as the two innovative teachers I had as parents, and my experience tutoring fellow students at high school and university. I concluded with my arrival at the university and induction directly into the team marking about 1000 first year business studies examination scripts.
In this episode, I recall my anxiety and preparation for my first lecture followed by the logistical catastrophe of my first on-campus programme. I include reflections on the approaches I took to establishing and developing my personal approach to curriculum innovation and development.


A visit to the mentor: speaking partners

Arriving at the university in October 1987, several months loomed before my first Management lecture in March to an estimated 200 second-year students of business studies. Anticipating my first class was a cause of much anxiety on my part. Fortunately, a colleague and I became 'speaking partners' soon after my arrival. We embarked on a commitment to weekly discussions to support each other's professional development. As an early joint exercise we created a statement of our personal teaching philosophies. My statement continues to evolve and inform my teaching practice. Furthermore, it warns students what to expect from my classroom environment. My speaking partner was a lecturer in communications. Consequently, she was well able to assist my confidence-building through having me practice and demonstrate elements of lecture writing and delivery. (Thank you, Marianne.)

An aside: A student pointed out to me recently that all he wanted from my course was what I might term a 'certificate of attendance' ... he seemed not to want to prove that he had learned anything, nor gains competencies that might help him 'get ahead'. I reminded the student that he was attending a tax-payer funded institution that had certain obligations to achieve nation-building outcomes ... whether he liked it or not! That conversation reminded me of the importance of stating up front clearly my teaching philosophy to students early in their study with me. I suggest it's also a good idea to share your teaching philosophy with colleagues - especially if your approach is out of the ordinary stream of students' - and teachers' - experience.

Image source - by
Crossing the threshold: my first lecture

I began my first lecture by asking a student picked at random from my class list to respond to the question I had written on the blackboard (real black, real chalk) about 10 minutes before the class commencement. In a subsequent class the answer 'meaningless' was proffered in response to my request for the most important word in a quote by Jean-Paul Sartre introducing the contingency approach to management studies: "Life is absurd, contingent, and meaningless". I took the high ground in the first seconds of my engagement!

Lectures took much time to prepare: texts did not yet come with Powerpoint slides, prepared multi-choice tests - or even acetate slides. Fortunately there was an instructors manual for the course text to provide guidance for case study discussions. Instructors manuals are useful 'trainer wheels' for the novice teacher! I must admit to considerable anxiety embarking on facilitating case study discussions. What if the students came up with different answers than those in the instructors manual? What if they asked questions to which I didn't know the answer? I later learned the teacher's trick: "Now, Julia, what is your response to that question?".

Mid-year, a proportion of my 400 extra-mural students arrived during the study break for their two-day on-campus experience. Our current manic rush of the 14-week semester had not yet been inflicted on students who must also balance their career and family lives with their engagement with the academy! The on-campus programme included samples of the weekly lectures case study discussions, a test, and tutorial exercises provided to the intramural students. Discussion around the book - and video - 'Theory K' was a highlight for two years (Inkson, Henshall, Marsh, & Ellis, 1987). My use of these resources persisted until several of the high-profile 'excellent' companies (Judgecorp? Chase?) fell into bankruptcy or disrepute after the share-market crash of October 1987. The Hannovers and Bridgecorps of yesteryear! Those earlier companies' fall replicated the parallel fall of several companies profiled in Peters and Waterman's US precursor to 'Theory K': 'In Search of Excellence' (Peters and Waterman, 1982). That book had so excited me whilst on my 1983 post-doctoral position at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and informed - briefly - one aspect of my approach to strategy teaching. In Cambridge (US) I saw and experienced some of those excellent companies in action - and many others. Quite a contrast to the Muldoonist state-cocooned 'enterprise' that then pervaded New Zealand in both the state and private sector.

In later years, through meeting with British business anthropologist Professor Andrew Pettigrew of Warwick University, I learned of the deficiencies of the one-sided uncontrolled study of 'excellence' and 'leadership' exemplified in Peters and Waterman, Theory K, ... and several other copy-cat studies. These deficiencies lead to the rise of 'matched case' research studies. Pettigrew and Whipp's (1993) thorough and exciting qualitative approach was adopted by my first PhD 'student' who studied the adoption of advanced product design and ergonomics principles in several New Zealand companies (Slappendel, 1992). I state 'student' parenthetically as I learned more about qualitative research and Pettigrew's approach from my student than I was able to offer in return. I believe my contribution was merely to protect my charge from quantitative researchers concerned at the absence of statistical rigour emanating from a study based on eight cases. Nevertheless, I supervised several masters theses that soundly embraced Pettigrew and Whipp's matched case approach.

Image source - by Andrew Scott

The road of trials: soliciting feedback from students

My first on-campus for extra-murals in 1988 was a logistics disaster. I learned that once you post out your schedule of events to your colleagues and guest lecturers YOU DO NOT ALTER THE PLAN.... My revised, 'improved' plan lead to double bookings and geographically misplaced teachers amongst the dozen or so teachers involved. Based on pre-emptive advice from a colleague I had fortunately arranged for students to complete a feedback form that gave me precise data that guided my improvement of the two remaining on-campus experiences for the remaining cohorts of extra-mural students.

