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The first rule of asynchronous and distributed group work

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Group work is often tricky - getting everyone to agree to something is never easy and getting a majority which is palatable to those being overruled can be even harder!

In Block 3 were are collaborating on a group project which is, by design, both distributed and asynchronous. I feel much better prepared now we have a group WhatsApp and a Slack account (is account even the right word?). It feels like communication is underway and I can already see how some of the tools will be really useful.

One of our first activities is to identify potential problems and potential solutions and I have gone all badass! I have proposed that any idea or suggestion get a shelf life. If - after a defined amount of time - no one has objected or offered and alternative then consent is presumed. I realise this sounds pretty hardcore but the only way to make good progress on this project and get to all of our milestones en route to the final assignment is to keep moving. Waiting for someone to log in and make a comment is polite but it wastes the time of those waiting.It's true that someone may be ill, have a family crisis or even a weekend away - the reason people fail to participate may be entirely valid - but with six team members we may easily lose a couple of weeks if we wait for all of these events to resolve.

So

RULE 1: Assent is presumed if no indicative (an objection or an alternative) comment is made within 24 (or 36?) hours of a suggestion being made

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Progress?!

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Edited by Anna Greathead, Monday, 13 May 2019, 22:59

We got a somewhat panicky (or at least a panic inducing) message from our tutor today warning us that falling behind at this stage could be very problematic further on in the course. Although I had started on the activities for the week I was painfully aware of my inadequacy in some areas of technology and was waiting for someone more competent in my group to take the lead.

We have a nice WhatsApp group and a Slack... account? page? thing?! as well.

Anyway - I thought I would have a go with the 'create a site' activity - not with a view to being in charge of the site but so I could have a bit of a go before everyone else arrived! Had a huge panic when the OU instructions took us to an OU Google Docs page which is no longer active. I knew I *had* an OU Google Docs account because my laptop was keen to default there yesterday but I couldn't find out how to access it.

Then, after a few frantic messages on WhatsApp, I read the 'introduction to Block 3' and this was all explained.

However - I thought I would have a go at building a simple website anyway! And I did it! It's not flashy or exciting but it is a thing!

It's a small victory but conquering my fear of the technology is surely a key part of MAODE!

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Second Guessing

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I handed my TMA in two days early. I wasn't happy with the final section but I didn't have any ideas on making it better and  was reasonably happy with the rest of it. I weighed up the choices of having a weekend or battling for two more days and probably only being marginally more happy by the end of it and chose the former.

I relaxed for a few hours!

Then my H817 colleagues started chatting on WhatsApp and I started second guessing myself. Had I misinterpreted one of the questions quite significantly? Had I missed out a few major points? Had my desire (need) for a weekend without TMA pressure become the death knell of my Masters dreams?

I opted to leave it. I reviewed the question. It's possible I misinterpreted the question but, upon reviewing it, I am confident that the interpretation I went with is entirely valid. I may have missed a few major points but I used every single word available and I made lots of edits to be as succinct as possible. I did need a weekend without TMA pressure and, whatever happens, my Masters Degree dreams do not rest on this single assignment!

So I spent a couple of hours this afternoon starting TMA 3! It's a group project so I couldn't do anything substantive but I did an initial library search. I wrestled with Google Docs and Slack (man - if anyone needs tutoring on learning technology I will be first in line - my grasp of the theory is much better than my competency with the actual software!) and I did the first block 3 activity. 


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Cut and paste

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Edited by Anna Greathead, Wednesday, 8 May 2019, 19:31

Word processing is a technological enhancement to learning right?? It's certainly a technological enhancement to assignment writing. 

Writing an assignment in report form is a new skill for me and something I didn't have to do in H800. Post graduate study was challenging, even daunting, but I did feel confident that I knew how to write an essay. Writing a report is something I have not done before except for TMA01!

Today I actually reached the word count and have something I could submit. It wouldn't be my highest scoring assignment but I think it would comfortably pass. I won't submit it right now. I will spend a bit of time every day reading, re-reading, polishing, editing, reconsidering and rewriting but essentially I am on to the accessories rather than the outfit. 

I was struggling a lot over the bank holiday weekend because my report was so unbalanced. I worked out an approximate word count for each section based on the percentage each section would count towards the final mark and endeavored to keep the ratio approximately the same. One section which should have accounted for 20% was taking 30% of my word count and another which accounts for 30% of the mark was only using up 20% of the words. And then I realized than a few key points were simply in the wrong section. Cutting and pasting a few paragraphs between them rectified this main problem almost immediately. 

The final three sections are extremely context specific and I was struggling to find a way to include references to justify my position and suggestions. I queried this on the group WhatsApp then went to bed. Upon waking this morning it occurred to me that I could just google the section question and search within the OU library. I opened WhatsApp and discovered that my colleagues had suggested I do just that (and had kindly omitted the 'duh!' I so clearly deserved!)

Anyway - here's to a few days of reading the same 3000 words over and over in an attempt to ensure I neither repeat myself (repetition), omit key facts (hesitation), or go off subject (deviation)! If only I were playing 'Just a Minute' - the whole process would be a lot less time consuming!



