Thinking of you or Day 3 #byod4l

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

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

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

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

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Let’s dance or Day 2 #byod4l

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

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

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

I am taking part in this lovely informal course.

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

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

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

Where is Linda? #byod4l Day 1 reflections

The above question sums up my thoughts and feelings about our first day…

… but I am briefly going to mention something else. I am not a number person but here I am talking numbers, sort of. There were loads (this is the closest I will get to numbers) of people connecting with BYOD4L but also other learners. Loads of tweets and retweets and star-tweets and some posts too and sharing of ideas, questions, resources. This was impressive. I felt initially (well for some hours!) overwhelmed with all the traffic and the parallel conversations in the different spaces. The speed was superfast! At times I felt under pressure to be seen to be there. Often I was, without contributing as I felt I was not needed. When conversations flow naturally and develop, stepping in as a facilitator might stop them and this is not something I wanted to do. On the other hand, when people post and nobody responds, that is not good, is it? We need to know when to wait for a bit, or a bit longer even, and not jump in immediately. We need to give participants the space and time to respond, similar to what we do, or should be doing, in the physical classroom. Perhaps online it is easier to jump in and provide answers… I will depart now from this thought and focus on something that is bugging me from the moment it happened.

Ok, let’s go  back to my question: Where is Linda? I wish I knew the answer. I wish I knew how to find Linda. Linda is important to me and also every other Lindas out there. In the world of mass-communication (mass learning if there is such a thing!!!), voices get lost, connections become impersonal and other times (too often) they get lost completely and during the attempt to connect, they break off and disappear. But learning is personal. It doesn’t really  happen in the macro cosmos, or does it? When we are in vast networks, we don’t connect with all? Or do we? When we are in vast networks we reach out to some, a selected few, who become our hooks and we go on a journey together, for a while or a bit longer. Not everybody though is heard and often voices get lost. Often we don’t reach out and we give up…

Linda reached out, I heard her voice on our learning together page and said that she wanted to learn within a group. This was such a powerful message when it popped up on my screen. It instantly occupied my mind madly. Suddenly the individual stood out, the individual who wanted to learn with others and was asking for help. A voice that could easily be lost in this chaos. But I heard it and did not want to ignore it. I wanted to help. Isn’t this what we suppose to be there for? Would love to hear your views.

And then something magical happened. Thanks to our first #byod4lchat and my call to find Linda (I thought to give it a go!), I actually found my Linda. This story took me years back when my mum asked me to find her best friend after years when I was in Germany during a research visit. It all happened thanks to the web! This is not a miracle. People love helping others and they will when they can! Like Tom Duff did this evening. He was my angel who helped me uncover Linda‘s full identity. Suddenly I had her full name, site and Twitter id. So so pleased. Some people might read this and think, what on earth is she talking about? But for me this was important. I wanted to show Linda that I did listen and that I do really care. Caring for others and each other is extremely important for learning and everything we do as human beings. I didn’t only want to show Linda that I care but I do care properly for all learners and want to be there for them when they need somebody. I would try and help make the connection and then blend into the background when everything is going ok.

There is always hope! I found my Linda. Now it is up to Linda what will happen next. Looking forward to tomorrow’s adventures. 

Sleep well dear friends

Chrissi
ps. If any of you would like to make a Twitterbird, here is the recipe 😉 ttp://www.ravelry.com/patterns/library/bluebird

Let’s open-up! Thoughts after a recent HEA seminar

It is already Sunday. I can’t believe this. Where did the week go? I started writing the below when travelling on the train to London this week and was planning to have the draft ready then but I felt so dizzy in the train that I had to abandon my plan… unfortunately. So this remained unfinished for some days… I will try now and stitch my thoughts together. Hopefully it will work. Ok, let’s make a start.

This week I went to the HEA and participated in a seminar around open educational practices. As I am currently engaged in research linked to this area as a PhD student at Edinburgh Napier University and am developing open CPD initiatives in the context of Academic Development, I felt that this was an important event to be part of. I was right.

