Friday, 15 February 2019

Facilitating my teaching philosophy

Teaching philosophies are often on my mind - how others perceive and conduct their roles.  I still feel that teaching is facilitation, but I somewhat felt this was an outdated and overused word for it?  So I thought I'd try something different and conduct a discussion to see if I was 'old-fashioned' in my philosophy of what teaching is, being a facilitator.

Instead of me doing a Q&A on many lecturers (as originally planned), I decided to crowdsource peoples opinions via social media.  I brought (tagged) other people into the discussion to widen perspectives and to further question my own.  It was interesting as my insight wasn't antiquated, going on others' views, but just articulated/described differently.  I asked, "What is your #teaching philosophy? Is it different to what you decided at the start of your #teachertraining? I still believe in teachers as facilitators - I'm open to different takes on it."  The responses follow...

The conversation

Ann Gravells - "At the start of my career, I very much had to find things out for myself. Sadly, little support was available back then to new teachers. So I am also an advocate of teachers as facilitators, in order to help learners find things out for themselves."

Me - "Glad you said that, I experienced the same. Perhaps we are strong with this as we experienced this first hand and learnt a lot in doing so. Which we obviously want to pass onto our learners and be independent - which is the main goal."

Scott Hayden - "Humanistic and personalised for each learner. That's what I try to do every day."

Me - "Ah yes the one I connected with most out of the 'three schools of learning' - cognitivist, behaviourist and humanistic. It can sometimes be challenging (like many other things), but I feel it's the most effective approach."

Kate Cuthbert - "Aspire to act as a guide, threshold concepts resonate with my approach, enjoy helping individuals and groups make connections with different pieces of knowledge"

Me - "That's always a pleasure - when you help others to see connections and build on their existing knowledge. And yes, not forgetting the enjoyment of it all!"

Sheila MacNeill - "kindness and empathy go along way too"
Me - "They sure do Sheila - should come before anything else really."

Kay Sidebottom- "Great question! I’d say ‘education as the practice of freedom’ (bell hooks). My role one of facilitator, curator, enabler (but not forgetting I also hold power as the assessor of work...)"

Me - "I like that Kay, a good summary of the role. How about being a learner alongside your learners as @Jessifer commented on further in this thread?"

Kay Sidebottom - "Definitely. Co-constructing the curriculum is a must, although I think current approaches to education as commodity (which can be bought and owned) really acts against this..."

Sheila MacNeill - "totally agree Kay - student as consumer/customer and student journey narratives don’t help here either"

Sue Beckingham- "I like to think I am the guide on the side as opposed to the sage on the stage ;-) Most importantly for me is encouraging students that we can be co-learners."

Jesse Stommel- "I’m not generally a fan of the idea of teachers as “facilitators”. It implies a place for the teacher off to the side of the learning. I think we need to be engaged directly in the process as learners ourselves. I also think a lot of what facilitators do can be done by students."

Me - "I agree with being more involved with learners as a learner, to some extent, and being open about the process. However, I do feel there needs to be that guiding element as learners need 'signposting'. Or at least scaffold this in so they can do it effectively for themselves."

Jesse Stommel - "I would say it's both/and. Teachers help structure a co-creative relationship in the classroom. We also point to and work together with students to critique (and where possible deconstruct) power structures that can't be eradicated with a simple snap of the fingers."

Me - "Well said Jesse, I knew you'd have great views on this topic. I really like the deconstructing aspect, not seen much of this in practice, but I am sure it happens. Ponders."

Neil Mosley - "Agreed, I think the term ‘facilitator’ seems to have come about in part as a reaction to the teacher as the font of authority up front. Easy to swing to far the other way and devalue the role of a teacher."

Me - "I think you're right. The teaching role should be visible (job, paid and being a role model etc), but being more fluid in the approaches and performance?"

Leonard Houx - "Before you use the f-word again, may I recommend this?"

Me - "This screenshot is interesting - what do the figures mean? I obviously see the comparison though."

