back in my shell (for now)… #scholar14

Last week has been very frustrating. The technology got in the way. I got frustrated with myself because I just couldn’t make it work! I tried different routes to access the course site in canvas for networked scholar but because I had very limited time, I didn’t even manage to do the basics. Not a good start! Tried to download the app and did but when I was going to comment on some of the discussions, I couldn’t… an app for just viewing? Could this be possible? I just didn’t see how I would be able to contribute there… Very possible that I just didn’t see it…

And while good plans were made to link up with others and we tried connecting in various ways, it hasn’t happen yet beyond a few email exchanges and attempts to connect via a Google circle… I gave up for some days as I really couldn’t find the energy to make this work. When you have limited time, you want to push the button and go. If things get in the way, you waste a lot of time you don’t have.

I have to say that the platform reminded me of a VLE, something I have been avoiding for some time now… however, I found a lot of interesting resources on the site… some of the discussion threads reminded me of a ball of wool but nothing like it as the wool was in a straight line… Really impressive how many people have actually engaged already and how the facilitator engages in the conversations. When I was accessing the discussions through the app and wanted to participate, it felt like looking through a glass wall… I don’t know but this hasn’t started good for me. Is the technology getting in the way? At some point I couldn’t even find my initial post to see if anybody did respond.

This all sounds like excuses but they are not. BTW, I haven’t given up and hope my chat with a colleague from the other side of the pond this Wednesday evening might provide a hook to get me on track. Clinging on for now… and hoping to see some light soon.

… now my login doesn’t work… will try again this evening…

reaching out #scholar14

Through a post by Prof. Grainne Conole I was reminded of the Networked Scholar course led by Dr George Veletsianos. I saw this as a continuation of the Open Research course and put into practice what I had learnt through this. So I clicked on the link. Fresh excitement filled me and I wanted to find out more. Unfortunately, only a course overview and information about the facilitator are visible at the moment… so I thought, I better enrol now so that I can see a bit more… I did. I had to sign Coursera’s terms and conditions (which were not even available) and the code of conduct which included loads of “Don’ts”… not what I am used to being an open practitioner… and I am wondering if positive language would be more learner-friendly?

After re-discovering that I actually had a Coursera account already but never used…. I was finally on the platform… I still can’t see any course details… maybe I just couldn’t find them? I updated my profile as this was the only thing I could do… and am now waiting for a message that will tell me that I can start the course. As this starts on Monday, will this arrive on Monday, the day before? The course is led by colleagues in a different time zone… how will this work for me in the UK?

This might be a free course, as it states on the site and with open registration but everything else seems to be locked away… this will be an interesting experience for me from many perspectives.

Am I too critical? As an open practitioner I am just used to (more) openness and transparency and un-interrupted learning… 

Anyway, we will see what happens. I reached out on Twitter as I would like to learn with others this time. Did I learn my lesson from the last open course I did? I think I did and am a bit more organised this time. Will be very interesting to see if I will be able to keep it up for four weeks. I already know that this will be a challenge.

I tweeted that I was looking for a study buddy for #scholar14. I think I might have found three so far. This is fantastic! I am not on my own on this journey. At least for now as I don’t know yet the motivations of my new buddies and I don’t know how I will do. BTW all individuals who responded knew me already and I knew them. Is this a coincidence? Will this speed up how we will learn together as we know each other a little bit already? Will this have an impact on our commitment to each other? We will find out.

We needed a space to come together and I wanted to try using Google Circles to communicate and collaborate. I set up a study buddy circle. If my study buddies want to communicate with others in my study buddy circle, I think they will need to set-up their own circle with the same names. We will see how this works. Hopefully we will sort this out before Monday. But potentially any of us could have a set of different study buddies, which is also very interesting. But will it work? I have no idea. But the fact is, that I do feel much better.

