where is everybody or reflections on week 9 #lthesep12 @pgcap

This was a fully online week with an online asynchronous discussion, an online prep tutorial for the Professional Discussions and a webinar with Prof. Huw Morris on Tuesday evening. Our weekly theme was evaluating teaching in HE and we had a rich conversation during the webinar. But what about the online asynchronous discussion of this week? Not a single response there! I also noticed that while this week was online, on Tuesday morning, I noticed that most of my students started collecting out of my office. You will find out below why 😉

1. How did I feel?

First of all proud! Really proud of my students when I found out that they met on Tuesday morning to discuss the Professional Discussions and prepare together after Monday evening’s webinar. I wanted to give them all a big hug when I saw them. They stayed together approx. 3 hours and were deeply involved in conversations when I visited the classroom just briefly. I didn’t want to interfere and could see that they were happy with the progress they were making and the support they were giving to and receiving from peers.

week 9 getting ready for the Prof. Discussions

my students taking responsiblity of their learning, peer learning in action. This session has nothing to do with me!

But also a bit disappointed that the online discussions in Blackboard are generally under-used and some students have actually never contributed to these! Are they lurking? Do some feel uncomfortable to add their voice? Just wondering! Are people too busy? Do I ask for too much? Reflecting in the portfolio plus participating in online discussions? Is it because these spaces are disconnected? I have trialled the use of Voicethread with a previous cohort and perhaps this is something I should give more thought for the next cohort. Also looking into other possibilities at the moment.

2. What did I learn?

Learning online can be focused and effective. The webinar organised in preparation for the Professional Discussions next week was, I think, a good example. Despite the fact that I do miss the visual communication part. Seeing my students’ faces is important to me. We managed to connect visually with some and it made a difference especially in our first webinar this week, which was a tutorial. Perhaps, we could use Google Hangout next time so that we can all see each other as this platform enables up 15 individuals to connect visually.

at the beginning: how do you feel about the professional discussion?

capturing feelings about the Prof. Discussions at he beginning of the webinar

end: how do you feel about the professional discussion now?

Revisiting initial feelings and crossing out what is no longer applicable. We made huge progress! Really pleased.

I think the “How do you feel” activity was really useful and perhaps it is something that we could do more in our classes to track achievement and learning? It can be easily done in online and face-to-face settings and I think if it is a shared activity it is even more valuable because we can see that we are not alone and others feel similar to us. This is especially important if we have negative and/or uncomfortable feelings about something related to the session or the theme under exploration. Sharing our feelings with others in a group will help us see that we might not be that unique and others have similar feelings or fears. Together we can overcome these through opening up and sharing, supporting each other but also the tutor gains a valuable insight into students’ thinking and feeling and help him/her to tailor the learning opportunity or session so that negativities can be overcome together. This is what happened in our case. Revisiting initial feelings was so important and closed the cycle. We did get rid of anxiety, at least most of it and students felt more able and prepared for the Professional Discussions next week.

Just minutes before our second webinar this week with Prof. Huw Morris and while Huw was having problems connecting to the internet, Carol Yeager told me about the new Blackboard Collaborate (BC) app. This is so amazing. Finally we will be able to use BC on-the-go! And my colleague from Sweden downloaded it immediately and trialled it during our webinar. It worked! Yeh, this is exciting! No excuse anymore to miss a webinar, unless you don’t have a smartphone. Increasingly we rely on students using their own devices but what if they don’t have access to any? Could or should institutions look into providing these in some way? Maybe as part of the fee package? This is not a new idea and I know that it happens at other institutions. What about ours? And what about staff? Would there be value to make this happen here as well?

3. What would I do differently?

I think the preparation for the Professional Discussion would have worked even better if we had an ex LTHE student with us. Next semester, I need to try harder to find somebody who has gone through and share his/her experience with the cohort. In a way, the video clips we have on YouTube have that purpose but at this moment in time, I am not sure how many have watched these and if they were useful. This is something else I need to improve: the use of the video resources we have linked to the Professional Discussions and other themes we have prepared and are there as self-study resources. Maybe the problem also is that there are there and not brought in enough to what we do in class? Very possible.

