Thursday, July 10, 2008

This is a monarch butterfly I spotted in New Plymouth in march - when the sun was hot! I put it here to remind us there is life after the ice and mud. The last few weeks are pretty full on as I tie up loose ends before going on thesis leave. Yes the pressure to finish the 8 year Doctorate is building. So what have I been up to lately...

Power of Design project
Sunshine did a great poster for the final project workshop which we held just before the HERDSA conference in Rotorua. It was a relief to get the project poster done and cutting back the text was like cutting off an much to report. Now I am writing up a case study for the Power of Design project. This was a research evaluation of Designing for Flexible Learning Practice (DFLP) against eLearning Guidelines. The full analysis of data is still to be completed and will be written up near the end of the year - when I come back.

More on the project website.

Designing for Flexible Learning Practice
The semester one session has finished so there is plenty of marking to do. Five people have submitted their assignments; five are very close and six are going to extend into semester two. We lost a couple or three on the way. It has been really enjoyable teaching using the new format - course wiki and blog. The presentations day was really interesting and I was given a great compliment about the high standard of participant work in the course being due to our very good facilitation of the course.

Evaluation of eLearning for Best Practice
I teach this course for MIT, TANZ. It is all online and I am using the same format as DFLP. This course includes a real workplace evaluation and I have participants from the private sector as well as tertiary organisations. I am about to mark assignments for this group as well and again have some people extending into semester two working self-paced with local support from the programme manager, oriel Kelly.

Digital Information Literacy project
This is progressing well and the 10 week series of workshops is coming to a close for Otago Polytechnic participants. Workshops in Albany, Massey University, MIT and University of Otago have a few more weeks to go. I will be ticking over the management of the project while I am on leave. You can read more on the project website.

Wikieducator projects
  • The HIVAIDS project has stalled but I have been in talks with the Commonwealth of Learning about collaboration options.
  • Anatomy and Physiology for vet nursing - we are awaiting the project plan from the COL learning designer and this should progress with funding in Semester Two. We are meeting on 21 August to progress the project.
  • There is going to be an open educational resources (OER) Thinktank (Heywire8) on 22 August at Otago Polytechnic. Wayne Macintosh from COL is going to visit us here and lead this. There will be several people from around the country converging on us. It is pretty important so I will be making a special trip to take part.
Spotlight Teaching and Learning Colloquium
Terry and I have been helping organise this with University of Otago HEDC staff. It is coming together nicely and you may want to get your abstracts in. All information is on the website and invites are going out to staff and teaching award recipients and tertiary providers in the Southern region.

It is on 19 and 20 November, 2008, hosted by the University of Otago and Otago Polytechnic. The event is entitled “Spotlight on Tertiary Teaching and Learning: Colloquium for the Southern Region”. This event is sponsored by AKO Aotearoa - National Centre for Tertiary Teaching Excellence.

The event will highlight best teaching practice and research into teaching in Otago.

And as if there wasn't enough to do.... I sometimes sleep.

Sunday, July 06, 2008

HERDSA conference - Rotorua 2 – 4 July 2008

Traveling to Rotorua for the Herdsa 2008 conference was a smooth hop to Christchurch and Rotorua. The first day we spent in the eLearning Guidelines workshop sharing our project experiences with the other project leaders. I was pretty proud of the poster created by Sunshine - spot the one with the arrow below. The vertical brochures looked great as well. NorthTec's poster was pretty good as well - very little text, eye-catching and with a separate handout, an A4 brochure with all the info about the project. More on this later...

The highlights at HERDSA 2008 were the key note speakers - Dr Pita Sharples, Dr Barbara Holland, Judith Ramaley, Dr Stuart Middleton and Dr Etienne Wenger – and the Inquiry-based research workshop. I will concentrate on the key note presenters in this post and do another post around the IBL presentation.

  1. Dr Pita Sharples spoke at the Powhiri and shared his perspectives on Maori learners and participation – it is okay to take a long time to get your education – he did. His talk was enjoyable and set the scene for the conference about disadvantaged learners such as Maori, however, only the keynotes addressed this area with regard to engagement, and I only attended one presentation which dealt with this – Selena Chan (given by Nick) and the use of mobile technologies so that bakery students had access to resources. A lot of speakers spoke about engagement and communities of practice, but not about access and equity and diversity. Dr Sharples spoke about the importance of “language nests” for Maori children and also schools where they could carry on the learning. Taking children from Te Kohanga Reo and putting them in mainstream schools did not work. Te Wananga were another advance for improving the participation of Maori students.