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When the horizon gallops towards you: a reflection on the word count

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There are two types of people in the world:

1. Those like my son who see a word count as a distant horizon. Such people develop complex ways of adding words where none are needed. They may, when writing about Cecil the lion, say something like 'Cecil's brother (who is also a lion)….' just to add five words. The more dishonest among them may write a whole load of stuff at the bottom of the page and colour the text in white hoping that the tutor who marks the paper will trust the word count reported in the document statistics. (I don't think my son ever did the dishonest thing here but he certainly fell into the '1732 words left to write' end of the spectrum.)

2. People like me who view the word count in the rear view mirror and then have to navigate the complex process of reversing! Deleting carefully crafted sentences, truncating carefully selected quotes, shaving every connective, descriptive or emphatic word I've used. 

In TMA02 (in common with every assignment in my OU journey to be fair) I began in camp one. I sat at my laptop determined to do 500, or 1000 or even just an unambitious 200 words before I went for more coffee. And then, as a means of procrastination more than anything, would do one more search in the library with slightly altered terms.... and then another.... and then just one more.... and then I would have so many ideas, examples, quotes and arguments that I realized that whilst the word count was still distant I had become fueled up to such a degree that overshooting it was inevitable. 

So now the scope of my imaginary project has had to shrink massively. It's the only way I can properly fit it into the word count! I will be very VERY annoyed if my feedback comes back with a single comment about how I could have started with a wider vision or expanded further on how the project may expand! 

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Podcasts as a part of open education

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Edited by Anna Greathead, Thursday, 25 Apr 2019, 13:35

I am a podcast geek and the further my OU studied take me the more I a convinced this technology is both under rated and under utilized (though I must confess to having done a sneaky search to check that it was them, and not I, who had under utilized the podcast!)

The OU does produce a number of podcasts around disciplines as wide ranging as learning Italian (amongst many other languages), creative writing, astronomy and project management. I cannot describe how helpful I would have found additional instruction about the theories of education or a glossary of key terms at the start of my studies. Whilst there are resources I could have found and read, having something to listen to on my commute, or at the gym, would have made use of some time in which I couldn't read or watch.

That is, I think, the strength of the podcast - it uses a spare sense (hearing) in times and spaces where other resources aren't useful. There is something quite special about hearing experts explain their expertise. I often understand things I have heard explained better than things I have read. 

Outside of my OU studies I listen to dozens of podcasts - some for entertainment but many for learning as well. The learning is pretty non-linear and scattergun as I can only listen to material which has been produced. An institution like the OU would be in a position to create short (or long) series on the fundamentals of hundreds of subject matters. This would not only be useful for people studying those subjects but may simply be interesting for those who love to learn outside of formal structures. 

Podcasts are free and easy to access. They make use of the one commodity we all have in equal measure and which cannot be bought or sold - namely time. I hope, in time, a podcast version of YouTube with the vast choice of professional and amateur content, every subject under the sun and ease of access and sharing will develop. 


Permalink 3 comments (latest comment by Anna Greathead, Sunday, 28 Apr 2019, 18:25)
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Rhizomatic learning

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Edited by Anna Greathead, Friday, 19 Apr 2019, 11:19

Were you convinced by rhizomatic learning as an approach?

The video was inspiring in many ways and I was convinced - partly! I think the idea of abandoning the traditional 'talk, test, certificate' model of my entire formal education is disconcerting enough for me to resist any suggestion that another better way may be available. I can certainly see that rhizomatic learning is something which happens organically in informal learning (and informal learning must make up at least 90% of our learning over the span of our lives). The learning through experimentation could be rephrased for young children as 'learning through play' which is commonplace as an ideal. I also could really see the value of the approach in areas of learning where new ground is being broken rather than old ideas and facts being internalized and understood. I can see how this approach could, for example, be invaluable in cutting edge research - though I guess I would call it research rather than learning. Somehow the word 'learning' to me involves gaining information (or insight, understanding etc.) which is already known (or seen, understood) by others. 

Could you imagine implementing rhizomatic learning?

No. I can see that I have been engaged in it but I cannot understand a way in which you could 'implement it' which sounds very top down and inorganic. I suppose you could plant 'seeds' (ideas? problems?) and see if and how they grow or are approached. 

How might rhizomatic learning differ from current approaches?

It's hugely different from formal education and learning as I have experienced or witnessed it. I think it is commonplace in other contexts where 'learning' may happen but the language used is more 'development', 'problem-solving', 'brain-storming'. 

What issues would arise in implementing rhizomatic learning?

It would require learners who were prepared for a vastly new experience! The absence of a start or end point, the absence of markers along the way would be disorienting to people who had always 'learned' differently. 


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AWOL

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I have been doing the stuff - honestly!

I even wrote a long MOOCs post which I didn't quite finish and publish but which then disappeared.

Having been a big fan of the blog I am now frustrated by being directed to blog posts rather than forum posts. It's not as easy to engage as a group on a wide range of blogs rather than one page of forum discussions. 

I am finding the material interesting but not mind-blowing. Once I get the point I can usually anticipate what issues will be raised and what problems will be identified. I suppose this represents my learning about the subject matter and also adopting a mindset which is sensitive to that learning. Of course I occasionally hear a point I hadn't thought of but this is less often than before.

