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MY NOTES : Inside the Black Box

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Inside the Black Box by Paul Black and Dylan Wiliam (1998)

My intention with this notes is to qualifiy what I am picking out from what I learn as I go along. ASo watch out, I'll be back several times to adjust what I've put here with examples and reflection. 

Raising stands of learning that are achieved through school education. (p.1)

System engineer = black box and inputs to deliver outputs.

What is happening 

Some things counter-productive

Something policy-makers can do?

Teaching and learning have to be interactive (p.2)

Feedback to modify the activities

Effect size 0.4 = one grade at GCSE

Improved formative assessment helps the (so-called) low attempt more than the rest.

Frequent assessment feedback helps both groups enhance their learning (Fuchs et al, 1997) Effects of Task Focused Goals on Low Achieving Students. (p.5)

Actively involved (p.5)

Requires guidance on how work can be improved.

Advice not grades are needed (p.6)

Personal improvement is more important than setting one against another with grades. 

Vs. students getting into the habit of ‘just getting by’. (p.8)

NOTE :> The ultimate use of assessment information which is elicited in order to improve learning is the pupil.

Vs. - ‘the overall result’ (with grades/gold stars) ‘is to enhance the frequency and the extent of under-achievement’.

  • A culture of success

  • A belief that all can achieve

NOTE:> Feedback to any pupil should be about the particular qualities of his or her work, with advice on what he or she can do to improve, and should avoid with other pupils.

Formative assessment is enhanced through self- and peer- assessment.

Pupils are honest in assessing themselves and others.

Their own assessments become an object of discussion with their teachers and with one another. (p.10)

The desired goal

Present position

A way to close the gap (Sadler, 1989) Formative Assessment and the design of instructional systems (Instructional science) 18 pp 119-144

NOTE : > For formative assessment to be productive, pupils should be trained in self-assessment so that they can understand the main purpose of their learning and thereby grasp what they need to do to achieve.

Careful scrutiny of the main components of a teaching plan. As the argument develops it becomes clear that instruction and formative assessment are indivisible.

NOTE : > Opportunities for pupils to express their understanding should be designed into any piece of teaching for this will initiate the interaction whereby formative assessment aids learning. (p.11)

The dialogue between pupils and a teacher should be thoughtful, reflective, focused to evoke and explore understanding, and conducted so that all pupils have an opportunity to think and to express their ideas.

Untapped potential not fixed IQ (p.14)

To take new practices on board what teachers ‘need is a variety of living examples of implementation, by teachers with whom they can identify and from whom they can both desire conviction and confidence that they can do better, and see concrete examples of what doing better means in practice. (p.16)

Drawing > Median > via swimming and making a jigsaw > full time in the West for creativity.

Facts or thinking

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Embedded Formative Assessment by Dylan Wiliam

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William. D (2017) Embedded Formative Assessment: (Strategies for Classroom Assessment That Drives Student Engagement and Learning) (The New Art and Science of Teaching) : Second Edition. Bloomington, USA. Solution Tree Press. 

Dylan Wiliam is to formative assessment what Chris Witty is to Covid

I’m getting used to Dylan Wiliam - I think of him as the David Walliams of Education, the Will-I-Am of Formative Assessment.

I’ve been pointed at his webinars, sat through a keynote or two, read the book and the read pamphlet ‘Inside the Black Box: raising standards from classroom assessment’ which he produced with Paul Black in 1998 and established his reputation. 

In my first pass of note taking I had over 60 quotes and ideas here, not all from Dylan William. With some editing I’ve got this down to 19 ‘Top Tips’ which are all set out ready to quote. 

I’ll go back to the book if needs be for clarification. In this case it is an eBook which makes it very easy as the digital version will correlate to actual print page numbers.

This is how I learn. 

It’s a slow and repetitive process: skim read a book to get the lay of the land, read it with an open notebook, then transfer the notes to a document like this. Then edit the notes and where necessary go back to the original book. Most important of all - give it a go. Over the last five weeks I’ve had a chance to apply some of the thinking to both online remote teaching and in the classroom face-to-face.  

When a book strikes me as really important I am likely to have it in print and eBook - they read differently and you take different things from each. 

These notes are for me to browse, refer back to and use when I next have a formal rationale or observation to write, as well as for every day reflection on the learning and e-learning experience I am currently going through. 

Myth Busting

Wiliam puts the evidence of learning above myth and has a number of bugbears. 

Good teaching is difficult

It is relatively easy to think up cool stuff for students to do in classrooms, but the problem with such an activity-based approach is that too often it is not clear what the students are going to learn. (Wiliam 2017 p.94) 

Wiliam disregards learning styles, ‘which have no discernible impact on student achievement at all’. (Wiliam 2017 p.11 also Adey, Fairbrother, William, Johnson, & Jones, (1999). Rather - ‘as long as teachers vary their teaching style, then it is likely that students will get some experience of being pushed beyond it’. (Wiliam 2017 p.48) 

Nor is Wiliam a  fan of ‘performance of a learning task’ as a predictor of long-term retention of learning (Wiliam 2017 p.47 from Bjork, R.A. (1994) Any mention of ‘neuroscience’ as the panacea annoys him. (Wiliam 2017 p.50) 

There is no shortcut

Wiliam’s firm belief is that formative assessment improves performance. (Wiliam 2017 p.11) His view - ‘the use of assessment for summative purposes - grading, sorting, and ranking students - gets in the way’ of learning. (Wiliam 2017 p.56) Education is overly prescriptive with rubrics. (Wiliam p.93 in Alfied Kohn (2006)

No one can do the learning for the student who does not engage.

Our classrooms seem to be based on the principle that if teachers try really hard, they can do the learning for the learners. (Wiliam 2017 p.225) 

According to Wiliam there is little evidence that the following ‘tricks’ have any impact of student achievement:

  • Summarisation

  • Highlighting

  • Keyword mnemonic

  • Image use for text learning

  • Rereading (Wiliam 2017 p.225) 

Wiliam sets out five key stages of formative assessment : 

  1. Clarifying, sharing and understanding learning intentions and success criteria.

  2. Eliciting evidence of learning

  3. Providing feedback that moves learning forward

  4. Activating learners as instructional resources for one another

  5. Activating learners as owner of their own learning

The Assessment Reform Group puts it this way. Assessment to improve learning requires five elements to be in place (cited Broadfoot et al., 1999) (Wiliam 2017 p.61)

  1. Providing effective feedback to students

  2. Actively involving students in their own learning

  3. Adjusting teaching to take into account the assessment results

  4. Recognising the profound influence assessment has on student’s motivation and self-esteem, both of which are crucial influences on learning.

  5. Needing students to be able to assess themselves and understand how to improve.

Challenge them!

I like Wiliam’s thinking that ‘good instruction creates desirable difficulties’ - that we learn and retain knowledge through struggling with it. (Wiliam, 2017 p.11) I know from personal experience that the greater the struggle I am willing to endure, the deeper and the longer lasting my learning. It is when I can face the struggle … that I struggle.  Good instruction creates what he describes as ‘desirable difficulties’ (Wiliam, 2017 p.47) quoting Bjork (1994, p.193).

Pedagogy Over Curriculum

‘A bad curriculum well taught is usually a better experience for students than a good curriculum badly taught’. (Wiliam, 2017 p.11) I rather think we can apply this to many situations, for example, that pedagogy comes first - not EdTech. 

