Emerging Technologies and Authentic Learning in Vocational Higher Education conference

Last week I attended the Emerging Technologies and Authentic Learning in Vocational Higher Education conference at the UCT Graduate School of Business, which had a pretty impressive lineup of keynote speakers:

The general theme of the conference was the idea of “learning and play”, with Professor Dick N’gambi opening the event with the following statement: “The creative adult is the child who survived”, referring to the fact that the formal educational system doesn’t encourage innovation and creativity. How do we prepare students for a world that we can’t predict, unless we encourage within them an attitude of exploration and discovery.

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The conference was linked to a Special Issue of the British Journal of Educational Technology, to which I’ve submitted the following paper: Rowe – Developing graduate attributes in an open online course (note that this is currently under review). Here are my slides from the workshop I ran on setting up and running an open online course:

…and here is the Twitter feed for the event.


HELTASA conference, 2011 – day 2

 

Explaining, naming and crossing border in Southern African higher education
Prof Piet Naude

This was one of the most challenging presentations I’ve ever listened to. I didn’t agree with a lot of what Prof Naude said, but he made me question my own beliefs and biases.

Ontology: language is the house of reality (language shapes reality)
In political discourse, language precedes actual violent acts. In Rwanda, people called each other “cockroaches”, and it’s much easier to kill a cockroach than to kill a human being.

Crossing interpretive borders in higher education:

  • Utilitarianism: views universities as vehicles for the promotion of sectarian interests e.g. religious, political, economic → doctrines dictate the boundaries of science and denies the search for truth without fear nor favour (religious language abundant in university e.g. professor, sabatical, rector). University as a vehicle to continue the doctrine or belief e.g. when universities in South Africa advanced the notion of Apartheid in different fields (biology, politics, religion, etc.). “Truth” would be based on doctrine.
  • Scientism: views “real knowledge” on the basis of empiricist, quantitative assumptions and a correspondent theory of truth. Science is the future, Humanities is the past. Some scientists are blind to the social construction of scientific paradigms. Blind to the link between science and the power or use of science. Blind to the complexity of personal and societal development.
  • Liberalism: rests on presumed a-contextual and unversalist assumptions about the human person, rationality and knowledge whist actually reflecting post-Enlightenment, Western thinking. “Professional training is vicious”. I think therefore I am vs. ubuntu = I am who I am because of who we all are. “Vicious ideological nature of Western scientific thinking”. Are there non-empirical forms of validation that are equally valid as scientific ones? Are all forms of non-Western knowledge subject to verfication by Western evaluation practices?

If universities don’t exist for the public good, they become playgrounds for the rich. Commercial language can change the direction of education e.g. when a “vice chancellor” becomes a “CEO”

Crossing 5 metaphorical boundaries

  • Centre – periphery: where you are born will determine your ability to succeed in the world / geographical (in)justice
  • Conceptual – technical / applied (epistemic justice). People who work with their hands are not as “smart” as people who can “think”. In South Africa, we need a greater emphasis on technical / applied knowledge. More colleges, fewer universities.
  • Uniformity (globalism) – plurarility (glo-cality) (cultural justice): where everyone wears jeans, watches BBC and speaks English. Emphasise a system where I can function at a global level but remain true to my local context. What is the impact on language / culture of the homogenising effect of university?
  • Anthropocentrism – cosmocentric thinking (ecological justice): it’s a problem when science and technology seeks only to improve the lot of human beings at the expense of everything else.
  • Past / present – future (noogenic justice): the world is in a mess, we need to prepare students to improve the future. Challenge students to imagine a future that does not exist, and give them the knowledge and skills to create it.

 

Perceptions of PBL group effectiveness in a diverse pharmacy student population
Lindi Mabope

Study set out to evaluate student perceptions of differences in plenary vs small group work in a PBL context

4th years have better experiences with groups than 3rd years

Some students prepare only what THEY need to present in plenary sessions, whereas small groups mean that students must prepare better and more broadly

Students generally feel that the plenary sessions aren’t a “good way of learning”

Most students agree that working in small groups helps develop tolerance for language and cultural difference

Most students agreed that small group working helped them to work effectively

Cases in small groups helped students to clarify areas of difficulty

PBL seemed to work well across a diverse student group, perceptions were generally positive

Confusing / difficult conceptual work required the development of certain attributes e.g. communication, self-directed learning, tolerance

