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A summary of my learning experience in ONL162

More than ten weeks have passed since we started the course called Open Networked Learning. We have gone through different topics, tried many new tools and probably had over 20 online meetings in Zoom. In this blog post I will summarize what I’ve learned and how I will go about applying this in the future.

Here are some of the things I’ve learned:

Different digital tools

I really like the many practical skills we have picked up throughout the course. Some tools I had used before, but many of them were new to me, such as Zoom and Adobe Connect (for online meetings), padlet and Sway (for presentations) and canva, easely, and piktochart (for making infographics).

Digital Literacy

I can now define digital literacy and understand that different people are at different places on the visitor-resident continuum, and what that means for their ability to learn in the learning environments I try to create.

Open educational resources (OER)

OER’s are available to all and can help us focus less time on creating materials, and more time on interacting with learners. Working in Sweden I’m lucky to retain copyright to what I create during work hours and that means I also have the right to make it open to anyone.

How to work collaboratively

This may be the most valuable skill I’ve picked up in this course. We have worked collaboratively in the PBL groups using mainly google docs/drive, google+ and meeting in Zoom. I had not expected this to be so successful but it was and it has shown me new ways of collaborating and communicating, both with students and with colleagues.

Problem Based Learning (PBL)

PBL has been the approach throughout the course where we have worked with different scenarios, to solve problems and report back. We have used the FISh model, which helps structure the work.

How I will use this new knowledge in the future:

This course has opened up my mind to collaborative learning and the seemingly endless possibilities of online tools. I believe that this knowledge is valuable for my development as a higher ed teacher, but also in my work as a researcher and science communicator.

  1. I will encourage my students and co-workers to work more collaboratively and to focus much more on getting a good communication between groups. I realize that this will require quite different course designs (or project designs) where we take the time to get to know each other and figure out how to work together.
  2. I will use more digital tools and look into open educational resources. I believe in openness and will try to share as much as I can of the material I create. I will also create assignments for the students where they use digital tools to report their findings. I’ve not worked much with infographics before but I’ve always liked how they look, and seeing that they are so easy to work with I will try to use them as course outputs, instead of long report assignments.
  3. I will take some time to read more about the ADDIE model, Constructive Alignment, the Five Stage Model, and Community of Inquiry. Right now I’m only teaching small parts of courses, but I will hopefully get more extensive responsibilities in the future.

 

References

ADDIE Model Instructional Strategies: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PL20E84CD77B301A20

CoI Model: https://coi.athabascau.ca/coi-model/

Constructive alignment: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HVKezLcGi9c&t=2s

David White: Visitors and residents (part 1) http://youtu.be/sPOG3iThmRI

Kek, M.  & Huijser, H. (2015). 21st century skills: problem based learning and the University of the Future. Paper Third 21st Century Academic Forum Conference, Harvard, Boston, USA.

OER Commons: https://www.oercommons.org/

Salmon, G (2013) The Five Stage Model. http://www.gillysalmon.com/five-stage-model.html

 

 

 

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Should online courses be given through social media?

Topic 4: Design for online and blended learning

During my time as a PhD student at the department of Physical Geography and Ecosystem Science, Lund University, I taught several courses in Geographical Information Systems (GIS). While these courses were much appreciated for being flexible, allowing students from around the world with various life situations to participate, they lacked many of the social aspects of learning. This is a common problem for online courses. Because people are geographically disconnected, they become socially disconnected as well. But we live in an age where people know how to connect digitally despite being far away from each other. We use Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin, Google + and similar tools and we interact there.

So why is it that we are so bad at stimulating collaboration and interactions in online courses when most people are good at social online networks? Why is it that even if there are discussion forums on the course platforms, few students use them to ask their peers for help? There’s something in the design of social networks, perhaps in the structure, that makes it more compelling. In discussion forums you can discuss things that are ordered as subjects. It’s like a public e-mail conversation (I often struggle to come up with a good subject line for my e-mails, and when thinking about it, that’s not how we normally converse IRL). On Facebook, however, we can share a photo of our dog while also engaging in serious political discussions, playing games, chatting privately, sharing news articles, and inviting people to parties. It covers more aspects of our daily lives, and therefore feels more realistic. Many of these activities are actually informal learning activities (McGloughlin and Lee, 2010).

The question is then, how can we design online learning environments that stimulate this type of interaction that Facebook does?

Bates (2016) describes the range of different approaches to online learning starting with online class notes, recorded lectures, webinars and instructionally designed online courses provided through learning management system (LMS). The fifth approach he describes is course “designs based on open education and emerging technology”, e.g. courses using social media tools. These types of courses are better at induce active learning among students, and are better suited for learning in the digital age. The drawbacks of such designs are described as requiring a lot of extra technology skills among the teachers, and that many approaches are so new that very little research exist on its effectiveness. However, if we are ever to be able to evaluate these teaching methods, we need to use them.

