My presentation at the 2014 SAAHE conference

Here is the presentation I plan on giving at the SAAHE conference tomorrow. It describes an open online course that I ran in collaboration with Physiopedia last year, and now presents some of the results obtained from student interviews.

Presentation on an open, online course

Last year I ran an open online course in Professional Ethics, in collaboration with Physiopedia. Earlier today, I presented the process of designing and implementing that course at a conference on Transforming Education through Technological Innovation, hosted by Stellenbosch University. I really enjoyed the morning and thank the event coordinators for inviting me to present.

Open, online course on Professional Ethics

Selection_001I’ve been wanting to run an open, online course for a while and have finally managed to put something together in collaboration with Physiopedia. I’m interested in exploring new conceptions of curriculum and what it means to teachers and learners when we do something different. How would learning change if the learners decided on the content they cover? If they had control over the direction and pacing of the course?

The idea is that students not only need to learn about principles of ethical practice, but also to develop what are being called 21st century skills. Things like being able “to find, evaluate, analyse and apply information” (Bates, 2012). These are skills that can be taught, or perhaps more accurately, facilitated. And the only way to do this is to actually use them and to see them being used by others.

In addition, how are we teaching them to manage with the overwhelming amount of information that’s available to them. There’s too much content and so they need to learn how to navigate through this by “connecting with themselves, by connecting with other people” (Downes, 2012). What would happen if we look at the course as a starting point for stimulating students’ thinking, rather than a place to memorise as much content as possible?

I’m going to be running the course over the next couple of months with my 3rd and 4th year students, and will research the outcomes when it’s finished. One of the things that I’m really excited about is the idea that my students will be interacting with qualified health professionals from around the world. We don’t have very many people from outside the university who have registered, but enough to make me think that when this pilot project is done, we’ll be able to try and run it on an even bigger scale next year.

I’d be interested to hear what you think about the course, so let me know in the comments.

Sharing my article for open peer review

I’m interested in how changes in the internet are forcing changes onto institutions that haven’t traditionally responded well to change. One group that’s finding the transition especially hard are the publishers, especially the academic publishers. A little while ago I wrote an open letter to the South African Society of Physiotherapy, asking them to move towards an open access format. My proposal wasn’t exactly welcomed 🙂

There are clearly some problems with the current peer review model and I’m interested in exploring some of the alternatives. With that in mind I’ve taken an article I’m currently working on and that I’m planning to submit for publication, and instead of only sending it to my usual critical readers, I thought I’d try something different. So I’ve uploaded it onto Google Docs and made it publicly available for anyone to comment on.

This isn’t open peer review in the sense that it’s a transparent review of a paper by the journal reviewers, but is more like “open feedback” prior to publication. I have had a few colleagues raise their eyebrows when I suggested this, and I’ve had to try and convince them that I’m not crazy and that the vast majority of people are not going to “steal” my paper (please don’t steal my paper). In terms of any issues that might arise from this debate, I’ve tried to cover my bases with the following:

  • If you make comments that cause me to significantly change the direction, scope or focus of the paper, you will be acknowledged
  • If you add a significant portion of the content of the paper in lieu of the above point, and it’s included in the final publication, you will be added as an author (at this point, don’t ask me what “significant” means…I’ll probably take it to another open forum to decide the matter should it arise)
  • If you add ideas that originated from your own research and they are included, you will be cited
  • If you feel that there should be other criteria in this list, please add them to the Google Doc

So, if you think this is something you might find interesting to participate in please consider giving me some feedback, preferably in the form of comments. In the words of WBY:

“I have spread my dreams beneath your feet;
Tread softly because you tread on my dreams…”

Here’s the public article on Google Docs: The Use of Wikis to Facilitate Collaborative Learning in a South African Physiotherapy Department

Note: if you go to the document and see that it’s been trashed with spam, etc. please consider letting me know via this blog post

Mozilla Open Education course: seminar 6

I know that this is all out of sync but the audio for sessions 4 and 5 aren’t up yet and I haven’t had a chance to go through the slideshows yet.  Today’s session was about the actual practice of teaching, using “open” as a framework.  Here are my notes:

Session 6 – Open pedagogy

Focus on educators and the impact of “open” on them.

Jason Jones

Initially started using wikis for groupwork.

Noticed a few problems when teaching – no one takes notes in class, “no real content”, inattention.  Also, when taking notes, educators aren’t always sure what notes are being taken.  Notes can “go wrong” when other thoughts intrude or when students mis-hear.

Paper notes are hard to improve and are private and difficult to organise.

Wikis are public and solve some of the problems just mentioned.  Everyone collaborates and there is negotiation of content.

An unexpected result was noticing that under the old system of teaching the only way you would know if the students have the wrong information is when they fail a test.  With a public wiki, you realise more quickly that students may be on the wrong track.

Lessons learned along with way.  Merely pointing students towards the wiki doesn’t work.  Students don’t always understand technology.  They’re also not sure what to record when taking notes, so templates are useful.  Students can sometimes find it difficult to use other resources (one benefit of using wikis / being online).

Problem of using old assessment techniques with new approaches to teaching and learning.

Garin Fons

Using wikis to get faculty to put teaching materials online, as well as collaborating with dedicated classmates to build community (reflect on communities of practice).

With wikis, faculty get a chance to have materials edited and reviewed in a way they can’t do alone.

Participatory pedagogy – John Seely Brown and the social view of learning.  We can no longer look at the classroom in a cartesian system.  We participate, therefore we learn.

Melanie McBride

Students create blogs as emerging professionals, rather than personal blogs (about what’s happening in their industry).

Found that some students weren’t very keen on blogging.  Reasons included: “I don’t know who I am yet, or who I want to be (powerful statement)…and that some don’t like the idea of being told what to do.  Anonymity was also an issue.

Students did take ownership of their own emerging industry knowledge.

“Banking” model of education = passive recipients of education.

Concerned with progressive asessment models.  Using wiki as means of checking in on student learning.

Issues of social justice and equity.  Not every student has access to tech (in America…try Africa).  Educators must be aware of that.

Pre-defined roles fall away with open pedagogy – students take ownership of courses and rewrite / restructure them.  Allow this to happen.  This can make teachers nervous.  Dichotomy of losing control but giving freedom.  Be careful about too much freedom.

Teachers and control…depends on the teacher, if they’re willing to dive into the participatory learning environment.  Getting teachers involved in the process.  What does their classroom look like normally and what is their teaching style?  Are they willing to break out of that?  if not, it’s difficult to move forward with this approach.