Some students found the small groupwork sessions frustrating and challening

Groups demand a large investment in time and energy, from students and staff

Problems must be resolved very early on

Continuous monitoring and evaluation of the PBL process is essential

Facilitators must pay regular attention of the changing needs of the students (students change and develop as part of the process, as do their needs, so facilitators must be aware of the changes and change the programme accordingly)

Use the positive benefits of diversity, rather than merely work around it (how can student diversity actually feed into the programme, encourage students to bring themselves into the cases, share their own life experiences in order to enrich the module)

Supporting and enabling PG success: building strategies for empowerment, emotional resilience and conceptual critical work
Gina Wisker

What are the links between students’ development and experiences: ontology (their sense of being in the world) and epistemology (how they construct knowledge)
Why do students undertake doctorates and what happens during their studies to help / hinder them?

Conceptual threshold crossing (Meyer & Land): the moments when you know that you’re being cleverer than you thought you were 🙂

What can staff do to enhance and safeguard research student wellbeing and nudge conceptual threshold crossing?

Building emotional resilience and wellbeing

Students kept learning journals for a duration of 3 years and included interviews during that period

“Troublesome encounters” (Morris & Wisker, 2011)

Doctoral learning journeys are multi-dimensional:

  • Meeting course requirements (instrumental)
  • Professional dimension
  • Intellectual / cognitive development
  • Ontological (how does it change the person?)
  • Personal / emotional

How do doctoral students signify their awareness of working conceptually?

How do supervisors recognise students’ conceptual grasp of research (this applies equally well to UGs conceptual grasp of the discipline)

Conceptual crossing is evidenced by:

  • Troublesome knowledge
  • Movements on from stuck places through liminal spaces into new understanding
  • Transformations (Meyer & Land)

Ontological change: seeing the self and the world differently and you can’t go back
Epistemological contribution: making new contributions to understanding and meaning

You have to find your own way, otherwise it’s a mechanistic process

Threshold concepts are:

  • Transformative: developing an academic identity
  • Irreversible: when you change how you perceive the world, you can’t go back
  • Integrative: forming relationships between what seemed previously to be disparate ideas
  • Troublesome knowledge: dealing with complexity

Learning moments that may indicate threshold crossings:

  • Coming up with research questions
  • Determining relationships between existing theory and own work
  • Device methods and engage with methods
  • Deal with surprises and mistakes
  • Analsyse and interpret data

There needs to be a number of conceptual leaps, otherwise the thesis is a box-ticking exercise

Make sure that the doctoral project has boundaries. The work is part of a greater whole, and the more focused the work, the easier it is to define the boundaries

Research is a journey (risks, surprises, deviations, even though it looks mapped), but a thesis is a building (ordered, coherent, organised, linked)

Constructive, intellectually challenging relationships

Student wellbeing is essential for postgraduate success:

  • Academic
  • Personal
  • Financial

There are factors in the learning environment that pose challenges to student wellbeing

What are the wellbeing issues for our research students?

Negative impacts cripples creativity and encourages you to take the path of least resistance, where the project is more about a qualification and less about innovation

Important to switch off from the process and engage in the world in different ways, as a coping strategy when experiencing difficulty

 

Crossing borders between face-to-face and online learning: the evaluation of an online tutoring initiative
Sanet Snoer

Collaborative learning has as its main feature a structure that encourages students to talk

Created an online module because student numbers increased, shortages of venues and tutors, timetable clashes, changing student profile and needs

Blended approach could help with logistical problems, expose students to a new way of learning, more challenging activities, develop wide variety of skills

Uses Gilly Salmon’s model for teaching and learning online as a point of departure, provides scaffolding to take students through a process of familiarising students with the environment

Students’ perceptions of online components were generally positive. However, students reported challenges with effective textual communication and typing, time management (which seems odd, since blended learning seeks to help with time issues), self-expression, understanding of concepts that are read rather than heard, poor familiarity with computers and the internet → disadvantage, feedback is immediate with face-to-face, relationships → face-to-face is a more personal interaction

Used Community of Inquiry framework to develop good online teaching practices (see Kleimola & Leppisaari, 2008 for breakdown of different “presences”)

Recommendations:

  • Needs to be agreement about turnaround time for feedback from facilitators
  • Purpose of each activity should be clear
  • Understand the benefits of the activities
  • Must model effective online behaviour
  • Communicate expecations clearly
  • Promote the mind shift that needs to take place
  • Create a non-threatening environment
  • Don’t assume students are familiar with the environment
  • Explain the role of face-to-face and online activities