Really looking forward to learning with Mina, Frances, Len and others. Who else is joining #scholar14?

it is over, but is it the end? week 4 #openresearch

Monday evening and feeling extremely guilty. Not just any Monday evening. Monday evening after the Open Research course finished. Dark, wet and cold outside. I felt the need to capture my final thoughts and here they come.

guilty… but not pleasures… image source:

Internal guilt as I didn’t really engage (as much) as I thought I would. As much in brackets as it could be left out? Trying to link quality and quantity but failed miserable on both… My commitment was at its highest before the course started. There was excitement and fireworks… Then it went down hill… reality hit. I tried to cling on and I did… somehow I made it to the end but what about the journey? It was lonely, even when I was at some point trying to convince myself that it was ok… Looking back now, I think it wasn’t ok. If I had reached out, I would have felt much more connected with the course and most importantly with others. This would have kept me going and probably would have learned much more than I did on my own… But I didn’t… as I felt that I missed the initial train and then it was too late? Is this another excuse? It is never too late!!! I am trying to analyse why I just didn’t make this little bit of extra effort… it is really disappointing. But I did engage with the resources and I did reflect here.

Some people might have read some of the stuff… or at least looked at some of the pictures. I didn’t look at anybody else’s… just not good, not good enough. But is good enough, enough? I don’t know, I don’t think so. We can only get out of something, what we put in. And I didn’t really put much into this. I am not sure it matters that this was open and it was just so so so so easy to just jump in and start learning. But then again it wasn’t… as I experienced. My head is full of excuses and explanations. I don’t think any of them are good enough or real? Or are they? Thinking now, what would have made the difference, I think it is the personal hook, a buddy, we would go through this together. So, yes, I have to admit that I missed a buddy. I think also, that my internal motivation wasn’t probably strong enough to go on this journey on my own? Could this be possible? I think it is very possible. If there was somebody there, we could have gone on this journey together, to support each other, to push each other?

And this other thing, I tried to convince myself in another post about invisible participation… not sure anymore. This really does sound like a cheap excuse now… but there are people out there who prefer to learn like this… I don’t! I like to share, I like to discuss, I like to debate, to challenge and be challenged. I think this is what I missed. You can’t do that by reading or looking at some resources. I guess to some extent you can as you would reflect and then perhaps bring people in that way? But it is not the same to have a proper conversation… and the personal connection make these conversations more meaningful and deeper, I think.

Right, so what did I learn?

  • I learnt that I have a lot to learn about open research.
  • There will always be more to learn. But that is fine.
  • I learnt that I like to learn with a study buddy, maybe more when my motivation is not that high.
  • I learnt a little bit more about open data and
  • I learnt that I have many more questions…

The course helped me develop new ideas and a new project is now taking off the ground that traveled with me for some time now… It is actually going to happen soon and I am excited about it.

Thank you to all organisers. A lot of hard work has gone into this. It would be very interesting to gain an insight into the facilitators thoughts about the course and where it will take their thinking. It definitely helped me make some valuable discoveries about myself and also reflect on my own research.

This is NOT the end… it is another new beginning…

Exploring how we learn using LEGO bricks with first year undergraduate students

Warning, first draft!

Last week was fascinating. Haleh Moravej opened the door into her classroom and together we co-facilitated workshops with two groups that brought students closer together. Students had the opportunity to share with others what helps them learn using LEGO bricks.

In a way this is a collaborative approach to academic development: on the job, just-in-time applied development that helps boost confidence in new techniques and leads to independence really quickly. Our collaboration had a direct impact on the learning experience of about hundred students and enabled the lecturer to familiarise themselves really quickly with the new approach through practice while also being supported as well as facilitate two of the four workshops on their own. The reflective conversations we had afterwards were of value for both of us and in a way we observed each other in action.

The students were first year undergraduates studying Nutrition21 and were Haleh’s four tutorial groups. This week was their second week at university and everything was still very new to them.

The groups were really diverse and brought richness of experiences to the mix. The workshop was offered to all four tutorial groups in early October 14. In total [to add number] students participated, approximately 20 in each group.

We used LEGO bricks and adapted the LEGO Serious Play method to create a relaxed and playful atmosphere which helped students open up and participate  actively in the session. None of the students had used LEGO(R) Serious Play(R) (short LSP) before but many had experience playing with LEGO bricks. When asked how they felt at the start of the workshop about using LEGO they expressed positive feelings and curiosity. [access the Google Spreadsheet]

In the first workshop we had the bricks hidden in envelopes to add some suspense. As soon as the students saw the LEGO bricks, they started building. Many couldn’t leave their hands of the bricks and some appeared apprehensive…

The warm-up activities helped create a smooth introduction to the method. The transition from reality building to metaphorical building worked for most students. And while some students found it initially hard to make a model and/or share details about their model with others, this soon changed and by the end, I think, students got it! I am wondering if this delay had more to do with the newness of the group than the method itself. Could it be that some students felt less willing at the start to open up as they felt perhaps limited or no group belonging? And did they decide to open up as others did too?

