Archive for May, 2014

I have taken this opportunity to revist week 2 of the course – mainly because I want to achieve the relevant badge! (I had not realised what a motivator badges would be for me and I was disappointed that the Activity 2.3 I completed earlier would not count towards a badge). I am glad I did go back to this content as it gave me the opportunity to look at the freely available publication – Marton, F., Hounsell, D. and Entwistle, N., (eds.) The Experience of Learning: Implications for teaching and studying in higher education. 3rd (Internet) edition. Edinburgh: University of Edinburgh, Centre for Teaching, Learning and Assessment. I read chapter 3 ‘Approaches to Learning’ by Marton and Saljo. The authors outlined their research which was to look at differences in the process of learning and the different outcomes which occur. They wanted to find out why students had arrived at different ways of interpreting the same piece of text they had been given. They found “that students who did not get ‘the point’ failed to do so because they were not looking for it” p43. The authors state that the main difference in the learning process was whether the students focused on the text itself, trying to memorise it, or whether they tried to understand what it was about. The authors go on to question ‘What is that a person using a deep approach does differently from a person using a surface approach?’ p50. They state that the person involved in deep learning engages in ‘active dialogue’, they ask questions about the text, try to relate it to what they already know. The surface approach lacks the reflective and active attitude so Marton and Saljo suggest that  maybe it would be a good idea to give people some hints to how to go about learning. However, when this was tried with a group of students who were prompted with the types of questions that ‘deep’ learners ask about the text, the results showed that this led to even greater surface learning. Marton and Saljo believe this is because students answered the questions but did not engage with the text – it became mechanical learning, answering the questions became the objective of the learning, not understanding. Fransson (1977) looked at student motivation and found that to promote a deep approach it is important to keep in mind student interests and remove the factors that lead to surface approach to learning e.g. irrelevance, threat, anxiety.

Saljo (1979) asked adults what learning meant to them. He devised 5 characteristics of learning and Marton et.al (1993) added one more

  • quantitative increase in knowledge
  • memorising
  • acquistion of facts and methods for later use
  • abstraction of meaning
  • interpretative process aimed at understanding reality
  • developing as a person  (Marton et.al 1993)

It is argued that the approach to learning will be influenced by the conception of what learning is. In relation to the questions posed for this week I have begun to analyse my own approach to learning on the ocTEL MOOC and whilst I recognise that I took a predominantly surface approach or perhaps a strategic approach for a majority of my previous studies I believe I am beginning to adopt a deeper learning approach by thinking about how what I learn on the ocTEL MOOC could be applied to my current role. It is more difficult to take a strategic approach in the current course when my goal is not to gain a formal qualification so I think a deeper approach is easier in this context. That said I know I am motivated by obtaining the badges but I see this as giving my learning structure. I know I like order and progression as a learner and I think it is important to realise that motivation differs from learner to learner.

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The task this week was to choose one resource from the following:

Khan Academy you tube videos

e-learning examples e-games

i-ethiCS simulation

What elements of these are appealing to different learners?

I looked at a couple of Khan Academy videos around the topic of maths and in particular averages. I think the videos will appeal to those learners who want to watch the video more than once and reinforce their learning. In some ways the approach is quite traditional and the videos do not make use of complex graphics.

The e-learning games example that I looked at was the Shakespeare interactive game.  This made good use of graphics and was fun and engaging but I am not sure it would be appropriate to promote deep learning about Shakespeare  (I suspect this is not the intention!)

The i-ethiCS simulation videos I looked at could be usefully integrated into learning and teaching, maybe as part of the flipped classroom approach. The videos come from a trustworthy source and could be used to stimulate discussion and thought within a classroom setting and the students could answer questions on them in preparation for the classroom session.

What learners, if any, would they be inappropriate for and why?

It was difficult to assess the academic  level of each of the resources on the Khan Academy as they ranged from basic addition and subtraction to more complex maths topics. This means the tutor would have to assess the resource to ensure the students did not find the videos too easy or too difficult.

