Blaming the tools, Chrissi?


So pleased I organised that mock interview and we experienced problems. Learning from mistakes and when things go wrong? Yes. But I was also lucky that the individual who volunteered to participate in this mock interview was patient, had put time aside for this (at least it felt like this) and also knew me. Things will  be very different with the real interviews and I need to make sure that the process is efficient and the experience positive. I don’t want to upset anybody or make them feel uncomfortable to fully participate and share their reflections.

The plan was to use Adobe Connect and a link to the room had been shared in advance. We both had used this tool before and were both familiar with it. However, we both experienced problems with the audio and after trying to resolve these for 30 minutes we decided to connect via Skype. Actually even before the 30 minutes past we connected via Skype and could hear each other clearly.

While we were experiencing the problems with Adobe, I was thinking of my future interviewees who might not be familiar with this tool, might be less patient and don’t know me… How would they react? I think there was a potential to turn these interviews into nightmares, upset people and not get the data needed. I definitely don’t want that! How can I avoid this?

The sound quality was so much better on Skype. Also most people will be familiar with this tool. An added bonus!!! It is easy to use as well even if not used before so I wanted to give it a go. A few years ago I had used Skype for Phenomenographical interviews when I was collecting data for my MSc dissertation. It did work well and I managed to record the audio then. Yesterday I couldn’t make the audio recorder work I had installed on my laptop and used then. This was so frustrating, extremely frustrating but I have to admit that I did not think that we had to switch tools for this and didn’t test it in advance. I had some problems with my Laptop not so long again and it had to go to the doctor… perhaps some bits from the installation were removed then? I have no idea. I am sure this is all my fault. I should have a plan  B!!! After loosing a few minutes on trying to make the recorder work, I gave up. Yes, I did.

I still wanted to capture as much as I could from the interview and thought of keeping notes in Google doc. I shared an empty doc with my test interviewee but I would be the one writing in there. The interviewee was happy with it so we went ahead with this approach. What had seen each other briefly in Adobe Connect before we abandoned it. In Skype we just used the audio connection, perhaps because we were didn’t want to reduce the sound quality? I don’t know, it just happened. Then I was going to write in Google doc. Thinking now, if it would be better to also have the video connection. After the mock interview I went to Twitter and ask for help to identify an audio recorder. Among the responses was a link to a very insightful blog post about the use of Skype for research interviews and I am including it here and need to read very carefully. It was really nice that I got responses from the wider community. Thank you so much everybody.

Ok, we finally were ready to make a start with the interview. I explained at the start that the data will NOT be shared with anybody and NOT be used for the PhD research project and that the purpose of this mock interview was purely to test the questions, the process and get some feedback so that I can fine tune in readiness for my first interview on Friday.

The atmosphere was warm, I could sense, even without seeing the interviewee, that the person wasn’t upset about the delay (but I was concerned!!!), in contrary they were very understanding and patient. Perhaps because they knew me? The interview part went very smoothly. I got really rich responses and didn’t have to do too much talking. This was very important for me as this is designed to be a semi-structured interview. I skipped a few questions as the answers were already included in responses to other questions and there was a natural flow, which I liked. I was pleased that I actually managed really well to type at the same time. I thought if I will be able to do this during the interview. If I decide to type during the interview it would help me when transcribing the interviews from the audio files. Would this reduce the time needed to transcribe? I think it will. Don’t think this will be distractive to the interviewee, especially if the keyboard is soft and it doesn’t create un-natural breaks. But I am not sure if I would focus more on what I was writing that was I was listening and the most important thing during the interview is active listening. So not sure and I need to decide soon. It is important to me that the interview is more like a dialogue or conversation. Wouldn’t be good to say, one moment, just need to complete this sentence..

At the end of the interview I asked the interviewee about the experience. I got the reply ‘perfect’. Well, it definitely wasn’t perfect as we experienced tech problems at the start but I think what was meant that the part of the interview went well. I was very pleased about this. Comments were made about some of the questions. It was felt that some of them were perhaps too open? I have to say that I was pleased about this as this was the main reason they were formulated like this. To enable the interviewee to open up and reflect deeper on specific aspects of the experience. In some cases, I did ask further questions where I felt, I need more specific information about something the interviewee mentioned and that worked really well. So overall, the questions and the process seem to have worked, at least in this case. I realised that I won’t need to ask all the questions but do need to listen carefully so that I don’t ask questions that have been answered already.

