On a whim, and as homework before our French group which meets once every two weeks, I decided to try out several popular language learning Apps. I've used Rosetta Stone on and off for years. I tried:
It was revealing how many have leapfrogged Rosetta stone and offer a smarter and sometimes social platform.
Lingvist and Babbel did a tough test to establish my level of understanding. There is nothing more important than understanding how much a student already knows before you start to teach them. Both were effective in differentiating me from my wife. My wife was taught in a French speaking school in Montreal age 13 and a decade later learnt French at the British Institute in France. My French learning never got beyond a C grade at O' Level and a failed attempt to do an Open University degree (which taught French at an unbelievably basic level, but which I found tedious).
Lingvist and Babbel used different measures. Lingvist produced a guestimate at the number of words we each knew of the 5,000+ it was teaching. I got a 753, my wife 3,200. Babbel produced a similar differentiating. Like Rosetta Stone these Apps repeat phrases that you must then in part correct or add to. I liked that there is equal requirement to use the written word as this is where I am weakest. It is handy that my iPad has predictive text in French.
Tandem hooks you up with someone who wants to learn the languages you know and can teach. It works like a dating App, but is adamant that it is not. I had 30 mins talking to someone in Marseilles and about 5 minutes talking to someone in Rouen. Both proved successful as we could correct each other's written words.
For tweens and teens.
A simplified digest of Barbara Oakley's incredible MOOC on Coursera 'Learning How To Learn'. The last time I looked this had had over 1.4 million students.
Having done this MOOC myself I later signed up to be a mentor. This is mostly meet and greet rather than teaching support. We help keep people going.
I recommend 'How to Learn' as a great introduction to the topic before tackling the material aimed at undergrads and post-grads. I simply find this a great way to refresh my knowledge.
I’m not doing a PGCE but I am doing all the reading as if I were. Taking a Masters in education does appear somewhat forward having not gained a PGCE or taught, however close to learning I may have been throughout my career.
Much of what Geoff Petty can teach me in his seminal books is familiar.
The need for clarity of purpose
The need for planning
This is because for VR to be adopted I need to reverse-engineer it. To understand the problem for which such a tour is the solution.
These interactive images look appealing as a learning tool. They pull together a series of short, quirky videos and animations that provide the low down on a collection of human organs. To what end? To some degree a Dorling Kindersley annotated book did this in the past. Stick it on an interactive screen and click on each in front of a class to fill 45 minutes. What is really required as a learning experience is to have students learn the skills to create these themselves, then research and add the links (or to shoot their own pieces). All of the above came from YouTube.
Here's the link: https://www.thinglink.com/scene/880832510185963521
We use ThingLink.
The difference is that I am using 360 images that can be viewed through a VR headset, or desktop or touchscreen.
Here is my ThingLink VR Tour of Northbrook Theatre: https://www.thinglink.com/mediacard/1073243716732321794
I am working with the College team here to create an immersive experience for induction. Do we add multiple hotspots of information, like this Human Body above, and follow this up with a detailed quiz, or do we clone the tour and get students to add the information themselves? Should we give them the skills to use the 360 camera and get them to annotate it? OFSTED would like us to be developing their Digital Skills and using English.
The VR Tours I have so far initiated include:
- An Aeronautics Workshop
- Two Motor Vehicle Workshops
- A Hair Salon & Treatment Centre student facility
- A Learning Resource Centre & Library
- A Carpentry Workshop
- An End of Year Fine Arts & 3D show
- A Creative Industries Theatre Props & Set Dressing Show
- A Theatre
To get the education right I need to go back through some of the MAODE modules I did, for example, H818 'The Networked Practitioner'.
With my MA in British History of the First World War complete (the dissertation went off on 9 July) I am seriously contemplating the next piece of learning which includes adding to two 30 credit 'spare' modules I did having completed the MAODE in 2013 that I could potentially build into an MEd.
That or hunker down and specialise on Augmented Reality & Virtual Reality in learning.
This is all too OU. Though the days of 'leisure learners' gaining multiple degrees was ended with the change to tuition fees a few years ago. I recall at my graduation the compare would announce from time to time that someone collecting their degree was on number three, or even number five.
I only have one MA, the MAODE from the OU. Although I should by now have a BA in French, and could have studied history with the OU, rather than with the Universities of Birmingham and then Wolverhampton.
I hanker after and expect the OU way of learning - with everything online, or at least considerable, intelligent online support in a blended version. Studying first at Birmingham and then Wolverhampton was no better, and often less well supported than my undergraduate degree of 1981-84.
Needless to say, 9 July 2018, marks the culmination of my third Masters Degree.