The e-learning examples games may not be appropriate for those learners who are not familiar with online games (this maybe generational as I struggle with this as a way of learning myself)

The iEthics simulation videos may not be appropriate for more active learners as it is passive to watch videos but I think this could be overcome by integrating the videos with questions/quizzes to stimulate thought.

How to these resources differ from the resources being used in ocTEL? Do they promote social learning, re-use of their materials or open access?

The videos on the Khan Academy and the e-learning games make use of multimedia but it is important to realise that the mutlimedia dimension does not mean that better learning will take place. The Khan videos cover topics that easily lend themselves to the instructionist approach e.g. maths and sciences where there are right and wrong answers, in areas such as the social sciences there were very few videos (I tried searching for psychology videos but I was unable to find any on this topic.) The videos and e-learning games do not promote social learning but re-use of the videos and e-learning games is part of the reason for making them available. The resources differ from the predominantly text based resources used on the ocTEL MOOC.

What ways can you see to improve the effectiveness or potential reach of these sources?

I found the search option for this Khan videos difficult to find and use – the playlists were a much better way of finding topics. As with all these learning resources their effectiveness will be dependent on how they are used by the tutor to help student learn. The video clips on Khan academy youtube and iEthiCS are short and students can view them many times to help them understand the topic. The usefulness of any learning resource available online is going to depend on how it is used by the tutor – if it is an optional extra that the students are referred to if they want to use it, but it is not integrated as part of the course, it may have use only for more motivated students. If the tutor is able to find relevant resources which can be integrated effectively then the resources could have great potential to help student learning.


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It has been a while since I posted to my Blog due to illness. The reading week in this MOOC has happened at just the right time for me as I am hoping I can now catch up.  I have read the JISC e-learning models desk study – stage 2 review of e-learning theories frameworks and models. 

The report began by stating that it is important to be clear about underlying assumptions about learning when planning e-learning. Biggs (1999) believes that pedagogic decisions should be based on the intended learnng outcomes. Biggs (1999) was very influential in changing my approach to information skills workshops that I led with students when I was a Faculty Liaison Librarian. Initially when I began doing workshops I was concerned about what I would be telling the students, when I started to think about intended learning outcomes for the workshops and how these would be met through the activities students would be doing the emphasis changed from what I would be saying to what the students would be doing. One of the key quotes from the report that stood out for me was “for good pedagogical design, there is simply no escaping the need to adopt a theory of learning”.

This report outlined 3 broad perspectives about what is crucial for learning

  • Associationist/Empiricist perspective – learning as an activity

Learning occurs through a process of activites and making connections. This ties in with Skinner and machine learning which the ocTEL MOOC touched on in week 1. The report stated that this approach to learning is associated with behaviourism, which despite being largely dismissed these days, does emphasize active learning.

  • Cognitive perspective – learning as achieving understanding, learning as the process of constructing and interpreting meaning

Building a framework for understanding becomes the learners challenge, this contrasts with learning as a strengthening of associations. The “learners searching for meaning through activity is central”.

  • Situative perspective – learning as a social practice

Learners will be influenced by the social and cultural setting in which learning occurs. In my current role this can relate to academic writing and in particular plagiarism, where there are cultural differences in approaches to using quotes in assignments so when using the online plagiarism tool ‘Turnitin’ staff need to be aware of this. Problem based learning and Wenger’s ‘community of practice’ are 2 subsections of this approach. I find the problem based learning approach very useful and believe that this can lead to ‘deeper learning’ as what is learnt can be put into practice.

