@byod4l Day 3 and letting go

When you have children it is normal that you look after them. Often you mollycottle them long after they have opened their wings and want to fly away or even have flown away already. My children are still little but the first indications are there already that this is going to happen to me too…

My 12 year old doesn’t let me hold his hand in public anymore, especially when in our little hometown… while at home he is really a softie and still comes to me for a hug. But for how long?

Letting go is hard… the same I think happened with teachers and their relationship with learners. Teachers naturally care and want to be there for them… but always? This creates dependency… while we want our learners to become autonomous thinkers and beings and be successful in life. And we want the same for our children.

Yesterday was a Day of letting go for Byod4L. Sitting back and enjoying what learners had already achieved. Confidence had grown rapidly in the first 2 days and it was so wonderful to actually see and enjoy that growth in then and the connections they had made and were making but also see how that fresh confidence enabled them to make further steps and take greater risks on own and together with other. They also opened up more and were honest too.

For me this really reminded me of the role teachers can play to bring individuals together and lay the foundations of a community to form. Some might challenge the idea that communities are formed or build but I think it is really possible.

BTW I am writing this on the train again. It is a very early start for me. I am on my way to Gloucester where I will be meeting colleagues to discuss MOOCs… my contribution actually sits outside MOOCland as this is the area of my particular interest and research.

Anyway, this trip will keep me away for a bit from BYOD4L but I will be connected and hopefully can participate at least a little bit. Today’s theme is collaborating and I hope that some individuals will reach out and start collaborating with each other. Can’t wait to find out how this will work.

Wishing us all a great day (6.33am).

This post will probably be added in the evening when I am back home. The draft was written in Notes on my tiny phone… I was at Gorton when my thoughts reached this line.

@byod4l Day 2 is in the past

… but memories are still fresh, so to speak. Another vibrant BYOD4L day with loads of ideas and exchanges in free flow. Connections are strengthened and communication is multi-directional. Good to see people coming back for more and staying with us for a bit longer. Another day? ;)

I will capture some of my reflections on Day 2 through images or visual reflections. Not sure they make sense to anybody else and it would be interesting to find out if my messages reach somebody out there and what they mean to them. Images and captions act as thinking and conversation triggers. This is at least my intention. Have you tried this approach? Feel free to comment and respond.

What are we locking in? What difference would it make to be free? image source https://farm6.staticflickr.com/5475/13992410180_afe610ec8d_z.jpg

We make things and make things happen, image source https://farm8.staticflickr.com/7353/14176670812_9cf0ce9f2c_z.jpg

Thanks again Sally, Cheryl and Andrew for a fantastic tweetchat last night. Loved it! Unfortunately, I will be missing the tweetchat this evening. W have been invited to Nassi’s school for an award ceremony. I hope you all understand and will have a fab time.

Also on the go on Thursday and will be interesting to see how (much) I can engage. But then BYOD4L is exactly about this, so let’s put it to the test again ;)

Wishing us all a great Day 3 and speak again soon

Chrissi

ps. Wrote this on my Laptop… no train for me today. How about you?

@byod4l Day 1 is now over

Warning! First draft

It is now Tuesday morning. I am waiting for my train to go to work and thought to make a start with capturing some thoughts about BYOD4L and what happened yesterday.

Really impressed with the level of engagement throughout the day and how we all started making connections. Many participants created blogs and started capturing their ideas and thoughts there. Important now to create opportunities for dialogue and conversations otherwise thoughts are falling into black holes…

The video scenarios were used also and that was a nice surprise. Good to know that these triggered interest and made people think and reflect on their practice too and how they could help. We seem to have more teachers than students at the moment or we can hear the teachers more? Very possible too.

Anybody interested in contributing their story for others to use? Would also be interesting to check out the students scenarios and try and see things from their perspective, if you are an educator?

It was interesting how we worked as a facilitators’ team. Activity in our private FB group reduced during the day as we were busy in the different social learning spaces. And it worked really well. If you look into the Google + community but also the FB community, no posts stayed unanswered and exchanges are happening. Individuals are opening up and share their ideas, reservations and thoughts. Pure magic. None of this would happen if we don’t feel welcome and part of a community. Listening carefully and showing interest in what others say is really important. If we just use it as a channel to amplify our own voice, we have missed the real value of social media, facilitators really did a great job in bringing others in and keeping the conversations going.

