Who says students don’t want to learn? #lsp

Haleh Moravej, a senior lecturer in nutrition at MMU and I did a little experiment the other day. We wanted to find out if we could engage a tutorial class of 1st year undergraduate students in a unit evaluation process linked to Nutrition 21 using a pan-participatory, qualitative and playful approach beyond paper or digital surveys or even interviews or focus groups.

Our focus was on identifying what helps Haleh’s students learn and less about how satisfied they are from a consumer point of you. And I guess this is where we divorce ourselves from some of the surveys that are around and used more widely… I am using the term ‘consumer’ here to create a contrast in my thoughts but also to highlight that the focus of our investigation was student learning, students’ conceptions of learning and their thoughts around what they felt helped or hindered their learning in a specific unit. We were also interested in their ideas to make learning happen more effectively and naturally for future cohorts of students on this unit. So students in this context were more taking the role of collaborator and co-designer for their own learning.

Dear Plato said:

“We learn more about a person in an hour of play, than in a year of conversation” – could this be true?

We played for 2 hours! Just imagine how much we learnt about each other!!!

We wanted to gain a deeper insight into the student experience of a whole group on the unit and find out how students  felt the unit could be enhanced for the next cohort. We wanted to do this in a relaxed atmosphere that would foster opening-up! reflection and self-and collective discovery through making and sharing.

We decided to use the LEGO Serious Play (LSP) method. I have used LSP before in different learning and teaching contexts with students and teachers also in conference workshops and have found it a useful method to make individuals and teams feel more relaxed, engage in something that is playful and unusual while also having a pedagogical value that helps individuals deepen their reflection but also seems to increase their critical and creative thinking capacity and connect themselves and their ideas and thoughts with others.

I was really pleased that Haleh embraced this playful approach with passion when I suggested this during a chat we had about her new unit and she shared with me that she was looking for a meaningful way to evaluate the unit with her students. As Haleh and her students were willing to give LSP a go, nothing could stop us!

LSP is thinking with our hands, a series of activity through which we create models, or visual metaphors of our internal world made out of LEGO bricks triggered by a specific question that makes us reflect, think and build meaning through actually building a real model. We could say that LSP is a process to open-up and externalise thoughts, ideas, beliefs and fears and other stuff and share with others creating opportunities for dialogue, further reflection and learning, individual and collective.

It was fascinating what we experienced and I think the students were also surprised with themselves and what they disclosed and shared with their peers about themselves. I could see it in their eyes. I could hear it in their voice. I could see it in their body language. Some might have been skeptic, at least at the start but this is fine. It is healthy to be critical and think about what we are asked to do and what the value of this would be for us. I think it did help explaining why we choose LSP, what we could achieve and how but also said a tiny bit about the underpinning theories behind it. In a way this takes part of the magic away, I suppose, but the real discovery comes when actually experiencing LSP in action. And there were definitely some lightbulb moments for all of us…

Ok, so what happened. Desks and chairs got in the way. We decided to sit on the floor and created a magical circle so to speak. After the LEGO warm-up activity, students were asked to reflect reflect on their learning on the unit and create a model that would capture how learning on the unit looked like for them and mark with a green brick what worked and with a red brick something that didn’t work so well for them. During the second part of the session students were asked to think about how learning would look like on the unit if everything would be ideal. They did this initially individually but then connected their ideas in sub-groups and shared with the whole class.  It was fascinating! All students highlighted very similar things as important factors to make learning happen. Haleh was taking notes throughout and responded at the end of the session which  brought everything together.

making a start (thank you Dr Alison James for the bag idea) , image source: https://farm8.staticflickr.com/7007/13463088623_2bfb319f8d_z.jpg

Students were really focused during the making stages and Haleh was surprised as this group is usually very vocal. Students were concentrating and connecting their thoughts while making their models. I really loved we were all sitting on the floor, around our LEGO campfire and ideas and thoughts emerged, took shape and were shared. Students showed interested in each other’s stories and were asking questions and commented on each others thoughts. Students opened up really quickly. I think it did help that the group knew each other and they felt safe perhaps?

I was impressed with the maturity of students and their commitment to learn and become professionals in their chosen area but also that they acknowledged that they needed support and guidance by their peers and tutors to achieve their goals. Their stories provided rich evidence for all this.

So what came out of the LSP process?

  • Students love variety.
  • Students get bored when they just have to sit there and listen to stuff. They switch off.
  • Students want to understand the usefulness of what they are learning and how it relates to their context and interests.
  • Students want to interact with others.
  • Students want to learn with others.
  • Students understand the value of reading but they want want to do stuff. This seems to be very important to them, the doing part!
  • Students also love to learn through visuals, images, videos etc. we live in a very visual world!
  • Students want to start from the application, experience and practice to develop theory instead the other way around.
  • Students want to be involved in all sessions.
  • Students want also time for themselves. We need to remember this.
  • Students want to know how bits fit together, how they are connected. Just focusing on individual puzzle pieces is not helpful. The bigger picture is important and this needs to be made clear.
  • Students need help to see and make connections as it is not always obvious to them.
  • Students need help understanding why some bits are important, even if ‘boring’ – what is the value of learning these and how do these fit into the bigger picture?
  • Students want the engage in authentic learning.
  • Students want lecturers that have a passion for their subject and inspire them!
  • Students want to learn and they need help and support by their tutors and peers.
  • Students get distracted by their own technology! This was a very interesting confession they made!