Was there integration of online and offline activities? Used real-world examples to develop conversation around activities

 

Students’ learning satisfaction from a blended learning environment for physiology
Saramarie Eagleton

What aspects of technology provide benefits / advantages to the learning process. NOT whether technology is inherently good or bad

 

How collaborative groupwork affects students’ writing
Shena Lamb-du Plessis, Laetitia Radder

Aim was to get the students to write in as many different ways, and as regularly as possible during the course

Used group journal reflections and group progress reports

Peer feedback is valuable when students know from the start that they will be sharing their work with others

Developing a writing identity means pushing students to think for themselves and to imagine themselves as writers

A process of developing and clarifying thoughts by sharing them with an audience

Groupwork can shape the meaning of the work

Group dialogue helped to define / outline the writing requirements

Students felt that personal expression validated their viewpoints

Helped to develop self-confidence when they realised that others shared their experiences

Must introduce conflict management strategies, orient students to role allocation, discuss writing tasks to restructure meaning

 

Exploring the tension between institutional learning management systems and emergent technologies: staff perspectives at the Cape Peninsula University of Technology
Daniela Gachago, Eunice Ivala, Agne Chigona

What are “emerging technologies” and can they disrupt teaching practice?

The impact of technologies in education falls short of the rhetoric:

  • They are used to support and improve current teaching practices
  • Teachers and students use a limited range of technologies
  • Used to reproduce existing practice, as opposed to transforming practice
  • Supports passive, teacher-centred and didactic instruction

Need to redefine e-learning: “can no longer be viewed as a purely institutionally based or narrowly defined set of activities” (HEFCE paper, 2009, 5). Difficult because institutions are reluctant to give up their power and control

There is a shift of the locus on control:

  • Control moves to students and lecturers
  • Transfer of authority of knowledge and ownership of technology

Type I technologies replicate existing practices, Type II technologies allow students and lecturers to do things that they couldn’t do before

In complex-adaptive domains, knowledge doesn’t provide prospective predictability but rather, retrospective coherence. Learning should be self-organised and collaborative (Williams, Karousou, Macness, 2011)

“Hard” technologies: constraining and limiting, stifles creativity e.g. LMS
“Soft” technologies: freedom to play

Soft technologies require skill and artistry. It’s not just what you do but how you do it.

Qualities of disruptive technologies (Meyer, 2010):

  • Student-centred
  • Designed to offer options, motivate students, provide connections to the lives, jobs and communities of students
  • Capitalise on willingness of students to experiment and fail, to improve, and to keep at problems until solutions are crafted

Laurillard (2002, 141): We’re playing with digital tools but with an approach still born in the transmission model. There is no progress therefore, in how we teach, despite what is possible with the new technology

Laurillard’s conversational framework: there’s no escape from the need for dialogue, there is a constant exchange between teacher and student:

  • Discursive
  • Interactive
  • Adaptive
  • Reflective

Laurillard (2002). Rethinking university teaching.

No one approach is better than the other. We need to have a mix of approaches to get the maximum benefit of using different tools

“It’s a way of doing life. It’s not about computers. It’s not about mobile learning. It’s just learning – it’s just life”

 

Analysing teaching and learning at five comprehensive universities
Sioux McKenna

What are the mechanisms in the world that exist in order for us to have the experiences that we do?

Move beyond the statistics of higher education, and ask what must the institution be like in order for this to be (im)possible?

What is the role of Culture (ideas), Structure (process), and Agency (people)?

Most institutions continue to reflect their individual histories as rural/urban, disadvantaged/advantaged, traditional/university of technology. There seemed to be little cohesion in terms of what it means to be a comprehensive university.

Comprehensive universities emphasise the management discourse that focuses on the “complexity to be managed” rather than a “knowledge discourse” i.e. what is knowledge / research, etc.

There are implications for academic identify and research output

“Powerful ways of knowing”

Often students are constructed as deficits i.e. they are deficit in language, life skills, motivation, etc.

