Monday, 20 July 2015

Week 23 Activity 3

This activity requires answers to a lot of questions, so I'm going to put them in a post here rather than clogging up the Tutor Group Forum!

One thing I have really begun to appreciate during H800 is that Technology Enhanced Learning is complex, messy and ever-changing. Hopefully I'll be able to at least put some structure on my own thoughts with this post.

I'm hoping to turn this:

Into this:

The first set of questions in this Activity, and my responses to them, are below.

Think about your own learning – the resources and tools you use, where and when it takes place.

What is your experience of being a learner?
My experience of being a learner is quite varied, from my younger days as an undergrad, right up to the present as a part-time post-grad learner. The main differences between my experiences (using an under-grad and post-grad divide) are that as an undergraduate I was a full-time student in attendance at a physical college. As a post-grad, I am also working full-time as a lecturer and studying via distance learning: this is a very different experience to studying full-time in a face-to-face scenario. As an undergrad, particularly for my Ordinary Degree, the use of technology was extremely limited: students did not even have email addresses at that time (early 1990s) where I studied. The only use of computers that I remember was as word processors to draft assignments. For my Honours Degree, at a different college, we did have email addresses, and there was also a basic version of a VLE in place. My memory of it, though, is that many lecturers did not use it, as it was only in its infancy.

What tools and resources do you use?
VLE (Moodle), asynchronous discussion forums, live discussion sessions, twitter, facebook, coggle. I use these on a mixture of devices, including an Apple Mac, PC, Chromebook and iPhone.

What are your views on different technologies?
I am a technophile, so I am very comfortable in trying out and using new technology. On a daily basis, I use my devices and applications for all kinds of reasons (social networking, sharing, colaboration and creating content). I came across a nice phrase a few days ago which I think nicely describes how I live: techno-sapien. There has been much written about the "net generation" and "millenials". But, to be honest, I don't think a divide (if it exists at all) is as clear-cut as that. I was born in the mid-70s, and I am just as happy to get stuck into using the latest technology as anyone else.

Can you think of examples where technology has made a significant difference to the way you learn?
Live discussion forums come to mind. I think that being able to talk through topics live with a tutor and fellow students is a massive help. Sometimes a simple question, answered live by the tutor, can be a big thing: in the past I had misinterpreted some aspect of an assignment, and a quick question and answer from the tutor explained things and put me back on the right track instantly.

Another example is Google Docs. This application has allowed me to do my writing in the cloud. I realise that this technology is not going to have the "wow!" factor for everyone, but for me, working on a number of different devices at the same time, it is a great tool.

Can you think of counter-examples where you had a bad experience of a particular technology?
For some reason, at one stage during a live discussion in H800, the instant message chat box in Blackboard kept on getting smaller: as more text was put in, the font got smaller and smaller until I wasn't able to read it any more. This actually happened a couple of times. I think it was down to the version of Java that was on the computer at the time.

What did this do to your motivation for learning?
The issue was compounded by the fact that the microphone on my computer was also not working properly. That meant that the only way I could communicate with the other participants would have been through the chat box. In effect, it meant that I became a listener-in only, and I did not get a chance to add to the discussion. I can't say that this had much of an impact on my overall motivation, but it certainly was frustrating at the time.

How did you deal with the situation?
At the time, I had no option but to deal with it using patience! I did not want to pull-out of the live tutorial, as I felt that even as a listener I would get something out of the session. How I dealt with it afterwards was to completely upgrade the operating system on the Mac. Updating Java alone did not help, so a bigger maintenance job was required. It worked fine in subsequent sessions after that.

A visual representation of my PLE
I used an online mind-mapping tool called Coggle to draw up a visual map of my PLE. This is not an exhaustive "list" as such, but represents the "core" tools and technologies that I use pretty much everyday. The map is shown below. (This is a link to a larger version of the map)

Comments on the map:
One of the features of my PLE is that many of the branches which are interlinked in practice appear to be cul-de-sacs on the map. For instance, the tools mentioned are not directly linked to any of the devices, even though in reality the devices are the conduits for many of the tools. I have chosen to represent it this way for clarity, although at a later stage I may revisit the map to show some more connections.

Key words in my PLE:
Devices, communication, research, apps, networking, social, creation, collaboration

Locations inferred:
Home, work, mobile, online, face-to-face (or at least live discussion through OU Live)

images from:

Monday, 13 July 2015

Week 21/22

Time is marching on. TMA03 has been submitted, so there is only 1 TMA to go before the BIG final assignment. It has been a while since I blogged here about H800, and by the looks of it, I'm not the only one that has been too busy elsewhere to post. One of the activities this week is as follows:

Write a blog post on personal learning environments and where you think they are heading. Incorporate a representation of your own PLE. How do the various arguments align with your own experience? Are you broadly in favour of PLEs/use of Web 2.0 in an educational context? Or do you foresee a number of issues and problems?

