altPhysio | Technology as infrastructure

This is the fourth post in my altPhysio series, where I’m exploring alternative ways of thinking about a physiotherapy curriculum by imagining what a future school might look like. This post is a bit longer than other because this is an area I’m really interested in and spend a lot of time thinking about. I’ve also added more links to external sources because some of this stuff sounds like science fiction. The irony is that everything in this post describes technology that currently exists, and as long as we’re thinking about whether or not to share PowerPoint slide we’re not paying attention to what’s important. This post was a ton of fun to write.

Q: Can you talk a little bit about the history of technology integration in health professions education? Maybe over the last decade or so.

In the early part of the 21st century we saw more institutions starting to take the integration of technology seriously. Unfortunately the primary use of digital services at the time was about moving content around more efficiently. Even though the research was saying that the content component was less important for learning than the communication component, we still saw universities using the LMS primarily to share notes and presentations with students.

The other thing is that we were always about 5-10 years behind the curve when it came to the adoption of technology. For examples, wikis started showing up in the medical education literature almost 10 years after they were invented. The same with MOOCs. I understand the need to wait and see how technologies stabilise and then choosing something that’s robust and reliable. But the challenge is that you lose out on the early mover advantages of using the technology early. That’s why we tend to adopt a startup mentality to how we use technology at altPhysio.

Q: What do you mean by that? How is altPhysio like a startup?

We pay attention to what’s on the horizon, especially the emerging technologies that have the potential to make an impact on learning in 1, 2 and 5 year time frames. We decided that we weren’t going to wait and see what technologies stabilised and would rather integrate the most advanced technologies available at the time. We designed our programme to be flexible and to adapt to change based on what’s happening around us. When the future is unknowable because technological advances are happening faster than you can anticipate, you need a system that can adapt to the situations that emerge. We can’t design a rigid curriculum that attempts to guess what the future holds. So we implement and evaluate rapidly, constantly trying out small experiments with small groups of students.

Once we decided that we’d be proactive instead of reactive in how we use and think about technology, we realised that we’d need a small team in the school who are on the lookout for technologies that have the potential to enhance the curriculum. The team consists of students and staff who identify emerging technologies before they become mainstream, prepare short reports for the rest of the school, recruit beta testers and plan small scale research projects that highlight the potential benefits and challenges of implementing the technology at scale.

We’ve found that this is a great way for students to invest themselves in their own learning, drive research in areas they are interested in, take leadership roles and manage small projects. Staff on the team act as supervisors and mentors, but in fact are often students themselves, as both groups push each other further in terms of developing insights that would not be possible working in isolation.

Q: But why the emphasis on technology in health professions education? Isn’t this programme about developing physiotherapists?

The WHO report on the use of elearning for undergraduate health professional education called for the integration of technology into the curriculum, as did the Lancet Commission report. And it wasn’t just about moving content more efficiently in the system but rather to use technology intentionally to change how we think about the curriculum and student learning. The ability to learn is increasingly mediated by digital and information literacy and we want our students’ learning potential to be maximised.

Low levels of digital literacy in the 21st century is akin to a limited ability to read and write in the past. Imagine trying to learn in the 20th century without being able to read and write? Well, that’s what it’s like trying to learn today if you don’t have a grasp of how digital technologies mediate your construction of knowledge. Integrating technology is not about adding new gadgets or figuring out how to use Facebook groups more effectively.

Technology is an infrastructure that can be used to open up and enhance student’s learning, or to limit it. Freire said that there’s no such thing as a neutral education process, and we take seriously the fact that the technologies we use have a powerful influence on students’ learning.

Q: How do you develop digital and information literacy alongside the competencies that are important for physiotherapists? Doesn’t an emphasis on technology distract students from the core curriculum?

We don’t offer “Technology” as something separate to the physiotherapy curriculum, just as you don’t offer “Pen and paper” as something that is separate. The ability to use a pen and paper used to be an integral and inseparable aspect of learning, and we’ve just moved that paradigm to now include digital and information literacy. Technology isn’t separate to learning, it’s a part of learning just like pen and paper used to be.

