what a richness of experiences or reflections on week 10 #lthesep12 @pgcap

[warning, first draft!]

This was such an exciting experience stretched over three days.  I  had the pleasure to work with academics from around the university as panel members and engage in such rich learning conversations with our current LTHESep12 students. It was truly fascinating.

LTHESep12 Professional Discussions, Day 1

our very first student making the very first Lego model to capture his learning journey on the module

1. How did I feel?

Felt really excited on all three days and was and still am really proud with what the vast majority of my students are taking away from this module. How they have grown in confidence and have become deeply reflective. Many mentioned how their practices are now transforming and I could see shift in thinking and behaviours on their Lego models and the conversations we had with them. In some occasstions students were nervous and this is always surprising me but then again how would I feel if I were in their shoes? Some said that it felt like a viva and very formal but I think that was before and while the webinar we did last week helped, I could still feel and see the nervousness. The Lego models did seem to help students to calm down and focus their thinking during the discussions and this confirms our findings so far on the Lego project with Craig.

LTHESep12 Day 2 Professional Discussions

sample Lego model from #LTHESep12 this reveals so much about Sian’s journey

Most of the stories were truly rich and authentic. We listened with interest to all stories and so many wanted to share so much with us that we felt guilty of interrupting as we only had a limited time with each student. But I do have to say that there was enough time to really find out how and to what degree the student did engage with the module, the intended learning outcomes, the UK PSF and how their reflection developed over the last 10 weeks. It soon became clear also that many of my students took so much more than what we expected from the module and this puts a massive smile on my face and I am sure many noticed that during the discussions 😉

LTHESep12 Professional Discussions, Day 1

our Linda showcasing work she is doing with some of her students. Experimenting with more creative approached to make her students think, engage and learn

I also felt fortunate that so many academics, Dr Tim Marangon, Dr Leslie Robinson, Prof. Paul Haywood, Angela Hook and Dr Martyn Clark made the time to be with me on the Professional Discussion Panels and felt re-assured that our judgement would be fair and objective. It was also a good opportunity for our external panel members to find out more about the PGCAP and our students, which I think was really useful for them.

2. What have I learnt?

I am so pleased that I changed the format of the Professional Discussions slightly. Up to now, these were all organised on the same day and I never had the opportunity to be on all panels before. This did present a challenge linked to assessment as the purpose of the discussion is to be able to create a richer picture of the student by somebody they know and somebody they don’t know and identify if they come to the same conclusions for assessment purposes so that assessment is fair, transparent and objective but also a process and a result of dialogue and negotiation between the panel members.

The Lego station worked really well and I have learnt that my learners are definitely self-directed and self-organised but also can follow instructions well and support each other. And they are a very creative bunch of individuals too who also love to have some fun!!! They had fun making their models and had conversations before and after their Professional Discussions. I think some of them were surprised that they could talk to each other and chat in advance of their Discussions. Would be interesting to find out why this was the case…

LTHESep12 Day 2 Professional Discussions

my happy creative students, this was our Lego station 😉

3. What would I do differently?

The room booking didn’t work and while I thought I had booked these at the beginning of the semester, I had a problem with one of the rooms on Day 1. This added to me feeling “a bit” stressed as I wanted everything to work smoothly so that we could all be more relaxed, including the external panel member and my students as well. I think I need to find a different location for the Professional Discussions and am now thinking of meeting rooms available in Student House. I have used them before and I think they are a more creative and bright and colourful environment and more suitable than the rooms I did use this time and up to now. The plan is to check if I could book these as soon as possible for semester 2.

LTHESep12 Professional Discussions, Day 1

Day 1 with Dr Tim Marangon, the room that saved the Professional Discussions, Tim studying students’ portfolios

The technology was a challenge this time and I think next time, I would use a laptop instead of the classroom-technology which didn’t work and delayed entering feedback. On one day we had to provide verbal feedback as the system was so slow that we had to abandom the idea quickly to save time. At least the students didn’t have to wait for it. Feedback was then added in the evening on the same day.

On day 3 also, I had prepared word documents as a template for the assessment feedback for the Professional Discussions and this was useful. The Google doc and copying and pasting to construct the feedback added to the complexity and it is something I want to change. Yes, keep the Google doc for panel members and students in preparation for the Professional Discussions but for providing feedback I am thinking of two options

  • a. continue using the Word document and then just copy and paste into the portfolio or
  • b. create a sample comment in advance of the professional discussions which would include the template and be unapproved as a comment already so that the feedback process is smoother

At the moment I think option B would work better and while it does involve some additional preparation from my side it is a process worth trialling next time. o I think I will go with this option.

A big thank you to my colleagues from around the university and my students for such rich learning opportunities and experiences this week.

This is it. Probably my last reflection for this semester linked purely to the LTHESep12 module but I am sure that I will share other bits and pieces until submission in January. Despite the difficulties we had at the beginning when for the very first time colleagues external to the instiution joined, we managed to come together as a cohort. I loved how my students learnt together and started creating closer professional relationships. The next weeks they will be working even closer with their feedback buddy and it will be interesting to observe how this will go.