Formative Assessment above all else 

The Wiliam mantra is that, ‘attention to minute-by-minute and day-to-day formative assessment is likely to have the biggest impact on student outcomes’. (Wiliam 2017 p.42) He defines formative assessment as ‘the process used by teachers and students to recognise and respond to student learning in order to enhance that learning, during the learning’. (Wiliam 2017 p.59). Formative assessment, according to Bloom (1969) is a kind of evaluation - ‘a brief test used by teachers and students as aids in the learning process. (Wiliam, 2017 p.53 in Bloom (1969) It is ‘the process used by teachers and students to recognise and respond to student learning in order to enhance that learning, during the learning. (Cowie & Bell, 1999 p.32) It is ‘assessment carried out during the instructional process for the purpose of improving teaching or learning’. (Wiliam 2017 p.59 in Shepard et al., 2005 p.275) 

I like this : ‘Frequent, interactive assessment of students’ progress and understanding to identify learning needs and adjust appropriately.’ (Wiliam 2017 p.59 from Looney 2005)

And if you need more ways to think of it, try this: ‘assessment, for learning tells ‘us’ ‘what progress each student is making toward meeting each standard while the learning is happening - when there’s still time to be helpful (Wiliam 2017 p.62 from Looney 2005 (pp1-2) Stiggins (2005)

All kinds of formative assessment are not equal

(Wiliam 2017 p.62) 

‘The evidence is clear that the shorter the assessment - interpretation - action cycle becomes the greater the impact on student achievement’. (Wiliam, 2016). He continues, ‘short-cycle formative assessment has to be the priority for schools and teachers, because the impact on students is greater. (Wiliam p.75) 

‘ … regular use of minute-by-minute and day-to-day classroom formative assessment can substantially improve student achievement’. (Wiliam 2017 p.81)

Design backwards from the learning outcome

(Wiliam 2017 p.81 from Grant Wiggins and Jay McTighe (2000)

Three issues in the development of learning intentions and success criteria that may be useful to think about. (Wiliam p.95)

  1. Task-specific versus generic scoring rubrics.

  2. Product-focused versus process-focused criteria

  3. Official versus student-friendly language

NOTE :> By being specific about what we want, we focus the students learning too much. ‘He who never made a mistake, never made a discover’ (Wiliam 2017 p.95 quoting Samuel Smiles (1862 p.275)

There are a number of techniques which appealed when I read about them and I have used them. These are techniques to help students understand and achieve learning intentions. (Wiliam 2017 p.104 from Clarke (2001)

This is simple, these phrases work 

WALT ‘We are learning to … ‘

WILF ‘What I’m looking for … ‘

TIB ‘This is because … ‘ 

Student Engagement Techniques

The teacher asks a question, selects a student to answer the question and then responds to the student’s answer, which is generally some kind of evaluation of what the student said. (Wiliam 2017 p.124) Teacher-Led classroom discussion.

Try some of these:

  • Wait time

  • Evaluative listening

  • Interpretive listening

  • Questions shells

  • Hot-seat questioning

  • All student response systems

  • ABCD Cards

  • Mini Whiteboards

  • Exit passes

  • Discussion vs. diagnostic questions

  • Alternative questions

Pose a question, pick a student at random

Pose-pause-pounce-bounce

  • Pose

  • 5 seconds - pause

  • Pounce-random choice

  • Bounce-what do you think (Wiliam 2017 p.129) 

App or Lollipop sticks (Wiliam 2017 p.129) 

These techniques are used to ensure that all students realise that all are expected to tke part and that it is ok to make mistakes. If someone does not provide a response then come back to them and tell them  “OK, I’ll come back to you”.  (Wiliam 2017 p.132) 

Then seek Response 2 and 3 and then return to the person who gave no response and ask them which reply they liked the best and ask them why.

‘Engagement and responsiveness - are at the heart of effective formative assessment’. (Wiliam 2017 p.142) 

Managing Challenging Behaviour

To change the behaviour criticise the behaviour not the student. (Wiliam 2017 p.171) 

It is quality rather than the quantity of praise that is most important - teacher praise is far more effective if it is infrequent, credible, contingent, specific, and genuine. (Brophy, 1981 in Wiliam 2017 p.171)

The use of feedback improves performance when it is focussed on what needs to be done to improve, and particularly when it gives specific details about how to improve. (Wiliam 2017 p.180)

Motivation

“It's up to me, and I can do something about it”.  (Wiliam 2017 p.183)

When students have to struggled in the learning task, the quality of their performance on this task reduces, but the amount of learning that takes placed increases (Wiliam 2017 p.190)

Feedback functions formatively only if the learner uses the information feedback to him or her to improve performance. If educators intend the information fed back to the learner to be helpful but the learner cannot use it to improve his or her performance, it is not formative.

Motivation is not a cause but a consequence of achievement (In Wiliam 20176 p.234) from Garon-Carrier et al., 2016)

Like sports coaching, teaching takes time to master

It takes years for even the most capable of coach to break down a long learning journey from where the student is right now - to where he or she needs to be. (Wiliam 2017 p.193)

Feedback should cause thinking

Feedback for Future Action. (Wiliam 2017 p.194) 

To be effective, feedback needs to direct attention to what's next, rather than focusing on how well or poorly the student did on the work, and this rarely happens in the typical classroom.

The response from the student to feedback should be ‘cognitive rather than emotional’ (Wiliam 2017 p.205) In other words, feedback should cause thinking by creating desirable difficulties.

Peer tutoring can be more effective than one-on-one tutorial instruction from a teacher. This is because of the ‘change in power relationships’. (Wiliam 2017 p.209)

And regarding students online not using their webcams he believed you can see how a student is really taking it by seeing their faces (Wiliam 2017 p.209)

Student Reporter

Put students in a group towards the end of the class so that they can discuss then report back on what has been taught.

Two Techniques that work 

(Wiliam 2017 p230)

  1. Practice Testing 

  2. Distributed Practice

These received high ratings because they were effective with learners of different ages and abilities and were shown to boost students’ performance across many kinds of tasks, and there was plenty of evidence that they worked in educational contexts.

If students complete a practice test and get immediate feedback on their answers, students will get the benefit of the hypercorrection effect for those questions where they were correct. (Wiliam 2017 p.231)

Setting Goals

Students are more motivated to reach goals that are specific, are within reach, and offer some degree of challenge. (Wiliam 2017 p.236 in Bandura, 1986)

When the goals seem out of reach students may give up on increasing competence and instead avoid harm, by focusing on lower-level goals they know they can reach or avoiding failing altogether by disengaging from the task. (Wiliam 2017 p.236)

TIPS

  1. Think ‘how am I going to teach this and what are the pupils going to learn?’ (Wiliam 2017 p.79) 

  1. Having an in-depth understanding of the curriculum may be of more benefit to student progress than advanced study of a subject on the part of the teacher.

  1. Students don't learn what we teach. (Wiliam 2017 p.77) 

  1. Teaching the goal. Driving as teaching. (Wiliam 2017 p.78)

  1. ‘When the pressure is on, most of us behave as if lecturing works but deep down inside we know it’s ineffective’. (Wiliam 2017 p.80)

  1. The teacher’s job is not to transmit knowledge, nor to facilitate learning. It is to engineer effective learning environments for students. (Wiliam 2017 p.80)

  1. Learners of all ages need to understand what it is that they need to learn and be able to monitor their progress toward their goal. (Wiliam 2017 p.95) 

  1. Don’t simply plan the instructional activity, but also plan how you are going to find out where the students are in their learning. You need to be clear about what we want students to learn (Wiliam 2017 p.115)

  1. Ask questions either to cause thinkin and to provide information for the teacher about what to do next. (Wiliam 2017 p.126)

  1. Beware - those avoiding engagement are forgoing the opportunities to increase their ability.

  1. The most important factor influencing learning is what the learner already knows - the teachers job is to ascertain this and to teach accordingly. (Wiliam 2017 p.166) 

  1. Much of the feedback that students get has little or no effect on their learning, and some kinds of feedback are actually counterproductive. (Wiliam 2017 p.167) 

  1. Do not mix grades and comments, just stick to comments. (Wiliam 2017 p.167) 

  1. Oral feedback is best. (Wiliam 2017 p.174)

  1. Too often feedback is counterproductive. (Wiliam 2017 p.178)

  1. Don’t provide students with feedback unless you allow time, in class, to work on using the feedback to improve their work. (Wiliam 2017 p.195) 

  1. Feedback should be more work for them than you! (Wiliam 2017 p.195) 

  1. A simple approach to feedback. Pick out two things to praise, then express what they need to do a constructive wish. He calls the technique ‘two stars and a wish’. (Wiliam 2017 p.214)

  1. Teachers have a crucial role to play in designing the situations in which learning takes place, but only learners create learning. Wiliam 2017 p.246)

REFERENCES

Adey, Fairbrother, William, Johnson, & Jones, (1999) p.36 A review of learning styles and learning strategies. London. King’s College London Centre for Advanced Thinking. 

