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Week 1 – #altsep12

September 29th, 2012 by Cristina Costa

Week 1

The Application of Learning Technologies (ALT) Module started this Thursday. It is a 10 week optional module integrated in the Postgraduate Certificate of Academic Practice here at the University of Salford. We have 16 members of staff taking part in the module this semester, and this is the first time I am teaching on it alongside my colleague Pete Whitton.

The module touches upon several current topics in the field of Technology Enhanced Learning such as Digital Literacies, Communities and Networks, Learning Design, Accessibility and Collaboration to name a few. We aim to make “learning in and beyond the classroom” as interactive as possible and each week we will be using a different technique to achieve that.  The course advocates the uses of different technologies and tools as a form of exposing learners to contemporary practices. Thus we made blogs (for shared reflection) and Twitter (for networking) imperative tools in this module. I am a great believer in connecting theory to practice and in the field of TEL it is essential to try the tools for ourselves to understand its real value.

Week 1 was divided into two sections. First, we introduced the module to the new cohort. We mentioned the tech, we discussed hopes and expectations and also let people voice their concerns. We presented the assessment designed for this module. We will be using negotiated assessment and a buddy system approach to add a peer assessment layer to students’ work. There will also be Action Learning Sets and these will be activated by engaging them in the preparation and delivery of some of the weekly topics.

Week 1 was about teaching and learning in connection to educational technology as a form of laying down the theoretical ground of students’ work given that part of the module assessment will be based on the development of a TEL project that is informed by current literature. I led on this session and Pete will lead on the next one.

I wanted people to have a grasp of the literature – even if only at a surface level at this stage, so that they can start thinking about their projects and connect it to research in this field. Yet, I did not want to perform a death-by-powerpoint presentation about the different research trends and concepts. That would take them right to sleep, not to mention that it could not be farther away from the type of concepts and practices we hope to inspire with this module: collaboration, sharing of ideas, co-construction of understanding.

In a conversation with my friend Ilene Dawn, she told me about this jigsaw activity she does with her students. I liked it, and so I adapted it to my own style. I sought five different texts that would provide an overview of the current literature and made several copies to use in class. I also decided to add ketso to the mix.

This was the lesson plan:

Readings

1.     Thomas, D. & Seely Brown, J., 2011. Embracing change. In A New Culture of Learning.

2.     Dias de Figueiredo, A., 2005. Learning Contexts: A Blueprint for Research. Interactive Educational Multimedia, (11), pp.127–139.

3.     McLoughlin, C. & Lee, M.J.W., 2008. The Three P’s of Pedagogy for the Networked Society: Personalization, Participation, and Productivity. International Journal of Teaching and Learning in Higher Education, 20(1), pp.10–27.

4.     Conole, G., 2012. Online communities and interactions. In Designing for Learning in an Open World. Springer.

5.     Belshaw, D., 2012. Chapter 5 – The Essential Elements of Digital Literacies. In The Essential Elements of Digital Literacies

Jigsaw activity

–       3 groups of 5 people. (this did not go as planned because some people were missing – we end up with just 2 groups but it did not make much of a difference)

–       5 different texts (referenced above).

10.30 – 10.45

–       Each member of the group will be given a different text to read and 5 Ketso leaves to annotate the main points of the text.

10.45 – 11.05

–       Students reading the same text will come together to discuss their findings. Each member will be given 5 additional ketso leaves to re-write the key points of the text he/she has read, based on the discussions and negotiations of meaning within the group reading the same text

11.05 – 11.40

–       Students return to their group with their Ketso leaves and try to make sense of the 5 readings together. They should create a ketso mindmap that brings together the richness of the 5 texts as a coherent narrative

11.40 – 11.50

–       Break

11.50 – 12.20

–       Groups present their task

12.20-12.30

–       Debrief

 

I felt the activity went OK as I saw people immersed in the discussions the papers encouraged both within the groups that had the same text as well as in the groups with different readings. I also felt students needed more time and that we could have gotten more out of that activity if we had had an entire morning to devote to the exercise. As one of the groups was summarising their discussions and presenting it to the rest of the class, I thought it would have been nice to have used that opportunity to host a debate concerning the ideas presented in the readings, looking at both sides of each topic: What are the advantages?, what are the concerns?; what does it take from the student and the teacher?, etc

I know that for some people some of the concepts were hard to grasp. Just like in any discipline or area of knowledge, new concepts often come across as a blur, but as we engage more with it, they start to get clearer. I also think that engaging with the technology might help connecting the dots. In the weeks that follow we will be exploring the topics introduced in week 1 in depth.

There is something I want to consider in the future. It would be good to make week 1 just about literature and have the “introduction to the module” as an online session that all participants are required to attend.

This is probably the part that I am more concerned, and at the same time, a little bit  disappointed about: students’ engagement with the technology, especially twitter. Although a small number of students participated in the pre-activities online, the majority did not. I would be naïve to say that I thought everyone would have joined and engaged with twitter in a very enthusiastic way, but I was hoping for a better response. During the session on Thursday I could tell that those involved in the pre-activities could see the links better between their practices and the literature, simply because they had been experimenting with it.

But I am not one to be discouraged that easily and I have hope that by the end of this module we will all be using these tools in an effective and critical way.

So my questions are:

–       How can I encourage people to try the new approaches that technology offers? (as I was standing there reporting about the use of twitter during the module pre-activities I felt like an insurance seller that people tend to avoid. It is hard to explain the potential of distributed online networks and communities to those who have not yet explored that environment. I don’t want to sound so enthusiastic about it that people think I am mad, but I also don’t want not to mention so that people discard it as unimportant. How do you provide a balanced view?

  • For those participating in the module: how did you think the session went? What did you like and what do you think needs improvement?

In short, I think Week 1 went well, but there is room for improvement. I hope we have been able to excite people about the philosophies underpinning the use of technology and that people come back next week ;-)

I will be leading on week 3 and I am looking forward to working with Action Learning Set 1 on a session about communities of practice. I will report back!

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