All learning comes from change! All learning is change!

potpourri of opportunities

We are social animals, said Aristotle;

the technology of writing is bad for us, said Socrates;

we learn so much more through play, said Plato!

These thoughts, I think sum up nicely our journey on this planet and beyond and also say loads about my life as an academic developer and our purpose to change  practices and the student experience in Higher Education. When I started writing this post, my thoughts took me to places which might seem disconnected but if you read this post carefully you will discover that it is deeply interwoven with thoughts about learning and teaching, and reveal how I see things and how these are inter-connected.

We are explorers, we use our curiosity and imagination for discoveries. We experiment, we use and make tools and we learn and evolve; we survive and thrive and push the boundaries and make the impossible possible!

And while we keep saying it is not about the tools, I would like to reflect on the importance of tools. We shape tools and the tools shape us said Marshall McLuhan. Humans were always resourceful. When we lived in caves, in big forests, in villages, in towns, in big cities, in hostile environments, in physical and digital spaces, in space. And we have mastered to connect these spaces and we are connected communities. Our brain grew because we started using it more and more; we pick up objects and use them as tools, we modify them and make our own tools and we make tools to make other tools. Progressively our tools have became more complex and sophisticated as we realised the significance of these for human kind and the potential and the places and spaces they were and are taking us. Our shopping basket of knowledge is full and expanding rapidly as we speak. Aesop said we are only limited by our imagination. Exchange and co-creation; learning from our own stories and experiences; our mistakes and misfortunes but also from our successes, connecting information, resources and ideas but also people, living, working, creating, learning and changing together. Playing too, is a necessity. Shaping and re-shaping who we are, what we know and imagining the future… shaping the today and tomorrow. The human web!

There will always be voices and actions to hold us back, boulders on our paths, some of them strategically or politically. The world is moving and we move on it and with it. Stopping is no option. We need to adjust and adapt to the environments we live in and make it a life worthwhile for us and future generations. Nothing can happen without learning. Learning is change! Change is learning!

We live in the digital age where opportunities for learning have exploded, literally. We live in physical and virtual jungles and try to make sense of it all. And we keep learning. We still love learning with others, we still love making stuff, we still love sharing. We always will… I dare to say. Digital technologies have ‘invated’ our lives, diversification, internationalisation and massification of higher education are on the menu. We express our hunger for creation and are now enabled to do so easily and quickly. We carry around with us smart devices that constantly link us up with information, resources and people. We learn how to navigate, communicate, co-operate and collaborate in vast networks. We learn how to harness digital technologies and create new opportunities for learning and teaching using these. Learning happens everywhere. Learning and teaching that happens exclusively within institutional walls, detouched from the world around is anachronistic and presents an utopic way of being. Opening-up, embracing change is vital to thrive and create new paths that will lead us into a brighter future. This is easier said than done and there is resistance… I have experienced this many time in my role as an Academic Developer. Kinash & Wood (2013, 184) wrote recently, and I can’t resist quoting it here, that “academic development means that people in these roles figuratively put their heads where bullets fly.” This is so true! Often we are indeed in the firing line! I have a little message hanging on my office door saying “only dead fish swim with the stream”. I think this says something about my approach to academic development, and learning and teaching more generally. We do need to learn to cope better with change and take advantage of changes. We need to take risks! We need to be the change we want to happen. After all learning comes from change! Learning is change!


Kinash, S & Wood, K (2013) Academic developer identity: how we know who we are, in International Journal for Academic Development, Vol. 18, No. 2, 178-189.

It is more than ok!

Learning spaces too - why do we forget this?

Learning spaces too - they are everywhere! But why do we 'forget'? Do we really forget?

Anybody there?

Anybody out there? Anybody listening? What about you?

and learning too

Great opportunities for borderless learning! Can you see?

Distractions! Can they be useful for learning?

Distractions are everywhere! But can they be useful for learning? Think! Unthink! Rethink!

Relax, play and discover! Have fun too! Is having fun a bad thing?

Relax, play and discover! Have fun too! Is having fun a bad thing?

It is ok to go the other way ;o)

It is ok, more than ok, to go the other way! Try it!

time never stops #SLEC2012 (week 2)

zoooooooooooooming through time

time never stops

This week was mad. I remember myself running around on Tuesday morning – Monday has been erased from my memory completely – like a headless chicken to fit everything in, get everything ready, get organised, before leaving for Brighton. I wish I had some heelys or roller skates or could make things happen by pushing a magic button!!! – but this wouldn’t be fun… Most of my week was spent at the ECEL2011 conference in Brighton, which was very useful and I am glad I could go, but did take me away from my weekly activities linked to the PGCAP (planning for next sessions and supporting students) but also the SLEC course – I missed the contact with my own students but also the opportunity to engage with the SLEC course online.