Digital and information literacy is integrated into everything that happens at the school. For example, when a new student registers they immediately get allocated a domain on the school servers, along with a personal URL. A digital domain of their own where they get to build out their personal learning environment. This is where they make notes, pull in additional resources like books and video, and work on their projects. It’s a complete online workspace that allows individual and collaborative work and serves as a record of their progress through the programme. It’s really important to us that students learn how to control the digital spaces that they use for learning, and that they’re able to keep control over those spaces after they graduate.

When students graduate, their personal curriculum goes with them, containing the entire curriculum (every resource we shared with them) as well as every artefact of their learning they created, and every resource that they pulled in themselves. Our students never lose the content that they aggregated over the duration of the programme, but more importantly, they never lose the network they built over that time. The learning network is by far the most important part of the programme, and includes not only the content relationships they’ve formed during the process but includes all interactions with their teachers, supervisors, clinicians and tutors.

Q: Why is it important for students to work in digital space, as well as physical space? And how do your choices about online spaces impact on students’ learning?

Think about how the configuration of physical space in a 20th century classroom dictated the nature of interactions that were possible in that space. How did the walls, desks and chairs, and the position of the lecturer determine who spoke, for example? Who moved? Who was allowed to move? How was work done in that space? Think about how concepts of “front” and “back” (in a classroom) have connotations for how we think about who sits where.

Now, how does the configuration of digital space change the nature of the interactions that are possible in that space? How we design the learning environment (digital or physical) not only enables or disables certain kinds of interactions, but it says something about how we think about learning. Choosing one kind of configuration over another articulates a set of values. For example, we value openness in the curriculum, from the licensing of our course materials, to the software we build on. This commitment to openness says something about who we are and what is important to us.

The fact that our students begin here with their own digital space – a personal learning environment – that they can configure in meaningful ways to enhance their potential for learning, sends a powerful message. Just like the physical classroom configuration changes how power is manifested, so can the digital space. Our use of technology tells students that they have power in terms of making choices with respect to their learning.

To go back to your question about the potential for technology to distract students from learning physiotherapy; did you ever think about how classrooms – the physical configuration of space – distracted students from learning? Probably not. Why not?

Q: You mentioned that openness is an important concept in the curriculum. Can you go into a bit more detail about that?

Maybe it would be best to use a specific example because there are many ways that openness can be defined. Our curriculum is an open source project that gives us the ability to be as flexible and adaptable as a 21st century curriculum needs to be. It would be impossible for us to design a curriculum that was configured for every student’s unique learning needs and that was responsive to a changing social context, so we started with a baseline structure that could be modified over time by students.

We use a GitHub repository to host and collaborate on the curriculum. Think of a unique instance of the curriculum that is the baseline version – the core – that is hosted on our servers. When a student registers, we fork that curriculum to create another, unique instance on the students personal digital domain. At this moment, the curriculum on the student’s server is an exact copy of the one we have but almost immediately, the students’ version is modified based on their personal context. For example, the entire curriculum – including all of the content associated with the programme – is translated into the student’s home language if they choose so. Now that it’s on their server, they can modify it to better suit them, using annotation and editing tools, and allowing them to integrate external resources into their learning environment.

One of the most powerful features of the system is that it allows for students to push ideas back into our core curriculum. They make changes on their own versions and if they’d like to see that change implemented across the programme, they send us a “Pull” request, which is basically a message that shows the suggested change along with a comment for why the student wants it. It’s a feedback mechanism for them to send us signals on what works well and what can be improved. It enables us to constantly refine and improve the curriculum based on real time input from students.

On top of this, every time we partner with other institutions, they can fork the curriculum and modify it to suit their context, and then push the changes back upstream. This means that the next time someone wants to partner with us, the core curriculum they can choose from is bigger and more comprehensive. For example, our curriculum is now the largest database of case studies in the world because most institutions that fork the curriculum and make their own changes also send those changes back to the core.