Students’ responses to the main question of the workshop, what helps them learn helped Haleh and myself gain a deeper insight into students conceptions of effective learning strategies. But also the students themselves had the opportunity to find out about each other’s learning habits and preferences. How the information will now be used by Haleh to create a stimulating and inclusive learning environment is crucial.

It was truly fascinating! The models and the stories behind these revealed a lot about what helps these particular students learn. The themes that came up repeatedly across the four groups were. What follows is a draft summary.

- Students expressed the necessity to have variety as they get bored otherwise
– Many students noted that the use of visuals, such as videos, images and flashcards helps them learn
– Students wanted to be actively involved in classes and participate in hands-on activities
– Some students stated that it helps them to listen to the teacher and write things down while one student noted that learning through teaching others was recognised as an effective strategy because when we explain things to somebody else we learn it too
– Students want to learn with others in groups but also recognised the need to study on their own when reading and  carrying out research
-Some students mentioned that they benefit from being connected to their peers via the Internet and use pedagogical approaches that are fit for the digital age

There are some indications of cultural differences and a range of familiarity with newer more student-centred and in other cases more teacher-centred approaches.

I will be further reflecting on the above to explore if we could group some of these findings thematically.
Thank you for inviting me Haleh. I look forward to your reflections, perhaps contrasting with what happened in last year’s sessions with this year’s might also be useful and help you identify differences, if any. Inviting the students themselves to comment on what they felt they got out of the LEGO workshop would help us get their perspective.

Wishing you and your students all the best for this academic year. Let us know how it goes.


Still here, week 3 #openresearch

This will be a short post… unfortunately…  as I have to confess not being able to do as much as I wanted during the last week. When I looked at the Open Research site for the first time last week… it was Thursday pm already, well almost Friday am actually.

To my surprise I noticed that I might still be able to jump into the discussions as they didn’t resemble spaghetti monologues… but I didn’t… what stopped me? Other deadlines to meet and perhaps the fact that I was on my own in this. I started remembering my research interviews linked to FDOL and how participants emphasised again and again how their motivation grew because of being part of a group. The more I think about it, the more I can relate to this. Then I remember the African proverb: if you want to go fast go on your own, if you want to go further, go with others. My problem is that I  feel that I am not going anywhere… but maybe I am but very very slowly…

I don’t want to make empty promises to myself or anybody else, but I will try to work a bit harder this week – make an effort to connect with others and some of the conversations happening on the course site.

I am still here, probably as the weakest link. Not giving up… week four just started… this is the last one.

Speak again soon
ps: BTW, I will be making recently collected workshop data about the use of LEGO in HE, available as open data. No sensitive information are included. The idea is to grow this data set collectively with other LSP researchers and carry out collaborative open research to explore together the emotional side of LEGO things. I guess, the course is having some impact on practice ;)

still hanging in there, #openresearch week 2

Warning, this is messy…

Well, I think I mentioned that I felt lonely in week 1. But somehow I got used to it now… and am ok with it. Being lonely without feeling loneliness. Maybe lonely is not the right word at all. It is more about being ok with being with myself and focused?

Is this a bad thing? It feels strange saying this now as I totally see the advantages of social learning. However, maybe often we force (don’t like this word but it is a reality!) people to learn with others when it actually can’t work for them, they don’t want to or they don’t see the point? My thinking is a bit messy, I recognise this, and I am not sure what I am trying to say. My thoughts are leading me into little alleys, to explore, to question… Social learning has different faces and it can’t just be visible social learning in digital spaces, it can’t be. Learning doesn’t stop when we switch off the web. As long we are curious, as long as we question, as long as we have the desire to learn and uncover, we will learn regardless… wherever we are.

I think we all need some time to look inwards and make our own decisions and come to our own conclusions. Often this happens as a result of working and learning with others. We do need this external stimulation! To challenge and be challenged. But if we just follow the masses and their thoughts and ideas blindly, without critical engagement, we will loose track of who we are and who we want to become…sometimes(?) this might mean swimming against the stream… and this is not easy. What we need to ask ourselves is “Is it worth it?”