Leonard Houx - "These are effect sizes of various pedagogical methods, the results for each being compiled over multiple studies (hence being meta-analyses)."

Leonard Houx - "The methods on the left are more structured and teacher led, on the right, more spontaneous and student led."

Leonard Houx - "Also, this table by John Hattie:"

Reaffirming my philosophy

Taking some of the points above, here's my brief (too much to list - might have to revisit) compilation rounding up my final thoughts - most of which I know and practice already but it's good to reaffirm them.

  • Heart at the centre - displaying humanism and empathy is still the core of my teaching approach - to me you can't teach without genuinely caring in nurturing others knowledge and skills, as well as your specialist subject
  • Continue to draw on my previous experiences and aim to motivate others with my infectious enthusiasm - how to be self-sufficient and proactive like myself
  • Enjoy the (often challenging and energy/soul draining) process of sharing and helping others to understand and learn new knowledge and skills
  • Hold a central position/role as a teacher but not dominating with authority.  Allow learners to be a part of the design and parts of delivery - they have ownership of their learning as much as teachers do over the assessment
  • Facilitate/coordinate/differentiate - know when to act on this (do and delegate) and to stand back
  • Learn alongside learners - we know our stuff but don't know it all (hard to accept), be open in letting students in on what I am learning on the 'back channels'

An idea - I will try and blend (bodge) this information together with teacher engagement that is useful for my side project of exploring purposeful technology - separate blog post to follow at some point.

Thursday, 14 February 2019

Facing my frequency

Facing it...

New year, a new challenge hey?  So this comes after doing a presentation which I remain nameless so that no one goes looking for it (but sure you'll know which one).  I'm sure everyone feels like they don't present and articulate themselves well as they did when delivering webinars or face-to-face presentations.  I mean I do deliver some very clear, confident and reel off the tongue stuff - like the Society for Education and Training webinar I recorded recently (5 days before the presentation I am referring to here).  But sometimes when delivering, this cloud of nervousness creeps over me and I am left with what I feel is a waffling and unclear, incoherent mess.  It's so stupid really, as I feel it affects my reputation and I worry immensely about that.  I have had enough of feeling like 💩 after doing a presentation that I have prepared well for.  So, I am going to do the most dreaded thing that I fear the most - watching/listening to a recorded presentation of myself.  It's got to the point where I need to see 'outside looking in' what I am like.  I know this is common sense, a well-known technique and has been suggested to me many times as it will help.  Plus, its something they teach you at school, but, I just couldn't face it.  But now I will.  I need to nip it in the bud, so to speak.

Firstly I don't like:

  • Hearing my own voice (pure fear - I know we sound different than we think, nasal passages etc)
  • Seeing myself (how I move, posture etc - did I just do that?)
  • Realising that I may actually not be that good

I don't like playing myself back for one, but it's even worse when you know you feel you may not have been your best - or is it a case of this impostor syndrome?!  More of that in an upcoming blog post.

Watching it?!

So no further ado, let's get to the most cringey thing, watching/listening to myself being nervous.  Below are my some points I took after watching/listening to myself doing my presentation.  Note: the webinar was a double act with my colleague and on the final recording only my presentation and audio was available - thank goodness, but it would have gave me more to reflect on having seen myself.

Actually, it wasn't as bad as I thought (I'm genuinely quite surprised), but still not how I wanted it to be - I wanted to express a lot more, I'm just a perfectionist at heart.  Maybe that's why I tend to focus on what needs improvement rather then recognising the good more.

