Contributing to Cloud Dust
Thoughts about learning and teaching
Thoughts about learning and teaching
I’ve been spending time the last couple of months reading and watching videos about facilitation online and face-to-face, and discussing the possibilities of different techniques with colleagues and FLO (Facilitating Learning Online) workshop participants. But I have had limited opportunities to really test out new approaches with other experienced facilitators, so I was thrilled to have the chance to “flex some facilitator muscle” with Sylvia Currie and Beth Cougler Blom during several face-to-face events hosted at Kelowna’s amazing UBCO campus.
BCcampus manager, Sylvia Currie, organized a one day gathering of FLO-FDO enthusiasts (Facilitating Learning Online and Facilitator Development Online workshops) at UBC’s beautiful Okanagan campus. The session objectives and intentions were diverse and emergent and our audience was knowledgeable and open to sharing and exploring. What a great environment to try a range of facilitation practices!
SylviaC started us off by “setting the scene” for participants with less knowledge of the development of FLO workshops.
Beth got us rolling by introducing the Purpose to Practice structure (a Liberating Structures technique) that we planned to use to keep us on track and support the varied facilitation techniques we were going to explore.
We created a wall chart of the structure to allow us to refocus throughout the day and to collect the outcomes of different explorations. At the end of each activity, coloured notes (Post-its) containing the essential findings/suggestions were posted to the relevant “petal”.
I took the opportunity to try a new approach (new to me!) to warm up the group – a Low Tech Social Network game from Gamestorming. As the “enthusiasts” didn’t all know each other, it was a creative way to have them share something about themselves, what FLO meant to them and to take a few minutes to see what they had in common with others. The integration of simple drawings and having to post their avatars on the wall seemed to be really effective. We also used the “network” wall later in the day to brainstorm the additional people we would have liked to have at our session.
Beth tried another Gamestorming technique “Cover Story” that challenges participants “think big” by creating a magazine cover that “tells the story” of what things would look like several years in the future. Our challenge was: “What would the widespread adoption of FLO look like by 2020?”
The activity generated a lot of concentrated work and some bursts of laughter. The storytelling by each group was rich and diverse. I had wondered whether the need to make the story visual would slow down the creative sharing but it didn’t – and allowing them to speak about the cover story made it more meaningful for everyone.
We switched back to Liberating Structures to identify our “rules” or Principles (from the Purpose to Practice chart). I started them with Min Specs and asked them to think about “must dos and must not dos” to help us achieve our purpose. My estimate of time was way off as people began generating a list of maximum specifications and then consolidating the items and voting on the most important (what couldn’t we do without) “rules”.
We had planned to follow Min Specs with 25/10 Crowdsourcing (moving from listing ideas to thinking “big picture” again) but we consulted during their group work (the joy of working with two experienced facilitators is the flexibility and imaginative problem-solving that becomes possible!).
We drew them back to the Low Tech Social Network wall to collect ideas about the additional people (Participants) they thought would be important to achieving our Purpose – we had people write the titles or people or organizations (not specific names) and post them around the perimeter of the network wall.
Beth refocused the group on thinking about Structures and Practices how each person thought we could re-organize to distribute control (Structures) and to identify next steps (Practices).
SylviaC pulled the day together by facilitating an open sharing and storytelling circle (a very loose circle) to allow each person to share their final thoughts about what we’d accomplished and what lay ahead.
By the end of the day we had learned a lot about what worked and what didn’t about the facilitation techniques we’d chosen and we had a very useful collection of ideas and artifacts that we’re still distilling to guide us further.
During our planning for the May 31st session, we talked about putting in a proposal for ETUG’s spring workshop. Somewhere along the way (I blame Beth), we ended up putting in three proposals and all three were accepted.
One of the sessions was fairly straightforward – we wanted to engage participants in our “wicked question” – how to spread FLO. We discussed different facilitation strategies and came up with a plan.
But the real challenge was designing our two “linked” sessions to explore two phases of Human Centered Design Thinking. How could we make that work in under two hours without knowing whether the participants from the first session would continue on into the 2nd session? How could we develop useful ideas with so little time and with participants that we couldn’t study or whose experiences we couldn’t share directly? I wouldn’t have tried this alone but, I decided that it was definitely possible with Beth leading the way as she’d applied different aspects of this approach in her co-teaching and previous facilitation work.
The basic outline of our plan – thanks to @BarbaraBerry pic.twitter.com/QuSNVcebwV
How might BC higher educational institutions effectively share quality teaching and learning resources with each other?
Key learnings sheets were collected to be shared during the next session.
We adapted the concept development approach to ask people to draw a representation of their solution to the one potential solution that the group had identified. Groups were given a chance to quickly explain their drawing and solution.
Although the time limits made this very challenging, we did get some creative thinking happening and some thoughtful suggestions about practical steps to develop the idea maps further. During the Ideation session, I think we would have benefited from allowing the groups to identify different “top” ideas and develop their idea in any way they chose (drawing, oral description, storyboards, lists).