During the second webinar with Prof. Huw Morris, which was interactive and enabled everybody to have a conversation with Huw and with peers around Evaluating Teaching in HE, I could have given my colleague from Sweden more time to talk. And while I have become more confortable moderating webinars and started enjoying them more as I feel more relaxed, I still find it hard to follow the chat box while everything else is going on at the same time. They say women multitask better than men… but can we really pay full attention to more than one thing at the time? So something I need to do is develop a strategy for monitoring the chat box more effectively. I was thinking to nominate one or two students who would help me with this and I think I will try this next time around. It is important to keep track of questions and observations and bring them into the conversation. I guess, that is why I am using more the BC whiteboard, as all responses can be kept on one screen which makes it easier to identify links and summarise. Am I more of a visual person? I am, but what does everybody else think about the chat box and how it was used? What about the whiteboard? We could give the chatbox a specific function and the whiteboard another one? Please comment if you participated in this webinar.

The online discussions in Blackboard are not used properly. So, I am thinking to review my discussion approach and go back to using Voicethread again in the next semester. Voicethreads could then be easily integrated into the portfolios as well, keeping all conversations together in one place. Instead of copying and pasting stuff from one platform to the other. As I write about this now, it sounds like a good idea. Must think a bit further about this and consider the details and then trial it. Students could be encouraged to embed the Voicethreads to their reflective journal and form part of the assessment. Would this work perhaps? While the online discussions in Blackboard are aligned to the assessment, I guess, there is an opportunity to make the link to assessment clearer and linking online spaces to evidence engagement and learning, as well as assessment as learning might be the way forward and encourage more students to actively participate in the conversations. The other bonus would be that the conversations could be media rich which worked really well when I tried Voicethread before.

Week 9 is coming to an end. The Professional Discussions start on Monday. Looking forward to seeing everybody again and engaging in reflective conversations with peers about their learning on this module. New this time is that I will be on all panels with an academic. This is why we had to stretch them over 3 days but feedback from students and my own observations suggest that this might be a better approach as the idea is that one panel member knows the student and the other one doesn’t. I am giving this a go and we will see what happens! We are using Lego again to invite students to capture their learning journeys as this worked really well last time around and made students feel more relaxed too. A case study written with Craig Despard is in preparation about the use of Lego in our Professional Discussions and there is now an opportunity openning up to further explore and investigate the use of Lego in Teaching and Learning with colleagues from other institutions (this is all very exciting!!!). New: Lego certificates for makers 😉

Getting ready

Will you get one too?

We can’t wait to hear your stories 😉

the natural powers of storytelling or reflections on week 8 #lthesep12 @pgcap

Can’t believe we reached the end of week 8 already! Where did this semester go? Did and do we have (too much) fun? This was officially the last time my #lthesep12 class got together face-to-face as next week is fully online and in the following week the Professional Discussions take place. Missing my students already… at least we will have the opportunity to come together again for our Christmas picnic on the 12th of December at 12pm. Yeh!!!

This is our 5th LTHE cohort and I can’t stop thinking how different things are with each cohort. Despite the fact that there is a common thread running through, with a new set of students each session feels completely different.  Of course the resources have been enriched and changed, the activities and supporting materials refined too, some removed and new ones added as well. I do want to keep this offer fresh and not just repeat stuff that I have used before. I guess, I have also matured (?) in facilitating this module and feel ok to pick ‘n’ mix more organically and intuitively bits out of my toolkit and re-mix and re-purpose activities and resources that I have created over the last few years. I love looking back at my reflections from previous cohorts and also remind myself of what we experienced together. Looking at the photographs we have been taken and stored in our Flickr album is a great help to re-visualise specific moments. I am so pleased I started capturing these moments from the very beginning and we have now such a rich photo album of the module and our experiences.

This week we had the opportunity to immerse ourselves in another curriculum design approach. While last week we experienced storytelling, this week we adopted a Problem-Based Learning approach to investigate assessment and feedback. As many of my students didn’t have first hand experience of PBL, they were asked to access some of the resources in advance of the session and we also looked at the basics at the beginning of the session with one of my students who is an experienced PBL practitioner.