I now need to find a/the audio recorder for Skype. Decided not to go back to Adobe Connect, won’t use it as a tool to capture the interviews. It just seems to be too complex and so many things can go wrong. Let’s just use a tool people are familiar with and that seems to be more reliable, if I dare to say. I asked for help on Twitter to find an audio recorder and will start exploring some of the options. I must also check again if I can get the one that I have will work! Perhaps I was too stressed and was running out of time the other day when I trying to make it work, so I might not have pushed the right button??? Happened to me before… so I wouldn’t be surprised if this was the case this time also. Will add the audio recorder I am going to use, when I am sure that it works properly.

Any advice on the above thoughts would be very welcome. My first proper interview is this Friday!

ps. Am I blaming the tools? Or are some tools just better for certain things and a bit more bendy???

Can we fix it or Day 5 #byod4l

This was our last BYOD4L Day. Where did that week go? It disappeared under our feet, metaphorically and literally!  It was high speed, high fun and high challenge, for me personally at least. And I would also add, high commitment, after reading Prof. Norman Jackson’s post. He is so right. Norman’s thoughts around this reminded me of Ronald Barnett’s (2007, 67) phrase:

The will to learn may not be everything,  but without it nothing is possible.

The will and commitment are one in my mind. The will requires commitment or is the will commitment? I ask myself the following questions:

  • Can we learn anything without commitment?
  • Can we achieve anything without commitment?
  • Can we care if the commitment is not there?

BYOD4L was exciting and made me feel  excited and I don’t think I was the only one. When something good is over, we want to hang on to it for a little bit longer. This is perhaps how some of us feel at the moment. But how do we know that the ‘high’ would continue? Could engagement be stabilised at some level to enable prolonged engagement? How could we make this happen. We are at the moment exploring a number of opportunities and I will probably get back to some of the ideas later in this post… Again, I am writing my thoughts about Day 5 on Sunday, 2 whole days after BYOD4L came to an end, the facilitated part, anyway, and my writing doesn’t feel fresh…

I was surprised that conversations about MOOCs in relation to BYOD4L surfaced on Twitter just before the end. I had seen that some people were talking about a MOOC when referring to BYOD4L in their reflections. I guess, people compare the new with the known and perhaps MOOCs are the type of  ‘open’ courses the majority of people are more familiar with. Perhaps we use some of the features that are used in this types of courses, I don’t deny this, (but some have raised questions if these are courses… does it matter?) I am, wondering if MOOCs are the only way to offer open learning opportunities or has it become a more generic term? I am aware that language is dynamic and changes over time. In one of my previous lives I used to be translator and was playing with words on a day-to-day basis in between cultures. History has shown that ‘error words’ have a longer lifespan and perhaps the word MOOC is becoming one of them. Hoover pops into my head now, not that it is an ‘error word’ but it has become a collective term beyond the Hoover brand, in the UK at least. Are there similarities? I am wondering what the massive has to do with learning? Does learning actually happen on a massive scale? Or do we broadcast content on a massive scale and are creating a super league of (open educational) broadcasters? Writing about it now, reminds me of telly. I thought we have agreed that this passive way doesn’t work that well for learning?  On the other hand we talk so much more these days about personal connections, personal learning and even when we talk about teaching and learning, we start with the word learning which is followed by teaching. Does this mean anything? I am very much interested in exploring opportunities to make learning happen in open online ecologies. The people who can cope with MOOCs, if you like, will learn anyway, anyhow, anywhere. What about the masses (to use this term now how I understand it!) that can’t cope? Does this mean that there should not be opportunities for them? What happened to being inclusive? One size does not fit all. I guess, we would all agree. I understand that universities and private co-operations are looking for sustainable business models for open education. There are great opportunities now and I hope universities will discover new horizons… Some feel that they have to jump on the massive tanker or cargo packed with containers full of stuff – or otherwise they will not survive? I don’t know. Following the masses was never a thing I was keen in doing. I like to explore and experiment, to play with ideas. Often this means being lonely. Lost in ideas? But it doesn’t have to be that way! There are like-minded people around. It seems easier to find the ones that are not just around the corner. Why? I feel that I have found a whole family of like-minded people thanks to BYOD4L and thanks to the digital tools that enabled us to find each other. We didn’t expect everything to work but we were committed (to borrow Norman’s words again!), committed to the project and committed to each other and saw this adventure as an opportunity to surprice ourselves and others and make discoveries.