My overall learning about these sessions – good practice for guiding people through complex thinking tasks but the real value of “human centered” design thinking isn’t really possible to explore in such a limited timeframe.
I came away from our facilitation “workouts” with a renewed appreciation of the importance of humour, understanding and patience to support new learning. It would have been impossible to become a stronger facilitator without those elements – from my co-facilitators and our participants.
Just back (actually it’s been nearly two weeks!) from a challenging, fun exploration of ideas, innovations, edtech stories and design practices at UBC Okanagan (a sunny, stormy beautiful campus in Kelowna). Another ETUG event that introduced me to new people and projects and left me with lots to think about and new ideas of my own to try for the future. A great way to start a summer break.
Dr. Newbury’s fast-paced, humorous and interactive exploration of three key findings from the well-known National Academy of Science book “How People Learn.” was a great introduction to the Spring Jam. While I was familiar with the National Academies book, I appreciated his efforts to engage us in different ways we could help students “move from ignorance to expertise.” I chuckled at his explanation of how students move from “unconscious incompetence” to “conscious, competence” as I remembered my first university classes.
An “Edit-a-thon” is “..an organized event where editors of online communities such as Wikipedia edit and improve a specific topic or type of content, typically including basic editing training for new editors.” Will and Christina shared their experiences working with students to edit Wikipedia articles and got us all to dig in and try some simple editing tasks.
I attended to see how UBC had approached Wikipedia assignments as we’d tried something like this at Yukon College in 2003 or 2004 (without success). I’m not sure it’s much easier because of all the resources and supports available from Wikipedia; it seems as though the rules have grown (even though Wikipedia says it has no rules!) and the process has become more complex. But Christina and Will provided compelling evidence of transformational learning possibilities and shared a handout to follow if you’re interested.
Steps for planning Wikipedia student learning sessions:
Rosario spent the last year with BCcampus to work on open projects. During her session, she shared some outstanding examples of co-creation of open resources with students and faculty at UBC and Camosun (funded by the BCcampus Open Education grant funding). Professor Christina Hendriks was in the audience and shared her experiences working on the development of the Open Case Studies Project at UBC.
It’s not about open textbooks, or open pedagogy, or OERs! It’s about “…making of learning visible through community engagement and the design of authentic and lived learning experiences.” Liesel Knaack challenged the audience to move beyond definitions of “open” to focus on ways to make learning more meaningful, relevant and useful to students. Michael Paskevicius supported our understanding through the session by sharing useful models of openness – Attributes of Open Pedagogy B. Hegarty 2015 and Degrees of Openness, C. Hodgkinson-Williams and E. Gray 2009. Hopefully he’ll share his slides soon – keep an eye on his Slideshare channel!
Some examples of visible learning at VIU:
Jumpstart is an initiative between the Teaching and Learning Centre at SFU and the Faculty of Health Sciences aimed at supporting tenure track faculty to create “shareable” educational resources. They shared developing examples of design thinking approaches using storyboards, visual mapping, diagrams and templates
SFU TLC Team: John Born, Christina Drabik, Kar On Lee, David Rubeli, Robyn Schell, Jason Toal, Sarah Turner, Duane Woods, Gabe Wong.
I don’t have much to share from this session as it was more about collecting our feedback and involving us in the story than about sharing actual outcomes – the project is in the early stages.
Keep an eye out for my next post. This year was the first time I’d stepped forward to lead an ETUG session, and, in the spirit of “if it’s worth doing…”, I was a co-facilitator of three different sessions with Beth Cougler Blom and Sylvia Currie. I’ll do a separate post to share what I learned about different facilitation techniques (design thinking methods and a few ideas from Gamestorming) plus some of the creative ideas that participants shared with us about our “big” questions!
There’s been a lot of interest in recent neuro-scientific research, particularly research related to different aspects of learning and memory. As educators, we’re always trying to find better ways to help our students learn (and ourselves as well). While popular science articles have highlighted many of the significant changes in our understanding of how the brain works, reading some of the details of research and ongoing debates about our interpretation of fMRI data left me wanting to learn more.
A colleague of mine, Beth Cougler Blom, suggested I take part in a Coursera MOOC “Learning How to Learn” last year (she had just completed an earlier offering). She found the University of California (San Diego) course enlightening and mentioned several insights she’d gleaned. So I signed up and was introduced to Dr. Barbara Oakley, Professor of Engineering, Oakland University, and Dr. Terence Sejnowski, Francis Crick Professor at Salk Institute for Biological Studies.
You can jump right to Dr. Oakley’s 10 Rules of Good Studying (extracted from her 2014 book, A Mind for Numbers: How to Excel in Math and Science (Even if You Flunked Algebra). The 10 rules are far easier to read than to apply – I’m still trying to integrate them in my reading and note-taking although I’ve noticed some improvement fairly quickly.
