Saturday, 5 December 2015

A view of interaction

This video briefly provides an overview of participation and observation of interaction in an online community that was developed as part of a module for my Technology Enhanced Learning MSc.  For further details, please visit the ePortfolio: https://sites.google.com/site/danielscott86teeeportfolio/


Monday, 23 November 2015

Changing landscapes

My landscape has been changing again.  However, I've felt a tad astray but this time I seem to have remained firm during the movement.  After being infectiously inspired by the events of Adele's song Hello, it propelled me to be reflective on this situation.

We all evolve in many ways through time and circumstances, but it's important that your heart is always firm in place during the transformation.  Your circumstances and partners change for example, but the heart inside doesn't (or shouldn't), but we are quickly judged on the outside for the changes we accept or make.  Why do parents accept change in their children, but with friends it's not as accepting?  This then questions you to think who is not open to change - me, them or us?  To me it's growth. Positive growth that everyone should feel blessed to be a part to witness as it's one of the most extraordinary views you could ever see.  We are all destined to achieve a higher self and as long as you stay grounded during the process, what is wrong?  They say "you've changed" and "I want the older you back".  These are the words of people that are not accepting others for who they are.  Or worse, not accepting you in becoming you.  If you have to tolerate someone, then you don't fully accept them for who and what they are.  You can't make judgements on what you don't want to understand.  If you attach yourself and are influenced by other's emotions, opinions and actions then you're not being true to yourself, you become a clone of those people, which is them, not you. Listen to what feelings you have within you, not what others are projecting onto you and making you think.  Don't follow the crowd, but seek the truth that resides outside.

Landscapes will change, but this is to allow new and even better people and circumstances to come into your life. So welcome it and look forward to the change!  Whoever remains stood whilst your landscapes revolve and distort will truly be there for you as they have demonstrated the test of change, time and distance in your life but recognisably accepting you for you.  You may even receive kindness from people that emerge from the depths of the scenery you never thought would.

All of this seems too similar to my last post, but recently I have recognised that;

I'm now in my life where I feel I finally understand what to make an effort with and not.  People, faces and places change but my heart sure doesn't change.  I know what matters and who and where to focus my attention. Every door is open and I'm moving!

Ultimately, whilst watching Adele on the BBC on Friday 20th, I heard her say this that captures my thoughts and feelings;

"I haven't changed, my life has changed".  From Adele.

Tuesday, 3 November 2015

All about now

Something has changed.  A change within me in these last couple of months.  I'm not sure how or why it has happened, but it has.  So I won't question it.  I feel I have let go a part of me that is no longer needed.  Either that or I have learned what I have supposed to have and now that challenge is over.  Because as I once read, if similar situations keep reoccurring, then you are not learning from it.  So then it will keep happening until you do.  It feels like a sense of realisation that I no longer have to immerse myself into interactions to feel a sense of achievement, purpose or need, may this be personal or professional situations.

For a long time and without realising I feel I have been keeping scores.  Scores that don't need to be recorded and held onto.  These scores could be disguised in the form of some sort of grudges, grudges that I never thought I kept, but maybe I did without knowing.  Again these could be in personal or professional situations.  But the question is why did I keep scores?  I don't like revenge, unless it's done positively for success.  I feel it's because I liked the idea of holding onto these past experiences as a way to look back on and see how far I have come or to use as some sort of criteria to base a new score on.  Because at times when I do feel low, especially when things don't go my intended way, I will immediately refer back to those negative scores.  Again why?  It doesn't make me feel better, but more sadder.  As I once said; negativity is like a set of falling dominoes. How do you stop them falling? You break the link. You take out the ones that create the cause.  So for once and about time, I seem to be letting go of the past.  But at times it may surface, and if it does, I shall smile because they were never bad, but the lessons learned for a lifetime. 

I've learned hard recently through work, social interactions and romance that I can't keep throwing my soul into immediate developments.  Not only do I risk losing my character but my spirit.  The spirit that people seem to love me for.  And without that, what do I stand for?  More recently I have learned that work is not everything about me.  I used to think it was as that was the only thing I thought I could do right.  But now that life goal I made is quickly coming to an end.  So I need to start thinking what is the next big goal I'd like to make.  Careers are important, but life with family and friends are far more important. Without them what's the point of living and being yourself with no one to share that with.  The relationships I have with my family and friends are connected, but they're not solid.  So I feel that this is my next ambition; to enjoy and build solid relationships with family and friends, as there the ones that keep us going and are ALWAYS there.  A particular person has inspired me the way he socialises with his family.  His family are his friends.  How cool is that?!  That's something I'd love to have, but every family is different and everyone wants a little something someone else has.  It's examples like this that give you fire to try and make aspects of your life better.

I obviously didn't do a great job of this last year, but there's no time like the present, so I'm urging you now to forget everything that is not relevant to you and live in the moment, live in the now, it's all about now!  You have to be 100% present in the now.  There's no point in thinking about anything else until it arrives.  However, some things to need to be thought about in advance!  But you'll know what those are!  I mean I'm a perfectionist, but I used to be obsessed to the point of like I said earlier about immersing myself into every damn situation.  For example, like my extreme desire to clean and tidy after every bit of food eaten or dust particle that I have brushed off my bed onto the floor!  Or correcting pieces of work to the point of it all been the same font size, type and spacing etc.  I was that precise (which is an excellent quality to have)!  More like OCD which I humoured many of times!  But ya know ya have to get dirty sometimes, throw yourself out of the routine, let things get out of hand, fall out of line and love the process of getting back into line.  I am still a perfectionist, but I am practicing to do it in moderation.  Everything in life is good in moderation!

So where was I, oh yeh, all about now!  Try not to stand still for too long, keep moving forward.  Although I do recommend deep relaxation, not just in front of TV but solitude.  The kind of solitude where you answer your own questions and worries and/or through the help of the other side - when tuned in and listening.  You have to feel good to receive good.  This is a hard task and one that I am practicing, but I love a challenge and why not take this challenge.  Good thoughts are king.  And I choose to be king of good thoughts or so I want to be! 

While I am in the now.  Tonight I have shared a reason for happiness, I have started a relationship with a new guy called Gary.  He's beautiful both on the inside and the outside, creative and artistic and has a matching sense of humour as me.  How lucky am I!  Everything I have needed or wanted in someone he has got and I don't have to immerse myself into this relationship to feel a purpose.  Because I can feel it.  We have no labels as we know we are together.  There are no rules or procedures on how things should be - just us and how we are. It's too easy to base future events on past ones, so just don't!  It feels right and this time I seem to have taken my time and not given my all up front, but allowed it to trickle out rather than a flood gate opening and drowning everything in it's path!  You can't keep doing the same thing, let things be and how they should be.  I can learn a lot from Gary.  It's like I provide the emotional side and he provides the logical side.  We both provide the parts that we both have less of and become whole when put together.

I'm looking at my future, and it looks so damn pretty!  I'm no longer standing alone but together to share our mutual dreams and journey.  And as a result we shall both grow as people from inside and out.  The caterpillar I once introduced a long time ago, maybe this is the cocoon stage and the butterfly has not yet begun to develop.

I'm still practicing in being in and living in the now, but it all starts with a clear intention to do it.  Plus, visualising every happy thought of what I want.  I'm starting as I mean to go along.  Live.  Life.  Now.

Saturday, 31 October 2015

Putting learning into learning technology

I don't usually share my study work, but as this is going to be the biggest piece of work I will ever do I feel it deserves to be shared and known.

Here is my 2000 word dissertation research proposal for the Technology Enhanced Learning MSc I am doing.  This was my original intention, but as you can see it has developed.  This proposal leads into my main dissertation which is to be 13,000 words.  I have omitted the Project Plan section and Appendix 3 and 4 which are ethics forms.  I hope you enjoy this introduction to my study.

Overview

This study explores how Information Learning Technologies (ILT) are being applied in a Further Education College and the challenges teachers face in embedding it into their practice.

Title

Putting learning into learning technology: developing a pedagogical rationale to deliver eLearning.

