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 😉

Chrissi
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

References

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?.

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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,

Chrissi

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.

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