Example? Her recent, thought-provoking and clearly written article for Nautilus – a science magazine aimed at non-scientists – http://nautil.us/issue/17/big-bangs/how-i-rewired-my-brain-to-become-fluent-in-math
Cirillo, Francesco, The Pomodoro Technique Retrieved from http://cirillocompany.de/pages/pomodoro-technique
Karpicke, Jeffrey D. and Janell R. Blunt. (11 February 2011) Retrieval Practice Produces More Learning than Elaborative Studying with Concept Mapping Science New Series, Vol. 331, No. 6018, pp. 772-775 Published by:
Oakley, Barbara (October 2, 2014). How I Rewired My Brain to Become Fluent in Math, Nautilus, Issue 017, Retrieved from http://nautil.us/issue/17/big-bangs/how-i-rewired-my-brain-to-become-fluent-in-math
As I browse the cloud, some things just seem to jump out at me – I saw an invitation to a cMOOC with the name Gardner Campbell attached to it. Well, I participated in an interesting cMOOC a couple of years ago called Connected Courses and had the opportunity to hear Gardner Campbell and others explain the logic and power of connected, open learning. I was already a convert to openness; I’m still somewhat uncertain of the power of BIG networked learning.
But who can resist – so by this blog post I agree to participate and share in the open, selectively connecting to nodes and parts of the course that have relevance and meaning to me or that help me build relevance and meaning for others (interesting twist eh?)
Actually, this post is to establish an RSS for my blog category and to put up my virtual hand to say “I’m here – bring it on!”
A BC coastal connection 😉
I thought I’d share some lessons I’ve learned over the last couple of years about making better course introduction videos – I picked 5 for 2 reasons:
(Note: an a bonus for me – it’s my first listicle – a new term I only learned in December thanks to Dave Winer, Scripting News.)
Lesson 1: Use the best quality equipment you can afford and know your apps
Most of the podcasting and video equipment guidelines recommend equipment that is out of my price range for the small number of introductory videos I make. I’ve captured decent video with my smartphone (Samsung) or with a reasonable quality ($60 Cdn) webcam. But what really helps, IMHO, is recording clear audio. I have a “Big Blue” Nessie Adaptive USB Condenser microphone. It does a good job at a reasonable price.
There’s an app for everything these days – the free ones generally have limitations. Make sure you’re aware of them before you start recording. I’ve spent a lot of time reshooting videos when I found out the output formats were incompatible with the site or service to which I wanted to post the video. Converting can be fussy and result in unacceptable quality losses. I’ve started combining screenshots with straight video – means I have to pay more attention to these issues.
Lesson #2 – Script your introduction – set a time limit – think about longevity
I’ve created (and watched other people’s) rambling and unhelpful introductory videos. Set yourself a time limit and stick to it. For intro videos I suggest 3 minutes or less – or break up your video into different topics.
Take the time to writer (or type) a script. I use a storyboarding approach and draw, write my ideas on paper. Although it would be faster to type, this keeps me from getting too wordy. I try NOT to write complete sentences so I’m not tempted to “read” my intro – sounds way too stiff and boring. But I want to tell the viewer what they want to know, for example:
Try not to refer to time or place information that might date your video. Although you don’t want to use the same intro video too many times, it is a real time-saver to have it ready to go when you teach the course again.
Lesson #3 – Create an atmosphere or feeling – set the tone – be authentic
Think about how to connect with your viewer – what will make them want to stay and listen/watch? First impressions can matter – what impression do you want them to take away from your short introduction video? I try for a blend of friendly – approachable – cheerful but still knowledgeable and trustworthy. Watch your phrasing, the intonation of your voice and particularly, the expression on your face. Try not to look too serious and don’t keep looking at your script as it can make you look shifty or harassed.
Lesson #4 – Plan on retakes – save your disasters (you’ll laugh afterwards)
Although I don’t need as many as I used to, I still need to record my introductions several times. I still fumble my words or find that I’ve misjudged the lighting or turned off the camera when I looked up or down so I look like a demented zombie.
Take the time to get it right – even if it means taking a lot longer than you may have estimated. Make your video as visually appealing and watchable, as easy to listen to, and as useful to your viewer as possible.
Lesson #5 – Learn the basics about video formats and publishing
Size matters in video production. The format of your video (whether it’s avi, mp4, swf, wav, or other web format) and aspect ratio or dimensions (e.g., 512 x 288 or 640 x 360, etc.) matter in how easily you can upload it to a website or learning management system and, more importantly, how easily it plays back for your viewer. Read some of the general guidelines on the web or that are provided by your video recording/editing app. Test out a short sample before you really work on refining your content or presentation.
I’ve learned so much through trial and error, although I still have more to learn. But hopefully, these 5 lessons will help you as you record your course introduction videos.
Let me know if you have additional lessons to share.
Extend your learning (some sites I found really helpful)
University of BC’s Do-it-yourself Media site – http://diy.open.ubc.ca/
Vimeo’s Video School site – https://vimeo.com/blog/category/video-school