Catch up insight (1)

Today I am able to sit down to catch up the ALT Online Winter Conference 2018 recordings (one of the enjoyable things on my to-do list over Christmas break).

I am glad to review the Johari window model, revisit my digital capability mapping (JISC Digital Capability Framework), and try the practice mapping template after viewing the session of “‘Mirror, Mirror’: working towards a reflective digital practice“.

Probably I came across Johari window back to my Masters study on Nonaka’s SECI Model many years ago, and then used it in a CPD training course to learn assertiveness four years ago. I don’t remember how I did it in that course, but I realise that such activities (Digital Perceptions tool), which is similar to the ‘skills audit’ activity I did in the Springboard course last year needs other people’s help, otherwise I cannot complete it right away. Although in the discussion part (@34:15), Dr. Donna Lanclos has explained Rosie’s case, I still wonder how much useful balanced views the person who I seek feedback from can really provide based on their knowledge of me online and/or reality?

I thereafter listened to the e-Learning Stuff Podcast #92: The Digital Perceptions Tool to learn more. This is not diagnostic tool, it is for reflection. Yes, it should not be a diagnostic tool, it should not be a judgemental tool. It said that the bottom-left quadrant shows what you have chosen about you but others don’t. The bottom-right quadrant shows leftover terms which are those terms that neither you nor others have chosen. Thus my understanding is that in Rosie’s example of the bottom-left quadrant is empty (Facade), it means all six terms that she chosen were chosen by others too, which should all appear in the top-left quadrant. As I can only choose top six terms about myself, and others need to do the same, I will not know the terms that I abandoned about me and others abandoned too due to the option limit, so these terms left in in the bottom-right quadrant and become Unknown. The interesting thing is some terms could be “Known to self” (in my perception) but they become displayed as “Not Known to Self”.


Inclusive learning and teaching environments course – week 3

This is the last week of the course. It focuses on how we can use technology to encourage collaboration in a range of learning situations and the emergence of the ‘technology power user’. Again an amount of learning materials are covered. I’d like to summarise it into five aspects.

First, preparing to support online learning inclusively. Aiming to ensure that the education is as inclusive as possible for disabled students.

JISC has provided guides to supporting online learning. It is imported to make online students feel they are connected with the institution.

Well-designed course activities can make them feel involved, but it’s useful to provide additional online social spaces, such as dedicated discussion forums or regular live chat sessions, to encourage interaction. This also provides an opportunity for students to feed back about the course and their learning experience.

Provide accessible support materials. For example the “Essential Digital Skills and Awareness” resources on the Southampton Solent University website.

The Journal of Inclusive Practice in further and higher education, Issue 5.1 Special Edition (2013) included ten research articles about the disability services in educational institutions.

The SCOPE website lists information of assistive technology and services for disabled people.

Second, considering accessibility when using social media, multimedia, mobile, mind mapping, and cloud technologies. Social media technologies allow people to connect and share information easier. Multimedia technologies allow people to interact with learning materials through multiple ways. Mobile technologies increase the flexibility of reaching online resources without location limits. Cloud technologies make backup, recovery and store documents easier. Mind mapping technologies provide another way for people to present their learning outcomes.

It is necessary to mention the JISC Digital Student Project again. Ray’s story shows how social media technologies can help his learning.

Many universities started to adopt social media and media technologies in teaching. For example, Queen’s University provides Social media accessibility of Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.

Apple, Windows, and Android mobile phone system providers all published accessibility support guides.

Inclusive design is an important part of accessibility and usability. The University of Cambridge developed an Inclusive Design Toolkit which has helped me to understand the terms of ‘Design for all‘, ‘Universal design‘ and ‘inclusive design‘.

Third, considering accessibility in assessment. Thinking about offering different assessment modes and different choices within tasks to allow students to show their learning outcomes. JISC’s Making Assessments Accessible is the handy guide to get started.

Creating accessible examinations and assessments for disabled students article provides some useful suggestion for inclusive assessment. It is from the SHEFC-funded Project – Teachability: Creating an accessible curriculum for students with disabilities.