As the report states most implementations of e-learning will include elements of all 3 perspectives but the dominant perspective will influence how the learning outcomes are written; with associative perspective the learning outcomes are likely to be task analysis and competencies, with the cognitive perspective the emphasis of the learning outcome will be ‘learning how to learn’ and with a situative perspective the definition of learning outcomes will be in terms of disciplinary practices. This report has helped me to understand how learning theory influences e-learning however, as Downes (2014) states in his Half an Hour blog theories explain, they answer the ‘why’ questions – a learning theory explains what learning is and why learning occurs, it is not a pedagogic manual.

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This activity provided some examples of how technology has enhanced learning. I chose Eric Mazur because I am interested in the concept of the Flipped Classroom – not least because I have been asked to speak to a group of staff about the concept. I liked the video clip and I am planning to show this clip as part of the session – although I should really get the staff to view it before they attend to demonstrate the flipped classroom in practice! This clip builds on what I have written about in a previous Blog post – active learning and it seems to me that this approach is based on the theory of constructivism which could be argued to have its foundations in the socratic method. Is good to know I am not the only one who chose to look at Eric Mazur and Mitra – see http://octel.alt.ac.uk/2014/forums/topic/mazur-and-mitra/ Moira highlights the impotance of pedagogy in Mazurs approach so when I talk to staff about this I will emphasize that it is not about the technology but about the pedagogy.

The Mitra video was fascinating – I thought the point about group work was interesting – that groups of 4-5 work well. He highlighted the question approach he took – that students used computers to find the anwers to questions again.

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Having watched the video by B.F. Skinner  I was stuck by the argument that Skinner believed that teaching by machine was ‘motivational’ as students could learn at their own pace. I had a little previous knowledge of behaviourism so I was not surprised when Skinner stated that students learn ‘the correct behaviour. It was interesting that he stated that the author was still the teacher not the machine but for that to work the teacher would need to undertand how the machine works and how to structure the learning to make if effective with the machine. I decided to look at the socratic method to evaluate how this approach differed from Skinner. I read Donald Clarks blog and I particulary liked the phrase that Socrates thought “Education is not a cramming in, but a drawing out” (Clarks quote ). This stands in contrast to Skinner who believed that education was about teaching students the right way of doing a task. The Socratic idea is that the teacher poses questions so learners become aware of their lack of knowledge and motivated to learn and find out the answer to the questions. Clark paints a picture of Socrates as a ruthless opponent. The Socratic idea that for certain types of learning questioning and dialogue allows the learner to generate their own ideas (it reminds of probably overused phrase of seeing the teacher as the ‘guide on the side’ rather than the ‘sage on the stage).  But as Clark argues this method needs to be combined with genuine dialogue and feedback.

I then decided to search for more information about the socratic method and came across an article by Paraskevas, A and Wickens, E  (1993) called “Andragogy and the Socratic Method: The Adult Learner Perspective”.  In this article the authors refer to Ramsden (1992) who states that a large part of student learning is not about learning theory and concepts  it is about learning about what the instructor requires”. In the Socratic method students can be given a scenario and the teacher poses pre-set questions. Learners are required to use experience and knowledge to solve problems. Inductive techniques can be used to then help move students on from specific case studies to generic concepts. By involving students actively relating learning to their own experience supporters of this method (Tredway 1995, Strong 1996) believe that this engages students on an emotional level in their learning. Paraskevas and Wickens (1993) developed a ‘socatic typology of learners’ based on their research on adult learners in Greece. There are 4 types (percentages in brackets refer to the % of students in this study classified as this type of learner).

  • ‘Meno’ learner- this learner depends on lecture style, learning from an authority figure (18.3%),
  • ‘Protagoras’ learner needs instructor to be directive but also supportive to reinforce their willingness to take part (45.4%)
  • ‘Gorgias’ learner have skills and possibly some knowledge to be owners of their own fate, the instructor is needed to guide and develop their self confidence but once this is accomplished they will explore topics on their own (35.3%),
  • ‘Plato’ learner is educationally more mature and in charge of their learning, their relationship with the instructor is more collegial (interestingly in this study only 1% of students were classified as this type of learner).

