Sunday, 28 February 2010

Learning Technologies promote conversation

I stumbled upon How Managers Learn by Good Practice for Leaders and Managers. Although aimed at businesses rather than education there is one very interesting finding that's obvious when you think about it:

The most-used as well as the most effective informal learning method was: informal chats with colleagues... Conversations carry news, create meaning, foster cooperation, and spark innovation.

The excellent Harold Jarche observed

There are many great tools and technologies to facilitate conversation... but the key is having a culture of conversation.

Think about education, think about the pedagogy. Facilitating conversation is really what social media is all about; it's what a lot of Web 2.0 of all about; it's what many learning technologies try to do. Maybe describing things in this manner will be useful when describing (sorry selling) learning technologies in my work context. The more I think about it, the more I believe it. It's difficult not to reveal a bias towards the active/communicative pedagogies as a natural consequence of being a Learning Technologist (at least for me anyway). The problem with this is that it's open to question/debate particularly in the academic world I inhabit and rightly so. For some reason, it seems less controversial and more valid to talk about things in terms of promoting conversation. Even though it's feels more facile and too simplistic.

Anyway, this feels quite powerful and I can here myself saying it and hear it sounding ok.

Thursday, 18 February 2010

Web2.0Learning

I delivered a new training event for the first time on Wednesday. I called it Web2.0Learning - Using Web 2.0 tools for teaching and learning . The aim is to teach educators about the principles of Web 2.0 and get them using some tools. The idea is sound and I had bits of content that I was going to use. However, it has been a challenge creating it from scratch. A much larger challenge than I anticipated.

It was ok sorting out what I wanted to say about Web 2.0 and education and VLE and all that interesting stuff. But when it comes to a hands-on session involving Web 2.0 tools, the practicalities and logistics bring their own challenges. Firstly, you have to decide which tools you want to showcase. This is hard. I had a day or actually 5:30 of teaching time. So it's a question of what do you leave out and why is one tool better than another. I had a principle of only showing one instance of any particular type of tool but it's difficult to be sure you are showing the right one. I don't profess to be familiar with everything (it's impossible) but if you are going to do something of this nature you have a duty to be up to date and clear why you are showing one thing over the other. I'll need to upskill in this area as I probably made a couple of wrong choices. Overall, I'm happy with what I put together but there was a lot of learning having delivered it.

For the delivery, I was in an unfamiliar ICT setting and largely, things went smoothly. However, when you are working with a variety of different tools with different requirements you are likely to come up against some problems if you in an educational setting with all their blockage and rights issues. The learning here was to check thoroughly beforehand what they have and what you need. I thought I'd done this but had assumed some basics (like audio) which I shouldn't have. In a session like this, when the technology fails you are stuffed. Luckily, if it failed for one tools it was ok for others. Also, there's always a couple of machine which don't work properly - it's the law!

For those that are interested, here are my session titles:

What is Web 2.0?/How does this fit?
Ning
Imagination Cubed
Delicious
Bubbl.us
Aggregation
CreateDebate
Finding Web 2.0 tools for education
Blogging
Voicethread
Twitter
Prezi
Googledocs

If anyone wants to know which sessions went well and which didn't go so well and for what reason then make a comment and I'll let you know (I don't want to do a massively long post here).

What's important is that I did a surveymonkey at the end where I gathered views on their attraction to the types of tools on offer. The more I do of this the better so that I can get a feel for what educators want and are interested in.

Monday, 1 February 2010

Mapping Web 2.0 tools onto Higher Education

I wanted to post something that got back to the purpose of this blog - my learning experience. So I thought I'd reflect on what happened last week and how my thinking moved on. Here at the Institute of Education (an HE college in the UK) academic individuals are more inclined to seek my help than previously. Mostly this is to do with increasing financial pressures which mean that distance learning is a logical way to tap into overseas and long distance markets. I think this is true of HE everywhere. So what I need to do is make sure that what I say to them is at the right level and steer them in the right direction with the result being good quality use of learning technologies. If we end up offering something substandard then it's better not to do anything at all.

Broadly, I want to give educators the understand of the pedagogical values behind any particular tool and the skills to use it. My first thoughts were to present to colleagues my vision of Web 2.0 and hope they could interpret this and map onto their own learning design. I created a voicethread on the subject and a prezi which give some examples of tools that fits within these categories and could be of use within education. I thought that this could be my opening move which gives the big picture from which I could then focus on different areas.

However, in presenting this to be few people, it became clear that I needed to simplify things. I need to speak the language of an HE academic trying to grapple with learning technologies. To do this, I need to stop focusing so much on Web 2.0 and its ethos and get straight to the tools themselves, mapping their use onto the practical consideration of a typical educator in my context. To this end, I created this prezi. Essentially, my previous concept maps were too big with too much information so I've simplified this. Also, people no longer have to understand Web 2.0 and its ethos at the same time as seeing a number of tool names to which they are unfamiliar. Instead, they just see the tools and which activity of their learning design it fits in with. So now there is only one layer of newness instead of two. The next step will be to create a voicethread to get some audio onto this and to start showing people the tools.

You will notice from the prezi that each category includes the relevant blackboard tools. What I'm not doing is getting educators to shun our VLE. However, if there's an outside tool that does a job that the VLE doesn't, or does it much better - we should be tapping into that. I'm not sure that this a majority viewpoint but it's certainly mine.