Ausubel (1968) Educational psychology. A Cognitive view. New York. Holt, Rinehart & Winston

Bjork, R.A. (1994) Memory and metamemory consideration in the training of human beings. In J.Metcalfe & A.P. Shimamura (eds) Metacognition : Knowing about knowing (pp.188-205) Cambridge, MA MIT Press. 

Bloom, B.S. (1969) Some theoretical issues relating to educational evaluation, In H.G. Richey & R.W. Tyler (Eds). Educational evaluation : New roles, new means, part 2 (Vol.68, pp. 26-50_ Chicago : University of Chicago Press.

Brophy, H (1981) Teacher praise: A functional analysis. Review of Educational Research, 51 (i), 5-32

Clarke, S (2001) Unlocking Formative Assessment. London, Hodder & Stoughton

Cowie, B & Bell, B (1999) A Model for formative assessment in science education. Assessment in Education : Principles, Policy and Practice. 6(1), 101-116

Looney, J (ed) (2005) Formative Assessment: improving learning in secondary classroom. Paris. Organisation for Economic Co-Operation and Development.

Shepard et al., 2005 p.275 in L.Darling-Hammon & J.Bransford (Eds) preparing teaching for a changing world : what teachers should learn and be able to do (pp.215-326)

Soderstrom, N.C., & Bjork, R.A. (2015) Learning versus performance : An integrative review. Perspectives on Psychological Science 10 (2), 176-199. 

Stiggins R.J. (2005) Assessment for learning defined. 

Wiggins, G., & McTighe, J. (2000) Understanding by design. New York. Prentice Hall.

William, D. (2016) Leadership for teacher learning . Creating a culture where all teachers improv so that all students succeed. West Palm Beach , FL, Learning Sciences International.

William, D (2017) Embedded Formative Assessment: (Strategies for Classroom Assessment That Drives Student Engagement and Learning) (The New Art and Science of Teaching) : Second Edition 

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Goeff Petty on Assessment

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Some viewing, some note taking and then yet more reading to add to another stack! 

Five questions with... Geoff Petty (@Geoffrey_Petty)Goeff

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Assessment and Teaching of 21st Century Skills

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This MOOC on Coursera from Melbourne University looks interesting.

This MOOC is designed principally for practicing teachers who are wondering exactly how they can incorporate teaching and assessment of 21st century skills into their classrooms, labs or workshops. It will also be useful to trainee teachers, school leaders, teacher educators and curriculum and assessment specialists, providing them with an understanding of the challenges associated with teaching and assessment of 21st century skills. This course explains the social and cognitive skills that are known as 21st century skills. It reviews how they can be represented in the curriculum, in terms of developmental progressions. It also explores how teachers can recognise these skills in students, how the level of skill of a learner can be assessed, and then how learners can be supported to develop their skill. In this course we work through two detailed examples of 21st century skills. The first is collaborative problem solving, a 21st century skill which combines the capacities of collaboration, problem solving, critical thinking and communication. The second skill is a meta-cognitive skill of knowing how to learn in a MOOC. In each example, you will explore how to understand the nature of each skill from a teaching perspective, how to teach it, and how to assess it. These two examples show how any 21st century skill can be tackled in the classroom. The approach to teaching and assessment in this course derives from the application of a developmental, evidence-based, clinical approach to teaching practice. The course provides a mix of theory and practice, of thinking and doing, and opportunities to share ideas, experience and resources with other participants. Join Emeritus Professor Patrick Griffin and the team from the Assessment Research Centre, University of Melbourne in a Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) on the Assessment and Teaching of 21st Century Skills, hosted on Coursera.

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What makes this blog of value

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Especially to me.

This is a learning journal. It charts my learning journey. It records, curates and collates what I studied, what I had to say at the time and even holds mundane things like notes from units and books/papers read. 

At times I have questioned its long term value. My career has been spent in education and training though, albeit 'corporate training and communications' using linear video, and then a move to the web with a few personal hijinks on the way as I decided I could and should be writing a novel or screenplay while raising the kids.

A year in education, at the front line, if only in a support role, and about to embark on teacher training, I am finding I am calling on the contents of this blog quite often to pull together my thoughts, the ideas of the experts and to formulate this into something practical.

My current target is feedback and assessment. I put these 'Search' and get links to a few dozen posts. I then go through these and slowly put together a practical plan. Today it is a 1 hour teach the teacher session on digital feedback and assessment. I think there is an angle on students with accessibility needs relating to learning and challenging behaviour. 

So here we go.

Or rather, here you go.

You are interested in 'assessment' or 'feedback' as it related to elearning - search for it here. 

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Learning how to assess - not an AL

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Wednesday, 17 Dec 2014, 19:35
From E-Learning V

 

I'm doing my learning with The OU, but on another platform. I'm emerging from an extraordinary eight weeks on the 'Start Writing Fiction' MOOC on FutureLearn. This draws upon the 'Start Writing Fiction' OpenLearn content and on the various BA and MA Creative Writing courses from The OU.

What's worth reflecting upon as a person who has taken this journey is the nature of the learning process in a highly charged, collaborative and 'massive' environment, the community self-help spirit that is engendered, partly by its being free and open, but also because scale means that that percentage of people who are contributory and giving is large enough to make an impact. And finally, as a learning experience - have I learnt something? Does it 'change behaviours' ? which is the ultimate test of learning - you come out changed.

The course is about creative writing, with the emphasis in a few hours a week on one thing only: characterisation. 

I've taken the view that even if I finished the course a week ago, that it is still term time so I have a duty to stick around. As well as carefully going back through all seven weeks so far I have now done 16 reviews. The reward is always two way.

In this instance I see in every writer ways I'd like to get it right, as well as ways that I too need to stop getting it wrong. An hour spent on a review is typical, though not always possible if either the piece is brilliant and a greater joy each time I read it, or because the piece struggles to reveal that the author has taken part or taken in much at all from the last seven weeks. The reviewer cannot relive the course pointing these things out that have been missed. Perhaps this is the difference between me and a professional tutor or lecture marking an assignment and given constructive feedback. 

Even amongst thousands you get to recognise a hundred or so people who are active in the discussion groups, desperate to put right what they are getting wrong and willing to try anything - I'm in that category and can truthfully say that my writing has been changed for the better, forever. I hope with these reviews that I am able to put back in a fraction of what I have been able to take out. From the learning perspective my behaviour has been changed. I know that writing is 20% of the task, so now I bash on with it as fast as I can ... as the real job, the 80% is the edit. Maybe with experience the balance will shift a bit. More 30% to 70% as I get things right first time. 

There's a discussion about how reviews are shared out. The system has to be automated. I believe the participation at the start of the MOOC was 20,000 and has gone up to 23,000 even 25,000. I know that stats so an exponential decline (is that the right term) sees 50% never even start and another 50% drop out after weeks one or two. Under 10% complete, possibly under 6%.

Reviews of work cannot and are not carried out by ALs. The cost would be astronomic and it would take years. Instead we rely on peer review. Over the eight weeks, beautifully choreographed (learning design) there was been a review of a 250 word piece, then a 500 word piece ... and now the equivalent of our EMA and a 1000 word piece. Without exception people are finally understanding that 1000 words means exactly that. People had the ignorance, arrogance or temerity to post 2,500 word pieces in the firs assignment. Some ignore the course, but wanted people to review their brilliance sad This is what occurs on an open platform. 

Regarding these pieces occasional requests have been made to have all of these on public view so that we could pick and choose the pieces to review. It would be quite wrong though to reveal what can be a sensitive and personal exchange between author and reviewer in a very vulnerable moment. It would, as I've seen in open 'classes' turn into a bit of a bun fight where, in the worst instances, like in the playground, you get people applauding one author and ridiculing another ... or simply join in on the back of what others have said. i.e. the learning experience is thwarted, even abused. It matters that the reviewer knows that their own words matter, without being influenced by what others have written. That said, some reviewers take a cavalier approach saying they don't like a thing, and then saying no more. If that is a student's only review received you can well understand their frustration. Even with the numbers involved somehow these pieces need to be returned and churned through the system, ideally until three to six reviews are received each. More work needs to be done to help students do reviews too so that they feel confident about doing so.

