Wednesday, 17 December 2014

'Tis the season to be jolly: end of year reflections

CC BY -  flickr photo by kevin dooley
Having just read @Bali_Maha 's reflective post on the 'Year of Hyperconnecting' I am now in a  reflecting mood myself - it has that positive infectious kind of vibe to it so if you're tired and just looking forward to the Christmas break, head over and smile.

As most bloggers do these days, I quite like to post an end of year reflection on all things and this shall be no different. It's actually been nice to go back to my reflective post from last year.

It's been a great year for me personally and professionally. I achieved some of the things I'd set out to do in last year's post but not everything happened, such as any involvement with the MOOCs at Liverpool, but that's ok.

In January we finally booking our wedding. In Vegas. In February Mrs R got pregnant (I hate it when people say 'we' got pregnant. My body and hormones didn't change at all FYI). In August we got married. In November, just 3 weeks ago today, Max was born and is an absolute gem. Immediately I can sense my perspectives and values are changing.

In the midst of my hectic and exciting personal life, I worked to get a couple of modules online, one of which is now complete and went great, as well as working on some staff development sessions (an area I think lacks a perfect solution). I presented at my old haunt #solstice2014 in the summer. I was invited to keynote the eAssessment Scotland conference in September (a couple of days after returning from Vegas) and also presented at #ALTC in the same week. Building relationships at these events were definitely the highlights. I've officially began my PhD (Social networking in Meded) and have plans for focus groups to continue my work on hygiene factors for VLE minimum standards. I also sit on lots of working groups as a Faculty TEL rep, as well as the University Senate (yes, check me out!). This all helped in my promotion at Liverpool which has just been confirmed. Woop.

I've been busy all year collaborating with @suebecks, @chrissinerantzi and @drdjwalker on initiatives like #byod4l and #lthechat as well as with @hopkinsdavid on the #edtechbook. I'm a new Deputy Editor for the ALT Newsletter and have/am publishing some research in RiLT, etc. These have all been great opportunities to build lasting relationships with colleague from across the globe. As I've blogged previously, there is real value in social networking and it has certainly helped me in my day-to-day roles and career progression to date. Along with the people I've mentioned above, there are also too many people to mention, like @hallymk1, @sheilamacneil, @dkernohan, @ambrouk, @s_j_lancaster, @bali_maha, @boyledsweetie, @mark_power to name but a few.

At Liverpool, VLE minimum standards, EMA, and Lecture Capture have been a key focus as part of the TEL strategy and will continue to be a large focus next year. I'm also wondering how I might have a more direct impact on the student experience. I'm thinking more social media sessions, app swap breakfasts (which I wanted to do this year) and so on.

I am interested in how the MOOC landscape might evolve over the next year, and @dkernohan has made some interesting insights in his recent '9 things to watch out for in 2015' post. It would certainly be interesting if, as he predicts, a major MOOC platform will close or move away from their current model. I wonder how this might impact on the many Universities engaging in MOOCs currently? I also wonder to what extent VCs and senior management see MOOCs 'as TEL' and TEL 'as MOOCs'. If their understanding of TEL is limited to just MOOCs, and then MOOCs fail, what will that mean for local investment and support for real TEL initiatives? I think this hangs precariously through 2015. For students though, I continue to believe they are interested in tech implementations that are not really innovative. They want support and convenience consistently across their studies and they have an expectation that technology can/will play a part here. I think we are still some way off real innovation across the board (which feels strange as I'm supposed to be all positive about this type of stuff).

Anyway enough for now. Enjoy Christmas y'all.

Peter
@Reedyreedles

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Thursday, 11 December 2014

#LTHEchat 7 - Games & Learning

After taking a few weeks off to look after my fresh new baby, I'm back to facilitating #LTHEchat. This week's chat focussed on Games and Learning in HE and we were lucky to have the guest appearance of Dr. Nicola Whitton from MMU.

