#FDOL132 unit 1 or mixing @openfdol

we all add something and make the mix more exciting

Wow, we have officially reached the end of #fdol132 unit 1 and I would like to use this space to capture some of my thoughts about the course so far.

Really pleased we got such a rich mix of individuals from different countries and different disciplines joining us for this course. But also the facilitators’ team is rich in so many ways. Neil, who was a participant in #FDOL131 joined us as a PBL facilitator and Maria who was a PBL facilitator is now also one of the #FDOL132 organisers. Lovely to work with both of them and Lars of course 😉

It feels like that community buzz has been created amongst colleagues in this course, but across geographical boundaries.”  participant

I have enjoyed reading many introductions and responding also and engaging in some conversations. I have found it great that people also responded actively to other posts and have started sharing ideas but also reaching out for help, support and ideas. Some have started using their personal learning spaces and others created new ones. Wonderful! Have a look for example into Simon’s space, Martin’s, Fjodor’s, Mark’s, Maria’s, Anna’s to add a few) Also, the webinars have been really lively and participants shared their webcams, contributed to the chat but also took the microphone, well we actively encouraged them 😉 Seeing people makes such a difference, to me at least. Is it because I am a picture person? But then again people love looking at each other. So, I don’t think it is just me.

Does seeing each other help make connections?

The team of facilitators has worked hard to secure the smooth opening and running of the course. It is not an easy job! Believe me! At times we were confronted with challenges that require quick decision making, coordination and changes. I guess this is not unique to our situation. We are, however, in different locations and use exclusively social media (Dropbox, Google Drive, Facebook, a private Google + community and Skype)  to communicate, co-ordinate, create and collaborate. Again, probably nothing unusual today as more and more collaborations have a global span. Anyway, being always, well almost on stand-by, or switched-on helps us operate quietly in the background so that everything runs smoothly in the course. Being switched-on all the time can be a challenge, or is a challenge, for me at least, Balancing the physical and digial world can be difficult and I definitly need to find a better strategy. Would be interesting to hear what others think about this.

Nerantzi, Uhlin, & Kvarnström (2013)

We are experimenting with a specific collaborative learning approach in open course settings. This is a simplified version of Problem-Based Learning (PBL) and we needed groups. Putting the groups together is an intense activity but Lars mastered it again really really well and with patience, a lot of patience and hard work. What would we do without him. What would we do without you Lars?… if you are reading this? While we have streamlined our COOL FISh model and removed peripheral participation in the groups as this didn’t seem to work during the pilot, we have now 8-9 individuals in each group and it will be interesting to see how the groups will work.

FISh

I am really pleased that all 4 facilitators are on the same wavelength about facilitation, what it is and what it isn’t. I also love the fact that we can see each other’s group spaces. Actually anybody can see them, even individuals who are not PBL group members, anybody out there. We have made ‘classroom’ walls transparent, actually we got rid of them, and made the web a big learning space. So many teachers fear to be observed teaching in their classrooms. Closing the door and locking everybody out, makes some teachers feel save. But is this healthy for the teachers/facilitators? And what about the learners? We talk about being inclusive? How can we be exclusive while claiming that our learning and teaching is inclusive? I can’t resist adding here Palmer’s (2007, 146) words which echo in my mind when thinking about teaching and learning behind closed doors, behind closed spaces:

“Though we teach in front of students, we almost always teach solo, out of colleagial sight – as contrasted with surgeons or trial lawyers, who work in the presence of others who know their craft well. Lawyers argue cases in front of other lawyers, where gaps in their skill and knowledge are clear for all to see. Surgeons operate under the gaze of specialists who notice if a hand trembles, making malpractice less likely. But teachers can lose sponges or amputate the wrong limb with no witness except the victims.”

In FDOL132 we see facilitation as a collaborative, transparent and supportive process but also a way to learn with and from each other. Sharing is at the heart of what we do day-in and day-out in the facilitators team! We share our ideas, our worries, our feelings. There is honesty and commitment. Commitment to each other, the course and the participants.

When the groups were created last time, conversations in the main community space died out! I wouldn’t like this to happen again especially as we have loads of autonomous learners who are there at the moment and we need to find ways to engage them in a meaningful way so that they get the maximum out of the course and each unit.