Aims

The following are aims that have been designed to draw out facts and understandings of the study:

1. Scope and identify the ILT needs of the Further Education College to gauge suitability of implementing technology in lessons
2. Assess the application of ILT across individuals and departments within the College
3. Benchmark the use of ILT across the College to determine Continuous Professional Development  opportunities
4. Determine individual and department culture, attitude and barriers to using ILT

However, this study will provide answers to the following questions:

1. What is the current use and practice of ILT across the College?
2. What pedagogy should underpin the College’s strategy?
3. Are there diverse ways to engage the technology reluctant and to enable them to develop their confidence?
4. What ideas are there to futureproof, manage and develop ILT practice across the College?

Background and purpose

This study is set in a Further Education College where teachers are now expected by central government to deliver 10% of their learning online (Hancock & Lambert 2014).  In each teacher’s programme of delivery they should identify components that can be made online.  However, the Skills Funding Agency (2014, p 1) clarify the online component as;

“When learners learn online, interact with other learners online or use online content, systems, tools and services with little, if any, direct tutor support”.

To make a step towards this conversion, we must first know what learning technology is.  The Association for Learning Technology (ALT) define learning technology as;

“Learning technology is the broad range of communication, information and related technologies that can be used to support learning, teaching, and assessment” (undated, p 1).

Learning technologies are the tools and systems that enable a vehicle for teachers to deliver and manage learning through whilst eLearning is the pedagogy in which should be applied to the chosen technology (Scott, 2015a).

New digital technologies are emerging everyday which offer new and exciting ways for learning.  As a result learners expect instant and flexible access to their learning content and materials and to personalise them where necessary to support their development on the go (Jisc, 2009).  To keep up with this growing demand, teachers face challenges such as ensuring they have the skills and positive attitudes to implement technology effectively in their practice (House of Lords, 2015).  When implementing learning technologies in a face-to-face lesson it is possible that they lack underpinning pedagogical purpose, which reduces the effectiveness of ILT on the learner, teacher and the lesson.  A possible explanation for this is that the technology might not be necessary as there may be no underpinning framework, plan or boundaries.  Furthermore, the transition between the technology and non-technology may be clumsy as it should function as an end, not a means; to be used purposefully and with precision (TeachThought 2014, 2015, Creative Education undated, Scott 2015b).  Also, it is possible that teachers could mistake ILT with Information Communication Technologies (ICT) by using video clips and PowerPoint presentations as a means of embedding ILT into their lessons (Scott, 2014).  Additionally, perhaps teachers feel unconfident in their own ICT skills, network reliability, ‘one size doesn’t fit all’, fear of repetition, lack of variety in methods and/or the notion that technology is replacing their role.

The next section explains what digital literacy is and how useful it is to help understand teacher’s skills and attitudes towards implementing technology.  Following this, a discussion on the importance of Continuous Professional Development is introduced which leads onto how teaching practice with ILT can be redefined for 21st century practice through a potential model.

Literature review

The purpose of this section is to explain how the work of digital literacy can be used to determine the skills and attitudes of teachers at the College to assess their practice.  Furthermore, common issues with ILT are discussed with an introduction to a model that could help improve the way ILT is approached and used.

Digital literacy
Digital literacy can be defined as “those capabilities which fit an individual for living, learning and working in a digital society” (Jisc, undated p 1).  It is also coined with the term digital inclusion that is defined as “making sure that people have the capability to use the internet [and wider technology] to do things that benefit them day to day” (House of Lords, 2015 p 30).  This challenges education and teaching practice which results in teachers having to adapt and develop their digital literacy skills (House of Lords, 2015).  Within teaching practice the term has evolved into the ‘Digital Practioner’ which is described as “cultural acceptance of technologies in the professional life of a teacher” (Rebbeck et al 2012, p 12).  This requires the teacher to not only keep up to date with latest technologies but having the skills to set up and facilitate learning with technology.  The House of Lords (2015) report findings of an estimation of 30 million people employed in the UK that assessed their digital skills levels and put into the following categories; ‘Digital muggle’: 2.2 million people (7%); no digital skills required, ‘Digital citizen’: 10.8 million people (37%); use digital technology purposefully and confidently to communicate, ‘Digital worker’: 13.6 million people (46%); evaluate, configure and use complex digital systems, ‘Digital maker’: 2.9 million people (10%); build digital technology (typically software development).  The figures show that a large proportion of individuals are confident in using ICT and for communication.  However, when relating it to teachers this emphasises ICT not ILT which requires adaptive teaching skills to deliver learning successfully (Jisc, 2009).

In July 2014, Laurillard and Deepwell published a survey that was targeted at academic staff on their use of learning technology in their practice.  The results outlined some barriers to using and developing learning technologies and highlighted reoccurring themes in Continuous Professional Development (CPD) and leadership.  Deepwell suggests that CPD is of upmost importance for effective use of technology, by expressing that:

“Professional development for and recognition of the skills that enable us to make use of technology for the benefit of learners are key to our success” (p 1, 2015).

The report concluded by recommending that there should be focus on teachers as being innovators.  However, to achieve this strategies must enable leadership, support, time and recognition which will allow individuals to build a community of knowledge and skills in the use of learning technology.  Conroy’s research concurs stating that through their research that;

“‘People' issues are the major barrier to developing and implementing a coherent digital learning strategy.  The research highlighted that leaders and managers lacked the skills to develop and implement a coherent digital strategy coupled with a large proportion of teachers/trainers who did not have sufficient digital literacy skills" (2015, p 1).

Furthermore, Conroy (Coralesce, 2015) led the development of a self-assessment tool to benchmark and ascertain the use of learning technologies in an organisation and individuals, which ran from July 2014 to February 2015.  As part of the process a pilot was conducted and the overall findings of this research discovered that teachers lacked an understanding of learning technologies, in which encouraged the need for professional development opportunities and strategies.

Substitution Augmentation Modification Redefinition
To overcome issues with implementing ILT, the Substitution Augmentation Modification Redefinition (SAMR) model could be applied to enhance practice.  The SAMR model is an ICT based pedagogy that enables practioners to redefine their ILT practice.  As illustrated in appendix 1, The SAMR model guides the practioner through the four stages to ensure that ILT is being applied appropriately for purpose and precision (Lubega et al 2014, Puentedura 2014).  According to the SAMR model this can be particularly useful for helping teachers make an effective transition to transforming their teaching practice with the right technology/ies.  The SAMR model could potentially alleviate or eradicate the issues highlighted earlier.  I reckon that effective application of technology in teaching practice can be founded upon this model.

Conclusion

According to Laurillard (2012) other job roles have transformed, but not teachers due to lack of resources being devoted to the profession.  This is potentially alarming as the typical teacher needs transform at the pace of the technology that is available.  However, this could be a case of change management and how that is approached by teaching staff.  Furthermore, Moriarty emphasises that people are at the centre of coordinating learning with technology and strongly suggests that change begins with the teacher;

“If we exploit it correctly, it breaks down the barriers. We shouldn’t blame the technology for deficiencies that are wholly human” (2015, p 1).

Considering ‘The seven elements of digital literacies’ (Jisc, undated) and taking the segments of ICT literacy, individuals are encouraged to “adopt, adapt and use digital devices, applications and services” (Jisc, p 1 undated).  However, in my opinion staff need to assess their own skills against some sort of benchmark where they can aspire to develop.  As found in the ALT survey leadership seems to be lacking prominence.  This highlights that little direction is being provided from management of how much teachers should be using technology and what ways it can be used.  In this case, who is leading who and how far and little do teachers go in using technology.

Bennett’s (2014) research into developing the Digital Practioner examines how a particular digital literacy framework of students’ can be applied to lecturers.  Appendix 2 illustrates the model in which could it be applied to the typical teacher role.  The model was inspired by Maslow’s ‘Hierarchy of Needs’ and outlines the elements of access, skills, practices and attributes and demonstrates how they are placed within its own hierarchy.

To become a Digital Practitioner, an individual’s understanding and awareness of ICT is at the centre of application and needs to be at a sufficient level in order for technology to be implemented effectively in their practice (Rebbeck et al, 2012).  However, the practice needs to be underpinned with pedagogy such as considering the SAMR model to make a transition successful and purposeful.  The skills of teachers remain an essential component to effective learning and are essential to exploit the potential of online tools and media that suit the purpose of the task to achieve an appropriate blend of face-to-face methods with technology, which emphasises 21st century practice (Jisc, 2009).