All models and photographs from the Professional Discussions are available at http://www.flickr.com/photos/pgcap/sets/72157632104255891/with/8228168204/

Key points for me to remember for next semester:

  • action learning sets and troubleshooting. Must refine my approach. Also investigate this further in the context of this module and start putting case study together with Sian, Liz and Will around our wikipedia task for book chapter
  • must decide on new location for the game, perhaps Bury Market? All day event! Or Media-City, then we could do the show-and-tell in the University Building. Now that the wheel is  not there anymore, it just isn’t the same and I actually feel that we now need a change! If you have any other locations in mind, please let me know.
  • Think Lab session: MUST find another way to get students involved
  • Contact our VC as soon as possible to identify how he can contribute to the programme as he has expressed interest
  • Contact PVC (Academic) to organise a session with him as well, and perhaps this could be the ThinkLab session with students but also an external speaker
  • External student to share experiences > Thinklab
  • Learning theories task: To refine approach but use the same model. Pick different learning theories > use same wiki, an opportunity to extend resources
  • Professional discussions: room bookings and panel members
  • Must start writing up my findings about the Professional Discussions (have data from 3 cohorts now) but also need to ask students.
  • Update portfolio creation guidelines, must include Flickr and Twitter widget so that everybody gets access to Twitter even if they don’t have an account!
  • Create clips about students experiences this semester focus on the Game, Professional Discussions, Portfolios, Use of Lego etc.
  • Must continue writing that paper with Craig about the use of Lego in our Professional Discussions.
  • There are issues with staff not getting enough time to even participate in all sessions. We as a Programme Team, I think need to contact all line managers and make sure that staff do get the time they need.
  • Need help with the observations as I did struggle to visit all classrooms. My colleague Cheryl offered to help and I am grateful for that!
  • Finish and submit the ethical approval form for PGCAP programme asap!

All I can remember at the moment…

Group feedback will be added to all portfolios in week 11. Looking forward to final submissions on the 8th of January. Well done to everybody so far!!!

where is everybody or reflections on week 9 #lthesep12 @pgcap

This was a fully online week with an online asynchronous discussion, an online prep tutorial for the Professional Discussions and a webinar with Prof. Huw Morris on Tuesday evening. Our weekly theme was evaluating teaching in HE and we had a rich conversation during the webinar. But what about the online asynchronous discussion of this week? Not a single response there! I also noticed that while this week was online, on Tuesday morning, I noticed that most of my students started collecting out of my office. You will find out below why 😉

1. How did I feel?

First of all proud! Really proud of my students when I found out that they met on Tuesday morning to discuss the Professional Discussions and prepare together after Monday evening’s webinar. I wanted to give them all a big hug when I saw them. They stayed together approx. 3 hours and were deeply involved in conversations when I visited the classroom just briefly. I didn’t want to interfere and could see that they were happy with the progress they were making and the support they were giving to and receiving from peers.

week 9 getting ready for the Prof. Discussions

my students taking responsiblity of their learning, peer learning in action. This session has nothing to do with me!

But also a bit disappointed that the online discussions in Blackboard are generally under-used and some students have actually never contributed to these! Are they lurking? Do some feel uncomfortable to add their voice? Just wondering! Are people too busy? Do I ask for too much? Reflecting in the portfolio plus participating in online discussions? Is it because these spaces are disconnected? I have trialled the use of Voicethread with a previous cohort and perhaps this is something I should give more thought for the next cohort. Also looking into other possibilities at the moment.

2. What did I learn?

Learning online can be focused and effective. The webinar organised in preparation for the Professional Discussions next week was, I think, a good example. Despite the fact that I do miss the visual communication part. Seeing my students’ faces is important to me. We managed to connect visually with some and it made a difference especially in our first webinar this week, which was a tutorial. Perhaps, we could use Google Hangout next time so that we can all see each other as this platform enables up 15 individuals to connect visually.

at the beginning: how do you feel about the professional discussion?

capturing feelings about the Prof. Discussions at he beginning of the webinar

end: how do you feel about the professional discussion now?

Revisiting initial feelings and crossing out what is no longer applicable. We made huge progress! Really pleased.

I think the “How do you feel” activity was really useful and perhaps it is something that we could do more in our classes to track achievement and learning? It can be easily done in online and face-to-face settings and I think if it is a shared activity it is even more valuable because we can see that we are not alone and others feel similar to us. This is especially important if we have negative and/or uncomfortable feelings about something related to the session or the theme under exploration. Sharing our feelings with others in a group will help us see that we might not be that unique and others have similar feelings or fears. Together we can overcome these through opening up and sharing, supporting each other but also the tutor gains a valuable insight into students’ thinking and feeling and help him/her to tailor the learning opportunity or session so that negativities can be overcome together. This is what happened in our case. Revisiting initial feelings was so important and closed the cycle. We did get rid of anxiety, at least most of it and students felt more able and prepared for the Professional Discussions next week.

Just minutes before our second webinar this week with Prof. Huw Morris and while Huw was having problems connecting to the internet, Carol Yeager told me about the new Blackboard Collaborate (BC) app. This is so amazing. Finally we will be able to use BC on-the-go! And my colleague from Sweden downloaded it immediately and trialled it during our webinar. It worked! Yeh, this is exciting! No excuse anymore to miss a webinar, unless you don’t have a smartphone. Increasingly we rely on students using their own devices but what if they don’t have access to any? Could or should institutions look into providing these in some way? Maybe as part of the fee package? This is not a new idea and I know that it happens at other institutions. What about ours? And what about staff? Would there be value to make this happen here as well?

3. What would I do differently?

I think the preparation for the Professional Discussion would have worked even better if we had an ex LTHE student with us. Next semester, I need to try harder to find somebody who has gone through and share his/her experience with the cohort. In a way, the video clips we have on YouTube have that purpose but at this moment in time, I am not sure how many have watched these and if they were useful. This is something else I need to improve: the use of the video resources we have linked to the Professional Discussions and other themes we have prepared and are there as self-study resources. Maybe the problem also is that there are there and not brought in enough to what we do in class? Very possible.