BTW, the train is moving and I am still writing. I only planned to write a short paragraph but now all that stuff pops into my head and my finger is typing like mad on this tiny screen… ruining my eyes, I think… anyway.

I was really looking forward to the Tweetchat and I think many others did too! Anne, Kay and Peter worked really well together. Would be lovely to find out how they communicated during the chat. There were colleagues among us for whom it was their first time on Twitter and their first Tweetchat. So pleased they gave it a go and were so honest about it too. I think some recognised the value of this space for personal and professional development but we can’t expect others to give without us giving too. It can only work if it is a two-way process and we give something back but also help others out there when we can.

There is excitement in the air and local activities are an added bonus to strengthen connections and help each other learn. Learning happens everywhere and all the time. We just need to grab the opportunities!

My working relationship with Sue has matured and we are definitely on the same wavelength. We understand each other really well but also trust each other. We don’t step on each other’s toes and maximise on our individual strengths to complement each other. We accept and respect each other’s decisions as we both know that we want this project to succeed. Helping each other is part of our partnership and this enables learning and development through everyday practice based on our individual and collective experience.

Byod4l already seems to be of value for all of us, facilitators and participants alike. Let’s find out what further discoveries we can make today!

Really looking forward to Day 2

… still on the train…

now in office posting this ;)

 

exciting and excited @byod4l Day 1 is here ;)

Let’s turn our creative lights on and see what happens! image source https://farm3.staticflickr.com/2938/14179790135_4d2629a3d9_z.jpg

BYOD4L Day 1 has finally arrived again. We have been working with Sue and many other colleagues behind the scenes for a while now to turn this week into a lively market place where there will be something for all of us. Most importantly we hope that it will create opportunities to connect with like minded people, stretch our minds and use our individual and collective imagination to make new discoveries that will be of value for us all.

We are grateful to all collaborators and the 5 institutions who joined us on this journey. BYOD4L has become an open CPD offer in these institutions which is a fantastic development and local events are planned too! Starting small and building on our existing networks enabled natural growth.

Thanks to David Hopkins who was instrumental in setting up open badges and Ellie Livermore, our artist who designed these, we are using badges to reward informal learning, bite-size learning linked to each of the 5c topics. Facilitators are also able to work towards badges and a special one linked to facilitation. This worked really well in January when we offered BYOD4L for the first time. In addition to badges, there are opportunities to work towards other types of recognition as well as academic credits within the 5 participating institutions,

First thoughts:

  • It does feel very different from last time
  • I am sure that it will be different from last time
  • Fine tuning and refining is a never ending process but we hope the changes will make a positive difference
  • We need to make sure that all facilitators are happy and feel supported. We know that a strong team makes a massive difference.
  • Supporting participants when needed and participate in the conversations and activities will be important. We are co-learners and everybody has something valuable to contribute and learn.
  • As facilitators, being proactive and respond quickly when there is a problem and problem-solve together will be really important. The facilitator buddy system used should help with this as well as our facilitator community in Facebook.
  • We need to trust each other!

I will be capturing my daily reflections. Not sure yet in what format but I will be using my phone or tablet. I am writing this now on my phone using Notes travelling to work ;) on the train, the Internet connection comes and goes but nothing stops me writing here unless my battery runs out… having a backup for this eventuality as well…

Public eco-friendly charger in Paris train station! We could do with some of these in the UK too! image source https://farm6.staticflickr.com/5198/13993590710_78f4ffd876_z.jpg

As I love expressing my thoughts through images, I must remember to add a few and then post. Done now ;) Have you used Notes? How?

Wishing us all an exciting Day 1! Let’s get to know each other a bit better, be creative and  turn monologues into dialogues!

All about choice #melsigljmu

… getting into songs again it seems. Wrote the above and the song “All about love” popped into my head… but this is not about love or is it? Looking back at yesterday’s MELSIG  Event at Liverpool John Moors University makes my mind focus on the idea of choice and the impact this might have on student engagement and learning.

Choice: Is this what we really mean?

