#LTHEchat… the journey so far…

It has been a fascinating journey so far. I am referring to the new #LTHEchat project. It all started with an email in which I took ‘collaborative licence’, Sue will remember this, that developed rapidly into a concept and the implementation of the chat with a team of four. This is what can be achieved if there is trust, good will, commitment, a collaborative spirit but also a vision, a shared vision! Really important, I think.

I wanted to write a little something about the #LTHEchats for a while now but never got around to it… and I do feel a bit guilty about it as reflection is vital for learning and development. Perhaps in a way we had the opportunity to do this collaboratively already when the #LTHEchat team was invited to write an article about this initiative very early on so in a way we have come together and reflected on it collaboratively which was really useful for all of us at the early stages of this project. The article will be published in January 2015 by ALISS and we will also share it through the LTHE site as we have made this available under a Creative Commons licence. But we also share our reflections as a team in communication with each other, even if not shared publicly.

Ok, back to my personal reflections: I am finally doing this as there is a natural break in between chats due to Christmas and New Year and I thought I definitely need to reflect on how I think it has been so far. I started writing this over the last few days using notes on my phone on my train journey to work.

When the four of us got together, Sue, David, Peter and myself we were not sure were this project would take us, if there would be colleagues and students in our own institutions and elsewhere who would join us for the chats…. the big question was: would it be just the four of us every Wednesday 8-9pm? We decided to offer the chats up to Christmas… as we could not really predicts what would happen…

Well, it is now almost Christmas and the response from the community has been really positive and encouraging. We have organised eight chats so far with five guest facilitators. We are already fully booked until after Easter… and the programme includes a wide range of guests, educators and students – a variety of learning and teaching topics will be explored and this is all really exciting!!! The topics emerge through our guests and the open community which is forming.

It is truly wonderful when people come forward and openly state how useful they have found the #LTHEchats for their professional development and how they feel part of a community. Collegiality is highlighted often, which is wonderful. For us the LTHEchats are a great opportunity for speedy bite-size professional development in the area of learning and teaching for colleagues in our own institutions but also more widely… when there are perhaps less or different distractions than during the normal working day. Would the chats also have worked during the day? I don’t know. Would be interesting to find out what the community thinks.

The #LTHEchats are a great opportunity to connect with like-minded people wherever they are, feel part of a community, discuss and debate learning and teaching to further our own individual and collective understanding, share ideas, engage in further explorations and consider changing parts of our practices based on an informed rationale. #LTHEchats have shown that we are on fire and that the academic community is keen in discussing learning and teaching more openly than ever before, perhaps?

Each week the #LTHEchat is focused around a specific learning and teaching theme. There are invited guest facilitators and others who contact us directly and put themselves forward to lead a chat. More recently we introduced student led chats where students can ask questions they always wanted to ask their tutors. We are very excited about this and really look forward to our first student-led chat in the New Year. The community also has the opportunity to vote for their favourite topic and share an idea for a future tweetchat at any moment in time via Twitter and the #LTHEchat site.

From the outset we planned to explore the possibility to hand over management of tweetchats for a whole month to an institution. We are still keen to do this. So if you are reading this and you would like to take over #LTHEchat for a month, get in touch with the team to discuss this and make it happen.

We are using freely available social media, such as Twitter were the chats happen, a supporting website for announcements and archiving using WordPress as well as Google drive for administrative tasks and programme coordination and Dropbox for further resources development, presentations and artwork linked to the project. There is actually a lot of work attached to a one hour chat which does confirm that prep for anything we do is really important. One person wouldn’t be able to run the whole project. But maybe I am wrong. Maybe it would be possible… The difference however when doing something like this collaboratively is that the load is shared, strengths from collaborators are maximised, there is ongoing exchange of ideas that enrich the project, but also the members of the team and there is open and ongoing peer review too which helps us all develop and grow but also the project. But there needs to be trust, commitment and a shared vision… as mentioned already.

I have been working for a while now with Sue on a number of projects and we have found it a really successful and smooth collaboration. We understand each other really well. We are open and honest with each other and know that we will be there for each other too. I think our personal strengths complement each other well and our personalities are compatible too.

I have also been working with David and Peter on other projects, such as the BYOD4L and an Open OER week 14 project so we knew each other and we appreciate how we work.  There was a lot of excitement in the air about our collaboration from the beginning. It is still there.

image source: here

Looking back I have to say I was looking forward to all chats, the ones I co-facilitated but also all others I participated. There was definitely a buzz and a waterfall of tweets in a very short time and the exchanges were definitely worthwhile. I learnt a lot so far, so thank you everybody! According to Peter’s numbers we had between 250 and 700 tweets within an hour. Wow! That is a lot. As this is a wide open initiative it is really difficult to pin down how many participants are involved and how many specifically from our own institutions.

Maybe we could come up with a way to encourage colleagues from our own institutions to come out of the woods so that we can connect further with them and their students locally. We just need to find a way to do this. If you are reading this and have some ideas, please get in touch with us.

For me personally it was important to note what colleagues were saying, show interest, trigger further reflection and help them feel part of a community so that engagement increases. The #LTHEchats are for all who teach or support learning in HE and for the student community. It is an open community or a collective if you like. All voices are heard and welcome. We engage in academic dialogue and debate, share experiences and ideas, resources and links… It is not just the facilitators asking questions. Participants are asking them too. This is something that is currently  developing and I have seen it growing over the last few weeks.