Methodology

This study will be carried out as action research to improve ILT practice across the College in which is facilitated through the author’s role as a lead Learning Technologist (Cohen et al, 2011).  Data will be collected from a web-based survey for efficiency of the participant’s time and work locations.  The survey will reveal what and how academic staff are using technology in their lessons plus the approach to their knowledge and skills of operating it.  Also, a face-to-face group workshop will be planned to capture live discussions and opinions (Denscombe, 2014, Bell 2010).  Both methods are used in line with BERA’s (2011) Ethical Guidelines and demonstrated through the ethical forms in Appendix 3 and 4.  The survey will be distributed to all academic staff who will attempt to use technology in their practice.  The group workshop will comprise of Advanced Practitioner teachers in ILT with different subject backgrounds and departments to discuss the strengths and weaknesses of using technology in lessons which should generate ideas to use and overcome issues.  The outcomes of the group workshop will be used to conduct a compare and contrast to identify the differences and similarities of the participant’s responses.  Both findings will be analysed to identify themes and patterns and determine how individuals respond to their approach of utilising ILT.  A set of recommendations will emerge and be disseminated across the Senior Management Team and Heads of Department as well as the wider College for review and consideration and perhaps implementation into department areas.

References

Bell, J (2010 fifth edition) ‘Doing Your Research Project: A guide for first-time researchers in education, health and social science’ Open University Press, McGraw-Hill Education

Bennett, L (24 July 2014) ‘Learning from the early adopters: developing the Digital Practitioner’ http://www.researchinlearningtechnology.net/index.php/rlt/article/view/21453 School of Education and Professional Development, University of Huddersfield, Huddersfield, United Kingdom (accessed 15 September 2015)

BERA (2011) ‘Ethical Guidelines for Educational Research’ British Educational Research Association,9-11 Endsleigh Street, London WC1H 0ED

Cohen, L, Manion, L, Morrison, K & Bell, R (2011 7th edition) ‘Action Research methods in education’ (chapter 18 ‘Action Research’ p344-361) London, Taylor & Francis

Conroy, C (8 September 2015) ‘Learning technology ideas for the new government’ http://www.fenews.co.uk/featured-article/going-digital-the-importance-of-developing-a-global-mindset (accessed 11 September 2015)

Coralesce (2015) ‘Learning technology self-assessment project Final Report 2015’

Creative Education (undated) ‘Five mistakes to avoid when using technology as a teaching tool‘ http://www.creativeeducation.co.uk/blog/mistakes-to-avoid-when-using-technology-in-lessons/ (accessed 11 September 2015)

Deepwell, M (15 May 2015) ‘Learning technology ideas for the new government’ http://www.fenews.co.uk/fe-news/learning-technology-ideas-for-the-new-government (accessed 11 September 2015)

Denscombe, M (2014 fifth edition) ‘The Good Research Guide: For small-scale social research projects’ Open University Press, McGraw-Hill Education

Hancock & Lambert (2014) FELTAG Recommendations ‘Paths forward to a digital future for Further Education and Skills‘, Further Education Learning Technology Action Group

House of Lords (17 February 2015) ‘Make or Break: The UK’s Digital Future’ Authority of the House of Lords, London, The Stationery Office Limited

Jisc (2009) ‘Effective Practice in a Digital Age: A guide to technology-enhanced learning and teaching’ HEFCE

Jisc (undated) ‘Developing digital literacies’ https://www.jisc.ac.uk/guides/developing-digital-literacies (accessed 15 September 2015)

Laurillard, D, Deepwell, M (July 2014) ‘ALT survey on the effective use of learning technology in education’ Association for Learning Technology

Laurillard,D (2012) ‘Teaching as a Design Science: Building Pedagogical Patterns for Learning and Technology’ Routledge

Lubega T, Jude, Mugisha A, K & Muyinda Paul B (April 2014) ‘Adoption of the SAMR Model to Asses ICT Pedagogical Adoption: A Case of Makerere University’ International Journal of e-Education, e-Business, e-Management and e-Learning, Vol. 4, No. 2, April 2014

Moriarty, P (July 16 2015) ‘In praise of PowerPoint’ https://www.timeshighereducation.co.uk/opinion/in-praise-of-microsoft-powerpoint Times Higher Education (accessed 15 September 2015)

Puentedura, R (28 November 2014) ‘SAMR In the Classroom: Developing Sustainable Practice’ http://www.hippasus.com/rrpweblog/archives/000136.html (accessed 15 September 2015)

Rebbeck, G, Ecclesfield, N, Garnett, F (2012) ‘Exploring practioner attitudes to the use of technology in the Further Education and Skills sector - the case of the curious and the confident’ http://www.geoffrebbeck.com/uploads/1/6/3/9/16394320/the_digital_practitioner_report.pdf (accessed 11 September 2015)

Scott, D (2015a) ‘Digital move-meant’ http://danielscott86.blogspot.com/2015/06/digital-move-meant.html (accessed 30 August 2015)

Scott, D (2015b) ‘Confessions of a Learning Technologist’ http://danielscott86.blogspot.com/2015/09/confessions-of-learning-technologist.html (accessed 15 September 2015)

Scott, D (6 May 2014) ‘Observing ILT’ http://danielscott86.blogspot.com/2014/05/observing-ilt.html (accessed 30 August 2015)

Skills Funding Agency (22 October 2014) ‘Delivering online learning: SFA response to FELTAG report’ https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/further-education-learning-technology-action-group-recommendations-sfa-response/delivering-online-learning-sfa-response-to-feltag-report (Accessed 15 September 2015)

TeachThought (24 April 2014) ‘5 Bad Technology Habits Teachers Can Fall Into’ http://www.teachthought.com/technology/5-bad-technology-habits-teachers-can-fall/ (accessed 11 September 2015)

TeachThought (29 August 2015) ‘15 Common Mistakes Teachers Make Teaching With Technology’ http://www.teachthought.com/technology/5-mistakes-youre-probably-making-with-technology-in-learning/ (accessed 11 September 2015)

Appendices

Appendix 1.  Taken from Lubega et al (2014).


Appendix 2.  Taken from Bennett’s (2014) model of students’ digital literacies.

Thursday, 10 September 2015

Confessions of a Learning Technologist

I've been a Learning Technologist for 5+ years now (at the time of writing), and I feel it's time to express my views of the role and it's expectations and possible concerns.  I will summarise my experience about the fundamentals, pedagogical requirements, application of technology and organisational value and impact of the Learning Technologist through my experience.

I started my Learning Technologist role with little knowledge of teaching and no experience of Technology Enhanced Learning.  However, I always say that it's always down to how much you want something that will determine how much effort you put in.  I really wanted to do this role as it was set in education and applied Information Communication Technology (ICT).  Two things that I was really interested in but wasn't sure what to do with them.  There's more on this story here.

The fundamentals

When I first started my role I had no initial training on what it was about, only the department and what we did, which obviously was a big clue.  But for someone new to it I believe the role needs a proper induction of what it is about and what is expected.  Does everyone know the true understanding of face-to-face, blended and online learning?  We think we do, but the understanding is ever changing and growing.  I've described here briefly what I believe to be expected of a Learning Technologist which I wrote for my apprentices for when I introduce them better on it.  When I started my role I just threw myself into it, literally by getting to grips with Moodle, Virtual Learning Environment (VLE).  Most organisations have a VLE and Moodle was ours.  I knew nothing about it and never used it before.  I was unfortunate to not experience this when I was a learner.  But maybe I was lucky as little eLearning actually occurs on them, which I will talk a bit more on later.  I started off by creating activities and exploring their potential as well as learning the administration features.  When I had meetings with teachers about Moodle, I would always be enthusiastic in getting them to use the interactive functions.  Even if I didn't know at this point the principles of learning and teaching I would still promote them where I could.  I even created examples using their content I found in their PowerPoints and other static documents they had on their Moodle pages.  It's here where I started to learn a lot of pedagogy from teachers through conversations.  They would tell me about how and why they could use the functions and in most cases why they couldn't.  So I got smart and started to find out alternatives of how they could!