MA: Open and Distance Education
MA: British History and the First World War
All I have to do is successfully negotiate the WLV 'Turnitin' system.
All I have to do is read it through by 15,000 words just one more time and try for the eighth of ninth time to get the conclusion right. I am writing about the nature of 'war enthusiasm' during the peak recruiting season into Kitchener's volunteer army in 1914. I have used the normal distribution or 'bell curve' to argue in favour of a spectrum of behaviours from antipathy to jingoistic enthusiasm for enlisting, with the majority either side of a line which had them enlist out of necessity for economic reasons, or had them enlist out of a sense of duty, patriotism and a desire to 'get the job done'.
As the Digital Editor of The Western Front Association website, this MA has, over the four years it has taken (including a two year gap between the universities of Birmingham and Wolverhampton) and a six month extension due to illness, filled my head with enough WWI content to help me with my 'job'. It also gives me some credibility in the WWI community. It will see me writing the occasional article and book review too.
As the void in my academic life opens up I contemplate a PGCE to support my 'blended learning' advocate role, or, as time my be running out, to push for enough further credits through the OU to gain an MEd. I completed two units beyond the MAODE so in theory have 10 to 15 credits (I am unsure how many) towards whatever is required for the MEd. This would spur me to research and write about some of the initiatives I am involved with - not least the use of Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR) in the classroom.
End of Year Fine Art & 3D 2018, York Hall, Greater Brighton Metropolitan College
The first stitch of the images and the magic begins. Choices have to be made over labels, over direction or the words used with each tag. Still testing what can be done already I see the need and value of some deeper planning. If this is to be seen by prospective students and parents then some indication of practice would be helpful - in fact the kind of information shown in the cards on each student: what they studied, where they are going next and a little about their learning experience.
And some gamification: a quest, in which a range of art materials have been placed around the hall to collect, or a quiz, and some video as well as the planned mid and close-up shots.
In brief, it requires a brief. To avoid the criticism of 'so what?' I need to address these questions:
What is the problem?
Who are we speaking to?
What do we want to say?
What do we want them to take away from this message?
I might answer:
Future students and parents don't realise the quality of achievement possible and the paths that this opens up to an arts student.
We are speaking to future students and their parents, rather than celebrating the work of those shown here - who have, after all, made the next step already.
We want to show and say what a wonderful experience it is to be a student at GB MET.
We want them to apply. We want them to feel enlightened and excited about their immediate future.
I've long held the view that with so many distractions and alternatives, that without compulsion, however much magic you through at a learning experience, the students will not come. I am a month into a three month 'build' of some 12 VR tours of workshops and facilities at a large, recently merged college. Using a 360 VR camera, as well as stills and video, a series of learning environments are being built in ThingLink.
The 'stage set' as I describe it, the add-ons include induction, health & safety, training and testing. In its simplest form it is a slide show made of 360 images in which the viewer can explore all around the environment. In its more sophisticated form there are sets of well-researched and carefully written learning experiences and activities. The simplest pattern, no different to reading some text and then being asked some questions on it, is to follow up ten minutes of exploring such a world with a quiz.
Marketing have an interest in using these images to show of facilities. In turn I need some marketing in put to promote these kinds of learning experiences. I'd prefer to sell these to students rather than to simply compel them to 'do them' under close supervision of their tutor.
Are you making use of 360?
It has taken 8 years. Maybe it has taken 18. I have in one vast loop gone from linear to interactive.
Only in the last week have I felt that I have arrived.
Academic training (MA ODE)
Two decades in corporate training.
And now, technology both permitting and expecting me to do everything, I find myself creating some 12 VR tours.
- Motor Vehicle Workshop
- Prop Making for Theatre & Film
- Painting & Decorating
- Hair Salon & Beauty
These are immersive, self-directed, celebratory, click through experiences of an learning environment augmented by clickable hotspots that show video, or images with audio or text.
Come out of this and you get hit with a quiz of extreme close up photos, mid-shots and questions.
Your have to be told that this is coming up.
It can cover:
Health & safety
Basic & advance learning and training
It can be as great as the tutor who takes up the challenge and the skills and insight of the 'enabling' person or team that creates the VR.
From a test tour of a carpentry workshop I am now well underway to complete similar tours on:
Car Mechanics Workshop and Motor Sport
The End of Year Creative Industries Shows
Hair Salon & Beauty
While also producing what I call ‘Making an Entrance’ : VR tours into buildings to support autistic children who become anxious when going to new places.
These VR tours are shot on a Ricoh Theta SC. Hotspots, after various trials with available kit are being shot on my own Sony Alpha 7. This gives me mid, close up and extreme close up shots and video.
Along with these tours I am developing a quiz for viewers to undertake to identify certain parts and tools.
