reaching out #scholar14

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

guilty… but not pleasures… image source:

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

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

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

Right, so what did I learn?

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

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

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

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

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

Warning, first draft!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Still here, week 3 #openresearch

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

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

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

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

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