Hackathon for Blended Learning 101

Lately, the big question[s], I am grappling with have to do with notions of learning community or learning webs:

  • what conditions are necessary for learning webs or communities to work?
  • why do we care about webs, networks and communities for learning, and how do we make that explicit to learners?
  • why would learners care about webs, networks and communities for learning – what would they need to know to help them decide whether or not to care?

I plan to explore these questions over a couple of posts. Starting with a course design project that I am working on with students.

The project is to make space (and provide guidance/mentorship on the design process) for a group of 7 students to design a short 2 week orientation course to prepare them to participate in a blended learning physics class. We’re calling it Blended Learning 101. I’m collaborating with Lucas Wight (for edX expertise) and Noureddine Elouazizi (for the Science and research context). We had some constraints:

  • time: we have three days with students to accomplish 90% of the build.
  • platform: we needed to use edX – given UBC’s new collaboration for open/flexible course development.
  • re-use: it has to be easily adaptable to other contexts (outside of physics)
  • community: one of the goals was to build a framework that would support the development of a learning community

My role in the hackathon was to guide the students through a design process. In the past, I had used a pared down versions of Stanford’s d-school (design school) bootcamp, so I decided to stick with that. The bootcamp includes some really great principles/mindsets to work from (including focus on human values, embrace experimentation, be mindful of process, etc,). I also appreciate their framework for the design process as follows:
design framework

The aspect of empathy building is so important to the process – through interviews with each other, students learn about different perspectives, values and approaches to learning. Discussion and debriefing of the process has led to some pretty important insights/questions as you can see below.

Learner Attributes 1

Learner Attributes 1

list of learner attributes

Learner Attributes 2

Mindsets about learning

Mindsets about learning

The aspect that students really seemed to get stuck on (when it came time to start building the course) was the aspect of learning community. Questions emerged like:

  • why would learners participate in a community, for just one course?
  • why would people want to interact with large, unknown groups of people when it can be so intimidating?
  • why would anyone want to use Twitter for networking – isn’t it just for celebrity gossip?

We spent some time talking through these questions, and deciding an approach for the first iteration, then revisit. It was helpful to have the visual map of #TWP15 Twitter connections to show them what was possible when a learning network was actively sharing.

Back to the questions I started out with in this post:

  • For learning webs to work (at least for new undergraduates) I think the value and rationale and relationship to learning needs to be made explicit in order to motivate learners to take a risk and try it out.
  • It helps to have enough people on the network, beyond a typical course enrolment, to make for rich interactions. That’s the only way learners will stay engaged.
  • As mentors/instructors/guides, it helps for us to model (through our own interactions/participation its value (sharing links, posing questions, commenting, bringing in new networks/people with a common interest.

Not quite sure how we help learners begin to see themselves as teachers, mentors and guides and view their peers as such. I see this as partly a developmental challenge, but not entirely. Any ideas?

I’m still reflecting on Christina’s course challenge – to build more of a web than a website – and I’m thinking that this is a big challenge for all of us. Many learners got to university not by collaborating, sharing and connecting – but by competing, keeping their heads down and grades high. Beyond building a web, maybe we’re supporting a shift in values.

draing of a student project

Collaboration with Students

The students who work with us at CTLT are amazing! They willingly jump into the deep end with us on projects with impossible timelines and high expectations and they consistently finish strong! Here are a few recent examples:

  • Rie Namba (recent Fine Arts grad but still with us as a student employee temporarily) has been working on a mock-up for a “learning wrapper” of sorts to accompany video resources. The design was inspired by http://ed.ted.com/ and is to be used in our WordPress CMS. She’ll be working on short codes and documentation to make it relatively painless to implement. We’ll be using the http://digitaltattoo.ubc.ca/ as a test best for some features using this approach.
  • Kim Kao (Arts -Psychology student) has been working with me on the design of some wiki based resources to support DIY video development – a strong component in many of the Flexible Learning projects currently on the slate for development at the university. The challenge was to use a show – then tell approach but keep the interface as uncluttered as possible (accordians came in handy). The first out of the gate is the DIY Screencast resource authored in the UBCwiki and published out through the Flipped Lab resource site thanks to collaboration with my colleague Lucas Wright.
  • Ronald Ho (Science student), working with my colleague Zack Lee, jumped in to create his first ever video by helping us to create an overview for faculty about the process of making a video. It’s meant to be an introduction but is currently being used to support the application process for new MOOCS (Faculty will need to make a 90 second promo video to accompany their application.

Why do I love collaborating with students so much? Maybe it’s that they are still so curious – both about their own capacities and skills as well as challenges we give them. And their spirits haven’t yet been worn down by the requirements, policies and sensitivities that can (on occasion) settle around our “employee’ minds like a grey cloud, sucking out every last creative synapse…(but no matter). Thankfully, the energy I get from my collaborations with these exceptional people (and amazing colleagues) is my cloud buster!