I thought her line of questioning was probably the best of all of the chats thus far - really interesting and thought-provoking questions:

Q1: Have you ever used a game – traditional or digital – in the classroom? What worked well? What bombed? #LTHEchat

Q2: What reservations (if any) do you have about the idea of games for learning in Higher Education? #LTHEchat

Q3: Gamification uses game techniques - typically points, quests, badges, leaderboards. Is it appropriate in HE? #LTHEchat

Q4: How can we get over the media perceptions of gamers - violent, solitary, addictive - to make games acceptable in for learning? #LTHEchat

Q5: Stealth learning is the idea that an activity can help people learn without being aware of it. Does this work in HE? #LTHEchat

Q6: What do you feel about stealth assessment? #LTHEchat

There is a storify of the chat available here. And of course here are a couple of visuals of the network throughout the chat. Although Nicola was hectic in facilitating the chats, this chat wasn't actually as busy as some other chats - we were missing a couple of proven big hitters from previous chats though, notably @s_j_lancaster. It was lovely to see +Maha Bali getting involved.





Peter
@Reedyreedles

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Wednesday, 10 December 2014

Extrinsic Rewards for Blogging - #eddies14

So I've been blogging for the last few years with reasonable regularity, and mainly blog for myself - clarifying my own thoughts and making meaning of various things. Whenever possible I also share whatever I can, whether that's data I've gathered or useful references for a particular topic.

I've never really blogged with the aim of being nominated for awards, as I think that can detract from the purpose of the blog - I wonder if the blog then takes on a hidden aim. Would that make it almost dishonest?

I was pleased to be nominated in the top 100 UK educational blogs a while back and admit to have kept an eye of the list from eLearning Feeds after my inclusion there, however this last one is partly based on the amount/frequency of posts as well as social traction, etc. So it becomes easy to make pretty crappy posts with the aim of satisfying their algorithms - something I'm not doing...

Having said that, when people in the edtech community go out of their way to nominate you/your blog for an award it's a really rewarding feeling - that kind of peer acceptance (for want of a better word) and the sense that someone has found something I've shared of interest or useful. [Not that I'm always getting nominated for awards mind...]

Anyhow, I've recently been nominated in the the Edublogs award (#eddies14) in the category of Best Ed Tech / Resource Sharing Blog which I'm quite proud of. I had canvassed people previously to vote for me, but that might sound a little hypocritical after what I have just said so I won't be doing that again. It's an absolute bonus that I've been nominated in the first place and I'm honoured.

If you want to take a look, head over the edublog award pages - you might find some new blogs you haven't come across previously. My category is available here...

Peter
@Reedyreedles

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Thursday, 20 November 2014

#LTHEChat 4 - The Flipped Classroom

Last night's #LTHEchat focussed on The Flipped Classroom and facilitated by +Sue Beckingham and guest Dave Smith (@dave_thesmith), was the busiest, most hectic one yet.

Around 727 tweets were posted with the hashtag during the tweet chat, and as there was a lot of discussion post the 9pm shut down, I have included some of that in the numbers as well.

The Flipped Classroom is something that has received a lot of attention over the last few years despite being a practice that has existed for many years - that's what a catchy title can do for you I suppose. Essentially, it's concerned with replacing the didactic (boring?) elements of teaching by moving that to out-of-class work, thus freeing up time in class for more active, engaging activities.

Dave's questions for the tweet chat were as follows:

Q1: What does flipped classroom teaching mean to you?
Q2: How does a flipped classroom benefit the student?
Q3: How do you/could you prepare the students for a flipped classroom session?
Q4: What type of learning activities could do you do within the flipped classroom?
Q5: How could you or your students curate the ideas and conversations encountered during the session?
Q6: What is the students perspective on the flipped classroom?

What follows are two visualisations from the tweet chat. The first being the full view, and the second slightly zoomed  in to get a better view of the big messy ball of interconnections.




I think what's becoming increasingly evident throughout the tweet chats, and especially when thinking back to the original tweet chats we held for #BYOD4L, is that they are becoming less reliant on a single person. Even though there are key nodes in the network (see @s_j_lancaster & @chrissinerantzi), the 'betweenness centrality' is almost certainly lower as we are less reliant on individuals to connect other members and act as the gateway. Perhaps this is a sign that we are moving from a broad network to a community of practice? I posted the differences on these here last week. Perhaps it's also a sign of growing popularity of #lthechat? Will be nice to see how this progresses.

When I was thinking about this last night, I think we are starting to form a community. If we were so inclined, we could simply post a single tweet in response to the leading questions and the discussion would be near none-existent. Instead what we see, are complex threads of discussion taking place between different people. Often someone else might be copied in to a tweet as it might be of interest to them, or alternatively someone might see the conversation and want to jump in to add a point. Of course this is nothing new to the world of social networking...

