#fdol132 unit 4 or about finding each other @openfdol

Feeling lost in the deep blue sea?

Just a(nother) pebble?

What brings us together?

What helps us open up?

We are not blank aubergines! None of us!

Food has the power to bring us together! No food online ;( What can make us click in the digital jungle?

How can we make that salad richer and enjoy it together? And why would this be good for us, each one of us?


#FDOL132 unit 3 or about individual & collective (in)flexibility @openfdol

Never standing still, always thinking

Can flexibility release inflexibility?

Can structure(s) get in the way? They do serve a purpose… but whose?

What about flexible structures? What makes a flexible structure flexible?

Do we need to remember that we are all different? Flexibility means different things to different people. How can we make it work?

Does the answer lie within us? How can we grow?

#FDOL132 unit 2 or my travelling PC @openfdol

We have now completed unit 2 around digital literacies and identities and I feel that we are making good progress. It was fascinating to read and comment on many Digital me stories and it was great to see that many participants have started also commenting on each other’s posts. Our webinar with Dr Cristina Costa provided us all with an opportunity to further reflect and explore this unit’s theme and we had a thought provoking discussion (the recording is available here). Cristina has also written a blog post and am sharing this here with you all for further food for thought.

There is now a fantastic opportunity to transform monologues into dialogues and reflective conversations . Dialogue is so so important for learning! It enables us to think, un-think and re-think!

Participants in PBL groups have started working on their tasks and it is always fascinating to see how individuals come together. Learnng collaboratively online can be very rewarding but also challenging and I look forward finding out how participants feel about their journey so far.

One of the tasks in this unit was to look at the Digital me, past, present and future and I would like to capture my story here.

Once upon a time
I remember when I got my first PC. I had just finished Highschool and enrolled on a Computer course at college. Not sure how I ended up doing a Computer course, as my parents wanted me to become a Medical Doctor… I guess, they saw an early opportunity there and they were right! I remember Dos and dbase and how I could create databases but not much else. The floppy discs where massive, then they became smaller and harder. At some point they disappeared completely and were replaced by CDs but that was years later…. I used emailing when this became available to connect mainly for work purposes initially as not everybody had a PC. Was it a luxurary then?

No good anymore?

I had become a translator and all my work was done on the computer. Initially I translated on paper and then transfered everything in the Wordprocessor but not for long. I just remembered Wordperfect… what happened to this? I started translating and typing at the same time. This gave me so much flexibility in editing. How did people write in typewriter times or even before then? I used emailing a lot when I had questions I couldn’t find in heavy dictionaries and encyclopaedia and I had to contact specific professionals but also get in touch with authors, if alive.

I was also teaching languages and created loads and loads of worksheets using my computer, not just with text but also clipart. I also made flashcards! Increasingly I could find many uses for my PC. The years passed, at some point I joined the Navy where I was a computer programmer and worked with massive systems and I remember the huge backup tapes. But I didn’t stay there. I moved on and completed by undergraduate degree in translation. For many years I had the same PC but did some upgrates, bigger hard drive, more memory.

This looks very familiar!

At some point I started a research degree and went to Germany with an Erasmus scholarship… I went without computer and had to ask my parents to post me my PC as I would be staying for a whole academic year… I wish I had a laptop then!!! I guess they were too expensive? Anyway, with my PC I could write and write, nobody could stop me and I used my time well at the Johannes Gutenberg-Universität Mainz in Germersheim. When I arrived everybody was talking about the internet and the university was also connected. Until then, I only knew emails, edutainment software and specific software I used as a translator (Multiterm for example, as I was also working on a dictionary project with a colleague from Germany). I was excited about the internet and wanted to see it when I arrived there… when I got my university username and password there, and was sitting in front of the computer looking at a university screen, I wasn’t sure what this was all about as nothing happened! A static colourful page in front of my eyes!!! Is this the internet? Instant disappointment! Then I looked left and right and could see people looking at different screens and doing things. I had no clue… so I decided to ask another student. They showed me the magic URL bar and I was off and never looked back. I had discovered the internet. Wow! I started using it regularly while I was there, only at Uni!!!. Also found a friend my mum had lost for many years via the internet, many useful resources for my research and links to related organisations and institutes. I can’t remember which search engine I used then, but I suspect it was Internet Explorer? I wish I would have captured this journey somewhere as I am sure there are many things that I have forgotten.  When I returned with my PC to Athens, yes, the PC went back with me!, I got the internet at home also and a laptop at some point. It was so much more convenient for my work than a massive PC!!! I had become a mobile professional without having a mobile phone. The laptop gave me wings to do my work wherever I was.