The second course, delivered in Christchurch, went very well. Relief! But that was just a small group of 60 students. The final test was how a much larger cohort of students in Auckland would experience the new recipe. Again: excellent. I had learned another lesson: timely soliciting of student feedback and using that promptly to improve teaching operations. Don't wait to receive end-of semester student evaluations of teaching. They don't help the students in your current class. They are out-of-date. And often they are taken mid-way through your course when students are often at their highest levels of stress and anxiety.

In my current teaching, I provide a weekly opportunity at every class for my students to express suggestions for improving their state of confidence about the class. I measure the degree of 'Csikszentmihalyian Flow' of my students at both the start and end of each class. It is a five minute exercise that helps students realise they are not alone if they feel anxious or worried about the class. The instrument helps students identify that there are others in class from whom they can get help - those who declare they are 'in control' or in 'flow'. I also ask students what they propose I can do do mitigate their challenges with the course. Using the Csikszentmihalyian Flow-o-meter is especially valuable if, like me, you adopt out-of-the-norm teaching approaches. Or if you are uncertain about students' response to your teaching approach. Personal risk management!

Another instrument I use to gain valuable ideas for improving future deliveries of a course is a de Bonofied variant of the Small Group Instructional Diagnostic - SGID. I facilitate a PMI discussion of the features of the course: Positive, Minus, and Interesting (a de Bono lateral thinking technique). Finally, for each feature, the students provide advice about whether to increase, decrease, or modify the feature in some way. For an example of SGID in action see the video in Mellalieu, 1997. In this case, the SGID occurred following week three of the most innovative course I have ever created: the final year undergraduate course Innovation, Creativity and Entrepreneurship (ICE) at Massey University, 1996-1999. My motivation for commissioning the SGID was to gain assurance that I was on a 'safe' track in terms of the radical pedagogy I was deploying: a hybridised master-class, as-live-to-air reality TV edu-trainment called Enterprise MasterWorks.

Consequently, I commissioned an external facilitator to lead this - my first - SGID session. A reflection of the entire course journey for Enterprise MasterWorks/Innovation, Creativity and Entrepreneurship is in Mellalieu (1998).

Image source - by atmtx

In my first year of teaching, my final year course in Business Policy was a delight to teach to a small class of 12 students. I made weekly use of 'The Case Study' approach in which students diagnose the problems faced by a business within the context of industry trends and competition. My students warned that I would be facing an insurge of students the following year based on their recommendations. I was surprised to find 40 students the next year. By 1991 my Business Policy class - renamed Strategy, Policy, and General Management - had grown to around 80 internal and 80 extra-mural students. At my instigation, I was relieved of the high administrative workload Management course.

The strategy course evolved under my direction to become an exemplar of excellence for extra-mural teaching. I'm proud to note that one student gained an award from the NZ Strategic Management Society for a case study they wrote describing and evaluating a strategic initiative undertaken by a New Zealand organisation. The study considered the Air New Zealand corporate take-over of Ansett Airways, if I recall correctly, written by an airline pilot/extra-mural student at 30,000 feet. The relief from the low level undergraduate teaching also gave me the chance to concentrate on developing new - and later innovative - courses at postgraduate level.

Just this week I met a former extra-mural student of my Massey Strategy course. My student is now the 50 per cent owner/operator of a steel roof manufacturing company. By serendipity, I was visiting the company in my role as an amateur photo-journalist commissioned by my brother and his business partner to photograph a sheet steel decoiling system they had invented and built for sale to my former student's business. He recalled how interesting and well-organised the course was, and the value of the case study approach. I suggested the opportunity to write a case study about my student's current business choices as he considered expansion of his business!

Preview of part 3
In part 3, I look at the advancing of my teaching practice, along with the importance of diversity, innovation, and information and communication technologies such as pedagogical games, decision support systems, the electronic text book and collaborative learning technologies. 

Image source
Peter Mellalieu

Peter J. Mellalieu is a curriculum innovator who teaches innovation, entrepreneurship, strategy, creativity, and sustainable enterprise development at Unitec Institute of Technology, Auckland, New Zealand. He studied industrial engineering and management at Massey University (BTech (hons), 1973-1976) and public policy at Victoria University of Wellington (MPubPol, 1976-78). His doctoral studies in management science and information systems (1979-1982) engaged him implementing decision support systems for strategic planning in several agribusiness sectors. He is an ardent advocate for education for sustainability. His professional journal is at and resources for teachers and students at

Thursday, December 2, 2010

OER: Pie in the sky or meaningful reality? (INVITED BLOGGER OF THE MONTH - November)

Creative Commons Semaforoa
Image via Wikipedia
In the last month's "Blogger of the Month" Column Alison Miller touched on the topic of Open Education Resources (OER) and open course ware in relation to security and storage of personal information and data. Here is my personal story about me and OER and open education: what it means to me on a personal level as a teacher, learner and professional.