I think most teachers and other staff thought I was there only to promote the benefits of Moodle and show the latest updates of it.  Either that or think I am some sort of geeky techie guy that will bore them with lots of fancy technical gadgets that no one will be able to use.  Learning Technologists are not geeks or techie people in disguise.  Although they can be a huge benefit to the role!  We are educationalists, we aim and seek to improve learning and teaching with technology.  The availability of technology is growing more each day and the more it is being used the more pressure there is to use it in education, business or leisure.  With this growing pressure, there is a risk of utilising technology for technologies sake.  This is a great risk to the learner and teacher as they could potentially demotivate learners and decrease their satisfaction and retention dramatically.  Each Learning Technologist is different in every organisation and I believe that they should be adaptable and flexible and mould into their organisational surroundings and/or subjects they deal with.  This is key to the role as it enables you to delve into the subject and collaborate with experts so that you can study the course content and suggest and evaluate the right technologies.

I love this role as you're examining the learning and teaching process and using your creativity with technology to enhance the process.  You shouldn't try to reinvent the wheel, but look at how the process can be redefined for a 21st century approach to education.  Early learning theories are great to start off with and build upon, however a Learning Technologist must also look at ePedagogies and implement these where necessary.  It's here where the Learning Technologist can make a difference by putting theory into practice but with purpose.  Not just using technology for technologies sake.  It has to have meaning behind it and pedagogical meaning at that.  It's my assumption that many believe technology is just there to appear fancy and just to tick a box.  When really it has a lot of value for both the learning experience and teaching practice.  Like with any lesson planning, Technology Enhanced Learning needs good planning and preparation behind it.  If it doesn't, it will fail and leave the learner and teacher feeling disengaged and less confident of it working.  A Learning Technologist should be enthusiastic and proactive in working with teachers at all subjects and levels.  Along with great communication skills, creativity, willingness and self-motivation.  The more a Learning Technologist gets involved with a teacher, the more they will understand the learning, teaching and assessment process.  Even speaking and being with learners is a great way to get involved.  Because at the end of the day, both the teacher and Learning Technologist's work is for the learner.  So why not go straight to the learner and discuss and work with them on how they learn.

Pedagogical requirements

A great Learning Technologist should have sound understanding of learning and teaching theory and practice.  To me this is essential as a Learning Technologist cannot apply the role fully without the science of learning and teaching; pedagogy.  It's also useful for delivering training sessions which is a typical requirement of the role.  Plus, if you have anyone to supervise it helps with line managing.  As a basic, taking the Level 3 Award in Education and Training would suffice at a college, school or community learning centre, however if it's at a University much more understanding is required for complex pedagogical development.  So a Level 5 and above is necessary or have or the ambition of achieving it.  In 2011 I did the former PTLLS which I initially wanted to do to just give me that understanding of teaching which I never had.  After this I was hooked and wanted to learn more about teaching.  So I went onto to do CTLLS in 2012 and then onto DTLLS.  However, I was a bit late to knowing and doing this but the Certified Membership of the Association for Learning Technology (CMALT) was a great way for me to assess what I know, what I need to know and what area(s) I would like to progress or direct myself into.  It allowed me to reflect on my knowledge and skills and think about where I am taking my role.  I wish I could have done this at the beginning as it really did give me a boost of confidence but give me the urge to develop myself more.  I recommend that a Learning Technologist needs to understand and know a great depth of learning and teaching so that when new technologies are being evaluated and developed, relevant pedagogies or ePedagogies are being applied to ensure that learning is at the heart of the task.  Technology does not learn or teach, a teacher and Learning Technologist is required to ensure that this happens and is appropriate to the learners and teachers.

Application of technology

Once a Learning Technologist feels comfortable in their role and duties there comes a need to extend your knowledge and skills outside your office and even organisation.  Not long after I had started my role I created a LinkedIn and Twitter account.  Back then I had never really used these properly.  I used LinkedIn to connect with other professionals and join groups to see the shared practice and resources others were doing.  Although a lot of it was commercial I did find some things that were useful.  I created a Twitter account to initially use the list feature.  I followed various professionals and added them to specific lists so I could look any tweets about particular topics.  I didn't tweet much then, well not proactively.  I began tweeting properly in 2012 when I felt the confidence and urge to share what I was doing and creating.  Today I tweet a fair bit, more so reflective and evaluative expressions, all to do with lifelong learning and eLearning is in there too.  It is essential for a Learning Technologist to keep up to date with the ever growing availability of digital tools.  However it is important these tools are properly evaluated and that they are fit for purpose.  It doesn't matter what technology is used as long as learning outcomes are met.  Technology is not everything, it is as an end, not a means.   I once said:  Everyone uses technology, maybe without knowing. It's tapping into that and making it into learning opportunities.  Learners demands are high for instant and flexible content.  You as the teacher need to enable accessibility and flexibility through imagination and creativity to reach learners of today.  This is what blended and online learning is about, adapting learning and teaching in different ways.

The same year I started this role I went to a number of  regional events such as the Jisc ones like Moodle User Group, Jisc Summer Conference and LearnPod to name a few!  I found these events great to attend to learn about new practices and technologies.  I even participated in some activities and got interviewed on many occasions.  But the most valuable part for me was talking to other professionals informally at the breaks and around lunch.  That's where real networking is and you can learn a great deal from those chats and then getting their contact details and following up with more discussions etc.  I was very vulnerable at these events at the beginning, but when I felt more confident I started to deliver sessions myself.  I shared good practice on what I had been doing as well as asking others on thought provoking questions with what I wanted to gain from the event too.  Which is really important, you need to know what you want to get out or any event or training.  Due to these events I have been recognised for what I know and do which has lead to me supporting other organisations.  It's also good to collect useful links as well as contacts as you'll need this at hand when delivering training or asked about ideas of how people can use the technology.  Joining online groups and networking to build rapport up with others in a similar role is always good, it helps you to bring in new ideas to an organisation and bounce off any other ideas you might have.  Over the years I have created my self a nice little network of individuals that I love to collaborate with and have good chat with.  Today I still talk to these people and we're not just professional enthusiasts, but friends that share.

Organisational value and impact

In many organisations the Learning Technologist may be viewed or perceived to be more than they are (rare) or not (often).  I find the Learning Technologist can be viewed as someone who is known to just manage a VLE (Moodle man/woman) or just showing people the latest technology or training them on how to use it.  True, it is a part, but that's far from the reality of the role.  As I said before you can't use technology for technologies sake.  It requires the understanding of learning, teaching, assessment and skills in using ICT.  But Learning Technologists are also responsible for driving change.  Without them organisations run the risk of using the same technology with the same ideas.  Which can demotivate both learner and teacher.  This also doesn't help 'sell' the notion that technology does enhance learning and practice.  A Learning Technologist acts as a mediator between the pedagogy and technology.  It's a delicate process of translation between teaching methods.

I feel that teachers and higher management still need convincing of learning technology and it's actual role.  Yes it does reduce physical lesson time (depending on how the technology is used) and costs.  But this is the wrong approach and shouldn't be considered to cut quality of education and costs of employees.  I feel that there is mixed messages on how some people interpret the role.  It is somewhat misunderstood what we actually do and the processes we go through.  I feel teachers appreciate the Learning Technologist as they are at hand to help them use technology.  But it always ends up being more than that.  I find I end up giving suggestions on how to adapt teaching methods and creating activities in which the teacher can deliver.  I become a teacher of sorts, a sort that delves into their practice and uprooting their teacher training to remind them of certain aspects.  I even link teachers up with other teachers and internally and externally to share their great practice of technology.

In the future I feel the Learning Technologist role may dwindle in numbers, but the actual duties will become stronger and more powerful.  Perhaps be more incorporated into teacher education programmes.  However, there is an abundance of Technology Enhanced Learning qualifications available now.  As our digital literacy skills grown stronger and more competent the less training will be required.  However, the need for Technology Enhanced Learning theory still remains much desired and wanted to ensure that it is appropriately and effectively used in education.

Finally and thoughtfully...

If eLearning "was" just copying, pasting and uploading a file, there wouldn't be a wealth of pedagogic and academic research on it.

eLearning is really independent learning in disguise.

And one that I found...

 "Technology won't replace good teachers but teachers who use technology effectively will replace those who don't."