Plymouth University students and academics talked about their experiences of inclusive assessment and gave their advice on best practice.

A short video created by the Universal Design for Learning (UDL) introduces the way of designing assessment.

Inclusive teaching resources: Offer Flexible Assessment and Delivery generated by RMIT University is a useful guide for people to design, deliver and assess learning inclusively.

Introduction to Accessible Standardized Testing aims to provide design guidelines for building accessible standardized testing tools for Open Education Resource (OER) authors. It is from the Floe Inclusive Learning Design Handbook, which is a part of the Floe Project produced by the Inclusive Design Research Centre at OCAD University.

Fourth, thinking about “digital wellbeing“. Digital wellbeing is defined by JISC as follows. It brings the concerns such as workload, lack of time to explore digital approaches, stress and information overload, the responsibility staff take for the wellbeing of students, cyberbullying, and managing time.

The capacity to look after personal health, safety, relationships and work-life balance in digital settings.

Fifth, what can I do in my practice? I think it’s important to be aware of the inclusive teaching and learning as the first step. When I create new materials, bearing in mind the “born accessible” is the key. Talking to people about the inclusive teaching and learning when I support them is a slow but necessary way to make it happen.

More useful resources and tools:

Important developments in technology for Higher Education from 2017 to 2021

A diagram to summarise the important developments in technology for Higher Education

Blended Learning Course week 4

It’s a busy week as I started another course “Inclusive Learning and Teaching Environment“. Both courses are interesting and useful which I enjoy taking. However, I feel I was tied up in most of my spare time. I definitely spent more time than the suggested 3.5 hours. I feel a bit ease after read Diana‘s tips – “Give yourself permission to ignore the rest!”.

This week aimed to help us to learn designing a blended learning course.

How can we embed technology effectively in the curriculum? The DADDIE model is a useful approach to planning and rethinking the way we support learning. I remember my colleague once introduced us to use this model. We perhaps already work through some of these steps when designing a course. However, we may not think strategically through each step to ensure that the course aligns well with the defied learning outcomes and addresses the learners’ requirements. I found an OER online book Teaching with Technology, which introduced a Backward design approach to curriculum design. It helped me understand when the assessment and learning activities design should be started in the design process and why. Also, it reminded me the ABC curriculum design method which I learnt from the ALT conference.

I really like Diana’s interpretation of “incorporating digital technology into the assessment process”, which linking to the curriculum design and the technologies that I already know: assessment tools, e-portfolios and digital feedback. It helped me to rethink how I have supported the use of the technologies.

What’s the difference between flipped learning and blended learning? So far, I have learnt that both approaches apply technologies. For example, flipped learning uses technologies for supporting self online learning before students come to class. Then in the face-to-face classroom, the knowledge learnt online is applied in the session, and technologies can be used to support activities in classroom too. Blended learning uses technologies for supporting self-online learning and face-to-face learning alongside each other in order to provide a comprehensive learning experience in a session. There are overlap, but they emphasise different pedagogic focus. These resources are very helpful for us to understand both approaches.

The most important learning in this week was to design a blended learning activity using the following structure.

  • Title
  • Age group and/or curriculum level
  • Intended learning outcome
  • The sequence of activities
  • An outline of the formative assessment for the activity

It was easy to follow because the activity allowed us to learn constructively (see the steps below). But it was not easy to complete. I did jot down different technologies I could use and activities I could deliver. However, with the criteria, the learning outcomes and assessment in mind, I ended up to simplify it and choose the most useful technologies for supporting the activities. I knew why I choose them and why I didn’t use other technologies.

  1. review a design example using this structure and discuss it according to the most important criteria;
  2. considering the criteria given, to design an one-hour blended learning activity;
  3. publish my design for others to review;
  4. reflect on this activity.

As usual, I list the more useful resources I learnt here.

Inclusive learning and teaching environments course – week 1

I had joined the Digital Accessibility course early this year. When I noticed the Inclusive Learning and Teaching Environment course, I joined it too. I found the topic of accessibility and inclusivity is very useful. It not only helps my work but also makes me see the design and use of technologies differently.