I shall plod on with the activities but I shan't blog or engage with them all - often because I have little to add.



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Big OER, Little OER

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One learning context I have not really explored in my MAODE so far is my status as a Sunday School teacher! I have, for over 30 years, been teaching children of all ages (from creche to teenagers) Bible stories, Christian values and faith-based approaches to life.

It is this context which has helped me to distinguish best between big and small OER!

Despite the decline in religious attendance in the UK, the market for Sunday School materials is clearly robust as there is a wide range of materials available for purchase. For many years these were in the form of books and photocopiables but now nearly all ae web based. These materials offer a weekly syllabus (often part of half termly curriculums) and there are detailed lesson plans with multiple activities to select from according to your context. Since the services becoming web-based there has been an increase in the use of audio, visual and slideshow activities as well as the more familiar games, craft and worksheet type activities. These resources are centrally produced by various Christian organizations by people with experience and expertise. They are usable, reusable, customizable and – to some extent – sensitive to context. This is, within the Christian world at least, an example of big OER.

The advantages of these resources are that they are well developed and reliable. An entire lesson of activities can be selected from a wide range of choices and adapting activities to suit is straightforward and at the discretion of the teacher planning the session. The disadvantages include cost (the resources are good value but not free) and occasional doctrinal differences (ideological differences). The teachers must have access to the web and usually a printer and some other resources. It can also take control of the subject matter away from the teachers where material is dated and following it in order is recommended.

If a church chooses not to use these kinds of resources they often develop their own curriculum. I also have experience of this as a Kids Club worker – Kids Alive is a Friday evening club I have been involved in for 16 years. We could not find resources which matched our vision for Kids Alive so developed our own. We now have a four-year rolling programme and simply repeat the years in sequence. We have created a large resource which we use as a guide – we often make alterations to fit the current context but the ‘jumping off point’ it set. I can imagine that churches who develop their own curriculum may share their work with other groups, but the resources will be much more context specific and less full developed. The potential for small groups, like churches, to share their work is great and potentially untapped. Hundreds of people may well plan much the same lesson every week! A central bank of resources could be very useful – but things such as colouring sheets, work sheets and puzzles can already be found. Many of these banks contain resources previously created by an individual and uploaded for the use of others.

This kind of little OER is undoubtedly less slick and less ‘complete’ but also more organic. It’s much more collaborative and shared. The economy of sharing, rather than buying, creates a different kind of value to the resources.


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Sustainability Models

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The three models given in the Wiley paper essentially modelled the 'three bears' from the Goldilocks story! 

The MIT model is big, ambitious, well funded. There is a while department of paid staff. Monies have come from foundations, private donors and other support sources. The budget runs to the millions of dollars. 

The USU model is middle sized! There is a small staff and they engage the services of volunteers and make supporting the project part of the coursework for students on some related courses! The budget is around 5% of the MIT budget and the scope is much more narrow. 

The Rice model is the budget option! It works by utilizing the quid-pro-quo economy over cold hard cash. Multiple institutions contribute and benefit. The project is described as a 'passion project'. 

When trying to apply real examples to a neat model system there is always a certain amount of dissatisfaction. Real life examples may have created the models but each other example could legitimately become its own model and few fit neatly into any category; in fact most stubbornly resist classification including the four we've been invited to look at! Crucially - what was lacking in Wiley's models was a commercial model where the learner pays for a service and resource which have been paid for in advance by investors rather than philanthropists. 

Coursera looks closest to the MIT model in size and scope with slick resources and courses but in Coursera the courses are accredited and only available for a fee. There is also a lot of institutions contributing to the service which would be more in keeping with the Rice model. There is little information about funding on the site but it does seem to operate mostly on 'pay per study' indicating it is a commercial enterprise with a profit motive driving the development of the services.

BCCampus is funded by the tax-payer (presumably Canadian ones) and other grants. It has paid staff provides open text books free of charge. This is closer to the MIT model in funding and access though it seems to be a slightly smaller operation so may be closer to a USU model. 

FutureLearn is another service which operates on a 'pay-per-learn' basis. There are free versions of some of the shorter courses but accreditation costs (a certificate of achievement) and there is clearly a push to ensure clients opt for the paid service. It doesn't fit into any model fully but looks comprehensive and slick and advertises links with a number of universities. Aspects of it fit within all three models. 

OpenLearn is developed and provided by the Open University. There are hundreds of free courses which appear to be developed entirely within the confines of the Open University. None of the free courses come with formal accreditation but there are digital badges and statements of participation. This actually appears to be closest to one of the Wiley models of all four examples - the MIT model. This appears to be an inhouse OU project and it is free to users. 

Wiley's models sound comprehensive but the lack of the 'paid study' option is limiting. It is obvious that an easy way to ensure sustainability in anything is to make it commercially viable. (That said - I am excited to see how many fascinating and free things I can learn online. In the early days of the internet I used to lose whole days clicking on links within Wikipedia.... this looks like a much more expansive and satisfying version of the same thing!)



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If you want to use my blog posts....

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We are now starting to think of the legal side of OERs. It maybe is not first and foremost in the minds of people motivated by a pure and uncomplicated devotion to the sacred space learning to hold within our society but it's important when the pragmatic realities of living under capitalism bite. 