Wednesday, 19 August 2015

The attraction of Digital Learning Design

I have been asked to put together a brief synopsis of the attractive benefits of the Digital Learning Design qualifications by a marketing chap from the awarding body.  The following is a summary of the main aspects of the qualifications for both Level 3 and 4:

  • Contains a diverse range of skill sets such as teacher education, graphic design, media production and web authoring.
  • Develops career pathways into being a Instructional Designer, Graphic Designer, Learning Technologist, Website Designer and Teaching
  • Increases organisational and business opportunities by offering new and flexible ways of learning
  • Uses creative and design software
  • Stimulates designer creativity
  • Develops creativity, design, problem solving, analytical skills, team working and communication skills.
  • Supports, manages and maintains a Digital Learning Environment
  • Applies and develops reflection for personal development
  • Explores legal and compliance requirements
  • Considers current trends and issues in the eLearning industry
  • Introduces project planning and management skills and methods
  • Develops understanding and challenges of individual and team communication skills
  • Applies learning theories and the science of learning and eLearning design
  • Applies assessment of and for learning
  • Develops understanding and techniques to implement accessibility features and functions
  • Enables quality assurance methods
  • Develops Instructional Design techniques (analysing, storyboarding, constructing)
  • Emphasises Technology Enhanced Learning by exploring the use of collaborative, immersive, social and mobile technologies
  • Develops training and confidence skills for one to one and group situations
  • Recording, editing and publishing videos and audio
  • Applies graphic design principles, strategies and methods
  • Creates and maintains webpages
  • Develops responsibilities of staying safe online
  • Introduces software development
  • Introduces gaming principles for use in eLearning

I really like these qualifications as they do encompass a range of skill sets, which enables individuals to gain a career in eLearning or to gain wider experience to choose a particular career path.  These qualifications are current and up to date to give individuals the knowledge and performance skills they need to fulfil an eLearning career.  The true value in these qualifications lies within the diversity of the content and the learning experience gained.

Through my experience, these qualifications appear to be attracting graphic designers and ICT/computing individuals that are interested in the digital nature of the content.  However, not everyone understand the role of eLearning which is hard one to pitch to 16-19 year olds.  Plus, understanding pedagogy is essential is a very hard challenge.  Some of our first year apprentices have progressed onto Level 4 with us whilst one has gained employment in a similar eLearning designer role and others are seeking employment in similar roles and web authoring.

I have discussed more in A Year of Digital Learning Design and A Desktop Analysis of eLearning Packages.

Tuesday, 18 August 2015

Speak your heart

I hope I'm not alone in my feelings of the uncertainty that is dating.  I've been here many times and still not learned a great deal of how to handle these sensitive periods.  I've recently been seeing a guy for the last two months which turned into a relationship and then ended yesterday.  Totally gutted, but kind of expected it.  It ended with differences on both sides.  But maybe another reason why it happened, because I was worrying and panicking too much about if they like and want me that I ended up losing my mind.  I seem to went in a cycle of being happy, have a serious talk, being happy, then having a serious talk.  Which was probably too often during these early stages.  Why can't I let just let things be and go with the flow.  But what is the flow?!  I have never really got this and I feel such a fool for it.  Everyone else seems to find the process easy and settle really well.  Then I just self-destruct and ruin the entire magic that was happening.  Surely I cannot to be the blame for it all, but I sure do.  There was other factors involved that we knew about and more when we talked last night.  But I did open up quite deeply about some inner troubles I had boxed away but I didn't know how to talk about them.  I also tend to give a lot too early in this period, maybe too much.  I buy surprise gifts and possibly make myself too available.  But isn't that what it's about?  Two people liking each other and bouncing off each other.  I find it hard to hold back.  My heart and head refuse to hold back.  But maybe I should, because sometimes the more I give the more I feel disappointed.  But the truth is that you have to give to receive.  I'm just being me.  But I suppose there's no need for this monster that emerges and sabotages everything in it's path. 

Why do I feel like I can't call or text him?  Even though he said I could anytime.  I asked him to communicate with and to me more.  He promised me he would. But why do I feel disappointed?  Do I assume and expect too much?  But surely if two people like each other a lot, surely we should be inseparable?  I feel I make a lot of effort with suggesting ideas and going places and driving through to him.  Maybe I'm needy and high maintenance, but I know that I want to communicate endlessly and feel wanted, needed and desired.  These are some frustrations that ran through my head.  It doesn't sound normal does it.  Or is it?

What I have learned recently which I kind of knew but didn't and still don't know how to properly manage is control.  We all like to control. But how much should we let go? There's no greater power than reducing what you control.  But it's hard.  I once said; don't be too hard on yourself. Life can't always be a certain way. Living life is better and easier when you're not trying to control it.  The biggest fear is that you're not allowing people to be themselves if there's too much control and less freedom.  One main thing I have learned recently from this short love is to talk and have an open heart.  Out of one of the serious conversations we had I shared these.  Communication is everything. Speaking your thoughts no matter how small, big, serious or crazy. Just make them known, it makes a difference.  I've had way more than 9 lives. I'm such a lucky man! But this time it's different, I feel born again and it feels good. Speak your heart.  This was a major revelation for me.  I feel I can openly talk more to others about my worries and troubles.  I've always felt I had to deal with them on my own and not bother or burden others with them.  But now I know I can.  I need to rely more on friends and family.  If I had talked more openly about my frustrations and worries, I would have approached this a lot differently.  And maybe the times before.  I need to relax, I know.  It's pure overthinking which is very dangerous for your mind, health and social life.  I really should take my own advice, which is part of a problem I have!  Negativity is like a set of falling dominoes. How do you stop them falling? You break the link. You take out the ones that create the cause.  Life should not be lived in the usual straight line. Be flexible as life is as flexible as you want it to be.  As always I can help others but never really help myself that much. Another thing I learned is to be more laid back and not rely too much on text communication.  It just keeps you hanging and waiting and causes more expectations.

With all the wisdom I share, you would think I had got all right by now.  But I sure haven't, far from it.  The truth is that I still have not learned and there this will keeping happening until I learn and master this.  How many more dates will I meet that will turn into friends then acquaintances.  Apart from my close friends, I feel I am surrounded by past relationships.  But I have to look at the positive in that, how many can say that they managed to remain friends with their previous lovers?  I'll be forever grateful for the friendship that is offered me after things don't go well.  It means a lot to me.  But I do want love.  But I same to chase it away without knowing I am.  I'm worried I come across really intense.  It's for all good reasons and intentions, but other's may not view it like that.  I just need to learn from this and for sure this time.  It can't continue.  My greatest fear is loneliness and if I don't sort this, I'll be closer to that than I think.  As always I will try to do something about it and quick.  I promise to myself I will and to seek and ask for the he help I need.  If I can perfect other areas of my life, I can sure perfect myself more and it starts with asking, believing and receiving.  I'll ask for love and help, I'll believe that I have this and more and I will be grateful, willing and open to receiving it in the form it arrives to me, with no questioning and overthinking.  Or at least I'll try.  No, I WILL!

Tuesday, 11 August 2015

Music

I LOVE music.  Let me keep it simple. ;-)  It's a major part of my life. I listen to it to uplift and bring out emotions in me.  But I am also deeply connected the rhythms and beats.  I seem to analyse music in a way I can't understand.  From the music itself to the lyrics and voice expressed.  It's a very complicated but beautiful connection I have.  I think it all began around early 2000.