The concept of Personal Learning Environments (PLEs) refers to the tools and services that learners choose to use for their own learning (Educause Learning Initiative, 2009). PLEs thus empower students to define their own learning path by choosing among a range of web-based tools where they can share resources and participate in collective knowledge generation. Dabbagh and Kitsantas (2012) developed a pedagogical framework for the use of social media “to support Self-Regulated Learning (SRL) in Personal Learning Environments (PLEs)”. They describe three levels of interactivity enabled by social media tools:

  1. personal information management,
  2. social interaction and collaboration,
  3. and information aggregation and management.

Taking the example of blogs, at level 1 instructors encourage students to write a blog as a personal journal where they can set learning goals and plan for course assignments. On level 2 the instructors encourage students to comment on each other’s blog posts. On level 3 the instructors encourage students to make the blog more visible to the public (e.g. through RSS).

From my perspective, these levels of interactivity seem very basic. In the Open Networked Learning (ONL) course we are instructed to do work related to all three levels. Many students, depending on their digital literacy level, will sort these things out without any problem at all. I agree with Bates that a lot of new skills are required for the teacher, who should not only know the topic to be learned and the pedagogic skills to help students learn, but also have a good understanding of the various digital tools out there. I’m finding that my participation in the ONL course is helping me to become just that teacher.

 References:

Bates. T., 2016. The 10 Fundamentals of Teaching Online for Faculty and Instructors. Contact North/Contact Nord.

Dabbagh, N. and Kitsantas, A., 2012. Personal Learning Environments, social media, and self-regulated learning: A natural formula for connecting formal and informal learning. The Internet and higher education, 15(1), pp.3-8.

Educause Learning Initiative, 2009. things you should know about… Personal Learning Environments. EDUCAUSE. https://library.educause.edu/resources/2009/5/7-things-you-should-know-about-personal-learning-environments

McLoughlin, C. and Lee, M.J., 2010. Personalised and self regulated learning in the Web 2.0 era: International exemplars of innovative pedagogy using social software. Australasian Journal of Educational Technology, 26(1), pp.28-43.

A guide to improving collaborative (interdisciplinary) research projects

Topic 3: Learning in communities: networked collaborative learning

Networked collaborative learning refers to group learning that goes beyond the traditional “divide and conquer” method of group work that most of us have experienced from high school and university, and probably also from the working life. Collaborative learning environments stimulate knowledge transmission through active participation of learners in discussions and information searches together (Brindley et al. 2009). Learners are working towards a common goal, and reaching that goal is dependent on all learners’ contributions to the discussion.

From a teachers perspective it becomes self-evident that we desire this type of collaborative learning among our students, as opposed to just splitting up the work and putting the results together in a final document. However, I realize that my own collaboration skills, both as a teacher and researcher, are not that well developed. My current research projects follow the same pattern as my undergrad group works did, i.e. the first author (myself) takes on most responsibility and delegates some work to the co-authors with appropriate skills. I have had a lot of communication issues, I’m not always sure we have a common goal (or that I’ve been able to communicate my goal to the others), and the process is far from efficient, time and energy wise. When planning courses or course modules, the work plan has been more or less the same.

So how can we expect our students to work collaboratively if we don’t lead by example?

Here is a suggested framework for research projects, based on Brindley et al. (2009) in combination with my own experiences, that can be useful to follow throughout a research project:

Beginning of the project

  1. Set up the objectives of the project or sub-project. If you’re working on a paper, formulate some preliminary objectives and research questions that are clear to everyone.
  2. Create a (realistic) time plan where everyone’s responsibilities are outlined. It may be relevant already here to plan how many times and in what order the paper should be circulated before submission.
  3.  Define the needed skills to solve the problem and draw up a figure showing where the skills of the collaborators overlap. This can be helpful when getting an overview of who can assist with what. Some roles may be vacant at the beginning of the project, but will be filled as more collaborators join.
  4. Set some ground rules that should be followed (e.g. always use track changes, always make notes during meetings)

During the project

  1. Make sure that there are scheduled meetings with a suitable time in between. The meetings should be brief and efficient, and the meetings can have a pre-decided time limit. If using the free version of Zoom, for example, the meeting cannot be longer than 40 minutes.
  2. Allow for extra time to organize and plan meetings and work. This will take more time in the beginning, but will make work much easier later on.
  3. Communicate to all group members through e.g. Google+ or Facebook or some other social media tool. Here you can share relevant literature you have found, or discuss smaller issues, without having to flood everyone’s inbox.
  4. Be transparent:
    • Make sure that all group members have access to the documents through e.g. dropbox or google drive.
    • Schedule meetings ahead of time and make sure all collaborators have the option to join the meeting (i.e. no informal meetings).
  5. Create a community feeling! For collaboration to develop there needs to be a sense of community, which is nurtured by familiarity, openness, dialogue, trust and many other factors that help develop relationships between group members. This is especially important in online group work.

