Contributing to Cloud Dust
Thoughts about learning and teaching
Thoughts about learning and teaching
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?
Although I hope your Christmas time if full of family, friends, fun and time to relax…there will probably be a couple of days where you might want to browse some journal articles to broaden your awareness of issues affecting education and learning. If that doesn’t appeal to you, go here instead Funny Cat and Dog Videos 2015
Thanks to a recent post by George Veletsianos, I found even more open access education-focused academic journals that you can browse and share with other educators or your students. Not all are “equally open” – some journals publish a mixture of open and “behind a paywall” articles; other journals are truly open.
Go to my EduResources page and click on the first accordion listing A-J for 30 journals (one is actually a well-respect news-zine “First Monday”); or click on K-Z for another 9 journals. Note: I do need to re-organize the listing but time is tight these days 😉
If you know of other open journals, please post a comment or email me at sylviar at educomm.ca. The list will stay open so it can be shared by anyone who’s interested.
So enjoy browsing and reading. And celebrate and support “open access’ whenver you can. I’ve seen some disturbing signs of an increasingly protectivist perspective from some of the former leaders in this area, particularly in the US. But the open education, OER, open educational practices movement is strong and spreading in BC, Alberta and various other outposts across Canada. More about that in future posts.
A recent blog article by Christopher Lane casts a light on the varied claims about what is happening in our brains based on fMRI scans. A recently published critique of neuroscientific research by Stanford scientist John Ioannidis and Denese Szucs (see References) found serious flaws in many of the reported studies based on fMRI scans.
My immediate reaction was to go back and check my notes from my recent course, a MOOC called “Learning How to Learn” and the content that referred to fMRI data and how the heightened activity in the pain centres of the brain when people procrastinated demonstrated why we are so quick to switch our attention to more pleasurable or easier tasks or thoughts. Would this mean that the strategies to overcome procrastination weren’t valid either? Well, I was unable to track down the specific fMRI data that the professor referred to (and can’t ask as the course is over) but I reviewed the tips I learned that I wanted to share with other instructors – and they still seem to make intuitive sense – see what you think.
Even if the fMRI data about the responses is inaccurate, there does seem to be real “pain” felt by those of us who procrastinate too often; avoiding important tasks too often can undermine success, create stress, frustration and unhappiness, and can become a habit that is difficult, but not impossible to break. But we also know, from the more recent neuroscientific research, that our brains can adapt and change (referred to as “neuroplasticity”). So how do we change bad habits?
In the recent past, researchers found that regular short breaks could help student stay focused. A technique developed by Francesco Cirillo, called the “Pomodoro Technique” involves working in 25 min cycles with short breaks. The cycles were called “pomodoros” which means “tomato” in Italian (named for the tomato-shaped timer that Cirillo used as a student). After four pomodoros, you take a longer break and then start on a new task.
If you’d like to try the process, here’s a straightforward explanation by Dr. Terrence Sejnowski, Francis Crick Professor at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies, from his website Mind Tools “How to Use the Pomodoro Technique.”
Note: The technique incorporates what Iowa State University researchers have found about the importance of spacing practice (see Spacing and Interleaving of Study and Practice in References). Evidence presented in the paper documents the changes in learning observed when the intervals between practice sessions varied. It appears as though different intervals, rather than “massed practice”, can help us build more constructive habits.
Some other possible techniques (proposed by psychologists, researchers, time management experts):
Another theory, referenced in an August 2016 post in Open Culture, The Neuroscience & Psychology of Procrastination and How to Overcome It from Piers Steel, Distinguished Research Chair at the University of Calgary (explained in a Youtube video – The Procrastination Equation) explains procrastination as arising from the fact that the primitive part of our brains, the limbic system, responds much faster to stimuli than our more rational pre-frontal cortex. This can result in a haze of distractions that prevent us from accomplishing tasks we find difficult or distasteful or just don’t feel like doing. His main recommendation to overcome procrastination: mindfulness meditation.
For further learning, check out the references below or review the excellent article in Open Culture (cited below). Of course you may have to set a timer, or meditate to make sure you don’t just put if off until a better time 😉
Carpenter, S. J., (2014) Spacing and Interleaving of Study and Practice, In Benassi, V.A., Overson, C.E., & Hakala, C.M. (Eds.), Applying Science of Learning in Education: Infusing Psychological Science in Curriculum. American Psychological Association, retrieved from http://public.psych.iastate.edu/shacarp/Carpenter_2014_Science_of_Learning.pdf
Cirillo, Francesco, The Pomodoro Technique (his website based on the book by the same name)
Ioannidis, JPA, D. Szucs, (2016) Empirical assessment of published effect sizes and power in the recent cognitive neuroscience and psychology literature. Stanfordretrieved from http://biorxiv.org/content/early/2016/08/25/071530
Jones, Josh, (2016, August 18). The Neuroscience & Psychology of Procrastination, and How to Overcome It, retrieved from http://www.openculture.com/2016/08/the-neuroscience-psychology-of-procrastination-and-how-to-overcome-it.html
Lane, C. (blog post Sep 09, 2016) Neuroscience Research Faulted for Widespread Inaccuracies, Psychology Today, retrieved from https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/side-effects/201609/neuroscience-research-faulted-widespread-inaccuracies
Sejnowski, Dr. Terence, Francis Crick Professor at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies, The Pomodoro Technique: Staying Focused Throughout the Day, retrieved from https://www.mindtools.com/pages/article/pomodoro-technique.htm?utm_source=nl&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=09Sep14
I’m really looking forward to exploring new apps during the #12appsBC event (coming up F-A-S-T-!). I have the enviable position this year of being able to “peek behind the curtain” and see the apps that our enthusiastic, experienced edtechs and educator teams are preparing for you. I see a few I’ve tried, I see a few I’ve read about but haven’t tested, and a few I’ve never heard of before. I’m looking forward to seeing what a wide range of educators comes up with – a scenario ripe with possibilities and potential.
But I’ve also been reviewing my awareness and knowledge around some of the risks inherent in using any cloud-based “free” apps – partly because of this event but also cuz I’m developing an online design work for educators and I want to make sure I am aware of current issues, particularly in regards to any institutional initiatives or guidelines for faculty. For those in BC, you’re aware of the requirements of the BC FoIPPA legislation for higher education – but are you comfortable with how to protect your students’ privacy while still creating engaging and useful learning activities or resources? Does your institution have practical advice or assistance that you can tap into?
Other places to look for information about cloud-based tools and their use in BC-based schools is to:
Even if you can’t read every line of the ever-changing, densely worded, mind-numbing terms of reference and privacy agreements for every cloud-based app you use, keep in mind the adage “always look a gift horse in the mouth” – read for the essentials – who has ownership of what you post – where is the transition between “free” and “paid services” – what are the cancellation policies – what happens if there’s a conflict between you and the app provider – can you backup your own work in a readable format.
Keep developing your digital literacy skills – one of the better descriptions of what that entails (IMHO) is Digital Literacy Fundamental from Mediasmarts
Don’t be afraid to take risks – most powerful learning experiences involve risk. But be aware, plan to mitigate risks and, have fun exploring!