Q: You have a very different approach to a tutorial system. Tell us about how tutors are implemented in your school.

The tutors at altPhysio are weak AI agents – relatively simple artificial general intelligence algorithms that perform within very narrow constraints that are linked to basic tasks associated with student learning. Students “connect” with their AI tutors in the first week of the programme, which for the most part involves downloading an app onto their phones. This is then sync’d across all of their other devices and digital spaces, including laptops, wearables and cloud services, so that the AI is “present” in whatever context the student is learning.

As AI has become increasingly commoditised in the last decade, AI as a service has allowed us to take advantage of features that enhance learning. For example, a student’s tutor will help her with establishing a learning context, finding content related to that context, and reasoning through the problems that arise in the context. In addition, the AIs help students manage time on task, remind them about upcoming tasks and the associated preparation for those tasks, and generally keep them focused on their learning.

Over time the algorithms evolve with students, becoming increasingly tied to them and their own personal learning patterns. While all AI tutors begin with the same structure and function they gradually become more tightly integrated with the student. Some of the more adventurous students have had the AIs integrated with neural lace implants, which has obviously significantly accelerated their ability to function at much higher levels and at much greater speeds than the rest of us. These progressions have obviously made us think very differently about assessment, obviously.

Q: What about technology used during lectures? Is there anything different to what you’ve already mentioned?

Lectures have a different meaning here than at other institutions, and I suspect we’ll talk about that later. Anyway, during lectures the AI tutors act as interpreters for the students, performing real time translation for our international speakers, as well as doing speech-to-text transcription in real time. This means that our deaf students get all speech converted to Braille in real time, which is pretty cool. All the audio, video and text that is generated during lectures is saved, edited and sync’d to the students personal domains where they’re available for recall later.

Our students use augmented reality a lot in the classroom and clinical context, where students overlay digital information on their visual fields in order to get more context in the lecture. For example, while I’m talking about movement happening at the elbow, the student might choose to display the relevant bones, joints and muscles responsible for the movement. As the information is presented to them, they can choose to save that additional detail into the point in the lecture that I discussed it, so that when they’re watching the video of the lecture later, the additional information is included. We use this system a lot for anatomy and other movement- and structure-type classes.

microsoft-hololens-medical-studies

Q: That sounds like a pretty comprehensive overview of how technology has some important uses beyond making content easier to access. Any final thoughts?

Technology is not something that we “do”, it’s something that we “do things with”. It enables more powerful forms of communication and interaction, both in online and physical spaces, and to think of it in terms of another “platform” or “service” is to miss the point. It amplifies our ability to do things in the world and just because it’s not cheap or widely distributed today doesn’t mean it won’t be in the future.

In 2007 the iPhone didn’t exist. Now every student in the university carries in their pocket a computer more powerful than the ones we used to put men on the moon. We should be more intentional about how we use that power, and forget about whatever app happens to be trending today.

 

Posted to Diigo 08/17/2011

I did a lot of reading and highlighting the other night, which is why this is so long. I’ve been bookmarking a lot of articles (about 400 at the last count) over the past 6 months or so, and will be trying to get through them over the next few months. There might be more long posts like this one (aggregationsof Diigo highlights) as a consequence.