This framework may be particularly useful for collaborations on projects that involve multiple disciplines, where the goal is to move from multidisciplinarity to inter- or transdisciplinarity. Why do we want to move from multidisciplinarity? These “fancy words” are often used interchangeably, but they are in fact different.

  • Multidisciplinarity is when several disciplines work on separate issues that belong to a common theme. The results are combined and compared, but no new integrated knowledge is generated. This is often the outcome of traditional group work that includes different disciplines.
  • Interdisciplinarity means that researchers from different disciplines cross disciplinary boundaries to gain new knowledge. Interdisciplinary research has a higher level of integration and cooperation than multidisciplinary research, and the common goal is often to address a complex problem, which requires a more collaborative approach. This also means that the understanding of other disciplines than ones “home discipline” is fundamental for integration of knowledge.
  • Transdisciplinarity is seen as the highest form of integrated research, and it involves non-academic participants in addition to multiple disciplines. Transdisciplinary research is thus described as a collaborative effort including both scientists and non-scientists with the goal t not only generate knowledge, but also to generate decision making capacity for the involved stakeholders.

(Stock & Burton 2011)

examplecollaboration
Examples of a multidisciplinary project with little collaboration (left) vs an interdisciplinary project with high collaboration (right).

With the above descriptions we realize that inter- or transdisciplinarity requires collaborative efforts on a higher level than multidisciplinarity does. Inter- or transdisciplinary projects will also help solve more complex problems, although it may be challenging to reach these levels of integration. To get closer to reaching the goal of inter- or transdisciplinarity, collaborative group work is fundamental.

I have written this post as a “notes to self” post, that may help myself to create more collaborative projects in the future. I’m sure I will come up with more guidelines as I gain new experiences, but I believe the ones above can be a good place to start.

Let me know if you find it useful or if anything should be added!

References:

Brindley, J., Blaschke, L.M. and Walti, C., 2009. Creating effective collaborative learning groups in an online environment. The International Review of Research in Open and Distributed Learning, 10(3).

Stock, P. and Burton, R.J., 2011. Defining terms for integrated (multi-inter-trans-disciplinary) sustainability research. Sustainability, 3(8), pp.1090-1113.

Knowledge can never be taken from us, so why are we keeping it behind locked doors?

Reflections on topic 2: Open Learning – Sharing and Openness

The idea that knowledge can never be taken from us, that it’s basically the only thing we can keep forever, is something my grandmother has always told me while encouraging me to learn and study. This means that while we might need to protect other things in our lives, knowledge does not need protection.

In our current society we are very focused on ownership. Many of us work in order to be able to buy and thereby own things, and conflicts arise when other people think they have a right to those things. This is straightforward when we talk about physical things, but intellectual property is a slightly different type of “thing”. A major difference from physical objects is that intellectual property is “non-depleatable”, i.e. there’s no risk of scarcity if we over-use it. Actually, the more we use it, the better off we’ll probably be.

Copyright grants the creator of an “original work” (such as movies, books, artwork, photos et.c.) exclusive rights for distribution and use, lasting for the life of the creator plus 50-100 years after the author has died. This law was simple to reinforce when copying, for example, a book meant it had to be reprinted in a printing press. With the advent of the internet, copying and sharing have become much easier, while reinforcing copyright laws has become a great challenge.

Whether or not intellectual work (like books, scientific articles and teaching resources) should be put behind paywalls depends a bit on the purpose of the work, and how the author makes a living. In the case of academia, as teachers and researchers, we are (mostly) paid for producing articles and books, and teaching students, and not for selling those articles and books. The more people read (and cite) our work, the better chances we’ll have of getting the job we want. Therefore I feel it’s imperative that I make the research available to as many people as possible, through open access publishing (if I can find the funds to do it). Similarly, I don’t see any problems with putting my teaching resources under a Creative Commons license that allow people to use, share and even revise my work as long as I’m given credit for the original work. This will also make my name more visible.

Moving beyond the “enhancing my CV” argument, I think we should also keep in mind the overall goal with research and teaching, which is (at least for me) to enhance knowledge and improve the world we live in. If openness and sharing of our materials would threaten our individual ability to make a living, then this “mission” might not have such a high priority. However, if our employers, universities and research institutes, realize this and make sure that we are secure and encourage us to share, we will have a better chance of reaching that goal.

A problem that I realized when working with my course mates in the Open Networked Learning course was that in Sweden teachers and researchers are privileged with retaining the copyright of their work, while in other countries copyright is often transferred to the university. This means that many of my colleagues around the world are not allowed to make the decision to make their work open to others. This mindset of putting information and resources behind locked doors seems to come from a mindset encouraged by the market economy. “This is mine and it can only be yours if you pay me for it”. You can read more about the differences between countries in the website we produced: http://openedaroundworld.weebly.com/.