Twitter Weekly Updates for 2010-09-13

  • More on online learning & the visually impaired. Useful links 4 anyone working with learners who have visual impairments http://ow.ly/1qQGws #
  • Gilly Salmon’s 5 stage model http://ow.ly/1qQGsw #
  • Social Learning in the Positivist Paradigm http://ow.ly/2D2kT #
  • Presentation: A few minutes with John Cleese on creativity http://ow.ly/1qQDg5 #
  • Multitasking Lowers Academic Performance http://ow.ly/1qQDfL #
  • Dear Baby Boomers, Gen Xers, Gen Yers … Can We Please Move On? http://ow.ly/1qQDfa #
  • Documents and Data… http://ow.ly/1qQy7b #
  • As clinicians we tend 2 focus on results that are easy to measure e.g. ROM, & ignore ones that are hard e.g. learning, hope, quality of life #
  • Strange how some people’s first intuition re. open learning practices is that their colleagues will “steal from them”? #
  • Presentation on blended learning in clinical education for SASP went well, good discussion afterwards, some resistance from academics #
  • Reading Social Networks and Practice Knowlege (WCPT abstract) on Scribd http://scr.bi/cxhwWm #readcast #
  • Published Social Networks and Practice Knowlege (WCPT abstract) on Scribd http://scr.bi/cxhwWm #readcast #
  • RT @francesbell: 3 ALT Learning Technologisits of the Year 😉 http://flic.kr/p/8zx9ip #
  • @cristinacost Your colleagues…sure it’s them 🙂 in reply to cristinacost #
  • Reflections on Blogging | Virtual Canuck http://bit.ly/awblvh #
  • Is the Lecture Dead? http://ow.ly/1qQ0oP #
  • Can MOOCs make learning scale? Dont assume that learning comes from the teacher http://ow.ly/1qQ0nY #
  • IBM Helps Tennis Fans “See Through Walls” with Augmented Reality http://ow.ly/1qQ0hf #
  • ResearchGATE Offers Social Networking for Scholars and Scientists http://ow.ly/1qQ0gf #
  • RT @SalfordPGRs: Huge congratulations to Cristinacost on ALTC Learning Technologis award!! #
  • Was away the whole of last week planning for next year, making 2 big curricular changes, combining some theory subjects, and moving to OSCEs #
  • Just finished a week of assisting with clinical exams for #Stellenbosch good learning experience, one learns so much from colleagues #

Twitter Weekly Updates for 2010-06-21

Posted to Diigo 06/18/2010

    • Salmon’s model moves away from the increasingly dated notion that the effective eLearning can be achieved through static learning objects (Downes 2005), and takes a social learning perspective with particular emphasis on communities of practice, providing a framework to support Wenger’s assertion that “learning cannot be designed: it can only be designed for – that is, facilitated or frustrated” (1998, p. 228).
    • Salmon’s model is also reliant upon scaffolding, extending Vygotsky’s Zone of Proximal Development (in Attwell 2006) proposition with the model’s structure implying that the moderator acts as an initial scaffold who gradually shifts responsibility for development to the learning community under their guidance, with learners developing their own scaffolding based on relationships with many within the community, and eventually, beyond the community.
    • Lead by Example
    • It is an essential part of our jobs to model what we would like to see
    • Get Personal
    • Be willing to share of yourself. Share your stories and your life
    • be willing to be open
    • Be Honest
    • you need to be willing to share your thoughts and opinions about things
    • Accept that You’re Human
    • Learn for mistakes and move on
    • Be Knowledgeable and Share
    • Share of yourself and of your passions. Make your presence in a space one that has personality and share what you have
    • Share the things you find online
    • Maintain Consistency
    • Maintaining consistency will allow your students to be comfortable in your space, understanding what happens there and able to concentrate on what they are being asked to do
    • Let it Go
    • Be prepared to see cycles between students and even within the contributions of single students
    • Don’t Give Up
    • How can we change what we are asking them to do in order for them to grow into their roles
    • “My job is to present the material in an interesting and meaningful way,” he would say. “It is the student’s job to learn that material.”