The wifi was highly problematic in the hotel (was it the sea?) and I couldn’t follow fresh conversations in Moodle. However, I just managed to read some of the stuff on the train, this also didn’t work very well because I started feeling dizzy. I just wish I wouldn’t be dizzy so easily…  I am hopeless! The good thing was that I did get some fresh sea air (really had missed the smell of proper sea wind) and had plenty of opportunities to think about my practice. So in fact I was engaged but in a different way this week in spirit I was actually there. I know it is not the same and I hope to catch up next week.  I am conscious that I need to provide feedback to some of my students and that this has been delayed more than I wanted to because of this trip. I must do this my top priority now that I am back.

Of all the readings this week, one phrase by Scott (2003) stayed with me and reminded me of  something very important:

“Taking what looks like a potentially relevant, desirable, and feasible change idea and making it work in practice is by far the hardest part of quality improvement and innovation process.” (p. 70)

At times, I have to admit, I am impatient with myself and want everything to work first time because I feel so excited when I have an idea and am curious to find out how it will work in practice. Then disappointment fills me when it doesn’t work and criticism arrives… but I do pick up myself again and more forward. I have managed to do this so far. In the whole process, however, I need to remember to see my ideas more like work-in-progress material and understand that ideas need time to develop into concepts and become something useful and of value. But I think I also need to tell students that this is the case and that we are learning on this together.

Roche (2003) notes that “The change readiness period must be taken seriously, so that transitional stages such as denial, resistance and exploration are accepted as normal reactions to change” (p. 174). Is this easily done? It is a useful perspective to have and one that will help you overcome some of the barriers we are facing when doing risky things. All  criticisms is of course useful, even the most extreme one! We learn by doing and from making mistakes and observing others mistakes too. The person who doesn’t make mistakes, doesn’t usually do much… this is a fact. And the more we do the more mistakes we make, this is another fact. Roche (2003) states “Change comes from seeing possibilities, creating opportunities from mistakes and unexpected experiences (often negative ones).” (p. 173) To contextualise this a bit, I guess, I could mention briefly the creativity game idea that I have tried in various settings for a few years now and I kept making changes to improve it. It was just this semester, however, when this idea matured and turned into a real concept. The “Sell your bargains” game. There were loads of bits woolly (too woolly?), before defining more clearly the pedagogical rationale and I think for the very first time all players recognised the value of this game for their practice.

A thought from Moodle follows which was posted in response to somebody else’s posting. These few lines made me think a bit more, a bit deeper and in different directions too.

“In my experience many educational developers feel passionately about what they do, but this can be evidenced either as trying to persuade by sharing that passion – heart- or blinding with evidence, theories (brute logic?) – mind. or both. I like your description of being there at the right time and asking the right questions – can be difficult to know what is the right question sometimes.


Rose, E. And Buckley, S. (1999) Self-directed Work Teams, American Society for Training and Development (ASTD), Alexandria (VA).

Roche, V. (2003) Being an agent of change, in: Kahn, P. and Baume, D. (eds.) A guide to Staff & Educational Development, Oxon: Routledge.

Scott, G. (2003) Effective Change Management in Higher Education, EDUCAUSE review, Nov/Dec. Pp. 64-80.


some things to think about… #CMC11 MOOC

Is this a bad thing? Always?

Is this a bad thing? Always?

Do we all thrive in such environments?

Do we all thrive in such environments?

Who decides?

Who decides?

I am not a sheep, but I can be one, if I want to

I am not a sheep, but I can be one, if I want to. What about you?

If I see value in a connection, I will go for it... will I?

If I see value in a connection, I will go for it... will I?

I want to learn. What about you?

I want to learn. What about you?

Walls are in our minds, sometimes they are real. Sometimes?

Walls are in our minds, sometimes they are real. Sometimes?

connections, connectivity

connections, connectivity

interaction, interactivity

interaction, interactivity

For, or as learning? How?

For, or as learning? How?

Knowledge and information - interchangeable?

knowledge and information - interchangeable?

