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Posts Tagged ‘evening

Gathering around an iPad to edit a Popplet.

Whenever I facilitate learning at workshops or course modules, I try something new or tweak a time-tested process.

Here is some context first.

Last year, I facilitated ICT-focused classes for special needs/inclusive education teachers. The sessions were conducted in the evening and I did not change the active learning design this year. However, I made the effort to jump at the deep end, tried a different swim stroke, and dealt with an unexpected current.

Chrome Incognito
What was the deep end jump?

I opted not to bring my Chromebook or Macbook Pro to the first session, and used the ageing desktop at the venue instead.

I used Chrome in Incognito mode to sign into various accounts, and with two-factor authentication via the Google app on my iPhone, was able to verify the log-in. When I was done with the session, I cleared the browser cache.

In between, I rediscovered the bane of YouTube ads because the Chrome browser on the desktop was not protected like my extension-enabled ones on my laptops. I wanted to show a small segment of a video but had to click away layered ads and two video ads that played before the actual video.

On hindsight, I could have relied on one of the many online services that let me download offline versions of entire videos or video segments.

As I neared the end of the session, the browser crashed. Ordinarily, this would mean having to log in to various services all over again. Thankfully, we were almost done and I did not have to do this. I also had my iPad on standby, but did not have to use it.

The interruptions due to the ads and crash were a reminder why facilitators should always bring their own devices. If you prepare and practice on that device, it is best to bring it along unless you like living dangerously.
 
Panoramic shot of 32 learners in five focus groups.

Google Forms to form groups
What did I do a bit differently with folks that I had not met before?

I usually ask participants to complete a Google Form questionnaire before we meet. In one question, I ask participants to choose a focus area or issue. Instead of trying to deliver a one-size-fits-all experience, I want to shape a custom one.

I normally follow this up by showing the results of the questionnaire at the start of our meeting to remind them of their selections. This time round, I predefined groups based on their responses and indicated what these were in a Google Site page.

About a quarter of the class did not respond by the deadline, so I met these learners during a break to sort them out before the group-based activities. This was a necessary step since it is rare for everyone to complete tasks beforehand. I also had two last-minute additions who probably did not get the instructions.

Such a preemptive design prevents groups from self-selecting. In this context, however, I wanted groups to be as diverse but as focused as possible. Knowing how people tend to stay in their comfort zones both social and cognitive, my decision to do this turned out to be a good one. The discussions were rich and there was a lot of productive noise in the room.

Jumping Padlet notes
I like getting participants to use Padlets for reflective pitstops and exit tickets.

However, a recent change to the platform seems to have made the online stickies refresh and rearrange themselves more often. This meant that some of my learners could not compose their thoughts because the notes kept “jumping away” from them.

This did not seem to affect all of them equally. Anecdotally, I have found that this happens to owners of small screens and slower devices with older Android builds.

One alternative might be to provide Google Forms and share the resulting Google Sheet with my learners. However, this limits my participants to text instead of other media like audio, photos, or video in Padlet.

I also like my participants to take ownership of their notes and to revisit them at different stages of learning. They could co-edit the Google Sheet resulting from Forms, but this is not as natural as the simulated writing or drawing on an online sticky note.

No space for Google Space
Last year I used the then brand new Google Spaces and reflected on the pros and cons of using it versus Google Sites [1] [2]. This year, Spaces will be shut down on 17 April in a failed Google experiment, whiles Sites, a mainstay for about a decade, lives on.

This meant transferring many resources, instructions, and activities to Sites from Spaces. This was no mean task as the two are not interoperable.

I also had to restructure the Site and this meant URLs changed. This affected the shortened URLs and QR codes I had created, so I had to make new ones, print them out as cards, and laminate them myself.
 
Scanning a QR code in class.

Bonus experiment
I was about to end this reflection when I remembered another step I took.

I normally send participants instructions to download and install a QR code reader. This makes it easy for them to access online resources instead of having to type URLs.

This time round I left this instruction out to see how adept my participants would be.

I was pleased to notes how several were game to use the QR codes on their own. Those that did not still had the benefit of using my shortened bit.ly URLs.

Overall takeaway
It is easy to be complacent and to coast with strategies that seem to work over different contexts and content. I choose not to do this.

I tell my learners that one of the best ways to learn is by cognitive dissonance. Better to live by this mantra than to come across as a hypocrite. If the situation does not provide these challenges, I create my own.


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