Haleh reminded me afterwards that I said:

When we don’t understand something, we get frustrated, some get angry or defensive, others switch off.

I think it is important to remember this when interacting with others, in our everyday life but also in the context of learning and teaching where this is also very relevant. Haleh commented on this: “I think what we did was a revelation and a great experience. You possibly opened up one of my flaws as well for switching off when people don’t get what I mean or what I want. So I think while students were learning I was learning not just about them but about myself too!” (published here with Haleh’s permission)

After students shared their ideas about their ideal experience on this unit and while Haleh was quietly taking notes of the stories students shared – I think she filled loads of papers and was not participating in any of the activities, it was Haleh’s opportunity to share her first thoughts in response to what her own students had said in the last two hours and what her first thoughts and ideas were to tailor learning and teaching on this unit further to help future students. I loved the openness and the transparency of the whole process. Students and the tutor showed enormous respect for each other and were really interested to find solutions that would work for all.

powerful thinking with our hands image source: https://farm8.staticflickr.com/7381/13463125553_51d503834e_z.jpg

All students engaged in the session and found it valuable. They noted that it helped them share inner thoughts and ideas but also found out about how their peers felt about learning on the unit and how they could move forward together. Some suggested that a similar LSP activity would have been useful at the start of the academic year and I can see the value of doing this to speed-up the process of opening up and create learning relationships and community. If anybody would like to try this, please get in touch and we can arrange this.

Learning about myself and others, image source https://farm4.staticflickr.com/3784/13465642385_bfb3e88e7a_z.jpg

The first year students I spent two hours together during the LSP workshop definitely wanted to learn. They were motivated and cared for each other, they felt that they were belonging to a learning community and wanted to succeed in life and become excellent professionals in their chosen field. They recognised the important role of the teacher as a facilitator and supporter of their learning but also as somebody who is inspirational and a role model. The stories they shared definitely confirmed to me that they want to be in a state of being switched on. How can we educators help them?

Could we have got the above from a survey, an interview, a focus group or using another way? I think we could, to some extend. Perhaps we wouldn’t get the richness of responses and we definitely wouldn’t be able to create the atmosphere for opening-up and sharing and creating opportunities for peer bonding and a sense of community which did happen naturally without being forced and created new opportunities for peer-to-peer connections and learning. One of the students said in an email afterwards:

We did some Lego play yesterday and we now know each other much better. I realise that currently the tutors change each year, but we don’t want to start from scratch with somebody else and a new group (as we know each other so well after our Lego therapy) when we already have such a strong bond with Haleh who is so creative and has been supporting us personally and academically. We have all built a really strong relationship both with Haleh and each other, and feel like it would be a shame to lose the dynamic and foundation we have built together.” (used here with students’ permission)


The true power of learning relationships. What are your thoughts on this?

What students said about the LSP approach image source: https://farm6.staticflickr.com/5156/13463089295_08331d9bf1_z.jpg

Learning relationships are important for learning and can be powerful motivators. I think, no survey could have achieved what we achieved in 2 hours together. No interview, no ordinary focus group. The playfulness of LSP and the depth in thinking and reflection that surfaced made it so valuable for all involved and so meaningful and useful. Individuals felt safe, opening-up and made connections with themselves and each other. Students in this group developed a stronger sense of individual and collective identity.

Thank you all for joining in and making this work. I look forward to finding out how the outcomes from the LSP session will be shaping the next iteration of the Nutrition 21 unit.

Thank you for reading.


ps. first draft

The open bug and about hijacking a stand-alone open course

Open Education week 2014 has come to an end but open educators are open and share their work openly all year round. The week was a festival of celebrations around the globe with opportunities to share, connect and learn with others and find out what open education is all about but also stop for a while and reflect on the value of being open and sharing experiences, resources, expertise but also ideas that truly grow and evolve when we come together. There was a buzz in the air, I could feel it in the digital jungle but also in the physical one when I visited places and interacted with others.

Is open education giving away stuff and letting others use our ideas freely without any restrictions or even trample on our ideas and forget their origin, their history? Some might see it that way. I don’t.

For me open education is a great opportunity to share our learning with others, to help others and be helped but also to give something back to society. It is a celebration of human discoveries, stories, achievements, creativity and innovations, of any scale, even the tiniest one that might be of value for others. Open education has the potential to lead to personal and collective growth; to new explorations, new adventures. Together we can achieve loads. Loads more than on our own. I read somewhere that ideas live longer when they are shared. It must be true. But, I think, they don’t just live longer, they also grow in different directions. A seed can grow into an exotic plant, that will then multiply following the cycle of life and evolve into something else. Birth, growth, death, renewal. I really think sharing is the fertiliser of ideas! Respectful sharing! Sharing keeps ideas alive. Sharing is also an ideas generator. Sharing is vital for humanity and has led us where we are today. Sharing makes us who we are, creates our paths for the future, our destinies.