Graphic Notes from the Open Ed 2012 Conference in Vancouver

reflections on open

Graphic Notes from the Open Ed 2012 Conference in Vancouver

Graphic Notes from Open Ed 2012 in Vancouver – using iPad and Brushes

I can’t believe a month has past since the Open Education Conference 2012: Beyond Content – here in beautiful Van City. An opportunity to spend some time (and learn much from) some of the most creative, inspired and just good people involved in education today (at least from my perspective)! I am still thinking about (and taking time to follow threads on) a range of ideas and resources. A few of them:

  • Gardner Campbell’s keynote extravaganza: complete with a new term (I think) for a forgotten concept – transcontextualism (learning across contexts) – I suspect learners have been doing this for generations – but we haven’t valued it and don’t support it well in formal education environments.
  • the OER Research Hub, associated Evidence Hub and Dr. Robert Farrow’s experimental visuals – some of which I have shared already with colleagues here at UBC.

    There were other threads to follow: like the woman from Seattle who was a first-timer at the Open Ed conference and feeling a little like she needed a translator. I admired her bravery. And the MOOC bashing – which led me to read a piece by Sir John Daniel that offers an informed, critical perspective on the palpable discomfort felt by many (myself included). And, as my own institution prepares to offer up courses to the MOOC machine via Coursera, I can’t help but think this is an opportunity to raise the profile of some of the open practices in resource development, learning design and teaching that have gone largely un-noticed at my institution.

Graphic notes on a meeting hosted by BC Campus on Privacy and cloud computing

Privacy and the Cloud

On Monday, I attended a meeting hosted by BCcampus on issues related to the use of social media and other “cloud” based services in BC’s post-secondary institutions. The intended goal (actually there was more than one) was to bring people together in discussion with representatives from BC’s Office of the Privacy Commissioner to get some clarity on policy so that we can move towards operating reasonably within the boundaries imposed by BC’s privacy legislation.

Why do we care?

Clearly, from those I talked to at the meeting, we care because we use social media and we’re pretty sure the CIO’s office probably has no idea the extent to which cloud based applications have infiltrated our teaching and learning practices at various institutions across the province. And, while we are not intentionally turning a blind eye to the privacy implications, we turn to these services because they work and they help us to do what we need to do – share perspectives and stories, collaborate, select who we learn from, communicate,etc, etc. ! They are easy to use and allow us to integrate our learning activities with daily life – and that’s what we want – right?  Of course it’s not that easy, which is why we are talking about this. Institutions have a role in “protecting” the personal data of those who entrust it to us. And we are trying to figure out what it means to protect while (at the same time) ensuring that individual’s have the capacity to manage their own digital content and identities.

I worked out some visual notes during the session (a beginning attempt at using Brushes with my iPad). Click on the diagram for a larger view. Here are a few of my additional observations from the discussion.

The frustrations:

  • What constitutes a reasonable attempt for institutions to get informed consent from students for the use of specific services (where their personal data will be stored outside of the country)? Some helpful Guidelines have been developed, but they may be perceived as onerous for an already overworked prof just trying to engage students in process of learning.
  • Where is the CIO’s office in all of this? What role do they play in helping institutions to developing some guidelines for using social media and cloud-based services?
  • B.C.’s privacy office has a role in investigating complaints and mediating in those instances, so they perceive a conflict of interest in providing guidelines.
  • We are not lawyers – interpreting the Act and legislation is often difficult.
  • some institutions don’t have access to a Privacy Manager to help them with decision making.
  • How does policy change? Is it keeping up with social change?
  • It’s difficult to be at the begiining of something, people want answers guidance, where it doesn’t really exist yet. This makes us angry – but maybe that will lead to action? (Hope).

The way forward? (these are a few suggestions that came from our group):

  • bring case examples (based on real teaching/learning activities) to the CIO through our institution’s privacy manager (if we have one).
  • discuss, learn together, provide avenues for students to think about matters of privacy, the services they use and the privacy laws that may affect theirs or others access to their content.

I am still working my way through the fog on all of these issues.  If you are too and want some more background, BCcampus is developing a great resource list as a place to start. I also found this white paper from the  Information and Privacy Commissioner of Ontario very helpful in understanding the broad themes.  I appreciated their use of the term “digital ecosystem” to describe the complexity of our new reality.  From the digital microcosm of a single institution to the digital ecosystem of the entire world…no wonder we are struggling!

My most favorite thing…leads to my least favorite thing

My most favorite thing about my job is when I have the opportunity to facilitate a great discussion.  I got the chance to do this, World Cafe style recently with colleague Jan Johnson and assisted by our intrepid co-op student Victor Ng.  We posed 2 questions to learners and teachers on separate occasions:

  • what are the qualities of a really great learning (or teaching) experience you’ve had lately?
  • what are the necessary ingredients to make a great learning experience from your perspective?

Here are some of the results in graphic form (thanks to Victor and Wordle). Teachers on the left – learners on the right.

Detailed results were assembled on our  wiki

And talked about (yes, this was my least favorite part) during the Learning Conference last week – here’s the video:

If you have any responses to those questions – I’d love to hear them.