Prof. Grainne Connole made me think about the importance of the learning design (reminder for self: need to read Grainne’s 7c learning design in more detail!!!), something I feel is vital to make it work, and the determining effect and impact this has on the practice itself but also the facilitator and learner experience and learning. If we want Learners to be engaged in meaningful ways, we need to be creative and focus on the learner. This applies for face-to-face settings, blended or fully online, closed or open provision. While I am writing this, my mind wanders again to the thought that no learning is fully online. But let’s go back to my question. How can we engage all learners in a meaningful way when we bring the masses or even the world together in one enormous chaotic classroom? Can learning happen in vast networks and decentralised and distributed communities?  I have used the term ‘communities’ here without even thinking about it. Suddenly the term ‘classroom’ was gone from my vocabulary. I think learning can happen out there, learning happens everywhere and all the time. However, as we are all different, different things work for different people. I have heard and read often that open education will engage the unengaged. Does it at the moment? Evidence seems to say that it is not the case. We might have seen new sections of the global population starting to participate in open educational offers and for many it will be the only offer there is, but it is not an accessible way of learning for many who are perhaps less experienced, confident and competent in such learning ecologies. After the MOOC hype,it becomes clear that we are now recognising the role human support and human interaction play for participation and learning. How could we have forgotten? How could we had assumed that machines would be able to replace vital ingredients of human interaction? Did we get carried away with making educators superstars in the global classroom? Turning the classroom into a world stage? We’re we blinded by the numbers? Is learning and teaching a popularity contest? Why are we teaching? I thought at the heart of learning is the learner…

It is encouraging that even the NMC Horizon Report for Higher Education 2014, actually focuses more on pedagogies instead of the tools. Grainne pointed this out and I should read the report in more detail. This is definitely a shift and signalises the need to focus more on identifying innovative ways for learning instead of replicating boring, bad and bold pedagogies. Grainne reminded us that the web is just coming out of its teenage years and social media is only turning 10. What does that mean for us? Rebellious years ahead? I think the only certain thing is that things will change and they change faster and faster. This makes it harder to keep up and makes lifelong and lifewide learning essential not just to survive but also to thrive and innovate.

All speakers talked about MOOCs and generally other open creations and open educational resources. Are MOOCs just OERs? And we know that these are under-used anyway? The world of resources is exploding. We are drowning in resources and content. Why do we keep producing more? Is this linked to our human desire of creating stuff? I am wondering. We do love making stuff and David Gauntlett has written extensive about this and I am grateful to Frances Bell who introduced me to his work during a train journey a few years ago. We do learn through making as he said. But if this is the case who is really learning more when we teachers make the stuff for our students? What needs to happen so that we focus our desire to make stuff on creating activities and spaces that foster interaction, exchange and learning? Should students make stuff instead? What about making stuff with our students?

Various acronyms came up and others were coined in the room. Not sure if it is important how we call something… shouldn’t we focus more on what it is and what we are trying to achieve? Why do we do the things we do in the way we do them? Could it be that many are on the MOOC avenue, as they want to be left behind but perhaps don’t know where they are leading or what they want to achieve? The conversation about open educational practices still seems to be an add-on. I am more interested in how we can open-up existing provision to connect learners and teachers worldwide and enrich their experience and help them grow into more open-minded individuals. Are there opportunities to join up courses? The EU calls for greater openness in the Modernisation of Higher Education to connect students, teachers and programmes more widely to enrich their learning experience and broaden their perspectives about the world but also make them reflect on the nature of collaboration and the potentials it brings within a connected world.

Prof. Alejandro Armellini was provocative and made us think about the physical campus and how this will be changing. He said

“We keep building impressive buildings but the campus of the future will be smaller!”

This is a good opportunity for all of us to reflect and capture how we feel about the above. Feel free to add your comments to this post so that we can have a conversation about this.