LTHESep12 week8 assessment and feedback via PBL

Jo in action showing a PBL trigger she is using in her practice

I was observed during the assessment and feedback session with my last cohort by our External Examiner and this is why this particular session was more vivid in my memory perhaps than any other. So, when I started redesigning this session for my current cohort, I wanted to make sure that I would apply the lessons learnt from that peer observation. The key point then was “less is more” throuh decluttering the session. I found that really challenging but I wanted to give it a go. If you would like to read and access all the resources (including video clips from the observed session as well as the open feedback conversation that followed) linked to the peer observation, click here.

Ok, back to now 😉 While I was designing this session, I had some extra tools in my bag which I would only use if I spotted a real opportunity and always keeping in mind the main task! This was really hard as I had extra goodies which I wanted to share with my students. I had to burry my excitement and be patient and wait to see if there was an opportunity to bring them out of the bag… so to speak.

1. How did I feel?

Very pleased that my students keep coming to the sessions, first of all, despite the fact that there are plenty resources online and activities that could keep them going on their own… but would they? What is the added bonus of coming together as a class? What do my students think?

Very pleased to see my students bonding and having conversations in advance of the session. Seeing them smiley and positive and keen to get started is really motivating. I love to surprise my students and try and keep my offer fresh and do different things together that make them think and hopefully act too. This is I think the only and most important thing I can achieve. I can’t change anybody and I don’t want to! But if something I say or do, makes my student think and re-think about themselves, their students and their practice this is fantastic. If this thought then extend to deeper reflection, exploration and experimentation, which I have seen happening, it is pure magic!

LTHESep12 week8 assessment and feedback via PBL

ready to go! Supporting PBL resources and devices

So, I felt positive but also wanted to make sure that I keep on track and focused on what I wanted my students to learn this week. It wasn’t an easy task since we didn’t only look at assessment and feedback but also we were trying to do this via PBL. Were my plans too ambitious? No. We need to be challenging and we need to challenge ourselves!

I also felt extremely proud of my students, all of them and how they embraced this session. First of all I loved their openness and honesty about last week’s session. It was useful for me to hear different voices about last week’s session and how perhaps some felt that they didn’t get much out of it (I would add yet, as I believe that it will click sooner or later, the proof if this also started coming out during this week’s session). We do need to be brave to ask our students and accept that some of the stuff we are doing or trying to do with them feel a bit strange or pointless. These more critical voices will help us refine our approaches further. It helped me in this way and while in the past, I probably felt hurt, I have now changed and really do see the benefits of all honest feedback as I would like to improve my sessions and maximise what my students get out of them. So thank you for being so honest my dear students 😉

LTHESep12 week8 assessment and feedback via PBL

visualising reflections on last week’s session

2. What did I learn?

Decluttering is good! The session made me think: do we too often over-stimulate our students? Or is this not possible? In the world of mass-distructions, are we all effective filterers? Can we ignore distructions? Bits that get in the way and hinder us from staying focused and on task? But what would be wrong if we suddenly change direction? What if the big learning opportunities are actually created by some of these distractions that we can’t resist? Not sure if all that makes sense here and I didn’t really plan to write about it but my fingers are hitting the keyboard and I guess I am thinking about these things as well as I am reflecting on cluttering and decluttering. Before Simon observed me last time I ran this session (even running sounds horrible but I am going to leave it!) I never thought that my sessions are cluttered. Maybe I would characterise them full or varied or rich but not cluttered. Cluttered has a negatve aftertaste and maybe that is why I still remember his words so strongly and I think this is a good thing because he did make me look at my sessions in a different light and re-think what I am doing, how I am doing it and most importantly why.

We do need to trust our students and this is something I have discovered a while ago but the idea resurfed this week. We need to trust them that they do want to learn and give them the time and space to do so. I think this happened despite the fact that some might have felt that they didn’t have enough time this week. Too much time can also be bad and the more time we get the less some of us might do, so productively doesn’t really increase with the time available. What we need is focused time on activities and I think we got that.

LTHESep12 week8 assessment and feedback via PBL

my thinking classroom

The PBL groups worked well together and everybody contributed to the task (I made some observations regarding how the chairs operated within the PBL groups which correspond with previous similar situations and evidence to me that PBL as a one off might not be the most effective way to build more generic skills but I suppose, there is an opportunity to take some of the PBL roles out and use them in other collaborative learning activities that will enable students to develop a variety of skills. I think there is an opportunity there for me to do this a bit more in future sessions!!!) and sticking the instructions to the tables this time, did work better than last time. Also the roles where there and the simplified FISh model developed in collaboration with Lars Uhlin worked better than more complex and more widely used PBL models. Structure and scaffolding of learning is important but I do think that too much complicated structures turn learners into robots and this is not something I would like to encourage. Definitely not!

