Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Social learning - what is it and how does it relate to schools? (Karen Melhuish)

Karen Meluish - Social learning - what is it a...Image by hazelowendmc via Flickr

This was a Hot Seat session facilitated by Karen Melhuish, and entitled "Social learning - what is it and how does it relate to schools?"

Karen opened with a quick overview of her extremely busy life and wide range of interests! She then asked the group to introduce themselves, where they are from, and why they were participating in the session. A great range of responses - some tongue in cheek such as they were "made to", and others included "greedy for learning".

Three stories then followed; the first was "Saving the world one light at a time". Karen's daughter has been working on this for several weeks, and the only thing she has heard from her daughter is a piece of art work that was brought home. She is really keen to participate in the conversation and the learning as a parent, and as someone with a keen interest in environmental issues. The second story centred around an email (her first) sent by her daughter to her grandmother, and her grandmother replied. It was an ah ha moment for her daughter who suddenly realised that writing had a purpose outside the classroom. The final story was around discussions in the VLN community, and Karen explained that it has reminded her about the power of being part of a wide community from around NZ, and being able to share stories. Karen then threw the question open to participants: "What do these three stories have in common", and asked people to respond in the backchannel - which 'went off' with some interesting points and responses.

Learning Support + Tech SupportImage by hazelowendmc via Flickr

Karen discussed the quote "If we can connect in some tiny way with a human that doesn't agree with us, then maybe we won't blow up the planet"(Nancy White, Us and them, A Blog Conversation Survival Guide, 2006), and drew out aspects that related to communication intra- and inter- learning spaces. It was also emaphasised that social learning is "integrated and embedded in task and activity design and classroom organisation" (Alton-Lee, 2003). The technology is not an add on, but is part of the pedagogy that is used as part of the learning experience.

Web startupsImage via Wikipedia

Communities of practice were then explored, especially the innate desire to connect as human beings...and that we are now living in a time where there are the tools and forums that enable us to do this. There is an exciting convergence between the ways in which we like us to learn, and the tools that enable us to do this really easily. Sociocultural theory was seen as providing key underpinning principles, which also underpin the NZ curriculum.

We have moved on from seeing Web 2.0 tools as particularly special. It is unusual now to go to a Web site and not have an ability to 'like it', Tweet it, or recommend it to a friend. This ability to make a social connection is central to learning. All of these spaces are driven by the users and their concerns, and there is a clear link between this and the pedagogy of a curriculum that invites us to construct learning with students and hearing voices from all aspects of the community. The curriculum is no longer about a single voice at the front of a class, and this is the exciting synergy for Karen.

spider web with fog droplets, San Francisco.Image via Wikipedia

We then moved on the a question around using online social spaces with educators for PD, and several of the participants described examples of ways in which they are using social networking tools. There are a large range of spaces online that enable you to network with educators around the world. Email does not work in a way that is as fluid as other spaces, and enables the extension of conversation over time and in one space.

Flexibility and mobility were seen as important, as the communication, sharing, support, and community building are an essential part of any learning experience. It also makes us feel heard, that we have a voice - often with an audience wider than initially envisaged in some cases.

Karen provided a variety of examples of schools who are using social networking with students across the sectors in New Zealand. She then gave us a useful 5 point check list around ways of approaching schools to set in place such initiatives within your own institution, including 1) purpose; 2) people; 3) process; 4) public; 5) and possibilities.

If you would like to listen to Karen's session you can access the recording by clicking here.

Karen is an e-Learning Consultant with the CORE Education whānau, based in windy Wellington. She is a Community Co-ordinator / facilitator on the VLN and e-Learning Research Network, working closely with a number of e-learning programmes, such as ICT PD. She also works on online professional learning courses for CORE and is part of the initiative to develop an e-learning planning framework for New Zealand. Many moons ago, she was an HoD English and an adviser for School Support Services.
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Information Literacy and Web 2.0 – the Scenario of Susie

A tag cloud (a typical Web 2.0 phenomenon in i...Image via Wikipedia
I have just finished working on a mindmap that tells the story of Susie and her use of Web 2.0 tools to conduct research for her assignments. The mindmap: Susie Web 2.0 Research is designed to give an idea of the complex web of information, ideas, sharing, evaluation and analysis that can go on (in an ideal world) when the potential of the Web 2.0 is exploited fully.