Our minds are magic machines, like no other and our imaginations are limitless. In our minds we flirt with possibilities and impossibilities and often we let ourselves get lost in these. But we are not just dreamers, we create new realities too. We make things happen and we make things. We make the impossible, possible. We have done this many times and will do so again, many more times. And we love to share the things we make. We always did. Humans always found fulfilment and happiness in sharing. We still do! Perhaps in the olden days, I call them BC, as in before computers, and especially before social media, sharing was more localised and it was harder to discover fresh ideas that were just born in a little village on the other side of the planet by somebody nobody outside the little village knew. Today, we all have a voice, we are all global broadcasters, sharers and makers if we want to be but also learners and  teachers, and we can all share our thoughts, ideas, creations not just with the people who are near us geographically but more often we share with people we feel are near us a-geographically if there is such a word. Technologies at our fingertips are bringing out the social animal and the maker in us and empower us to share many aspects of our lives with a much wider audience, find alias at the edge of the world that remind us that we are not alone in our thoughts… Especially creative people, I think, who are driven by their curiosity to discover and connect, to play and explore, have become global adventurers and benefited the most from seeking and creating opportunities to reach out and connect, experiment and collaborate with like minded people wherever they are which creates a sense of belonging within vibrant networks and communities. We perhaps feel also less lonely knowing that there are other people out there who push the boundaries,  take risks, use their imagination and creativity to collaborate and innovate. It gives us strength to keep moving and move on. Could this sense of belonging be the true value of opening-up, connecting and sharing with others?

During Open Education Week, our open FDOL course developed by myself and Lars Uhlin was underway, week 5 out of 6, I was invited by Dr David Walker to share some of my open education projects at an HEA event  at Sussex University.

I engaged in other open events during the week and really enjoyed Cathrine Cronin‘s and Sheila MacNeill‘s webinar around the open educator.

I managed also to watch the recording of another interesting and highly useful webinar for my PhD research especially, by Terese Bird and Prof. Grainne Conole.

On top of all that activity, travelling up and down the country and my normal working life (and my personal and family life as well!!!), I came up with the idea to offer another 5-Day course with a twist during the week. Not that I had time for this on top of everything else I was doing already, but I couldn’t stop myself… and I made the time.

I have asked myself many times what happened to OERs and stand-alone courses available under a Creative Commons licence in repositories and other digital locations and was keen to explore how these could potentially be repurposed. My idea was to use a ready-made, off-the shelf course and bring together a team of volunteer facilitators to enable interaction and support learning plus add a few synchronous happenings to the offer. From my work as an academic developer I have seen far too often that educators focus on content. Their prep often means putting a PowerPoint together and lecture notes. What do we forget? The interaction? Our learners? Content is everywhere!!! And I am not a walking encyclopedia to know everything, not even in my own professional area. Things change too rapidly and mountains of new knowledge are created as we speak. Is it actually possible to know everything and is it actually even needed?

During the OER13 Conference I heard Darco Jansen say:

Content is not education, interaction is!

These words were extremely powerful and stayed with me since.

But also it isn’t really about us and what we do but more about what our learners do and how we can facilitate learning and support them but also learn with them. Often we also feel restricted when given somebody else’s materials to use in our classes. We want to make and use our own and I have been thinking about this before as a possible cause for the reduced re-use and re-purposing of OER? But I might make a massive assumption here and this is not good. So please interpret this more as a question that needs to be explored further. Well I wanted to put this to the test and almost proof, if you like, that we seem to focus on the wrong things! Is learning really about the content? We say it isn’t but what are we doing about it? I had already located a suitable course for this experiment which was waiting patiently in my Diigo collection for some time now to be used… when Paul Booth, made an announcement the week before that he would launch his newly created Northwest OER Network during Open Education Week and put a call out for suggestions of network activities to the steering group, I proposed my open course idea or the hijacking if you like of an existing stand-alone course and breath interaction, facilitation and support into it but also enable facilitators to develop and grow. So learning and development opportunities for all! Could this work? The course I proposed was developed by Dr David Wiley and available within p2pu Intro to Openness in Education. Accessing the course, didn’t even require registration which was an added bonus. The themes and resources in this course presented opportunities for flexible engagement also so that anybody who participated could pick ‘n’ mix and engage as much or as little as they would like or was possible at the time. I was pleased that my idea was well received by the steering group and led to the development and implementation during Open Education Week. This was speed course building in action and required concentrated commitment. What a thrill. Previously with Sue Beckingham, we worked for 3 months to develop BYOD4L now we had only a few days. Could we make it work? As Paul embraced it I decided that we could run it together under the Northwest OER Network. I wanted to help Paul raise awareness of his new and important network for the region and also secured support from CELT. In no time, we managed to get 13 volunteer facilitators in total from 3 different continents through our networks and together, we created a facilitated version of the existing course and offered it during Open Education Week. We didn’t have to worry about content and my take on it was that participants would anyway share their own resources, much nicer that providing everything ready on the plate, so to speak.  Anne Hole also shared her collaborative flipboard and invited others to contribute useful resources and links. We used a buddy system for facilitators who worked in pairs during the week, most of them. We had done this before with Sue and it worked really well. We also created a private community for facilitators to come together to support each other and shared a Google doc folder with related information to co-ordinate activities. We focused on creating daily opportunities for synchronous and asynchronous interactions in different social spaces and our main question was how we could bring learners together. There were discussions, open air hangouts, an external webinar led by Prof. Martin Weller (blog post, presentation and recording available here) and tweetchats.