The infographic given is very useful but, I suspect, simplistic. However - given that I, and Mr O Pen, have a lot in common it's useful for this exercise. Both myself and Mr Pen have created 'resources' essentially to help ourselves. I blog about my OU journey to help me reflect upon, commentate on and record my learning and Mr Pen creates resources for his own classroom. Neither of us have invested huge amounts of time or money into the venture and neither of us created with the intention of making OERs. I think the issues that he and I are considering are vastly different to an institution which may have spent a lot of time and money creating entire curriculums and courses. 

For me I would like:

  • Attribution: Mr Pen may find that his videos could lead to further income or job offers etc but I have no such hope! The best I can hope for is a few citations! I would want to be cited if used though - mainly because you simply don't know where this could lead.
  • No derivs: If someone were to reuse a blog post of mine I would want the whole thing reproduced. In text it is easy to take a sentence out of context and imply it means something the author did not intend. Add in my light-hearted, ironic and sarcastic style and this risk seems ever more significant! 
  • Non-commercial: if anyone gets to make money out of my ramblings I would want it to be me!
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NOT working for badges!

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Week 8 is a funny one. The two main activities are both long, involved and somewhat complicated. And they both will win me a Credly badge. I expected to find this motivating as I love a sticker chart but actually it isn't! (They're not even 'real' badges but merely digital images!

The first activity was about the main issues of OERs. I read this a dozen times and then read the paper and wrote a 500 word post on the three best things about OERs! I don't know how that happened either! The paper I was using was one of the two we were directed to choose between (the other wouldn't open in its entirety without me having to conduct some online jiggery pokery) and doesn't seem to have the information within it to answer the question asked. Getting a bad TMA score is one thing but being told you can't have a meaningless Credly badge may be too much for my poor psyche to cope with! 

I realized I had written 500 words of something different to what I was asked for and decided to move on to the next activity (maybe revisiting the first later) and it's more of the same! Design a 6 week program using OERs to teach a group of learners (our choice!) digital skills! I realise that we are engaged in a broadly similar but bigger version of this but the prospect of designing another is not exciting me at all. 

Interestingly - the week 8 tutor group forum is very low on activity and engagement. Maybe my fellow students have found this week of activities as uninspiring as I have. 

Anyway - for now I am going to get started on week 9. I shall revisit week 8 at a later time.... maybe. 

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Rethinking OERs

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I'm not sure if it was the emphasis in H800 but my impression of OERs was definitely skewed towards creating resources which could be utilized in developing nations - my thinking about it was related to it being on basic platforms, accessible with lower tech hardware and less reliable internet access, and having a philanthropic motivation underlying the whole project. 

It was only upon reading the Downes paper that the possibilities for OERs in the developed world - even the richest and most privileged corners of the developed world - occurred to me. 

The saddest thing about reading the Downes paper was that it is eighteen years old and the optimistic (and, to my mind, entirely  reasonable) future he envisioned has not arisen.  

I now need to read the next three papers to find out why!

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Representing Open Education

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The two articles I read to create this presentation were:

Alan Tait, (2018) "Open Universities: the next phase", Asian Association of Open Universities Journal, Vol. 13 Issue: 1, pp.13-23, https://doi.org/10.1108/AAOUJ-12-2017-0040 and

Bates (2015), ‘What do we mean by open in education?’

My original intention was to read the two most recent articles but I glanced at them all and found the Bates post complemented the Tait one in that they raise similar, although not identical, issues. 

Both posts raised issues which, as I read them, seemed like common sense. Of course - both go far beyond common sense but the explanations and writing were clear and explicit and made their points seem self evident. Hopefully you can get a decent flavor of the posts in my presentation below. 


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Zero Sum Education

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Edited by Anna Greathead, Monday, 18 Mar 2019, 21:39

The first activity this week is to write blog posts about our experiences of Open Education and then  to comment on each others posts. I have found this interesting and thought provoking. Firstly - I had to accept I still don't have all the relevant terms properly defined in my head!

When reading the post of a colleague who is based in Belize, Central America, this evening I had a mini-epiphany! 

Education used to be a zero-sum game. Everyone who got a place at university deprived someone else of that place. Every person reading a book from the library deprived someone else of reading it at that time. Every resource associated with learning - desks, classrooms, books, pens, display boards, teaching hours - were finite and could only be used by one person or group at any one time. 

The internet - and the concept of Open Education - has changed that. Whilst access to people for personal interaction (tutors, practitioners, experts, lecturers) is still finite access to their work isn't. Accreditation, certificates and awards may still be controlled and rationed by institutions but the materials they teach are much less so. As automation takes over some of the roles previously filled by people then access to the expertise and the recognition will become even wider too.

 

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Experiences of the Vaguely Described

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"Describe your experience with open education. Is it just with the OU, or have you studied a MOOC, used open resources, or engaged with open access publications?"

So - a few questions? What is open education exactly? I'm not proud of it but I often start at Wikipedia - it's easy to find, usually understandable, and can give some foundational knowledge before you dive deeper.