I mostly listen to pop, dance, R&B and a bit of rock. But I also have a keen interest in who artists are working with such as producers and songwriters.  I'm also interested in sales, certifications and chart positions of albums and singles.  I'm somewhat of a massive pop music geek!  Along with this I love to see artists perform live.  They just give the tracks their true emotion along with new interpretations.  But I also love to see how artists perform and interact on stage and with their fans.  I find it really inspirational.  Plus the buzz you get from the whole event is just incredible.  Below are a list of artists I have seen live (*I will update this list every time I seen an act*): 

  • Busted - A Ticket For Everyone (2004)
  • Good Charlotte (2007)
  • Sugababes - Change Album Launch Party (2007)
  • Sugababes - Change Tour (2008)
  • Girls Aloud - Tangled Up Tour (2008)
  • Fall Out Boy (2009)
  • Girls Aloud - Out Of Control Tour (2009)
  • BeyoncĂ© - I Am... Tour (2009)
  • Britney Spears - The Circus Starring Britney Spears (2009)
  • P!nk - Funhouse Tour (2009)
  • La Roux (2009)
  • Rihanna - The Last Girl On Earth (2010)
  • Lady Gaga - The Monster Ball Tour (2010)
  • Greenday (2010)
  • Adam Lambert - Glam Nation Tour (2010)
  • Alexandra Burke - All Night Long Tour (2011)
  • Kylie Minogue - Les Folies Tour (2011)
  • Alexis Jordan - The Club Tour (2011)
  • Ke$ha - Get Sleazy Tour (2011)
  • Robyn - Body Talk Tour (2011)
  • Jessie J - Heartbeat Tour (2011)
  • Britney Spears - Femme Fatale Tour (2011)
  • Nicole Scherzinger - Killer Love Tour (2012)
  • Nicki Minaj - Pink Friday Tour (2012)
  • Roxette - Charm School - The World Tour (2012)
  • Darren Hayes - The Secret's Out Tour (2012)
  • BeyoncĂ© - The Mrs. Carter Show World Tour (2013)
  • Rihanna - Diamonds World Tour (2013)
  • Katy Perry - The Prismatic World Tour (2014)
  • La Roux (2014)
  • Kylie Minogue - Kiss Me Once Tour (2014)
  • Christina Perri - Head Or Heart Tour (2014)
  • Lily Allen - Sheezus Tour (2014)
  • Queen + Adam Lambert Tour (2015)
  • Texas (2015)
  • Madonna - Rebel Heart Tour (2015)
  • Leona Lewis - I Am Tour (2016)
  • Adam Lambert - The Original High Tour (2016)

Friday, 7 August 2015

2014/2015 in summary

This last year has been one of my biggest yet.  I feel it's been a very challenging one intellectually, yet draining!  Here's what I have been up to since last year.  But work aside, I have had more great memories to look back on.  I've had more fun and frolics with trips and visits with friends and family and a fair few concerts again.  So here are some (but not all) highlights of my last year.

Apprentices

I can't believe it's been nearly a year since we got our first Level 3 apprentices back in August 2014.  Some are due to finish whilst some are progressing onto Level 4 with us.  I've reflected more on the first year; A Year of Digital Learning Design.

Graduated for my teaching

After two years doing the DTLLS, I finally graduated in November 2014.  It was a great day and quite emotional in some places.  Here's to the next graduation for my MSc, I'm very lucky to be having two!  My family put out a nice message in the local newspaper to congratulate me.

First year of MSc

Well it's been a roller coaster of emotions and feelings with this journey.  I captured the moments and emptied my head throughout here, here, here and here.  But as I'll mention further down, I seem to be growing more confidence in my knowledge which is really odd as I still don't consider myself intelligent.  Wrong of me I know! :-/  I've openly expressed and challenged many aspects of my practice and thinking but here are some posts I made:


Internal Verifier

I'm halfway through in qualifying to being an Internal Verifier.  I actually really like this role and duties involved.  I find it really interesting as it's all about maintaining and developing the quality of learning and teaching.  Which is another great interest of mine.  In future I hope I will be the lead Internal Verifier for our apprentices, but not only quality assuring but also dealing with the EQA visits.  Plus, I will continue to assess.

ALT

I have been a regular contributor to the ALT mailing list, but even more so recently.  I seem to be growing confidence in my knowledge of learning technology, so I have shred more about my practice as well as deeper thoughts.  Recently my thoughts had been captured and formed into an ALT newsletter.

Events

Here are some events I attended:

  • Learning Technologies show, London.  In January me and the apprentices went to London for the day.  It was great to take the apprentices and show them the world of Learning Technologies and eLearning through the eyes of other businesses and enthusiasts.  We also helped man the Design Elearn stall.
  • Showcasing our Digital Learning Design apprenticeship to other Learning Technology managers and organisations.  It was a great day and eventually led to us having an off-site apprentice in York.
  • In less than a year, our company Elephant Learning Designs received; Winner: Elephant Learning Designs, Business Impact Award, Staff Star Awards 2015.  It was a great night of feeling proud and having a fun get together.
  • Digital Learning Design Regional Quality Meeting.  In June, I helped host the event with Ascentis to show good practice of work and assessment.  This was a very interesting meeting that informed the rest of my assessment planning and internal verifying decisions.
  • Technology Enabled Educators launch event.  In June I went to Manchester to see the launch of the qualification that I helped be a reference in the making of it.  It was great to see the qualification finally be launched and see some example course content and activities.  I just hope I can deliver this soon.
  • White Rose Learning Technologists' forum.  I made a return to this group in July and was great to meet new Learning Technologists and for me to share experience and ideas about the Learning Technologist role and it's progression.

Next...

Well I'm still in planning process with the Level 4 Extended Diploma in Digital Learning Design.  But I do hope the Level 5 gets developed as I and the apprentices would like this to happen.  But getting the Level 3's finished off is the main priority right now.  Other than this, I have started my final year of the MSc, well the dissertation begins at least.

Finally and thoughtfully.  This is one of the most heartfelt expressions I have ever done: Conversation with my 15 year old self.

Saturday, 18 July 2015

A Year of Digital Learning Design

As the first year of Digital Learning Design is almost upon me, it's a good time to reflect on how it has been and what could have been better.  I'm sure a lot of other organisations have or are going through a similar experience with planning and delivery of both the Level 3 and 4 Diplomas in Digital Learning Design.

Barnsley College has benefited greatly from the service we offer with these programmes, in the form of a learning company.  We have had 7 apprentices on the Level 3 programme and now 4 have progressed onto Level 4 with us.  Both programmes are on a year and a day format.  We also have a number of off-site apprentices with external organisations.  The apprentices are instructional designers which the College has never had before in it's history.  The main barrier that the teaching staff experience is not having enough time to create their own eLearning packages and activities.  But this has now been removed as teachers now have instant access to a service that allows them to get high quality and interactive eLearning materials suitable for inside and outside of the classroom.

What went well:

  • Regular and ongoing support, mentoring and encouragement to the apprentices.
  • Enabling creative freedom within the apprentices.
  • Developing a collaborative and supportive team.
  • Returning quick assessment decisions and feedback.
  • Facilitating the online group with developmental feedback and resources.
  • Managing the apprentices, assessment and qualification.
  • Developing and marketing the learning company.
  • Dedication and commitment to developing a new eLearning workforce that is current and relevant so they are fit for the industry.

To be improved:

  • Pedagogy is essential.  Introduce pedagogy from day 1 as it takes time to embed this within individuals.  I'm going to be emphasising pedagogy a lot more in future as discussed here.  Technical and design skills can be developed quite rapidly, if given the right prompts for inspiration and resources.
  • Develop eLearning more in line with the learning, teaching and assessment cycle.
  • Encourage more storyboarding and include learning theories to embed them.
  • Evaluation and feedback of the products created.  We haven't done enough of this in my opinion so this has now been revised with a new organisational structure.
  • Encourage deeper and proactive reflection through blogs and/or contributions to the online group.
  • Project planning of individuals work.  It was good enabling flexibility within individuals but too much of it let them wander and lose focus.  But now the Level 4's will lead on this in the new organisational structure.  A tight project planning and monitoring structure is now in place with the use of collaborative technology.
  • Enable more independent activities of research and discovery.  As educators should know, spoon feeding should be kept to a minimum.  So more hands on learning experiences that are authentic to tasks and duties; project based learning at it's best.
  • Better blend of using technology.  It's worried and annoyed me that I haven't used enough and effective use of technology, so I want to practice what I preach.
  • Our Moodle course pages are currently being redeveloped to be more interactive and are in line with the qualification criteria.
  • Assessment of learning.  This needs to commence on day 1, especially if you are running it over a year and a day format as time is learning and learning is assessment time.  However, I need to emphasise on collecting more naturally occurring evidence as it is Work Based Learning.  Assessment is now going to be on a personal basis with one to ones through the apprenticeship reviews and setting individual targets which will be reviewed on a monthly basis.  For off-site apprentices these will be at least every 10 week face-to-face.