I am very much interested in exploring how we can help individuals and groups come together in open spaces and learn together if and when they want to. What has the massive to do with this?  Massive is attractive for some. Perhaps the numbers are misleading?  I can’t ignore the quote by dear Albert Einstein

Not everything that can be counted, counts and not everything that counts can be counted.

I don’t deny that there might be many more (or too many if this is possible?) opportunities (but for whom?). I thought learning is about the learner, all of them, but also each individual one. When there are loads and loads more people on the massive learning stage what is really happening? When we learn with others, do we really need or want the masses? Do we learn with the masses? Even confident, competent connected, networked or rhizomatic learners, or even just learners, pick the people they find interesting, the ideas that connect them or challenge their beliefs and this is fantastic and so so useful for learning. We all go through this selection process. Somehow we find each other. But are we all outspoken in open spaces and habitats. Think of a massive party. Can we all cope? Do we all reach out when we need help, or when we want to dance with somebody (at a party)? Who does? If open educational offers are going to engage the un-engaged in education, lifelong and lifewide learning, is there something we actually need to adjust? Are there other models and frameworks we can explore or experiment with to make our open offers more attractive to the people who need it most? I am wondering… Are we really all ready for MOOCs as we know them? A am not convinced about the ‘M’ in that word (please help me to understand why this is needed) and if all MOOCs are actually open (I have written a post about this a while ago linked to FDOL and at other times here on my blog). Perhaps it has to do with how we see open, in what context? I am sure this is the case. For us, here on BYOD4L and me personally, open means truly open. Also open-ended as Andrew Middleton noted and wide-open as I add here now. This is why we don’t have any registration, this is why nobody needs a password to access any spaces or seek permission to enter, this is why anybody can join when they want to and stay as long as they want to. Make their own connections and define their learning paths, on their own and with others. All we did is create the foundations of an ecosystem to emerge. The people who joined us for a bit or longer (we don’t even know how many they were, but does it matter?) brought it to live and became the heart of it. How can we extend the live of this community? We, and I mean organisers, facilitators and participants (and I don’t like this categorisation at all – learners would be better) can help to make that box a magical open box, without its people, there is NO magic. People are the heart of BYOD4L they make this box magical