    • I truly believe that a combination of actively influencing a story line in combination with a reaction upon the decisions taken would make learners feel more appreciated or valued if you will and encourage them to continue learning with that program instead of only getting negative feedback in from of a summary assessment when a chapter or course is finished
    • According to Rita Kop PLE is a UK term and PLN an American term. Dave Cormier questions whether the term personal should be used at all. Stephen Downes points out that personal is an OK term if you think about [Personal Learning] Network as opposed to [Personal] Learning Network – and similarly for PLE
    • the words are not as important as the process
    • a Personal Learning Environment (PLE) is more concerned with tools and technology and that Personal Learning Networks (PLN) are more concerned with connections to people
    • The PLE takes me to my PLN through various gates and paths
    • they’re the ticket and ride, not the destination
    • The PLN is then more akin to a community, but with much looser connections, described in the literature as “weak ties”
    • possible roles involved in networked learning that the teacher may be classified as (Expert: Someone with sustained contribution to a field, Teacher: experts with authority, Curator: play the role of interpreting, organizing, and presenting content, Facilitator: able to guide, direct, lead, and assist learners, not necessarily being a subject matter expert
    • why focus on PLEs? Shouldn’t we be trying to figure out how to make PLN work better?
    • Development of your PLE is about working with technology, refining your use of tools to give you more keys or more efficient access to your network of people and resources
    • “Pundits may be asking if the Internet is bad for our children’s mental development, but the better question is whether the form of learning and knowledge-making we are instilling in our children is useful to their future.”
    • we can’t keep preparing students for a world that doesn’t exist
    • The contemporary American classroom, with its grades and deference to the clock, is an inheritance from the late 19th century. During that period of titanic change, machines suddenly needed to run on time. Individual workers needed to willingly perform discrete operations as opposed to whole jobs. The industrial-era classroom, as a training ground for future factory workers, was retooled to teach tasks, obedience, hierarchy and schedules.
    • Teachers and professors regularly ask students to write papers. Semester after semester, year after year, “papers” are styled as the highest form of writing.
      • And yet they will probably never have to communicate anything in that format ever again…unless they also become academics
    • question the whole form of the research paper
    • “What if bad writing is a product of the form of writing required in school — the term paper — and not necessarily intrinsic to a student’s natural writing style or thought process?”
    • A classroom suited to today’s students should de-emphasize solitary piecework
    • That classroom needs new ways of measuring progress, tailored to digital times — rather than to the industrial age or to some artsy utopia where everyone gets an Awesome for effort.
    • Blended learning lets designers split off prerequisite material from the rest  of a course
    • Blended learning lets instructional designers separate rote content focusing  on lower-order thinking skills, which can be easily taught online, from critical  thinking skills, which many instructors feel more comfortable addressing  in the classroom
    • Learners can have more meaningful conversations about these  topics because they have developed a familiarity with basic management  policies and procedures and have had time to integrate what they know into  their thinking
    • We cannot have it both ways: quality of thinking and speed are anathema to each other.
    • Covering content is daunting enough, but providing the time necessary to indulge in the quality conversations that make learning truly engaging is almost impossible
    • the challenge of articulating thoughts quickly
    • post two dynamic questions online each night. These questions have many possible answers, require analysis of content and the creation of unique ideas
    • when we revisit these discussions in the classroom, students have a plethora of ideas to share. They are no longer scared to speak out because they have a confidence born from their online discussions and the validation of their peers
    • weave those online conversations back into the classroom
      • “Some students have great ideas, but they experience difficulty expressing those ideas clearly.
    • Good practice in undergraduate education:
    • We address the teacher’s how, not the subject-matter what, of good  practice in undergraduate education. We recognize that content and pedagogy interact in  complex ways.
    • An undergraduate education should prepare students to  understand and deal intelligently with modern life.
    • 1. Encourages Contact Between Students and Faculty  Frequent student-faculty contact in and out of classes is the most   important factor in student motivation and involvement. Faculty   concern helps students get through rough times and keep on working.   Knowing a few faculty members well enhances students’ intellectual   commitment and encourages them to think about their own values and   future plans.
    • 2. Develops Reciprocity and Cooperation Among Students  Learning is enhanced when it is more like a team effort that a   solo race. Good learning, like good work, is collaborative and social,   not competitive and isolated. Working with others often increases   involvement in learning. Sharing one’s own ideas and responding to   others’ reactions sharpens thinking and deepens understanding.
    • 3. Encourages Active Learning  Learning is not a spectator sport. Students do not learn much just   by sitting in classes listening to teachers, memorizing pre-packaged   assignments, and spitting out answers. They must talk about what they   are learning, write about it, relate it to past experiences and apply   it to their daily lives. They must make what they learn part of   themselves.
    • 4. Gives Prompt Feedback  Knowing what you know and don’t know focuses learning. Students   need appropriate feedback on performance to benefit from courses.   When getting started, students need help in assessing existing   knowledge and competence. In classes, students need frequent   opportunities to perform and receive suggestions for improvement. At   various points during college, and at the end, students need chances   to reflect on what they have learned, what they still need to know,   and how to assess themselves.
    • 5. Emphasizes Time on Task  Time plus energy equals learning. There is no substitute for time   on task. Learning to use one’s time well is critical for students and   professionals alike. Students need help in learning effective time   management. Allocating realistic amounts of time means effective   learning for students and effective teaching for faculty. How an   institution defines time expectations for students, faculty,   administrators, and other professional staff can establish the basis   of high performance for all.
    • 6. Communicates High Expectations  Expect more and you will get more. High expectations are important   for everyone — for the poorly prepared, for those unwilling to exert   themselves, and for the bright and well motivated. Expecting students   to perform well becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy when teachers and   institutions hold high expectations for themselves and make extra  efforts.
    • 7. Respects Diverse Talents and Ways of Learning  There are many roads to learning. People bring different talents   and styles of learning to college. Brilliant students in the seminar   room may be all thumbs in the lab or art studio. Students rich in   hands-on experience may not do so well with theory. Students need the   opportunity to show their talents and learn in ways that work for them.   Then they can be pushed to learn in new ways that do not come so easily.
    • tell real stories from your own life in a way that is relevant and engaging to your audience. If more people could just remember that great speeches or presentations leverage the power of the speaker’s own stories
    • we must not talk ourselves out of being who we really are
    • People do not care about your excuses, they care only about seeing your authentic self
    • People crave authenticity just about more than anything else, and one way to be your authentic self and connect with an audience is by using examples and stories from your own life that illuminate your message in an engaging, memorable way