The first year could be viewed as training the current Level 3 apprentices to mentor the future ones.  But they will replace each other every year.  It was all about getting it right and seeing how individuals could slot into the positions within the learning company.  This is the hierarchy I have reorganised in the learning company in a broad format:

Me (tutor, line manager, assessor and internal verifier) > colleague (tutor and assessor) > Level 4's (project manage, create and mentor/train Level 3's)  > Level 3's (create and support teaching staff).

Currently, I'm just midway through planning and putting together a comprehensive training and assessment plan for both on-site and off-site Level 3 and Level 4 apprenticeships.  I'm very excited to see how it will turn out.  As well as delivering these programmes, I'm growing alongside them and learning and researching new material.  However, everyday I think of new approaches and changes I can make.  It's just being aware of them and putting plans in place.  It's important to remember that you can't always get it right the first time.  And if you're a perfectionist like me, this is a real pain!  So it's important to be flexible, as education should be.  Planning and delivery can only go as far as your knowledge and skills go.

Friday, 17 July 2015

Learning pedagogy

Through general development and experience in the last year with my apprentices on Digital Learning Design, I want to emphasise the importance of pedagogy in their eLearning design development as well as their general knowledge.  So I intended to put together a small programme of getting my apprentices (Level 3 with the view of adapting this for Level 4) to further develop and extend their understanding of pedagogy.  Overall, I felt that I should focus more on how pedagogy works and the impact it has.  I identified the following areas but they are broad and I feel there needs to be more flesh to them:

  • What is learning
  • Learning theories
  • What is teaching
  • What is assessment

I asked out the ALT community to see what they suggest and recommend should be in it which was a great help.  I was given the advice from Dawn Alderson that I should start this with a bottom-up approach as these are end points.  I needed to introduce more links to theory and practice in a more incidental way, which can be done through active experimentation, which links to Kolb's experiential learning theory.  This is particular good as they are learning and practicing but also going through the experience themselves in which they can reflect upon later.

So, I ask at this point, how can I do this at Level 3 (advanced) and Level 4 (higher)?  The main approach I have is to give them more learning theories and get the apprentices to analyse them and include in their storyboards for designing eLearning.  I could get the apprentices to apply more learning theories and evaluate how they work, don't work and how they can be improved.  Then as part of the process they should reflect on their own work as well as their experience.  I could also get them to self or peer question how does their eLearning design motivate their users to learn.  This should then reinforce their understanding of pedagogy.  This makes it a more context rich experience in which I can set a pitch and pace for continuity and progression.  To consolidate all of this, I could bring all the apprentices together to discuss their findings and experiences and what it meant to them and the audience they have created these eLearning designs for, and they can suggest recommendations for future work.  However, I could also reiterate the learning pyramid and get them to analyse how each retention rate can be improved with learning theory and eLearning theory; adding the Technology Enhanced Learning aspect.

As Terry Loane pointed out; "people learn best when they are involved with others in authentic activities in authentic contexts."  "The important message to get across to your apprentices is that they learn best by being involved with the real stuff of their vocation/profession rather than in a classroom with a teacher and all the 'inauthentic' baggage of learning goals, assessment etc."  This emphasises what pedagogy should be about; meaning making and helping it become relatable.

Sunday, 14 June 2015

Conversation with my 15 year old self

This seems like the right time to have a conversation with my former self.  Although it's only a snippet of my life (see me for the raw and uncut edition), if I met my 15 year old self now, this is what I would say if I were to meet him...

I am 14 years in front of you Dan.  And I want you to listen to me as there's things you need to know so you can make a change.  Because what you are about to go through is going to be a long and emotional journey.  But you will come out stronger than you have ever imagined.  So listen up and don't be stubborn about it, I know what you're like, thinking that you know it all and you've got it all worked out!

It's July 2002 and you have not long since left school.  You'll probably feel a bit lost without being with your friends everyday.  You're pretty unsure what to do as a career.  You need to think quick and wise about as you may lose a bit of time here.  More than you lost at school with messing about!  You could have succeeded at school Dan, but you being silly was too easy for you.  But saying that, you weren't the sharpest pencil in the box.  By being silly though, you left school with little than desired.  But you'll have the opportunity to redeem yourself.  And I'm glad you'll recognise it.  You will do animal care as you love natural history and all things wildlife because that's what you feel connected with.  It was a good choice mind!  But is it the career you want?  You'll complete the course and want to do the next level.  But you're not sure of what you want to do with it.  The clock is ticking and I know you'll be conscious of that later.  Time doesn't wait for no one, so I want you to think hard of other things you are good at.  You will be told that your good with using computers and the internet, so try to build on this as this will help you get the career you were originally thinking of.

In November 2003 you will get a part-time job at Morrisons in town when it first opens, then you'll go there full-time until you decide what you want to do.  Try not to get too bogged down with this job.  I know it's something you don't want to do long-term, but just stick out and keep thinking about the career you want.  Just plough through the days and carry on searching for what you are wanting.  It paid for many great nights out mind and you made some great friends.

In November 2004, on your second night on Barnsley's gay night, you will meet your first love through a great friend you met the time before.  He's handsome and you will fall in love with him.  He's the best friend you always wanted.  But try not to be in his face so much!  There's worshipping the ground people walk on, but seriously?!  He will inspire you to make the career move you was searching for.  The one that will change all events and circumstances in your life.  You will have your first holiday together in Greece and you'll never forget the magic and memories of it.  It might not work out between you both, but you will always be in each other's lives as you will both promise.

In May 2005 you will have an interview for an apprenticeship in Business and Administration and you will get a placement at Barnsley College.  Whoa!  This will make you happy Dan!  You're surrounded by lovely and supportive people and in an environment you will love.  You'll not want to leave, seriously, they nearly had to remove you!  But the time will come to move on.  Just as I know you would, you'll take everything they have to offer.  This is your catch up time after you left with school with little qualifications.  You did great through this time, you did more than you thought you would have done.  Like your Mum will say, you're doing something that you're interested in, unlike school.

In August 2006 you'll get a great first proper job at Sheffield City Council.  You'll be in awe of this job as it is something you liked and worked for.  But it's not as smooth as it should have been.  You will get bullied and intimidated by your manager.  This sounds horrible, and it will be of all kinds.  I'm not going to lie to you.  But you need to keep strong and fight it.  You'll learn great life skills from this period.  You will fight it for a few months until your Mum knows, then you won't go back by order.  But keep looking for jobs while your off, don't sink into unhappiness.  Keep that fight going (well you will keep going in without no sick days).  And don't take your Grandma's sleeping pills that she got from Spain! ;-)  You'll get a tad addicted to them haha.  But seriously don't rely on these Dan.  But during this year, your parents will get divorced, but don't get too upset about it.  It won't affect you a lot.  Only when you lived on your own for 6 months+.  You lived like a king for a while!  You'll have many parties and bad alcohol memories!  But do eat proper food yeh, not takeaways and rubbish!  During 2006, you will meet your second boyfriend who is adorable and geeky.  This will last a great few months.  His family will look after you through this year.  They will fill the gap of your broken family and provide you with a loving home when you visit.  You really did love this family, you will never forget their generosity and love.

From January 2007, while you were off sick for two months from that vile environment that was like The Devil Wears Prada, you will come across Michelle Dewberry's book, the lady who won the series two of The Apprentice.  You will be drawn to her and inspired by her story on TV.  You came across her book by surprise and were obsessed with her story as it was similar to yours.  Her career plan in the back of her book will change your life and it will serve a great tool for you later and you'll go on to sharing this with people to help their careers.  In March 2007,  you will meet your third boyfriend who you went on a lot of social outings with which helped build you back up after your spirit was nearly taken.  You will have your first camping experience and you'll go off to Spain for a great holiday together.  Later that year you met your fourth boyfriend who you were like two geeky buddies when together.  You knew this one would be a short relationship, but you enjoyed the time you had.  In Summer 2008 you both parted.  Although these relationships were short, you had great times that helped bring some spark back in you.  Later that Summer you met your fifth boyfriend who was a super geek, but you will love him to bits.  You will both do great together and become a little team.  You'll go bike riding and be placed with another loving family.  You'll do a lot for this family by just being there.  This again became a second home as you will be loved by their family.  You will help this guy too, with your outgoing, honest and open nature you'll introduce him to new things and bring him out of his shell!  This will be one of the longest and most challenging relationships you had, but a worthy one.  You will make many memories throughout 2009 with bike rides, social madness with friends and a holiday.