During the second webinar with Prof. Huw Morris, which was interactive and enabled everybody to have a conversation with Huw and with peers around Evaluating Teaching in HE, I could have given my colleague from Sweden more time to talk. And while I have become more confortable moderating webinars and started enjoying them more as I feel more relaxed, I still find it hard to follow the chat box while everything else is going on at the same time. They say women multitask better than men… but can we really pay full attention to more than one thing at the time? So something I need to do is develop a strategy for monitoring the chat box more effectively. I was thinking to nominate one or two students who would help me with this and I think I will try this next time around. It is important to keep track of questions and observations and bring them into the conversation. I guess, that is why I am using more the BC whiteboard, as all responses can be kept on one screen which makes it easier to identify links and summarise. Am I more of a visual person? I am, but what does everybody else think about the chat box and how it was used? What about the whiteboard? We could give the chatbox a specific function and the whiteboard another one? Please comment if you participated in this webinar.

The online discussions in Blackboard are not used properly. So, I am thinking to review my discussion approach and go back to using Voicethread again in the next semester. Voicethreads could then be easily integrated into the portfolios as well, keeping all conversations together in one place. Instead of copying and pasting stuff from one platform to the other. As I write about this now, it sounds like a good idea. Must think a bit further about this and consider the details and then trial it. Students could be encouraged to embed the Voicethreads to their reflective journal and form part of the assessment. Would this work perhaps? While the online discussions in Blackboard are aligned to the assessment, I guess, there is an opportunity to make the link to assessment clearer and linking online spaces to evidence engagement and learning, as well as assessment as learning might be the way forward and encourage more students to actively participate in the conversations. The other bonus would be that the conversations could be media rich which worked really well when I tried Voicethread before.

Week 9 is coming to an end. The Professional Discussions start on Monday. Looking forward to seeing everybody again and engaging in reflective conversations with peers about their learning on this module. New this time is that I will be on all panels with an academic. This is why we had to stretch them over 3 days but feedback from students and my own observations suggest that this might be a better approach as the idea is that one panel member knows the student and the other one doesn’t. I am giving this a go and we will see what happens! We are using Lego again to invite students to capture their learning journeys as this worked really well last time around and made students feel more relaxed too. A case study written with Craig Despard is in preparation about the use of Lego in our Professional Discussions and there is now an opportunity openning up to further explore and investigate the use of Lego in Teaching and Learning with colleagues from other institutions (this is all very exciting!!!). New: Lego certificates for makers 😉

Getting ready

Will you get one too?

We can’t wait to hear your stories 😉

the natural powers of storytelling or reflections on week 8 #lthesep12 @pgcap

Can’t believe we reached the end of week 8 already! Where did this semester go? Did and do we have (too much) fun? This was officially the last time my #lthesep12 class got together face-to-face as next week is fully online and in the following week the Professional Discussions take place. Missing my students already… at least we will have the opportunity to come together again for our Christmas picnic on the 12th of December at 12pm. Yeh!!!

This is our 5th LTHE cohort and I can’t stop thinking how different things are with each cohort. Despite the fact that there is a common thread running through, with a new set of students each session feels completely different.  Of course the resources have been enriched and changed, the activities and supporting materials refined too, some removed and new ones added as well. I do want to keep this offer fresh and not just repeat stuff that I have used before. I guess, I have also matured (?) in facilitating this module and feel ok to pick ‘n’ mix more organically and intuitively bits out of my toolkit and re-mix and re-purpose activities and resources that I have created over the last few years. I love looking back at my reflections from previous cohorts and also remind myself of what we experienced together. Looking at the photographs we have been taken and stored in our Flickr album is a great help to re-visualise specific moments. I am so pleased I started capturing these moments from the very beginning and we have now such a rich photo album of the module and our experiences.

This week we had the opportunity to immerse ourselves in another curriculum design approach. While last week we experienced storytelling, this week we adopted a Problem-Based Learning approach to investigate assessment and feedback. As many of my students didn’t have first hand experience of PBL, they were asked to access some of the resources in advance of the session and we also looked at the basics at the beginning of the session with one of my students who is an experienced PBL practitioner.

LTHESep12 week8 assessment and feedback via PBL

Jo in action showing a PBL trigger she is using in her practice

I was observed during the assessment and feedback session with my last cohort by our External Examiner and this is why this particular session was more vivid in my memory perhaps than any other. So, when I started redesigning this session for my current cohort, I wanted to make sure that I would apply the lessons learnt from that peer observation. The key point then was “less is more” throuh decluttering the session. I found that really challenging but I wanted to give it a go. If you would like to read and access all the resources (including video clips from the observed session as well as the open feedback conversation that followed) linked to the peer observation, click here.

Ok, back to now 😉 While I was designing this session, I had some extra tools in my bag which I would only use if I spotted a real opportunity and always keeping in mind the main task! This was really hard as I had extra goodies which I wanted to share with my students. I had to burry my excitement and be patient and wait to see if there was an opportunity to bring them out of the bag… so to speak.

1. How did I feel?

Very pleased that my students keep coming to the sessions, first of all, despite the fact that there are plenty resources online and activities that could keep them going on their own… but would they? What is the added bonus of coming together as a class? What do my students think?

Very pleased to see my students bonding and having conversations in advance of the session. Seeing them smiley and positive and keen to get started is really motivating. I love to surprise my students and try and keep my offer fresh and do different things together that make them think and hopefully act too. This is I think the only and most important thing I can achieve. I can’t change anybody and I don’t want to! But if something I say or do, makes my student think and re-think about themselves, their students and their practice this is fantastic. If this thought then extend to deeper reflection, exploration and experimentation, which I have seen happening, it is pure magic!

LTHESep12 week8 assessment and feedback via PBL

ready to go! Supporting PBL resources and devices

So, I felt positive but also wanted to make sure that I keep on track and focused on what I wanted my students to learn this week. It wasn’t an easy task since we didn’t only look at assessment and feedback but also we were trying to do this via PBL. Were my plans too ambitious? No. We need to be challenging and we need to challenge ourselves!