 

And this is the first thing I see! (Note - must click on that blue italicized link later)

So Wikipedia give me these useful starting points:

1. Education

2. Without academic admission requirements

3. Typically online

So my experience of the OU MAODE program would not be included under the open education banner as I needed to submit evidence of my undergraduate degree in order to begin it. 

I did, at the same time as beginning MAODE, also start a basic maths program with OU though which was more in keeping with this definition of 'open education'. I did this because I am continually frustrated with my GCSE grade C maths and feel strongly I could have done more, better and further in maths had I been taught better at school. Also - my husband and at least 3/4 of my children are science-biased (don't want to label the 13 year old yet) and frankly they mock me for my inability to solve differential equations! I did the first two weeks of the lessons but then found it was too much as well as H800. There was no accountability, no sunk cost and no problem in simply stopping. No-one called me, no-one berating me for wasting money, time and effort and no-one apparently noticed. 

If it were not for point 1 I could claim hours of open education (on top of OU) every single week. I am a voracious podcast listener and listen to all sorts of people from whom I learn all kinds of things. However - that does not really qualify as education as it is not linear, directed and purposeful. For this reason I can't even claim they are open educational resources although I imagine there may be educational programs which utilize the podcast medium. 

I do wonder if the 'badge' system may actually motivate me though. I look forward to seeing how Credly works for me. Even the scantest of rewards, recognition or accountability may be exactly what is needed for me to move some of my general curiosity to formal enquiry.  


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Strategic? Relaxed? Insightful? Lazy? My approach to the TMA

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I worked very hard on TMA01 this Tuesday and again on Wednesday evening. And then I didn't look at or think about it until Saturday lunchtime. I realise this may cause some raised eyebrows but let me share my rationale:

1. This TMA makes up a mere 10% of the eventual score of the assignments of H817. Not to put too fine a point on it.... it's not that important. I just need to pass - get 40%.

2. The brief is somehow specific and vague. (As evidenced by a long, involved and somewhat panicky WhatsApp conversation amongst the H817). There is every chance I have interpreted it right... or wrong! Chopping and changing it along with every new thought won't guarantee the right conclusion.

3. (And most importantly) I often return to work I have not looked at for a little while only to be staggered by my own brilliance! I know that sounds terribly arrogant but getting some distance really can help you see what you've already achieved. 

So now I hope to finish it and hand it in today. Two days early. 


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TMA01 and innovations I would like to see in my context

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Edited by Anna Greathead, Sunday, 10 Mar 2019, 19:35

TMA01 is not flowing! This is a shame as it's very well suited to me. My context is one in which innovations in eLearning and innovation generally is encouraged. Our ideas are often more innovative that software, technology, person hours and staff capacity can manage! I think I could write the whole document based on my ideas and experience but I know I've got to reference other experiences, ideas and attempts. This is what's killing me! The OU library can be like an Aladdin's cave of wonder.... or it can be otherwise!

So here's the bones of my TMA without the academic underpinnings - just purely a list of which innovations I think could work for us and why.

1. Adaptive learning - this is a grandchild of learning analytics. Learning Analytics tracks the engagement of individual learners - the number of times they login, the length of time they stay logged in, the number of clicks, the results etc. and this is used as a proxy for how hard the student is working. In fairness it's probably reasonably accurate for being so blunt. The use of cohort data - both current and historical - can enable some predictive analysis where patterns can be identified from former learners and recognized in current learners giving the learning institution some statistical insight into likely outcomes. If hundreds of students have been studied in the past and all of those who passed gained over 50% in a particular exercise then students scoring 49% can be identified and intervention can be offered. Adaptive learning is the third generation where the analysis of data from a large number of students is analyzed and a individualized learned program is then automatically generated. Learners who struggle with one subject area, or one type of exercise, or one question format can not only be identified but their own specific needs can be met by refresher sessions in their area of struggle, extension lessons on their area of strength and where subjects have been fully mastered the system can know not to revisit them. 

In my context this would be a HUGE amount of work. To begin with we would need to move to an alternative software provider which could collect tracking data. We would then need to retrospectively code our questions for subject area, skills being tested, question format and any other qualities which may make a difference (length of question, sophistication of language etc). It would take some years to be fully adaptive but we could, I believe, quite quickly be able to identify weaker subject areas and ensure learners were tested in these more regularly.

2. Bring your own device - this is exactly what it sounds like! The courses my company run are mostly to assist learners to prepare for an exam - all of the exams are onscreen. Currently we either show the question on a presentation screen for the number of seconds an average question takes in the exam whilst the students fill in an answer sheet, or we give paper handouts. Both options have weaknesses as neither prepare the learner for their actual exam. Marking can be tricky and the company has no means of tracking what the learners are doing. Under this idea we would require learners to bring a laptop (fully charged) to the course and use some means to enable them to all sit an assessment online. This would replicate the exam experience better and also potentially give the company useful learning analysis data. 

There are problems with this idea. Many venues simply would not have good enough internet access for over 100 learners to all login at once. Even fewer venues would have 100 plug sockets to allow 100 laptops to be plugged in at once. Even the instruction to ensure the device was fully charged would be inadequate if a long exam were to be taken. Arranging access to the exam could be done in a number of ways but from the company's perspective the concerns would be a) ensuring access could only happen at the course for copyright reasons, to protect the integrity of the experience for future delegates and to keep the online and course services separate; b) ensuring access was easily arranged so that there are no complex steps which may delay the start of the mock exam; c) having a few 'back up' laptops for genuine cases of 'laptop death' on the day or laptops being unexpectedly incompatible with our service. 

