30 years as an educational strategist, academic practitioner and developer, educational developer, educational technologist, and e-learning researcher. Simon is now an Educational Strategic Consultant.
An experienced presenter and workshop facilitator.
Previous roles include Head of Learning Design at the Open Polytechnic of New Zealand, Associate Dean for Teaching and Learning (BPP University), Academic Developer (London School of Economics), Director of Teaching and Learning (Massey University - College of Education), Head of Centre for Learning Development (University of Hull), Academic Developer (Open University UK)
I’m looking at some interesting uses of PowerPoint/Presenter as stand alone resources which might be seen as multi-modal workbooks, animated, engaging objects which stand-alone for the student.
The other concern about ‘transferring practice to alternative contexts’ has arisen in connection with staff asking about the ‘online delivery of lectures’. It looks like institutionally there will be some support for Adobe Connect but whether staff are in a position to use it effectively will depend on a range of external factors. I’m preparing for a couple of PD events on the PowerPoint-> Presenter-> Connect equation and again, it raises a number of interesting issues.
Why! The educational developer’s favourite question. Why do you want to ‘deliver the lecture’ online? Why is it a lecture? Why is the student going to benefit from this mode of delivery? I’m looking at some interesting uses of PowerPoint/Presenter as stand-alone resources which might be seen as multi-modal workbooks, animated and engaging objects that stand-alone for the student. These might then indeed have some kind of facilitated discourse around them, and that may well happen inside Connect so the presentation (or an alternative version of it) might be shared and annotated, referenced and so on. I am struggling with the concept that the online synchronous ‘presentation’ is an effective use of the student, or lecturer, time. Why (there’s that word again!) would one take the time to present? Maybe it relates in part to the fact that in our face-to-face practice we can ‘half-prepare’ the representation because we often ‘busk’ around the edges. If we want to create a genuinely usefully internally scaffolded and referenced presentation… well that takes real work.
Do most academic staff consider these issues of internal structure to their content? Or are they so used to dealing with a linear information exchange model that they just don’t think about it? Who can blame them? How do we change that? How do we move from the ‘Sage on the Stage’ approach to the ‘content author/facilitator’ model on an institutional basis?
The mismatch or disjuncture in the authoring process for Word and the online learning delivery environment. We may NOT want academic staff authoring content direct into the VLE, but we need them close enough to the delivery context to understand the issues of sequencing, pause, reflection and action.
Working this week with a variety of practical tools to develop learning content and thinking seriously about how they are structured, internally referenced, and where the opportunities for scaffolding professional development within them might be. This seems easiest at first glance with the Frontpage eXe editing tool which creates reasonable XHTML code and has a variety of expert options including IMS/SCORM packages that work fine in Moodle at least. However, it raises some really interesting questions about ‘how’, in practice, most academic staff actually build the materials they use in their teaching. Here I’ve been dealing with content written in word and passed to an administrative member of staff who has ‘transferred’ it into eXe. There are clear issues with awful Mso code being imported which is tiresome to get rid of.
More interesting is perhaps the mismatch or disjuncture in the authoring process for Word than for the delivery environment. We may NOT want academic staff authoring content directly into the VLE, but we need them close enough to the delivery context to understand the issues of sequencing, pause, reflection and action. The argument might be for the development of a more structured ‘template’ for each authoring environment, and indeed the professional conversation with authoring teams around the development of a template would in itself prove valuable. My own development of these MS-Word-> eXe materials for one specific undergraduate course makes me think there must be a better way. Just need more time to think about what it might be.
My own writing has been the focus the last couple of days. I’ve been struggling with a personal tendency towards the theoretical and philosophical ramblings of a prematurely ageing ‘whatever I am’ and the need to develop something more substantial. I have memories of my primary school teachers telling my parents “Simon would do well if he could just focus”, so here I am still very unfocussed and just too damn interested in everything! In recent days I’ve been codifying the DiAL-e learning designs in PowerPoint with a view to sharing them through Slideshare and through the DiAL-e Wiki.
It’s an interesting process trying to establish how much guidance and support each individual teacher is likely to need. Can we assume that they can deconstruct a learning object for themselves or should we give it them in a form which essentially lists the manifest like a contents page. I’m thinking about how this relates to the professional development (PD) programmes I need to run here at Massey to support the uptake of the institutional Moodle implementation. How does one walk that fine line between patronising the insightful and leading the blind? I’m still inclined to give individuals a toolkit, some kind of ‘take-away’, but one still has to make sure ‘they get it’. My concern today is ‘how do I get staff to think about using Adobe Presenter effectively when I’m not sure their PowerPoint is up to the task’.
I’m re-engaging with Second Life. Why? Well partly I like torturing myself in a slightly masochistic sense by visiting all these mammoth University Campus islands with their beautifully designed (empty) lecture theatres and marvel at the idea that so many bright people could have so spectacularly missed the point. But I also feel that I should be giving Vision FLux (yes, that’s my SL name) a little bit more of a run. I fancy Vision is getting somewhat wide around the waist and needs a little more exercise. I have been in SL on and off since 2006 and I still don’t think I’ve quite come to terms with that identity. Needs work.
Had an interesting meeting with staff at SouthPacificPress on the 14th. They produce some really interesting materials to support literacy development in a classroom context called CSI (Comprehension Strategies Instruction), blending PD for staff with learner resource. The ‘interactive’ dimension is relatively limited but not inappropriate given that it is all teacher-led. It was interesting to see that proprietary interactive software being used to protect IPR. It made me think about the effectiveness of teaching literacy and writing and the idea that one can separate the two. As I left I couldn’t help thinking about the improvements in literacy through creative writing workshops using ‘itinerant’ teachers (‘resting’ authors mostly) in the ‘Valencia 826’ project.