Twitter Weekly Updates for 2011-02-07

Twitter Weekly Updates for 2010-09-20

Innovative practices in education (colloquium)

Last week I attended a teaching and learning colloquium at Granger Bay, near the Waterfront. It was organised to showcase some of the teaching practices being used at the 4 teaching institutions in the Western Cape. I was fortunate to be invited to present one of the keynotes on Friday morning and since I’ve been thinking about PLE’s lately, that was the focus of my talk. Below you can see the graphical notes taken by Ian Barbour of the 2 keynotes of the conference.

[nggallery id=25]

Here are my notes from the 2 days.

Innovation through foundational provision and extended programmes: future trends, threats and opportunities (Professor Ian Scott)

It can’t go on with us doing “more of the same”.

Higher education is elitist, with a tiny proportion of the population being recycled through the system.

We are moving towards mass participation, with all the associated problems that this brings

Innovation = taking new approaches, doing things differently from the mainstream (creative solutions to problems)

The main difference between HEI that do well and those that don’t, is the attention of the institution (Carey, 2008). There is effort and professional accountability, systemic enquiry and research

Success = developing strong foundations and completing the qualification well. Not just about access. It’s dependant on complex issues e.g. teaching and learning approach, affective support, material resources

Future challenges in academic development:

  • Meeting the needs of the majority
  • Low participation and racially skewed
  • Poor and skewed graduation rate after 5 years = 30%
  • Under 5% of black youth succeeding in HE (unsustainable)
  • Makes little sense to continue on our current path, given the above stats

Who should extended programmes serve:

  • Mainstream students who are now failing or are dropping out for learning-related reasons
  • The majority of students who are not graduating in regulation time
  • But EP’s are reaching less than 15% of the intake, even though it’s a majority need (how can we justify the status quo?)

What can be done?

  • Extend the reach of EP’s in their present form, with a focus on improvement?
  • Move to a flexible curriculum framework with a 4 year degree as the core?
  • Can foundational provision be successful with limited student number, and if so, what are the limits?
  • How does this sit with the need for expanding the programmes?