I think, the tweetchats created most of the buzz. We used the tweetchat format developed by Sue Beckingham for our BYOD4L course and it worked really well. The tweetchats brought facilitators and some individuals from the wider community together on 3 days of the week. The exchange was rich and I could see that the chats generated more questions than answers, which I think, us a good thing. I really would love to investigate why tweetchats seem to work so well. What makes them work? The week was intense, a roller coaster, a fantastic and exciting experience. Peter Reed created daily visualisations of our tweet tags based on Martin Hawskey‘s tags explorer and many of us used Stori.fy to bring the tweetchats together. There is no way, any of this would have been possible without Paul Booth, my partner in crime, Carol Yeager, Anne Hole, Helen Webster, Betty Hurley-Dasgupta, Sue Beckingham, Kathrine Jensen, Peter Reed, Lenandlar Singh, Simon Thomson, Alex Spiers, Neil Currie and all who joined us during the week. We are grateful for the commitment and passion they showed to this last-minute project and their engagement and exchange. Thank you all!

My next open experiment leads me to an even more playful adventure and an open curriculum… I won’t be doing this on my own, so much richer when we share the journey with others ;)

If you are new to all this open stuff,  don’t be quick to dismiss it, give it a go! Identify a mini-opportunity to open-up and connect one of your classes with the outside world and help your students connect with people out there to enrich their learning experience further and make it authentic. It will also be fab for you as you will make new connections with educators around the world and feel part of a wider community.

Remember sharing is good for all of us. But do it properly!

Remember not just to take but also to give back and if you build your ideas on somebody else’s, add proper  attribution! Give a little something back today and consider sharing your open creation via JORUM with others and see your ideas growing.

Did you catch the open bug? Share your story with me.

Note: this is a draft and I will be editing further. There are bits that are missing at the moment.

Thank you for stopping by and reading ;)


Blaming the tools, Chrissi?


So pleased I organised that mock interview and we experienced problems. Learning from mistakes and when things go wrong? Yes. But I was also lucky that the individual who volunteered to participate in this mock interview was patient, had put time aside for this (at least it felt like this) and also knew me. Things will  be very different with the real interviews and I need to make sure that the process is efficient and the experience positive. I don’t want to upset anybody or make them feel uncomfortable to fully participate and share their reflections.

The plan was to use Adobe Connect and a link to the room had been shared in advance. We both had used this tool before and were both familiar with it. However, we both experienced problems with the audio and after trying to resolve these for 30 minutes we decided to connect via Skype. Actually even before the 30 minutes past we connected via Skype and could hear each other clearly.

While we were experiencing the problems with Adobe, I was thinking of my future interviewees who might not be familiar with this tool, might be less patient and don’t know me… How would they react? I think there was a potential to turn these interviews into nightmares, upset people and not get the data needed. I definitely don’t want that! How can I avoid this?

The sound quality was so much better on Skype. Also most people will be familiar with this tool. An added bonus!!! It is easy to use as well even if not used before so I wanted to give it a go. A few years ago I had used Skype for Phenomenographical interviews when I was collecting data for my MSc dissertation. It did work well and I managed to record the audio then. Yesterday I couldn’t make the audio recorder work I had installed on my laptop and used then. This was so frustrating, extremely frustrating but I have to admit that I did not think that we had to switch tools for this and didn’t test it in advance. I had some problems with my Laptop not so long again and it had to go to the doctor… perhaps some bits from the installation were removed then? I have no idea. I am sure this is all my fault. I should have a plan  B!!! After loosing a few minutes on trying to make the recorder work, I gave up. Yes, I did.

I still wanted to capture as much as I could from the interview and thought of keeping notes in Google doc. I shared an empty doc with my test interviewee but I would be the one writing in there. The interviewee was happy with it so we went ahead with this approach. What had seen each other briefly in Adobe Connect before we abandoned it. In Skype we just used the audio connection, perhaps because we were didn’t want to reduce the sound quality? I don’t know, it just happened. Then I was going to write in Google doc. Thinking now, if it would be better to also have the video connection. After the mock interview I went to Twitter and ask for help to identify an audio recorder. Among the responses was a link to a very insightful blog post about the use of Skype for research interviews and I am including it here and need to read very carefully. It was really nice that I got responses from the wider community. Thank you so much everybody.

Ok, we finally were ready to make a start with the interview. I explained at the start that the data will NOT be shared with anybody and NOT be used for the PhD research project and that the purpose of this mock interview was purely to test the questions, the process and get some feedback so that I can fine tune in readiness for my first interview on Friday.

The atmosphere was warm, I could sense, even without seeing the interviewee, that the person wasn’t upset about the delay (but I was concerned!!!), in contrary they were very understanding and patient. Perhaps because they knew me? The interview part went very smoothly. I got really rich responses and didn’t have to do too much talking. This was very important for me as this is designed to be a semi-structured interview. I skipped a few questions as the answers were already included in responses to other questions and there was a natural flow, which I liked. I was pleased that I actually managed really well to type at the same time. I thought if I will be able to do this during the interview. If I decide to type during the interview it would help me when transcribing the interviews from the audio files. Would this reduce the time needed to transcribe? I think it will. Don’t think this will be distractive to the interviewee, especially if the keyboard is soft and it doesn’t create un-natural breaks. But I am not sure if I would focus more on what I was writing that was I was listening and the most important thing during the interview is active listening. So not sure and I need to decide soon. It is important to me that the interview is more like a dialogue or conversation. Wouldn’t be good to say, one moment, just need to complete this sentence..