It was a very interesting conversation. To come from last weeks focus on OER to be talking about the needs and concerns of publishers, investing a lot in resource development, was very thought provoking.
Creating truly accessible learning objects with basic slideware
It’s always difficult to remember where a good idea comes from ! Two years ago, Kevin Burden and I, along with Theo Kuechel, began to conceptualise what became the DiAL-e Framework of ‘learning designs’ (www.dial-e.net). It was an iterative process of design classifications from 6, then 7 to 9 and finally 10 designs or categories of learner experiences.
Two of these were further divided into different iterations of the design. In London on the 8th/9th April, Kevin and I moved from coffee shop to the Institute of Education to coffee shop describing the process to each other as we remembered it. One wishes one had twittered and blogged then to have captured some of that process. Essentially we were considering a process. We were determined not to illustrate the NewsFilm archive with subject based exemplars back in 2007 and instead developed a framework, a window frame, for looking at a variety of facets, learning objects, archive materials, web 2.0 technologies, even staff assumptions about technology use. We have descriptions, and exemplars of different learning engagement techniques for different learning contexts. At workshops (ASCILITE07, ED-MEDIA08) these were well received and commented on.
Now we are beginning to take them out to everyone, not just the educational technologists and academic developers. And so we have agreed to populate the dial-e.net space with examples which can be ‘backwards engineered’ in a variety of simple accessible forms, slideware such as PowerPoint and HTML editors such as eXe. By the time we get to the European LAMS & Learning design Conference in July09 and EDUCAUSE in Nov09 we would hope to have provided significant access to the DiAL-e designs and see evidence of them being used.
We keep asking ourselves what other people mean by reusability, but seeing people download PPT files, edit them, deliver them and share them again would satisfy my definition !
Interesting meeting with the CompendiumLD team at the Open University
Had a long day 7 April getting across country from Wantage to Milton Keynes. A worthwhile trip though none the less. Met with Simon Cross, Paul Clark and Andrew Brasher from IET at the OU in the old Jenny Lee Library now all revamped and unrecognizable.
Nice to be back, wish I had had time to pop round and say hello to a few people. Grainne Conole popped in briefly.
I shared with them the development process that Kevin Burden and I had gone through to produce the DiAL-e Framework (www.dial-e.net) and some of the very recent attempts to make these designs real, reusable and malleable to front line academics. I’m really quite optimistic that the use of PowerPoint and other slideware, MovieMaker or other AV editing software and tools such as the eXe XHTML editor will make designs very accessible. What is less clear to me is how this will work with ‘learning design’ tools like LAMS and Compendium LD. LAMS creates these runtime learning engagements, and element of which might consist of a DiAL-e design but they are different.
Compendium LD to me looks like a fantastic tool for mapping curricula and looking at issues of assessment stress, workload management and the relationships between learning outcomes. One can see how a project tool like this, emerging from an institutional way of working at the OU has an application. It will be interesting to see how that translates into other institutional contexts.
I think there will be time to make all these DiAL-e designs available in a range of desktop deployment tools by the time of the European LD and LAMS conference in July and the decision now is whether to participate in the design bash.
The Estonian e-Universities Conference Tartu 2-3 April was attended by around 200 people over the two days. A big picture look at the challenges faced by Schools through to Tertiary and lifelong learning providers.
Attended the Estonian e-Universities Conference at the University of Life Sciences in Tartu 2-3 April. Attended by around 200 people over the two days, the plenary sessions took a big picture look at the challenges faced by Schools through to Tertiary and lifelong learning providers. The tone was realistic and largely positive. There was much chatter about the challenging economic context in which the University sector now finds itself and the opportunities for exchange and development.
I presented twice, once as part of a session on learning repositories, in which I outlined some of the recent work in using the DiAL-e framework to codify learning designs in ways which we hope will make archives and repositories more accessible. We had an overview of European projects and Martin Sillaots some insight into two recent repositories making heavy use of tag-clouds and commenting to add some semblance of peer review to repository artifacts.
My other input was the final session on the Friday late afternoon, following Nancy White (who Skyped in and was her usual enthusiastic self at 4am) and a motivational trainer from Estonia on the power of positive thinking ! Quite a double act to follow. As a closing keynote I intended to be positive and upbeat and attempted to highlight four themes emerging from the conference (role of technology, learning objects, learning designs and school space/place design issues). I took a ‘futurist’ or foresight model and invited participants to visualize a future based around the life of a young Estonian girl starting school aged 5 this September who would be 72 in 2077. It was fin to prepare and hit the note with some whilst obviously losing a few. So a measured success from my perspective. I came away feeling I had been perhaps a little too ambitious.
I engaged the audience by asking them to do a paper exercise in which they answered a question on the top quarter of a sheet of A4, then folded it over and passed the paper on. Then a second question later on and folded again. The intention being that by the end one has four comments or responses on a piece of paper none of which one wrote oneself. And the take-away is then an amalgamation of your ideas and four other peoples.
Sue Greener from Brighton Business School gave a really energetic presentation that highlighted the role of students as peer learners and leaders, Lisa Petrides talked about the way in which OER is becoming more transparent, more accessible and more sensitive to local contexts. David Vincent from the OU gave an interesting global perspective and highlighted the different ways in which institutions are responding to challenges – he seemed optimistic that the current economic situation would spur on the innovators. Teemu Leinonen gave a really thought provoking overview of the wiki-ethos, an illustration of how the co-authoring process is realizing results.
Great couple of days. Lots and lots of interesting things to follow up. And finally time to set myself up in some ‘Web 2.0’ spaces which has been pretty entertaining