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All change for a new academic year

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I'm left looking like a bit of a miserable git. And what's with the eye-liner. And there's another falsehood here - I stand at my desk and have two screens. [Five if you include the iphone, ipad and imac also scattered around my desk].

The new normal? More like 'same as before'. I've been working at home since 17th March and long may it last. I have a better setup than they have ever been able to provide at college. 

Will Covid-19 really be seen as the watershed that at last sets us apart from the 20th century? You you have to have lived some of the 20th century to know the difference - at least 20, if not 25 or 30 years of it.

It's odd to feel in demand, even to have head-hunters calling. I am biding my time though. And in truth, do I want the anxiety that comes with a job change? There's a job going at the Open University; that would be an odd one. Back after 10 years. I should never have left?!



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The Life of the Learning Technologist

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Friday, 23 Nov 2018, 05:28

 Roy Castle playing the trumpet

Some decades ago on Blue Peter the inveterate multi-talented Roy Castle set a Guinness Book of Records by playing the same tune on 43 different instruments in four minutes.

Sometimes I feel that being a Learning Technologist is like this. We an not IT support, nor are we Teachers or Tutors, but we can 'play' a multitude of platforms with aplomb - and fix an IT, psychological or learning problem to boot.

Introduced to a fledgling PebblePad while completing my MA ODE with the OU 2010-2013 I have now had it sprung on me, in all places, as a Swim England Swimming Coach. It is this e-portfolio, evidence gathering, assessment supporting platform that will be used to assess whether I merit certification as a coach.

Interestingly, it was mentioned to me the other day, that a tutor was using PebblePad at our college for a similar purpose: I shall have to investigate further. So far I have found it more common for tutors to use a blog, typically WordPress though some using Blogger.

My own ensemble of tools that I use, and some that I have mastered include:

Google Classroom

OpenAthens

Turnitin

Planet E-Stream

ThingLink

WordPress

I have also mastered the use of a 360 Ricoh Theta SC camera - at least for taking stills.

Adobe Lightroom

 

 

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Applying for Research and Development Funding in relation to the use of digital tools in Further Education

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Steps required to prepare a research question

This from FutureLearn @OpenLearn 

Between giving presentations to staff and tutors on the opportunities presented by the educational video platform Planet E-Stream I am also applying for funding to develop the relationship between students and teachers (tutors). This is made easier because of a pool of projects that are bubbling up across the various different faculties and workshops where I act as a 'Learning Technologist'.

This is no academic post that might be reflected by my having an MA in Open & Distance Education, rather it is somewhere between being a Librarian, IT Person and Learning Support. I am confident that this is a role that will either be absorbed by teachers during teacher training or through practice, or it will blossom, depending on the institution into something more akin to a consultant or adviser. I am having to draw on raw technical skills to use new and popular platforms, but also to integrate digital into a course as an Instructional Designer would do.

The timing of putting in our application comes right at the moment when I complete two FutureLearn MOOCs from Open Learn at the Open University: The Online Educator and Blended Learning Essentials. 

With my inability to let go of academic study, research and writing up papers seems a sensible way forward. This may be combined with completing an MEd with the OU if they can be convinced to allow me 60 credits from the two additional modules I took having completed the MA ODE in 2013. This would still require me to take a further 120 units, to two hefty and possibly one substantial and two shorter modules. I feel I am now where I needed to be in 2010 - working in the front line in education, an intermediary between students, teaching and other staff, moving through multiple departments across a number of sites - I even have a toe in mark.

Preferring a busy life, apparently, over the next four weeks I will be assessed to qualify with the Institute of Swimming as a Swimming Coach. I have been teaching for 16 years and coaching for 10, so this is a case of providing evidence of my knowledge rather than having to take part in formal class or poolside learning. Being who I am, I have of course kept a learning journal, or career journal as a swimming teacher and coach which is called simply 'Swim Coach Blog'. 

 

 

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I am the Ghost in the Machine

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Working with a Richoh Thetga SC 360 camera I am finding that I keep ending up in the picture. Inadvertently I may have set the self-timer. I take the picture then re-emerge from my hiding place and end up in the picture. Nor have I got the electronic settings right. AUTO clearly has too low a shutter speed in order to allow the maximum light into the 'frame'.

On the one hand I am enjoying the novelty and the experimentation. On the other hand I am constantly questioning their use and value in education. A 360 image is just one of many kinds of image, and framing that could be used. The question should not be 'how do we use this technology' and shoe-horn it into a piece of learning, but rather what is the desired learning outcome and what tools would be best suited to achieve this.