Would this lead students staying within their comfort zone or would they see it as an opportunity to start were they feel comfortable and more confident and then lead them to progressively adopt more adventurous and perhaps less familiar learning strategies that would lead to new discoveries? Boosting students’ confidence is vital. Tutors and peers play an important role in this. Teachers showing real interest and care for students can make a big difference to students, increase their self-belief, self-worth and confidence.  Having a voice and the strength to move on as they will start believing in their abilities helps them see the potential what they can achieve. Providing choice might be seen as a demanding task for tutors, other might completely disagree that this is a good idea! I think it is a fantastic idea to give individuals choices. But how can we make it happen? It is not an easy job and a lot of planning will go into it. A lot of it will look, feel and be very messy. What is wrong with that? Learning is messy anyway! It doesn’t happen in a linear way. Or does it?

Our extra efforts to bring in choices are really worth the trouble as there are potentially huge learning gains. We all know it teaching is not really possible. What we can do is help people think for themselves, inspire them and facilitate their learning. Doing it our way or imposing even our way can be catastrophic… and lead to disengagement. Are we getting carried away sometimes or even often? Are our own learning preferences or habits driving what we set-up for our learners? How we organise learning for them? I am guilty of this myself… How can we avoid this? I think providing a learning menu, will shift the responsibilities and ownership of learning. Learning belongs to the learner. It is something the learner does. Nobody else can do it for them. It is not a passive act! Some will find choice challenging in the context of their own learning practice. Perhaps only initially, though as they expect perhaps to be told what to do, when and how and act perhaps more in a robotic fashion… because this is what they know, this is what they expects, this is what comes natural to them and is considered normal and accepted. It has worked for them in the past… but how has it worked?

Ok, becoming an autonomous learner is not an instant thing. Do don’t wake up one morning and say “I am an autonomous learner now”. It needs time and a scaffold. Yes, we do need scaffolds and we do need helping hands too. But we also need to learn when times comes to let go, as learners and as teachers. Getting to know our students and what makes them tick is really important and will help us create learning communities. Only then will we be able to draw them in and enable them to open up, connect, share and challenge their own beliefs and preconceptions. Trust is a vital ingredient in this process. Learning is change but we can’t force anybody to change in the same way, we can’t force anybody to learn…

if this is true, how can learning not be?

Choice might be the vehicle to lead learners progressively out of their comfort zone to voluntarily experience discomfort… not suggesting that throwing learners in at the deep end, borrowing Phil Race’s words, is something we should avoid. When we have recognised and normalised perhaps discomfort as an important ingredient for learning, when we feel safe as part of a learning community, we can be more relaxed, take a few more risks and be more playful and creative. All this means letting go of control and being out-of control often… Some might think what has all this to do with the recent MELSIG social media event… well, it was never about the social media… more about the people who use these to come together to learn about themselves, others, the world and grow.

Thank you Andrew, Sue, Peter, Mark, Tim, Carol an all for such a rich MELSIG exchange!

BTW I actually think it is all about love, the love of learning, the love of helping others to learn and the love to make this happen for ourselves and others. Feel free to comment if any of the above makes sense, you have questions or if you oppose to any of my musings. My writing captures raw reflections which need to be discussed with others.

It is all about love as love puts you on fire! Love what you do and/or do what you love! Learning doesn’t only happen in the mind.

messy thoughts or #ilta141 session 1

Just started reading Alison’s and Stephen’s new book Engaging Imagination (check out the website too, where you will find loads of additional resources!) when I landed on page 22 where the authors mention briefly reflection as a power relationship between tutor and student, when reflection is used for assessment purposes. A valuable reminder and very timely too. Are our students just capturing stuff to please their tutors, to be strategic as it is happening with other assessment methods or are there ways that enable genuine and authentic engagement in reflection as a learning and development tool, process and establish reflective habits that are important for self-regulation and ongoing development and growth? I guess it is perhaps about what we assess, content or process… and what our criteria are. But also other parameters such as the environment, spaces, communities and ecologies, play a vital role, and most of all the people, I think. The people who come together to learn. But I am also wondering how assessing reflection is  different from any other types of assessment and why reflection is so important in so many professions, actually for all of us?