Some positives:

  • I was very chatty, enthusiastic and kept the momentum going
  • Glad I suggested doing the webinar as a conversation as it makes it feel more natural and free flowing - that helped us both I think

Some negatives:

  • Way too many 'erms' (but better than 'you know' which I tend to say - the recipient often doesn't know, hence me having the conversation 🙄)
  • Tripping up over my words - perhaps having too many notes in front of me?  But I do like a little plan at the side of me - comfort, plus can't remember all good things to say
  • Possibly speaking too quick (Yorkshire coming through?)
  • Some very short quiet moments - but I think that is acceptable for thinking and pacing, you don't want to jump in too quick, equally not leaving gaps too long

My conclusion on why I felt like it wasn't as good is perhaps presentations don't always go as you plan and visualise in your head.  So once it doesn't go like that maybe that's when I start analysing myself during the presentation and sabotaging myself?  EDIT: I came across this quote during a PGCAP observation I was carrying out "A lesson plan is a structured imaginative rehearsal of a lesson." (Protherough, Atkinson & Fawcett, 1989).  A good point to remember by all if it doesn’t work out as intended...  But being highly empathetic I do pick up on body language and vibrations.  As said by Gary, perhaps it is the environment that affects my confidence, I.e. people not wanting to be there, a negative vibe etc.

My other colleague who was also in the room gave us some feedback:

  • Liked the case study/feedback/tips and quotes from academics - livens the webinar up!
  • ‘Smiles’ in voices, dialogue between facilitators worked really well ("did you come across this?"  "How many students chose...?"  "Tell us more about...")
  • Facilitators looking at each other - worked great
  • Hands/gesticulation - also works well!
  • Good to invite people to comment/ask questions by contacting facilitators directly

Loathing it?

So, how am I going to move forward with this?  Simply, not be too quick to judge myself, don't compare to others (but take parts as inspiration) treat myself with a lot more kindness, respect and recognise that I am doing a good job.  This is very timely as in our team we have mentioned observing each other professionally to share our practices, explore our strengths and find areas of improvement.  Wrapping this up, I'll end with saying this is why I do presentations and such as it's outside my comfort zone and I keep pushing myself.

Wednesday, 13 February 2019

ALT Inst Rep report | Assessing pilot ACMALT

ALT Institutional Representative report

As a Membership Development Committee member of ALT (now ALT Assembly), back in early 2018 myself and Simon Kear took on the job of investigating what the Institutional Representative (Inst Rep) role in organisations is, does and how ALT can better engage and support those people in that role.  On the 15 May 2018, we published our report 'Preliminary report on engagement with institutional representatives'- see below.  We presented this virtually to the upcoming MDC meeting for members to be informed of.

Decisions on this report are yet to be finalised by ALT.  However, during this investigation at the same time, as the report above, I was inspired by my findings to explore the potential of having an Inst Rep at Nottingham Trent University (NTU).  Whilst there are some individuals that support one and another with their CMALT submissions at NTU, I strongly feel that someone needed to be the official 'go to' person.  Alongside ALT's Inst Rep report, I wrote a proposal on how NTU needs a Inst Rep to better utilise our Organisational Membership, promote ALT activities, grow membership and support members at NTU.  As well as forming a central learning technologists group.  This had been 'shelved' for a few months but after recent conversations about it with my manager and Rachel Challen, now is the right time to bring it back onto the table.  Below is my original proposal that contains some bits from the report above (with welcomed edits from Sarah Sherman), it was still in development not finalised and some information is out of date/needs reworking (had our team focus then).

After a discussion with Rachel Challen on my intentions for this, we had mutual ambitions and enthusiasm for it.  So have decided to work together on how we can take this forward.  It's a perfect time to revisit this work to question it further and flesh it out a bit more.  Plus, the new pathways ACMALT and SCMALT (Senior CMALT) are now launching, which provides additional avenues that members can now progress through.

Assessing pilot ACMALT (Associate CMALT)

I was involved in this project from November 2017, where I attended a webinar on discussing the potential for this scheme.  During the webinar I produced a document 'Early career CMALT – initial questions and thoughts' that included the following excerpts.  Given my background with the Digital Learning Design apprentices, I was strong on targeting younger/emerging learning technologists.

"This is a very quick and brief jotting down of thoughts – so please excuse the simplicity of it at this stage.