The Scenario
Susie is studying at Unitec NZ for a Bachelor of Architectural Studies. She is in her second year and has just received the rubric for her next assignment, which is a paper that focuses on analysing architectural sites, discussing a hypothetical development, which demonstrates, for example how to ensure the environmental sustainability of the project.

Susie and her classmates initially sit around with their laptops and discuss strategies, ideas, and deadlines. They set up a Mindmeister mindmap and make sure that it has been shared with everyone in the group, and then they brainstorm into it while also consulting Wikipedia for insight into some of the key terminology and concepts, as well as for inspiration. Susie meanwhile Tweets a couple of questions out to her Twitter community (several of who are architects) around environmental sustainability. Before the group sign off they also set up a PB Works wiki site, and a Twine account to collaboratively bookmark any of the useful resources they find online. A discussion around key tags and categories, along with the necessity for annotation plus a brief evaluation, helps ensure that the resources they discover are actually useful. Finally, the group members check that they have Skype contacts and mobile phone numbers for each other.

Over the next couple of weeks Susie starts her research. She searches Google with some of the key words and phrases that she brainstormed with her classmates, and brings up a host of tools and resources. She explores an online community of architects, and finding someone whose work she likes, Susie emails her with some questions about design. She also watches some videos around the subject, attends a couple of Webinars for architects, accesses a metasite that collates urban planning links specific to New Zealand, searches Flickr for designs, takes a tour of Paris on a site that uses a mashup, and logs in to Second Life to visit the Architects Community and the virtual library. During the time she is doing this, she publishes some of her initial thoughts in her blog and receives some comments from around the globe that challenge some of the ideas, or give suggestions how they might be expanded. She is also able to access some raw data made available in open databases around soil and geology, which she collates and displays in Gapminder – an online tool that transforms the data into a dynamic longitudinal representation of soil erosion tendencies. Every time she discovers a resource she thinks is useful she adds it to the group Twine, and she and her group have read, summarised and referenced three journal articles each and added them to the group wiki.

Finally, she pulls all of her ideas together into a mindmap that forms the framework and structure for her assignment (using the notes function on the mindmap tool to help her remember key points and sources). She types up her assignment adding links, images, and references as she goes. Her last steps are to add her reference list (which she has been keeping online in Noodle Tools), and then to run the assignment through a free online plagiarism checker tool to check for unintentional errors.
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Thursday, June 9, 2011

Blended Learning reviewed in New Zealand

Blender partsImage by groovysuvi via FlickrAn article recently published in the Computers in New Zealand Schools Journal, gave the details of a study that examined a teacher’s first implementation of online learning in a Learning Management System (LMS). The programme of learning was Home Economics, and the students and teacher are based in a New Zealand high school. The article, entitled The first blended or hybrid online course in a New Zealand Secondary School: A case study, lists some of the benefits of using a blended approach, including the development of ICT confidence and skills, enhanced interactions, and the fostering of independent learning with increased self management and higher order thinking skills.

Nigel Bailey, who is trialling a blended learning approach with his Geography students at Chanel College, and made the following observations:

"From my experience so far, and the results of the questionnaire that I put out to the students, I would agree with much of what they say in this article but there are a few areas that I feel I have worked through and am possibly in front of where this study has got to.

The need to scaffold the course varies by level (ie Level 1, 2 or 3) and also by the IT competence of the students. I have been amazed by the lack of working knowledge of some of the Office packages that some of the students exhibit so this re-inforces the statement in the article about us assuming that students are digital natives (a phrase that Prensky himself has now moved away from apparently!).

I have found that students are working at their own pace and own level and the course so far has been a great leveller especially for the less able or less confident students. Online questioning has been invaluable for some of these students. The ability to upload their work, have it ‘e-marked’ and returned quickly has also been a plus. I have found that I am marking far more work and in far more depth now than I have for years. This is partly due to the increased amount of work the students are producing and also partly due to the fact that I can read what they have written and have space to add a valid comment at the appropriate place in the text, which in the past there wasn’t room for.
  •  I agree with the positive outcomes stated and have my own evidence to support this from my students
  • The challenges faced are also very well stated.
  • Strategies suggested are also good for the growth of e-learning
  • The statement about schools having a professional responsibility to expose students to e-learning really rings true. Morally we also have this obligation as educators.
  • Students may be familiar with the ICT but they still need guidance in how to use it effectively and this is best achieved in a blended rather than fully OTL environment
  • I found it interesting that they were proposing the more practical subjects were best suited to blended learning; what is wrong with more academic subjects going down this route?
  • My results also back up the flexibility comments, but the amount of flexibility/freedom also concerned some of my students
  • Greater resource options is definitely true but again care is needed to ensure validity"

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What is 'real Learning'?

