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Feeling wanted ...

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Thunderbird 5 the Space Station featuring John Tracy

Early days but a few teaching fails online talking to a blank wall of distracted teens is slowly emerging into something that will engage them - even if they want to be off camera and mostly silent. My eclectic mix is a challenge. I don't get to know a group of students, even a particular cohort or subject specialism. 

Four simple lessons learnt:

> it matters to be a 'subject matter expert' as you can talk, discuss and provide an inventive and relevant response to meet the needs or interests of the students or group at the time.

> channelled enthusiasm goes a long way, not gushing, nor over-confident, but the person at the helm with a sense of the direction to take.

> a video conference (as only the BBC will call it) i.e. Zoom (even if you're on Google Meet) can be as EdTech as it needs to be. The camera, microphone and Chat are enough to take a class and enough for most people if it is there first time. There is no need to throw in extras like slow 'death by PowerPoint', or faster 'death by PowerPoint' by making it interactive with the likes of PearDeck or Nearpod. A Google Form Quiz will do.

> where analogue meets digital. Hold something up to the camera. Prof Sir Hew Strachan couldn't be doing with 'present now' screens so during his gripping talk on the First World War he simply held up the covers of two or three books. I've taken to using a mini whiteboard while I am asking students to draw a Venn Diagram or Mind Map on whatever comes to hand. When they are done they hold it up to the screen - it works! Some go digital and use their phone or tablet, others get artistic with coloured pencils while others just doodle a thing on the back of an envelope. I can screenshot what they show me (I should have a recording of the class anyway) and for better resolution they can upload, share or email me their efforts. 


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A day is a long time in e-learning!

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Friday, 11 Dec 2020, 13:31


I tried to run with too much and came unstuck. A 90 minute class is long. The two 3 minutes breaks don't give them a break ... but longer we have found and they can go off and not return.

Clicking through a set of tabs prepared to show/share worked well enough, though with adjustments made each time I have taken this class (five times this week) risked my opening the wrong tab, or being unsure of the revised tab. Then wanting to use all of: Polls, Breakout Rooms and Breakout Rooms with Jamboard was a push too far.

Multiple Jam Boards open simultaneously

I set up no fewer than five Breakout Rooms and labelled each: Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars and Jupiter. Fine, but when we went to the rooms they had only been given Viewer status and were not able to alert me to this until they returned to the 'main room'.

I tried again later once I had changed the permissions but this time did the room settings double or change again? One person was on their own in Jupiter. So had Meet shuffled the students. And it took them time to get started. In the end it looked as if only one of them or a couple of them in 'Mars' did anything at all.

Battlefield Virtual Tour demonstration one tab opened of many in the window

However, I did keep to the two breaks. I didn't play two longer video clips and found I had time in hand, so could watch all of the demonstration of the Battlefield Virtual Tour.

I learnt that in the group most were on laptops, one on a desktop and two on phones.

Whether I get any takers from Screencastify is another matter. 

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Four down one to go!

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The learning experince is fantastic. I feel like a junior doctor on call 24/7 in an A&E. Not because the pressures is anything like as great, but because it has me engaged and totally 'in the flow'.

In the flow chart annotated

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The Reflective Cycle (Gibbs, 1988)

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The Reflective Cycle (Gibbs, 1988)

The Reflective Cycle (Gibbs, 1988) Learning by doing: A guide to teaching and learning methods. Further Education Unit. Oxford Polytechnic: Oxford

This reads like crisis management: is it? Is this if there is an incident? Or something goes wrong? An ongoing frustration that I need to tackle is why in a Google Meet there is always one, sometimes two students, who have joined the session but cannot be added to a Breakout. 

Rather than letting it happen again I need to test it in 'Student' mode and see the notes from Google themselves. 

Last time it happened signing out of the class then returning did the job; not this time. 

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Learning at the speed of desire

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 All to change in education

Total mayhem all around at this end. 

The PGCE I am doing, onto Module 3, was a must have to balance against the Masters in Education I did 7 years ago. I need the front line practice and experience I do not feel I get as a learning technologist. It makes the academic theory more relevant. I see myself as a Learning Designer in future and will teach both online and in the class.

Due to a Covid-19 scare I have 'volunteered' to run five 90 minute online workshops on Screencastify using Google Meet. I've done one session which was a scary experience. It  can only get easier ... or not. Some will have poor online access, or try to listen in from their phone sitting in their Dad's car - the only place they can work undisturbed. Others for lack of device or internet will have to come into college ... or not. Some want to learn and race ahead. Some have little desire to learn and do little or less. As long as they are not disruptive what can I do?

I have just completed 'Take Your Teaching Online' a free course with the Open University > https://bit.ly/39LI4Vw

If you want to understand the design and delivery of online learning this is the best that there is for now. It could be shorter. Some of the content is a bit dated or no longer relevant. The multiple choice formative quizzes are flawed. The formal assessments are a worthy challenge. 

I see education going the way of retail. 

The 'disruption' brought on by Amazon has been 20 years in the making. Exactly 20 years ago, or perhaps 19, I recall being overly generous with my credit card and buying books from Amazon for every family member I expected to see that Christmas at two annual gatherings split between my family (4 children, mother and stepfather, stepbrother and between 6 and 8 children) and my wife’s smaller family (3 children, mum and dad and 3 children). The disruption on the high street was a slow burn; Covid-19 kicked everything online. 

In 10 years, or sooner, the education landscape will look as different and will have experienced as much disruption. Far more people will learn at a pace suited to their desire to learn and abilities. Or their parents’ desire for their children to learn and the depths of their pockets. All private education costs. And you get what you pay for. Why not home educate as the aristocracy and landed gentry of 120+ years ago did? Being a virtual tutor could be a new job description where teaching online as an educator you tutor enough students privately one to one (rarely face to face) to make a good living. 