What we all benefit from this process is both learning to review, and learning to receive feedback.

The recommendation I make to everyone is to keep reviewing until you become good at it. If and when you can master reviewing, then you will be in a far better position to fairly review and edit your own work - a lesson that has finally sunk in. Writing is easy, the fun part. Jazz writing I call it. Top of the head stuff. The editing is the pain that crafts a piece so that others can enjoy it too. This pain is reduced the better you get at it.

What's revealing here is, as I've seen in the reviews, is that there are pieces that suggest that the author hasn't learnt anything at all from the course. I cannot make that assumption, so I review on the basis that it is genuine. From a formal assessment point of view, as I've learnt as a student with The OU for four years, is that a tutor looks for repeated indications that the student is using what they should have learnt from the course - if that is not present then alarm bells should ring. How can I give them points?

The problem of course in a MOOC (Massive Open Online Course) is that those who don't do the this task properly are especially taking away from genuine participants who want several considered reviews in return. Only if we get perhaps three or more reviews each will the 1 in 3 'non-review' be cancelled out.

Of 12 pieces I have come to expect 2 excellent and 2 ... how can I put it politely other than to say 'dire'. I'm not to know why this is, I can only judge what I have to review and have in mind the brief and the content of the course over the last seven weeks. Do some people paste in something they wrote months ago that has no bearing at all on the course? It seems that way. Might someone post in a piece that has been published, that is on brief? That is possible too. Of the remaining eight pieces these tend to be where errors and corrections based on the lessons of the course are most easy to make. It takes time. Time and focus. I admire those tutors, here and elsewhere who so clearly have gone to such lengths. Decades after the event I see lengthy comments on pieces for A levels from teachers who were clearly putting in a huge amount of work ... with no word limit on essays too.

In contrast, though not from The OU, I have had reviews of work that were laughable - one may have muddled me up with another student, while the other might have been written in the pub over a pint. One I made a polite complaint, gained 10 points and a distinction. The other I am about to challenge as this 'pub' idea might be close to the truth. And they are paid to assess a piece. In this instance the criticism over my missing a key point is unfounded as I make the required point a) in the introduction b) in the conclusion and c) developed the idea in the main body of the essay. Their comment, 'looks rushed' - which to my sensibilities is an indication of exactly how the tutor behaved - they are the one who were in a rush. 

Students need to be put on a confidence building exercise as they start university so that they feel, as fee payers, able to 'complain' without being stonewalled. This is another theme, but fee-paying students should and will change the attitude of institutions to their fee paying clients, rather than students on a grant-based 'freebie'.

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Assessment

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Thursday, 11 Dec 2014, 12:09

The MOOC model for assessment is that the students do this.

The cohort of 'writers' on the Start Writing Fiction MOOC in its 7th week is probably around the 1400 mark. Of these, let's say 1000 submit their 1000 word piece for assessment. Each of these takes between 1/2 and 1 hour to read, re-read and assess across three criteria. I find a well-written piece with some flaws takes half an hour, an excellent pieces takes ten minutes while a piece that is a difficult read, misses most points taught over the last 7 weeks or simply fails to answer the brief can take an hour. Am i getting that wrong? Am I trying too hard to make up for a student's failure to grasp much or anything at all over the preceding weeks? Perhaps the answer is to seek out some positives: getting this far, the idea behind the writing, a line or phrase ... and leave off either picking through all the problems or offering a summary of all the points they have clearly not got, or simply skipped over the previous weeks.

Not a tutor or AL, though I've had a dozen, this is quite an eye-opener. Good feedback takes time to think through and then to deliver.

The tips on how to give feedback on FutureLearn are succinct. I learnt a technique in sports coaching: sandwiching praise with constructive feedback. This is all well and good. The problem is where it is a huge struggle to find something to praise. Not possible on the FutureLearn platform, my preference I see now, with a couple of the 36+ reviews I've now done of fellow students, is to leave the toughest ones for 24 even for 48 hours. At least then you may get a sense of where the person was coming from and how you speak to them if you had them over for a coffee rather than writing in the quasi-anonymous tone of randomly selected fellow reviewer.

Not easy, but from a student's point of view you have to learn how to take feedback. Occasionally you have have to stand you ground. A couple of times, not ever with The OU, I have taken issue with feedback and a grade and on review it is found that the reader/tutor could not have taken adequate care: posting a set of generic responses on a point missed or references, or saying the essay needed X and Y when, in my case X and Y were introduced in the introduction, covered in the main body of the assignment and mentioned in the conclusion - something I had to do when I was a point off a distinction. 

It will be a new skill for students to become assessor, and a new world for academics to allow students to so boldly enter their domain, but a necessary one if we are to 'educate the world'.

 

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Learning how to learn online with FutureLearn and The OU

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Friday, 12 Dec 2014, 07:18
From E-Learning V

Fig.1 My progress on The OU MOOC on FutureLearn 'Start Writing Fiction' (c) FutureLearn 2014

More than any module or exercise I have done over my four years with The OU, it is a MOOC in FutureLearn that is giving me the most thorough experience of where the future or learning lies. I'm in week seven of eight weeks of 'Start Writing Fiction' from The OU, on the FutureLearn platform. Just in these few weeks I've seen the site change to solve problems or to enhance the experience. Subtle lifts and adjustments that make a positive out of constant adjustment. Those tabs along the top: activity, replies where under a tab. I think 'to do' is new while 'progress' was elsewhere. This is a responsive platform that listens to its students.

In the final week we submit our third piece of work.

As assessments go these are far less nerve racking than a TMA. The first piece was 300, the second 500 and the last will be 1000. These are assessed by fellow students. In my case I had one, then two reviews. Most people seem to get at least two sometimes three. The system is designed, I'm sure, to try and ensure that everyone's work is reviewed at least once. Tens of thousands, certainly thousands of people are on the course.

We're here to the 19th of December or so ... if you follow the tracks as laid.  

I hazard a guess that between 20-100 have posted there final piece already. Some, I know, got to the end of the entire course a few weeks ago; I looked ahead to see out of curiosity. There have always been 20 who post comments one, two even three weeks ahead. If 20 are posting I hazard a guess knowing my stats on these things that another couple of hundred could be clicking through the pages to read and observe. They may, like me, be coming back later. They may only be following the course, but not participating. Often, it is like standing on a stage looking into the gloom of the auditorium. Someone probably out there. One or two let you know. The rest don't.

I hope those that race ahead come back ...

I find that if I get ahead then I slow down and retrace my steps. To learn in this connected and collaborative way you are far better off in the pack ... it is not a race to get to the end first. In fact, those who do this have already lost. They've missed the point. I'd suggest to people that if they have the time to do the week over. That's been my approach anyway - the beauty of these things is everyone can come and go as they please, at a pace that suits them. Skip a bit. Go back. Follow it week by week, day by day ... or not. Whatever works works?

There's another very good reason to stay with the 'pack' or to come back and do a week over - the platform depends not on tutors and moderators commenting and assessing work, but us students doing a kind of amateur, though smart, peer review. This is what make a MOOC particularly vibrant, memorable and effective. Not listening to an educator telling us what's what, but the contributors sharing, figuring it out, answering each other's problems in multiple ways. We all learn in different ways and at a pace that shifts too. I find that often a point I don't get first time round, on the second, or third, or even the fourth visit to an activity someone, somewhere puts it in a way that suddenly brings complete clarity - their way of seeing a thing, or expressing it, makes more sense than the writes of the course could manage. Because they can only write one version, not the 'tartan' that comes from an intelligent, threaded online conversation.

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FutureLearn

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Sunday, 2 Nov 2014, 09:17
From Jack Wilson MM

Fig.1. Lieutenant Munday and Flight Cadet Green - Killed 23rd November 1918 during training, RAF Crail - photograph taken by my late grandfather, flight cadet J A Wilson MM

Especially if you are on an MAODE module you need to take a course on FutureLearn to experience for yourself how 'connected' and 'collaborative' learning works. The specialist MOOC I am doing on the development of aviation during the First World War has over 9,000 participants, the 'Start Writing Fiction' course has over 20,000. Things happen when the number of this high.

