Contributing to Cloud Dust
Thoughts about learning and teaching
Thoughts about learning and teaching
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
So much for end of the year reflective posts – I’ve been in full-immersion workshop development since Christmas and then digging out from under a nasty cold – so here’s my mid January “looking back – looking forward” post for 2017!
I’ve always been curious about and involved (at some level) in open practices – from participating as a learner in open educational MOOCs, to blogging and presenting and teaching about open education, open learning and sharing of resources to, finally, exploring what it means to teach more openly.
This last fall (2016), I was lucky enough to work with an amazing team (Leva Lee, ETUG and Clint Lalonde, BCcampus) to put together the first Canadian (West Coast!) iteration of the popular, free, open licensed, UK-event “12 Apps of Christmas.” As I’ve written in other posts, I participated in four different 12 Apps events from the UK last year and had so much fun – and learned lots too. The original event was developed by Chris Rowell and Andy Horton of Regents University London in 2014.
Our BC-based event was the result of individuals and teams from different educational institutions around BC; each day featured a different free mobile app, explaining how to get it, sharing ideas of how it might be used in teaching, and posing a brief, fun challenge to encourage people to try the app. We had 194 email subscribers and I spoke to several people who were grateful that the site (http://12appsofchristmas.ca/) and the microlessons would remain available as they planned to explore when time allowed.
Other “open” explorations last year: I joined the BC Open Educational Practices group coordinated by Rosario Passos (on leave from BCIT) of BCcampus. Primarily a group of instructional designers who are interested in promoting open practices and the creation and use of open educational resources in BC higher education, it’s been interesting but a little slow to coalesce. As everyone is so busy, we’re lucky to have Rosario to keep us connected and share all kinds of interesting events in the “open” universe.
I also kept up with maintaining a Scoop-IT page – FLO Learning – to capture and share open events internationally that I find interesting and contributed to and maintained the FLO Harvest Wiki, a collection of tools, readings, artifacts, etc. from repeated offerings of Facilitating Learning Online. Although FLO is not fully open, the resources are open licensed by BCcampus and hosted on the SCOPE site.
So what’s ahead for my open practices explorations for the coming year? Maybe it’s best to just focus on the immediate future – I’m about to pilot a four week FLO-Design workshop for BCcampus. As with the foundation FLO, the resources will be open licensed and available once we complete the review and edits suggested by the pilot. I’m going to be blogging about some of my teaching intentions and lessons I learn as we proceed. I planned to share my designs as they evolved but they were really too messy to be of any great interest; part of teaching in the open seems to be to find the time to share what you are doing in a way that is digestible – takes time I just don’t have right now.
As soon as we’re launched I’m signing up for an open educational practices course from The Open University. I’ll report back on what I’m learning and whether it changes my thinking about what it means to teach in the open.
And I’ve discovered the rich goodness that is UBC’s http://open.ubc.ca/ site. I was drawn there to explore the stories from people who have taught in the open; and I started poking around. I can hardly wait to explore the challenges – more blog posts coming and maybe some OERs on my website!
I’ve also made a commitment to get more comfortable with the Confluence wiki we’re using for the BCOEP group. They’ve started up a couple of initiatives I think I can contribute too. Some of my first blog posts are going to be about finding ways to maintain a streamlined open publishing process so I don’t lose myself in the maelstrom of opportunities 😉
So, ‘appy New Year and good luck to all for 2017.
“Have you done a Boot Camp? Are you interested in doing a boot camp for instructors who have an assigned course in January 2017 – who may not have done any course development or real planning yet?” The message came through in late November from a former colleague of mine, Laurie Prange-Martin – now working at Capilano University as the new Manager, Learning and Teaching Development.
We tossed ideas around, collected them in a shared Googledoc and finally arrived at a concept and rough layout that seemed like a good fit. In the melee, we discovered a shared interest in strategies to overcome procrastination (i.e., the Pomodoro technique) and the idea of a “design sprint” instead of a “boot camp”. I tossed in some ideas around studio-based learning, and brain-based education research (gleaned from a recent MOOC on Learning How to Learn from University of California, San Diego) and we were off!
We explored our perceptions of the needs of our intended audience – “the learners” and then developed a pre-workshop “inquiry”. Based on advice from a CapU expert, Laurie adapted my original draft questions to include specific options for answers mixed with a few open-ended questions. Potential participants were encouraged to complete the survey, even if they couldn’t attend this delivery, to ensure that future offerings of the 2-day workshop would address faculty needs.
I investigated the “context” for course design at CapU and found various resources and people available to support faculty with educational technologies, Universal Design for Learning and the policies and procedures of the institution..
I developed a Moodle site to provide an online space that the instructors could continue to use after the 2-day Sprint AND that could be adapted by a new facilitator drawn from CapU faculty to deliver in the future. The basic units were
I developed a draft Schedule with a mixture of active learning activities, Lightning Talks (10 min presentations) and focused design/production cycles (1.5 hours). Participants chose their production environment and tools and I provided some guidance to new instructors as they identified their specific objectives and focused on design/production.
My intention was to apply some of the brain-based techniques I’d learned during a recent MOOC by “shifting” participants from active learning of new ideas (or review of prior knowledge) to their own personal analysis and planning and then to structured cycles of focused thinking and production/design. I built in points for reflection and sharing of progress so they could share and explain their tasks to the group.
Like the “Shift and Share” structure (http://www.liberatingstructures.com/11-shift-share/) we took turns sharing different experiences and knowledge to scaffold design and development tasks each individual faced. My emergent outline also shifted constantly on the first day due to the realities of unexpected snowfall and the distances several of the participants had to commute to get to the campus.
What was the outcome – from my perspective – from the participants’ perspectives? I’m still compiling “lessons learned” and mulling over recommendations for future development and delivery of this workshop. It seems to have “struck a chord” with the instructors who attended; hopefulling CapU will continue to develop this two day immersive workshop and begin to involve faculty and sessional instructors to encourage a continuing focus on quality education and course design.
It was a fun and challenging project. I’ll be extracting learning nuggets and sharing them as I apply what I’ve learned in future projects.
Any stories you might share about any course design/development events you’ve attended or facilitated?