Now I am 2

October 7th marks my two year work anniversary here at GCU. How time flies. I some ways I feel like I’ve been here longer and in others I still feel a bit like the new kid on the block.  Over the past two years along with my fabulous team colleagues  ( Linda Creanor and Jim Emery) I have been involved in a number of really exciting projects including our open event GCU Games On, the starting informal practice sharing through our Coffee Club, developing our blog and open Blended Learning resource site Will IT Blend?.  It’s taken almost two years, but we are now moving forward with learning analytics with our involvement in the Jisc Effective Analytics Programme which will be taking up most of my time this month.

One of the reasons I enjoy my current role so much is the fact that is allowing me to draw on all my experiences from my time at Cetis. I was reminded this morning that one of the things that actually got me interested and involved with Cetis was Learning Design.  I took part remotely in a new learning design practice network hosted by the OU this morning, and as we were doing the introductions, it hit me how long I had been involved in this area.

As we move more towards developing more fully online courses here at GCU, I have really enjoyed developing our learning design processes and methodology.  Most of the rest of the day will be spent planning our activities around this for this academic year.  I was heartened by the discussions this morning. I think there is so much effective practice still to be shared, but there is definitely a commonality of approach and challenges that we are all facing.

We are all creating our own “patchwork” approaches of bits and pieces of toolkits and processes such as Viewpoints and Carpe Diem.The investment from Jisc in learning and curriculum has really paid off in terms of helping mainstream practice and it is so heartening to see work from almost 7 years ago still having relevance today.

I’m trying to be a good “open practitioner” and share as much as I can of my work through blogging, tweets etc.  But it is harder the more embedded I become. Time is one issue, but also there is relevance. I want my blog posts to be useful to me ( I often think of my blog as my professional memory). Some weeks I do so many little things it’s hard to find a focus for a post – as well as the time.  For example last night I went to a really interesting presentation on digital story telling from a colleague from Brown University who is visiting GCU.  I doubt I’ll have time to blog about it, but it has made me think about trying to be a better digital storyteller.  In the meantime, and because every post should have a picture here’s my now obligatory doodle; and here’s to the next (hopefully more than) 2 years.

Powerful stories that empower others//embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.js

Equity, digital by default, data and robots – thoughts from #altc keynotes

The annual #altc conference has yet again left me reeling.  This year it seemed bigger and better than ever, with over 500 delegates meeting in Manchester, with many more joining via the live streams and twitter, over 180 presentations and the addition of robot wars in the #altcgame.

altcrobotsWhen I got home on Thursday night, I did feel a bit jet, or conferenced, lagged. It’s always great to catch up with old friends and make new ones at the conference, but with so much going my mind was spinning and I’m only just starting to make sense of it all.

As ever the keynotes gave contrasting but complimentary views on not just issues around the impact of technology in education, but the impact of new distribution models (often owned by the establishment) on global developments and society.  Whilst Steve Wheeler, very ably assisted by two students, discussed “learner 2.0”, Jonathan Worth added a set of very considered  challenges facing young people today.

Whilst we may have a generation of “digital by default” learners, who as Steve illustrated have their digital footprint created before they are even born, are we in education creating as state of “statutory vulnerability” for our learners? How can we take ownership and control of the right to forget? (see speakingopenly for more on this)  Whilst sharing and connecting are incredibly powerful for learning, the channels of control and ownership of data are increasingly important.

I know that I am in many ways far too ambivalent about my data. For ease of access and connectivity I all too readily tick those terms and conditions boxes.  I don’t think I’m alone in this digital paradox of knowing the dangers and big brother aspects of data ownership, but I go along with it anyway and console myself that the benefits outweigh the risks. Listening to Laura Czerniewcz’s quietly assured keynote on equality, I internally vowed to do more to be part of reclaiming the connected society. I hope that my sharing of thoughts and practice does in some small way add to that.