If success is dependent on small numbers, we have a big problem

Institutional differentiation: Looked at stratifying HEI’s, but who would end up in the “bottom” levels. Moved towards “reconfiguring the institutional landscape” through mergers. But there is a danger of institutions losing their way, and not sticking to their mission. Is this a distraction from the central goal of producing more, good graduates?

Implications

Will differentiation lead to further polarisation of the student intake in terms of educational achievement? Because educational achievement is not potential, and is still polarised along racial, socio-economic lines.

Will there be pressure to remove EP’s from “research” universities? → which will result in less funding and educationally disadvantaged institutions becoming the “new mainstream”

Are these bad things?

To what extent can structural change, in itself, make a difference? Are there any alternatives?

Building student confidence through a class conference in an extended curriculum programme (Maryke Meerkotter)

Some students are resistant to the concept of evolution (in biology)!

Initially, 45 students split into groups and given topics for poster presentation. But it was too open.

Next year had more specific guidelines, with more focused topic (53 students), and individual talks about their own poster

This year, conference was very specific. 87 students, so much more structure was needed i.e. specific mammals were assigned to individual students. Questions had to be answered to prevent cut and paste.

Initial intent:

  • Relieve lecture stress
  • Students to engage with “irrelevant” content
  • Raise awareness of importance of course content
  • Allowed students to take ownership of the content, especially when assigned individual animals
  • Practice oral presentation
  • Exposed to poster making skills
  • To have fun trying something new

Initial scepticism and advice:

  • Doubt that it would succeed
  • Too much unnecessary work
  • Needs a good relationship with class, as lecturer should be confident that students can perform
  • Some envisioned chaos, so needed clear guidelines
  • Some advised no rewards, but students appreciated being acknowledged

Setting guidelines:

  • Holiday assignment
  • Written and verbal communication of assignment tasks
  • Guidelines about poster and oral presentations
  • “Computer literacy” = Powerpoint
  • Specific questions needed to answer in poster and presentation
  • Lecturer created a poster as an example, in subsequent years take the best examples of previous years
  • Provided rubrics for evaluation
  • Minimum requirements for posters, and not part of evaluation, so students who could afford more weren’t advantaged

Evaluation:

  • Oral presentations marked by lecturer and teaching assistant (reliability)
  • Audience tested at the end of each session (to ensure attendance of non-presenting students)
  • Posters were peer marked, using similar content as the marking group (each student marked 3 other posters anonymously)

Administration:

  • Assignment of topics
  • Find space for posters to be displayed
  • Due dates for posters to be mounted
  • Loading of oral presentations prior to talks (use email, caution with flash drives, time constraints)
  • Lecturer needs to listen and mark at the same time
  • Students were assigned posters to mark to avoid students marking their friends work

Empowers students to take ownership of course content, especially the “boring” courses. Recommended for small classes

Introducing concept mapping as a learning tool in Life Sciences (Suzanne Short and Judith Jurgens)

A lot of diversity in the course, in terms of student population

Some of the problems:

  • The gap between school and university
  • Testing of concepts reveals confusion
  • Basic concept knowledge is inadequate, lecturers want to make assumptions about what students come into the course with
  • Poor literacy levels for required university levels
  • Low levels of student success
  • Low pass rates
  • Unable to manage the large volume of content
  • Textbook content is “unfriendly”, not contextually relevant, language is inaccessible
  • Poor integration of knowledge
  • Don’t see how biology fits into scientific study
  • Don’t apply knowledge and strategies from other subjects, concepts are compartmentalised

Hay, Kinchin and Lygo-Baker (2008). Making learning happen: the role of concept mapping in higher education.

Concept map: an organising tool using labels to explain the relationship between concepts, the links making propositional statements of understanding. Can be interesting to see how different “experts” in the course see it differently. We need to first negotiate our shared understanding of the course before we can expect students to understand it.

