Just posted two new brief talks:
The FSLT course is now running. Week 0 was hectic and lots of things that we wanted to get done by Monday actually got done by Friday. But again and in a different channel: Welcome. Please listen to the welcome message on the course home page. Make sure your account is working on the Moodle. If you are undertaking the assessed option, please make sure you have sent the enrolment form to Fiona (firstname.lastname@example.org).
See you all in week 1.
The feeds are starting to come in to the FSLT12 blog aggregator. And it is already a rich source of information and potential conversation. Questions are being asked about what makes a good teacher, and what makes a bad one! Jenny Mackness addresses the issue of blog aggregation generally in a MOOC. We are struggling with this and will be making changes to the template so that syndicated feeds only show the first 100 words or so.
But my question is more about the nature of conversation in this context. I will need to locate references, or ask if anyone has any to support my assertion, here. I wonder if this new epistolary form may be going a bit Baroque or even Rococo.
I am reminded of the extreme business of late Renaissance painting: allegories everywhere you look. Blogs provide the author with an opportunity for extended reflection, in a networked public (boyd 2008). The reported joy of older postal service-based extended reflections in letters intended to be collected and published (maybe posthumously), i.e. letters intended for in part for public eyes, was the time between the conversational turns. In days of sail that could be months or even years. So we have this form of extended reflection, intended for a public, that benefits from taking time to digest, but swinging back and forth in Internet time not sailing ship (or even airmail).
There seems to be a scale – a continuum, if you will – between Twitter cycles, through discussion forums, email, what I will call midi-blogs (Tumbler and Posterous) and “proper” blogs and out to newsletter publications, journal articles and finally to books. All are dialogic, All may refer to one another, but each works on a different cycle: has a different clock-speed. In mechanical engineering terms sometimes these different cycles may resonate in pleasant harmony, but at others there may be wicked vibrations set up. Lately I have been feeling increasingly epicyclic about the pace of my work. I can work fast.I can work slow. I can work at paces in-between, but I am finding it hard to work at all paces at once. I slip in and out of Twitter time, wish I had more blog time, need to remember the expected email turn-around, and articulate that all with discussion forums. I am feeling the vibration and it is not always good.
Without much of a bang, the course is now “live” for registration. There is a lot of work to be done, especially in the Moodle and in the preparation of “content blocks” as open educational resources. But well done team and welcome to the #fslt12 mooc
The course goes live tomorrow. Thank you all for your work and interest in this development. It is exciting but what does it mean to go live? Most of the pages and spaces have been visible before now anyway. There has been a lot of work behind the scenes trying to make the disparate elements hang together in a satisfying – but unconstrained – whole. Development will be continuous. Please bear with us as we create flurries of updates, additions and deletions. Keep checking back and by all means if you want to get in touch do not hesitate to contact us.
Jo Badge pointed me to a post by Stuart (no other id given), “Learning objectives or not?“, which started with this intentionally provocative statement, “A good teacher states clear Learning Objectives. The best don’t. Discuss.” I commented on the blog and repost my comment here.
My perspective is from higher education. Courses are required to be described by our QA regime in terms of “intended learning outcomes” (i.e. objectives). As a teacher, I am quite dogmatic that this be done carefully because it helps shape assessment and teaching strategies. It gives prospective students “fair warning”. In this transitional era of increasing fees and turbulent funding models it lets people know, in part, what they are paying for. But, whether objectives are revealed before, during or after a teaching session is a part of teaching strategy. And, it is essential that we not fall into the trap set by Diana Laurillard that objectives be “necessary, sufficient and complete.” As a teacher I hope for and expect extensive creative – even subversive – appropriation of everything that goes on. Sometimes it helps to ask people to express their own objectives before a session, or their own outcomes after a session. Finally, I try to keep a clear line between “aims” and “objectives”. Aims describe what we, the teacher, the institution, the QAA, the professional bodies, etc. intend. Objectives describe what the learners will be able to DO after the session, module, or course. This, for me, means always writing objectives using verbs which describe actions visible in the world, not descriptions of interior (psychological) states. Yes, we want them to “know” and to “understand” and to “appreciate”, but how will we see that understanding in action? What will they DO to enable us to determine that they indeed understand?
