I have a PLE … and it was news to me !

Having read Martin Weller’s blog post about his Personal Learning Environment (PLE), I have created a map to represent the web of applications that I use.

I was surprised, as I added them to the page, to discover how many applications that I use in total (and I’m sure that others use many more). On my map I’ve tried to also indicate where elements overlap in function and purpose – in terms of how I use them.

PLE2

I’ve highlighted the two Open University elements, which represent the OU-controlled VLE (Virtual Learning Environment) functions that I use most.

Some commentators discuss a competing view of the role of VLEs and PLEs – as if it is a choice of one or the other.  I think that this map demonstrates that organisations cannot hope to offer all of the services and features that a student might already be using to support their productivity and additional learning activity. However, where there is an element of assessment, or course requirement, there should probably be an organisationally supported and/or managed system available.

Disclaimer:  the rhyme in the title of this post was completely accidental 🙂

OU activity w21.a2g

Twitter for learning … or not?

Pixabay_Jills_6.7.17

A recent Open University activity asked students to consider the value of Twitter for learning and collaboration.  A fellow student created a private group conversation on Twitter for us to discuss whether we felt that Twitter could act as a learning environment to support our academic work, and be a place to share feedback.  Some believed that there is potential to share and comment, and find value in the focus of relevant hashtag conversations.

However, my personal opinion (and I must confess that I’m not an experienced Twitter user) – is that I haven’t found Twitter very useful as a specific research/study tool.  I find the fast-paced scrolling news-type layout makes my engagement with the application, and the items being displayed, more transitory.  The more sources that you follow, the faster things appear and disappear.

In an attempt to use it as an academic resource, I started by following only study-related sources.  But they can be peppered with personal, and other, content – so I found it difficult to control the focus in a way that is relevant to me.

So I have gradually switched to using Twitter for viewing more personally interesting content (whether learning-related or not) – so it’s become a kind of personalised news feed, which is therefore primarily for entertainment.

Can you learn from Twitter … yes (incidentally and haphazardly).  Is it a learning resource … no (well not for me).

Classrooms for today’s student?

While considering the experience of students – modern students, digital natives – inhabiting an analogue educational system, I was asked to view this video from Michael Wesch – ‘A Vision of Students Today’.

Although it is said to summarise “important characteristics of students today – how they learn, what they need to learn, their goals, hopes, dreams” it also implies that lecture-based classroom practice is not fit for the purpose of educating these modern students.

Watch the video and see the students hold up comments about their lack of engagement, and the poor fit between their course (and by implication its delivery), and their wants and needs – what is ‘relevant’ and interesting to them.  The students shown seem to see failure originating in the educational system, which is typified by the empty and distant blackboard.

Now, look at the images below (from Twitter) of Professor Richard Feynman teaching at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech), and the accompanying quotes.

See the full and informative blackboards … dynamic and interesting teacher … attentive students.  Who wouldn’t want to be in that class ?

So, do we need to update classrooms to make them more relevant to the modern student? … As the second image and quote says:  “The truth always turns out to be simpler than you thought” (@ProfFeynman).

Recommended Podcasts: Ed and Ed-Tech

Here are a few excellent podcasts that I’ve come across about education and/or education technology.  They are either entirely about education technology or they are more general series which have some interesting episodes in them about education.

  • Teaching with Tech Podcast (University of Sussex)
  • The Edtech Podcast (Sophie Bailey)
  • Tech Tent (BBC World Service)
  • Click (BBC World Service)
  • 50 Things That Made the Modern Economy (BBC World Service)
  • Thinking Allowed (BBC Radio 4)
  • The Educators (BBC Radio 4)
  • Computing Britain (BBC Radio 4)

My current favourites are: the Teaching with Tech Podcast (running since Sep-16), and Thinking Allowed from Radio 4 on which I’ve found some interesting education and technology episodes.

Study … what else is having to make way?

A recent OU activity asks me to comment on how I’m managing to cope with the workload of Open University distance study.

“How are you finding time to study H800 with all the other demands on your time?  Is something else having to make way?”

Well, I’m working full time and I don’t want to take up my family’s time studying at weekends if it can be helped (I’m sure that’s true of many other distance students too).

So, what is making way in my life for study time? … mostly sleep, exercise, and leisure!

Tips for living life as a study-zombie:

I try to make use of all available time – so I have podcast/audio materials to listen to while travelling to and from work (the walking part of the journey).  While I’m on the bus I will read course work or articles and annotate in the margins to type-up later.  My handwriting is like a spider crawl at the best of times – add the effects of potholes and speed-bumps and only I stand any chance of deciphering it!

When I get to a computer I’ll update my notes into OneNote – see my previous blog on that tool.  I often stay up to do this after everyone else has gone to bed – only stopping when I start to write gibberish (that really happened once).

Then get up at 5:30 to start again the next day.  Look at the bags under your eyes … I must get a couple of early nights in.  Look at the sad story of the weighing-scale … I must get back to the Gym.  Say to yourself: ‘only another 18 months’.