Colleges are only just beginning to have the resources to have a Learning Technologist on board, however we also need Learning Design.

My aim will be to import both Learning Design and Communications skills to the tasks at hand. As a 'communicator" i will start to introduce the 'Creative Brief' in order to help establish the context in which a piece of work will be delivered. I will also start to think about the learning design, Of course all of this should be done with the 'subject matter expert' - the tutor. 

On a scale of tutor involvement we can go from a classroom or tutorial where the students are expected to hang on the educator's every word. At the other end of the scale the tutor, and subject team, involvement is hidden in the design and content as a piece of self-directed learning. In between we have blended learning where a class are monitored and guided by a human presence - ostensibly they have work to get on with, but someone is there to get them started, to direct them and keep them focused.

So much to do! So much to learn! So much to achieve!

Any of the coures content I am working on could of course be used with many thousands of students, and be repeated each year (so long as the syllabus remains the same). With scale there ought to be a better budget too.

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Working Towards Google Educator Level 1

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Thursday, 12 Apr 2018, 05:56

 ’Getting stuck is part of the learning process. Take risks and don’t worry about getting it right the first time. There are lots of learning opportunities that can come from failure’.

This quote caught my eye first time round as I completed the 17 hours that make up the 13 units. It isn’t a slog, more a case of making the time, taking your time and taking breaks. The learning pattern is a familiar one: a short encouraging introduction and explanation, one or a few very short talking head interview - always with transcripts, a formative quiz rounding off with a tougher one to indicate how much you have picked up.

I find my short term memory excellent so scores are high most of the time. I only need to redo the test a couple of days later to discover how much I have forgotten.

I am now heading back through the entire process. Once again I am taking to and doing to my notes. Once again I am taking the tests.

Soon I will join a few short classes with an Educator and even ’buddy up’ with someone. The goal is to take and pass the certificate while beginning to run such classes myself.

The progression continues, to Educstir Level 2, say in 6 months to a year the onwards to becoming an ‘Innovator’.

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Positivity and the future of The OU

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Friday, 23 Mar 2018, 09:46

This is both a reminder to me, and a suggestion to others. I find that far more is achieved by being positive and 'can do' without being overly enthusiastic to the point of being unreasonable. I am prone to say 'yes' to any request I get from people to do a thing. I was brought up where all request were met with a firm 'no' before I had even finished my sentence ... It's taken a few decades to get over that one.

Meanwhile, as I emerge from a temporary 'blank' where I went off radar with viral bronchitis that turned into bacterial bronchitis I am starting to feel refreshed and even re-invigorated.

The world of e-Learning is my future and at last I have a stake in it as a 'Learning Technologist'.

Many years ago I opted to get into TV from the bottom, not as a trainee producer. I got to make coffee, type up scripts, prepare budgets, organise presenters and actors ... and in time to liase with agents, to edit, to write scripts and direct.

I would have loved an apprenticeship, even an old fashioned 'Technical College' to my academic training at Oxford, even, to some degree to the mixed academic/hands on experience of the Open University MA in Open and Distance Education. 'Getting Your Hands' dirty as soon as possible matters. 

Think of working online as more like learning to cook or garden. You will never learn to garden or cook simply by reading books, attending lectures and seminars, researching and writing essays: you must do.

I would also hope and encourage people who study part-time to be 'in the business' they are studying - I was too tangential to it and so lacked the insight of a practising teacher (in primary, tertiary, or secondary).

Meanwhile, good luck Open University in a world where every university is rapidly offering distance learning online ala OU.

As I expressed here six years ago, one day every university will be like the OU, but will the OU ever be like other universities and have 10,000 campus based undergraduates and post-graduates on site? 

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7 Years Writing my OU Student Blog

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I remember the first milestone: I wrote every day for a year.

I remember the next milestone: 1,000 views.

Then 10,000 views.

Then 50,000 and onwards to 500,000 and even 1 million.

Having reached over 2.25m views I wonder what the next goals might be?

Blog for 10 years and 5 million views?

Actually, the pattern is that on 6 February I reflect where the MAODE has, or has not taken me.

My efforts to become embedded in an University involved closely in Learning Technology have been thwarted. Just a toe in the door would do - something I had by working for the Open University itself but something that was impossible with my family living too far away to make a commute viable.