I loved how my students in all 4 PBL groups, and then the two supergroups we formed to share the findings with each other, decided to use storytelling as a way to do this. I didn’t influence them or made any suggestion. Was this a conscious decision (based on last week’s approach) or did this happen naturally? As we humans love stories anyway? I would love to find out. Especially as we immersed ourselves into storytelling with and about students experiences at uni… I am pleased I recorded both and share them with you here. They are both wonderfully creative with powerful messages and I would also love to find out what my students’ students would say watching these. Could any of you share these with your students and let me know their reactions?

3. What would I do differently?

Overall, I am pleased with what we achieved during this session. Mixing PBL and storytelling, the second, thanks to my students ;), to investigate assessment and feedback practices in HE worked really well. I am pleased I decided to declutter the session, use FISh, the simplified PBL model but it did feel strange that we didn’t make a proper feedback sandwich, with proper bread, lettuce and the rest (but the metaphorical feedback sandwich was discovered by one of the PBL groups with a little help from the Sandwich fairy 😉 I also didn’t share the magic white sauce story with my students, which is a shame, I think…

So, what would I do differently?

LTHESep12 week8 assessment and feedback via PBL

We asked students studying at Salford: Why do you need to be assessed? Why do you need feedback? Their responses made my students think!

  • It would have been useful to have a set of resources within the classroom, a mini resources-bank or mobile library with books and journal articles around assessment and feedback beyond the digital resources in the classroom.
  • I could also invite students to participate in this session and perhaps I could ask the Student Union to help me find a few who would like to take part in this week’s activities.
  • Another idea that just popped into my head would be to invite 2 academics who experience a dilemma with their assessment and/or feedback practice and use their story as a trigger, so that the problem is definitely authentic. Actually the more I think about it the more convinced I am that I should give this a go with my next cohort.

There is always room for improvement. 😉 Looking forward to planning some of the above ideas with the next cohort. Exciting and excited again. This is the way it should be…

students saving the session or reflections on week 7 #lthesep12 @pgcap

#lthesep12 week 7

Rich thinking in the ThinkLab

Yes, my students saved this week’s session. Having just a plan A is not good enough. Thinking on our feet is essential if we want to turn disasters into fresh learning opportunities. This is what happened this week. Students had been invited to discuss learning and teaching at the University. We wanted to explore the student experience by actually having conversations with students studying currently at our institution. I thought that this would be more valuable than just talking about the students’ experiences… with my students who are teachers. Unfortunately none of the students appeared and I am still in the dark about what happened. No idea why I didn’t receive a communication that there was a problem and that no student would be able to join us. I assumed that everything would go according to plan…

1. How did I feel?

When the minutes ticked away and we had to start the session with no student in sight, I was extremely disappointed, felt let down… I would not like to say more about this here.

#lthesep12 week 7

collective thinking in the ThinkLab

However, I felt excited when after explaining to my students the situation, they took the initiative and went out and returned with 4 students. I had a big smile on my face 😉 and am grateful that my students had this idea. How difficult can it be to find a few students to spend some time with teachers? Usually students complain that their teachers don’t spend enough time with them. So we put it to the test and was indeed easy peasy to get a few students! A big bravo to my students!

Activities had to be adapted but it all still worked. Just a shame that the students didn’t have the opportunity to stay with us for the whole duration of the session and have an even richer exchange with the teachers.

#lthesep12 week 7

student and teachers discussing learning and teaching

So pleased with the conversations that took place and the real interest from both sides, students and teachers, to build bridges and try and understand each other.

Also very pleased that we did manage to connect with Uzee in Scotland, model the use of Skype and how we can bring others into our classrooms remotely but also use it as an opportunity to discuss online postgraduate learning experiences with him.

#lthesep12 week 7

opportunities to extend conversations beyond the classroom walls

This session was packed! Just reflecting on it now, makes me realise this! Too much happening? I need to think about this a bit more.

