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I object to end-of-course student evaluations, particularly if the course is, say, only two sessions deep. Heck, they can happen at the end of a half semester (after about six sessions) or a full semester (about double the number of sessions) and I would still object.

This not because I got poor results when I was a teaching faculty member. Quite the opposite. I had flattering scores that were often just shy of perfect tens in a variety of courses I used to facilitate.

No, I object to such evaluations because they rarely are valid instruments. While they might seem to be about the effectiveness of the course, they are not. These evaluations are administrative and ranking tools for deciding which courses and faculty to keep.

Course evaluations are also not free from bias. Even if the questions are objective, the participants of the questionnaire are not. One of the biggest problems with end-of-course evaluations are that they can be biased against women instructors [1] [2] [3].

I would rather focus on student learning processes and evidence of learning. Such insights are not clearly and completely observable from what are essentially perception surveys.

If administrators took a leaf from research methodology, they might also include classroom observations, interviews, discourse analysis (e.g, of interactions), and artefact analysis (e.g., of lesson plans, resources, assignments, and projects).

But these are too much trouble to conduct, so administrators settle for shortcuts. Make no mistake, such questionnaires can be reliable when repeated over time, but they are not valid for what they purport to measure.

Some might say that end-of-course evaluations are a necessary evil. If so, they could be improved to focus on processes and products of learning. This article by Faculty Focus has these suggestions.

Article by Faculty Focus has these suggestions for questionnaires that focus on processes and products of learning.

Are there any takers?

Most students do not have insights into how much work goes into designing lessons, preparing materials, and developing evaluations. Just the administrative aspects might surprise them.

Teachers-to-be and future faculty need to be aware what awaits them administratively. For a Masters course that I design and facilitate, the time between initial notification and the implementation of the first class is five months. The ICT modules for inclusive education I just facilitated had a runway of seven months. A set of workshops I conduct at another institute of higher learning prepares documentation one semester ahead. This means I have about three months of preparation time.
 

 
Why are the runways months long? Administrative offices can often be bureaucratic. Your parcel might be passed from one person to another to their own tune. Once they receive the parcel, they might sit on it or go on leave. Speaking of leave, administrative staff often work on their own calendars (for example, financial years) and not on the ebb and flow of university schedules.

The exciting part of the teaching and learning journey happens when a course or workshop takes off. But before that happens, there is a lot of taxiing on the ground.

I have spent the last few Saturdays facilitating a Masters course either in the morning or the afternoon. With just a handful of students, I implement a studio approach.

Reality Bytes: A primer on VR, AR, MR, and XR

Reality Bytes II: A primer on AI, CT, and CSCL.

I still do short presentations, primers if you will, of some content. But the latter half of the course depends on learners creating content, sharing it, and teaching one another.

Why take that approach? I share three image quotes that explain my approach.

No one knows everything, but everyone knows something.

The best teachers are those who show you where to look, but don't tell you what to see.— Alexandra K. Trenfor

To teach is the learn twice.

It is the day before I facilitate a new Masters course on technology for teaching and learning. I have prepared the minimum of slides so that I will do the minimum of lecturing.

My goal is to facilitate learning and I need to set and maintain that expectation. Here are just two of the less than ten slides I have.

Cooperating and peer teaching.

Walled garden.

Enough said?

I am certain these approaches will generate cognitive dissonance and discussion. These are vital ingredients in the pot of learning. I hope that my co-learners embrace cooking instead of simply consuming.

In this week’s episode of Crash Course’s video on information and digital literacies, host John Green focused on the authority and perspective of sources.


Video source

The authority of an author or a source might be determined by finding out about its:

  • Professional background
  • Processes used to create information
  • Systems in place to catch and correct mistakes

Authoritative sources do not guarantee that their information is correct all the time. When they make mistakes, they admit and correct them openly.

The perspective of an author or a source needs to be gleaned from its orientation, opinions, or analyses. Perspective colours choice of words and the direction of influence.


Video source

The video above is a preview of a new Crash Course that will be coming soon.

I am looking forward to it as much as the next major blockbuster. While movies entertain, John Green and company have a way of educating that pulls learners in.

I am one of the 8+ million subscribers to their channel. You should be, too, if you have any role in developing information literacy.