There are many sessions in this week. A lot of reading and reflection on inclusive teaching and learning environment and practice.

The first important learning for me is the concept of “inclusive teaching“, and the related terms including “reasonable adjustments“, “individual interventions“, and “accommodations“. These terms may be used in different contexts and in different countries, such as reasonable adjustments can happen in education, workplace, or society as long as it is people-related. For me in the educational context, these terms have the same aim that is to break barriers and provide opportunities for everyone to achieve their full potential. 

The second important learning for me is the differences between the Social model solution and the Medical model problem. I might have taken the Medical module in many situations which I thought I was doing disabled people a favour. Actually it “creates low expectations and leads to people losing independence, choice and control in their own lives” (from the Scope website). As an ESL speaker, I probably did not realise the language I have used too. The handy guides are Inclusive language: words to use and avoid when writing about disability and Planning for Inclusive Access in Wales Good Practice Guidance Toolkit.

The third important learning is the concept of “born accessible“, which means “in the context of inclusive design for learning and the benefits to students of providing multiple formats” (quote from the course). For me it is vital when we create a material, we should produce it in a right way, an inclusive way. Doing this is not easy as providing accessible multiple formats materials requires the creator to know each tool’s (the technology) features well. For example, knowing where to Add alt text to images in Microsoft Word or PowerPoint; any action that uses a mouse, can also be completed by a keyboard; add subtitles or captions to a video either when record it or after using an editor tool. As a first step, providing guidelines for the creating accessible materials is essential.

The most useful resources that I can use straightaway are below. There are more waiting for me to digest.

Blended Learning Course week 1

I decided to learn more about blended learning, so started the MOOC “Blended Learning Essentials: Getting Started” run by the University of Leeds. Taking MOOC is a great way for me to reflect on what I know and refresh my knowledge. It does take time, but it provides an opportunity for me to learn the topic systematically for free. Many thanks for the course creators.

After the first week, I think my view about blended learning changed a bit. It seems technology has an important role in this type of learning. Nowadays technologies become more developed for people to use, so why not adopt some to enhance teaching methods and learning opportunities?

I wonder if taking the MOOC is blended learning? It may not as the course does not have face-to-face sessions. However, from the point of using technologies to facilitate learning, it does use technologies to blended different methods and enables learning.

We have looked at five benefits of blended learning – flexibility, active learning, personalisation, learner control, and feedback. We have discussed the issues encountered in learning and the benefits that blended learning can resolve. We have reviewed a few case studies of blended learning and share views about them. I like this week learning particularly on aspects as follows:

What and How to Teach with Video – Week 2-4

In week 2, I learnt pedagogically Effective Design for video, which is the essential knowledge in order to achieve the potential of the pedagogic roles. The Week 3 and Week 4 are design exercises. As I was late to register this course, I did this exercise without a peer group.

The Design Principles includes 30 principles defined in 8 categories (Hook, Signpost, Cognitive Engagement, Constructive Learning, Sensitise, Elucidate, Reinforce and Consolidate). This framework is based on the educators ideas at the BBC Open University Production Centre.

As Jack has said that “It’s often necessary to complement video with discussion, printed guidance, practice, formative evaluation”, I can see this course is designed in such way. I really like Jack’s demonstration in each video. In each unit, he provides learning materials underneath the video. In the video, he explains the concepts with examples and used colours to highlight the principles he was talking. His presentation alongside the content does help learners to follow and understand better. For example, the explanation about “control pace” and “word-image synergy” helps me a lot. As when I made a webcast, I spoke slowly because I knew users can change the play speed themselves, but I didn’t think wording and how can I say it in different ways to make the indicate syntax, or where should I pause longer or short due to indicate a new topic, etc.

I like the exercises about which pedagogic roles overlap with the design principles too. The difficult ones for me are:

  • “Concertise/Activate their knowledge” overlaps with “visual representation/analogy/metaphor” and “illustrating concepts”;
  • “Control pace, depth, breath” overlaps with “composite images”, “modelling”, and “condensing time” , and
  • “Maximise cognitive clarity” overlaps with “animated diagrams”.