Some things to think about ;o)

... some things to think about ;o)

Is learning changing (for all)? #CMC11 @fredgarnett @pgcap



Just to put things into context first: I haven’t really created any videos for teaching and learning before, despite the fact that I enjoy capturing some of our family moments using this medium and enjoy playing them back. My boys love this too and have started taking their own as well. I noticed, that these clips have the power to transfer me back in time and enable me to re-live that experience more vividly but also I notice change(s).

Recenly, I felt that it was about time to break through ready-made video resources I have used many times for teaching and learning. There are of course some excellent and very useful clips out there but I feel that it is now time to start making my or our own since I will be doing this with a colleague.

We recently bought two camcorders using a small amount of money we received from MELSIG for a media-rich learning project I was involved using Voicethread. We didn’t get the most expensive ones for two reasons: 1. we didn’t have more money 2. we are amateurs and needed something that is easy to use and would enable us to learn while filming without feeling frustrated with the technology. We have our camcorder and there is no excuse not to make our own little clips now. We are learning on the job and it is time consuming but fun too! I spend 2 days working on the very first clip. I need help and support and have therfore become a member of ViTAL and hope to connect with others who are using or would like to use video in education and learn new stuff. The SCORE Short Term Fellowship (next round now open! apply if you are interested!) also helped and probably made me think more about creating my own clips for teaching and learning. Now, I can and I want to. I have also found YouTube very useful to discover more about the camcorder I am using (the manual was very very poor). It is amazing how this sharing business can really work online. I shared a problem on YouTube using the comments box and received an answer to my question almost instantly. Real support in real-time. Wow!

tasty fingers

home-made breaksticks: no uniformity- all different but so so yummy!!!

But why make our own and not just use ready-made ones? Well, this is a question I asked myself before starting this. The main reason for me personally was when I came up with the idea for the “Food for thought” series (the title I gave to the video series) is probably the pleasure and the excitement I feel when I make things (see my previous posts linked to making things). Also, this is a great opportunity to learn a new skill but also engage deeper with hot issues linked to teaching and learning. Even putting the questions together, is challenging and needs preparation and there is a lot of research and learning involved. When I put a question together, I always ask myself: “What would I anwer?” but also, when deciding what to ask: “What would I like to find out?” So, we are not just creating a learning resource for others, yes the “Food for thought” series is an Open Educational Resource (OER) published and made available under Creative Commons, but we, the creators use this as an opportunity to learn during the process of creating the clip. The other advantage of course would be that we would be able to tailor the series to our needs and provide a focus that would make sense to us and be useful for a particular group of people. Of course it the clips won’t be perfect, because they are not put together by professionals. We don’t focus on the aesthetics (and there will be imperfections) but on the content and the opportunity to engage others through what seems a more passive and one-way medium. This is the challenge but also the beauty of it all. Will it work? We will find out. If this doesn’t make sense, think of ready-made meals and home cooked food! It might not look that perfect but it tastes just right.

Initially, I thought that this series would be useful for our Postgraduate Certificate in Academic Practice (PGCAP) at the University of Salford and it will be. I have plans to use these clips on the Learning and Teaching in Higher Education module but also an open access module which is currently under development. We have already secured a series of experts (Dr. Keith Smyth, Dr. Panos Vlachopoulos, Prof. Chris Hockings, Dr. Nicola Whiton, Frances Bell and Clare Killen) who are willing to share their thoughts on hot issues linked to teaching and learning and feature in one of our “Food for thought” episodes (these are currently under development and we should have the next episodes soon). We are very grateful for their generosity.

We were very lucky and had the pleasure to record our first episode with Fred Garnett from the Knowledge Lab. This clip is included below. Fred created an online space which he baptised Learning with YouTube to enable us all to engage in a conversation and debate about themes presented in this particular clip but also others that will follow and I think this is a great idea and has the potential to transform video-watching, which can, or is, more passive engagement into something that enables active engagement through conversations and collaborations. This was the idea behind finishing each of our “Food for thought” clips with an open question addressing the viewers that had the power to trigger thinking, reflection and action for engagement.

I wanted to use this opportunity to briefly reflect on the important things Fred mentioned in this clip. And there are three reasons I feel I need to do this now:

1. I am participating in the CMC11 MOOC which starts tomorrow.

2. We are developing an open access module (Flexible, Distant and Online Learning) to be offered in January 2012.

3. Our next cohort starts the PGCAP programme this week.

Fred’s video clip has the title ‘Learning is changing’. We take it as a fact today that learning has changed and is constantly changing. I would like to stop for a few minutes and freeze time and am asking myself  and you “Is learning changing?” If somebody would ask you today, now, what would you say? Please add your comments to this post.