Looking at these it is some trick to find the middle path between 'lite' TV style for people sitting back on the sofa expecting some kind of introductory 'edutainment' from Channel 5, to full-on academic sitting forward activity at your desk and keyboard.

For the first time I see how this is like no other platform or medium that has gone before, so everyone, The OU and FutureLearn included, is having an enthusiastic stab at it and learning massively as a result: how to do it better, how to fix weaknesses in the pedagogy and content and where to go next - repeat, fragment, enhance ... 

Keeping it simply is key, a fabulously intuitive and well designed interface is vital, and, unlike US equivalents, not shoving the begging bowl and adverts in your face at every opportunity.

The quizzes need to become smart multiple-choice activities - though these are exceedingly hard to write well as other FutureLearn courses are finding. It is was of the areas that receives most feedback from those who hate them, those who get irritated at getting an answer wrong and wanting to blame someone and those offering ways to do it better.

And tougher 'assignments' could be offered, but this requires close scrutiny and marking by those who are academically qualified to do so and has to come with a proper fee. These produced issues of their own. If 1% of those on the First World War Aviation course decided to submit an assignment and pay a fee of £400 where would the university find the academics to do the marking of 900 essays, however good the money. I did complete an assignment for a MOOC provided by Oxford Brookes because I wanted postgraduate credits and a certificate - so that's 10 credits towards something. 

A fascinating time to be taking part in a way of learning that is in its fledgling stages ...

As it is an 'open' platform there's no stopping those of us with an interest from coming back as we do the extra reading and sharing what we find. 

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Essay writing style: clay or concrete aggregate?

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Wednesday, 1 Oct 2014, 15:10
From River Ouse Low Tide

My tried and tested methodology, beyond the doomed 'winging it' is 'concrete aggregate'. Other weeks or months I accumulate a lot of stuff, much of it in a blog like this; not quite a relational database but the 'stuff' is here, tagged and of reasonable relevance. In a now defunct OU ePortfolio called 'MyStuff' or 'MyOU' - I forget, you could then shuffle and rank your gobbets of nonsense and so, discounting the volume of stuff, potentially, have a treatment that could then be turned into an essay.

Such stuff, if it contains, 10,000 words, often with chunks of verbatim passages, can be a hell of a task to hack into shape. You build in bold forms out of concrete and can only get it to look like a garden, or park sculpture, with a pneumatic drill and chisel. Sometimes it works. You get there. It is dry and workable. You'll more than pass. It depends on the subject, the module and the specific expectations of the assignment. Where you need to tick many boxes this approach may work well.

Clay is the better way forward in most situations. Here you build up your arguments in logical steps then refine them at the end. This, particularly in the social sciences, is where the tutor wants to see how you argue you case, drawing together arguments and facts, mostly those you've been exposed to in the module, though allowing for some reading beyond the module. You have to express your opinion, rather than listing the views of others. Get it right and this is the only way to reach the upper grades? Get it wrong, which is the risk, and you may end up with a hollow or limp structure with grades to match. 

 

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Why some e-learning is evil

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Monday, 16 Jun 2014, 11:31

 Fig.1 Student marginal notes in a second hand book

A couple of weeks ago it started to dawn on me that in some respects e-learning is evil; I lost the thought a couple of times a) because I was driving my daughter to her last A' Level exam at the time and b) starting to compose the ideas my wife felt the need to share with me some pressing thought and I did her the courtesy of holding everything to listen - not just to look as if I was listening (a man things?), but actually take it in to offer a response (another man thing?) The thought was lost.

Rummaging through boxes of text books in the hope that I will find a plug for an imminent trip to Paris by wife and daughter (a post exams and 18th birthday treat), I stumbled upon a book on 'The Causes of War' by Michael Howard and the thought returned:

E-learning is evil because it negates a student 'learning how to learn'.

This matters as most graduates don't apply WHAT they learn at university, but rather the process of learning itself; that application, thought, time, discovery for yourself, seeking out your own meaning, interpretation, sharing, nervous first attempts at constructing an opinion or stance, building on this through mistakes, correction and further reading, attending lectures, seminars, and tutorials. It is NOT a case of consuming within tight confines content that has been specifically constructed for you to follow, to the letter, without little expectation, or desire for you to wander off on any tangents of your own. This has been my too frequent experience of modules in the Master of Arts: Open and Distance Education as with few exceptions the module is written and presented to you like a huge stack of packed lunches for you to eat your way through, without deviation, pretty much day by day for a period of weeks and months.

This is a convenience that suits the nature of distance learning - to hook you into a diet of these set-meals that can collectively building into a degree. The tough reality and self-evident experience of learning is that few students are ready to be assessed until a year, if not two years into their subject. Otherwise the pattern of grades is surely likely to be a gradual step by step, incremental improvement from the 40s, to 50s, to 60s ... and hopefully 70s and even 80s. 

I would far prefer to master my subject first and then be assessed and in so doing get 70s and 80s across the board, once the cumulative effect of sustained learning over many months has had the opportunity to mature. 

There is probably therefore a lesson to be learnt here for the reasons why Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) fail - they fail because they promise a trick that in learning never works - there is no short cut, the brain doesn't allow it, thoughts and ideas take time to mature. Which brings me to the fallacy of so much e-learning that tries to suggest that a revolution in learning is occurring, that there is a quick fix through gamification, having Google and Wikipedia at your fingertips and worst of all by reading condensed books, or courses that hand you all the answers on a plate in a ready-meal, or drive-in take-away manner that may satisfy at the time, but fails to deliver in the long term. 

Six of sixteen MA students doing a Master's degree with the Open University have recently completed degrees with the Open University; we often compare thoughts. We're universally derogatory of both approaches! Learning is a pain in whatever form it comes, but the answer would be a developed blend of both worlds and approaches.

Books, the printed form, certainly have a place. It is a pain to read a book, to identify salient points with notes into a book, or with PostIt notes, and to filter these into a format where they can be preserved and then later applied in an essay or presentation. It is this pain, and the time and effort it takes to condense books, to gather your own thoughts on the ideas of others, and then to construct your individual take, with support from your faculty (tutor, chair, fellow students) that builds your confidence so that you write what you think, not what the you are required to express, in a format that can be marked by an autonomon. 

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What do you learn from a TV series like 'Breaking Bad'?

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Thursday, 5 Jun 2014, 09:14

I cracked some ten days ago; unwell, not so unwell I couldn't flop about the house, bored and managing to read, but my brain too lacklustre to take notes or think. So I tried this.

The pilot episode was magic - like the second act of Macbeth. It all happens and you're left eager for more. 36 episodes later and it goes through a slow patch, but now I'm on the home run and can see the premise of it all. This happened to coincide with a sessions I attended on writing fiction in which I learned that 'character is plot' - in this case character is also premise and story arc. So, not on a creative writing course but there's a load to learn about writing fiction here.

$3m an episode!? Shot on 35mm film. $200m for all six series?!! 

It shows. The production values are those of a movie.

The Open University has equivalent production values; you get into bed with the BBC on 'The Frozen Planet' or some such and spin off Open Learn tasters and various modules. But as a learning platform does video teach? Rather does it inspire and motivate?

Drama is about how you are made to feel, not how you come to think?

Advertising persuades, it has to. Why are 'educational videos' more like TV commercials then?

Donkeys years ago we made 'advertorials' - extended, persuasive, corporate, sponsored learning content put out on video, then distributed by satellite and eventually put on internal networks. I have to wonder if a leaflet would not have worked better and achieved as much for less, but as it was pointed out, no one read the leaflets, at least a training manager knew his workforce had watched 'the video' because they had the attendance sheets.

Were they given a test afterwards though?