Rationale:

  • To “deconstruct” faulty knowledge acquired at school and reconfigure it
  • Better grasp the relationship between all areas of study
  • Empower students with a learning and knowledge construction tool
  • Facilitate better use of the textbook

Don’t rely on one source

Facilitates textbook use:

  • overview of concepts and relationships
  • awareness of learning strategies
  • active use of resources
  • Assists with knowledge construction:
  • identified major concepts and links
  • identified gaps in school learning
  • useful as studying tool
  • knowledge construction can be individualised
  • Enables evaluation of student learning:
  • view of student understanding “at a glance”
  • encourage discussion of concepts and categorisation

Difficulties:

  • time consuming
  • high levels of collaboration between staff
  • not all student work visually / spatially
  • takes practice to do well

A genre based approach to teaching literacy in a university bridging course (Taryn Bernard)

How do structure a writing course to develop academic literacy, including other cognitive skills in the first year, among diverse student groups?

Students compartmentalise knowledge and find it hard to integrate into other courses. How can this be addressed?

Students want to feel as if they’re dealing with university-level content, and not high school content

Genre:

  • Text-type e.g. journal articles, books, essays
  • Abstract, goal orientated and socially recognised way of using language, limited by communicative purpose and formal properties
  • Social code of behaviour established between author and reader
  • “A term used for grouping texts together and representing how writers typically use language to respond to and construct texts for recurring situations”

Students need to be introduced to the “culture” of academic discourse

Genre-based pedagogy:

Student learning is affected not only by prior subject knowledge and by approaches to learning but also by the ability to deal with text genre (Francis & Hallam, 2000). An understanding of generic conventions increases success at university (Hewings & Hewings, 2001).

It’s important to validate prior knowledge, and many don’t see the purpose in academic discourse. Students sometimes feel it’s “too complex”

Quantitative literacy courses for humanities and law (Vera Frith)

UCT recognise information literacy as being an important graduate attribute

Quantitative information must be addressed in the disciplinary context

The more that content is embedded within a real-world context, the better

Students can be confused between focusing on the context, as opposed to the content e.g. placing emphasis on what they should be learning, with the contextual framework being used

The impact of horizontal integration of 2 foundation modules on first years knowledge, attitudes and skills (Martjie van Heusden and Dr. Alwyn Louw)

Earlier introduction to clinical placements have a significant influence on students professional development, especially in communication

Research assignments for first year med. students at SU:

  • Identify conditions
  • describe disorder
  • use correct referencing
  • submit to Turnitin with only 10% similarity allowed

Did knowledge improve? What about attitudes and motivation? Did it transfer to the 2nd year?

Research assignments contributed to improved student attitudes

Saw an improvement in writing and research skills

Assignments promoted self-esteem, increased background knowledge and allowed students to ask informed questions

Foundation matters: issues in a mathematics extended course

Important to be aware that students come into the course with mixed abilities, which affects how they perceive the course

Language support for communication skills of foundation Engineering students at CPUT (Marie-Anne Ogle)

Students ability to study is crippled by their lack of confidence in their ability to speak well

Problems:

  • Students don’t speak or hear English often
  • School teachers don’t give presentation training
  • Student lack self-esteem / confidence
  • Students don’t have an understanding of their own problems
  • Only 1 language lesson/week in a very crowded timetable

Rules:

  • Transparent goals
  • Everybody must talk
  • Students choose the subjects they want
  • Intensive reading programmes to support this
  • Students manage their own library
  • Students take over the class towards the end
  • Fun for self-motivation

“The limits of my language mean the limits of my world” (Ludwig Wittgenstein)

Use of clickers in Engineering teaching (Daniela Gachago and Dr. Mbiya Baudouin)

Useful because:

  • Results are anonymous, instant, recorded for later
  • helps to increase attention span, keeps students focused
  • Every opinion counts, not just the correct one
  • Works well with interactive learning and teaching style
  • Direct feedback about students conceptual understanding

Good feedback tool for students, identifies misconceptions instantly that can be addressed immediately, students also become aware that others have similar problems i.e. they’re not alone

Important to use equipment to stimulate discussion

Mazur sequence (see also this transcript of Mazur presenting on using technology to engage students, as well as this video presentation).

