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A year teaching - from a digital point of view in and out of lockdown

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Thursday, 27 May 2021, 12:37

Running an adult class on digital literacy via Google Meet during the depths of the Covid-19 lockdown

My first year as a PGCE students is coming to a close as I deliver a 150+ page Module 3 document which tracks my learning experiences of the last year. Revisiting so much It staggers me how much I have done and how much I have learnt. I have gone from over-thinking, over-writing and over-working content like a web agency producer putting up a website for an audience, to being a collaborator and facilitator in a class (or remote). We learn together. I know the subject, I theme it, prep-things, know my learning aims and outcomes, trigger responses, get them all involved, say less and do more. 

Can stand alone digital do this? At great expense in a gamified environment perhaps, but not when your resources stretch to the Smart TV, some chromebooks and most valuable of all - some marker pens and a whiteboard. 

Just as I put my head down after a short, very early in the morning splurge of activity (I have a habit of doing an hour to 90 minutes from around 3:30am most mornings) I had an idea. One of those ideas which says to be either 'business opportunity' or 'story'. Today it is of the business kind.

Can I now develop something from scratch, again, and this time (for the third time), believe I can make it happen and run with it for at least three years to get it on its feet?

It is all about the business relationship between an educational institution and its digital learning team. Do you have a print room, or purchase in those services as required? 

Meanwhile, I promise in due course to feed some of the 150 pages of my module 3 in here. To write it I've picked out some jottings from here. But I also keep a 'day diary' - a sheet or a few paragraphs just noting emails in/dealt with, meetings. Also, which proved very useful and feasible during remote teaching is the vast gallery of screenshots I have - these reminded me of the number of Google Meets and Zoom Calls I have taken part in, or led and provides ample evidence of the learning journey I have been on and the learning curves I have travelled.

Despite loathing slides I did a 'death my power point' microteach - you do what others do and fail like them, if all you have ever seen is failing teaching. And then I replaced this with the equally deplorable 'death by mind map' - all text and my workings again. All I wanted to do was a TED lecture style, no slides talk. These days I go for TEDx with a few supporting slides and video, and a great deal of interaction where the students research, think through and share and make their understanding rather than me telling them what is what. 

Note to self:

JFV Ed-Tel blog. I kept this for my first two years at GBMET - private mostly, day to day activities and practices.

Day Diary. I call it this but it is a weekly document which can run to 100+ pages where I note down events, emails, link, and add screenshots so that I can back-up my Teflon brain.

Reflections on e-leanring. The external WordPress version of this ... just as Mindbursts.com was before it (and still is)

Google Photos: Weekly sets of screenshots 'dumped' into a monthly gallery.

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Getting any sleep?

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With Trump eager to create turmoil I'm up early to bare witness to the demoacry fighting back. I think of Donald Trump and I'm reminded of Kaiser Wilhelm II. Both men had a ludicrous sense of their brilliance and leadership abilities. The former nudged Europe into world war. Where is Trump taking it?

The night before I'd watched David Attenborough on iPlayer, saw the Greta Thunberg documentary then fell asleep only to wake as the yacht I was taking across the Atlantic hit one large wave too many and capsized.

I need to find a way to turn my brain off at 10:00pm and not permit it to splutter back into consciousness before 4:00am the next day - or preferably 6:00am (at least).

I am trying yoga and light exercise. For the second time, it happens with each lockdown, I have jiggered my left leg. First time round it was the knees, now it is the achilles heel. What did I do? I went on a walk sad 

So, promising not to post here excessively anymore I might direct you to a proper blog post in my other place > Reflections On E-Learning where I used a series of interviewes on The World at One (BBC Radio 4 on 5 January) where, as they do morning day and night, at some point, bring up education and what a fudging mess that has been made of it. 'Students wanting to study ...' 

Could The OU, overnight, do for Secondary Education what it is has done for HE over the last 50 years + ? Not a big ask. But what is needed now are courses that can be completed remoteley (at a distance as we used to say) and are gain accredited assessment and certification at the end. Roll on home schooling. 

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Take Your Teaching Online : OpenLearn from The Open University - an eight week self-paced eight online course.

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Wednesday, 23 Dec 2020, 05:37

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I was in a hurry. There is 24 hours of content. I got through it in 9 day: two weekends and bits during a 2020 lockdown week when I had nowhere to go. 

This is how I got on with 'Take Your Teaching Online'. 


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Types of Assessment. This was NOT part of 'Take Your Teaching Online' but I graphic from edulastic. I am trying to embed assessment types into my practice. I suppose the ultimate test is the job succcess at the end? Which is all they had, pass or fail, at the end of the School of Communication Arts' course I did. 