The Power Inquiry final report - Power to the ...Image via WikipediaIn this keynote presentation from ULearn 2011 Lane Clark begins by challenging the audience with a possible vision of the youth of the near future.From this point she moves on to exploring the relationship and differences between knowing how to think and knowing how to learn, concluding that “It’s not what you know, but how you learn that’s important”. She (with gentle humour) asks questions such as: Does 'real world learning compare to school learning? Are they the same? Are there overlaps?, and cautions through a personal story that having an interest in something does not necessarily mean that it is relevant.

Weaving experiences with her own students into her overview of her take on 'real learning' which she feels is bigger than inquiry. Links to some of the resources she uses, as well as detailed notes that were taken during her session are below.

After you have watched the video, please add comments, thoughts, and ideas in the discussion below. You might also want to ask yourself:
  • Is what your students doing authentic learning? Is it really inquiry learning?
  • How far could you and your students go together using approaches such as those suggested by Lane Clark?
  • Or are you already using some of these approaches? How are your students responding?
Inquiry Learning Toolbox - Lane Clark.pdf
Notes taken during the session

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ICT resources and assistive technologies to help meet the needs of visually impaired learners

TiddlyWiki in a JAWS Screen ReaderImage by psd via FlickrThe range of assistive technology for visually impaired learners has grown over the last few years, with interactive experiences becoming more sophisticated and applications becoming less clunky. Different media (visual, auditory and tactile) have been developed to help students to study independently, and to empower them to create their own resources and artefacts.

This resource aims to collate a few of those resources in one place for you to explore to see if they would suit your learners and their needs.

A good place to start is with this paper "ICT educational tools and visually impaired students: different answers to different accessibility needs", which discusses some of the obstacles faced by visually impaired learners, as well as providing an overview of some examples of Web based tools available to help meet the needs of visually impaired students. A complementary resource, this Unit offers a series of scenarios that give ideas about how to incorporate ICT into teaching and provide access for those students with visual disabilities. In addition, this document "ICT Tools for Visually Impaired Persons – Examples" provides in-depth descriptions of the types of assistive technology available. It also has links to some presentations and further information around building the capacity of visually impaired individuals to use technology tools.
Please let me know if you have any to add, or if you have opinions and comments about any of the resources.

Digital Book Readers
Most people are now familiar with digital book or e-readers. There are a range to choose from, and most have an option for text to be 'read' aloud by the device.
Screen Readers
An application installed onto a computer and that will identify, interpret and 'read' aloud any text on the screen. Although some screen readers have a rather robotic sounding narrator, many have reasonably well-modulated speech, with pauses in most of the right places.
Zoom TechnologiesImage via Wikipedia

    Screen Magnification
    Screen magnification software can be installed onto a computer to enlarge the information on the monitor screen (ranging from 2x all the way to 20x). The applications listed below are all commercial software and have an associated cost:
    Portable Notetakers
    These are, as the title suggests gizmos that provide speech output without a visual display. You are able to connect them to devices such as computers, scanners and printers to upload text. Braille keyboards are also available for Braille users.
    • Braille Lite Series; Braille n'Speak, Type n'Speak, PacMATE, and Type Lite - all from Freedom Scientific
    • VoiceNote and BrailleNote - from Pulse Data in NZ
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    Digital Citizenship and Online Safety (a session facilitated by Nancy Groh)

    Netsafe beta community spaceImage by hazelowendmc via Flickr

    Today was the first session of the Paepae Hot Seat session, Digital Citizenship and Online Safety, kindly facilitated by Nancy Groh from Netsafe. Netsafe are the developers of the Learn, Guide, Protect site, where educators and the wider community can share resources around digital citizenship and online safety. The idea is that educators develop "an online repository of material schools can use and adapt to promote a student-centred approach to digital citizenship and cyber safety" (Nancy Groh).