That's the way to turn it into learning. 'After this video, or episode you will be given a test on .... '

 

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When the penny drops or the fog clears

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Friday, 30 May 2014, 06:57

 To come close to mastering a subject at undergraduate and graduate level takes a couple of years - it should be at the end of this two year period that formal assessments take place. I question the logic of formal assessments before them, other than to trap the unwary into taking modules that may or may not lead to something else, that will probably, for the first couple at least, deliver less than pleasing grades. If I took a couple of modules after the MAODE it would be to wipe-out the first two feeling dissatisfied with low 50s where a couple of mid 70s is where I peaked. 

At some point as you study the 'fog will clear', like learning a language, the 'language' of your subject will come into focus. There might be a 'Eureka Moment', when the 'Penny Drops', some text, something someone says that changes everything and you cross a line forever.

For me this requires considerable reading and discussion around the subject - I have to make my own discoveries, to hear it from half a dozen voices first, ideally from different angles, until one voice, or collectively, they come into harmony.

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The right way and wrong way to assess

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Sunday, 4 May 2014, 09:46

Looking back over four years can be revealing. In 2010 I was struggling with my third Tutor Marked Assignment (TMA03)  in the Master of Arts Open and Distance Education (MAODE). I queried the assignment process. In particular I felt as if it was akin to making a tapestry. Three years on I feel my last couple of TMAs and EMAs weren't simply making a tapestry - but doing so wearing roller-skates on a ship in a heavy sea.

Nothing would stitch together. I had far too much wool. 

The criteria, meant to be helpful, detailing paragraph, by paragraph if not sentence by sentence what the examiner is looking for ties my head in knots. 

I contrast this, favourably, with the MA I am doing with the University of Birmingham. Clunky but effective. I have a reading list. We attend lectures and take part in seminars and I write a 4000 word essay drawn from a list of 12 to 16 titles.

This allows me to be fluid, rather than the ground beneath my feet.

Throughout the MAODE I think the only module the regularly had this 'essay writing' approach was H809: Research practices in educational technology. 

I can be accused of over thinking and over preparing a TMA or EMA - yet this, too often, is how the things have been designed. Less would be more. Simpler would not be easier, writing is hard enough without having to second guess what a third party will be thinking as they read while running down a check list to give you a tick and therefore a mark and ultimately a grade.

Reflecting on four years I can see marks in TMAs, and EMAs especially, improve. I think TMAs in 60s, and 70s and the odd EMA in the 40s, then 50s give rise to TMAs of 80s, even in the 90s, though my best EMA was a 76. Of course, in their wisdom, my student grades for each module simply reads 'PASS'. I feel this rather diminishes the effort and evidence. There is certainly a different between a candidate scoring in the 40s and 50s between one scoring in the 60s and 70s and 80s. 

I met an MBA student who had achieved a distinction in every module. I was in awe. Not your usual OU student (are any from the Business School). She had a first in her first degree from Oxford: Classics. Some people have a mind for these things. Perhaps it is my head that sloshes around like the proverbial storm, rather than the system I have been part of?

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Vehicles for learning or vehicles for assessment?

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Friday, 13 Dec 2013, 07:44

An essay, and therefore all assignments should be for the purposes of learning. To help the tutor, even your peers, to see where your thinking has reached and add to and correct as necessary. Assessment should be the end of module dissertation or written exam.

What do you think?

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What are you like?!

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Monday, 18 Nov 2013, 14:38

I just watched Daphne Koller's TED lecture on the necessity and value of students marking their own work. (for the fifth time!)

Whilst there will always be one or two who cheat or those who are plagiarists, the results from 'Big Data' on open learning courses indicate that it can be a highly effective way forward on many counts.

1) it permits grading where you have 1,000 or 10,000 students that would otherwise be very expensive, cumbersome and time consuming

2) as a student you learn from the assessment process - of your work and that of others

3) student assessment of other's work is close to that of tutors though it tends to be a little more harsh

4) student assessment of their own work is even closer to the grade their tutor would have given with exceptions at opposite ends of the scale - poor students give themselves too high a grade and top students mark themselves down.

Conclusions

a) it works

b) it's necessary if learning reach is to be vastly extended

c) isn't human nature a wonderful thing?! It makes me smile. There's an expression, is it Cockney? Where one person says to another 'what are you like?'

Fascinating.

'What are we like?' indeed!

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Learning Design looks like this

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Sunday, 4 May 2014, 09:26

Gagnés events of instruction:

1. Gaining attention. The scene opener, even the preview or title sequence.

2. Informing the learner of the objective . Laying out your stall

3. Stimulating recall of prerequisite learning . Tapping into what has already been understood - creating empathy.

4. Presenting the stimulus material . Presenting the case, offering evidence that might impress or inspire, that could be controversial and memorable.

5. Providing learning guidance. Offering a way through the maze, the thread through the labyrinth or the helping hand.

6. Eliciting the performance . Now it's their turn.

7. Providing feedback . Sandwiched, constructive feedback on which to build.

8. Assessing the performance . How are targets going?

9. Enhancing retention and transfer . Did it stick, could they pass it on and so become the teacher?

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Is the written exam an expensive and archaic indulgence that fails e student and the institution?

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Saturday, 5 May 2012, 06:46

IMG_1478.JPG

Sitting an exam for the first time in 28 years got me thinking how so much is assessed by assignments and 'doing'.

Just clinging to a pen for more than 5 minutes is a novelty to me.

Surely the technology we now have is capable of 'getting into my head' to show that I do or do not know my stuff. But here's the difference, have I been taught to pass an exam which could only prepare me to become an academic, or have I been applied to apply what I have learned which is very different.

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Reflecting on the exam process

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The MAODE has no exams, it is all done through assignments. The MBA module I am doing, 'Creativity, Innovation & Change' has three two TMAs and ECA and an exam. The exam is the clincher.

An exam obliges you to do things in a very different way. You not only have to be able to tap into your memory banks, but you need to be able to drill deep enough for substance and then wrap this around the exam questions.

With a TMA all you have to do is wrap what you can pick out of the course books, notes and resources (on the basis that you have read the materials and know where it all is).

Surely as a form of assessment the exam is a crucial form of judging how mauch a person has taken in? Whether they have engaged extensively, iteratively and collaboratively with their student cohort and tutor during the module or whether they have confined themselves to a room with the resources and picked their way through them (or a bit of both).

In addition to the exam and assignment I rather like the idea of the viva, though I have never faced one. This suits my mind set and probably my way of learning, I like to hear what I have to say and respond to others. And I write the way I think, as stream of consciousness.

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Revising for an exam

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Sunday, 1 Apr 2012, 07:59

I know what it takes but don't feel that the course has prepared me for a written exam.

We need to have been writing an essay a week, not one every six weeks.

Then, armed with your best essays you reduce these down to key themes.

From these themes and a list of must have authors I dream up a few mnemonics and mind maps that I can 'dump' onto a blank sheet in the first 5 to 10 minutes so I have these as an aide memoire.

Recalling distant early summers revising for exams I am doing all of this in the sun, either on the South Downs or today on the shingle beach at Seaford.

There are three course books and three blocks.

I am ploughing through these at the rate of 3 hours per day reducing each to key thoughts and must have ideas. I'll then test myself repeatedly until I can get a good range of ideas and evidence onto a sheet. Whilst I don't like exams I can there is no alternative, that assessments alone sent in electronically are too prone to patchy work even plagiarism, that being galanised to get the right stuff into your head means something, all the better if it is applied.

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The Girl at the Lion d'Or

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Friday, 25 Nov 2011, 13:34

Girl%252520at%252520the%252520Lion%252520Dor.JPG

Having enjoyed 'Birdsong' by Sebastian Faulks I not only went on to read many other Faulks' novels, I also went on to read much of Pat Barker too (for the First World War setting), and Ernest Hemmingway. Indeed, written at the time, HGWells take you to a similar place.

I find myself reading 'The Girl at the Lion D'Or'.

As is too often the case I realise half way through I have read it before; I should know the characters and recall the events and outcome: I don't. In fact, I am compelled as much to read it for the story as to satisfy this nagging feeling I know something dreadful or beautiful is about to happen. We get a little of each. And some wonderful interludes, as if Faulk's wove in some short stories that weren't going to endure as novels. (There's a nifty idea).

