Friday, June 28, 2013

Expert learners: Learning and Teaching in Practice

Expert learner brainstorm
The concept of Expert Learners, became a whole lot clearer to me after the workshop last week. This is one of the topics in the first module, Learner Characteristics, Knowing the Learner.  

We brainstormed some ideas about what being an expert learner might involve. As you can see, having some experience with learning,  knowing how to process information at high levels including metacognition and critical thinking were on the list. Flexibility, seeking out information and making connections to prior knowledge and proven theories was also regarded as important. After that we did some activities located on the Excellence Gateway Treasury, a UK site for learning and skills improvement.

For me learning at the level of metacognition and using critical thinking is really important. To do this you have to be really aware of how you learn and also how you regulate your cognitive processes. For me, this involves setting goals and engaging in reflective learning, and also knowing how to find, use and critique information and resources (including people) to develop new knowledge. It also means having the confidence to get on with it rather than waiting for someone to tell me what to do and how to do it. This confidence also means being able to problem-solve, be persistent, take risks and come out the other side with a different take on things. As an expert learner, I need to be open and flexible to whatever comes along, curious and autonomous, and for me learning collaboratively and sharing knowledge is high on the list.

 This takes lots of experience and the development of many skills. Now that I have completed a PhD, I feel as if I now know how to learn. But should we have to go to that extreme to become an expert learner? I think not.

So what do the experts say? According to my reading, expert learners have many of the characteristics, I have mentioned and more. The resources and activities available for Developing the Expert Learner, also got us thinking about which characteristics were more important (high impact) or less important (low impact). Each group had different priorities. For example, one group considered that curiosity, being well organised and setting goals were important whereas the other group thought these characteristics were less important, choosing things like organising and analysing information and understanding the course or qualification requirements as priorities.

From the Excellence Gateway Treasury
When we thought  about which characteristics were more likely to show at each stage of the learning journey - from recruitment, induction, through an initial assessment, learning plans and the learning process, until assessment and graduation - a different set of priorities emerged. For example, at induction the group thought that a potential expert learner would be more likely to demonstrate flexibility when approaching new situations and be able to understand the qualification requirements, possibly already understanding how they learn but less able to establish goals and monitor progress, and be an autonomous learner since these are skills that would develop later on with experience and support.

Wild and Heck's (2011) website (ID 4 the Web) has a great synopsis about the characteristics of expert learners - who engage actively in learning by participating to develop their knowledge and understanding, take responsibility and lead their learning. They do this through self-regulation by planning, monitoring and evaluating their learning. I agree with their take on the expert learner since it relies heavily on active learning, metacognition and as such involves reflective learning. From my perspective an expert learner engages in reflective practice using critical reflection and as such transforming their behaviours, attitudes and perceptions about the knowledge they are developing. I wonder what you think about my view?

This 4 minute video about active learning by NWIACOMMCOLLEGE gives some ideas about basic activities that can encourage this in the face-to-face and online classrooms - it involves three types of approach: teaching strategies, small tasks and methods for "discovering, processing and applying information". According to the message in the video, anything that encourages participation is active learning because deeper learning occurs when the students "analyse, define, create and evaluate information". By doing this they retain "90% of what they do". Compare this to retaining "10% of what they read" or "20% of what they hear" or "70% of what they say and write". 

So the message is, you can read as much as you want or hear and write all sorts of stuff but unless you actively do something with the information to process it, you wont retain the knowledge or understand it adequately, and learning won't be as effective. Do you agree?

Tuesday, June 04, 2013

Have you got a happy place - my introduction

My avatar (Branwen Trevellion) in Second Life
Welcome to my blog. I will be using this to connect with you in the Learning and Teaching in Practice course. I reckon it is my role as the course coordinator to show you how it all works.  Do you know how scary that is? I have to write something interesting so you will read it. I am going to use this blog less formally to share my thoughts and ideas about the topics, and also any information that I come across. I hope you will take the time to leave me comments.

I see this as my chance to develop a digital portfolio alongside you....and find out if it really is going to work. Can you see the link to my ePortfolio top right? More detail about my profile and how I got to this space can be read on there. I see the portfolio as a more formal record of the evidence and learning for each module of the course. It will become an exemplar that I hope you find useful.

I am a little nervous about all this because getting teachers to use blogs and digital portfolios can either be an adventure for everyone or something they want to avoid, and then it doesn't work so well. Perhaps I should book that ticket to Bhutan now. I mention Bhutan because that is my favourite place at the moment - they have Gross National Happiness - how cool is that! I guess it is my happy place to retreat to when things get challenging. Have you got one?

For all this to work requires everyone to make time to read each others blogs/portfolios and leave comments. Since there are 16 people in the course you will need to be selective and to rotate around the blogs you read. Don't expect to read every blog every week - just do what you can manage. It is surprising what you can learn from others' ideas, and that can sometimes save you time. In time you may decide to only follow those people who are more in tune with your context.