Mainstream schools are winding down for the end-of-year vacation and universities see this semester coming to a close. I am ramping up as I prepare a new course next semester.

I have lots of notes and resources, but they are linked by two principles that have guided my design and facilitation for almost two decades.

The danger of lectures is that they create the illusion of teaching for teachers, and the illusion of learning for learners.

The first is the focus on the learner and learning. Doug Thomas and John Seely Brown put it best in their book, A New Culture of Learning:

For most of the twentieth century our educational system has been built on the assumption that teaching is necessary for learning to occur. Accordingly, education has been seen as a process of transferring information from a higher authority (the teacher) down to the student. This model, however, just can’t keep up with the rapid rate of change in the twenty-first century. It’s time to shift our thinking from the old model of teaching to a new model of learning.

Teaching is neat. Learning is messy.

The other follows an issue summed up nicely in this tweet:

Closed access and administrative control are antithetical to learner exploration and empowerment. As difficult as being open and embracing uncertainty is, it is more rewarding in the long term.

Over the next two days, I share two things I do to start and end modules. I start with how I end one. 

I shared this photo yesterday on Twitter

We took a series of shots and all of them feature us in different modes: Mundane, mobile, and mad-cap. The photos covertly illustrate different course designs. I made sure everything was mobile-friendly or even mobile first.
 

View this post on Instagram

My "ICT for Inclusion" class.

A post shared by Dr Ashley Tan (@drashleytan) on

 
I was also not front-and-centre in the photos. I was literally and figuratively the guide on the side. I designed activities where my participants collaborated with and taught one another. 

If I moved to the centre, it was to be the meddler in the middle to stimulate reflection or to help participants rise above. 

I am thankful to my administrative go-between for not only seeking me out via my blog and old TED talk, but also for giving me the freedom to design learning experiences instead of teaching ones. 

Today I continue my journey as a consultant by revisiting experiences I used to facilitate almost ten years ago. I have designed ICT-focused modules for a group of allied educators whose work revolves around children with special learning needs.

As a teacher educator in NIE, I used to facilitate a core classroom management and special needs awareness course. Back then I relied on PBwiki (which became PBworks) and Google Sites to provide rich learning experiences.

Back then, the content of the course was centrally planned by a committee and content was stuffed awkwardly into an LMS. Once student-teachers graduated, they could not access the resources. I decided to use open wikis to provide continued and timely access.

The wikis are open to this day. Google is good at leaving things as is; PBworks annoys me at least once a year by asking me if they can claim the space.

This time round I am experimenting with the newly minted Google Spaces to provide a springboard for accessing numerous other online resource, tools, and platforms.

Google Space for CAE/SEED course on ICT for Inclusion.

Some things have changed in the area of ICT for special needs and others have stubbornly remain entrenched.

The ICT-enabled learning possibilities for individuals with special needs is immense. I have been collecting online references for a few months and the possibilities are mind-boggling and heart-warming.

Like most socio-technical phenomena, the problems lie in human ignorance, indifference, and inertia. One word encompasses all three: Administration. The group that should support and enable instead enforces and blocks.

Administration is typically multilayered, and while bureaucracy is generally a pain, I have been fortunate to work with a layer that has given me some freedom. I will use that leeway to design learning experiences that are active instead of archaic and meaningful instead of mundane.

Why do I do this? I believe that every one has “special needs” when it comes to learning. Each of us lies somewhere along a continuum of preferences and abilities. A course designed by an administrator ticks boxes and reaches for the low-hanging fruit. A course designed by a learner tickles and challenges.

I shared the link of my open course in iTunes U on Flipped Classrooms last Wed. Here is a quick update.

Two issues have emerged.

The first was that the course seemed to be available only to those in the USA. Even I received this message when I subscribed to it to test it out. This seems to be a transient issue that happens in the first few hours the course is released online. Subscribers should not get that notification now.

The second is that the course is accessible on iOS, but not on iTunes with a Mac or PC.

This is my fault. I have not actually uploaded anything to the iTunes U servers. I have created links to existing resources with guiding notes here and there.

Somehow this is OK with iTunes U in iOS, but not with iTunes on a computer.

I will remedy the situation over the next week or so. Stay tuned!


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