I want to talk about this lovely story, how Anne comes from Paris to work at the Hotel Lion D'Or. Who and what she is touches many lives, she is a catalyst for misbehaviour, action and change.

But I can't help but reflect on how I read, or skim read. I simply do not take it in, or rather, my mind leaves it on the surface, like a conversation overheard on a train. My mind, my kind of mind at least, or how it has formed, through a combination of genetics and experience, treats all readying as frippery. The consequence of this is that when I have academic reading to do it takes a huge effort to get anything at all to stick.

Reading on its own is pointless.

Historically I took notes long hand of everything I read. Historically, at school and university this would become an essay, the essay would be discussed in a small tutor group, filed, then looked at again months later for an exam. This kept that knowledge for the required period. Today I take notes through a QWERTY keyboard and upload. I am toying with adding pen to paper again. Then what? So long as I return to the notes and develop them the topic may become a living thing. Best of all, for me at least, are the vibrant tutor groups, or some online forums where I can find them. I need to wrestle with a topic, to agree and disagree, to read more, to seek out my own heroes and villains from further references. Then, and only over a period of months, if not years, do I make any sense of it, do I feel a sense of conviction about what I have picked up, understood or misunderstood.

I'm coming to apperciate why 'scholarship' takes time.

I don't take notes when reading a novel; perhaps this allows me to enjoy the second or third reading. You discover new things, you pick up the detail, nuances that weren't apparent the first time round. You may even get a better sense of the author's voice and purpose.

Can anyone recommend a good read?

I feel a novel a week inbetween OU reading and employment would be a good tonic for my mental well being. I beleive I work and think better too, but escaping from it all regularly.

You can immerse yourself in a subject and drown.

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The penny dropped

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Monday, 5 May 2014, 06:49

Between formal and informal learning design styles

Highly prescriptive vs call up the information you need as you go along. So defined instructions vs figuring it out for themselves. Perhaps using tools to guide and inform. We were given the simplest of tasks, teaching students how to cross a busy road in safety.

I made a point about any group requiring leadership or a champion.

I made a point on Randy Pausch whose 3D lecture series included mixing up student groups who then had to vote on each other's levels of collaboration in the group.

There was a discussion on informal peer assessment that I didn't entirely follow, certainly my notes are somewhat cryptic. Hopefully the session was recorded so I can listen back.

It is the unexpected insights in a synchronous session that prove valuable, especially the asides in the break-out room.

Assemble the books and papers you plan to refer to ahead of writing.

This is a new one to me. I prefer to write what I want and deal with the referencing after rather than fitting the assignment to the books and papers.

Perhaps a combination of the two is required.

The learning plan you produce may not be followed closely given the myriad of ways people respond. Many are drawn in by the assessment but not all.

Can such divergent styles be accommodated?

As the Elluminate discussion progressed, four students, one tutor moderator, I did a doodle.

doodle

Having shared the idea I then corrected it.

From Wenger (1998:233) 

'There is an inherent uncertainty between design and its realization in practice, since practice is not the result of design but rather a response to it'.

Phenomonology explains why people may still be adrift of the desired response.

The notes reads 'design as well as we can ... 'the students share the outcome. We set the learning, that is then displaced to or set in the context of each learner. We might have a learning objective, but students can and diverge from this'. (A good thing if you want diversity and originality)

As a learning designer you have to anticipate a variety of behaviours and plan for not too many being wildly divergent. This can be achieved by understanding the students.

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H800 WK21-22 Activity 2d VLE vs. PLE who wins?

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Saturday, 3 Nov 2012, 20:59

H800 WK21-22 Activity 2d VLE vs. PLE who wins?

  • John Petit
  • Martin Weller
  • Niall Sclater

Stephen Downes – Students own education

· How much do they actually differ in their views?

· What is my perspective?

· Freedom is lack of choice

· Parameters work

· Creativity is mistakes

· Have rules, the mischievous or skilled will break them anyway

· The end result counts.

a) This isn’t a debate. Neither takes sides and the chair interjects his own thoughts. A debate, whether at school, university or in a club, or in a court of law or the House of Commons, is purposely adversarial, people take sides, even take a stance on a point of view they may not wholly support, in order to winkle out answers that may stand somewhere between the two combatants.

b) During the MAODE this might be the second such offering as a ‘debate,’ the last being as weak. What is more I have attended a Faculty debate which shilly-shallied around the issues with at times from an audience’s point of view it being hard to know whose side the speakers were on?

c) As well as deploring the lack of rigour regarding what should or should not be defined as a debate, the vacuous nature of the conversations means that you don’t gain one single new piece of evidence either way. Generalities are not arguments, neither side attempts to offer a knock-out blow, indeed Martin Weller seems keen to speak for both sides of the argument throughout.

When Martin Weller implies that a VLE constrains because ‘There are so many fantastic tools out there that are free and robust and easy to use.’ I would like a) example b) research based evidence regarding such tools, which do offer some compelling arguments, these commercial and branded products have to offer something refreshing and valuable.

Unlike some university offering they are therefore not only effective, but vitally, they are fun, tactile, smartly constructed, well-funded, give cache to the user, are easy to share, champion and become evangelical about, explored, exploited and developed further. Here I compare Compendium with the delight of bubbl.us.

Here I compare blogging in the confines of the abandoned cold-frame that is the Victorian OU student blogging platform compared to the Las Vegas experience of WordPress.

I can even compare how WordPress performs externally compared to the shackled version provided by the OU. On the one hand there is a desire to treat students like sheep; there is even a suggestion in this chatty-thing between Niall Sclater and Martin Weller than OU undergraduates ought to offer the most basic environment in which to operate. Access is an important point, but you don’t develop players in an orchestra by shutting everyone in a hall and giving them a kazoo. And if that Kazoo requires instructions then it deserves being ignored. Having lived with it for a year the OU e-portfolio My Stuff might best be described as some kind of organ-grinder with the functionality and fun-factor of Microsoft DOS circa 1991.

Martin Weller makes the point about tools that might be used this before, during and after their university experience. There is a set of ICT tools covering word-processing, databases, number manipulation, calendars and communications that are a vital suite of skills; skills that some might already have, or partially have … or not have at all. The problem is in the accommodation of this widely differing skill set.

JV Exposure to new, or similar, experience of better as well as weaker programmes/tools, fashion, peer group, nature of the subject they are studying, their ambitions, who they are, how much time they have, their kit, connection and inclinations, let alone the context of where they are going online.

In this respect Martin Weller is right to say that ‘some kind of default learning environment’ is required first of all.

Caveat: You are going to need people to use the same kind of things in order to be able to communicate.

· University blog vs. their own bog.

· University e-portfolio vs. their own portfolio.

· Elluminate vs. Skype.

· Mac vs. PC,

· Tablet vs. laptop.

· Desktop vs. smartphone.

· Paper vs. e-Reader.

· University Forum vs. Linked in or others.

· Twitter vs. Yammer.

Swimming analogy: training pool, leisure pool, main pool, diving pool, Jacuzzi.

Niall Sclater makes a point about a student using an external blog that doesn’t have a screen reader. Do browsers not offer this as a default now? Whilst I doubt the quality of translation I’ve been having fun putting everything I normally look at into French or loading content onto an e-reader and having it read to me on long car journeys. The beauty of Web 2.0 and Open Learn is that developers love to solve problems then share their work. Open Learn allows these fixers to crack on at a pace that no institution can match.

Perhaps issues regarding passwords is one such problem which is no longer a problem with management systems. Saving passwords etc.: Other problems we have all see rise and fall might include spam. The next problem will be to filter out spam in the form of ‘Twitter Twaddle’ the overwhelming flack of pre-written RSS grabbed institutional and corporate messages that should without exception be ‘flagged’ by readers as spam until it stops. I never had a conversation with a piece of direct mail shoved at me through my letter box, or spam come to that matter. Here largely the walled, university environment in which to study, is protected from the swelling noise of distraction on the outside,

Niall Sclater talks about the Wiki on OU VLE, in Moodle ‘comprises what we consider is the most useful functionality for students. The OU ‘cut out a lot of the bells and whistles you find in MediaWiki’. New to wikis I enjoyed being eased into their use, but like a keen skier, or swimmer, having found my ‘legs’ I wanted incremental progressions. Being compelled to stay in the training pool, or on the nursery slopes, to return to by Kazoo metaphor, is like having Grade 5 flute, but having to play with six novice recorder players in Kindergarten. We move on and therefore what is offered should move with us.

