Saturday, 29 October 2011

Platform hinderance to universal OER use

No Flash on the Apple i-Pad and no Java on Google's Chromebook is a problem when producing and using Open Educational Resources (OER).
I had prepared a Screencast-o-matic video for a virtual lesson to find that this did not work on my Chromebook. As part of the same course, I used some Flash-driven fractal modeling sites - this does not work on the i-Pad.
These issues are not just to do with these two machines since the same compatibility problems are faced with different mobiles, but it is serious if you adopt a free Bring Your Own Technology (BYOT) approach at school. It forces OER producers and users to restrict themselves to no Flash and no Java if we want to be universally compatible. #change11

Friday, 28 October 2011

OERu will legitimise open educational resources and practices

The Friday session of the #change11 MOOC on Open Educational Resources (OER) and Practices (OEP) was useful to learn about the OERu, its logic model and its plans. 
Its aims are: OERu
(Directed by the core principles of engagement the OER university collaboration:)
  • Will design and implement a parallel learning universe to provide free learning opportunities for all students worldwide with pathways to earn credible post-secondary credentials.
  • Offer courses and programs based solely on OER and open textbooks.
  • Design and implement scalable pedagogies appropriate for the OER university concept.
  • Will implement scalable systems of volunteer student support through community service learning approaches.
  • Coordinate assessment and credentialising services on a cost recovery basis for participating education institutions to ensure credible qualifications and corresponding course articulation among anchor partners.
Rory McGreal posed the question - which course is better? One of say, 20 students with an 80% pass-rate or one with 2 million students with a 50% pass-rate (he spoke of different figures but these came from his slide). The implication was that all the talk of completion rates was not the full picture and that such an open approach will lead to much greater educational good. In the chat the point was made that even the drop-outs were probably learning as well. So the emphasis was - let's go from elite to open.
He also spoke about someone NOT having a modern education UNLESS s/he engaged with the internet. Good point.
He asked - why OER? and went to describe some restrictions regarding DRM protected material (Digital Restriction Management, as he put it). Included in the list was really some things to make one think: DRM owners not having liability even if product does not work, users have the "privilege" of using the product and do not own it and you are prohibited to show content to others. In other words, they have sewn up intellectual rights for their total benefit.
Wayne Mackintosh gave a detailed presentation of the OERu, starting with the University of London's External System as being a pioneer of this idea. He balanced an equation which showed an increase of OER plus an increase in OEP giving better quality, better access and reduced cost.
The logic model had learners as an input through a system with OERs and then through educational institutions providing assessment, credential and community services, going from free to fee.
One sure consequence of this has to be the legitimising of OER and OEPs. This must be good so that it can counter the publisher lobby comments about theirs being the only approach.

Thursday, 27 October 2011

OER week more about university structure than OERs

"A key Question for the discussions will be: What is the role of OER in supporting not only informal learning but also change in educational systems?".

Rory McGreal's presentation on the #change11 MOOC session on Tuesday was more orientated towards how universities should structure themselves so as to deal with openness than Open Educational Resources in informal learning. He was describing this in terms of his work as Canadian UNESCO/Commonwealth of Learning Chair in OER and I got a couple of useful points out of the presentation and discussion.

Clearly, if universities are to accredit learning then they must ensure that the standards which are set are met. The back chat on the session revealed some disquiet about the testing focus (and the likely backwash effect on learning as well as an undue pressure to have the university support so as to improve your results).

However, it seemed inevitable that a university should ensure the "standard" of the end product by such an approach.

Of interest also was the recognition of prior learning, another essential component for open approaches at university level. This was not just at the level of doing so for granting credit but also to recognise it as part of the package of results.

McGreal used the following diagram (credited to Judith Murray) to describe the adaptation to open approaches at university level - thanks for this since it clarified it succinctly.

Tuesday, 25 October 2011

Tech Professional Development in Schools - a model

Following on from last week's MOOC discussion on Managing Technology and my post on "Have a process/structure but don't kill the innovation", I have been talking (yes! F2F) with our team and looking at a process for technological professional development for schools. Thanks Jennifer for Diigo-ing Mark Brumley's April 2011 post on a "New Paradigm for Professional Development - Part 2", which I have mashed up into something that might work for us and our "Technology for Learning" initiative.

Sunday, 23 October 2011

Have a process/structure but don't kill the innovation.