I also felt extremely proud of my students, all of them and how they embraced this session. First of all I loved their openness and honesty about last week’s session. It was useful for me to hear different voices about last week’s session and how perhaps some felt that they didn’t get much out of it (I would add yet, as I believe that it will click sooner or later, the proof if this also started coming out during this week’s session). We do need to be brave to ask our students and accept that some of the stuff we are doing or trying to do with them feel a bit strange or pointless. These more critical voices will help us refine our approaches further. It helped me in this way and while in the past, I probably felt hurt, I have now changed and really do see the benefits of all honest feedback as I would like to improve my sessions and maximise what my students get out of them. So thank you for being so honest my dear students 😉

LTHESep12 week8 assessment and feedback via PBL

visualising reflections on last week’s session

2. What did I learn?

Decluttering is good! The session made me think: do we too often over-stimulate our students? Or is this not possible? In the world of mass-distructions, are we all effective filterers? Can we ignore distructions? Bits that get in the way and hinder us from staying focused and on task? But what would be wrong if we suddenly change direction? What if the big learning opportunities are actually created by some of these distractions that we can’t resist? Not sure if all that makes sense here and I didn’t really plan to write about it but my fingers are hitting the keyboard and I guess I am thinking about these things as well as I am reflecting on cluttering and decluttering. Before Simon observed me last time I ran this session (even running sounds horrible but I am going to leave it!) I never thought that my sessions are cluttered. Maybe I would characterise them full or varied or rich but not cluttered. Cluttered has a negatve aftertaste and maybe that is why I still remember his words so strongly and I think this is a good thing because he did make me look at my sessions in a different light and re-think what I am doing, how I am doing it and most importantly why.

We do need to trust our students and this is something I have discovered a while ago but the idea resurfed this week. We need to trust them that they do want to learn and give them the time and space to do so. I think this happened despite the fact that some might have felt that they didn’t have enough time this week. Too much time can also be bad and the more time we get the less some of us might do, so productively doesn’t really increase with the time available. What we need is focused time on activities and I think we got that.

LTHESep12 week8 assessment and feedback via PBL

my thinking classroom

The PBL groups worked well together and everybody contributed to the task (I made some observations regarding how the chairs operated within the PBL groups which correspond with previous similar situations and evidence to me that PBL as a one off might not be the most effective way to build more generic skills but I suppose, there is an opportunity to take some of the PBL roles out and use them in other collaborative learning activities that will enable students to develop a variety of skills. I think there is an opportunity there for me to do this a bit more in future sessions!!!) and sticking the instructions to the tables this time, did work better than last time. Also the roles where there and the simplified FISh model developed in collaboration with Lars Uhlin worked better than more complex and more widely used PBL models. Structure and scaffolding of learning is important but I do think that too much complicated structures turn learners into robots and this is not something I would like to encourage. Definitely not!

I loved how my students in all 4 PBL groups, and then the two supergroups we formed to share the findings with each other, decided to use storytelling as a way to do this. I didn’t influence them or made any suggestion. Was this a conscious decision (based on last week’s approach) or did this happen naturally? As we humans love stories anyway? I would love to find out. Especially as we immersed ourselves into storytelling with and about students experiences at uni… I am pleased I recorded both and share them with you here. They are both wonderfully creative with powerful messages and I would also love to find out what my students’ students would say watching these. Could any of you share these with your students and let me know their reactions?

3. What would I do differently?

Overall, I am pleased with what we achieved during this session. Mixing PBL and storytelling, the second, thanks to my students ;), to investigate assessment and feedback practices in HE worked really well. I am pleased I decided to declutter the session, use FISh, the simplified PBL model but it did feel strange that we didn’t make a proper feedback sandwich, with proper bread, lettuce and the rest (but the metaphorical feedback sandwich was discovered by one of the PBL groups with a little help from the Sandwich fairy 😉 I also didn’t share the magic white sauce story with my students, which is a shame, I think…

So, what would I do differently?

LTHESep12 week8 assessment and feedback via PBL

We asked students studying at Salford: Why do you need to be assessed? Why do you need feedback? Their responses made my students think!

  • It would have been useful to have a set of resources within the classroom, a mini resources-bank or mobile library with books and journal articles around assessment and feedback beyond the digital resources in the classroom.
  • I could also invite students to participate in this session and perhaps I could ask the Student Union to help me find a few who would like to take part in this week’s activities.
  • Another idea that just popped into my head would be to invite 2 academics who experience a dilemma with their assessment and/or feedback practice and use their story as a trigger, so that the problem is definitely authentic. Actually the more I think about it the more convinced I am that I should give this a go with my next cohort.

There is always room for improvement. 😉 Looking forward to planning some of the above ideas with the next cohort. Exciting and excited again. This is the way it should be…

students saving the session or reflections on week 7 #lthesep12 @pgcap

#lthesep12 week 7

Rich thinking in the ThinkLab

Yes, my students saved this week’s session. Having just a plan A is not good enough. Thinking on our feet is essential if we want to turn disasters into fresh learning opportunities. This is what happened this week. Students had been invited to discuss learning and teaching at the University. We wanted to explore the student experience by actually having conversations with students studying currently at our institution. I thought that this would be more valuable than just talking about the students’ experiences… with my students who are teachers. Unfortunately none of the students appeared and I am still in the dark about what happened. No idea why I didn’t receive a communication that there was a problem and that no student would be able to join us. I assumed that everything would go according to plan…

1. How did I feel?

When the minutes ticked away and we had to start the session with no student in sight, I was extremely disappointed, felt let down… I would not like to say more about this here.