What else? Well, one of my students introduced the concept of storytelling (An insightful post about storytelling by Ilene Dawn can be accessed here) to the class before we actually started creating the stories of the students who joint us.  I think we need to do this more! What I mean? Well, if we know that a student has a specific expertise, I think we should make use of it. Bring it out, make our student shine! Of course some students might feel uncomfortable when asked to present something to their peers and my students don’t feel any different, I suppose. But overcoming our own fears is important for learning, as well as for personal and collective growth. Liz did a great job!!!

#lthesep12 week 7


2. What did I learn?

Being open is a must. Pretending that everything is fine, will not lead us anywhere. We also need to trust our students and empower them to come up with ideas! To help us problem solve so that we become real learning partners! We need to think fast when problems appear on the horizon and re-think strategies and approaches to make them work! Somehow! We can manage this if we work together, if we un- and re-design activities to fit the new circumstances so that we get the maximum learning out of it. To anticipate the unexpected? I think so and be prepared to make changes. We need to be flexible and adjust quickly. Are designers naturally better equipped than others? Would be interesting to find out…

We wanted to re-create the student experiences as digital stories. My students had a variety of digital gadgets with them and the three groups used different tools to create and capture their stories (www.storybird.com www.striptgenerator.com smartphone and www.flickr.com)

3. What would I do differently?

Relying on other people was a problem this week. I think next time, I will adopt a different strategy inspired by how my students solved the problem. And there could be a warning that we will need 3-4 students for this session and ask my students in advance to bring them to the session… could this work? Ideally, there should be a mix of undergraduate and postgraduate students, home and international students too. So, if I prepare a profile for each, my students could then identify 3-4 students that would be a close match to a specific profile. Also, I would have liked the students to stay for the whole duration. If they knew in advance of the session, this would have been possible. So, again, better planning and always having a plan B and plan C… posing a question here to my students or anybody else who reads this and would like to reply. How would you approach this?

#lthesep12 week 7

comfortable storytellers

#lthesep12 week 7

unstoppable storyteller!

#lthesep12 week 7

storytelling using a mixed-media approach

#lthesep12 week 7

focused storytellers

Completed stories missing at the moment. Please add a link to them as a comment below so that I can copy the URL into this post and share with the students as promised. Thank you 😉

Next week our design approach is Problem-Based Learning! Get ready for it LTHESep12!!!

We will be in the Clifford Whitworth Conference Room. More action and surprises! Please remember to bring your own devices with you!!! 

letting go or week6 reflections #lthesep12 @pgcap

Sunday morning and everybody is still asleep, well almost. Ody (8) loves making things and yesterday when I told him to clean his desk and throw the rubbish away, he told me that “rubbish is for making things”… 😉 This stayed with me and I have to admit that we might be too quick to call something rubbish and throw it in the bin… this applies to objects but also ideas and people, I think. Anyway, let’s get started with my reflection on this week’s LTHE session.

I am amazed, looking back at Tuesday’s session how different this from all the times it was offered before. All previous sessions where well-orchestrated and while they were mainly focusing on the students and where aiming to provide a rich student engagement, they were still tutor-led. We never know what will happen in our sessions but this week, I did let go more than any other time before and trully didn’t know where we were heading.

LTHESep12 week 6

home for this week’s session

This session was an opportunity to discuss teaching in large and small groups and challenge perhaps “lecturing in the more traditional sense” (see article Don’t lecture me, which I used in class) – do we really need to use word ‘lecturing’???  isn’t this a bit anachronistic? Just wondering, Do some of us use it because it does sound more important somehow??? – See also Donald Clark’s work around this – while I had a clear plan and a clear structure and framework, it went messy very quickly… but was this a bad thing? I will try and make sense of what happened.

1. How did I feel?

I was really looking forward to this session. I was really looking forward to performing and bringing my tricks out of the bag, literally and metaphorically.When I arrived I realised that there wasn’t a microphone and I couldn’t use the video clips or the online polling. What a catastrophy! Catastrophy? This is at least how it felt when I realised that all these things would not be possible…

I was giggling when I setting up the classroom and the resources and couldn’t wait to start (this was before I realised that I would have all the above mentioned problems). Some of my students arrived late. I received texts and tweets from others asking where we are this week. In a way, my plan from last week worked… the plan was to let my students experience how it feels to receive limited or no communication from the tutor inbetween sessions. Not sure if many got this and how strong my message was… it would be good to find out. No presentation or any other resources were made available in advance. This did come up in the conversation at the beginning of the session and it was fascinating to hear the variety of views why this happened but also discover that this was ok and that many don’t really access the resourceds in advance of the session. This worries me, I have to admit! We are not filling empty buckets and I would definitely want my students to start engageing with the theme in advance of the session so that they can engage in a more critical way when in class and bring their questions with them. I don’t think any of my students realised that I puporsefully didn’t provide access to the resources in advance to make them think about their own practice… I might be wrong.