Tony Bates facilitated a good discussion on the MOOC Change11 session: "Managing Technology to Transform Teaching" (not sure why not " Transform Learning"). He sought to involve the participants in his questions, so it seemed much more interactive than usual.
He asked two questions which seemed remote from the immediate discussion (do institutions need to change and should this be done from within or outside) and went on to describe the findings from the book he has written together with Albert Sangra  - "Managing Technology in Higher Education: Strategies for Transforming Teaching and Learning". The link gives a good executive summary of the main findings of their book.
The research brought out some interesting and valid findings, including that more successful technological implementations occurred when the Leadership Team were speaking from the same page, all having bought in to the concept of technology being important to develop learning, had set measurable strategic goals, with academic disciplines having specific technical skills for the particular discipline, with planning at all levels (and specifically not just top-down), using F2F earlier on and later more e-learning (first year more F2F), program level innovation, planning and decision making (with an Exploration -> Resources Planning -> Pilot -> Evaluation -> Spread across school methodology). He made the point of the importance of getting away from line management and silos, and for having a strategy for supporting the initiatives in technology.
This was all related to Higher Education. I am interested in how these ideas transfer to K-12 schools.
Reflecting on how we managed the introduction of technology in my school, I notice how we have developed:

  • working with enthusiasts at the start and trying to appoint teachers with ICT capabilities
  • taking the view that, on the whole, ICT is taught through the medium of subject disciplines and not on its own
  • taken the approach of "sowing a thousand seeds and letting the flowers bloom"
  • appointing key people to ICT teaching jobs, having key supporters in leadership posts
  • holding enthusiast workshops, offering training in Web 2.0, using various systems for sharing technological resources
  • providing initially a network infrastructure with roaming desktop facilities, then various stages of wireless networks, increasing broadband access and bandwidth (now at 30Mbits)
  • noting the growth of many weeds amongst what we had previously sown and so standardising on Google Apps for Education, including Sites for webpages and Blogger for blogs; pulling all this in with a Communications Strategy to harmonise and centralise
  • use collaborative technological systems at school to both increase technological expertise and have a collegiate approach to decision making
Where do we go to from here? The financial constraints are real and inhibiting. So we have to take this into account and develop strategies to ensure that we continue to develop our technology so as to make learning and teaching effective and efficient, whilst maintaining our desire to create independent learners of our students (and teachers).
Bates' idea of through-institution development and not just top-down makes sense. However, his approach seemed too structured and inhibiting - but perhaps this was because of its Higher Education setting. I read Viplav Baxi's post on Death by Structure with great interest - and urge you to do so too. It prompted me to comment on his post as follows, and I give his reply:

Viplav – Thank you for your view on this which has made me think hard. Tony Bates has put forward a standard solution to the organisation of technology issue – use structure, committees, perhaps consultants, have clear strategic goals shared by the Leadership Team, involve people from program level through to the LT.
It is hardly surprising that the “coming of age” of technology should be institutionalised through standard organisational processes.
However (certainly at K-12 school level), this model may not work as well. Busy teachers, successful but traditional pedagogy (tweaked to include technology at the Substitution and Augmentation level of the Puentedura’s SAMR model, perhaps including some Modification but hardly ever Redefinition), will be more successful in a much messier approach. Providing the infrastructure and the encouragement to seed lots of initiatives and let the flowers bloom has been the approach the I have found successful.
At this point I think it is necessary to provide some structure, to zero in on some standard resources (say using Google Apps for Education and Sites instead of personal blogs on various blog platforms, so as to provide for institutional continuity). But the driving force is still teachers developing individual expertise in areas where they see the advantages.
It is necessary to engage teachers at all levels, from “program” or EWB-face through department and school leadership. Include enthusiasts, skeptics and wannabes. And continue developing the pedagogy and direction but always asking “where is the learning in this”.
His reply:
I completely agree. Structure is not antithetical to complex systems. In fact, there is an orderliness about them as well. However it is not ordered as in centralized direction or uni-directed cohesion. The best structures are those that provide the ability to self-organize and adapt. That is what I feel shall bring change and it is where we must focus. Thanks!

So, we have to have a structure which is not top-down, is innovation-friendly and has the ability to allow self-organisation, but allows us to plan strategically and make appropriate financial decisions. We will try a Technology for Learning Forum (T4L-Forum) to develop the pedagogy necessary, working with enthusiasts, wannabes and even perhaps skeptics, but always asking "where is the learning in this".

Thursday, 13 October 2011

Whole, Deep Learning from a Hole in the Wall?