#lthesep12 week 7

collective thinking in the ThinkLab

However, I felt excited when after explaining to my students the situation, they took the initiative and went out and returned with 4 students. I had a big smile on my face 😉 and am grateful that my students had this idea. How difficult can it be to find a few students to spend some time with teachers? Usually students complain that their teachers don’t spend enough time with them. So we put it to the test and was indeed easy peasy to get a few students! A big bravo to my students!

Activities had to be adapted but it all still worked. Just a shame that the students didn’t have the opportunity to stay with us for the whole duration of the session and have an even richer exchange with the teachers.

#lthesep12 week 7

student and teachers discussing learning and teaching

So pleased with the conversations that took place and the real interest from both sides, students and teachers, to build bridges and try and understand each other.

Also very pleased that we did manage to connect with Uzee in Scotland, model the use of Skype and how we can bring others into our classrooms remotely but also use it as an opportunity to discuss online postgraduate learning experiences with him.

#lthesep12 week 7

opportunities to extend conversations beyond the classroom walls

This session was packed! Just reflecting on it now, makes me realise this! Too much happening? I need to think about this a bit more.

What else? Well, one of my students introduced the concept of storytelling (An insightful post about storytelling by Ilene Dawn can be accessed here) to the class before we actually started creating the stories of the students who joint us.  I think we need to do this more! What I mean? Well, if we know that a student has a specific expertise, I think we should make use of it. Bring it out, make our student shine! Of course some students might feel uncomfortable when asked to present something to their peers and my students don’t feel any different, I suppose. But overcoming our own fears is important for learning, as well as for personal and collective growth. Liz did a great job!!!

#lthesep12 week 7

in-flow

2. What did I learn?

Being open is a must. Pretending that everything is fine, will not lead us anywhere. We also need to trust our students and empower them to come up with ideas! To help us problem solve so that we become real learning partners! We need to think fast when problems appear on the horizon and re-think strategies and approaches to make them work! Somehow! We can manage this if we work together, if we un- and re-design activities to fit the new circumstances so that we get the maximum learning out of it. To anticipate the unexpected? I think so and be prepared to make changes. We need to be flexible and adjust quickly. Are designers naturally better equipped than others? Would be interesting to find out…

We wanted to re-create the student experiences as digital stories. My students had a variety of digital gadgets with them and the three groups used different tools to create and capture their stories (www.storybird.com www.striptgenerator.com smartphone and www.flickr.com)

3. What would I do differently?

Relying on other people was a problem this week. I think next time, I will adopt a different strategy inspired by how my students solved the problem. And there could be a warning that we will need 3-4 students for this session and ask my students in advance to bring them to the session… could this work? Ideally, there should be a mix of undergraduate and postgraduate students, home and international students too. So, if I prepare a profile for each, my students could then identify 3-4 students that would be a close match to a specific profile. Also, I would have liked the students to stay for the whole duration. If they knew in advance of the session, this would have been possible. So, again, better planning and always having a plan B and plan C… posing a question here to my students or anybody else who reads this and would like to reply. How would you approach this?

#lthesep12 week 7

comfortable storytellers

#lthesep12 week 7

unstoppable storyteller!

#lthesep12 week 7

storytelling using a mixed-media approach

#lthesep12 week 7

focused storytellers

Completed stories missing at the moment. Please add a link to them as a comment below so that I can copy the URL into this post and share with the students as promised. Thank you 😉

Next week our design approach is Problem-Based Learning! Get ready for it LTHESep12!!!

We will be in the Clifford Whitworth Conference Room. More action and surprises! Please remember to bring your own devices with you!!! 

letting go or week6 reflections #lthesep12 @pgcap

Sunday morning and everybody is still asleep, well almost. Ody (8) loves making things and yesterday when I told him to clean his desk and throw the rubbish away, he told me that “rubbish is for making things”… 😉 This stayed with me and I have to admit that we might be too quick to call something rubbish and throw it in the bin… this applies to objects but also ideas and people, I think. Anyway, let’s get started with my reflection on this week’s LTHE session.

I am amazed, looking back at Tuesday’s session how different this from all the times it was offered before. All previous sessions where well-orchestrated and while they were mainly focusing on the students and where aiming to provide a rich student engagement, they were still tutor-led. We never know what will happen in our sessions but this week, I did let go more than any other time before and trully didn’t know where we were heading.

LTHESep12 week 6

home for this week’s session

This session was an opportunity to discuss teaching in large and small groups and challenge perhaps “lecturing in the more traditional sense” (see article Don’t lecture me, which I used in class) – do we really need to use word ‘lecturing’???  isn’t this a bit anachronistic? Just wondering, Do some of us use it because it does sound more important somehow??? – See also Donald Clark’s work around this – while I had a clear plan and a clear structure and framework, it went messy very quickly… but was this a bad thing? I will try and make sense of what happened.

1. How did I feel?

I was really looking forward to this session. I was really looking forward to performing and bringing my tricks out of the bag, literally and metaphorically.When I arrived I realised that there wasn’t a microphone and I couldn’t use the video clips or the online polling. What a catastrophy! Catastrophy? This is at least how it felt when I realised that all these things would not be possible…

I was giggling when I setting up the classroom and the resources and couldn’t wait to start (this was before I realised that I would have all the above mentioned problems). Some of my students arrived late. I received texts and tweets from others asking where we are this week. In a way, my plan from last week worked… the plan was to let my students experience how it feels to receive limited or no communication from the tutor inbetween sessions. Not sure if many got this and how strong my message was… it would be good to find out. No presentation or any other resources were made available in advance. This did come up in the conversation at the beginning of the session and it was fascinating to hear the variety of views why this happened but also discover that this was ok and that many don’t really access the resourceds in advance of the session. This worries me, I have to admit! We are not filling empty buckets and I would definitely want my students to start engageing with the theme in advance of the session so that they can engage in a more critical way when in class and bring their questions with them. I don’t think any of my students realised that I puporsefully didn’t provide access to the resources in advance to make them think about their own practice… I might be wrong.