Finalising my initial survey for my PhD research at the moment and will post to all on Monday.

end of unit 1 numbers
registered participants: 107 (mainly from the UK and Sweden but also Canada, Ireland, Greenland, Norway, New Zealand, Belgium, Slovenia, Argentina, Switzerland, Hongkong)
Google plus community: 67
Groups: 4 (8-9 members each)
Facilitators: 4

Food for thought:
1. How to form groups in the future using a more sustainable approach.
2. Engage autonomous learners throughout the course
3. Identify additional PBL facilitators from participants or past participants.

Let’s unit 2 begin!

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All learning comes from change! All learning is change!

potpourri of opportunities

We are social animals, said Aristotle;

the technology of writing is bad for us, said Socrates;

we learn so much more through play, said Plato!

These thoughts, I think sum up nicely our journey on this planet and beyond and also say loads about my life as an academic developer and our purpose to change  practices and the student experience in Higher Education. When I started writing this post, my thoughts took me to places which might seem disconnected but if you read this post carefully you will discover that it is deeply interwoven with thoughts about learning and teaching, and reveal how I see things and how these are inter-connected.

We are explorers, we use our curiosity and imagination for discoveries. We experiment, we use and make tools and we learn and evolve; we survive and thrive and push the boundaries and make the impossible possible!

And while we keep saying it is not about the tools, I would like to reflect on the importance of tools. We shape tools and the tools shape us said Marshall McLuhan. Humans were always resourceful. When we lived in caves, in big forests, in villages, in towns, in big cities, in hostile environments, in physical and digital spaces, in space. And we have mastered to connect these spaces and we are connected communities. Our brain grew because we started using it more and more; we pick up objects and use them as tools, we modify them and make our own tools and we make tools to make other tools. Progressively our tools have became more complex and sophisticated as we realised the significance of these for human kind and the potential and the places and spaces they were and are taking us. Our shopping basket of knowledge is full and expanding rapidly as we speak. Aesop said we are only limited by our imagination. Exchange and co-creation; learning from our own stories and experiences; our mistakes and misfortunes but also from our successes, connecting information, resources and ideas but also people, living, working, creating, learning and changing together. Playing too, is a necessity. Shaping and re-shaping who we are, what we know and imagining the future… shaping the today and tomorrow. The human web!

There will always be voices and actions to hold us back, boulders on our paths, some of them strategically or politically. The world is moving and we move on it and with it. Stopping is no option. We need to adjust and adapt to the environments we live in and make it a life worthwhile for us and future generations. Nothing can happen without learning. Learning is change! Change is learning!

We live in the digital age where opportunities for learning have exploded, literally. We live in physical and virtual jungles and try to make sense of it all. And we keep learning. We still love learning with others, we still love making stuff, we still love sharing. We always will… I dare to say. Digital technologies have ‘invated’ our lives, diversification, internationalisation and massification of higher education are on the menu. We express our hunger for creation and are now enabled to do so easily and quickly. We carry around with us smart devices that constantly link us up with information, resources and people. We learn how to navigate, communicate, co-operate and collaborate in vast networks. We learn how to harness digital technologies and create new opportunities for learning and teaching using these. Learning happens everywhere. Learning and teaching that happens exclusively within institutional walls, detouched from the world around is anachronistic and presents an utopic way of being. Opening-up, embracing change is vital to thrive and create new paths that will lead us into a brighter future. This is easier said than done and there is resistance… I have experienced this many time in my role as an Academic Developer. Kinash & Wood (2013, 184) wrote recently, and I can’t resist quoting it here, that “academic development means that people in these roles figuratively put their heads where bullets fly.” This is so true! Often we are indeed in the firing line! I have a little message hanging on my office door saying “only dead fish swim with the stream”. I think this says something about my approach to academic development, and learning and teaching more generally. We do need to learn to cope better with change and take advantage of changes. We need to take risks! We need to be the change we want to happen. After all learning comes from change! Learning is change!

References

Kinash, S & Wood, K (2013) Academic developer identity: how we know who we are, in International Journal for Academic Development, Vol. 18, No. 2, 178-189.