Monday, 16 January 2012

21st Century Tools for Teaching and Learning: rules for practical/hands on teaching

This post continues reflection on the learning design process I am currently engaged in for a session I run a couple of times a year and am running again on 7th Feb: 21st century tools for teaching and learning.  In a previous post on my blog, A learning design process using social media: Brainstorming and Aggregating, I wrote about using a noticeboard tool and a bookmarking tool to help in the design process.  I created a noticeboard representation of the existing session to help me reflect on where I was at and where I need to revisit the learning design:

(I'd advise you to right-click and open the above in a new tab/window)

Looking at this allowed me to see that there isn't enough practical components.  I wanted more and, following a scoping exercise, I added a few bits:

(I'd advise you to right-click and open the above in a new tab/window)
Teaching internet-based tools for teaching and learning in a practical way requires careful thought. 

Here are some golden rules I follow:
  • Simple or no account creation - you can’t have participants spending 5 minutes creating an account. Email validation is a big no-no too. There is fine for real life personal use but if you want participants to try things out, it needs to seem easy. Always make the point that there are many examples of any tool type.  Of course, it needs to be free, see Choosing social media/web 2.0 tools for use in teaching and learning for more on this.
  • Good usability - I try to teach tool types not specific websites.  Therefore, I try and show a few different examples.  For them to practice I choose the one with the best usability, the one with the lowest learning threshold so they can have a go as quickly as possible.  Once you've done this you can share the pros and cons of the different services you have identified.
  • Learn the processes inside out - This is a logical point but an important one (as are the others really).  Teach them the basic usability by doing it yourself and float and help whilst they play with it.  It's vital that each click is explained, mistrust of new online tools is quick to take hold so it needs to appear as easy as you can make it.  With their personal ICT skills you will get to know who to concentrate on, but in the beginning don't assume anything.  This is biggest problem people have with any hands on session involving computing.
  • Give them an authentic task - I've struggled with this in the past.  The more you know about their context the better but there is a usually a generic type of activity you can think of so that they start inputting into a particular tool in an authentic way.  One way of doing this is by requesting participants bring content to the session.  However you do it, it's important to try and get participants to think about its use in their teaching context.  The best way to do this is with them performing an authentic task using the tool.

Thursday, 12 January 2012

A learning design process using social media: Brainstorming and Aggregating

Here are some reflections on using an online noticeboard tool and a collaborative bookmarking tool as part of a learning design process.

21st century tools for teaching and learning is the title of session I run a couple of times a year and I'm running it again on 7th Feb.  Its a workshop where teachers in London can come and learn about a various of internet-based tools which they use in their teaching.  What I'm doing is aggregating what's out there, making sense of it and then articulating what I've learnt for those in schools.  If you are reading this post then you are probably minded to go out and find these things for yourself.  However, this session is aimed at the majority of educators who do not have the time or the inclination to do this.  I last ran it in May, 2011 and reflected on it here.  Its really interesting to reread past reflections on teaching so that I can remind myself what worked well and how it felt about it.

My long term plan for this session is to break it up into1 hour long chunks and offer them after work so that there are easier and more managable for busy professionals to get to.  Anyway, that's for another time because this post is about the learning design process currently underway for the session.  For a session like this it's imperative that you keep learning in a fast changing world.  I'm not looking for cutting edge software instances of tool types that are quick and easy to use with clearly identifiable applications in education.

For the second time, I'm lucky to have Isobel Bowditch help me with the session.  Firstly, we decided to examine what we've got and brainstorm ideas for the different tool type we wanted to cover and roughly how we are going to cover them.  Looking at the previous session programme, we had some practical elements where we get participants to practice using an instance of a tool type.  The others bit are demo or me talking.  There is 4:30 hours to fill.  I wanted to visually represent what we have so that we can make sense of it and easily play around the various components.  I chose one of the noticeboard tools - and added a stickie for each element.  (Previously I've used  but I've found it to be unreliable on occasion.  The hard part is judging the timing and I've estimated 15mins for practical and 5 or 10 mins for demo/presentation elements.  We started by representing the existing programme. 

Then, there was a scoping exercise.

For this we used various sites/documents which list or describe different tool types. This is pretty unscientific process which I described in the post Choosing social media/web 2.0 tools for use in teaching and learning.  So that Isobel and I could aggregate what we found, I decided to use a collaborative bookmarking service. This way we could both add things as we found them and then review together. I used My preferred bookmarking service has swung back and forth from to a couple of times. The current delicious is good because of its simplicity. Its a pure bookmarking tool and adding something is very easy. Diigo's usability isn't great but it does groups which is what you need for this sort of exercise. So I created this group:

And we started adding things and putting our comments on their suitability for our session. This meant that when we got together for another brainstorming session we could review the diigo group, visit and discuss the different tools and edit the linoit noticeboard.  This is the finished product.  I've used yellow for practical bits and blue for demo/presentation bits.

The next stage is to start fleshing out the design of the session.  Some of the tools that make the final cut need to studied so that we can teach others about them.  Also, in some instances we've identified that we want to do a practical bit on a particular tool type but have yet to identify the most suitable instance of that tool to use.

Using linoit and diigo combined with face-to-face meetings we moved smoothly through the brainstorming portion of the learning design process in an organised and efficient way.  I can recommend both.   

Thursday, 5 January 2012

Social media for YOUR learning

Happy new year.

We are learning all the time. Structuring and directing this learning doesn’t need to be confined to courses and formal education. For an individual learner it is possible to construct your own personal learning environment utlitising different online tools for different purposes. It’s always been possible but social media tools make it far, far easier than previously possible. I’ve conceptualised some of the possibilities in this mindmap:

I’ve divided it into two categories: Personal Learning and Collaborative Learning. However, because social media is inherently social there are opportunities for communication and collaboration throughout. It’s important to think about the type of learning activity a particular tool ‘affords’. I find affordance a useful concept when thinking about technology and learning. It basically means what a tool lends itself towards doing. Mindjumpers is all about articulating for companies what each social media tool affords for them in terms of marketing; for me, its learning. So, in the above mindmap, I don’t just say blogging, I say written reflection; because this is the part of the learning process that this social media tool affords.

I could sum up the personal learning side of the mindmap by saying:

You can use different social media tools to seek out knowledge/content, aggregate it so that you can store it/find it later in an organised fashion, reflect on this knowledge perhaps using visualisation tools and articulate it in writing.

This post continues thinking from