This reseach concluded that a majority of these adult learners accepted the socratic style of learning but it cannot be used in all situations with all learners. Perhaps that is unsurprising – all learners are different.

Being a Librarian by training I decided that I needed to find out about the author of the Blog we were referred to on the MOOC  (D Clark) and on further exploration of the Blog I came across a link to his TED video . I found this really interesting so although I was supposed to be considering the Socratic method I decided to watch this talk. Clark argued that there has been more pedagogic changes in 10 years than the last 1000 years. He states that the world has changed dramatically and the psychology of learning suggests we should be more active in learning rather than the traditional model of passive learning in lectures. Technology has freed us from location and time for learning. Clark believes that ‘repeated access to content matters’, videoing lectures so students can replay them is an important part of learning. I had recently come across the Khan Academy (another TED talk) and I was surprised that this service had 110 million views on you tube. He ended by stating that pedagogic change is coming from the technological developments and although you can ignore technology ‘resistance is futile’.

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One of my reasons for participating in this MOOC was to provide me with an opportunity to ‘catch up’ with some of the Literature and resources available around TEL so I thought I would look at some of the resources for week 0. I started with the short video by Dave Cormier on What is a MOOC? This was a useful introduction to what a MOOC is and I can see that it would be useful to use to refer staff to who have read about MOOCs but are not sure what they are. I particularly liked the fact that this definition talks about the MOOC as ‘a networked’ environment. The fact that you can choose what ‘success’ is for a participant is a different way of thinking for academics. That said I struggle with this approach to learning – maybe this is a reflection of my age (or is it my learning style ) that I prefer the route to ‘what I need to do’ to be set out for me and I experience a sense of achievement being able to ‘tick off’ what I have done. One of the most surprising things to me is that I find the concept of obtaining badges a motivator. I did not expect this to be the case, I have no background in ‘gaming’ and collecting rewards.

I then went on to look at Dave Cormier’s 20 questions and answers. I thought there were some interesting posts on this especially the point where he states ‘I wouldn’t suggest MOOCs are for everyone’ – maybe this means MOOCs are not for me? He then goes on to say that motivation is the key. I like to think I am motivated to learn (I have already completed 2 MOOCs). The end comment of this Blog is what I found most thought provoking when he states ‘why do we teach’ and responds that he teaches “to support peoples ability to deal with uncertainty – MOOCs work for that”.

On reflection one of the reasons I chose to undertake this particular MOOC was because I struggle with this concept of learning. I find it difficult to participate in face to face groups and the idea that this Blog is ‘public’ fills me with fear. However, I am going to continue with this MOOC and reflecting on my learning – who knows by the end of this MOOC I may have changed my mind. I have joined 2 groups and although I have not posted anything yet I am enjoying reading about other peoples experiences – maybe I am already starting to change my views…


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As the header of my Blog indicates I am relatively new to my post as a Learning Technologist in a higher education insitution but I would not have taken this career change (after 12 years as a professional Librarian) if I did not believe that technology can be used to support learning. However, I am not an advocate of technology for its own sake – the learning must come first. I read a recent post on Steve Wheelers blog around this topic which I found very interesting . I do not feel comfortable when staff indicate that they want to use technology because paper is old fashioned or they feel pressured to use technology but have not really thought about why they are using it. For me it is more about ‘Blended Learning’ with the ‘blend’ being described by Garrison and Vaughan (2008) as the ‘thoughtful integration’ of online and face to face teaching.

I was unable to attend the week 0 webinar ‘live’ but I listened to the recording of the webinar which reassured me that it was natural to feel overwhelmed but to set out with some key questions/objectives.  One of these for me is to write regular blog posts about the course as I set up this Blog some years ago but never felt brave enough to use it. I also wanted to have experience of learning online. Supporting TEL is my job so I am keen to learn more from other peoples experiences. If this helps me to move forward with my goal of CMALT that would be good as well.


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