3. QR Codes - it is surprising how popular physical things are in this digital age and in recent months our physical products (revision cards, books, resources) have been very popular. It is good to be able to direct learners to places for further study in printed matter and the QR code is an excellent way of doing this. Acting as a 'bar code' a mobile phone can scan the code and open up links on the internet which can lead to vast amounts of further information. 

Generating a QR code is easy and adding it to printed matter is little more than a 'copy and paste' scenario. All of our QR codes will lead to pages which we own. If we link to external pages there is every chance the page will eventually be edited or retired and the code be rendered useless. Pages we own can link onwards to external sources but the control of that will remain with us. We are planning for QR codes to lead to mini question banks, video material, written resources and audio files. 



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Learning theory and innovative pedagogy

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Edited by Anna Greathead, Thursday, 7 Mar 2019, 22:22

A few reflections about the 2019 Innovating Pedagogy Report. 

Playful learning - I think there may be some behaviourism underpinning this pedagogy. Play is, by definition fun, and behaviouism rewards the learner with something they enjoy or desire. I can imagine the gamification which playful learning seems closely linked to could easily be analysed as conditioning. 

Action learning - this seems very closely linked to connectivism and the idea that collectively we can be and know more than an arithmetic sum of our parts. 

Place based learning - I would put this idea mostly under the umbrella of constructivism. If I were to study the Roman Empire at length I would know quite a lot and a visit to Rome to see to Colosseum would be meaningful to me in a way in would not be to someone with no knowledge of the Roman Empire. Both of us would learn from our trip to Rome but we would be constructing a little more knowledge on to our existing knowledge. 

Some of the innovative pedagogies in the 2019 paper seem, to me, to be technologies rather than pedagogies. Drone based learning isn't a new way to learn - it's a new technology which will enable better, easier, more rounded or more engaging versions of existing lessons to be taught. 

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Welcome to the study on E-learning, Learning Technology and Technology Inspired Pedagogy

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Edited by Anna Greathead, Sunday, 3 Mar 2019, 20:13

I found this article so useful. I wish I had read it a year and a bit ago at the beginning of my MAODE journey. I had lightbulb moments as I was able to clearly distinguish between a trend and a development, a technology and a device. 

The paper, taken as a whole, paints a bright future in which technology is used to specifically create learning programs and resources for individual people with unique needs. The opportunities for these people to learn in a place and at a time which is convenient to them are wonderful but better still they will be able learn via rich, contextual resources and environments whilst collaborating with experts, fellow students, learners from complementary and opposite disciplines. Their progress will not only be closely tracked to quickly identify any potential problems or missing elements before they become insurmountable issues, but it will be able to anticipate future issues and needs using the mounted swathes of data previously analysed. 

Of course - it is unlikely that every point in this paper will turn out to be accurate but it's definitely helpful to see what might happen, what is currently being thought likely. 

Anyway - here's my summary! 

Six Key Trends

1.    Advancing Cultures of Innovation: Flexible, responsive, agile. Emphasis on entrepreneurship. Making universities seed beds of innovative economic activity. LONG TERM

2.    Rethinking How Institutions Work: Working towards a better match between graduate academic skills and desirable workplace skills, alternate methods of delivery of education to growing, and more specific, body of students. “Education as a Service” (EaaS) – students ‘pick and mix’ what they learn according to their needs. LONG TERM

3.    Redesigning Learning Spaces: more access to high tech devices and internet connectivity. Change from libraries full of physical journals to access for more people to more online journals. MID TERM

4.    Shift to Deeper Learning Approaches: Learning To Learn; project based learning, problem based learning, challenge based learning. Primary goal of higher education to prepare learners for employment.  MID TERM

5.    Growing Focus on Measuring Learning: rethink on how to assess subject mastery. Students are producing exponential amounts of data which can be analysed. Students desire for immediate and continuous feedback. SHORT TERM

6.     Increasing Use of Blended Learning Designs: drawing the best from online and face to face learning.

Six Key Challenges

1.    Blending Formal and Informal Learning: Moving away from the ‘credit culture’ and acknowledging the value of experience, informal learning and that unqualified does not mean unable. SOLVABLE

2.    Improving Digital Literacy: Teaching with tech is different to learning from it? Lack of consensus on what digital literacy requires. SOLVABLE

3.    Competing Models of Education: Capitalising on emerging technology is not enough – new models of teaching and learning must be developed to engage students in a new, expanded and unfamiliar system. DIFFICULT

4.    Personalizing Learning: demand for personalised (bespoke) learning is there but it is not supported by current technology or practices. DIFFICULT

5.    Balancing Our Connected and Unconnected Lives: there is general concern about the balance individuals have of online vs offline portions of their lives. Educators must play their part in addressing that. WICKED – HARD TO DEFINE, LET ALONE SOLVE.