As finally students were arriving, I felt releaved and ready to start knowing that part of what I had planned and was high-impact, would not work. I improvised or should I say I let my students take over most of the session. This is what proper student-led sessions look like. Letting go is hard, but we do need to remember it is not about us and what we do, but about our students and what they do and providing the best environment for them to learn.

LTHESep12 week 6

activity designed by and for students – loved this!!!

Great to see my students grabbing stuff out of my toolkit and using it to develop their activity on the spot. Effective improvisation in action. This was such a wonderful surprise. I was so pleased and proud that my students took over and used their creativity to re-design the session and while, I had other plans, I felt that it was ok, well more than ok, to stand back and let my students lead the session. I had in the back of my mind what we wanted to get out of this session together and as long as this was happening, I didn’t step in. Actually I feel that my students got more out of it doing it their way. I was very very happy and am still smiling.

2. What did I learn?

Letting go is a powerful teaching and learning tool. Putting our students in the driving seat of their learning can be motivational and empowering. I saw this happening in this session. As soon as my students realised that they are in charge of what was happening they somehow engaged in a different way in the activities, their activities.

LTHESep12 week 6

Who says we can’t move around in a lecture theatre?

3. What would I do differently?

I think I could be even more adventurous next time. Asking students to design this particular session from the outset, this is what I would like to try. I have done it with other sessions in the past, but this one that questions lecturing would be a very intersting one to be led by my students. Also, as we are usually a small group, 20-30 in one class, it would be fantastic if we could fill the lecture theatre with students, my students’ students and other students to participate in this session. I would love to try this. Can I make it happen for the next semester? I will start planning.

LTHESep12 week 6

Can these things really happen when we teach and learn? Please re-think!

We did run out of time with the mini presentations and this was a shame… must remember to start next week with these. I should have shortened the time on each of the three stations and made some better time calculations… time management is something I tend to struggle with… but when the conversations are interesting and engage students, how can we stop them? This is tricky, I think, but we do need to learn to be more focused within specific timeframes, so I will definitely look at this again to make time so that all activities can be finished within a specific time.

Overall, I think we all got loads from this session. It definitely made me think and re-think about my own practice and identify further opportunities for more meaningful student engagement. How did you feel the session went? Please comment 😉

We are in the ThinkLab next week to discuss openly the student experience and will connect remotely with a student from Scotland who will share his experiences from being an online postgraduate student with us. Do you have any questions you would like to ask the student?

Happy Month and Day 1 #phdchat

Reach for the Sky

Where will this project take us?

Apparently, the 1st of November 2012 is the first official day of my PhD studies at Edinburgh Napier. Yeh, I am a student again! It feels wonderful, I have to say but also scary. This is my second attempt and bad memories and experiences make my thoughts a bit foggy and wobbly. We will see. Feeling optimistic though overall and the project idea is fueling my imagination, can’t wait to get started! I am lucky to work with and be supported by Dr Keith Smyth and other colleagues from Edinburgh Napier and work closely with Lars Uhlin from the Karolinska Institutet in Sweden on this journey. I am sure we will make exciting discoveries along the way about open learning but also about ourselves.

Timeline: Minutes

a PhD research studies backwards? Going from right to left… bad metaphor?

My first target is to create a project timeline (is this the right time? It feels right). Not thinking of burrying the timeline somewhere on my laptop and 4 years is a loooooooooooooooooooong time. The plan is to finish this project in 4 years but it might take longer… 4 years = 1460 days… if I did my calculations right… not good with numbers, you see and happy that I am doing qualitative research but I am sure there will be some numbers in there too. Anyway, keeping track of stuff that need to happen at specific moments in time will be super important.  I have used the Timeline Maker Preceden before but am wondering if it is fit for purpose for this project. Any (better) idea anybody?