Again data was central to many of the issues around equity of access to education Laura highlighted. It is the cost of data not the device that is key, particularly in the global South, where increasingly people have mobile phones (and in fact mobile commerce in Africa is far more advanced than in Europe), but the cost of data can exclude many from participating in education. If you can’t afford to access data heavy educational resources then you are excluded. I don’t know if this requires a new type of pedagogy (tbh I think we have enough “gogies”) but it definitely requires more thought in our learning designs to ensure equity of access and experience.

Phil Long the final keynote brought another aspect of data use in education around  learning sciences, technology and learning activities. He questioned why so many existing learning and teaching practices don’t consider what we know about learner motivation and success, and the differences between learning and performance.  It could be that we are at a stage now where there digital tools can actually provide more personalised learning pathways. I’ll need to check out the  Cerego personalised learning tool/service he highlighted. In one of the best online exits ever, Phil’s video connection cut out as he was about to tell us what “the reality is . . .”

You can catch up with all the keynotes via the conference website, all worth another look and my visual notes of each are available on flickr And whilst we need to think about data ownership, sharing data can lead to great visualisations of our community like this one from Tony Hirst.

ALTC network diagram

Using Trello for learning design

I was introduced to Trello last year by my colleague Jim Emery. For those of you unfamiliar with it,  Trello is a “free, flexible, and visual way to manage your projects and organize anything.”

Like many people I seem to have an aversion to most project management tools, but I have to say I took to Trello like a proverbial duck to water. We used it last year when we were developing our open course GCU Games On. In that instance we really used it more for task management,  having a board with three categories – to do, doing and done. But it can be used for so much more than that.  Doug Belshaw has a created a little video where he illustrates a workflow between Trello, gmail and github.  It’s strength really is it’s flexibility and the fact that it works cross platform and on any device. It also embeds into our VLE which is kinda handy too.

Earlier this year we recommended it to another of our colleagues, Anne Russell. Anne is a Senior Lecturer on our staff CPD programme. As part of a redesign and re-approval of the programme Anne was looking for a  tool to help her plan, and give an visual overview of her new module structure.  What she has come up with using Trello is, imho, pretty fab.  She has exploited features such as the colour coded labels in a really effective way to breakdown the activities, interactions and resources in each timed block of study. The screen shot below provides an illustration (click on the picture to see a larger version).

screenshot of trello board

We are also currently providing support for staff developing fully online programmes. We’ve been using a variety of learning design methodologies (see here and here). Today we ran a session for some colleagues in our school of Health and Life Sciences where we moved from paper based design to actual course and activity structure.  All of the participants today had already developed an outline paper storyboard. At the start of the session we showed Anne’s trello board. Immediately I could see lightbulbs going on. Within 5 minutes they were all totally absorbed and creating their own boards, sharing them with others not at the workshop and generally “having the most fun I’ve had all year”.

I’ve never really thought of Trello as a learning design tool, but I am now.  It has an almost natural flow with the Carpe Diem and Hybrid Learning Model storyboard/cards approach. The Trello board can be shared and adapted by course teams,  and the overall structure can then be used as they structure for a prototype (or actual) course design. Collaboration, deadlines, tasks etc can easily be built in too. I wish we’d had a tool like this back in the heady days of the Jisc Curriculum Design programme when there were a number of card/paper based design tools developed but a common challenge was what to do next with the paper prototype.

We are encouraging our staff to use Coursesites as a prototype area, primarily as our VLE is Blackboard and so it is a very familiar environment for them to work in. However we are also encouraging our staff to think about open, online courses, and Coursesites is a stepping stone in allowing people to make their designs more open and think about run them or bits of them as open courses.  The Coursesites option also allows for far easier peer review as the staff have complete control over who can access their sites.

We seem to have a really nice workflow now from paper storyboard to online, sharable, more detailed structure/activities/resources (via Trello) to prototype (Coursesites) to final delivery via our VLE GCULearn.  Over the coming months as this develops I’ll share how it is actually working, but as usual I’d love to hear any thoughts you might have in the comments.

design workflow model