Below I have compiled a list of questions and thoughts in terms of the Early career CMALT’s aims, expected/required content and structure.

Early career CMALT is very valuable, especially to beginner/junior/apprentice roles to know more about the context of their role, organisation and wider industry and community.  It is a good initiative for ALT to nurture new and increasing interest from a younger audience.  How they perceive this pathway would be down to how we present and promote it to them.

Questions arising:

  • Who is our target audience for this CMALT pathway?  E.g, junior eLearning roles, learning technologist apprentices, librarians etc)
  • What defines someone as an early career professional?  Is it a choice or are they initially assessed as such by ALT?
  • What is the age range for this CMALT pathway?
  • Costs may be restrictive to an early career individual.  How can we make it attractive and affordable?
  • How do we present and promote this to a younger audience?
    • The language of this framework will need to be revised to make it more enticing and understandable for that age range.
    • We can promote to young people undertaking Digital learning Design, instructional design, graphic design, web design qualifications, attending Jisc or ALT events.  We can engage with those (individuals/organisations) completing apprenticeships in this area, if they are progressing into a LT related role?
  • What would we expect young professionals to know, do and reflect upon in their roles at this stage in their career?  – more below on some ideas of content – which I can draw up at a later date.

Support and guidance:

  • Current CMALT webinars
  • Candidates can attend local SIGs to support their development
  • Identifying mentors/buddies through CMALT webinars and induction to social media and networking – a list of people to follow
  • Create their own SIG (but age restrictions may be a barrier to them attending?)"

In October 2018, I was invited by ALT to act as an assessor to assess two portfolios for the pilot of the Associate CMALT scheme.  This followed on from my contributions to what ACMALT should entail/be shaped like and what criteria should assess it.  This is was a rewarding experience to see the success of what these two individuals have achieved for themselves and their organisation.  The process even awakened my skills of being an assessor and lead internal verifier!  It also helped me reflect on where I could head with my own CMALT journey and the things I needed to change.

I took the following notes of some thoughts I had whilst I was assessing:

  • "The ePortfolios that I was given felt like a typical CMALT submissions (one even included specialist options).  The candidates felt stronger than an ACMALT – one was a librarian and using quite a lot of digital technology (less teaching though) and the other is an established learning technologist and included a lot of evidence (more than needed probably)
  • ACMALT looks very similar to CMALT, minus some of the subsections.  Obviously, this is the direction it has taken, however, I would have expected ACMALT to be more of an introduction into the scheme and ALT. Perhaps, the language of the assessment guidelines and the evidence requirements could be pitched a bit lower than CMALT?  For example, Core Area 2 – some people may not have any background in teaching etc. 

So having some clarity around the willingness to obtain this or how they intend to engage/get involved in the pedagogy aspect would be useful.  This is the same for the other Core Areas, and I would recommend pitching this down a little bit from ordinary CMALT and to show a clear difference."

From my comments, I was told that other assessors had picked up similar points as I did - it showed there is strong appetite for an early career pathway.  I feel this now hangs on how it is marketed to not only younger people, but who have a growing interest in getting involved in more learning technology related work.  This pathway along with SCMALT are launching this month.  Now is the time to spread the word!

A final note - "Identify as an early career professional in #edtech or want to get into it? Having #ACMALT will definitely help you! Happy to help anyone develop a career into #edtech, #eLearning and #instructionaldesign roles. #apprentices #apprentice #InformationTechnology #GraphicDesign."

Tuesday, 12 February 2019

Creating rapid eLearning activities (H5P)

As I have used H5P in previous roles over a number of years in creating blended and distance eLearning materials, I highly recommend it to for creating interactive eLearning content.  I was very quick to bring this into my Digital Practice Adviser role at Nottingham Trent University (NTU).  Not only did I want to bring a new tool to the organisation, but my previous experience and expertise in creating eLearning content provided a strong mandate to increase interactive eLearning content across programmes and the university Virtual Learning Environment (VLE).  Creating rapid activities is a much needed skill and resource and one I mention in my Learning Technology book.