Dave Cormier has written a thoughtful critique from a cynefin perspective of massive open online courses (moocs) as an approach to learning the “basics”. I reduce his argument almost to absurdity, but it is extremely relevant to a massive open online course that I, Jenny Mackness and Marion Waite are developing. Our mooc is called “First steps into learning and teaching in higher education” (First Steps 12 or #fslt12). And, it is very much about “the basics”.
I suspect that what is at work are some unexpressed assumptions. Dave, who has a lot more experience of moocs than I, is coming from an informed and mature perspective, which emerges from and is aligned with the Connectivist principles promoted by George Siemens and Stephen Downes. I take the view, however, that a mooc is by itself a “non-defined pedagogical format to organize learning/teaching/training on a specific topic in a more informal collaborative way” (MOOC Guide). The principles of a MOOC are: Aggregation, Remixing, Re-purposing, Feeding forward.
Recent courses that can be described as massive, open and online, but might not self-identify with connectivist principles, include the recent much-discussed Introduction to Artificial Intelligence from Stanford University, which has stimulated new learning provision through Udacity and Coursera. MITx, soon to launch is also making massive open online provision, but may not be explicitly connectivist in conception.
Like Dave, I do not want First steps 12 to “descend into anarchy”. But then I have never equated anarchy with chaos. However, I do not regard fslt12 as anarchic in conception. I would like to think that my leadership style is consultative, open, facilitative, collaborative and collegial (others might disagree!). But I do accept that First Steps 12 will be led by the course team and they will be led – to some extent – by me. If it all comes crashing down, I know who my boss will talk to! So I take some responsibiity.
I also expect that the course team will provide a core set of Open Educational Resources (OERs) that can be used by new lecturers and educational developers.
If you are looking for ‘best practices’ in a given domain, the MOOC is a fantastically inefficient way of acquiring them.
I am not sure this necessarily follows. The course team can provide scaffolding and direction, even if complicated, complex and sometimes chaotic practice is allowed to spin off. Dave even acknowledges this.
We tend to pull together materials, and have expert centred discussions that are fairly restrictive.
In the end, his conclusion is that
The complex domain is where the MOOC really shines.
This is where I hope First Steps 12 takes us.
Hi and welcome to the course.
Jenny, Marion and I have been working hard over the past weeks planning and reparing for the mooc. This site will be the home for the course where you should be able to find all the links you need to get started.
We are in full-on development mode now. There will be a Moodle site appearing shortly. And full guidance on signing up will be ready next week.
Really looking forward to seeing you on the course
George for the course team.
Our University has four main campuses. We are structurally divided into four faculties. However, the departments of the faculties are not located together on the same campuses. Faculties are distributed. Inter-campus transport is not great. You need to allow an hour between the end of an event on one campus and the beginning of an event on another. We teach a number of combined honours programmes and some modules are common to several programmes. Students may have seminars on different campuses. Students may be resident on different campuses. Lecturers may teach on different campuses. PhD teaching assistants may work predominantly on one campus and have occasional teaching duties on another. To further complicate matters the main campus is a building site and pressure on teaching accommodation is severe.
For all these reasons, and more, it makes sense to consider whether groups might be distributed between two (or more?) campuses, where a lecturer in a “home” room speaks with people in that room and simultaneously to those in one or more “satellite” rooms.
A scenario in which this seems to make sense is when a lecture is followed by seminar groups, especially if there might be a rationale for holding these break-out seminar groups on different campuses.
An additional benefit would be to enable (rudimentary) lecture capture for later re-play.
Participants on the New Lecturers Course and Postgraduate certificate in teaching in higher education (PCTHE) are based on all four main campuses and there are also participants from affiliated colleges and other universities.
The New lecturers course is not only supposed to teach the basics of surviving in the classroom, but to push the boundaries of teaching practice.
This week we tried distributed teaching with our “Microteaching” workshop. This workshop is aimed primarily at very new lecturers. Participants gather for a plenary at 0930 in which we discuss teaching observation and peer feedback. And, then at 1000 we disperse to smaller rooms in groups of about 5 participants, each facilitated by a tutor.
We offered participants the opportunity to have their break-out sessions on the campus of their choice while we hosted the plenary on the main campus. In the event, about 17 people gathered in the plenary home room and four people chose to have their session in the satellite room on another campus.
So how did we do it? What were the challenges? Did it work?