Giving learners choice is vital and can make engagement more flexible and learning more manageable. I was reminded of this during a recent research interview! If we want to  bring people in, if we want others to connect with our ideas and we with theirs, we, as a collective, learners and educators together, need to accept, respect and recognise what people bring and create hooks and connections based on what we share, an interest, an idea etc.that will help us grow and grow together as individuals and as a collective.

I think the Open Research course offers varied opportunities for engagement and the human scaffold is there if needed. There is no pressure to be there all the time and visibly engage. But I am now wondering if openness creates a sense of urgency or need or an expectation to be seen, to be present all the time? A false expectation we have of ourselves and often others too? Interesting behaviours are emerging and I would like to find out what psychologists are saying regarding these… For me it is important to make meaningful connections with the subject and others. Seeing meaning is really important and will give depth and commitment to the relationships we form.

After week 1, the plan was to start engaging in the online discussions but I didn’t. I tried this in another course and it didn’t work. When you just appear and disappear randomly and irregularly, you are not part of the community and it is much harder, I have found, to create these social hooks that will help you make some personal connections and come back for more and feel part of what is happening outside your own little world.

Time has also been running away from me…this is not an excuse but a reality and I am often the one that talks about making time for what matters. And I think in my case here and now, what matters now is to engage with the resources and know that there are ways to ask questions and have access to existing conversations, even if I don’t participate in these. I have accepted this reality. The course scaffold has been useful and enabled me every day, well late evening, to do a little something and help me reflect on my current practice. This is what kept me going!

And while I do feel that I am missing out on valuable conversations and I know that the opportunities are there, I didn’t invest enough time and energy from the outset to be there and participate more visibly. I wouldn’t use the word more actively, because in my mind I am participating actively. Too often in online settings we think that when people are invisible or less visible online (as everybody can be tracked these days…) they are not there, they are not engaging… is this a healthy assumption? For me online learning doesn’t just happen online (even if you do an online or open course, learning happens all the time and everywhere, in the digital and real jungle where we can smell the flowers and the rain and other things too). Not all learning or engagement I should say, is visible to others but we know when it happens, when we make it happen as it will trigger a change in us, which might or will often remain unnoticed by others unless we share this.

Again running away with my thoughts here…

Ok, what have I done this week? I have accessed and engaged with the resources for this week and carried thoughts around with me about ethics… all week long. Especially on my daily train journey, I did think about ethical dilemmas. There were many activities on the course site and I read them all, every evening a little bit, but didn’t complete any of them, I have to admit. I used them more as thinking triggers. Am I a bad learner? Am I a typical learner? And if I am a bad/typical learner what does this mean for teachers who put such learning packages together?

a colourful mess of opportunities, image source:

Ok, what did I actually want to capture here about week 2? Messy thoughts are in my head and I am still not clear enough about open research ethics. I guess I need to do some more reading, discussing and actually applying? There are opportunities for this and I am already thinking about it in the context of BYOD4L for example as we will be offering this again in January. I liked the idea of open data and the transparency this brought to the Open Research course but also felt a bit uncomfortable about it? Only after typing in my registration data for the Open Research course, and accessed the spreadsheet, did I realise that anybody could see what I had written and I also saw other people’s responses. While this creates really valuable new opportunities for all who access this document, I am wondering how we could reduce the risk of using the data inappropriately? In non-open data research we re-assure our research participants that all data will be fully anonymised before use. In this case, everything was there from the moment it was saved to the form… what if I suddenly realised, actually, I shouldn’t have filled out this form or I don’t want other people see my name and discover who I am… I am now wondering about open data when we deal with humans… Is there something else that needs to be done to ‘warn’ people about the openness of data. I am sure there was a statement somewhere on the course site, but when I saw everything in bright day light in front of my eyes, I couldn’t remember seeing a reminder for this. What if my data included sensitive information that would expose me and others?

Who are you? Does it matter? image source:

If we get ethical approval for a project from our institution, we specify how we collect, analyse and disseminate the data and make an ethical commitment to all potential research participants. Not sure how institutions react, would react, if they would see open data in the ethics form, especially if there is not a strong tradition or support for this open research within the institution. Would this influence open research or is open research something that can sit fully outside the institution? But then again, if researchers are attached to a speciific institution, what are the implications for open research? I am also not sure how it would work when the researcher is not part of an institution. I realise that I have now even more questions… which is good as I have found further gaps in my understanding and need to study this further. I think I am now at a stage where I need to discuss the above with others and hope to find ways to make this happen.