It’s not easy to remember all 30 design principles and 33 pedagogic roles. However, it’s easy to remember some of the video clips that Jack used to explain the concepts. I will definitely consider what I learnt from this course, and apply the principles that I think the most beneficial for learners when I prepare to deliver video content.

Thanks for Jack Koumi run this open course. Jack Koumi’s latest publications:

At last, I have to say that I found that navigating a course on EMMA isn’t easy. I missed a few assignments, and later I realised that I can go to the course – My Dashboard to view all units and assignments/quizzes linearly, so I can see which section I have missed.  Also the Unit sections should have a number like 1.1 to help learners to browser. Meanwhile, I wouldn’t notice Jack’s blog if I didn’t read his comment in a discussion. He has summarised assignment answers and key notes in his blog, which is very important.

The Learning Technologist role

The other day a new friend asked me what do I do. To be simple, I said “I am a learning technologist…” She answered “oh, that’s good. My nephew works in IT, like you, he fixes computer problems…”. I knew she has seen me as a “Technician”, which many people are thinking it in the same way too. However, I know I am not a technician in my area as I don’t look after computers, don’t install software for users, don’t register people’ mobile devices on the university network, don’t work at helpdesk and answer students’ requests, etc.

The vocabulary “technologist” wasn’t in the 1990s Oxford dictionary. It appeared in some of the 2000s dictionaries.

Technician (definitions in the Oxford Dictionary): 

  1. A person employed to look after technical equipment or do practical work in a laboratory.
  2. An expert in the practical application of a science.
  3. A person skilled in the technique of an art or craft.

Technologist (definition in Longman Dictionary):

  • Someone who has special knowledge of technology. (i.e. A specialist  in technology.)

There are many articles talking about the difference between the two terms, such as “Technician vs Technologist and “Usage of -ist and -ian, when to use which?“. I don’t want to argue about the use of the terms, but to make it clear, as an occupation, the duty and responsibilities of a “learning technologist” isn’t the same as the “IT technician” has. It is an emerged professional area regarding that IT acts as an agent for change to facilitate education transformation since the late 1990s. People have put effort on defining it, see some examples below:

The definitions do not help people who are not in the area to understand it easily. Sometimes I even wonder if it’s precise to call myself as a Learning Technologist, or am I just on the path towards being a Learning Technologist? With the background as a ‘software engineer’, ‘researcher’, ‘teaching assistant’, ‘developer’, ‘information specialist’, and a ‘learning technology support officer’, my current work requires broader experience and knowledge in e-learning, stated in the job descriptions of these key areas:

  • Be the point of expertise, reference, and recognised knowledgeable contact for enablement of IT services within your area of expertise, providing guidance and support to the University.
  • Work with the academic and administrative staff to provide both pedagogical and technical support (advice and guidance), for face-to-face learning and online / distance / eLearning goals, particularly with regard to enhancement of learning through the use of technology. Encourage and facilitate the dissemination of best practices in the use of learning technologies.
  • Regularly engage with service managers, customers, and end users in order to understand the current usage of IT services, including the user experience, limitations, end user capability, and understanding of the capability of service offerings.
  • Contribute to an enablement strategy for your area of expertise, liaising with end user communities to identify customer and business needs.
  • Proactively manage customer expectations pertaining to service capability, creating communication channels to advertise information on service capability and usage.
  • Identify competencies, skills, and development required to maximise the benefit from IT services, assessing the effectiveness of activities completed.
  • Plan, design and deliver demonstrations and development activities for staff across academic and professional service departments on the use of the VLE and various technologies within teaching, learning and assessment. Develop staff development plans and appropriate learning materials. Develop and facilitate technical and pedagogical demonstrations of the use of the latest content developments and teaching tools.
  • Understand new requirements and implement them to the e-Learning platform.

To be specific, I tried to draw a draft of the key activities, connections, and Input/Outcomes in my role together. Hope this first step helps me to make the role clearer.