This is actually not all Greek to me!

When I then moved to the UK, I got back into teaching and started using the web more creatively. Actually, after attendng a 10 week course in webdesign I made my own website for language learning. I got into designing interactive quizzes which were open to the public and freely available. I used specific tools I found freely available on the web and I loved it when others contacted me and told me that they found my language learning activities useful. My very first Open Educational Resources, I guess… that was in 2001-02 or around that time? I uploaded everything to freeserve but at some point everything disappeared!!! I have searched many times to find where the stuff went , but nothing! I guess this is one of the downsides when using free spaces. But I do have everything stored locally, all the html codes! So if anybody is interested, I am happy to share or find a new home for the activities. Then VLEs entered my life at different institutions, including Adult and Community Learning, FE and HE and started using them for learning and teaching. Initially as a repository of resources, but then as spaces to communicate and collaborate. I also created further interactive resources. I started participating in more organised blended and online CPD as a learner and started designing by own courses, including teaching languages using Skype. I also had an interest in gaining a deeper understanding of the blended and online pedagogies and decided to do an MSc in this area. This was eye-opening and enriched my practice in so many ways. Being a learner in an online environment made me reflect on my practice and help me better understand what my students would be going through.

Do I really need one?

You might not believe what I am going to say now. It is true that I got my first mobile phone from one of my students who was shocked that I didn’t have one and gave me two phones he didn’t use anymore. I called myself ‘pre-historic’ because of this but I didn’t really feel that I had a use of this so didn’t need one. Suddenly I had two mobiles… still didn’t use any of them immediately. Only when I went on holiday to Greece and could put a local SIM card in, then I could see value in this as I could contact and be contacted easily and cheaper by family and friends when in the country. I continued using one of the mobiles in the UK but extremely infrequently… until I got an ipod and a bit later a smartphone. Then I could see the point as I again saw value in using these smart devices for learning and teaching.

For me this all came naturally as through the years I had experimented with different approaches and always have been open to try new things. I think for me the use of digital technologies for professional use came first and were integrated into my practice as a learner, student, translator, researcher, teacher and academic developer. I don’t see my personal and professional identity as two separate things. I am just me.

It would be lovely to connect also with family using the digital technologies especially as I live so far away… but this has not happened, unfortunately… and I really don’t know how to convince them…

I am still experimenting and feel really excited about the present and the future. I see myself as a (digital) traveller. I probably would even leave the ‘digital’ out… as I see this part of everyday professional and personal life.  However, I am concerned that I might not be able to keep up with all the latest developments… Among others, I need to work on filtering!!!

Through using social media, I have had the opportunity to connect with really interesting individuals nearby or far far away who I wouldn’t otherwise meet. I have also been able to stay in touch with dear colleagues and friends. Creating, reflecting, learning, researching and teaching/facilitating have been transformed into more social and shared activities and experiences with a global reach. Humans are social beings. Aristotle said it and many afterwards. It is true. What would Aristotle say about the social web?

Over the years, I had different digital tools and used to carry them around with me. Most of them have been replaced now by a single smartphone. So I travel a bit lighter! I am of course also a great fan of low-tech learning and teaching resources  which are a bit heavy… I mean Lego, Mobilo and other stuff. For me it is not really about the technology but what it enables and while some people will say the technology in itself doesn’t enable anything and I would agree with them, it is how we humans use the technology.

I can’t wait to find out what the future will bring but am also excited about where I am now and all the possibilities and opportunities.

For me the social web is about people and what we can do and achieve together!

Food for thought
1. Remember that flexibility is key. How can we be more flexible when facilitating such courses?
2. Keeping participants and facilitators engaged. How can we sustain and increase motivation?
3. Using a learning buddy system. How can this be implemented more effectively?

Let’s unit 3 begin!

#FDOL132 unit 1 or mixing @openfdol

we all add something and make the mix more exciting

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

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

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

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

Does seeing each other help make connections?

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

Nerantzi, Uhlin, & Kvarnström (2013)

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Let’s unit 2 begin!