6.    Keeping Education Relevant Keeping Education Relevant: Education is not the guarantee of gainful employment it once was. Funneling students into STEM to make them ‘economically useful’ disregards the ethical voice of the humanities. Formal academia still has a higher status than vocational training. WICKED – HARD TO DEFINE, LET ALONE SOLVE.

Six Important Developments

1.    Bring Your Own Device (BYOD): Majority of learners own their own devices. Requires robust Wi-Fi. Rather than discouraging Smartphones in teaching environment, devices are being utilized. <1 YEAR

2.    Learning Analytics and Adaptive Learning: “Learning analytics has developed in three stages, moving from a focus on hindsight to foresight; the first stage was describing results, the second stage was diagnosing, and the third and current stage is predicting what will happen in the future.” <1 YEAR

3.    Augmented and Virtual Reality: AR = incorporating digital information into real work, VR immersive experience where the entire world is digital. Both provide contextual settings for learning. Particularly useful (so far) in medical training. 2-3 YEARS

4.    Makerspaces: Informal workshop environments in community settings where people create things in a collaborative setting. Use of 3D printers? 2-3 YEARS

5.    Affective Computing: Machines can be programmed to recognize, process and react appropriately to human emotion. Machines can be programmed to simulate human emotion. Machines can recognize bored or disengaged students. 4-5 YEARS

6.    Robotics: Increased use of robotics in industry will require more students to learn about, and innovate with, robotics. 4-5 YEARS


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Technology in E-learning in my Context.

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Edited by Anna Greathead, Tuesday, 5 Mar 2019, 14:24

In my professional context the remaining three technologies are inextricably linked - we don't currently have software which enables us to track our learners so we don't have any data to drive assessment or to analyse learning or even to offer prizes! I would love to do this but I suspect that the cost of tracking software (with the associated legal ramifications and headache) would pale into insignificant against the cost of effective analysis of the data it would produce let alone the effective use of the data analysis in order to drive assessment and target future learning. 

If we were to change the software we use to provide good tracking data the other things we would have to do would include:

1. Retrospective 'coding' of existing questions to classify what skill, subject, knowledge and application they are testing

2. Retrospective and future  'coding' of our customers to enable two sided analysis 

3. The development of an analysis methodology and the appropriation of software to support that

All of this could be very worthwhile to provide our learners with targeted resources, personalized analysis of their strengths and areas for improvement and to identify any globally weak / strong areas so we can target future developments BUT pragmatically I don't think our particular market is large enough to justify the costs associated with this. 

Personally - I'm self obsessed enough to want to see analysis on my learning done by some formally recognized software! I am mercenary enough to want as many virtual badges and points as you can shovel in my direction! 


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Asynchronous Collaboration

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Edited by Anna Greathead, Wednesday, 15 Jan 2020, 13:11

Not going to lie - I am finding this hard. 

I see no reason to assume that the other four people in my group are slacking off - after all I disappeared for a week to go on holiday, there are days I don't do any OU work at all due to other commitments and sometimes my dipping into H817 is unfocused and little more than a passing glance. (Although one of them has been AWOL all week!)

That said - I am frustrated that we haven't really completed what we were supposed to. There was a flurry of urgency in the week - an online poll, a WhatsApp conversation, a Padlet was set up, emails were sent and then not much has happened collaboratively since then. I have done some things, including a Wiki document which could morph into the final project; but I am painfully aware that I can't do this alone and that I might be getting it all wrong! I'm even paranoid enough to have wondered if the others have set up a separate group from which I am excluded due to my evident ineptitude! 

Collaboration is clearly a good thing. I don't think there is any real argument about that. But collaboration between people who are complete strangers, living in different times zones to one another, all collaborating in their spare time and with a ague brief as to what they're aiming to achieve is, let me assure you, hard work! 

So here's my check list of what would make this task easier!

1. Everyone participating from the beginning. At first there was a lot of waiting around for all of the group to join in. In hindsight this wasted the first half of the week. Whilst it's very democratic to want input from everyone before getting started it's impractical when you are unsure that everyone will give any input. 

2. Clearly designed brief with examples. We are all new to H817 and (I guess) many people are also new to the Open University, Post Graduate Studies and MAODE too. The brief we had was hard to pin down. It would have been better if it had been more 'essay' structured - 'outline the strengths and weaknesses of a chosen technology and evaluate how said technology has encouraged innovation or represented innovation in e-learning. Use examples from your own and / or other contexts'. Having to create a scenario and agree on it took ages. If a scenario is what is needed for later than give us one! 

3. Accept that contribution will be uneven and sporadic. Different people will be able to contribute to any project differently. One of our group set up a Padlet - great idea in theory but it was not immediately editable. I set up what I thought was a Wiki page which everyone could edit but it turns out to have been as secure as a bankers vault and I had to copy and paste it in an email to someone else to publish properly! I am most free on Tuesdays and at weekends. I usually cannot manage any study on Fridays. I imagine my group mates have similarly complicated schedules. 