Learning Design

The learning design is a combination of a little bit of reading, a little bit of watching video, a few activities where you gather your thoughts about something you have just been introduced to and then a number of formative and summative quizzes. By the end, the collection of views you have expressed should build into a coherent and personal point of view. Around the middle the summative quiz grade counts towards your end of course ‘badge’. 

This is in part a taster for the Open University's own Master of Arts : Open & Distance Education - for me ‘Taking Your Teaching Online’ was an invaluable and timely opportunity to revisit the MAODE that I did 10 years ago (2010 to 2013). I’ve always had the MAODE at my fingertips over the passing years as at the time, invited to keep a reflective student blog, I did so every step of the way. This allows me to return to what I studied then. Boy, have my views matured and bedded down in this time! At last been closely complemented, even integrated into my daily experience first as a learning technologist in a large FE/HE college but now as a ‘front line’ teacher undertaking a two year, part-time PGCE. Periods of Covid-19 lockdown or departmental lockdown have harried things along. Most recently, keeping teaching to a class or two one day a week, with five classes of 20+ students each put into isolation I stepped up to run six online classes. If anyone knows the tech I should; yet do I? I feel like the swimming teacher or coach who doesn’t swim (there are plenty of those). Or the music teacher who doesn’t play an instrument. Is that possible. The timing is right. I did my first ‘micro-teach’ to my fellow PGCE students a few weeks ago. I am on Module 3 of the PGCE and completing the first term of six. Time to take the plunge.

Does it help or hinder that I have already run sixteen talks or workshops on staff CPD days. Staff and students are very different. For the most part staff will have their cameras on, will speak up and take part. In contrast the students, 17 years olds, will only put on their cameras by accident and will only speak if there is a problem. 

Plenty went wrong. With tech you learn to ride out most problems. Some things worked. I learnt plenty of lessons reinforced by the reading. Taking a class online is a different beast: they are in their domain not yours; if not engaged they can just as easily log on and then go and watch TV or play a game - many could be ‘second screening’ (should I ask next time?). Their access to kit is mixed: some on laptops, most on phones. Are any on a desktop? And where do they find the space to take part in this? Bedroom, sitting room, kitchen table, the back of dad’s car, the garden shed or back in college? 

I do the course ‘Take Your Teaching Online’ out of personal need, to support colleagues, out of intellectual curiosity and for pleasure. I will take it again, build on my notes, follow up some of the references and find a way to pass on my tester/proofreader notes to the Open University (some links are broken, videos on YouTube are not there and a few of the multiple choice questions are a nonsense). 

It also provides me with the shape of designing a series of classes over a period of time that builds into a module - something I have done repeatedly for the last seven years ever since I completed the MAODE and had ‘Learning Design’ or ‘Instructional Design’ in mind as a career move. 

The eight modules are set out quite straightforwardly of topics that cover.

Take your Teaching Online : Open Learn

Week

Learning objectives 

1

Discuss the main characteristics of online education activities and how these differ from face-to-face teaching

Begin to determine the kinds of face-to-face teaching activities that might, or might not, transfer successfully to an online environment

Summarise the elements of online teaching that need a different skill set to face-to-face teaching.

2

Understand some of the essential principles of online teaching

Be aware of some key learning theories and classifications of online teaching technologies

Understand the concept of learning objects and some of the different classifications of these.

3

Describe some of the ways to categorise educational technologies for online teaching

Explain how some of the tools available might help with certain learning objectives

start making informed decisions about which tools you might try in your own context.

4

Understand the benefits of networks to the online teacher

Discuss the concepts of communities of practice and network weather

Develop useful online networks to augment your teaching practice.

5

Define Open Educational Resources and list some examples of what this term covers.

Understand Creative Commons licences and use these properly

Search OER Repositories and the wider internet for material that you can legally reuse in your teaching

6

Define assistive technology and list a variety of examples

Understand how to make most of your online teaching materials accessible

Assess the accessibility of OERs

Understand what alternative formats may be needed in online teaching.

7

Explain the concept of technological determinism

Use the Visitors and Residents model to assess your students’ approach to technology in learning

Make changes to teaching with technologies in a systematic and informed way.

8

Understand how learning analytics can be used to evaluate learners’ behaviour

be able to gather and understand student feedback

Apply some strategies for embedding reflection in your online teaching

Plan an action research project for scholarship that seeks to improve your online teaching.