I would like to take this opportunity and thank my dear colleagues Sue, Peter and David for making this project possible, all our guest facilitators, our chat participants and our very own artist Ellie Livermore. A very special thank you goes to Prof. Simon Lancaster for his ongoing support and many many others.

Wishing you a lovely festive break and a healthy, happy and creative New Year!

The #LTHEchat will be back in January for the first joint chat with #BYOD4Lchat on the 21st of January, 8pm UK time. See you all then!



#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!

#lthesep12 week 2 second go @pgcap

Well, I am not sure this is the right time and it actually somehow feels wrong but I am going to give it another go as my previous reflection on week 2 was a bit messy as I found it difficult to keep my mind focused when I was putting it together. Would it have been best not to reflect at all then and wait? I am not sure as I did feel that I wanted to capture my thoughts and emotions at the time, so it didn’t feel forced… and while I am starting fresh here, I had a quick look at my previous reflection linked to week 2 and can now more clearly see how different thoughts, disconnected, melted into one. As I feel that I have left the reflection about week 2 session incomplete, I would like to try and focus one more time here. Looking at the pictures we took last week helped me remember which does proove that images can trigger memories and bring experiences back to life.

Ok, let’s give it another go. Week 2 was about Good teaching in HE, developing reflective skills and peer observations. I have to say that I was really proud of all my students and their current knowledge and understanding of how good teaching looks like. I am pleased that the activity we did around identifying good teaching features worked really well and enabled all students to contribute their ideas and collectively create the bigger picture. The idea at the beginning was to group students in their action learning sets… I forgot that completely and was reminded by my slides… oops. it was however too late and I left the groups as they had been formed organically. I think it worked but I do need to remember next week to give students the opportunity to work with their learning set members too.

1. How did I feel?

Pleased and proud with what we have achieved already as a group thanks to the openness of my students.Also very pleased with the progress we are making and how students engage in the collaborative tasks. The exchanges are rich and learning is happening in the classroom as well. IT was lovely to see how students embraced the activity around Good teaching practice in HE and putting Top Tips for Peer Observarions together.

Observation tips

LTHESep12 Top Peer Observation Tips

Also concerned that some are behind with their portfolios. I think I mentioned that last week as well. Well, after offering another 2 sets of portfolio workshops, I think there are still about 50% of students with no portfolios… this is what worries me… still, our colleagues from TMC are not on Blackboard. I understand that they have  been registered and I have tried to add them to Blackboard but the system does not find their names yet. This is extremely frustrating as I am trying to offer an inclusive learning experience for all and this is impossible at the moment. Calls to follow @pgcap on Twitter and the PGCAP news blog have not brought colleagues closer, which is also a shame.

2. What did I learn?

I learnt that learning in collaboration can be very powerful. Also, when students get to know each other, they do open up. Stydents are all interested in personal stories and sharing these when they feel safe. Opening up happened as the session progressed and this was especially evident during the “Open your heart” activity.

LTHESep12 week 2

opening our hearts

While initially I asked everybody to capture their reflections and not share them with anybody else, when I finished the questions, I asked everybody to stick their heart at the back of the door for everybody to see. Nobody did! Nobody was ready for this. The door was the world. However, what students said and did is that they would feel ok to share with others around their table. This was wonderful and the first step towards opening up in a safe environment. Not everybody contributed their stories to start with but progressively, as some made a start, others felt also keen to share their stories. It was wonderful to experience the interest students had in listening to each other stories and providing help, support and commenting. Peer support in action. Why can we not do this when we reflect on our teaching practice? Why is it so hard to find somebody who would love to hear our stories we experience in the classroom and share ideas? It can’t be that hard!

LTHESep12 week 2

it is developing in our classroom as well

3. What would I do differently?

The ballgame around the module guide (I have to admit that I forgot all about it until I saw the pictures again!) didn’t really work this time, as I understood that not many had read the module guide… maybe my instructions were not clear what this game was all about… also possible. I feel that it is important that students read the module guide carefully before the start of a module or at the start of a module and come to class with questions they have. I have now to assume that students…

  • understood everything and have no questions
  • didn’t want to ask any questions
  • didn’t read the module guide
  • felt embarassed to ask questions or
  • didn’t understand what they had to do

Too many slides. I felt that they got in a way a lot during this session and were not really needed, at least some of them.  Pleased that I ignored them when we discussed peer observations and I think it actually worked much better without them.

So, I think actually next time I offer this session, I would try less is more or no slides at all. Maybe just some bright pictures with a message that would help me remember the plan? Also possible.

Looking ahead
I will be observed by Frances Bell on Tuesday. I have to say that I am nervous and as the day comes closer, I feel even more nervous and at the moment I can’t even think what my plan is and what I will be doing with my class. I am ready but as everybody else who is observed, I want to do a good job. But I don’t just want to do a good job because I am observed. Teachers should do a good job all the time and not just because they are observed. So, I will just be me, do the things I do and hopefully it will work. There will be some improvisation in there too, there usually ise… Well, some of it might not work so well but we will see and find out after the observation. Usually teachers also know what works and what doesn’t.

I have given Frances access to my pre-observation info and hope that I will feel relaxed when she is there… wish me good luck. Week 3 looking at planning sessions, modules and programmes.