At the end of the interview I asked the interviewee about the experience. I got the reply ‘perfect’. Well, it definitely wasn’t perfect as we experienced tech problems at the start but I think what was meant that the part of the interview went well. I was very pleased about this. Comments were made about some of the questions. It was felt that some of them were perhaps too open? I have to say that I was pleased about this as this was the main reason they were formulated like this. To enable the interviewee to open up and reflect deeper on specific aspects of the experience. In some cases, I did ask further questions where I felt, I need more specific information about something the interviewee mentioned and that worked really well. So overall, the questions and the process seem to have worked, at least in this case. I realised that I won’t need to ask all the questions but do need to listen carefully so that I don’t ask questions that have been answered already.

I now need to find a/the audio recorder for Skype. Decided not to go back to Adobe Connect, won’t use it as a tool to capture the interviews. It just seems to be too complex and so many things can go wrong. Let’s just use a tool people are familiar with and that seems to be more reliable, if I dare to say. I asked for help on Twitter to find an audio recorder and will start exploring some of the options. I must also check again if I can get the one that I have will work! Perhaps I was too stressed and was running out of time the other day when I trying to make it work, so I might not have pushed the right button??? Happened to me before… so I wouldn’t be surprised if this was the case this time also. Will add the audio recorder I am going to use, when I am sure that it works properly.

Any advice on the above thoughts would be very welcome. My first proper interview is this Friday!

ps. Am I blaming the tools? Or are some tools just better for certain things and a bit more bendy???

Can we fix it or Day 5 #byod4l @melsiguk

This was our last BYOD4L Day. Where did that week go? It disappeared under our feet, metaphorically and literally!  It was high speed, high fun and high challenge, for me personally at least. And I would also add, high commitment, after reading Prof. Norman Jackson’s post. He is so right. Norman’s thoughts around this reminded me of Ronald Barnett’s (2007, 67) phrase:

The will to learn may not be everything,  but without it nothing is possible.

The will and commitment are one in my mind. The will requires commitment or is the will commitment? I ask myself the following questions:

  • Can we learn anything without commitment?
  • Can we achieve anything without commitment?
  • Can we care if the commitment is not there?

BYOD4L was exciting and made me feel  excited and I don’t think I was the only one. When something good is over, we want to hang on to it for a little bit longer. This is perhaps how some of us feel at the moment. But how do we know that the ‘high’ would continue? Could engagement be stabilised at some level to enable prolonged engagement? How could we make this happen. We are at the moment exploring a number of opportunities and I will probably get back to some of the ideas later in this post… Again, I am writing my thoughts about Day 5 on Sunday, 2 whole days after BYOD4L came to an end, the facilitated part, anyway, and my writing doesn’t feel fresh…

I was surprised that conversations about MOOCs in relation to BYOD4L surfaced on Twitter just before the end. I had seen that some people were talking about a MOOC when referring to BYOD4L in their reflections. I guess, people compare the new with the known and perhaps MOOCs are the type of  ‘open’ courses the majority of people are more familiar with. Perhaps we use some of the features that are used in this types of courses, I don’t deny this, (but some have raised questions if these are courses… does it matter?) I am, wondering if MOOCs are the only way to offer open learning opportunities or has it become a more generic term? I am aware that language is dynamic and changes over time. In one of my previous lives I used to be translator and was playing with words on a day-to-day basis in between cultures. History has shown that ‘error words’ have a longer lifespan and perhaps the word MOOC is becoming one of them. Hoover pops into my head now, not that it is an ‘error word’ but it has become a collective term beyond the Hoover brand, in the UK at least. Are there similarities? I am wondering what the massive has to do with learning? Does learning actually happen on a massive scale? Or do we broadcast content on a massive scale and are creating a super league of (open educational) broadcasters? Writing about it now, reminds me of telly. I thought we have agreed that this passive way doesn’t work that well for learning?  On the other hand we talk so much more these days about personal connections, personal learning and even when we talk about teaching and learning, we start with the word learning which is followed by teaching. Does this mean anything? I am very much interested in exploring opportunities to make learning happen in open online ecologies. The people who can cope with MOOCs, if you like, will learn anyway, anyhow, anywhere. What about the masses (to use this term now how I understand it!) that can’t cope? Does this mean that there should not be opportunities for them? What happened to being inclusive? One size does not fit all. I guess, we would all agree. I understand that universities and private co-operations are looking for sustainable business models for open education. There are great opportunities now and I hope universities will discover new horizons… Some feel that they have to jump on the massive tanker or cargo packed with containers full of stuff – or otherwise they will not survive? I don’t know. Following the masses was never a thing I was keen in doing. I like to explore and experiment, to play with ideas. Often this means being lonely. Lost in ideas? But it doesn’t have to be that way! There are like-minded people around. It seems easier to find the ones that are not just around the corner. Why? I feel that I have found a whole family of like-minded people thanks to BYOD4L and thanks to the digital tools that enabled us to find each other. We didn’t expect everything to work but we were committed (to borrow Norman’s words again!), committed to the project and committed to each other and saw this adventure as an opportunity to surprice ourselves and others and make discoveries.

I am very much interested in exploring how we can help individuals and groups come together in open spaces and learn together if and when they want to. What has the massive to do with this?  Massive is attractive for some. Perhaps the numbers are misleading?  I can’t ignore the quote by dear Albert Einstein

Not everything that can be counted, counts and not everything that counts can be counted.