I found that the modules could indeed take two hours, and one or two more like an hour and a quarter hour and a half. Perhaps that's because I was familiar with the subject matter already. My methodology might help. I’ve learnt how to pass these things. I take notes and get screenshots all along. I’m not going to be caught when it gets the multiple-choice quiz. These notes will carry me over the line - the bar is low. The pass mark is 50%.

One or two of the modules reminded me of topics that struck me as of enormous potential value; they deserved considerably more time than the 20 minutes given to the activity. Indeed, when it came to reviewing Open Educational Resources I took the best part of 8 hours - that was my Saturday, with my notes completed on Sunday morning. It was worthwhile. As a review of these resources it is still ‘lite’ but it’s a start.

See > Open Education Resource Institutions and Repositories, Sun 5 December 2020 in this blog. 

What I relish looking at, extracting and reworking are entire course plans and individual lessons plans, as well as interesting ‘education ready’ videos and eBooks. 

There's so much to tap into if you have the time to do this kind of research. I stumbled upon an excellent OER from the Hewlett foundation, the Africa Open Educational Resources. It’s subject matter draws on the vast continent of Africa - which makes a refreshing change from the historic gravitation to Western Europe and North America, but it doesn't change the fact that the courses are still all about women's rights, teaching employability, careers, well-being and so on.

It's refreshing to see a different take on things, to begin to get a global view. 

In the Town Council I got behind Black History month and can see that there are a lot more resources and ideas here.

FOOTNOTES

1) The goal of formative assessment is to monitor student learning to provide ongoing feedback that can be used by instructors to improve their teaching and by students to improve their learning. More specifically, formative assessments: help students identify their strengths and weaknesses and target areas that need work.

2) The goal of summative assessment is to evaluate student learning at the end of an instructional unit by comparing it against some standard or benchmark. Summative assessments are often high stakes, which means that they have a high point value.

3) The Postgraduate Certificate in Education, commonly known as the PGCE, is one of the most popular academic qualifications for teaching. Offered in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, PGCEs are designed to enhance and increase academic training, preparing students for life as a teacher.

4) Continuing Professional Development (CPD) is a combination of approaches, ideas and techniques that will help you manage your own learning and growth.

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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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Don't e-teach until you can teach

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Or not?

Those who teach online could learn something from those who teach in the classroom, lecture hall or tutorial.

We could learn from each other.

Analogue and digital are soooooooooo different, yet so much the same.

The mistake is to take the face to face classroom and put it online. The schedule doesn't work, the number in the class doesn't work and the length of the class doesn't work.

Taking online learning (from HE or business) and putting in the face to face classroom doesn't work either.

What is the point in sitting in a room with other people unpacking your distance learning materials (which Open University style used to be a box of books and cassettes or DVDs, even a bit of TV or Radio). For you to undertake on your own.

Taking the best of both worlds and blending it up into something different is best.

Learning on a mobile device, a phone, tablet or laptop (they're all different), is not the same as learning in a class with a pen and pad of paper while looking at a whiteboard or smart TV (does anyone have a whiteboard or blackboard anymore?)

The Open University got there first putting an entire course online. I did it. The Masters in Open and Distance Education. I started a module from the Masters in Open and Distance Learning in 2001 before all of it migrated online (out of the box of books). 

You learn in chunks, in moments, or you set aside a couple of evenings, or Sunday morning. You fit your learning around YOUR schedule, not the other way around.

It is convenient to have stuff on or accessible on a phone or tablet: you can read, listen or watch in the bath, on the commute. You do not have to be physically present in a classroom.

School and college students are no different. Understandably they associate school or college, especially if they are wearing a uniform, with a certain amount of uniformity. When they are learning at home, you are entering THEIR environment. This is their space. Wo betide if you try to invade this. We should not expect them to be able to create the time in the same way. If they have a laptop they may well expect to work on a kitchen table, not in a shared bedroom. The kitchen table is a shared space. Parents and siblings will cross back and forth wondering what they are doing, interacting and disrupting. Does the student want to be seen at home? To have a parent or guardian or sibling appearing in shot? Do they want their 'college persona' exchange for son or daughter mode back home?

We have to understand their world before we invade it. We have to be welcome in, not force our way in. We have to fit around the individual circumstances.

Learn from the OU.

Let them work at their own pace.

Make Meets short.

Keep the class size small.

Have ways they can get through the work and contribute and you can monitor and feedback without everyone having to be present at the same time.

Change your hours to suit them, rather than shoehorning them into a pattern that works for the physical space and set hours of college designed to managed large groups of teachers and even larger groups of students. 

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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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