The purpose of this post was just to share some reflections linked to our first ILTA session… Am I getting carried away? Maybe not… I think this is all very relevant and the above made me think deeper about what we ask our students to do and why. Ok, ILTA stands for Introduction to Learning, Teaching and Assessment and is one of our core PGCAP units (CELT, MMU). I met my group for the first time last Wednesday at 4pm. Before then, I tried to get them talking online but it didn’t happen, unfortunately. I suspect that some might felt disorientated in this new Moodle space, which would surprise me, others might have been unsure responding there as we didn’t know each other? Some perhaps didn’t think that this was needed or were too busy? Also a possibility.  But I am making massive assumptions here and it would actually be very useful to find out what the real reasons of non-visible engagement were…

The purpose of this post is to reflect on the first session and I just noticed something else. Writing has become our default way to reflect. Often we are expected to reflect by capturing our thoughts on paper or on a blog using a writing system. What would Socrates say if he could see us? Dear old Socrates was against the technology of writing and felt that it would pollute the brain and make us lazy… It is not uncommon reception for new ideas…

But do we become lazy in expressing ourselves more creatively and perhaps even more fluently? What works for one, might not work for another? Did we forget, or do we forget that there are other tools beyond writing that can help us learn reflect and learn more generally? 

Alison and Stephen, the authors of the book I mentioned at the start, reminded me that we really need to consider other ways for reflection. Ways that will rattle our imagination and enable us to express meaning, emotions, experiences, successes, challenges and aspirations in a richer and more meaningful way to us personally through which we can create bridges between the known and the unknown, ourselves and others. Not going to get into this further but perhaps we can all think about what would help us develop reflective habits, where can we start and were can it potentially take us to discover gems. Is the model I shared on Day 1, Gibbs’ Reflective Cycle, valuable when we are just making our first baby steps or does the structure actually get in the way and a more organic and fluid approach would work better? Again it would be lovely to find out what you think. Perhaps you can capture this in your portfolios and share so that we can discuss. BTW, I loved that you embraces the idea of an academic portfolio and am really looking forward to linking conversations up there.

I have used with others audio and images in the past but also drawings, digital stories, comic strips and LEGO and encouraged others to be a bit more curious, experimental and playful. Then there is video as well (I struggle with this!!! and audio!!!, perhaps because I am more conscious of the language I use and the mistakes I make as a non native speaker of English? I have to confess that it usually takes me a looooooooooooong time to create a mini audio or video file (you don’t really want to know how long it takes me!). But perhaps I should just relax into it and say so what? Isn’t the primary point to communicate and share? Anyway, the opportunities are endless, so have a go using different media for reflection and discover what works for you. 

Often we just start writing without thinking if we should write. We just do it! Often our fingertips go straight onto a keyboard and we keep even notes digitally. It seems to come more naturally, but does it? Has it just become a habit and we satisfy expectations of others? Is this the easy way? The best way? The way that enables us to communicate our thoughts faster? But what are the implications? Often we also use models to construct and reflect on experiences, perhaps too mechanistically? What about the random, messy, non-linear and chaotic connections we make and experience when reflecting? Can or should we really box everything neatly?

After the above messy thoughts, which were mainly triggered by reading Alison’s and Stephen’s book (the power of reading and the influence on thinking and actions!), I have now decided to share with you key reflective points or questions from our first session in a more visual way.

Fireworks of experiences and ideas = sharing in the open thinking classroom? image source: https://farm2.staticflickr.com/1156/5155164244_0f4591720e_z.jpg

What is out there behind the walls we build? Let’s find out together! image source: https://farm5.staticflickr.com/4142/4941725337_83f9447298_z.jpg

Thank you Haleh, my co-facilitator, and all my lovely ILTA students for having an open mind, sharing experiences and experimenting together. Can’t wait to see you all next Wednesday but also connecting via Moodle and your portfolios, to share stories, reflections and engage in learning conversations!

See you all next Wednesday at 4pm! image source https://farm3.staticflickr.com/2934/13889784819_ffb5b3335d_z.jpg

Chrissi
ps: Thank you also for all your value jar contributions. Teaching is only valuable if there is value for learning! Your responses so far can be accessed here.

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 student’s 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.

Chrissi

ps. first draft