I don’t deny that there might be many more (or too many if this is possible?) opportunities (but for whom?). I thought learning is about the learner, all of them, but also each individual one. When there are loads and loads more people on the massive learning stage what is really happening? When we learn with others, do we really need or want the masses? Do we learn with the masses? Even confident, competent connected, networked or rhizomatic learners, or even just learners, pick the people they find interesting, the ideas that connect them or challenge their beliefs and this is fantastic and so so useful for learning. We all go through this selection process. Somehow we find each other. But are we all outspoken in open spaces and habitats. Think of a massive party. Can we all cope? Do we all reach out when we need help, or when we want to dance with somebody (at a party)? Who does? If open educational offers are going to engage the un-engaged in education, lifelong and lifewide learning, is there something we actually need to adjust? Are there other models and frameworks we can explore or experiment with to make our open offers more attractive to the people who need it most? I am wondering… Are we really all ready for MOOCs as we know them? A am not convinced about the ‘M’ in that word (please help me to understand why this is needed) and if all MOOCs are actually open (I have written a post about this a while ago linked to FDOL and at other times here on my blog). Perhaps it has to do with how we see open, in what context? I am sure this is the case. For us, here on BYOD4L and me personally, open means truly open. Also open-ended as Andrew Middleton noted and wide-open as I add here now. This is why we don’t have any registration, this is why nobody needs a password to access any spaces or seek permission to enter, this is why anybody can join when they want to and stay as long as they want to. Make their own connections and define their learning paths, on their own and with others. All we did is create the foundations of an ecosystem to emerge. The people who joined us for a bit or longer (we don’t even know how many they were, but does it matter?) brought it to live and became the heart of it. How can we extend the live of this community? We, and I mean organisers, facilitators and participants (and I don’t like this categorisation at all – learners would be better) can help to make that box a magical open box, without its people, there is NO magic. People are the heart of BYOD4L they make this box magical

My thoughts now are taking me to a specific Waterfall of Ideas (this is the term I gave to Twitter chats, and I would like to write a little something just about this with some of my colleagues on BYOD4L and I include our participants). On Day 5 it was my turn with Alex Spiers. I was really looking forward to this but didn’t want it to be the same thing as the previous nights. I was excited and nervous as the whole thing could be flat like a pancake!!! I had never led a Twitter chat before. Don’t think anybody knows that!!! Despite the fact that I had never done it before, I wanted to play with the idea of doing it differently! Our theme was creating, so we had the perfect opportunity to be creative and enable creative expression but also find ways to be curious about ideas and each other. There was no point to just replicate what had happened before. I suggested a more risky approach and am pleased that Alex embraced my crazy ideas. Often people don’t and this can be upsetting for creative people. But I do understand that people want to keep doing the same thing if they feel it works why change it? This is not a question I ask myself. My question usually is, yes, it works, how can we make it even better? Or what would happen if….? For me learning needs to be exciting. I want suspense and I want learners to feel their heart beating and their brains going with 1000 miles per second and steam coming out of their ears and nose. We were on a Tweet chat roller coaster and it paid off. We worked well with Alex (we had done stuff together before), we had a DM back channel and we coordinated activities and even had some fun there too. Good to do these things with somebody else and be there for each other when needed. People who participated were excited and engaged and expressed in creative ways. We had a few cases of people who warned us that they couldn’t unfortunately participate on the day but completed the tasks anyway. We asked everybody to contribute their learning during BYOD4L in a visual way using their smart devices (or tools as Norman would say) and were amazed with the artefacts that were created and the variety of approaches used. Wow! I couldn’t stop smiling! We are putting a presentation together to capture some of them and when you see it all together, I feel really proud of how all our participants have engaged, experimented, played and learnt. The previous Twitterchats gave people the opportunity to familiarise with what what a Twitterchat is and build their confidence in actively and visibly participating in a public space where anybody could be ‘watching’ and ‘listening’ and ‘jump in’. Now it was about time, to try something different, take a few more risks, and identify how far people are prepared to go. I have seen it in other educational settings, if there is a community and there is trust, wacky, more playful and unusual ideas are not ridiculed that quickly and people do take risks together. Was there a community on Day 5? I think there was. We all went for it! The Question shower, the main part of the Twitterchat also moved the focus away from answering pre-set questions by the facilitators. Now everybody had to come up with questions linked to the creating theme and share them with others. We were going fast and furious. Twitter was on fire for about an hour and we might have lost a few followers as a result of this but the people who were with us stayed with us and participated passionately in the Question Shower game: Stick to the theme of the day, creating, ask a question and respond with a question. It was impressive what followed and the chaotic but in so many ways creative conversations were captured in Sue’s Storify.

BYOD4L definitely finished on a high note. Just adding here one BYOD4L by Laurence but there are many others. I would like to thank everybody who participated and became part of this experiement. I have been working with Sue since November 2013 on developing BYOD4L and more recently with our dear volunteer facilitators. It has been such a rich experience. We have worked tirelessly to make BYOD4L happen and are so happy that it went so well. I definitely have learnt a lot that I will be taking forward. We definitely see this experiment as a start for other initiatives and will build on this to extend opportunities for personal and professional development in this area. The MELSIG book project is a great opportunity but also the MMU event on the 14th of April. Would be lovely to see you there.