Universities fail abysmally to sell their products to their captive audiences.

Commercial products are sold, invitingly to everyone who comes within earshot. There is a commercial naivety and intellectual arrogance sometimes over stuff created that must be great, because it is the invention of brilliant minds … and that its brilliance will be self-evident even if it sits their within its highly branded overcoat waiting for some time to take an interest and take it out for a test drive. Creators of these tools forget that a quick search using some of the terms related to the affordances of the product being offered will invariably produce something more appealing from the likes of Google, Adobe, Apple or Microsoft.

Nail Sclater points out that some students can be confused by too much functionality. I agree. If there is a product that has far too much functionality, it is Elluminate. And even for a library search, it ought to be as simple as the real thing … you go to a counter and ask for a title. Google gets it right. Keep it simple. Others are at last following suit. Or is the Google God now omnipresent?

Martin Weller stumbles when he says that Nail ‘hits on two arguments against decentralised PLEs by

a) Giving three arguments

a. Authentication

b. Integration

c. Robustness

b) He is meant to be in favour of PLEs.

i.e. academics are incapable of debate because they are, to use of Martin Weller’s favourite terms ‘contextualised’ to sit on the fence. A debate should be a contest, a bullfight ideally with a clear winner, the other party a convincing looser.

You wouldn’t let a soldier chose his weapons then enter the fray. There has to be a modicum of formal training across a variety of tools, and in a controlled, stepped fashion in order to bring people along, communally, for retention and to engender collaboration and participation and all that benefits that come from that.

Who at a time of change is going to declare their role, or department redundant? Brought into a new role, Social Media Manager, I feel I will have succeed in 12 months if I have handed over the keys to others, spread some of the glory about. That’s how I see it, a little bit of everybody’s lives. You can wordprocess, you can do some aspect of Social Media. There are other functions though that long ago were circumvented by clever software. Web 2.0 deplores the gatekeeper. It wants to put everything ‘out there,’ enabling everyone and anyone to make of it what they need and please.

Personally I’ve been loading content, text and images, in diaryland since Sept 1999 and have never had an issue with access, yet I have repeatedly found my OU e-portfolio failed, or that while composing a response in a forum the system fell-down and I lost what I was doing.

Nial Sclater argues in favour of VLEs to ensure usability, access, extension to students, common ground on terms of tools, opportunity and form an assessment point of view, use of content too.

While Martin Weller wants to ‘Support’ – an argument for VLEs. (I’ve now made the point several times that Martin Weller seemed unsure of which side he was on, and by personality and from experience, will never take a side in any case).

We DO want people going away being able to use package X. Do we turn out Roy Castle types who can play loads of instruments not very well, or a virtuoso performer who can at least play the cello well?

JP stepping in ‘as my confidence grew I got to know that and my confidence grew across the year as I got to know that and one or two other very limited and well-supported tools’

Nial Sclater’s point that the same tool is required for collaboration and assessment. This applies also to reading the materials provided and doing the activities so that these are the points of reference for assessments (as currently practised). How can a Tutor mark an assessment that is based on vegetables from a walled Victorian kitchen garden, when the student offers flowers grown from seed in a tub? To return to my sporting analogy, how might I judge a person’s ability to swim after 12 weeks if they’ve been learning how to sail?

Parameters have a purpose.

The greatest resistance to a writer is having no sense of purpose, no goals, no parameters, no set pieces, no one to be on their case. A free for all, perhaps as the new London Business and Finance School is finding, is that just giving students the lot and telling them to get on with it is not conducive to a viable learning experience. (Nor do I think it’ll deliver someone is able to work with others).

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On using Twitter in Education

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Saturday, 27 Aug 2011, 12:05

My concern, as I'm guilty of it as a blogger, is that it changes how you 'talk.'

My blogging voice is light and journalistic - it is difficult to escape this in an assignment, however many references I put on or re-writes I do.

A different mindset is required, literally wearing a different hat and taking a different approach from the start.

As a professional writer I ought to be able to write for different audiences. I'm not sure I can, indeed my voice has always bee the 'spoken word' for TV and Video with scripts design to visualise rather than say anything at all.

I find and consider Twitter to be an invaluable exercise in being succinct; stylistically this has to be a good thing.

However, as I found myself doing recently, something I wrote, after an edit, looked and read like x16 140 character Tweats strung together.

Surely engagement of any kind, a conversation over coffee, over lunch, Tweating or blogs, helps internalise and sought out issues and confusion in the student's mind. It is an activity even if it is being measured?

I wonder if a 'viva voce' in a video conference (Skype, Elluminate) wouldn't demonstrate the value of social networks in education, that it would be apparent that those who are talking about their topic in cyberspace are more likely to have formed some points of view of their own.

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The reflective blog (or diary)

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Saturday, 26 Nov 2011, 16:24

The current Radio 4 series on the genre, celbrities reading from their childhood diaries, shows that keeping a diary is rather more common practice than I had thought. I am one of those people who began a diary age 13 and has never stopped. The format changed, from five year diary, to hardbook notebooks, to letters to my fiance and mercifully the diary came to an abrupt halt with marriage (going to be bed was no longer a time to take out the pen).

I'm glad I decided to catch-up with the habit when the children were born, so was ready in 1996 and 1998 to blog.

And so I blog for another decade.

But was this a reflective diary? At times it was simply filling the page (first a few lines in one of those Five Year Diary with a lock), then a minimum per day of a page of A4 in a hardback notebook ... though for a while as much as I cared to write (e.g. September 1977 or 78 fills an entire arch-lever file). But was it reflective? Looking back at these entries (very rare), it is depressing to read about issues and problems that I never resolved, or ambitions that I couldn't or didn't fulfil.

Perhaps by reading back regularly these diaries would have had reflective, life-adjusting qualities? Rather than the prayers of a godless teenager who was sent to boarding school age 7, escaped for 2 years for A'levels to a day school, then returning to the boarding environment of univeristy. Was my diary a companion who could only listen?

This is all brought up as a result of reading about the Reflective Diary as a tool for students to consider what they are trying to learn and if they are succeeding. I could say that from a purist's point of view this sullies the term 'diary'; I can imagine how dull it would have been for Alan Clarke, Anne Frank or Pepys to have written in such a way (let alone Henry Miller or Anais Nin). But this misses the point, a reflective diary is a tool, a task, like the weekly (or fortnightly) essay.

This from Burgess (2009)

Reflective diaries

There are many ways of keeping these.

* Make a note of something you found interesting in the lecture/seminar.

* Why was it interesting?

* How does it connect with your own life/practice experience?

* How might this inform your practice as a social worker

* How might users benefit from your learning?

* How might your learning add to your understanding of 'good' practice

I should look through decades of diaries, some 1.6 million words of it online, and see if I am guilty of an reflection of this nature. I say 'guilty' as I would have felt that writing in such a way in my diary (it would have had to be in a separate book) would have sullied the format, a bit like using play acting for education, rather than just for entertainment or writing a lyric for a song that taught safe sex. I would resist the idea of 'education' impinging on this side of my existence. Are we not living in a world though where the barriers between work and home, school and home, colleagues and friends is breaking down? Where in the same breath in a social networking site you can flip between friends, families, colleagues or fellow students? Is such an environment like the population of your ideal village?

 

By Burgess with material adapted from the SAPHE Project (Self Assessment in Professional and Higher Education Project)

Burgess, H (n.d.) Self and Peer Assessment (online), The Higher Education Academy: Social Work and Social Policy (SWAP). Available from: http://sorubank.ege.edu.tr/~bouo/DLUE/Chapter-08/Chapter-8-makaleler/Assessment%202_%20Self%20and%20peer%20assessment.htm (accessed 6 August 2010).


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