As finally students were arriving, I felt releaved and ready to start knowing that part of what I had planned and was high-impact, would not work. I improvised or should I say I let my students take over most of the session. This is what proper student-led sessions look like. Letting go is hard, but we do need to remember it is not about us and what we do, but about our students and what they do and providing the best environment for them to learn.

LTHESep12 week 6

activity designed by and for students – loved this!!!

Great to see my students grabbing stuff out of my toolkit and using it to develop their activity on the spot. Effective improvisation in action. This was such a wonderful surprise. I was so pleased and proud that my students took over and used their creativity to re-design the session and while, I had other plans, I felt that it was ok, well more than ok, to stand back and let my students lead the session. I had in the back of my mind what we wanted to get out of this session together and as long as this was happening, I didn’t step in. Actually I feel that my students got more out of it doing it their way. I was very very happy and am still smiling.

2. What did I learn?

Letting go is a powerful teaching and learning tool. Putting our students in the driving seat of their learning can be motivational and empowering. I saw this happening in this session. As soon as my students realised that they are in charge of what was happening they somehow engaged in a different way in the activities, their activities.

LTHESep12 week 6

Who says we can’t move around in a lecture theatre?

3. What would I do differently?

I think I could be even more adventurous next time. Asking students to design this particular session from the outset, this is what I would like to try. I have done it with other sessions in the past, but this one that questions lecturing would be a very intersting one to be led by my students. Also, as we are usually a small group, 20-30 in one class, it would be fantastic if we could fill the lecture theatre with students, my students’ students and other students to participate in this session. I would love to try this. Can I make it happen for the next semester? I will start planning.

LTHESep12 week 6

Can these things really happen when we teach and learn? Please re-think!

We did run out of time with the mini presentations and this was a shame… must remember to start next week with these. I should have shortened the time on each of the three stations and made some better time calculations… time management is something I tend to struggle with… but when the conversations are interesting and engage students, how can we stop them? This is tricky, I think, but we do need to learn to be more focused within specific timeframes, so I will definitely look at this again to make time so that all activities can be finished within a specific time.

Overall, I think we all got loads from this session. It definitely made me think and re-think about my own practice and identify further opportunities for more meaningful student engagement. How did you feel the session went? Please comment 😉

We are in the ThinkLab next week to discuss openly the student experience and will connect remotely with a student from Scotland who will share his experiences from being an online postgraduate student with us. Do you have any questions you would like to ask the student?

to flip? or reflections on week 5 #lthesep12 @pgcap

The idea was to flip the classroom this week, but not in the sense that I would ‘deliver content’ in advance of the session. I try to avoid this as I know this is not an effective way of teaching and might encourage (probably not the right word) passive learning if learning can ever be passive. Is it actually possible to ‘deliver content’? We do hear about delivering content and absorbing knowledge. Absorbing knowledge as if knowledge is some sort of magic cream that soaks into our skin and then reaches our brain and makes us more knowledgeable? What is knowledge and how do we get it if not through absorption?

Also, just ‘flipping the classroom‘ where the teacher ‘delivers content’ ahead of a session – I am not sure how radical this is from the more common model where the teacher ‘delivers content’ during a session.  I do understand that the ‘flipped classroom’ frees up classroom time for active learning and this is really good and valuable and enables more student-centred learning in the classroom. At the same time, however, I am wondering if the flipped classroom is not not just changing the order of when things happen and using available technologies to do this? Is this still not tutor-led and tutor-centred teaching? Is this moving the instruction to the pre-session phase? Could something more disruptive trigger real engagement and active and profound learning before, during and after our sessions driven by the students? These are questions I have in my head when designing the week 5 task which I am sharing here hoping to discuss with others.

My approach is collaborative and we co-construct meaning through conversations, experimental activities and immersion that help us make sense of practices, ideas, concepts and make new discoveries and re-discoveries through uncovering experiences, existing collective and individual knowledge and digesting known and unknown in our professional context. In a way the approach is inquiry-based.

So, while the term ‘flipped classroom’ was used, I am at the moment unsure that this is what we actually did. Of course, language changes over time and terms are used in different ways. Many times words also change their original meaning, well people do. So if we used a version of the ‘flipped classroom’ that was different from how others use it at the moment, does this mean we need a new term or could it just be a different version of the ‘flipped classroom’ as others define and use it? I was thinking of how I could label the approach I used but also wasn’t sure if a new label or term is needed.

In preparation for week 5, students were invited to work in their action learning sets and explore a specific learning theory (behaviourism, social constructivism, experiential learning). A wiki was set up in Blackboard where the instructions about the task were captured. The wiki was used to co-ordinate pre-class collaboration within action learning sets. An inquiry-based learning approach was used. The activity was set-up by me the tutor and while I am writing it now, I think I could have been even more adventurous. Part of the exploration and the research was that the action learning sets carried would be to edit the related wikipedia page and check accuracy, identify gaps and starts filling some if these with valuable additions based on the research they carried out.All that a few days in advance of our face-to-face session. Was this too ambitious?

1. How did I feel?

When I set the task,I wasn’t sure. Actually the original plan was to ask action learning sets to work on this activity throughout the module. Only a week or two in advance of week 5 it suddenly clicked that it could be linked to week 5 around learning theories. As the action learning set didn’t seem to engage with this task from the beginning (was I asking for too much?) I felt suddenly releaved with my new idea on how I could make it work and relate it to a specific session and week. But I wasn’t sure if it would work, so I was anxious but also excited with the possibility that my students would get something out of this. I decided to go ahead with my plan.

meeting the VC 23 Oct 12

essentials?