So up and away. Branwen has some virtual flying to do.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Scenario planning for educators - session 1

3D Origami Swans,Ducks,Gooses by designermetin
Well here I am again on another MOOC train. Hopefully, this one will be designed so the activities are achievable.  Luckily I already had a workable blog so that has saved some time. This series of workshops is on Scenario planning for educators. If I remember right, I was first introduced to this concept in 2004 when Wayne Macintosh spoke about the concept at the Third Pan-Commonwealth Forum conference. I found the concept fascinating then albeit a little hard to comprehend.

A lot has happened since then in education - change has accelerated in the tertiary sector.  Now the concept of MOOCs and Open Education Resources (OER) and Open Education Practices (OEP) is at the forefront along with mobile learning, and predictions about gamification and the concept of seamless learning. I have written about these predictions in the Trends module for the Flexible Learning course.

One of my goals for this course is to understand how scenario planning can be used for engaging teams with strategic change within an organisation. I am sure that more goals will unfold as I learn more about the process.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Reflection - Week one - Learning Design for a 21st Century Curriculum

Branwen Trevellion visits Etopia Island in Second Life
Week one has gone quickly in the Learning Design for a 21st Century Curriculum. For my reflections I am using the Three-Step Reflective Framework template that I devised in my research.

Step 1: Take notice & describe the experience - description of evidence

I have achieved all my goals as described in my first blog post. The prospect of carrying them all out was rather daunting, and luckily I was on leave and had plenty of time. I am not sure how I will get on once I go back to full-time work next week. Cloudworks, I have found to be completely confusing, and as such I decided to only focus on looking at a few clouds, mainly people with similar interests to what I want to pursue. In my mind, this seems a bit silly as there are so many possibilities out there but I only have limited time. I have tried to choose projects to engage with that will extend my thinking and learning. For example:
  • Project one: Ellie Brewster (Dr Sharon Collingwood) exploring learning design for creating presence in virtual worlds using open resources and mobile devices - Cloudscape
I have also enjoyed joining the discussion about learning design but it has been pretty limited regarding numbers and responses - possibly because the forum does not enable responding to posts via email.  So vaguely disappointing.

I have developed a definition of learning design for myself, and have decided to go with individualized learning design as described on my second blog post. I did not listen to the launch or attend the convergence session, but can do that next time.I have also looked at some of the readings once I managed to sort out how to access them on Bibsonomy. I visited Second Life for the first time in a couple of years - it has changed a little, and the tools and controls seem harder to find. I also want to visit some other virtual worlds such as Open Sim.

Step 2: Analyse the experience - implications of your decisions, actions, and reactions.
I enjoyed the responses to my discussion posts which has put me in an interesting position, I am now really confused about the ideal approach for learning design, and also whether individualized learning design is actually feasible. However, negotiation with the students is key to whatever tack I take though which has always been a strength anyway though I am working within organisational constraints associated with the teaching qualification I teach. Constraints such as set learning outcomes and prescribed assessments - even though negotiated assessments are offered they are within particular parameters to meet the learning outcomes. And the approach is always about designing activities and offering content, since the students (teachers) that I work with need that kind of structure. The implications are then that I need to continue to balance my preferences with those of my students in the way that I design my courses.

So I guess, by engaging in this course, I am not only extending my existing knowledge, I am also challenging my beliefs and assumptions about learning design. According to Mark Nichols, by doing this I am engaging in transformative learning. This appeals to my interest in reflective practice.

My skills in navigating a virtual world need some developing as I feel like a real beginner. I also feel it would be useful to meet up with others with some expertise. I wont be able to design for a virtual world if I don't fully know what the environment involves, and how easy it is to manipulate items.

Step 3: Take Action - Reflect on what you learned and how you will use this learning.
What I have learned is that there is no one way for 'doing' learning design.  If I forced my views on students' about individualized learning design - no content, activities or assessment provided by the teacher, unless in negotiation with each student - I would be as bad as the most prescriptive teacher. I still have a lot to learn about different peoples' perspectives surrounding learning design.

I know that I prefer to use constructivism or connectivism, but I am not fully cognisant with the latter learning theory, so I need to explore this further and the implications for learning design. I know very little about effective learning design for virtual worlds, and need to explore the literature around this.

Therefore, my learning goals for the learning design course are to:
  1. Maintain regular entries in my learning journal (blog);
  2. Explore the concept of individualized learning design further;
  3. Access and immerse myself in some of the research and literature associated with learning design for virtual worlds; 
  4. Explore the practical aspects of several virtual worlds;
  5. Investigate others' perspectives and clouds and cloudscapes in the Mooc; and
  6. Develop my knowledge about connectivism as a model to underpin individualized learning design.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Learning design - a definition

spirals19 by pizzodisevo
So far in the oldsmooc the definitions of learning design are all teacher centric because the teacher is always in charge of designing the learning. I think we probably need to throw away the established theories and the models - even though Ida has done a fabulous job of collating them on the wiki - and begin afresh using a truly learner-centric model - even the Arcs model by John Keller that Ida states is more learner-centred is teacher-led. This would mean moving to a constructivist/connectivist framework, and leaving cognitive/behaviourist approaches behind.