  2. Dr Barbara Holland – spoke about communities of engagement. She mentioned how contemporary students crave active and experiential learning eg mobile learning and social networking – I was curious and want to investigate the research on this. She suggested a conference - International Service-Learning conference - Hong Kong 2009. There are different perspectives on what engagement with the community means. For example, an exchange of ideas and information is heading towards engagement, whereas Incubators, continuing education, internships and clinical work which are work-integrated and which promote networking are examples of community engagement. In other words engagement is connected learning and discovery. Dr Holland framed this as community-based learning which enables participants to explore their interests leading to greater self-esteem, motivation, engagement, empowerment. I liked the ideas Dr Holland put forward, as the theoretical basis of a practical framework which Judith Ramaley explained later on. However in vocational education community-based learning is not new. Certainly in nursing and other health professions there is a strong connection with professional communities which is linked to learning objectives and reflection. The development of academic/clinical positions in the School of Nursing at Otago Polytechnic has been dually beneficial. I wonder if they still exist?

  3. Judith Ramaley – was charming and funny as she spoke about how a framework of engagement in an organisation can lead to transformative change where “adaptive expertise” is foremost. That is proponents have the capacity to “learn on the job” and solve problems creatively as they arise. Anyone and everyone can lead change as people work together collaboratively using inquiry and emotional learning to form communities of practice. I particularly liked her analogy to social networking where “institutions become equivalent to a social network or open source model in which anyone may offer suggestions, contribute to advancing the institution and feel an integral part of the enterprise as a whole” - a “transformational change dynamic”. It is not a top down model and I believe OP has the beginnings of this capacity although our managers are immersed in a model of strategic change. The work we are doing with the Commonwealth of Learning through WikiEducator is an example of community-based learning and this is being led from the “coal-face”. It is disruptive, complex and collaborative and transformative for anyone who becomes involved and capacity is building around the nexus of open educational resources (Holland & Ramaley, 2008, p45). References: Holland B. & Ramaley, J. (2008). Creating a Supportive Environment for Community- University Engagement: Conceptual Frameworks. HERDSA Annual Conference 2008 Proceedings, p33-47.

  4. Dr Stuart Middleton – was also funny and it was obvious he was not very impressed by politicians and the impact of government policies on access to education. We now have a situation where education has become more academic and has lost flexibility – the one size fits all approach means there is no longer a differentiated curriculum. The result is that disengagement is now occurring, and even though there is growth in education a large number of people turning are turning their backs on education and there are serious skills shortages. He likened the educational system to a nut which was resistant to change (the nut cracker), with disengagement showing up as one of the cracks as the arms of the nut cracker (changing demographics and economies) squeezed the nut. As Dr Middleton said, “Given the filters of failure that currently operate within education up to the point of entry into further and higher education, the group that presents itself for postsecondary education has become such a distorted reflection of the community that even the most carefully attentive and sensitive selection procedures would simply not achieve equity nor provide access for a majority of students.” We have a “leaky education system” with large numbers dropping out of secondary school, truant and leaving with no qualifications. Maori participation has increased thanks to the Te Wanangas, however, participation and completion rates in mainstream universities continue to be low. The diagram below depicts equity and access, and shows where some of the cracks lie in the transition from secondary to higher education. I will link to the paper once the proceedings are online. In the not too distant future, white Europeans will be in the minority so those groups of learners who have traditionally been under-represented are increasing, meaning HE needs to work differently. For example, the Pacific Island population is predicted to increase to make up 51% of the population in Auckland in the next five years. He also referred to examples in the literature around student retention and success stating, “Supporting students is critical to their success”.

Dr Middleton’s presentation was very powerful and I particularly liked the following quotes: “Simply by sailing in a new direction, you could change the world” (Curnow). “We have to be careful not to cross a crevasse in two steps” (Middleton), this was regarding the new funding regime – which he believes is a good move as we have moved away from the previous system but it is happening too quickly. For example, the Adult Community Education funding should never have been dismantled as 40% of people participating in Community Learning Centres in Auckland go on to HE. And the best quote, “Resources have to be distributed unevenly when the need is uneven” (Middleton).

5. Dr Etienne Wenger – rearranged the main venue and put us in circles facing each other. This was tricky for some who were unable to nod off, though believe it or not, they tried. Etienne tried to engage the audience in reflection on some of the presentations about Communities of Practice which worked a little but people had come to hear his wisdom and they were tired from the conference dinner and dancing so not particularly responsive and there was no real discussion. Personally I would have liked to hear more about his new theories and frameworks for COPs, but apparently this would have repeated his workshop. There were a couple of good diagrams about the social discipline of learning, an approach also
covered in his latest book, so I hope the diagrams will appear on the conference web site
The conference was closed by Rotorua's Deputy Mayor and his closing speech and prayer sent us on our way after he led a rendition of pokare kare ana.

The poster (spot the one with the arrow) will be travelling to Wellington with John Milne and then to the DEANZ conference in Wellington.