The session around learning theories is the one which is undergoing the most changes from cohort to cohort. And we have tried different approaches, including guest speakers in the classroom and remotely, debates, de-constructing literally (we ripped it apart!) and metaphorically a book around learning theories and presenting interpretations etc. The feedback that we have been receiving about the module highlights a special difficulty with the learning theories and for some we do too much and for others too little on learning theories. How can we offer a more balanced approach that would help us maximise engagement with the learning theories and understanding? I keep trying different things and have invited my current students to comment on our current week 5 approach and my reflections captured here so that I can see clearer their perspective and identify how I could refine the approach for future cohorts or come up with a completely new idea. Also very possible 😉

2. What did I learn?

This approach confirmed again that we do need to trust our students. It is important to design learning experiences that foster deep engagement through collaborative and autonomous learning. Students are also able to self-organise and find ways to communicate and co-ordinate learning activities. Some might say that my students are a special case as they teachers and ready for such type of learning. And I would probably agree with them. But are there ways to help all our students? Is scaffolding learning activities needed to help students become autonomous responsible learners and collaborators? If we do need to use a scaffold, do we teachers provide this, or could this emerge from the students themselves, generated by peers, their community?

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30min at the beginning of the session to complete the wikipedia task

When my students arrived in class, I was so pleased to discover that they felt relaxed about each other’s presence and have opened up to new learning opportunities. I noticed that some of the pairs from week 4 when we played our mixed-reality game in Manchester City Centre did sit closer together. Was this a coincidence? What effect did last week’s task have on their relationship as learners? I find this fascinating and would also like my student views on this.

IMG_4707

putting it all together now, merging low- and high-tech

Too often I have heard that wikipedia is bad for us, that we shouldn’t recommend student to use it. Wikipedia is a digital encyclopedia which is enriched by the global community. I think there was value in visiting specific pages and editing the ones linked to the theories we wanted to explore in the context of this module. I asked my students to critique and identify gaps and enhance existing pages. Is this a bad thing? Isn’t this a form of peer learning and peer review? When we later openly discussed the theories in class and recorded these, they will become learning resources that can be shared with others who perhaps missed the class, students who would like to review their learning and also others from outside the cohort, outside the university. Re-use and re-purposing. The idea is to create a bank of learning theory videos and edit further wikipedia pages, further learning theories. I would also like to use the clips we created with this cohort to become foci for discussion with future cohorts. Writing about it now, sounds good and I would like to try it again with the next cohort but might alter the approach.

I loved the depth of engagement with the literature and how this surfaced through the presentations as well. I was so proud of what my students have learned and as one of my students said “Chrissi didn’t really tell us anything. She could be away and we would still do the task and learn.” What does this mean for teachers? Something to think about.

3. What would I do differently?

I am wondering if this task could be aligned more clearly with the assessment of this module. As it has been done with the game. Perhaps I could emphasise more that this task, if I decide to use it again, is helping students to gain a better understanding of a variety of learning theories and explore how these link to their experiences as a learner and teacher. I actually think that could work. The educational autobiography, for example, which is the first piece my students are writing, should be completed in the first few weeks. I could ask them after week 5 to revisit this and try and analyse some of their experiences in light of the theories we explored and further engage with the literature. I think that could work but I would like my students also to comment on this. Also, I think we could link the learning theories week to the observations we carry out as part of the module and also keep referring back to them in the remaining sessions.

The action learning sets are not all the same size (2 of them are much bigger than the third and this can be problematic!). This week especially, I think this imbalance created a challenge for some and I do need to think more about shaping these in future cohorts. Not sure what I can do when some of the students are not able to attend specific sessions and then some of the action learning sets have less members to carry out this and other activities. But I really should come up with a plan B so that nobody is disadvantaged and feels enabled to engage and contribute in a meaningful way.

The task itself. I would like to refine this week’s task further. Keep the inquiry element and but not ‘sell’ it as the “flipped classroom”. Looking back now, I am no longer sure that this is what we did. As I did design the pre-class activity this time, I would like next time to let the students take ownership of their learning and create a task themselves that would help them learn. I am now excited with this idea!

A big thank you to Mark McGuire who stayed with us and co-facilitated this session with me on Tuesday but also Fred Garnett who prepared an extension activity on our PGCAP News Blog This is an opportunity to start thinking about our own teaching and learning philosophy, law or theory. Please engage in this!

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Mark McGuire in our class

Thank you everybody for embracing this experiment. I am looking forward to your comments. 😉

saying yes to learning through play or week 4 reflections #lthesep12 @pgcap

Well, I planned to capture my reflections on Tuesday the day after our face-to-face session and started writing this post a few times in my head but I just now managed to click on create new post. This was Sunday morning. Then a disaster happened… and I had to abandon my half written post and start again on Sunday evening… anyway…

It feels somehow late and my reflections are not fresh anymore in my head. I have already gone through the emotional ups and downs and re-living what happened on Tuesday but also many times before when I used a game approach, so it will be interesting to see where this reflection takes me. My fingers have started hitting the keyboard and finding the words and phrases my mind is telling them. Where should we start?

Ok, I guess I should start from what this week was all about. Creativity, everyday creativity when it becomes an everyday habits can turn our teaching and learning practices into exciting and stimulating experiences. And while I usually use habit as a in bad habit, this time I feel that habit, as in establishing creative habits is actually a good thing for us.

Creativity is important to keep our offer fresh and engaging and make our students think outside the box. Creativity is a necessity and needed in all disciplines, all professional areas, all aspect of our lives. In order to encourage and enable creative thinking and hopefully trigger lasting changes in thinking, we played a mixed-reality game. Playing games in Higher Education? Yes!