(#change11, #ibheads)
Sugata Mitra is well known for placing computers in "holes in the wall", ATM style. He has given the opening inspirational speech at the International Baccalaureate Heads Conference in Singapore.
Professor of Educational Technology at Newcastle University and also at Media Lab, MIT, he certainly entertained us all with a great talk.
He asked a question which is at the heart of the Change11 MOOC - what will the world look like in 50 years time? He did this by going back 50 or so years and looking at the radiogram (then MP3 which then vanished into a mobile phone), the telephone (from operators to connect people to mobiles which then vanished - we now can't tell whether people are talking to themselves or on a phone), and now the computer (already the size of a page, will it ever disappear altogether? Will we need body scanners in schools to prevent implanted mobile phones (!)). Will arithmetic be needed at all in 50 years time? Will it be an obsolete thing when you can do it automatically and powerfully with your implanted "thing"?
Could Education be an obsolete thing?
He described his progress from the Hole in the Wall computers through to his latest work in Gateshead. His point was that small groups of children (had to be a small group, not individuals), created a Self Organised Learning Environment (SOLE) and, given a big question, could learn together. There needed to be an appointed police officer-student to keep order, no more than groups of 4 or 5, and crucially, a big question on the lines of "who was Pythagoras?" or "what happens when you die?".
He described the scores obtained in India by children themselves (30%) and how these could be augmented by the "method of the grandmother" (stand behind and admire - the score went up to 50%). And also how aspirations can be changed by giving children other models to admire (TED talks instead of just media-pushed celebrities).
Returning to his original question, he left us with our challenge - since we cannot know what the world will look like, we need to develop the skills of reading comprehension, ability to search for information, and the development of a rational system of belief. I would add (what was implicit in his talk) that by asking questions which stimulated the interest and motivation of children, they would find out about the world they live in and develop the skills to go on doing so.
I asked myself in what ways is a MOOC a self organised system - one that might change in unexpected ways as it developed - and in what ways might it change?
Here is a version of the talk from TED:

Monday, 10 October 2011

Apple predicting the future - early 1990s video

Vision. What vision Apple had. This example comes not from Steve Jobs but from John Scully, Apple CEO at the time, early in the 1990s. The clip below examines Apple's future computer - the knowledge navigator. Watch from about 7:30 in for a great vision on using tablets in education. Tremendous stuff.

Thanks to Blake Patterson for uploading these dvds,

Wiley on Digital Learning Objects - the reusability paradox

Back in 2009 I thought that Digital Learning Objects (DLO) would be the way forward. The idea of taking bits of excellent learning and reusing them in different learning tasks seemed attractive.
David Wiley described DLOs as:
A digital learning object is "any digital resource that can be reused to support learning......Additionally, learning objects are generally understood to be digital entities deliverable over the Internet, meaning that any number of people can access and use them simultaneously (as opposed to traditional instructional media, such as an overhead or video tape, which can only exist in one place at a time). Moreover, those who incorporate learning objects can collaborate on and benefit immediately from new versions." (Wiley, 2000)
At that time I expressed frustration at not being able to find these so as to use them - they seemed to exist behind passwords and copyrighted learning platforms.
In his introduction to the Change11 topic this week, he explains the reusability paradox that DLOs have:
The paradox claims that the more context laden a given educational resource is, the more effectively it teaches but the more difficult it is to reuse in a novel context. Conversely, the less context laden a given educational resource is, the less effectively it teaches but the easier it is to reuse in novel contexts. So with learning objects, you had a choice - a great resource that is essentially impossible to reuse, or a really poor resource that you can easily reuse.
This led Wiley to connect his work on open approaches with that of learning objects - objects which had an open license.
It is only when there was a critical mass of open approaches that mashable creative commons content became avaliable so as to be useful and to get round the reusability paradox.

Saturday, 8 October 2011

Student use of a Learning Management System depends upon their ICT skills level

A study, published this month by Qatar University, investigated the factors that impact student usage of the Learning Management System (LMS) in Qatari Schools. (In the latest edition of The International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning).
This LMS is "a tool that organizes and regulates classroom administrative tasks, supports teachers and students in the teaching and learning process, and informs parents of their children’s progress and school activities".
The study found a link between students' ICT skills level and whether they were prone to use the LMS - the higher the skills, the LESS likely they were to use the LMS - a result which seems counter-intuitive at first. It seems that the LMS was not exciting enough for those who already had the skills to navigate and find on the internet.
Attitudinal barriers were not predictive of usage and student usage was strongly correlated to teacher and parent usage. In fact, teacher usage was key - use of the LMS tended to be limited to IT class. "However, when teachers built activities in and around the LMS with a number of benefits and rewards, the students were motivated to use the LMS".