NTU is using eLearning in many ways on many programmes and in professional services.  However, there is no rapid eLearning content creation tool for academic staff and one that is easily accessible.  Yes there is Articulate Storyline/Rise and Adobe products, but they require specialist skills to use and come with a cost, both in the product and staff training.  You wouldn't expect academic staff to pick one of those tools up to learn and use, along with their already hectic jobs.  Another main reason was that the VLE continues to be a repository (argument of the century).  Emphasis on the L - learning, it should be about accessing a VLE and participating in eLearning materials and self-directed resources to support one's learning, not just downloading documents.  Again mentioned in my book in a very detailed (and illustrated) section on VLEs and using them effectively.

I said this in a recent conversation on the ALT Mailing List that's worth a mention:

"Like many others have stated, I find H5P an excellent and really useful tool to create eLearning activities.  Especially for those who can't/won't use complex authoring software.  I agree that some elements are 'shallow', however I am coming from the viewpoint of an educator creating activities out of resources, that are more interactive and appealing rather than a Word, PDF or PowerPoint uploaded onto the VLE - we all know the challenge with this.

I am currently developing a workshop 'Creating rapid eLearning activities' at NTU.  This is a new staff development opportunity for NTU staff and one I hope will become a staple offer.  Academic staff will be shown how to adapt their 'static/passive' resources into online interactive activities.  Emphasis on rapid, I am not aiming for polished eLearning products but rough and ready on a take and reshape approach.  Academics will not be taught how to be instructional design experts, but be given some tools to create and develop online activities, aligned to their pedagogical requirements.  I'm working on getting a plugin installed for our VLE."

As part of bringing H5P in (started around January 2018), I did a critical evaluation of where this sits in the suite of similar tools we already have access to at NTU - see below.

Following this, I planned and designed a pilot workshop that I have delivered a number of times.  It was both to test the waters with a view of the workshop going university-wide.  My direction has since changed where I am developing a pedagogical framework and strategy to support H5P moving forwards.  To deliver the workshop, I had to recycle a room and work with an hour slot.  So I used this to my advantage by making a 'flipped' H5P activity for participants to access before attending.  The workshop has two parts - Part 1 is online where participants will access preamble, knowledge and some frameworks for guidance via H5P (and to see an activity as an end user).  Participants are encouraged to log into H5P and get familiar with it and source some content to use to make their own eLearning activity.  Part 2 is a practical workshop in building their activities and being supported throughout.

Here's some main reasons I introduced and am leading on the pedagogical support of H5P:

  • Free
  • Ease of use (little technical knowledge required - not specialist software)
  • Turn static/downloadable documents into online interactive activities
  • Powerful interactions
  • Ownership and contextualisation
  • Reuse existing content (PowerPoint, Word etc)
  • Embed into VLEs, websites and blogs (no login required)

Response so far

As a result of doing this (still early stages):

  • Very positive response with eager uptake
  • The tool has spread like wildfire, academics, researchers and a central eLearning team are now using it - proves it is needed
  • Requested and delivered two bespoke workshops (with more in the pipeline)

Future development

  • Lobby plugin for university VLE - this is a long term project (currently in progress) in getting H5P to be used within the VLE.  I am writing an proposal to argue the case of why it is needed, the benefits of this, the risks of not doing this etc
  • Positive feedback to develop future workshops/consultations
  • Developing a pedagogical framework
  • Developing a strategy to promote, encourage and support academics using
  • Question: many teachers only concentrate on assessment and check learning there.  Not so much the conveying of information during the process of learning.  How can I help them convey their information through H5P?

I further endorse H5P in my following webinars:
I'll update this blog post as these developments occur.


Informed by a December 2019 H5P email, I communicated the following in my organisation...

It has come to my attention that H5P has sent out this communication 'Why you shouldn't create content on'.