Thinking about BYOD4L again, an informal cross-institutional collaboration in the open as we also carry out open research linked to this. Our ethical statement can be found here and we also have a note about social media which we thought would also be useful to share there. Are we doing the right thing? Is there anything missing?

Looking forward to week 3!

catching up or at least trying to… #openresearch week 1

I decided to participate in the open research course organised by the OER Research Hub – perfect I thought and signed up when I first heard about it, probably via Twitter or a newsletter, I can’t remember now. A while ago, Martin Weller organised the Gorilla Research workshops and I really wanted to participate, but the dates never worked for me, unfortunately. So, now I am hoping that I will learn something in this course. Ethics is something that interests me and how to do this properly. Writing this, I just read the OER Research Hub’s ethical statement and it reminded me of what we included on our BYOD4L site. Perhaps somebody can comment? I see some similarities, but I need to have a closer look and see if there is anything else we should have included!

I feel that I need a buddy in this. I am already behind and feeling lonely. Also just noticed that registration for the course is closed. But all materials and the site itself is still visible and open? I like that. What I don’t know is what it means that individuals can no longer register? Perhaps the form we filled out? The registration form? Is this correct? Perhaps somebody from the team could respond? What is the reason behind this? Is it for research purposes? I am guessing here and have various scenarios in my head…

Ok, I am late and I don’t like that at all. It makes you feel that you are behind, that you missed something important and that you are trying to catch up… this is how I feel. Yes, also feeling a bit guilty after saying hello, I disappeared… The truth is that I haven’t had the time to study properly any of the resources yet but most importantly engage in any of the conversations. It is good that the discussion threads are linked to the activity pages (if I can call them like that). It helps keep things together but the comments are not visible instantly… but it is good that I can just access on a mobile device and pop in and out when  I have a minute or two… or a bit longer… ideally. Well, I started looking through some of the resources and discussions since last night. I decided that I am going to focus on the bits that I need most at this stage and hopefully I will be able to come back later. I understand that the course site will stay for a bit longer. If I learn a little something each week that is great. I just need to keep going. What needs to happen so that I commit to this? I know that I need to learn more about open research but is this enough? I could just access the resources anytime… the value of doing it within the facilitated version is the opportunity to connect and share experienced, thoughts, reflections and potential challenges with the facilitators and other learners. So, I think I need to make some time to stick to it. I have done it before, when I did the CMC11 course and I have thought many times why this was so special. It was a personal experience for me and I managed to connect with the facilitator (there was only one, Carol Yeager) and a few of the other learners and we had conversations. But I do remember that I worked hard and actively engaged throughout. Some of the connections I made continued beyond the timeline of the course and some of them have turned into professional friendships and collaborations.

Learning is still personal even in the digital jungle. I think it will always be? Don’t like the word always and am ok with the idea of everything changing all the time. As learners we also change – as learning is change. But as an experience we will always feel learning at a personal level, even if among hundreds and thousands… right?

When I started writing this post, I actually just wanted to respond to 2 questions from this week but as soon as my fingers started hitting the keyboard they connected with my brain and  all the words and thoughts escaped through my fingertips… weird!!!

Anyway, looking at week 1, which is now almost over (writing this on Saturday)… I think it might be useful to respond to the following 2 questions raised and as I am in visual mood and mode at the moment, I will try and answer these using images and the captions you will find under these. Do they make sense to anybody else? Can you relate to my metaphors and what are yours? Perhaps we could ask this question on Twitter or on the p2pu course site?

Number 1, What does openness mean to me?

sharing goodies with others while travelling to uncover, recover and discover! >>> image source:

Number 2. How do I understand open research?

beams of light, a gentle hug for more light >>> image source:

Not sure this new WordPress editor works properly, or I still have difficulties using it. It doesn’t seem to save everything and I now seem to have lost the text that followed the last image… am I blaming the tool? Very possible. ;)

I think, what I had here is a reminder to myself that I will be back to the p2pu site over the weekend and try and read some of the comments there. The plan is every week to do a little something. This week, I started thinking a bit more about my current practice in the area of open learning and research. Hopefully I will get better as the week’s progress.

It would be lovely if you could comment and share your thoughts with me here so that we can engage in a conversation. If this is a monologue there is little value, I think…

Speak again soon,