    Nancy opened by asking everyone to introduce themselves and where they currently are, in the chat box - a nice way to see who is doing what as well. She then moved on to a short re-cap of using computers and cybersafety since 1998. It was amazing to see that no-one in the group were using computers in classrooms in 1998, and no one had cell phones. The phenomenal changes since then were then described, and ICT was seen as the norm, and those that don't have Internet access are now marginalised. Her own son came across the situation where 4 out of 5 universities had no other way to apply to them except online.

    Internet AccessImage by whurleyvision via Flickr

    Mobiles and consoles are now seen as 'the net', and provide 'Google in the pocket'. Nancy then went on to say that it's not just in the pocket, but also in the kitchen, bedroom...and bathroom!!!
    Nancy covered the four 'truths' of cybersafety. The message is that if something worries a person that is online, that they should tell a significant adult about it. The problem is that many people speak to peers rather than approaching 'authority' figures.
    In a short survey conducted with the audience when showed an image of a girl at a school crossing, about 42% felt the child was safe, for a range of reasons such as visibility, and adult supervision. If the adults are taken out of the picture, 42% also agreed that she was safe...but with the caveat that it depended on her prior experience and training. The discussion was then tied to the three elements of learn, guide, protect, and then Nancy introduced  another picture with two young students in front of a laptop with no clues around external context, and asked "how safe are these girls?". It was interesting the discussion in the backchannel around this point including "depend on many other surrounding factors", and "Very few kids know the problems...just think they do".

    A leader teach is able to help this student wi...Image via Wikipedia

    From the NZ Curriculum key competencies Nancy showed nine points about what makes a digital citizen. On the list 'ethical behaviours' and 'critical thinking' were highlighted in a different colour. Research Nancy has conducted suggests that the ICT words should be taken out of the list of digital citizen descriptors, and that the behaviours described should be across the board, not purely online. A diagram was used to illustrate some of the key aspects of cybersafety conceptually. The combination of key competencies and digital capability are shown as all parts of the same conversation.

    In further research Netsafe has conducted, the percentage of educators who believed that their students understand ICT use agreements, about 30% disagreed or were not sure that students understood the ICT use agreement that they had signed. The real challenge around the concept of digital citizenship has to bring in the context in which you are working. Nancy shared two images, one of a nude male and one of a sculpture and asked participants to think about their reaction if they saw a 7 year old student looking at the images if they were studying photography or classics, and in a situation where they weren't. Would we react any differently? If someone else who was unaware of the context in which they were being used saw the 7 year old student viewing, how might they react? A really interesting point!

    Bullying was discussed, and it was suggested that there is often a small, identifiable group that is often the main source of bullying within a school. As such, targeted education around bullying has been found to be effective. Surveys were also identified as a good first step to outlining a school culture - and the surveys can be (and have) be conducted and presented by the students themselves. Other strategies are more senior students working with younger students to help them with cybersafety and provide peer support.

    Illustration of Facebook mobile interfaceImage via Wikipedia

    Involving parents was seen as an interesting challenge. Willowbank School in Auckland was talked about as an example where the school is using Facebook to communicate with parents. It's a primary school, so there was a lot of discussion with the students as why this is happening. The parents have responded very positively around the enhancement to the communication. Bring your own device was mentioned as another challenge (as well as the incredible benefits) - but again, it was seen as incredibly important to involve parents.
    The session was tied up with a discussion around some of the key points that had been raised, including the issue of support within schools for teachers who become enthusiastic about innovations, only to not receive the support and become dispirited.
    A very informative, thought-provoking session with a very lively backchannel! If you are interested in finding out more about what happened during the session, please access the recording at:
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    Friday, June 3, 2011

    E-Learning Provision and Participation: Trends, Patterns and Highlights

    Blended learning definition (Heinze and Procto...Image by hazelowendmc via FlickrThe following was posted on a discussion forum I am a member of, and I felt that some of the findings challenged some of my assumptions, while other findings confirmed them :-) Makes for interesting reading:

    "The Ministry of Education NZ has released a report on tertiary education sector e-learning provision from 2004 to 2008. This report looks at trends, patterns and highlights in e-learning in the tertiary sector over the time period 2004 to 2008. For the purposes of this report e-learning is defined as: ‘Learning that is enabled or supported with the use of Information Communication Technologies (ICT).’ These ICTs include the internet, video conferencing, and interactive whiteboards.