In the background you were studying hard on many evening courses.  You've been doing courses since 2005, so it's like second nature to you now.  As with the last few years, it's around here when you'll further commit and dedicate your career to develop yourself.  You'll put your heart and soul into making you a better, knowledgeable and more rounded person.  You'll observe and learn strong work ethic skills from two pop artists and three particular songs.  As you will, take the inspiration and re-work it to your own meaning.  You will learn how to do this and see the magic of it.

At the beginning of 2010, you started your new job.  A job that you will just love and have so much passion for.  However, it was a year of revelation and change of sorts for you.  It's going to be the biggest year of your life!  So hold tight!  You'll meet a special person that opened a very unique door for you.  One door that will open up a whole new world to you.  But I'm not going to tell you this as you're not ready for it right now.  You experienced so much in this year that you felt it was like a new life, like you were born again.  This is the year Dan that you cut the chain on many things and flew high.  A particular song that came out that year paved a foundation that you will share with others later in life.  A year later after being in this dream job you will do a introductory teaching course and you will fall in love with the learning and teaching process.  But you will also find that you will throw yourself into teaching to deepen and sharpen your interpersonal skills, especially your communication skills.  At the end of 2010 you will meet your sixth boyfriend.  You were a great couple that lasted around a year.  You shared many great times, a holiday and spiritual growth.

At the end of 2011, you'll move into your first house.  You moved in over Christmas and felt like you didn't have one with all the madness of your new home.  At the beginning of 2012 you were single again.  At first you will feel extremely lonely and you will visit many places on your own.  You had trips in UK and abroad.  You felt you had to do this, maybe you thought it's because you have your own place and that you needed to lead yourself more.  But also to make new friends and strengthen your social and inner abilities.  But 2012 will be the start of a two year period where you'll discover to be yourself and learn how to be in your own company.  But don't shut people out.  Let them join you on this experience.  Like your Mum will say, maybe because you have been independent all your life, you feel you have to do everything on your own.  Trust me, let people in and be with you.  Stop being so bloody stubborn!

2014 is a year when you will be noticed, respected and viewed more strongly than you have ever before.  You have worked extremely hard to get to this point.  You have worked for your career and the friends you have around you.  It's not been easy for you.  But you pushed on and made it.  It's around here that you will realise that you are somebody and a special somebody, even though you are overwhelming at times.  But you mean no harm.  At the beginning of this year, you met your seventh boyfriend.  It was like a movie scene where you met on a night out.  You both had great passion for music and humour.  You both helped each other in different ways and made yourselves stronger spiritually.  But you went onto become best friends the year after.

Let's put this little life story at aside for a moment.  You'll find that you'll be ever searching for yourself Dan.  At times you will think you don't know who and what you are.  It's all been part of the struggle of not knowing how to find yourself or know what you want.  So you became easily influenced by others.  You'll find that you find things harder that others don't.  But don't let this put you off, we are all different.  You once said you were a follower and not a leader.  Well that will change and you will hold onto that phrase as a reminder of your former self.  You do struggle to express yourself sometimes and people will judge you on the outside rather than the inside for it.  People view you as misunderstood.  But so what, let them talk.  Everyone is a work in progress.  It's because you don't know how to express yourself.  You're unsure of who you are, you don't know how you should look and feel.  It's like you are living the ugly duckling story.  You need to know how to believe in yourself that you can do great things and have ability to make people smile and laugh, even if it is at you sometimes.  Take compliments graciously too!  You can still be a bugger for that, I tell you!  You appear as a loner, but so bloody what hey.  So bloody what.  You're a decent and genuine guy that could give the world if you could.  But you're never alone.  Believe that.  You will cry many nights and wishing that you had more friends and were going out often.  You're erratic and will be very methodical and persistent of how you work and do things.  Just be weary of this and try not to be too overwhelming with it.  Some people won't like this, but you are you Dan.  Try not to change for others.  We can modify ourselves, but we can't fully change,  As your Grandad once said "don't break his spirit".

You will go onto inspire and motivate people from the journey you have taken.  You'll learn that helping others will help you.  You'll grow a massive passion for people and living life.  Knowing how to inspire and motivate them and having sticking to the principle of "we all must help others".  You'll become a great philosopher of sorts through your writing and wisdom.  You have a powerful message to carry which is about discovering who you are and the making of you who you are.  You've found your purpose, you should be proud of yourself.  But you don't say this to yourself enough.  You're biggest achievement is knowing what you needed to improve, what you wanted and how to embrace what you have got and life.  Look how far you have come in making yourself what you wanted to be!

You will look for relationships and feel you have to be with someone.  But that is not always the case.  Solitude is a skill everyone should practice, it's a life saver and maker.  You live for love, but you don't have to be so hung up on it.  You'll look up to the night sky most nights and wish that your one true love was looking at the same star.  You deeply care about the loves you've had.  Because when they end you write letters to show your gratitude for them being with you and the good times and learning you both did.  You're so romantic Dan, but many of it can go unseen.  Keep showing and giving love Dan, it's your biggest gift.

You've been to so many places and had so many experiences, and you will have the opportunity to do more and more of them.  So get ready!  You're a lucky man Dan, be grateful for everything which I know you are and you can't express it enough.

I'm nearing 30 now.  I'm about to start the last year of doing a Masters degree.  Yeh, you're probably thinking, WHAT?!  But anything can happen as I've told you.  It's been tough, it really has.  I've had moments when I really want to give up on everything.  But you'll make a pact to yourself that your life is not done until it's done.  You're here for a purpose and that needs to be fulfilled before you leave.  I'm not sure where our life will lead us.  How many doors do we have to open and close?  Will we marry our one true love?  I'll write to you again soon, I promise.  Just hold tight and have lots of courage and strength.  Everything else will fall in to place.  You'll see.  You're a caterpillar Dan, one that is soon to becoming a cocoon then into a magnificent butterfly.  It's called metamorphosis.  Believe it.  I love you Dan, more than you ever will yourself.  See you soon *hugging you tightly and holding your hand*.  Until we talk again, good luck. X

Friday, 12 June 2015

Putting learning into eLearning

I'm in my second and last year of doing the Technology Enhanced Learning MSc.  So I've started to think and plan for my dissertation proposal over the Summer.  My title or working title at the time of writing is:  Putting learning into eLearning: exploring the gaps between face-to-face, blended and self-directed learning methods to improve eLearning delivery.  It's not a case of reinventing the wheel so to speak, but the effort I'm doing to make changes and change thinking of eLearning practice is what it is about.  I want this research to examine how converting from face-to-face learning into eLearning can lose essential pedagogical components.  As in most eLearning activities they can be viewed as 'page turners' and can be demotivating and cause learner fatigue.  By the end of the research I want to develop a model of good practice that is successfully tried and tested and that is built upon the framework on the face-to-face learning method and how that can be incorporated into future eLearning innovations.  I suppose I touch on this in A Desktop Analysis of eLearning Packages.

I started this off by trying to think about how people learn by finding out methods to get to know learners more, to inform designs and solutions to increase cognition in the eLearning experience.  I've also recently become aware that eLearning tends to meet business objectives rather than learning objectives, which is another reason I wanted to seek more methods of needs assessment for learning.  I asked this through the ALT Mailing List and to see if I was approaching this in the right way.  It turned out I wasn't but it did help me consider some other things such as metacognition, learning analytics and learning to learn skills.  I also asked our Advanced Practioner teachers on what their views were, which was mainly ongoing evaluation and feedback with learners.  But it wasn't a wasted effort as it has given me ideas and theories to consider later on.

So to summarise, I'm looking at what is lost between these learning methods through conversion and suggesting how they can be bridged with improvements: Face-to-face > blended > self-directed.  In each one I'm looking into:

  • Why they came about?
  • What each one is made up of?
  • Why are they being used?
  • Why are they good?   
  • What do you get in that method that you don’t get in others?

In my first year of doing this masters I have talked about how much I need to improve my academic ability.  I will continue to seek ALT's expertise and intellect throughout this next stage.  I just hope to provide something that is not only is meaningful locally but to others in this profession.