4. Use WhatsApp, Messenger or some other proprietary platform to communicate. Exchange email addresses. If I were to make one recommendation to the OU it would be to make the forums a lot more like a Facebook comments thread. I am literally on Facebook for my entire waking life. My phone is rarely more than a foot away from me and any and all Facebook notifications are seen within minutes. Ditto WhatsApp, Messenger, email. I open my OU page maybe once or twice a day. It's rare that an OU forum post needs my immediate attention but  I could answer a query more immediately or ask a question and get a quicker response if it were more like Facebook. Our group WhatsApp group has been the place where most of our informal discussion has happened and from which we have directed one another to the work we've begun.

5. Try and replicate the situated group experience by exchanging the odd joke! A shared love of Red Dwarf (and red wine) led to a short but fun exchange. As a consequence I feel more connected to one of my group mates and therefore more able to effectively work with them. 

6. Don't expect the situated group experience to be very similar to the distributed group experience I have concluded that asynchronicity is the key issue. We are working on the same thing but not at the same time. We cannot, therefore, be certain that we are sharing fully the aims, objectives, vocabulary and understanding necessary to produce effective work. There will be misunderstandings and there will have to be compromise. 

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Online Multiple Choice Question Banks

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MCQs are a major part of my working life and were a major part of my H800 EMA. I (foolishly!) suggested them as the focus for this week's group activity and now I feel the pressure of being the 'expert'! 

My initial thoughts about MCQs were that they had been utilized as a cheap and easy tool. They're easy in physical form (quick to mark, easy to grade) and ideally suited to an online environment (clicks, data tracking, easy to mark, easy to grade). I expected to find that MCQs were generally considered as a somewhat lazy and that their use had been a triumph of pragmatism over ideology. I did find some papers taking this position but was surprised to know how useful MCQs could be and how online technology had made MCQs a core part of online learning. The fact that they worked well with early software started it off but they've continued to be used for a few very good reasons. 

Here's a few thoughts I have arrived at in praise of the online MCQ bank!

  1. Gamification! Doing well in an online test can earn you a badge, or a point, or a level. All of these things are virtual but being able to track your own progress (especially in comparison to the rest of the cohort) really can motivate a certain personality type!
  2. Knowledge! Memory recall may be the lowest form of knowledge but it's also foundational to many other kinds of knowledge. In some subject areas there simply are large numbers of terms, concepts and facts which must be learned to master the subject, MCQs are ideal for quick tests to see if these facts are embedding.
  3. Understanding! A well written MCQ can ask a question indirectly and test comprehension and logic as well as knowledge.
  4. Data! This is useful for the learner but even more useful for the institution who can access the massive data bank a large MCQ bank can generate. The data is quantitative, straightforward to analyse and gives a good picture of the way the learners are progressing. Properly analysed data can identify areas of the curriculum where students routine struggle, or disengage. It can therefore lead to adjustments in teaching style and resources to address the weaker areas or extend the areas students find straightforward. 
  5. Ease and cost! Just because something is straightforward and relatively cheap (marginal costs are minimal) does not make them poor. Whilst it is important to invest properly in well written questions and a good software platform to present them online, the cost is low compared to many other teaching methods where there needs to be more face to face engagement. 
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Collaboration over the Internet

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This week's activity is a group one. Our tutor group has been split into small groups and we are to complete an activity together. Have to confess that I groaned. I have exchanged a few messages with these people but I haven't heard their voices (my fault) and I don't know them AT ALL. I then scooted forward and looked at the next few weeks and the assessments and it seems group work is a far more dominant part of H817 than it was in H800. This makes me groan for a couple of reasons.

Firstly - it means I can't do work according to my schedule. In a non group-work week I would have finished my activities by now. The way my schedule works means I have more time at the start of the week than the end. 

Secondly - it means that if I totally misunderstand something then I, and I alone, get the associated fallout. No-one else is relying on me getting stuff right!

Thirdly - collaborating is tricky with people you don't know - even more so when your opportunities to get to know them are limited by having a solely online relationship. I often find I dominate in group work being naturally garrulous and an extrovert. In a group around a coffee table I can spot cues which show me if others are getting irritated by this and can back off... or I can see if I am in a group of people who are grateful when someone assumes to role of 'chair'. 

On the plus side - I also felt very apprehensive at the start of H800 and ended up doing well. Being a bit stretched is, according to the constructivist model, crucial to learning! 

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Connectivism - my thoughts

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The internet has changed things. It's changed things very rapidly and by things I mean all things including people. Knowledge, prior to the internet, was solid and dependable. Generally things were known and remained static. Even when changes in knowledge happened it too a long time to disseminate the new approach, idea, information so changes were slow. 

Now 'knowledge' does exist as before - like a mountain range subject to small and gradual changes but essentially fixed - but as a flower bed with weeds sprouting every few days and a constant cycle of growth and change. 

Knowing things became less important compared to knowing how to find out things. Why memorise the world's highest mountains when the information is stored and accessible within seconds on any smartphone? I need not learn something if I can easily and immediately collaborate with someone who already knows it. This was we both can get a deeper and more detailed knowledge of our own respective areas rather than duplicating a more shallow knowledge on each other's areas. 

It seems obvious that a new theory of learning is necessary as the nature of knowledge is so changed. 

Previously my knowledge was mine. I accrued and collected it. In connectivism the network of people and technology enables all of us to share a much greater and deeper collection of knowledge than the sum of the knowledge we would have amassed under the old way. 

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