Posts Tagged ‘reflection’
Over the last year or so, I have been consulted regularly by former student teachers or other folks who are thinking of pursuing a higher degree. I made the time for them over Google Hangouts, Skype, or in-person meetings.
Much of the time, the conversations revolved around pragmatic things like managing finances, adjusting to living overseas, developing a new mindset, the impact on family, etc.
Every now and then I meet folks who want to get into the fields of educational technology and/or instructional design. Of the myriad of concepts those programmes tried to impart, I took away two main things.
#1: Do not just give your clients what they WANT; give them what they NEED.
#2: Do the least harm.
The first principle was something I learnt while doing an authentic Masters project with an airline company. The second was something I picked up during my Ph.D.
It is easy to figure out what someone wants. You ask them, they tell you, and you do what you can to deliver. It is far more difficult to figure out that they really need and create that buy-in.
Sometimes those needs are instruction or training oriented. You attempt to create learning opportunities but these invariably introduce some harm even if your heart is in the right place.
- You are taking time, effort, and money off people in activities that might end up wasted.
- They might not be ready or the timing is not right.
- There is so much ground to cover and you have to leave some content out.
- Real learning may require some dissonance or discomfort. It may necessitate the reshaping of values and mindsets.
You will invariably cause harm as you try to do good. You can do the least harm only after figuring out what your learners need.
I am on a secluded shoreline. Half of it is rocky, the other half is sandy.
It is silent except for the sounds of the waves and wind. The setting sun is blazing but the air is cool.
My family are tired from the long road trip so they are resting in the house we are putting up in. But I decided to take a walk.
I came to this part of Tasmania to rediscover something I stumbled across 14 years ago when I was last in Taz.
It is still here and perhaps it is best enjoyed alone.
And thanks to the surprising long reach of a 3G connection at the beach, I was able to take, edit, and upload a few photos to Posterous.
I thought I should reflect on what I picked up after visiting Wellington, NZ, for the ASCILITE conference.
Sidetrack: Some of my photos are at my Posterous page*. And I will go on record that I was there for the conference. The Hobbit** premiere and the trappings that came with it were a bonus!
*I took this photo of the display of Gollum catching trout at the departure terminal of Wellington airport.
**If it is not obvious, that is why today’s blog entry is There And Back Again.
As with most learning journeys, much learning was from the journey itself.
Getting there: Making a noise
When I am at Changi Airport, I often buy something at the transit area since I do not have to pay taxes.
Tourists do the same thing and one in particular cut into the queue I was in, asked dumb questions, and made loud statements. The store manager decided to give him a 10% discount.
I was too flabbergasted to say anything or to demand for a 10% discount as well.
Lesson? It is important to make timely statements.
I chose not to meet with vendors at the conference mostly because they harassed me with unsolicited email prior to the event.
Instead, I chose to meet with individuals who I could connect professionally with. For example, I learnt about the issues that the post-earthquake University of Canterbury in Christchurch is dealing with in terms of educational technology.
Lesson? Despite the differences in circumstances, the basic problems we have are the same. They revolve around stubborn people and stupid policies.
Extra lesson: I also went online to get more information about the person I had not met face-to-face before. I liked how the U of Canterbury’s website sends a subtle but clear message that it is student-centred.
Back again: Welcome (not!)
When my family and I arrived back in Singapore, we had practically forgotten how poor the level of “service” was here.
We were given rude reminders that if we want to learn and improve that we must:
- Looking inward and examine ourselves from the perspectives of others
- Looking outward and beyond our comfort zones
It was about this time last year that I reflected on what the Centre for e-Learning should be.
A year later we are closer to that vision. The path forward, while still littered with obstacles, is now more visible.
I think that a reshaped CeL should have at least three broad functions:
1. Professional Development Centre (internal)
2. Blended Learning Consultation Centre (external)
3. Educational Technology Research Centre
We already function as a training or PD centre. But we need to be seen as offering support in technology-mediated pedagogies, not as technical support.
We have also reached out to non-academic staff as a means of supporting the larger staff ecosystem instead of just focusing on small pockets.
We get a fair bit of attention from external parties, either to serve as collaborators on projects or to offer workshops. While I take a few of these on as a consultant, I think we have reached a stage whereby close to half the department has developed the capacity to do this.
As we do all this, we must continue to actively sense our environment. I think we have a good new and social media radar. But we need to expand our capacity to process current research in educational technology and even conduct and publish research on it.
I am keeping my fingers crossed and uncrossing them long enough to do what is necessary to make the vision real.
by Editor B
An ex-colleague who is now retired gave me some unsolicited advice: Don’t ask why. Just do. I told him that the day I stopped asking why would be the day I quit.
A recent string of events had me asking why again.
The Centre for e-Learning was asked to present at three external events over the last two weeks  . Over the next two weeks we are organizing events within our institute. The differences in attendances at the external and internal events could not be more stark.
I compare workshops we organize for free (internally) and those we conduct for a fee (externally). I have to practically beg for people to attend the free internal events and turn away people from the often expensive external events.
Why do folks outside seem to appreciate what we do more than the people in our own organization?
I know the saying is that a prophet is often not welcome in his own home. But why?
Why ask why? I have a few answers, but not all of them.
A week ago I presented at a local conference. If a full room and folks pulling in extra chairs to sit at the back is one indication of success, then the session was successful.
However, my co-presenter and I were not as prepared as we could have been. My co-presenter was ill and I was swamped with other commitments in the run up to the conference.