The brightest will start university courses at 14 or 15; that is already happening.  

Everyone needs to become a 'lifelong learner' just to stay abreast of the changes.

It’s a phrase I used a decade ago ‘learning at the speed of desire’. Just Google it, then get on with it. What’s the fuss? Tell me what you cannot learn online if you set your mind to the task??  

EdTech 2020 said the other week to expect educational institutions, FE and HE, rather than primary and secondary (I think) moving to a model of 25 to 100 online. Some colleges will close and operate like the Open University. They will deliver it all online … albeit with a twice monthly tutorial day and possibly the acclaimed Open University residential courses. 

Meanwhile if Climate Change causes major 'weather events' every ten years rather than every 50 or 60, I am equally worried, for the same reasons - population pressure, that pandemics like Covid-19 will also come every 20 years or so rather than every 100. We will see.

All doom and gloom? Not for me, I thrive on change.

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90 Minutes teaching online today

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Next week I have FIVE x 90 minute sessions with students. All of this will take somethign I have picked up from Open Learn's 'Taking Your Teaching Online'. I will be seeking to help students augment their slide presentations by adding audio, or making a video or using screencast technology.

Today it was a belate introduction to their new Tutor - me. I used this as an excuse to talk about how we should all try to understand ourselves. The only error was to think the students could see my profile on LinkedIn without signing up to the platform themselves, I should have used the two or three slides which would have introduced this.

As I have a recording I have something to offer for obsercation too.

I was shaking by the last 30 minutes I was so pumped up on adrenaline. A mixed outcome and too many technical hiccoughs, but I survived. 


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Reflections on Teaching

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In a tour de force example of the value of face to face teaching in a class over learning online our PGCE tutor took us through the power of reflection. Look at the title of this blog 'Reflection on e-learning'. 10 years and eight months ago I was keenly filling these pages (on an ever so slightly different platform) as I took the first module in the Masters in Open and Distance Education (MAODE). Search 'Reflection'.

Ten years on, while being invited to dig around in my head for an understand of the what it means to 'reflect', and while listening to my fellow students express their views and share their insights, we collectively construct and shape a meaning.

The beauty of this blog and its value ten years on and 5,000 entries later, is that I can search 'reflection' or seek out the tag 'reflection' and immediately be shown what I was reading, what I was being invited to read and what I was writing about it all. The beauty of this blog and it simplicity is that I can post and keep private, or post and share; it is as much as a private, even intimate scrapbook, mind dump and learning journal, as it is a potential resource for others. 

Reflecting on 'reflecting on teaching' and the profound differences between learning online (as it has so far been able to manifest itself) I see that one cannot replace the other, that certain elements are different to the point of being incompatible, that trying to recreate the class experience online is foolish and bringing the online way of doing things into the class just as wrong.

We have a long way to go yet to distinguish these differences and play to their strengths, rather than thinking one is superior to the other; neither is going away. The class I attended last night in which seven of us where there in person with the tutor and four were online is one I will return to again, and again for two reasons: first of all, to pick through what I was exposed to, what I was taught, the learning journey I experienced and the voices and words of others - everyone, in equal measure, was given the time and chance and encouragement to talk. And second of all, to contemplate the difference between the classroom and the online experience. What worked and what did not? What needs fixing to make it work better? 



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Too busy to blog

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Its a great place to be in some respects. But I barely have time to reflect or learning anything new as I am so busy having to do, do, do. This is G Suite for Education and in Meets several times a day with colleagues on the Digital Team, with staff or with students.

And then two or three times a week I will find myself back online doing a Zoom meet or quiz with different friends and family.  And even joined a Town Council Zoom meet. 

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A new horizon in online learning

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In my fifth week working from home the immediate realization is that I could easily have been limiting my time ‘at work’ to once or twice a week. I get more done, my commute is into the spare bedroom and my home office set up is vastly superior to what I am provided with anywhere at college. 

The greatest shift in behaviour is the amount of time spent in online meetings. Some of these lack the discipline that is required of a formal business meeting: an agenda and end time. Though a Zoom quiz with 17 family members spread between 3 corners of England ( South West, South East and North East), California and South Africa could have happily drifted on into the night - they weren’t going to bed in San Diego.

At least two ITC laggards in the family could finally figure out that they had a webcam and microphone. It strikes me as an excellent informal introduction to online learning that should be used with staff - break down the barriers and uncertainties by doing something that is collective, collaborative and fun.

It should be the mandatory icebreaker to do a quiz !

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Our time has come!

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Those of us with a background, academic interest in and experience with online learning now have an opportunity to bring everyone to the table. Working remotely for the last few days, and for the next few months I see a palpable change.

Google Meet and Zoom are the go to conferencing tools for College Staff and Students, and Town and District Councillors and staff. These, email and chat are now a stream of activity. 

People also know that I am at home, not 'on my travels' so I get a lot of straight phone calls too.

Coming out of the woodwork, belatedly, are people who have felt too shy to ask before on how to do some things that many of us by now feel are commonplace. On the other hand, I have always been surprised when with others what odd get arounds we all have, not knowing there is a shortcut to do this, that or the other.

I am wondering sometimes how much BETTER a conference call is for a meeting. It can be recorded, screens can be shared, and you can make a point even when others are talking by adding a note in 'chat' - useful, because some people do like to dominate the space. Online you can temporarily mute them, certainly hide their face smile Try that in a meeting face to face. 


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