When I moved from the UK to New Zealand in 1996, I felt disconnected to the world, both professionally and personally. I was working as a midwife in Gisborne which is an isolated rural community on the east coast of the north island of New Zealand. I felt isolated professionally because I had minimal access to research resources, colleagues and professional development opportunities. I could not afford to subscribe journals and or go to conferences. At the same time, I started to think about how I could openly share my ideas with midwives and support them to improve their practice. I became frustrated because I wanted to publish the journal articles I had written on the Internet for midwives to access, but couldn't because of copyright.

In the early years of the new century I paid a web designer to host a website for me which I used to share the findings of my Masters research. But the problem with that was it cost a huge amount of money and I had no day-to-day control over what was published. In 2007 I was introduced to social media and the concept of OER and open education by Leigh Blackall. By that stage, I was a midwifery educator and researcher. Social media including blogs, wiki, YouTube and Slideshare gives me total control over my material allowing me to publish it whenever and however I please. But the problem I came up against was copyright. I am very happy for people to be able to access my work and use it for their own purposes, but I still want them to attribute the work back to me. So I was very pleased when Leigh pointed me toward Creative Commons which is a licensing framework which allows me to share my material but retain control over how it is used.

Image source - by opensourceway

The other piece of the puzzle is working for an organisation that encourages OER and open education. Otago Polytechnic has a default Creative Commons intellectual policy. This allows me to retain ownership of the material I generate as a member of staff. I have also been given the opportunity by Otago Polytechnic to explore how courses can be facilitated in the open online environment using platforms such as Wikieducator which has led to my involvement with the course "Facilitating Online" which was originally developed by Leigh Blackall and Bronwyn Hegarty. I was a student of the course in 2007 and now facilitate it as a lecturer.

What has OER and open education done for me?

It allows me to get my material out to a much wider audience than would otherwise happen if I just kept to publishing in traditional academic journals. It allows me to interact people to get feedback on my work, exchange ideas and further refine my thoughts. It allows me to contribute knowledge and resources to the wider community which meets my philosophy of social justice. At the same time, it has allowed me to build a reputation and identity which opens the door to collaborative and research opportunities that would otherwise be closed.

The beauty of OER isn't just around what I can contribute in terms of knowledge generation, but how I can re-use the work of other people. The classic example is the images and photos that are published on Flickr under a CC licence. Having access to thousands of photos has allowed me to completely change the way I give presentations, focusing on images to present an idea as opposed to text.

Image source - by mag3737

Teaching and learning in an open environment is challenging. I feel very vulnerable at times when I publish my materials, fearing that my work will be criticised and my academic reputation will be tarnished as a result. I have had to learn how to take critical feedback which inevitably comes when you take the open approach to teaching and learning. At the same time this feedback has helped me to become a much more open teacher and person; to become a learner-centred teacher and be a lot more objective in my own personal reflection, which I think has improved my teaching. I have been given amazing opportunities to collaborate with people because of my work, such as my trip to Pakistan earlier this year. And I have been "forced" into reviewing my philosophy to education, which has led to some hard decisions about where and when I will publish my academic work ie I am following the example of people such as Professor Terry Anderson, and only submit my work to open access journals. This decision alone has huge ramifications for my academic career.

Image source - by United States Marine Corps Official Page

How can you get into OER and open education?

I think the way to get into OER and open education is to take small steps to build your confidence and understanding about the issues involved. Make yourself familiar with the Creative Commons framework so you understand more about the issues of licensing. Have a look at platforms and resources that support OER such as Wikieducator, and open access journals, for example, 'The International Journal of Research in Open and Distance Learning'. 'Talk' to advocates of OER on their blogs such as Leigh Blackall, Terry Anderson and Martin Wellor, and don't be afraid to ask them about their philosophy or the practicalities of OER.

Then give it a go.

Every time you give a presentation, publish your slides on Slideshare. Set up a blog and start to write (or video record) about your thoughts, research, teaching and so on. Start a wiki and publish your teaching resources that can range from a plan for a lecture to a whole course. Record or video your presentations and conversations as mp3 and mp4 files and upload to on BlipTV. Put a Creative Commons licence on all your work so that people can not only access your materials but also re-use them.

For me, OER and open education is about looking at what I can do to support education and the wider community in a sustainable way; how I can share ideas and resources, especially with people who do not have easy access to traditional resources. But OER is more than tangible results, it is also about a philosophy of teaching and learning. It challenges me to be a learner-centred teacher and to be a life-long learner. This is what has changed my life.

Sarah Stewart

Sarah Stewart is an education developer at Otago Polytechnic, Dunedin and about to become a virtual midwifery lecturer at Griffith University, Brisbane in 2011. Sarah is widely known for her open approach to education which includes her blog, her work with ePortfolios and her management and facilitation of the Virtual International Day of the Midwife. Sarah has published widely and consults on international health and education projects, which currently includes collaborative research with midwifery educators in the UK and USA looking at the Second Life Virtual Birthing Unit.

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