Sure, we had pretty slides and I dare say we did a good job presenting. But I did not put in as much work into that presentation as I normally do with others.
Over the last few months I have been giving backchannelled talks. At one conference where the participants were given a choice of parallel sessions to attend, I did not get nearly as many folks attending mine. When there are many more empty chairs than full ones, something is wrong! I had prepared disproportionately well for that one.
So is the hint to not prepare as much or as well? I think not.
The problem is similar to a teacher who does the same thing with two different classes. One class responds well while the other does not. Any teacher will be able to relate to what I am saying.
I have come to realize that titling an event and pitching it well before you present are key. Building up your reputational capital also helps.
Talks are not effortless. They take a lot of preparation but it is not just about content and delivery. It is also about marketing and managing it.
I was looking for a suitable image to include in my briefing for a special course I am conducting over two weeks.
In setting expectations, I wanted my audience of trainers to expect to learn by teaching. I used my favourite CC image search tool and found this:
It is a long-exposure photograph of a flashlight writing. The photographer captured both the original “Teach” from the torch and the reflection “Learn” in the puddle.
One might appreciate the technical creativity of the photo.
I focus on interpreting the photo. The best way to learn is to teach. It may not be obvious, but if you reflect on this, you will realize this to be true!
Sometimes opportunities emerge where you least expect them. I will highlight one such opportunity that arose from yesterday’s management retreat.
Someone else in the group attended part of one lecture and liked what I did with the quiz at the end.
But the favorable response seemed to be more about the fact I had found one way to track attendance in situ. I wondered if this was more about putting warm bodies into a cold place and less about good teaching, i.e., connecting with learners or measuring outcomes.
I took the opportunity to provide some context, mention the use of three backchannels, and the feedback-quiz-attendance taking strategy.
The option that presented itself on the table was: Can you share with all staff how to do this? I replied that we could at CeL’s semestral staff sharing and professional development sessions.
But I am aware of two things. First, a few staff like me have moved beyond the need to just lecture. Second, this is opportunity to provide a bridge for some staff to crossover from talk mode to teach and learn mode.
I like to remind teachers that we must reach them (students) to teach them. I say this in the context of integrating technology meaningfully and powerfully. I can apply the same principle in my case of sharing strategies with teacher educators. I must go where they are, find something they can relate to, and build on that.
I am halfway through conducting a series of talks on Creative Commons for the PGDE cohort of student teachers in NIE.
I am almost enjoying the practice of lecturing, a strategy that I thought I had long abandoned.
I have to remind myself that didactic teaching has its moments provided it is used sparingly and only if you are a charismatic storyteller.
I do not consider myself to be in that last category even if a few enjoy listening to me. But I am an experimenter and risk-taker. I have tried to create more interactive lectures, “participates” instead of “talks”.
Of the three backchannels I have used, Facebook has been the most successful if you go by the number of responses. Most participants are not on Twitter or do not know how to use hashtags.
LinoIt is in the middle and the quality of responses there is better. One sticky on LinoIt reads: Much prefer linoit/twitter as a platform than facebook. Less intrusive.
What did I learn? Provide more than one backchannel. But when you do that, it gets harder to monitor and respond. Future implementation? I might consider using just Facebook and LinoIt (for choice) or LinoIt alone (to provide a neutral platform).
The five-question online quiz I included at the end offered a bonus I did not plan on. It was a way of taking attendance! I know that at least 50, 139, and 210 student teachers attended sessions 1, 2 and 3 respectively. I know who attended and how many times they attempted the quiz.
Could participants use some other name in the quiz? Yes, but only if they wanted to get singled out or have their integrity questioned as teachers-to-be. They would also lose a chance to win a small prize for getting all the answers right and quickly.
Some might say that lecturing as a dying art. They should try designing and implementing an interactive lecture.
Others might just point out that lectures should just die. Or be put to death. (Not good storytelling though, because that is different.)
In this day and age and with the new expectations of learners, boring face-to-face lectures are on death row. Making them interactive just gives them a last meal to make them feel good one last time.
Shortly after I shared my 10′CMT keynote on SlideShare, the editorial team there selected it as a featured presentation and tweeted it to their followers.
As a result of this publicity, there was a huge jump in views, from 30 views with no publicity on my part, to 900+ views thanks to SlideShare’s notification.
It is tempting to be flattered by the canned email message, tweet, and surge in views. If I was a marketer, advertiser, policymaker, or bean-counting administrator, I would advocate that approach and trumpet the news.
But doing that only scratches the surface and tells an incomplete story.
Views are just page hits. I would guess that an international audience did not understand the 10′CMT context and topic and did not go beyond a few slides. Did they learn anything? Not likely.
Instead, I am encouraged by the feedback I received in person and via Twitter (two examples below) on the immediate impact of the keynote.
I put the presentation there only after the keynote was over to archive it and to add a drop to the bucket of shared information.
I do this because I have noticed how presentation files of courses I no longer facilitate still get hundreds and even thousands of views by people all over the world. These are not featured presentations but a sought after by people who want to learn something.
In examining the analytics that SlideShare offers, I can also track who embeds or uses my presentations. In the case of my 10′CMT presentation, I see that those that liked it probably did so for its design or aesthetics.
The cynic in me would point out that I played the system by designing slides that suited the look and feel of featured SlideShares.
The educator in me says that I have provided more than one lesson with one presentation. Other than my SOFA points, I have practised some design concepts and pointed out the merits of quality over quantity in the quest to learn.