Basically the free site is becoming add-based with limited functionality and reliability.  I suggest that you read this and refrain from creating and hosting content on the free site,  NTU are currently exploring options for a long-term subscription which works within our Virtual Learning Environment (VLE).  No timescales have been set yet but a group of us are testing the integration at the moment.  I will keep you informed.

For security of your H5P objects, I recommend that you download your content which can then be uploaded to H5P, should we get a subscription. To do this: in each of your H5P objects, if you enable the download buttons when in edit mode, then view the activity as a student/participant, at the bottom you will see a button called ‘reuse’.  Click on it and download the file.  Keep this safe for when we get which you can then upload to it and work as normal.

I have cancelled all future scheduled and bespoke workshops until we have a permanent solution in place.  However, feel free to contact me directly if you have any queries.

I suggest you advise any colleagues who are using H5P live in their VLE courses and to make appropriate back up plans, should you experience any issues with the content.

Friday, 1 February 2019

How is learning technology evolving?

Oh no, I'm getting all scientific again.  Big question for a Friday hey.  This is just a bit of a mind dump on some thoughts that occurred to me while reading 'When the Whales Walked' by Dougal Dixon - I love my natural history stuff.  I'll save the scientific explanations of evolution, but hopefully you'll know the basics of it.  I may sound like a mad scientist here, blending nature and digital technology?!  We're all part of nature, digital technology was born from us...

Digital technology changes and is changing, very quickly as many of us know - but whom by, us individually (how we use it that informs computer science and design, which then big technology companies take lead on - which do a great job in making it tools a reality for us 👏), organisational/strategy/policy, technology companies, our environment (local, national, international).  For the sake of an argument, perhaps a mix of all.

Devices, hardware, software and the internet can be seen as the 'first shells' that enabled educators to try all sorts of new and innovative ways to teach through, becoming learning technology, the 'first skeleton' if you like.  The skeleton was a successful design by nature, which is still here today so it obviously works and hasn't changed a great deal other than across species in specific habitats and environments.  Digital technology will always change constantly as we know, but learning technology, maybe this is still going through the trial and error phase to see what works - just like nature did millions of years ago getting a skeleton.  We know that digital technology supports and enhances people's lives in an array of forms and there is a lot of evidence for this.  But as digital practices are now well and truly here (but often invisible to us as we use it every day) and are a tangible thing, it allows for new digital technology to be invented that we haven't thought of and visualised yet - if observed and studied diligently.

I know we can't control evolution (or can we to some degree?), it's invisible and happens during a change in habitat and climate.  Well, I guess we can and learn lessons from the likes of Jurassic Park/World, may be we shouldn't intervene too much?!  But may be we can guide the evolution of learning technology more purposefully by leading with more educational principles, i.e. principles and practices of pedagogy rather than being led by 'this piece of digital technology allows you to do this, that and the other'.  So I guess what I'm saying is the ol' where do educators see education in the next <insert years> and what is the role of digital technology in that?

All learning technologists get asked, "what is the next big game changing technology", "what predictions do I have for the future?"  We can have an insight of what is/may be upcoming, but we're fooling ourselves if we think we know the actual answer , given how much the technology changes quickly and public response i.e. social media flavour of the month/year.  But when we do 'horizon scan', we may often look to big technology companies.  So again, who's driving who?

Related, but this gave me a bit of food for thought when I was in this conversation...

"Interesting statements around table tonight... Sister-in-law: "funny how knives and forks haven't evolved like most things". Partner: "I guess there's no need to change it, if it's fit for purpose". Good considerations for #edtech I think."

"To me, the message here for #edtech is that not everything is a problem to be solved or needs to be enhanced with digital technology. If it works well, why change it? It's always about the purpose..."

On the latter, I used to have it in my head that a learning technologist should continuously find answers that validate the use of learning technology.  However, I now see it as continuous development of technology enhanced learning that is progressed through new and emerging digital practices.