This game is not a new idea, but and idea that has evolved semester after semester and changes have been introduced based on own observations and on feedback. I have played previous versions of this game in teacher education in Adult Learning and Further Education but when I took the idea to Higher Education, I was shocked with the resistance I was confronted with. Comments such as “inappropriate”, “childish” and “patronising” still echo in my mind. But maybe this is a good thing. Maybe the more critical comments helped me see things from a different angle and push me to think deeper and put my own practice to the test and evaluate the game and get some evidence that the game real works! The criticism also pushed me to refine my idea and underpin what I thought was a useful, worthwhile and fun learning activty with literature. My rationale for playing the game is now more clearly formulated and together with the findings of my research linked to this help me to convince others that there is value in learning through games but I am not convinced that it should be this way. I think there is a lot of value in discovery learning and trying new things, immersing ourselves into different learning experiences, immersing ourselves in the unknown and finding out for ourselves and with peers the value of such activities. The key elements, I think, to make this happen, is trust. Trust in our teacher, trust in our learners, trust in each other but also the will to be open to experimentation.

LTHESep12 week 2

vital

1. How did I feel?

Excited! This week is always my favourite one!!! I was happy to discover that my current students embraced the “Sell your bargains” game. The same happened with the last cohort and I am now seeing much clearer why this is the case!

I was very pleased that they completed Stage 1 and had thought about a threshold concept before meeting in Manchester on Tuesday. I am also very happy that they did their research around threshold concepts despite the fact that we didn’t touch this in class. It shows again, that we can and should trust our students that they are able to study on their own and try and make sense of theories. I think this is easier if coupled with direct link and application to own practice, which we did in the case of the game.

There were some more skeptical students but that is fine. I think as the game progressed, they warmed to the idea and the usefulness of the game. All students who partcipated, worked well with their partner and came up with some really innovative learning and teaching interventions. I don’t think many of these ideas would have been generated in an ordinary classroom. I think we need to get rid of ordinary classrooms anyway. Learning can happen anywhere and most of the learning happens outside the classroom anyway…

LTHESep12 week 3 Sell your bargains game

learning together through sharing problems

I was very pleased how the pairs worked together and I think my rationale for pairing worked well. I had a number of criteria for paring and I would be interested to find out what my students thought about this and what they think the criteria were. Anybody?

2. What did I learn?

I am pleased that I keep pushing myself and my students to actively experiment with ideas and concepts in a more playful way. If something doesn’t work, it doesn’t work. We will work on making it work better the next time. We learn so much more when things don’t go according to plan. Difficult situations make us think. They make me think and re-think but also un-think. And if we learnt something from something that didn’t work, it was a great learning opportunity. Too often we focus on the result, but what about the process?

I learned that we do need to do this to discover what is possible and remove misunderstandings and misconceptions about play and games for learning in higher education. I learned that reflection is a vital ingredient of creativity as well, if we want to create something new and of value, something that is alive and dynamic. Something that can evolve and inspire learners and teachers to be resourceful, creative, ask questions, do the unexpected and surprise themselves and others to engage in deep and profound learning that is owned 150% by the learners themselves.

3. What would I do differently?

Loads of things! I think it is now time to change location for Stage 2 when we meet in Manchester City Centre. The Big Wheel used to be there. Now it is gone ;( I am thinking of Bury Market or Salford Quays and will investigate other areas too, with loads if cheap shop for next time. But if we go for a no-money approach, I might be looking for a completely different location…

LTHESep12 week 3 Sell your bargains game

Where did it go???

Also, the £3 spending money to get a resource is too much. I am thinking of NO money or just one pound per person. At the moment, I am thinking to play it with NO spending money next time.

LTHESep12 week 3 Sell your bargains game

Sian’s and Jo’s bargains

Too often we think we need money to get resources for learning and teaching. But there are so many freely available. Stuff that we can re-use and re-purpose or construct from items that are of no use for others. The more I write about it here, the more I am convinced that I will go with the no-money approach next time. So there will be limited time and limited and no money at all! How resourceful and creative can we be? Are we more creative when we have loads of time and loads of money? Hmm…

LTHESep12 week 3 Sell your bargains game

Rob and Helen, one of our pairs

What else? Recording the videos and a location where it is a bit more quiet. I am wondering, if we could run part of Stage 2 at location and then come back into the classroom and create the clips or the players create these within the 1h. This might be another option. Each pair then uploads the clip to our YouTube channel. But how could we then use the time when we come all together? I think we could then have an informal conversation about the process and share ideas and approaches. I think that might be useful instead of doing the filming then and would keep all the group together. So many ideas again to change for next time. This is all very exciting!

Also one of my students suggested to do the filming through images. I understand that some don’t want to be seen in the clips and I need to respect this, as the clips will go on our YouTube channel under a creative commons licence. So, images would be a great alternative and maybe drawings too? We do need to listen to our students’ voices. Many times, they have great ideas that help us move our own thinking and ideas forwards but also into new directions.

Having a second game facilitator really made a difference but if I go with the above option I will be fine, even if a colleague is not available. I just need to make sure that our students have a camcorder, smartphone or tablet on which they could record the mini clip and this might be the tricky part and needs to be checked in advance of the game.

Let’s play more! Let’s create more opportunities for playful learning in Higher Education. Plato said “We can discover more about a person in an hour of play than a year of conversation”. Just imagine how much we can learn when we combine the two 😉

Voting for our most innovative ideas is still open until Monday the 22nd of October 2012

all our photos on Flickr. Click here to access them

please access our voting form where you will also find links to all participating video clips.

Do you want to find out more about learning with games in Higher Education? Read: Whitton, N (2010) Learning with Digital Games. A Practical Guide to Engaging Students in Higher Education, Oxon: Routledge.