Remember to claim a badge or two or more if you have done the work.

A MASSIVE thank you to Sue Beckingham who worked tirelessly with me for months now, evenings, weekends and  during holidays. We have learnt a lot about each other and discovered that we love working together. We are efficient and understand each other really well and so so quickly. No lengthy explanations were needed, there have been no tensions, decisions were made really quickly and smoothly. Each one of us used our strengths in this project and we supported each other when we needed help. It has been a pure pleasure working and developing with Sue.

Thank you to our dear Dr Cristina Costa who took the time to review our plan before it all began, our artist Ellie Livermore and her creative design for the BYOD4L logo and the badges but also for all the filming of the scenarios, our dear David Hopkins for making it possible to introduce badges and all our facilitators, Dr Panos Vlachopoulos who joined us from Australia and worked tirelessly in the FB group, Chris Rowell, Kathrine Jensen, Ola Aiyegbayo, Alex Spiers, Neil Withnell, Dee Vyas and our Andrew Middleton for embacing the idea to offer BYOD4L under the MELSIG umbrella. But also Colin Gray who is going is helping us with the Learning Analytics and Lars Uhlin, our Big Brother in a nice way, who has been watching us all and will provide feedback from his perspective.

Thank you all for your valuable contributions, each one of you and all together. NONE of this would have been possible without you.

Bye for now dear friends ;)

ps. All 5 post titles linked to BYOD4L are a song. Do you know the performers?

Day 1: Where is Linda

Day 2: Let’s dance

Day 3: Thinking of you

Day 4: Umbrella


All my BYOD4L facilitator reflections have been submitted for the facilitator badge and after external review by Dr David Walker, I got my badge and I feel a sense of achievement. Very happy ;)  Thank you for reviewing and for making a judgement that my work  meets the criteria for getting this badge. Here it is


Barnett, R. (2007) A Will To Learn. Being a Student in an Age of Uncertainty, Maidenhead: Open University Press.

AnswerGarden is a minimal feedback space using keywords

via AnswerGarden: BYOD4Learning: What is it for you?.

Umbrella or Day 4 #BYOD4L @melsiguk

Capturing my reflections on Day 4 now after BYOD4L has come to an end. Unfortunately, and I mean unfortunately, I was running out of time to do this any earlier. Other tasks related to this project had to come first, I decided. This meant that the snippets of reflections on that day lived in my head for a few days, some of them on bits of paper but I can see how carrying reflections around might not be enough. They seem to fade too easily, some of them might already be dead… Does this mean that these were not important? I am not sure. I might have missed some great opportunities for my own development and to evaluate our offer(?). How do you reflect? I have heard people saying again and again, I reflect in my head and they are happy with this and feel that it is enough. Is it though?

Looking back, I think I should have made the time just to capture my raw reflections at the end of the day or the next morning, to have a record of that moment in time. Reflections are of course dynamic, they change over time and when we look back we can use them for our own development. I feel that I miss that bit now of capturing what was occupying my head then and I am, I have to admit here, not sure, if I am actually going to capture my thoughts on Day 4 or if I am just trying to say something here to fill this post… not good is it?

This morning, and it is Sunday, now, I said to myself, I can no longer postpone it but I did in a way as I found another little task to do before I started writing this post. Am I avoiding it now? Very possible. But I am going to keep writing and hope that something useful will come of out this.  Using some notes from last night should be useful?

One main item popped into my head when I closed my eyes and tried to relive Day 4. That was time, surprise, surprise. The time we have, the time we make, the time we don’t have and the time we think we should make. Does this make sense? During Day 1 I felt under pressure to be everywhere and be visible seen as to be there. Was this realistic? Was this needed? We all know that we are not all the time with our learners. We are not there with them 24-7 when we teach or facilitate learning (I like that better!) in face-to-face settings. It is not possible and it is not good for them anyway!!! We all need time and space! I am now wondering if it is easier to forget, or if we, as facilitators, have for some strange reason convinced ourselves, that we need to be there all the time when we support individuals and groups online. Is this easier to happen in open or public settings? Do we feel under pressure to be seen? I think learners might feel similar. Uninterrupted connectivity can or is, I should dare to say, disruptive for learning. When we constantly try and  be there with others, when are we with ourselves and our own thoughts? When do we digest what occupies our mind? When are we just happy learning on our own? Have we forgotten how this feels like? Social media are great but can they also become our worst nightmare? Social learning doesn’t mean non-stop togetherness.This creates dependency! I think learning with others, could or should even, be more about knowing that others are around, that we care for each other and that we will support each other when needed. That we do stuff together when we want to, not because we feel we have to! I like my freedom as a learner, to go my own paths, to use my curiosity to make discoveries, but I also enjoy meeting others along the way and share with them my ideas and thoughts and problems so that I can extend learning at a personal and collective level and take it into different directions which we as individuals didn’t even think of. This can only happen through opening up and sharing within a community. But do we need to be together all the time??? No we don’t. Couples for examples are happier with each other when they give each other time and space to breath, to be with themselves and others, to pursue their own interests. This doesn’t mean they go their own ways. Well in a way they do. But what is wrong with it? This doesn’t stop them doing stuff together also. There is a thread that holds specific people together. This thread can be very weak or strong, break or not break at all. It all depends on us, the people on the end of this thread. Not just speaking about couples in romantic relationships, but also professional partnerships and friends, learners and teachers.