Collective Learning Explained

This is Allison Littlejohn's presentation on Collective Learning, described in terms of her research of the use of this in an international company (with colleagues).
This was not a topic that I initially had much interest in, but the MOOC has really thrown light on something I would not otherwise had considered.
The model that Littlejohn describes (see previous post Tools for Collective Learning) shows that this is a discipline in development and she provides a credible model of how it can be explained.
She describes "charting" as a sense-making process that allows people to make sense of the collective knowledge. [Google Swirl is one suggestion as to how to make sense of the collective knowledge - could not find this... now discontinued by Google]
Learning Goals help glue the whole thing together and give direction.

Tuesday, 4 October 2011

Tools for Collective Learning

  • How does individual learning interact with collective learning? What tools are used by the individual to make sense of the learning, to make the learning collaborative,  perhaps to make the learning collective? This interactive diagram by Samantha Penney using Bloom's Taxonomy is a great aide-memoire of the digital tools available at each part of the hierarchy.

  •  This is another version of Bloom's Taxonomy but related to Google tools, from Kathy Schrock.

    • Social objects being the glue that holds/binds the collective learning together - but what are these social objects? 
    • Could it be the learning goal? Or the assignment or task? Case study of a patient?
    • But could there be many social objects in one learning experience? How do these interact? How can this  become more formal learning?
    • (We seem to be at the beginning of trying to define this and to find examples of the social objects that enable collective learing to take place)
    • Good point about crowdsourcing - just because it is being picked out by the crowd, it does not mean that it is the best available.
    • Charting: how do you make sense of the collective knowledge - four actions
      • Connect to the collective
      • Consume the knowledge in some way
      • Create your mash-up of the knowledge, re-purposing (but copyright, cultural issues)
      • Contribute to the collective
    • Charting a four step process - and most people will be comfortable with the first two; what do we need to do th enable Create and Contribute to happen? Lou states that they fall into these two subsets.

Saturday, 1 October 2011

Convergence of digital, networked and open - the digital scholarship of Teaching

Notes and comments from reading Martin Weller's Chapter 8 (A Pedagogy of Abundance - The Digital Scholar: How Technology is Transforming Scholarly Practice, Bloomsbury Academic).
This is the most exciting area as far as K-12 schools are concerned. In this chapter Weller considers how the music industry is facing the transition from an economics of scarcity (talent is scarce, difficult to locate, content is a physical thing and is manufactured to demand) to an economics of abundance.
In his Flickr example he shows how embracing the abundance model can work - by say, a Freemium model where basic services are free but those that add considerable value are charged.
Anderson's "long tail" concept is also an abundance response where you may give away 99% but sell the premium 1% on - and I think that this also applies to the content since relatively scarce non-mass market content can be available to be used. Previously the scarcity model made such content unavailable (uneconomic).
Scarcity responses, writes Weller, seek to re-establish scarcity in a digital context (DRM, for example).
Moving on to education, Weller considers how this sector may change as a result of abundance. With its resources and control, he gives the modern university as a solution to the economics of scarcity. He states that while expertise is still scarce, the access to content is changing rapidly. He quotes Siemens (2008):
"...learning theories, such as constructivism, social constructivism, and more recently, connectivism, form the theoretical shift from instructor or institution controlled teaching to one of greater control by the learner".
I like the terms "supply-push" and "demand-pull" that he uses to describe the change to abundance economics in learning (I almost wrote "teaching" here, but it is telling that this is not the term to use in demand-pull).
Weller lists his "pedagogy of abundance" based of nine assumptions:
  1. Content is free
  2. Content is abundant
  3. Content is varied
  4. Sharing is easy
  5. Social based
  6. Connections are "light"
  7. Organisation is cheap
  8. Based on  a generative system (many innovative developments)
  9. User generated content.
He then lists five possible pedagogies:
  1. Resource-based learning ("an integrated set of strategies to promote student centred learning in a mass education context, through a combination of specially designed learning resources and interactive media and technologies" - clearly an area where schools are working; Weller suggest though that this is often grounded in a scarcity approach)
  2. Problem-based learning (encounter the problem first in the learning process, students work in small collaborative groups towards a solution, but often there is no definitive answer)
  3. Constructivism (individual learners construct their own knowledge - strong emphasis on group, discursive and reflective components, emphasis on individuals to develop own interpretations, educator more of a facilitator)
  4. Communities of practice (perhaps open source community approaches, peer production)
  5. Connectivism (proposed by George Siemens [2005], and based upon eight principles; I would add at the experimental stage with this MOOC being an example of this approach).
Are existing theories sufficient in the age of abundance? Is an individual's attention NOT abundant? Is his/her time limited for these approaches?
Whatever the answer, "we are witnessing a fundamental shift in education".