Some big questions in there, and I only intend to jot down my initial thoughts here so that others can see them and comment.

I like the idea of a learning environment being personal. I think that if you invest time in developing your own PLE, to suit your own needs, then you are more likely to engage and maintain it. The difficulty, of course, is that if everyone has their own completely unique PLE, it becomes an administration nightmare to deal with things like distribution and collection of information, especially where the collected information may be in the form of items that need to be assessed. So, the big question here is: should administration "nightmares" influence academic best-practice?

Web 2.0, and the personal interactions that come with it, definitely should (and in many ways do) form a part of ones learning environment. In my experience, using Web 2.0 tools such as Blogger and Twitter has allowed me to share ideas online, collaborate on projects, and learn from others all over the world in a way that pre-Web 2.0 technology just would not have worked (or at least, would not have worked anywhere near as efficiently as Web 2.0 tools....carrier pigeon, anyone???). All this, at a time when I am still tethered to Moodle in my capacity as both teacher and learner.

I think that a combination of personally chosen learning environments linked somehow to a centrally maintained system for administration, let's call it a hybrid-approach, may be the best way to operate a PLE at the moment.

As I wrote at the start, these are just some of my initial thoughts, which will be fleshed out with time, collaboration, and reflection.

Tuesday, 21 April 2015

H800 so far....

H800 had a slow start for me. I was very enthused for the first couple of weeks, and then work commitments took over for a few weeks. That led to a situation where I had to almost cram for the first assignment. Luckily, I have already completed the E891 Educational Enquiry module, and so the education theories that I learned in that module made the cramming a little bit easier. It is not a strategy that I intend to rely on again, though!

I have found that the amount of learning material on H800 is large. The number of Activities each week far exceeds what I have experienced with the Open University in the past. For that reason, I find that I have to be a little bit selective in which Activities that I engage with when I am caught for time. I hope that with my Summer holidays from work coming up fast, that I will be able to spend more time on the Activities than I have been able to so far.

Some of the articles that we have had to read are relatively out of date, I would say. This is more of a reflection on the pace of educational technology than on the course leaders and the design is moving very fast, arguably much faster than the research on it can move.

In terms of the technology that I've used directly within the module, I've had a mixed experience. The discussion forums have been the most useful to me, although the asynchronous nature of them has meant they are not as dynamic as tech such as the live discussions. My issue with the live discussions is more technical than academic: my Apple Mac updated Flashplayer and made the chat box on the live discussions practically disappear, it became so small. Also, I had issues with a non-working microphone at one point, which greatly limited my contribution to the discussion.

Other tech which we have been asked to look at so far has been mixed too. I found that Cloudworks was fine in principle, but poor in execution and practically extinct in terms of users. Testament to how quickly that tech moves on, I suppose. We've also been asked to look at social bookmarking tools, such as Diigo and Delicious. I browse a lot on my iPhone, and neither of these platforms perform well as apps. I'm looking into Tumblr at the moment, to see if that would work well as a social bookmark app on my phone.

More to follow......

Another blog?

So what's this all about?

Well, with my other two blogs, I had a very clear idea about what I was trying to achieve. With ThinkTank365, I had an audience in mind: my students. The idea of that blog is to present current affairs on Built Environment topics, in a more up to date and dynamic way that a textbook can. So, it was a complimentary resource for my students. Some discussion has taken place on that blog, but mostly it has been about me finding interesting and relevant news, commenting on it myself, and sharing a link to original articles.

With AppSalute, the target audience was the general public, but partly my motivation was to address queries that my friends and colleagues were plaguing me with: "What apps do you use, Wayne, and are they any good?" I thought that it would be a good idea to collect little reviews that I had written for apps that I find useful, and then I could just let my friends know about the blog. It worked well, but the impetus has gone out of it for now. I haven't given up on it, but other priorities have taken over.

So, here's another blog.

The motivation, audience and intended outcomes are very different with this one.

I'm creating "Someone's Learning" (sidenote: the name comes from a very good blues/rock album from one of my favourite bands, have a guess....) as part of my further studies in the field of Technology Enhanced Learning. I am studying for an MEd with the Open University, and one of the suggested technologies for us to try out is blogging. I've done blogging before, but this time is different. My motivation is that it is part of professional development for myself, rather than for any altruistic reasons. To that end, the audience for this is a bit of a great unknown. I think, at this early stage, that it will be more of a space for personal reflection than anything else, and so there may be no audience at all apart from myself. I have no intention of promoting the blog to others like I did with my other two blogs.

The intention is that I will post my own reflections, links to interesting blogs and articles, and allow discussion and comments from anyone that is interested in engaging with me. The end result (if there is such a thing as an end result in learning) is that the blog will primarily be of interest to me, but that there may be posts and links that other will find useful too.

So, there you go. Anything could happen, but I'm sure someone's learning from it.