Is knowing that others are around more important than actually being around all the time? BYOD4L as a construction reminds be of an umbrella, that protects. What I don’t like of the idea while capturing it here now, is that the umbrella seems to be on top of everything and everybody. This is definitely not how I see BYOD4L. It is more of a fabric then perhaps, a protective fabric that hugs the community and its people that lets them breath and explore, to be curios and experiment (definitely NOT bubblewrap!!!), believe in themselves and have trust in each other. But am I painting a realistic picture here? Can this really happen in an open learning ecology?

I will move on to Day 5 but my thoughts are all melting into one. Will be interesting to discover where my reflections  take me next…

Speak again soon dear friends,


Thinking of you or Day 3 #byod4l @melsiguk

Definitely thinking of all of you while also feeling guilty of being invisible or partly absent today. My day was packed and I could only engage with BYOD4L in the periphery. Reflecting on this now, I am not sure it was a bad thing. Too often we teacher think we need to be there all the time and orchestrate every single bit of learning opportunity. When we do that constantly, there is a danger, I think, to create dependency. On the other hand, this is a team effort and if we all facilitate a little bit and create personal connections with people and ideas that deepen engagement and promote autonomous collaborative learning driven by the learners, I mean, this can only be a good thing. Yesterday, a session I did for our PGCAP course, and a conversation I had afterwards with my colleague with whom I team-taught this, made me remember that we can only open the door to learning opportunities, what happens is up to our learners. Often also our learners themselves create their own doors and these are even more valuable and demonstrate a commitment to learning. So perhaps not being there and not responding to every single piece of thought is a good thing? While I was not there, I was thinking of you all, as the song goes and BYOD4L stayed in my mind for the whole day. The facilitator community we have really helps to feel part of a team and the support among the facilitators and the encouragement we give is one of the strengths of this initiative. We are open with each other, most of us capture our reflections and share them openly not just with each other but also with the wider public. No idea, if anybody is reading as comments have been limited but for us, our own narratives will be extremely valuable when we start evaluating BYOD4 and attempt to come to some conclusions linked to the facilitator experience in open educational settings and especially ones like ours.

Our daily Tweetchats seem to work really well and what I like especially is the informal and personal character of these and how we really have started making connection and communicate with each other and are actually (quite)  open in a (very) public space. A call made by one of our participants made me smile and I am adding it here as this reflects, at least for me, some of my own experiences:

“I have just signed up for the MOOC on gamification. It would be great if some BYOD4L people would join in too so I won’t be lonely.”

This feeling of togetherness is what makes BYOD4L so special. I would love to hear from you, how we can create learning togetherness and what the impact of such models could potentially have on engaging the un- or less-engaged in learning. I look forward to your thoughts.

Let’s dance or Day 2 #byod4l @melsiguk

Today was very different. The storm is over, or we have started dancing in it? Yesterday we confronted the unknown.  What we wanted was people to engage and find value in the connections they make, turn  monologues into dialogues and learn together, if they want to, if we want to. We planned for this to happen but we had no idea how or if it would work. While I have been experimenting with the basic design we are using n BYOD4L in other open courses, we have made modifications that makes it a very different offer. Much shorter, 5 days only, over 10 facilitators and a different approach to collaborative learning. Much more driven by the learner. But connections are also looser I noticed. But it still feels personal. People are active in different spaces and there seems to be some activity in physical hangouts as well. Speaking of hangouts, it was interesting that none has happened yet, as far as I can see.  Would be interesting to find out what others will say about this.

I went undercover, so to speak, this morning and had a quick look around blog posts and commented on a few while also working. The stories are fascinating. People are challenging and stretch themselves and we have loads and loads of experimenters among us who see it as a good opportunity to have a go and try new things. The process of their development is shared and their products often. Many have set up blogs for the first time, same with video, to capture their reflections, others are making mind- and concept maps and share images. I like that as we can literally ideas develop and grow during the learning process.  And I do include our dear facilitators, the whole team. We are all capturing our thoughts and experiences and hopefully all that stuff will be useful to evaluate this experiment. I personally find it very useful for my own professional development. This collaboration is pushing the boundaries of what is possible with no or limited means based on pure good will, commitment and passion, collegiality beyond boundaries but also trust.

In the morning I was reminded by Norman Jackson while reading one of his BYOD4L posts about the need to disconnect, to find peace, with ourselves and with others. To stop, reflect and digest – to learn. Social media are great but we can also become slaves… not good. While we talk about connecting it is also important to remember to disconnect. Ok, we are social animals and we love to be around other people, but all the time? Can we no longer be happy with just ourselves and the people around us in the physical space? Do we need to do everything in public, just because we can? I am also asking myself these questions. What did we do before the internet? What did we do before the social web especially? How are our relationships changing and shaped by our digital presence and identity and the  spaces and connections we make there? I will stop here and just add a quote from one of our participants in this evening’s Twitterchat

I am taking part in this lovely informal course.

I would love to find out what makes it lovely and informal and what impact these things have on engagement and learning. Please respond if you have a view and would like to share. Thank you.

Sleep well dear friends and speak again soon. The dance is not over yet ;)

ps. Another song as a title… what will tomorrow bring?