The plenary session was a success in that the lecturer was able to speak to both the “home” and the “satellite” room. Participants in the “satellite” room could see the lecturer and contributed to the discussion, asking and answering questions. Participants in the home room could see and speak with colleagues in the satellite room.
The “home” room would have been better served if there had been a microphone to pick up questions from the floor as well as the lecturer at the podium.
But, there were many challenges, almost all associated with the equipment in the two teaching rooms, and the solutions were decidedly Heath Robinson.
In advance of the session I installed a “classroom” into the Course VLE site. This was completely unproblematic. The link between Wimba Classroom and Blackboard (WebCT legacy) CE8 worked perfectly.
I then went in to the assigned home room on Monday afternoon to test things out for the distributed teaching session which was to take place on Wednesday.
The plenary home room was one of our newest teaching rooms with a podium full of computing and AV equipment. However web cams are not part of the setup and podium computers are not routinely provided with microphones. We would have to use external USB cameras and microphones. I have a Logitech composite camera and microphone, which works with “most machines”.
I started the podium computer (a reasonably recent machine running our standard Windows XP set-up) and logged in, thereby establishing there was a local network connection. I plugged in the composite camera/microphone. The machine recognised it (which was an initially pleasant surprise). Then I clicked to load a browser. The application loader failed. No browser would load. I tried Firefox, Chrome and IE. Nada. I did a hard reset and waited while the machine rebuilt its registries. Same thing: the app-loader application wouldn’t run. I noticed a sign on the door telling students that, earlier in the day, a last minute room change had been arranged. I guessed it was because no one could get this machine started. I wandered down the corridor, found an administrator who said that someone had mentioned that the machine wasn’t behaving properly and that IT was coming. We called IT again and to be fair someone was there in about 10 minutes. They went through what I had done, determined that the machine wasn’t working, called Operations, took my mobile number, said they would look into it and went away. I had a coffee.
In about 20 minutes they rang back and said they had resolved the app-loader problem. I went back to the room, fired up the machine, loaded Firefox and plugged in the camera/microphone. Now the machine refused to recognise this device and told me I didn’t have the necessary privileges to install hardware. I gave up. got out my MacBook Pro, and plugged in the peripherals, including the room audio-out mini-jack.
I loaded the VLE, started the data projector and ran the Classroom set-up wizard: Java check, certificate check, whiteboard check; no audio. I unplugged the jack. The laptop speakers were fine. The Wimba classroom was working perfectly, video and all. I made sure the volume controls were all turned up. Still no room audio. I turned on the podium PC again. Found a random MP3 and played it with the default audio device on the machine. No sound. (You need to do this in order that people don’t just say, oh, it’s the Mac.) So all the computers were working but the room speakers were not. The podium is locked down. You can’t get at the cables and see if something has jiggled loose. So I put another call into IT services.
This was about 4:50 on Monday afternoon. I said I needed to use audio in the room on Wednesday at 0900. I was given a service “ticket” number, assured that they would sort the room audio and if they couldn’t would bring a set of external speakers.
At 0900 on Wednesday I got to the room, plugged in the Mac and started everything up. But, no audio on the room speakers and no external speakers. I called IT services quoting my “ticket” number. I was told it “… hadn’t gotten to the top yet”. I said I need audio in 10 minutes. I think I sounded grumpy. In about 5 minutes a colleague came running in with an external speaker. At 0930 we were “live” on the web at the advertised start time for the session.
So what about the “satellite” room? We had asked for a “standard teaching room” with the “usual podium setup”. The room assigned had no kit. We were assured that a laptop and projector would be “delivered” and that the room did have the network. My colleague, who was facilitating in that room arrived. There was no laptop and no projector. He got out his MacBook Pro and plugged it into the ethernet port. There was no network at that point. Fortunately he was in range of wifi. The MacBook Pro worked fine. The VLE and classroom worked fine. He called our administrator who chased up the projector, which arrived at about 0935. As there were only five people in the room the on-board speakers were just about adequate.
All (most?) teaching rooms should be equipped with web cams, microphones and (working) loudspeakers. Obviously there would need to be a phased upgrade plan. There should be some (most?) teaching rooms, which also have cameras to capture the wider room and cameras to follow a lecturer who prefers to wander rather than stay at the podium. Room mics are needed to pick up questions from the floor.
Without such an upgrade, I suggest, the value of our investment in the Collaborate suite might not be fully realised.