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Nerd!

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TMA01 had specific word limits - part 1 was to be no longer than 1500 words and part 2 was to be no longer than 1000 words.

I've taken quite a lot of pride in writing essays of exactly the right length in previous modules - sometimes adding a single adjective or contracting two words to arrive at the satisfyingly even figure!

So - it was 44 hours before submission deadline and I had a part 1 which was 1494 words and a part 2 which was 998 words.... would those crucial eights words be significant? Could they form the sentence which may push the assignment through a grade boundary? Would my tutor roll his eyes at my having handed in an incomplete piece of work?

I ruminated (on social media) and my 22 year old son posted 'Submit it you nerd' - which was nice! You see - he's one of the more relaxed in the human race. He did the last 6,000 words of his dissertation (that is to say all of it) in the last few days before it was due. He didn't set any records but he did pass!

I am sure that somewhere, on the continuum between me and him, is a sensible approach!

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Implementation

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The three subjects up for discussion in H818 are inclusion, innovation and implementation. We are to concentrate on one of them. I have chosen implementation because I think it is the most important. Innovation can happen and inclusion can be a key priority but unless the ideas and tools created by the innovators, and the policies and systems developed by the inclusionists are implemented in some way then none of it makes any difference.

Part of the 'problem' of implementation is that some innovation, and some inclusive policy, is hard to work. It may be badly designed albeit based on a good idea. It may be well designed but not as good as an existing tool or system. It may be brilliantly designed but doesn't actually meet a need as perceived by the learners and practitioners.

I think the main problem with implementation is that it has to not only be good enough to ensure the effort which goes into making practical changes or ideological shifts worthwhile but that it has to seem good enough to those having to make the changes and shifts.

It is much easier to install hardware and software than to make a teacher of many decades change their habits, or a student who is already busy and under pressure adopt a new learning tool. It's a linguistic stretch but I would say that changing the coding (the software) in the people involved - aka their culture, habits, experiences - is the most important step in implementing any change of practice.

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Taking Shape - TMA01, H818

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This TMA is the foundational document for our conference presentation and subsequent EMA. Which means that getting it right will be very beneficial and getting it wrong will create lots of additional work!

I have decided on a few things:

  1. I am doing the blog project. I will investigate the OU blog tool for who uses it, for what and why. I will conduct some primary research for this - both in the form of surveys, questionnaires and interviews and also by analysing a sample of the public OU blog posts which are handily displayed in reverse chronological order on the website!
  2. I will be looking at this through the overall theme of implementation. I am going to assume that blogs are useful both for student reflection and student collaboration (this is not a wild assumption - there is a lot of data) and consider why they aren't used as often or as much as they could be. Where and what are the barriers? How can the barriers be addressed?
  3. My project will be essentially a research project which will be presented as a paper. I hope to create an interesting and attractive poster in TMA02 and an engaging presentation for the conference but the project does not lend itself to the other two formats as naturally
So my hurdle of the week is TMA01. I a writing about implementation - most of the literature I have found seems to concentrate on why institutions and educators might resist pedagogical change or the introduction of technological tools for teaching and learning but I am equally interested in why students may not rush to engage with new methods and new technologies as well.

I wouldn't go so far as to say I feel confident I am on the right track but it's feeling a lot more coherent in my head! (Not always a reliable benchmark if truth be told!).
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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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TMA01.... 68%

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Edited by Anna Greathead, Tuesday, 3 Apr 2018, 10:28

I have been stressed over the past days about the TMA score. I feared it would go badly, hoped it would go well but I hadn't considered my own personal 'badly to well' grade boundaries so now I am now sure how I think I did! 

I got good marks for my forum participation which I expected. I have been active and have received good feedback from both my student colleagues and tutor about my contributions. 

I dropped 3 marks (our of 10) on spelling and grammar which is a slap in the face! Though the feedback notes a couple of OU style omissions (which I confess to having deliberately omitted because of the blasted word count!) which may have been a problem. 

My biggest mark drops were not properly relating things back to my own context (it turns out my own context is not the rich seam of technology enhanced learning examples which I had previously assumed it to be!) and dodgy referencing. The second is especially annoying as I had an extra 24 hours in which I could have reviewed this again but I submitted early to get it out of the way. 

So I have a good 'Pass 3'. 2 marks off a Pass 2. This TMA only counts for 5% of H800 so it doesn't matter much in the overall scheme but it does and will affect my psyche and attitude. 

I am trying to use the Easter Break to crack on but everyone else is on their break which means getting on is tricky as H800 is more collaborative the further it goes! 

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A word saving diagram!

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My last blog may have contained a hint of a moan about the word count in this TMA I am writing. This word count has been my nemesis for the last few days as I have edited and rephrased and contracted almost every sentence of this assessment! My overactive brain keeps thinking of things I should have included but hadn't so I keep writing new sentences and then having to steal words from previously written ones to make room for it! 

And then I made this diagram. I am hoping to both demonstrates my understanding of the key concepts we are being asked to discuss and also adds a little personal interpretation. (I am also hoping it doesn't reveal how massively I have misunderstood the whole thing!)

The acquisition metaphor is represented by a one way, downwards pointing arrow from teacher to learner. We are all familiar with this type of learning - it's where a teacher tells us stuff we are supposed to remember. We remember the stuff for papers and exams and (very occasionally!) real life. 

The participation metaphor is represented by a four way arrow between learner and learner, teacher and expert practitioner. This is because there is no one way we learn through the participation metaphor, but the flow of knowledge is also not one way. It flows in all directions.

The study group method - so enthusiastically espoused by John Seely Brown - is a two way arrow between learners. Learners work together to extend their own understanding and thus learners are both learners and teachers. The learning is organic and no linear but the opportunity to properly discuss and debate ensures that better understanding is reached. 

The authentic environment situated cognition learning theory is represented by a one way, though horizontal, arrow from expert practitioner to learner. In this learning type there is still an expert. Teaching may not look so hierarchal but the flow of knowledge and expertise is still one way. 

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TMA 01 - minus 4 days

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Edited by Anna Greathead, Thursday, 15 Mar 2018, 22:18

I don't know what they want.

I can demonstrate that I understand the papers and other materials they've directed me to

I can give examples of how my thinking about learning, and professional practice, has changed already

I can see how different learning theories fit with different learning practices

But I don't know if that is what they want..... 

The word count is horrifically low. In 500 words they want me to explain how a single H800 activity reflects (or doesn't) my own experience as a learner / teacher AND evaluate the activity as a part of the module. Now I assume I have to give some indication that I understand the material but that takes a couple of hundred words. Relating it to my experience or practice takes another 250.... so it's a mere sentence or two to evaluate the activity. 

And I have to do that three times. For three activities. From three separate weeks. (But not from three of the activities which we have had tutorials about!)

And then there is a discussion about those three tutorial activities. I am to discuss how much they reflect my experience AND engage critically with the text AND refer to other associated writings both within and outside of H800 AND make use of the forum posts and contributions of other students AND include a picture or two to support my argument (what? I am supposed to be making an argument?) AND all of this must be done in 800 words! 

I had a full length essay to hand in two days ago but I am so unsure. I have edited, re-edited, cut and pasted, checked the word count a thousand times. As I drive to work, or lie in bed, or watch TV, or do anything really new thoughts come to mind which I suddenly think are key and must be included. So something else must be jettisoned. But what? I've already taken out every adjective. I have phrased things as economically as it is possible to phrase them. 

Thankfully there are 10 marks for spelling and grammar! So I won't get a zero!

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