      Implicit in his statement was the idea that it was the student’s role to adjust to the various styles employed by different teachers. Whether the teacher featured a lecture format or a hands-on approach was immaterial – the assumption was that students were the ones who needed to be flexible

    • any failure on the student’s part to master the material was not the responsibility of the teacher
    • students moved along as a group, each doing the same set of assignments, each expected to master the exact same set of learning objectives by a date set forth in the syllabus
    • differentiating for a specific learner was perceived as showing favoritism
    • today’s teacher is expected to adjust to the varied preferences of students so as to maximize the learning potential of each individual in the classroom
    • Personalizing learning involves differentiating the curricula, including expectations and timelines, and utilizing various instructional approaches so as to best meet the needs of each individual
    • The challenge is not so much what those elements consist of but how to piece the elements together to form a cohesive strategy
    • But technology also plays a more important role in the personalization process. Ultimately it is the conduit for teachers to move to a learning approach that features materials developed for each individual student
    • One of the critical elements to a cohesive strategy involves the concept of a learning platform
    • First teachers must have a clear understanding of the learning needs of each student
    • teachers must monitor and assess student progress intently
    • Learning paths must then be created that match the aptitude and learning styles of every individual
    • One of the first elements is increased communication among educators themselves as well as with their individual students
    • That means increased use of email
    • Better yet, it means posting that assignment online for students and parents to access directly
    • No one educator could possibly create unique learning materials for every single student
    • An expectation that all teachers are ready for such steps is destined for failure
    • Whereas in Africa limited infrastructure is producing an information bottleneck, access in the UK is restricted by ‘denial of service’ restrictions placed upon a competent and fast modern system
    • how do we go about managing the risks more effectively to allow NHS staff to access online learning resources and tools which many of us take for granted
    • what processes people perceived as important for knowledge maturing within their organisation and how ell they though these processes were important. The two processes perceived as most important were ‘reflection’ and ‘building relationships’ between people. These were also the two processes seen as amongst the least supported
    • The issue of ‘reflection’ is more complex. e-Portfolio researchers have always emphasised the centrality of reflection to learning, yet it is hard to see concrete examples of how this can be supported
    • the amount of redundant, inconsequential, and outright poor research has swelled in recent decades
    • 40.6 percent of the articles published in the top science and social-science journals (the figures do not include the humanities) were cited in the period 2002 to 2006
    • As a result, instead of contributing to knowledge in various disciplines, the increasing number of low-cited publications only adds to the bulk of words and numbers to be reviewed
    • The avalanche of ignored research has a profoundly damaging effect on the enterprise as a whole. Not only does the uncited work itself require years of field and library or laboratory research. It also requires colleagues to read it and provide feedback, as well as reviewers to evaluate it formally for publication. Then, once it is published, it joins the multitudes of other, related publications that researchers must read and evaluate for relevance to their own work. Reviewer time and energy requirements multiply by the year
    • The pace of publication accelerates, encouraging projects that don’t require extensive, time-consuming inquiry and evidence gathering
    • Questionable work finds its way more easily through the review process and enters into the domain of knowledge
    • Aspiring researchers are turned into publish-or-perish entrepreneurs, often becoming more or less cynical about the higher ideals of the pursuit of knowledge
    • The surest guarantee of integrity, peer review, falls under a debilitating crush of findings, for peer review can handle only so much material without breaking down. More isn’t better. At some point, quality gives way to quantity
    • Several fixes come to mind:
    • First, limit the number of papers to the best three, four, or five that a job or promotion candidate can submit. That would encourage more comprehensive and focused publishing
    • Second, make more use of citation and journal “impact factors
    • Third, change the length of papers published in print: Limit manuscripts to five to six journal-length pages
    • and put a longer version up on a journal’s Web site
    • what we surely need is a change in the academic culture that has given rise to the oversupply of journals
    • Finally, researchers themselves would devote more attention to fewer and better papers actually published, and more journals might be more discriminating
    • the present ‘industrial’ schooling system is fast becoming dysfunctional, neither providing the skills and competences required in our economies nor corresponding to the ways in which we are using the procedural and social aspects of technology for learning and developing and sharing knowledge
    • Personal Learning Environments can support and mediate individual and group based learning in multiple contexts and promote learner autonomy and control
    • The role of teachers in such an environment would be to support, model and scaffold learning
    • Such approaches to learning recognise the role of informal learning and the role of context
    • Schools can only form one part of such collaborative and networked knowledge constellation
    • institutions must rethink and recast their role as part of community and distributed networks supporting learning and collaborative knowledge development
    • the major impact of the uses of new technologies and social networking for learning is to move learning out of the institutions and into wider society
    • This is a two way process, not only schools reaching outwards, but also opening up to the community, distributed or otherwise, to join in collaborative learning processes
    • At the same time new interfaces to computers and networks are likely to render the keyboard obsolescent, allowing the integration of computers and learning in everyday life and activity