Another nice little observation I made was in the participation of @neilwithnell - in last week's tweet chat I think he was mentioned a single time in a tweet but didn't engage. This week it's clear he was much more active which was nice to see.

Another thing I've been thinking about recently is how the participants in the tweet chat might leverage value. Again this is something I posted about recently in relation to Value Cycles (Wenger, Trayner and De Laat). I'm sure many will benefit from the later value cycles through new ideas to implement in their practice. Would be good to hear some accounts of this and we're encouraging participants to reflect on their experiences - more info on the summary post over at lthechat.com.

Anyway, I would encourage you to head over to the interactive version of the network visualisation here to have a little play about.

Peter
@Reedyreedles

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Tuesday, 18 November 2014

Leveraging Value from (Social) Networks and Communities

I posted recently to distinguish Networks and Communities as separate (but perhaps cooperative?) entities, and the comments pointed me towards some interesting further (and quite similar & complementary) work around Nets and Sets (thanks again Len & Natalie). I've been thinking more about the questions I left at the end of the post - what is value in a network/community, how do we get value and how is that realised/communicated.

Well the obvious 'recipient' of value from networks and communities would be the individual participating. I get some value from this engagement, otherwise why would I bother. Further to this though, the organisation I work for can also benefit from my network, for example if I ask a question or come across some practice via Twitter that directly informs a project at Liverpool. We're often very good at building and maintaining those networks (e.g. following and being followed by other people), but one key challenge is battling through the 'noise' to use that network/community for the benefit of work or learning. A further interesting complication is how management see the value of employers engaging in social networking.

Wenger, Trayner and De Laat suggest five 'Value Cycles' and I've summarised them as follows:

Cycle 1: Immediate value 
Interactions within a network/community is valuable in itself – we might help someone with a question, or we might ask a question which is answered, etc.
Key questions: What happened and what did we make of it? Participation? Fun? Relevant? Did I make connections?

Cycle 2: Potential value
Not all value within a community is realised, but the knowledge capital can be useful. For example we can learn from someone’s experience of a particular situation and we may or may not call upon that in the future. We might learn a skill, learn a piece of information, have access to information like a connection's blog posts, or even build and value reputations for trust.
Key questions: Have I acquired new skills or knowledge? Has my understanding/confidence developed? Have I developed new connections, trust or reputation? Do I see new opportunities?

Cycle 3: Applied value
Taking something from the network/community to change practice. This could be reusing a survey or an OER that someone has put together.
Key questions: Where/how/why have I implemented something from the community?

Cycle 4: Realised value
We can’t presume that changing practice is necessarily improving practice. It’s important to reflect on changes and evaluate.
Key questions: What effect did the implementation have? Success? Time saving? Better outcomes?

Cycle 5: Reframing value
Redefining success. Achieved when social learning causes a reconsideration of learning and the criteria by which success is defined.
Key questions: have we reflected on what matters? Does this suggest new metrics? How has it translated to change – new frameworks, policies, etc?    

It’s important to note that one cycle does not necessarily lead on to the next in a procedural fashion. Members of the network/community may be more interested in the production of outputs (cycles 1 and 2), or in solutions to improve their own practice (cycle 3). Managers might be interested in results (cycle 3) and strategic outputs (cycled 5).

For me, thinking through these cycles has been reassuring that there is actually a purpose to social networking. Sometimes it can feel completely like procrastinating, but the cycles above really do add some weight to it as a genuine professional activity. 

Peter
@Reedyreedles

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Thursday, 13 November 2014

#LTHEchat 3: Engaging the Unengaged Learner

So the third #LTHEChat focussed on engaging the unengaged learner, and was facilitated by @suebecks and myself.

I think the questions started off quite broad and narrowed in a little. There were lots of questions coming back at us which showed people were certainly thinking into these topics and there were over 600 tweets using the hashtag and 82 nodes (people) involved.