    As ICT use increases in the wider society and education, for example through the NZ Government’s Ultrafast Broadband programme, this report analyses how much e-learning is being provided at a system, course and sub-sector level.

    Key learner group participation patterns in e-learning courses are analysed to help determine what the underlying drivers are for participation.

    Summary of the key findings (taken from the Education Counts site)
    • From 2004 to 2008, there was more provision of traditional delivery courses than e-learning but the proportion of e-learning provision increased especially at higher qualifications levels.
    • The majority of provision at degree level uses e-learning but e-learning is in the minority at certificate level.
    • Adoption of e-learning is greatest at universities.
    • Younger people had higher e-learning participation than older people who had a majority involved in traditional delivery.
    • Pasifika had higher e-learning participation than other ethnic groups. Māori had the lowest e-learning participation.
    • Some subgroups were identified who used web-based delivery as a means of accessing tertiary education because they were unable to access traditional delivery teaching because of work or family commitments. This included some Māori and older learners.
    The full  report is available on the Education Counts website. "
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    Wednesday, June 1, 2011

    Strategic management for eLearning

    BERLIN, GERMANY - DECEMBER 28:  A participant ...Image by Getty Images via @daylife

    Tom Prebble works mainly with the tertiary sector around strategic management for eLearning. I saw him present at a conference a couple of years ago and came across the notes I made. Many of the questions he suggested should be addressed are still true today, as are some of the key points he covered - no matter which sector of education you are in.
    Prebble stated that his research and the framework he has developed with Andrew Higgins was “To encourage institutional leaders to consider the contribution they need to make to the strategic development and management of eLearning in their institutions”, especially as there is not much research about strategic eLearning and management.

    The key questions (paraphrased) posed are:
    • What are your strategic reasons for using eLearning?
    • What questions should I be asking about the ‘solutions’ that I am being asked to adopt / resource?
    • Will the institution / cluster / students / teachers suffer if we don’t have it / don’t do it?
    • How are they reflected in your investment plan and your learning and teaching plan?
    • How should you organise and manage for eLearning?
    • Who should be responsible for what and how should their efforts be coordinated?
    • Where is the leadership for eLearning exercised in your organisation? (Cluster?)
    • How should eLearning be resourced within the organisation / cluster?
    • Who makes the decisions about which courses and programmes will make use of eLearning and how will they do so?
    • Should eLearning be outsourced?
    • Should we be collaborating with others in our eLearning efforts?
    • What are the pros and cons of outsourcing / collaborating?
    • What are the implications for staff load?
    • Can our teachers manage this technology by themselves?
    • Do teachers want to work with support staff?
    • Is the eLearning solution robust? Scaleable?
    • What sort of disruption will / could the technology cause? (positve and negative)

    The questions above are categorised and summarised in this document.

    Ning Workshop - Oct2009Image by hazelowendmc via Flickr
    1. “Never enough money to do all you need / would like to do”
    2. Decisions at the programme level not at the individual course level
    3. Involve the teachers in these decisions
    4. Do it as a whole or “you don’t bother”
    5. Avoid - ‘I have a what was your problem?’ scenarios
    6. More about figuring out where the institution / cluster is going
    7. Encourage the staff to help develop some of the questions and answers / solutions around implementing eLearning

    All of these questions and points are worth considering in the context of Daniel Pink’s TED Talk on motivation where he discusses aspects such as incentives and creativity that in turn help innovation flourish - where the focus isn’t visible time on the job. Perhaps, therefore, technology and the ability to free up location-specific work places, may enable alternative incentives for educators, that in turn nurture their motivation to embrace alternatives to the ‘delivery of information’ model that Eric Mazur discusses.
    Back to SchoolImage via Wikipedia

    Part of the work Tom Prebble and Andrew Higgins did for Ako Aotearoa involved the development of a series of case studies, which offer insights about how different institutions in New Zealand have implemented eLearning, and some of the ‘lessons learned’.
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