Why

I feel that the more effort that I put into my notes during the study weeks the less weekend time I’ll need to spend on assignments, or the less holiday days I’ll need to book from work to complete assignments.

It might be the same amount of study-hours and effort, or even more to do things this way, but I think it more evenly distributes the stress … actually, in terms of health, I don’t know whether that’s better or worse.

Tax and Government focus

For OU Activity-22, I had to create a Learning Object, in any digital format, and consider the accessibility of the resource for students, including but not limited to those with disabilities.  I followed accessibility guidance documentation and procedures for Word documents and tested with screen-reading software. 

I’m not a teacher so I created my resource by adapting a piece that I wrote but never used.  The student activities within the proposed ‘lesson’ are mainly discussions.  I imagined that, if used, this object would be made available to students before the class to allow preparation and informed discussion to take place.

I’m not sure how suitable it would actually be for a lesson – it’s probably missing a little objectivity (in terms of the ‘lesson’ content).

government-tax-and-focus

Please feel free to comment – either on the subject of the ‘lesson’ or how accessible it is – particularly if you have knowledge of disability-related accessibility issues.

Alternative text

This course activity [OU 810: act 21.1] is posted here so that it can be shared with classmates.  The activity is to create alternative text for the visually-impaired, to describe images found in sample teaching materials.

I chose 2 slides from a staff development presentation given to me by a colleague at work.  One slide contains a complex image representing ‘Action-centred Leadership’, the other slide contains optical-illusion images presented to support discussion of ‘How we interpret information differently’.

The sample digital resource did not have accompanying text supporting the slide image content (either on slides or in the presentation notes).  Therefore the image descriptions that I have created have also needed to convey the educational content, making them quite long.

Below I will display the descriptions that I’ve created, and links to the images that they are supposed to act as alternatives for.  Read the full description before looking at the image.  Please let me know if you have any feedback or comments on the activity.

Action-centred Leadership

The slide contains two images joined together to represent the processes and outcomes of “Action-centred Leadership”.  The images and concepts are attributed to John Adair.

Image part 1.

Concept: Leadership actions performed in relation to team members in order to achieve team goals.
Description: Five manager action labels are presented as equally-spaced points on a circle, representing a cyclical repeating process.  The actions are labelled as follows:
Action 1. Defining Objectives.
Action 2. Plan and Decide.
Action 3. Organise.
Action 4. Control and Support.
Action 5. Review.
Summary: The manager defines objectives, plans, organises and supports the team in pursuit of the objective. In the final stages, achievement is reviewed, leading to the cyclical action of re-defining objectives, or setting new ones.

Image part 2.

Concept: Leadership functions and outcomes which are interrelated
Description:  In the space at the centre of Image part 1 is another image.  Its positioning represents a connection between this concept and the circle of actions previously described.
There are three circles positioned as if their centres were at points of a triangle.  The circles are labelled as follows:
Circle 1. Develop the Individual.
Circle 2. Build and maintain the Team.
Circle 3. Achieve the Task.
They are situated so that the largest portion of each circle is independent of the others.  However, at each side of their triangle positioning they overlap with their neighbour.  They are close enough that all three overlap at one small point in the middle of their relative positions (i.e. a Venn diagram).
Summary: This image represents the interrelatedness of these Leadership functions.  Successful Leadership in pursuit of team goals can be represented by the small area that is the intersection of all three circles.  At this point individuals are developed, the team is built and maintained, and the tasks are achieved.

View the ‘Action-centred Leadership’ combined image (opens in a new window)

How we interpret information differently

This slide contains two black-and-white optical illusion images which can be viewed in 2 different ways.  These illusions rely on the fact that similarities exist between two images which are merged.  Usually one version of the image stands out more than the other, especially where a face is represented as people easily recognise facial patterns.  The images are taken from http://brainden.com/face-illusions.htm

Image 1:  Woman and Musician

Description:  The image shows a stylised silhouette-style, black and white image of a woman’s face.  The white-space of the image suggests the face, looking forwards.
It is made visible by shadows on the left side of the face, left hairline, beneath the chin, and of the nose, eyes, and mouth.  The black shadows viewed as an image in their own right, can be interpreted as a standing figure playing a saxophone.  Shadows to the left of the woman’s face make up the person’s head, body, and legs.  Shadows in the woman’s face (nose, mouth, and chin) combine to represent the saxophone being held.

Image 2:  Young Woman and Old Woman

Description:  The image is a black and white pencil drawing of a woman.  It shows the head and shoulders in profile of a young woman with long hair, wearing a bonnet.  She is facing away.  We see her left side, but just the nose, chin and left ear, no facial details.  From a different perspective, the chin, neck, ear, and hair combine to represent a larger face of an old woman.  The ear becomes an eye, the chin profile becomes a large nose, and elements of the hair become lines on the face.

The images demonstrate that the viewpoint from which a person approaches a situation can affect what they see.

View optical illusion image 1 (opens in a new window)

View optical illusion image 2 (opens in a new window)

Please feel free to comment on how well the descriptions act as a suitable replacement for the images, and if you think that they successfully convey the meaning and content.