My thoughts now are taking me to a specific Waterfall of Ideas (this is the term I gave to Twitter chats, and I would like to write a little something just about this with some of my colleagues on BYOD4L and I include our participants). On Day 5 it was my turn with Alex Spiers. I was really looking forward to this but didn’t want it to be the same thing as the previous nights. I was excited and nervous as the whole thing could be flat like a pancake!!! I had never led a Twitter chat before. Don’t think anybody knows that!!! Despite the fact that I had never done it before, I wanted to play with the idea of doing it differently! Our theme was creating, so we had the perfect opportunity to be creative and enable creative expression but also find ways to be curious about ideas and each other. There was no point to just replicate what had happened before. I suggested a more risky approach and am pleased that Alex embraced my crazy ideas. Often people don’t and this can be upsetting for creative people. But I do understand that people want to keep doing the same thing if they feel it works why change it? This is not a question I ask myself. My question usually is, yes, it works, how can we make it even better? Or what would happen if….? For me learning needs to be exciting. I want suspense and I want learners to feel their heart beating and their brains going with 1000 miles per second and steam coming out of their ears and nose. We were on a Tweet chat roller coaster and it paid off. We worked well with Alex (we had done stuff together before), we had a DM back channel and we coordinated activities and even had some fun there too. Good to do these things with somebody else and be there for each other when needed. People who participated were excited and engaged and expressed in creative ways. We had a few cases of people who warned us that they couldn’t unfortunately participate on the day but completed the tasks anyway. We asked everybody to contribute their learning during BYOD4L in a visual way using their smart devices (or tools as Norman would say) and were amazed with the artefacts that were created and the variety of approaches used. Wow! I couldn’t stop smiling! We are putting a presentation together to capture some of them and when you see it all together, I feel really proud of how all our participants have engaged, experimented, played and learnt. The previous Twitterchats gave people the opportunity to familiarise with what what a Twitterchat is and build their confidence in actively and visibly participating in a public space where anybody could be ‘watching’ and ‘listening’ and ‘jump in’. Now it was about time, to try something different, take a few more risks, and identify how far people are prepared to go. I have seen it in other educational settings, if there is a community and there is trust, wacky, more playful and unusual ideas are not ridiculed that quickly and people do take risks together. Was there a community on Day 5? I think there was. We all went for it! The Question shower, the main part of the Twitterchat also moved the focus away from answering pre-set questions by the facilitators. Now everybody had to come up with questions linked to the creating theme and share them with others. We were going fast and furious. Twitter was on fire for about an hour and we might have lost a few followers as a result of this but the people who were with us stayed with us and participated passionately in the Question Shower game: Stick to the theme of the day, creating, ask a question and respond with a question. It was impressive what followed and the chaotic but in so many ways creative conversations were captured in Sue’s Storify.

BYOD4L definitely finished on a high note. Just adding here one BYOD4L by Laurence but there are many others. I would like to thank everybody who participated and became part of this experiement. I have been working with Sue since November 2013 on developing BYOD4L and more recently with our dear volunteer facilitators. It has been such a rich experience. We have worked tirelessly to make BYOD4L happen and are so happy that it went so well. I definitely have learnt a lot that I will be taking forward. We definitely see this experiment as a start for other initiatives and will build on this to extend opportunities for personal and professional development in this area. The MELSIG book project is a great opportunity but also the MMU event on the 14th of April. Would be lovely to see you there.

Remember to claim a badge or two or more if you have done the work.

A MASSIVE thank you to Sue Beckingham who worked tirelessly with me for months now, evenings, weekends and  during holidays. We have learnt a lot about each other and discovered that we love working together. We are efficient and understand each other really well and so so quickly. No lengthy explanations were needed, there have been no tensions, decisions were made really quickly and smoothly. Each one of us used our strengths in this project and we supported each other when we needed help. It has been a pure pleasure working and developing with Sue.

Thank you to our dear Dr Cristina Costa who took the time to review our plan before it all began, our artist Ellie Livermore and her creative design for the BYOD4L logo and the badges but also for all the filming of the scenarios, our dear David Hopkins for making it possible to introduce badges and all our facilitators, Dr Panos Vlachopoulos who joined us from Australia and worked tirelessly in the FB group, Chris Rowell, Kathrine Jensen, Ola Aiyegbayo, Alex Spiers, Neil Withnell, Dee Vyas and our Andrew Middleton for embacing the idea to offer BYOD4L under the MELSIG umbrella. But also Colin Gray who is going is helping us with the Learning Analytics and Lars Uhlin, our Big Brother in a nice way, who has been watching us all and will provide feedback from his perspective.

Thank you all for your valuable contributions, each one of you and all together. NONE of this would have been possible without you.

Bye for now dear friends 😉

ps. All 5 post titles linked to BYOD4L are a song. Do you know the performers?

Day 1: Where is Linda

Day 2: Let’s dance

Day 3: Thinking of you

Day 4: Umbrella


All my BYOD4L facilitator reflections have been submitted for the facilitator badge and after external review by Dr David Walker, I got my badge and I feel a sense of achievement. Very happy 😉  Thank you for reviewing and for making a judgement that my work  meets the criteria for getting this badge. Here it is


Barnett, R. (2007) A Will To Learn. Being a Student in an Age of Uncertainty, Maidenhead: Open University Press.