Alejandro, or short Ale 😉 also talked about Northampton’s baby steps in the area of open educational practices but also the need to open up more and connect with others – to collaborate! Prof. Neil Morris also emphasised on collaboration and actually suggested that all funded HEA bits for example should be collaborative ones. I really liked that idea as it would really bring institutions closer together and identify jointly opportunities for collaboration and   innovation instead of competition!!! Ale, noted that it will be hard to convince academics to be more open and consider open practices, he said, but evidence of its value, will be the driving force for change. “Academics want to see evidence” he said, but also that “we need talk to people and start from where they are“. As we all experiment with open, we should really evaluate and investigate our initiatives, even if they are mini. We need to learn more about the open learner and their experience but also open organisers and facilitators. My interest lies within collaborative open learning and how we can enable this in cross-institutional contexts. When we talk about open educational practice, it is usually a brand new flashy course (we heard numbers in the region of £30,000 to produce one of these), something that is de-touched form the normal institutional offer while I feel the potential is there to open-up all courses and connect our learners to other learners, professionals and global communities. I think if the open offer becomes part of what we do as institutions, there will be room to explore additional business models. Universities are in the business to advance knowledge and to innovate. Isn’t opening up our courses to enrich the experience of our students a good enough business model? I don’t like the phase I used here ‘good enough’ but struggle to express what I mean. Perhaps valid, valuable? Do you understand what I mean?

Too often staff are unsure if they are aloud to do things! I really liked Neil’s idea of giving academics the freedom to explore and experiment. Constructing and imposing no-no policies won’t work and definitely stifle creativity and innovation. Let them play, let them experiment and build a vision together. If there is buy in at all levels and we all work together great things can happen and they did happen at Leeds, according to Neil. There was a shared vision and this helped to put all puzzle pieces together and start creating a more open future together.

I could continue writing here as this event triggered a lot of thinking into so many different directions but I will make a pause here hoping that some will respond and we can turn this into a conversation. Just would like to add the following quote shared by Ale which makes a lot of sense to me…

“All truth passes through three stages. First, it is ridiculed. Second, it is violently opposed. Third, it is accepted as being self-evident.” Arthur Schopenhauer (1788-1860)

#BYOD4L, a honeymoon collaboration? @melsiguk

Is too much too good to be good? image source: http://farm1.staticflickr.com/79/272777927_6f5df1b3cb.jpg

I am travelling to London early in the morning but my mind is overflowing with excitement about yesterdays and today. Can we be in love with a project or does this sound bizarre?

BYOD4L is all coming together now and it is going to happen soon.  Our BIG day is Monday the 27th of January 2014. After an extensive period of hard work since November 2013, millions of DMs on Twitter, Google doc notes (and only one or two synchronous online gatherings), we, Sue Beckingham and I, are now getting ready to experience our open creation or magical open box. For me this is the next step in exploring open educational practices and playing with pedagogical approaches to find ways to make learning happen in open learning ecologies.

We are not alone. All our lovely and extremely generous volunteer facilitators are with us. I am truly amazed how we have worked together so well from the very beginning. Even after our family grew we really managed to glue. It was a social glue and our passion for learning, teaching and  experimenting that brought us together and kept us together.

We all have different expertise and seem to complement each other really really well. Our collaboration has grown and I am so so happy about what we have achieved together. We have been open and honest with each other and support each other really well. We are there for each other and I am positive that we will stick together throughout the course. Is this a honeymoon collaboration that will last?

BYOD4L is a truly collaborative project. We will all be reflecting on our experience and share these with participants and each other so that we can also learn. We see ourselves as co-learners and will immerse ourselves with our participants into the magical world of learning. We will learn together, with and from each others. We are  excited about this course. This was confirmed by our facilitators last night during a hangout.We are also nervous as we don’t know what is going to happen and if this experiment is going to work and how.

Our main focus is to be there for our participants, for each other, to make learning happen, for all of us. We don’t have answers. We are curious and interested in exploring questions and finding answers together with other teachers and students. We are all learners, right?

Good teachers possess a capacity for connectedness. They are able to weave a complex web of connections among themselves, their subjects, and their students so that students can learn to weave a world for themselves. (Palmer, 2007, 11)

I thank you all from the bottom of my heart.

messy thoughts by a rhizome #rhizo14

man made systems: standardisation? conformity? exclusion?