Market logic states that a goods value is determined by what people are interested and able to pay for it. This makes sense for finite resources, like apples, houses, or cars, but information is not finite. When you give someone information, you do not loose anything, you may instead gain something if you are given information back. Therefore, information does not work that well with the traditional market ideas. Yochai Benkler gives an interesting lecture about Creative Commons where he states that “not all markets have to function on the extractive model” and that “Commons based licensing […] is a way for people to govern themselves.”.

This topic interests me greatly and has led to a lot of questions about the societal effects of more openness and sharing, that I haven’t been able to explore sufficiently. Could Creative Commons be a paradigm shift for our whole economic and social system? How does this affect the power dynamics between big corporations and individuals or communities? How does it affect democracy?

More information can be found here:

https://creativecommons.org/

https://scholarlykitchen.sspnet.org/2009/04/09/information-as-property/

http://www.thepublicdomain.org/download/

https://wiki.creativecommons.org/wiki/Capitalism_3.0:_A_Guide_to_Reclaiming_the_Commons

TEDxNYED – David Wiley – 03/06/1:

 

 

Living and learning in the digital age

How we access and consume information is one of the major changes that human societies have seen in the 20th century. In the early 1900’s information was conveyed through newspapers, telegraphs and theaters, and the amount of information available was very limited. Then telephones started to replace telegraphs for communication, and movies started to replace theaters, and by mid-century television started becoming the source of both information and entertainment. Nowadays, in the digital age with internet, social networks, blogs, YouTube, and much more we are constantly confronted with information and thus also with learning opportunities.

As someone living, working and learning in a digital society, you need to have digital literacy. This includes a range of skills, which have been elaborated in the guide “Developing digital literacies” by Jisc (2014). You do not only have to know how to use digital devices, applications and services, but you also need to know how to participate in digital networks, manage your online identity, find, use, share and critically reflect on information, and produce information in different media.

Marc Prensky (2001) put forward the idea of digital natives and immigrants, referring to the generations who grew up with information technology (natives) and the generations who did not (immigrants). While digital natives were born in the digital age, digital immigrants had to adapt their lives to the digital age. This means that these two groups have completely different ways of learning and exploring the digital realm. Digital immigrants learn through traditional ways, by reading books and listening to lectures. Digital natives, however, learn through networks. They prefer graphics from text, and are motivated by the instant gratification that for example games provide.

These concepts of natives and immigrants have since been criticized for being rather simplistic and rigid. David White, builds on the ideas of Prensky, but highlights that digital literacy is not just related to age, and that there is no clear divide between the two. He therefore puts forward the idea of visitors and residents (White and Le Cornu, 2011), where the concepts are at opposite ends of a continuum. With Whites approach, a visitor is someone who views the internet as a collection of tools that they can use, while a resident thinks of the internet more as a (non-geographical) place where they can meet with friends and share information. A major difference between the two approaches is that immigrants will remain immigrants (born before the digital age), while it’s completely possible to move from being a visitor to being a resident.

visres
The visitor – resident continuum

I grew up during the digital age, and consider myself more of digital resident (and a native). My generation was exposed to computers before age 10, and by age 13 I played Snake and sent text messages on my cell phone. Some factors that I believe have determined where on the visitor-residents continuum myself and others of my generation have ended up are education and interests. I attended a school where every student was provided a laptop which allowed and encouraged us to explore the digital realm. When I started university, and met people who had attended more traditional high schools, I noticed that they were less comfortable with computers and the internet. On the other hand, I was less literate than the people who had access to broadband internet as kids and teenagers, and who played a lot of computer games.

As both educators and learners, we need to have an understanding for how residents and visitors use digital technology and learn. Furthermore, as technology constantly develops, I’d say that to remain a digital resident you need to constantly explore new technology as it becomes available. Being a digital resident today will not be the same as being digital resident tomorrow. I think this quote describes pretty well the skills and mindsets that are important when exploring the digital era:

“to take risks, to reason critically, to reflect, to be resourceful, and to be autonomous – qualities of lifelong learners”

(Kek and Huijser, 2015)

References:

JISC 2014. Developing digital literacies.

KEK, M. Y. & HUIJSER, H. 21st Century Skills: Problem Based Learning and the University of the Future.  Third 21st Century Academic Forum Conference, 2015 Harvard, USA.

PRENSKY, M. 2001. Digital natives, digital immigrants part 1. On the horizon, 9, 1-6.

WHITE, D. S. & LE CORNU, A. 2011. Visitors and Residents: A new typology for online engagement. First Monday, 16.