AnswerGarden is a minimal feedback space using keywords

via AnswerGarden: BYOD4Learning: What is it for you?.

Umbrella or Day 4 #BYOD4L

Capturing my reflections on Day 4 now after BYOD4L has come to an end. Unfortunately, and I mean unfortunately, I was running out of time to do this any earlier. Other tasks related to this project had to come first, I decided. This meant that the snippets of reflections on that day lived in my head for a few days, some of them on bits of paper but I can see how carrying reflections around might not be enough. They seem to fade too easily, some of them might already be dead… Does this mean that these were not important? I am not sure. I might have missed some great opportunities for my own development and to evaluate our offer(?). How do you reflect? I have heard people saying again and again, I reflect in my head and they are happy with this and feel that it is enough. Is it though?

Looking back, I think I should have made the time just to capture my raw reflections at the end of the day or the next morning, to have a record of that moment in time. Reflections are of course dynamic, they change over time and when we look back we can use them for our own development. I feel that I miss that bit now of capturing what was occupying my head then and I am, I have to admit here, not sure, if I am actually going to capture my thoughts on Day 4 or if I am just trying to say something here to fill this post… not good is it?

This morning, and it is Sunday, now, I said to myself, I can no longer postpone it but I did in a way as I found another little task to do before I started writing this post. Am I avoiding it now? Very possible. But I am going to keep writing and hope that something useful will come of out this.  Using some notes from last night should be useful?

One main item popped into my head when I closed my eyes and tried to relive Day 4. That was time, surprise, surprise. The time we have, the time we make, the time we don’t have and the time we think we should make. Does this make sense? During Day 1 I felt under pressure to be everywhere and be visible seen as to be there. Was this realistic? Was this needed? We all know that we are not all the time with our learners. We are not there with them 24-7 when we teach or facilitate learning (I like that better!) in face-to-face settings. It is not possible and it is not good for them anyway!!! We all need time and space! I am now wondering if it is easier to forget, or if we, as facilitators, have for some strange reason convinced ourselves, that we need to be there all the time when we support individuals and groups online. Is this easier to happen in open or public settings? Do we feel under pressure to be seen? I think learners might feel similar. Uninterrupted connectivity can or is, I should dare to say, disruptive for learning. When we constantly try and  be there with others, when are we with ourselves and our own thoughts? When do we digest what occupies our mind? When are we just happy learning on our own? Have we forgotten how this feels like? Social media are great but can they also become our worst nightmare? Social learning doesn’t mean non-stop togetherness.This creates dependency! I think learning with others, could or should even, be more about knowing that others are around, that we care for each other and that we will support each other when needed. That we do stuff together when we want to, not because we feel we have to! I like my freedom as a learner, to go my own paths, to use my curiosity to make discoveries, but I also enjoy meeting others along the way and share with them my ideas and thoughts and problems so that I can extend learning at a personal and collective level and take it into different directions which we as individuals didn’t even think of. This can only happen through opening up and sharing within a community. But do we need to be together all the time??? No we don’t. Couples for examples are happier with each other when they give each other time and space to breath, to be with themselves and others, to pursue their own interests. This doesn’t mean they go their own ways. Well in a way they do. But what is wrong with it? This doesn’t stop them doing stuff together also. There is a thread that holds specific people together. This thread can be very weak or strong, break or not break at all. It all depends on us, the people on the end of this thread. Not just speaking about couples in romantic relationships, but also professional partnerships and friends, learners and teachers.

Is knowing that others are around more important than actually being around all the time? BYOD4L as a construction reminds be of an umbrella, that protects. What I don’t like of the idea while capturing it here now, is that the umbrella seems to be on top of everything and everybody. This is definitely not how I see BYOD4L. It is more of a fabric then perhaps, a protective fabric that hugs the community and its people that lets them breath and explore, to be curios and experiment (definitely NOT bubblewrap!!!), believe in themselves and have trust in each other. But am I painting a realistic picture here? Can this really happen in an open learning ecology?

I will move on to Day 5 but my thoughts are all melting into one. Will be interesting to discover where my reflections  take me next…

Speak again soon dear friends,