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.
Developing the use of 360 images and tours with 'tags' for teaching and training
Everything I learnt completing the MA ODE from 2010-2013 indicated that creating e-learning elements, or as Jilly Salmon quaintly called them 'e-tivities' required time.
My experience is that educators lack this time
The time they have to teach is precious and taken. Therefore there is a role for the Learning Technologist as the enabler, who floats between the tutor or teacher, the course content and its objectives and the students. Compared to such roles in the commercial world, the Learning Designer comes to mind, the Learning Technologist is by and large a solo operator.
The role is evolving, as are the teams and our responses. Whilst invigorated by the chance to turn things around quickly and give them a go, my hope is that as learning technologists become more closely involved in longer term curriculum planning and preparation. Over time these 'e-tivities' will get greater investment in their creation.
In the above the use of 360 cameras have been used in a number of sports to provide classroom insight to second year BTEC Sports students. By exploring the environment they can both assess the quality and nature of teaching and coaching provision, and also do a risk assessment.
Delight at finding the OU has activated G Suite for education. I am well through training to be a Google Educator Level 1 (Certified). Its impact and benefits are huge, not least replacing most the of current platforms used by the OU.
This is my account - activated 9 days. I have been Google since the start, transferring to Docs, Slides and Sheets to rid my life of hideous Word, PowerPoint and Excel. It has grown gently from a basic and easy to use set of Apps, to a suite of simple to use, intuitive and connected tools that create the most versatile of learning set-ups.
'Sites' the blog platform could see off this environment I am working in now. This would be a mistake. I rave to colleagues about the affordances of this space because as well as being a blog, it is really a threaded conversation too.
You can always find someone to talk to
’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’.
It's generational, but those of us brought up with handwriting competitions at school and handwritten essays and the written examination are judgmental of a generation who apparently have terrible handwriting and can't spell.
Do they need to? They can touch type - can you? Faced with a sheet of paper and a pen to write an essay they may struggle to be legible and make spelling mistakes - but how often do they do that, or will they need to that.
Isn't it like complaining in the 8th century that scribes would be rubbish with a chisel putting their words in stone.
The goal is everything - clear communication. Doesn't technology deliver this?
Teachers will tell you never to take away teaching time, that they are hard pressed to deliver all the required course work as it is. If you want to involved 'Technology Enhanced Learning' (TEL) that it needs to during added hours.
The OU has taken up with Google's philosophy of more 'facilitator-led learning' with those teachers who create the courses elevated in status, while everyone else takes on what they may see as a diminished role. Or an apprenticeship role before they too become writers of content.
I am putting it too crudely. Teachers do hours of planning to carry the hours of 'taught hours' that they deliver. If they are able to teach may more by including the indirect experience of learning online then this may, in some measure, begin to cater for the millions around the world who want a secondary or tertiary education but don't have access to one.
IMAGE: Medical English student (Group 2) uploading photograph related to their field into Wikimedia Commons
IMAGE: Children with iPads by Wesley Fryer
An assignment managent tool from inception, through feedback, assessment and grading.
Rather than retreat, the OU should become a residential, campus based university. Instead of making huge numbers of tutors redundant they should be kept on to work directly with students in blended platforms, directly and at a distance. The OU has the library, has lecture halls and seminar rooms, and the real estate and land.
Most importantly it has the courage to reinvent itself.
What else can it do when every university and college has attached to it a distance and blended learning component?
This step must be taken before it is too late.
The first students should be on campus from September 2018.
Stephen Hawking needed to talk in order to understand and express what he was thinking. All learners need to talk about their studies more than merely reading and writing about it. All learning should include opportunities to discuss, debate and present,
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?
It is a modest start but at least now the MAODE and practical experience of three years as a Digital Editor will be put to use in a University setting. I will be migrating content to the Web, acting as an intermediary and support for academics wanting to get content online and making the platforms sing.
I wanted to write something about Active Learning.
I gave it 20 minutes of thought, writing it here. But the platform repeatedly failed to save it once I added tags and I lost it.
I've rather lost the will to have another go.
Active learning is important.
Engage with you work.
Take notes through the filter of your own mind when reading or sitting through a lecture. Do not cut and paste or write down what is said verbatim.
It is never too late to get this right. In my case I am completing my second MA and working on a dissertation. I have a habit of indulging unnecessarily a tortuous process of reading, note taking and refining when I could get to the point sooner simply by committing my ideas to paper right away.
It is these moments that I will lace together into an essay, not a serious of highlighted chunks from the book.
There is an abundance of material online regarding 'how to take notes'.
What is the best. most effective way to take notes?
The OU used to produce an excellent book on how to be a student or some such.
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