  • Yes, we live in the Digital Age.
  • Yes, we know how to use the technology.
  • Yes, we have the digital gadgets in our pockets.
  • Yes, content is everwhere and we can access it anytime, anywhere, anyhow.
  • Yes, what we know is increasingly less important than to know where to find things.
  • Yes, we are constantly engaged in learning.
  • Yes, we can connect with others on a massive scale and learn together, wherever we are, whatever we want to learn.

I think it would be useful to ask now: “Who is WE???”

– Is WE, all, everybody, every person on our blue planet?

– Are WE inclusive or exclusive, when we talk about WE?

223/365 - Driving

How can we make this happen for ALL???

Think about all the people who live today and haven’t experienced the Digital Age (yet)… for a variety of reasons.

I am wondering,  what each of us could do to influence change through disruptive innovation (maybe? and thinking outside-the-box?) in our microworlds that has the power to transform practice in the macroworld and put ALL learners in the driving seat… How can we all become free-range learners of the digital age???

I am  am asking my fellow MOOCers, colleagues and students on the PGCAP, but also the wider community.

instruction just doesn’t work, babies can ‘tell’ you that

all I have now

… one ‘told’ me the other day. I wish I had taken a video!!! But the reflection on how this event could be useful for so many others kicked in (too) late. Now, all I can do is try and share it with you using words…I guess, this could be developed into a little picture story or comic strip and I might actually attempt to do this.

Well a few days ago, I was trying to show a 10-month-young baby boy how to ring a cow bell (I have loads of them at home and use them for teaching too). I placed the bell in his little hand and showed him how we could make it ring. We rang the bell together for a little while and he instantly started smiling and you could see it in his big eyes how excited he was. Instantly, I knew the bell was a hit. He must have loved all the noise he could make using the bell. However, what he didn’t like was me showing him how to do it. I understood that straight away.

The baby-boy was determined to take the bell from me, and he did. He started experimenting on his own with it. He didn’t need me! He wanted to make the bell ring on his own and he tried different techniques. No, he didn’t copy how I did it. He wasn’t interested in my way! He tried it his own way – and soon discovered that this wasn’t going to work. But he didn’t give up and he didn’t keep trying doing it the same way!!! The baby boy soon changed technique and was so happy to discover that he could now ring the bell even louder than we did together. He had full control of what was happening. He was smiling and laughing and having fun and the noises where filling the whole house – his laughter and the sounds the bell was making. It was such a great experience to witness the pleasure of learning through play and discovery.

What are the implications of the above for teaching and learning? Are we all experiential learners? Do you remember pedagogy, (also instructional theory) andragogy and heutagogy and how these seem to be attached to specific age-groups?  I would be very intersted in your views linked to the above observations, reflections and thoughts.

I just wish I had the camcorder at hand and captured this little important episode…

give learning-on-the-go a go

For a few weeks now, I am thinking about mobile learning more intensively and how I could get involved in it further. I find it so exciting that there are so many possibilities to provide exciting learning opportunities on-the-go. I started exploring possibilities within my own teacher training courses and my ideas are work-in-progress at the moment… but I am getting there.

However, I have been given the chance to present at the Success North Winter Conference about mobile learning and this is going to happen on the 11 Dec 09, here in Newcastle. I started working on the ideas, the concepts, the pedagogies, the process and structure of it all and decided to use again. I have a patchwork there with ideas that I can re-use, adapt and enrich and will provide an opportunity to showcase another presentation tool. Death by powerpoint? Yes, it feels like that many times, despite the fact that I try my best to spice my presentations up and make them exciting and add interactivity. The title of this post will be the title of the workshop that I plan to offer within the conference… unless I decide to change it which is very possible. At the moment, I have to admit, that I like it a lot and actually mirrors well what will be discussed during the workshop.

Also, in the back or front of my head, or all over, I am also thinking about my next module on the MSC BOE which is customised study. I have already had the chance to discuss my idea about mobile learning with my tutor and he encouraged me to explore it further. And that is what I have started doing.

Will I be able to submit a ‘patchwork text’ as an assignment? This has to be discussed and agreed but I think it would provide a highly personalised study and research opportunity and very relevant to my work context.

… more to come…