I was excited when I first saw Dave Cormier‘s #rhizo14 creation and decided to join. As a rhizome myself, I have been extremely weak to establish visible connections so far. There are many reasons for this and my simple excuse (I think it is more a reality, my reality)  is that I have been very busy. We all are busy, I know and we do manage to make time for what matters. For me what matters was and still is to think about the concept of rhizomatic learning and what that means to me personally and professionally. A lot of my engagement has happened in my microcosmos, my mind and my heart while also reading snippets of conversations and trying to digest some of these. I have struggled to follow and read all the postings and while joining #rhizo14 in p2pu I have actually not accessed this space again after first joining and making one or two postings. In FB, I saw some people I know and I think this helped me to create some hooks despite the fact that I didn’t really have any conversations with them. But just knowing that there were there felt perhaps somehow comforting? Somehow it helped. Rhizomes, I understand don’t grow roots? But how can I grow without them? Am I a ‘victim’ of my own history?

I am involved in a few open learning projects (see for example FDOL, BYOD4L) and am doing a PhD. “Doing a PhD” sounds like an easy thing but I have found this highly complex, frustrating at times, and rhizomatic in nature, so very very messy.  This morning, I decided to write a little something about how I currently interpret rhizomatic learning. I still want to make links to connectivist learning (Siemens) and the open context model of learning (Garnett) and other approaches which I probably have forgotten at the moment. Writing this little piece has been useful for me as I am also writing currently with Sue Beckingham about the concept behind ‘our magical open box’, a term I put together and emerged through a Facebook conversation with Fred Garnett. I avoid the term ‘understanding’ as I am not sure what the term ‘understanding’ means and entails. It is too fluffy!!! Also, I see this as a journey of discovery and re-discovery and hopefully some will read the below and help me make new discoveries and refine, challenge and change my perspective?

Ok, here are my first draft thoughts as a rhizome around rhizomatic learning.

Dave Cormier (2008) sees the “community as curriculum” a non-expert driven pedagogical model and has written extensively about the idea of rhizomatic learning, a philosophical concept  introduced by Deleuze & Guatarri (1987). When Cormier refers to rhizomatic learning he describes it as a messy and dynamic, organic and elastic being where the coupling and decoupling of connections, the marrying and divorcing of people, ideas, communities and networks happen all the time in a myriad ways. Are rhizomes nomads? Loners? For Cormier, there are unlimited entry and exit points. Individuals join in, appear and disappear or make themselves visible and invisible when they want to. Rhizomatic learning is dynamic and changes all the time and over time. There is no one, right or wrong direction. There are unlimited directions and pathways, cross roads and roundabouts. Rhizomes create their own journeys and at times follow others driven by their own internal compass. They also get lost and feel lost. There are no experts or authorities and individual and collective knowledge emerges through the rhizomes, through the individuals and the links they make. Siemens (2006, vi) notes “All knowledge is Information, but NOT all Information is Knowledge”. How does this relate to Cormier’s (2008) observation that knowledge is something  that emerges from within a community? Is it a community when we refer to rhizomatic learning or more of a nomadic ecosystem? How is information turned into knowledge within such a system? The links or connections themselves seem to be ephemeral, stronger and other times weaker, often they break off and start fresh elsewhere. Is this free-range learning? The rhizomatic learning ecosystem itself resembles perhaps more a cosmos with an unlimited set of visible, semi-visible or invisible to all amalgamated decentralised cultures, communities, networks, satellites and chaotic ecologies – or is it chaos and what does it mean for learning? Siemens (2006, viii) claims “structure is created by a select few and imposed on the many”. If, we rhizomes resist organisational structures, as Deleuze & Guatarri (1987) claim and we want to be in charge of our own learning, should we (rhizomes as learning-teachers, learning-facilitators or just lifewide rhizomatic learners) spend more time thinking about how we can enable this instead of focusing enormous energies in creating complex and complicated spaces and systems that hinder this?

References

Cormier, Dave (2008) Rhizomatic Education: Community as Curriculum, Innovate: Journal of Online Education, V 4 No 5, Jun-Jul 2008, available at http://eric.ed.gov/?id=EJ840362

Deleuze, G. & Guatarri, F. (1987). A thousand plateaus: Capitalism and schizophrenia.London: University of Minnesota Press.

Siemens, G. (2006) Knowing knowledge, George Siemens.