I am marking today by getting CVs out to a number of Universities, for a variety of remarkably similar roles, all based in a 'Technology Enhanced Learning' team, some making greater use of my historic skills and experiences as a video and TV producer.

 

 

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H810 : Activity 26 Designing and developing accessible e-learning experiences: the learning technologist’s perspective.

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Friday, 2 May 2014, 11:42

Designing and developing accessible e-learning experiences: the learning technologist’s perspective.

  1. There is a debate surrounding who is responsible (or most responsible) for accessibility. How helpful is this debate in ensuring that people working in post-16 education change their practices?

    If those with technical skills, such as learning technologists, are not ultimately or solely responsible for ensuring accessibility, what responsibilities do you think they should have and why?

  2. On pages 82–83, Seale uses an archaeology metaphor to try to encourage learning technologists to dig deeper beneath the surface of accessibility guidelines and standards. This is intended to develop a greater understanding of approaches to accessible design. How helpful do you think this metaphor is?

    'Using archaeology as a metaphor, it can be argued that accessibility legislation, guidelines, standards and evaluation tools are not the most helpful or informative place to start. The legislation, guidelines, standards and tools are merely archaeological artefacts that have been scattered on the surface of a significant archaeological site'. Seal 2006:83

    This doesn't work for me. It doesn't ring true to the metaphor. a) Archeology implies something ancient and long buried whereas these guidelines are 'scatterd on the surface' like rubbish dropped at a later stage. The rules and regulations are recent and changing, both in what is said, how interpretted, executed and policed.

    Can you think of an alternative metaphor, image, analogy or visualisation that could be used to help develop learning technologists’ thinking in this area?

    Not only is collaboration in learning coming of age it needs to happen in practice, as increasingly it does in industry. There continues to be a good deal of resistance in higher education, partly this is because of how academics in particular came into managerial positions - if they are. My experience of most academics is that either they want to be left alone to do research, or they want to be left alone with their students - they didn't chose to 'go into business' or join the 'real world' because of the stresses in relation to managing tasks such as this and working in a team where they might not be top dog. It would help enormously if those in Higher Education could spend some time working in business and to take these models and employ them on in their department of faculty. For a start, take on roles such as project manager, learning designer, lead programmer, art director, author and so on. Then find a metphor that works for everyone that evokes both team work and organic growth. A rock band works for me - I resist the orchestra analogy as it is such a cliche and leads to some people wanting to be the conductor or composer. A theatre troupe might be the thing. Or a circus act! But all performing together and dependent on each other. Academics in particular most stop behaving like premadonnas - 'out here' they are the 'subject matter expert' - less than a writer, just a conduit for knowledge, a talking and responsive version of information that is readily available online anyway. i.e they can be a hinderance. Perhaps the metaphor I would use, which is close to the reality of creating interactive content - would be a film production unit where there are specialists skills, and a hierarchy: executive producer, producer, line producer, director, first assistant director, camera operator, sound engineer, actor 1, actor 2, script writer, script continuity, art director, props, costume ... editor, publicity and so on. One weak link and the entire project might fail.

    As it has currency in learning and e-learning circles an even better metaphor might be that of an architect's studio given the way in which e-learning has to be designed, constructed in a programmer, shared, adjusted, tested, built, tested again, added to with various layers from foundations to walls, pluimbing and electrics, then internal and external decor and furnishings. Christopher Alexander's 1970 book 'The Timeless Building' which he developed into a methodolgy for computer software design is often cited.

  3. On page 98 Seale discusses the tensions regarding the use of technical tools versus human judgement to evaluate the accessibility of learning resources. What is your position concerning this issue? Can we trust human judgement? If so, whose judgement should we trust – learning technologists working within educational organisations or external experts?

We have to trust human judgement, which includes the decission to expect the technology to provide the answers, or do the donkey work. Instead of relying on one piece of software to come up with a myriad of answers that to the uninitiated can look like some task set by a wicked wizard in a fairy tale. I'm in favour of having a large and diverse testing team drawn from a community of learners, including of course those with visual, hearing, mobility or cognitive impairments - to offer opions - as we have reviewers and editors in things like Wikipedia. i.e. use the power of the numbers online rather than simply the power of a piece of software.

Make brief notes in response to these questions. Your notes should reflect your own context. You can do this as bullet points or just a sentence or two about each question.

Choose one of your answers and post it for discussion in your tutor group forum. If you disagree with Seale about any of the points in this chapter, you could also discuss this in the forum.

2 HOURS

 

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