I think the role of teachers is to mentor and to teach critical thinking, scaffold metacognition and to guide students in how to be self-directed and self-regulated learners - our role is to guide students to develop their own strategies for learning, and to obtain and manage the information they need - access, filter, evaluate and create - and in doing so they will develop the knowledge they need to reach their learning goals. Teachers are thereby freed up from hours of designing and developing content and activities, and can support student learning more effectively through mentoring.

Unfortunately, the spiel about learner-centred learning still occurs around curricula where the learning outcomes for courses and qualifications are set by the organisation, and teachers still set the learning objectives for each module.  Even if students already have skills and knowledge, they are often required to sit through the same stuff again, so they become bored and switch off and they disengage. Sure learning outcomes do guide the students and helps them know what they need to understand about a topic, but surely they should be the ones to decide the meaning that they need to extract from a learning experience, and what learning experiences they need to achieve their dreams?

So I am a fan of learning design whereby students take 'the reins' and the teacher mentors and facilitates the process. Is there a name for this type of learning design yet? Individualized learning design is a term used by Suny Empire State College.

I really like the idea of enabling students to 'pick and mix' the courses they want to take and decide the shape of their qualifications, so assessment of prior learning is going to be key to this, as is constructivism and connectivism as approaches to learning. I really like the individualized learning design and mentor model (with learning contracts and student-designed degrees) practised by Suny Empire State College - read more.

Learner-designed activities
Back to the idea of learning activities designed by students for students ....Lets say for argument's sake that the topic they need to explore is around creating an identity on the Internet. If using individualized learning design, the students may have decided that they need to do this to up their profile for the future and to connect to others while they learn. For some many it will be more beneficial professionally to have an Internet presence. So creating an online presence and identity becomes one of their learning goals. A student might say:
  • Who do I want to be? 
  • Where will I show myself on the Internet?
  • What do I want others to see? 
  • What tools can I use to achieve this? 
  • What do I know already and what do I need to know? 
  • Who can help me with this? 
Some students will go it alone. Others will join with peers, and some may ask the teacher. From my perspective, the role of learning design is handed to the students - the teacher may support the students with questions to get them started, but the only thing the teacher might provide is guidance with the task that the students has decided to undertake, in discussion with his or her mentor (teacher): 
  • Create an identify for yourself on the Internet.
  • Share what you learn with others.
I wonder what others think? Is this a cost-effective model of learning?

Friday, January 11, 2013

week one - MOOC - Learning Design for a 21st Century Curriculum

Millionaire's walk at Sorrento on the Mornington Peninsula 
near Melbourne - Summer 2012

I have recently come back from a Xmas holiday spent in a stunning spot as shown in the pic to join - Week one of the MOOC - Learning Design for a 21st Century Curriculum - organised by Open University in the UK. I am curious to see how they approach this, and am looking for some fresh ideas.

One big question looms for me. Will this course have anything different about learning design compared to what we did in 2008 with Flexible Learning and Facilitating Online - in the pre-MOOC era before the name of Moocs and interacting with large numbers of participants became fashionable?

My goals this week are to:
  • Engage in all the activities - my introduction and initial interest in a design project has been conveyed on writing this.
  • Explore the study circles with the intention of joining a project group.
  • Find a definition of learning design that resonates.
I have decided to join a project with Ellie Brewster (Dr Sharon Collingwood) exploring learning design for creating presence in virtual worlds using open resources and mobile devices.Peter Miller's tip about Lumiya for android devices is a goodie so I will look into that so I can play on my eepad.

Day Five
I had a refresher in Second Life today and rejuvenated Branwen Trewellion - she now has a new haircut. For some reason, I found it more challenging to change the appearance of my avatar and to move her around. It looks like there have been some changes in SL since I was last there. I went to Koru (NMIT's space) and made it my homepage. Before that I encountered some strangers and one was attacking an avatar and there was lots of swearing so I felt the need to get out of the area quickly so went to a familiar space - Koru. However, once there, it felt quite lonely as no-one was around. Psychologically the beauty of a virtual world is the presence of others to interact with in a meaningful way, and I felt this need acutely when I was exploring today.  Next time I will take a pic to put on here. I want to explore OpenSim next and some of the other virtual worlds platforms being mentioned, e.g., Cloud party and Twinity.

A big issue for me is accessibility for students when using virtual worlds so if they can use their mobile devices - i or android phones, e or ipads and notebooks that would be fabulous.  As Sharon has mentioned orientation to the environment is key to success but it does take up a lot of time. I have been on the mind map and added some initial ideas. Next up the readings which I hope to enjoy with my feet up reading on the back is killing me at the mo so I cant do much else. So in between hanging upside down and visiting the physio the Mooc (and a pile of library books, of course) is keeping me occupied.