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.