The questions we explored were as follows:

  • Q1: What does an engaged learner do to signify they are engaged?
  • Q2: What signs would you say identify an unengaged learner?
  • Q3: What motivates you personally to engage with learning/CPD?
  • Q4: What type of activities work best to engage learners?
  • Q5: Do you see opportunities to introduce social media to keep learners engaged? Explain.
  • Q6: What examples can you share where students use of social media has increased engagement?
There was lots of rich discussion, adding further contextual aspects to the questions e.g. f2f or online settings, what it means to be (un)engaged, and later, a lot of love for some social media tools (but not so much for the poor VLE/LMS).

So what you've all been waiting for is the Hawksey Magic (c / Trademark)....

There are three images to cast your eyes over below.

The first image is the overall tweet chat with all nodes visible. There are a number of nodes on the periphery - these were perhaps people who were included in a tweet for reference, rather than them engaging in the tweet chat fully. The centre of the image shows the tight mass of nodes and connections (or edges).
Of course the larger names indicate the betweenness centrality of the node - so once again, @S_J_Lancaster was a key figure in bringing people together in discussion, and it was nice to see @ODPGuru (someone I've not seen before) being a key figure too. Myself and @suebecks were not so significant in this chat as we were tweeting from the @lthechat account.




The second image takes a closer look at the centre of the network. This gives a view that there are lots of tweets coming in to the LTHE account, but impressively, @S_J_Lancaster is king of the chat, demonstrating so many incoming and outgoing edges, and stealing the crown from +Chrissi Nerantzi .




Impressed as I am regarding the role of @S_J_Lancaster, I've also included a third image - a look at his personal network within the community. His incoming replies and mentions were not far off his total outgoing edges, so he plays a key role in discussion and bringing people together.

As I discussed in yesterday's post, networks and communities are different things. A Network includes all of the nodes - people we might be connected to for one reason or another. A Community contains a group of people that have a shared domain of interest. I think the #LTHEchat is demonstrating how a number of individual networks come together to form a single community, and in a holistic and organic way, the community feeds back to create a richer and more dynamic network through new contacts and connections.

The LTHEchat is also an opportunity to cut through the noise we see on our timeline and find significance, through a focussed facilitated discussion. Quite what impact we create in terms of noise for other nodes in our network (not community) is another matter though...

If you want to have a play about, you can access the interactive version of the images via this link.

Peter
@Reedyreedles

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Wednesday, 12 November 2014

Networks and Communities: Significance, noise & value

Network or Community: TAGS visualisation of BYOD4L Tweet Chats
I'm revisiting some literature for my PhD that I thought I knew quite well - Emphasis on *I thought*.

I think as social networking sites have become popular, we tend to relate to our 'networks' and 'communities of practice' interchangeably, but there is actually quite a big difference.

Networks refer to sets of relationships and connections among participants, viewed as a set of nodes. They can help information flow, joint problem solving and knowledge creation. My total list of followers on Twitter would be my Twitter 'Network'.

Communities (of practice) refer to the development of a shared identity around a particular domain of interest, representing a collective intention to steward and sustain learning about that domain. They often include many networks. So my connections who come together around the #BYOD4L initiative could be seen as a community, or indeed, those that follow my beloved Everton, and within the community we can sit quietly around edges (legitimate peripheral participation) and be much more active (full membership).

Personal networks are rarely communities as the nodes/people are unlikely to have much in common other than being connected to the same person. Members of these networks may not even know of each other’s existence. Conversely, you can see community through allegiance and identity to a cause such as donors to a charity. They may not form a network as there may not be any interactions or connections between them but they can still have that shared identity that a community has.

The danger to community is that it can be stuck its ways - 'hostage to its history' and established ways of working. The danger of network is 'noise'. Whilst expanding connections increases the chance of useful access, it also increases the level of noise. How do we determine between significance and noise? 

The work of the community is develop partnerships and identity and to specify why people are there, what they can learn and achieve together. The work of the network is optimize the connectivity among people, enabling new connections and strengthening existing connections.

So given that, does the size of your network matter? What value do we get from engaging with networks and communities? How do we measure and communicate that? Do we get value at all, or do we just procrastinate?

Reference
Wenger, E., Trayner, B., & de Laat, M. (2011). Promoting and assessing value creation in communities and networks : a conceptual framework. Open Universiteit. Retrieved from http://wenger-trayner.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/12/11-04-Wenger_Trayner_DeLaat_Value_creation.pdf

Peter
@Reedyreedles

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