You can forget facts but you cannot forget understanding

Use of clickers must be must be accompanied by discussion

“The more a lecturer talks, the less a student understands”

Students enjoy the experience of using new tools in class, very positive response, but they do need a short introduction

Challenges:

  • System takes time to set up, and technical troubleshooting not always easy
  • Can waste time
  • Questions need to be changed often
  • Type of question asked needs to change
  • Can have “clicker fatigue”

Using clickers as a tool in classroom instruction to facilitate student learning (Mark Herbert)

Focus not on what student don’t know, but what they require to develop into successful practitioners of the discourse

Students exposed to how knowledge is constructed, structured and communicated

Lecturers facilitate student learning

Students must prepare for lectures (but do they?)

Constructive feedback given regularly and as soon as possible

Class attendance improved

Student interaction can stimulate learning. Students will often find the correct answer when discussing among themselves, without lecturer involvement

Student confidence increased as a result of using clickers

Innovative pedagogical practices using technology: my personal journey (Ingrid Mostert)

Blended learning model for ACE in mathematics

Bulk SMS (e.g. Frontline)

Off-campus access can be hampered with slow loading times, different to intranet

Someone else has already solved the problems that I have. The more people who know about my problem, the quicker it’ll get solved.

Moodle has a module for mobile access, which allows students to participate in forum discussions through a mobile interface

Can use mobile tech to conduct surveys. Is there a cost for students? Yes, but it’s minimal relative to SMS

Sharing experiences make the load lighter

Exploring the extent to which clickers enable effective student engagement (Somikazi Deyi, Edwine Simon and Amanda Morris)

Use real world events / contexts to make coursework relevant. What is important to students? Use that as a scaffolding for the course content

Planning is important

Students engage more deeply with complex questions. We should challenge them and raise our expectations of what they’re capable of

Difficult to draw conclusions after one session. Need to follow trends over time

Realise that other people have different perspectives and world views

Try group voting as opposed to individual voting

Posted to Diigo 08/01/2010

xWeb « Connectivism Annotated

  • Naming things is important. It’s easier to say “web 2.0″ than “participative, fragmented content, conversation-driven web”. Unfortunately, names give shape to concepts that are often imprecise. Sometimes words hurt more than they help.
  • xWeb is the utilization of smart, structured data drawn from our physical and virtual interactions and identities to extend our capacity to be known by others and by systems. This is an imprecise definition, but it’s a start
  • It involves a negotiation of two key questions that I continue to grapple with:

    1. What does technology do better than people?

    2. What do people do better than technology?

With xWeb, we are rethinking what we have to do as people and starting to rely on what technology does better than we possibly could. Over the last few years, I’ve been trying to capture the nature of the change around technology. Some of the recurring themes:

  • augmentation
  • aggregation
  • semantic web
  • location-based services (geoweb)
  • data overlaya
  • smart information
  • visualization
  • social media
  • open data and data in general
  • Internet of things
  • cloud computing
  • mobile technologies
  • analytics and monitoring
  • And, to that list, we could add filtering, recommender systems, distributed “like this” tools, annotation tools (diigo), wearable computing, and so on
      • Web 1.0 mainly seemed to consist of semantics, Web 2.0 of connections, communications, multi-media, virtual worlds and the introduction of mobile devices through the emergence of wireless and higher Internet connection speeds; while Web 3.0 connects data streams in a supposedly intelligent way. The combination of all four would lead to Web X.0 (Steve) or Web X (Stephen)
      • Why would anybody need some researchers and developers to work on a PLE for them?
      • 1. Intelligent data connections are one exciting option for PLE development and networked learning. Recommender systems of information, resources, critical friends and experts could form part of the access options for learners in a PLE that they would not likely be finding in a self-directed fashion
      • 2. That brings me to the challenges of an open online networked environment for learning. Not all adult learners are able to critically assess what they find online and might prefer to receive guidance from knowledgeable others
      • educators have highlighted that there is a real need for critical literacies while learning informally on networks
      • people might not necessarily have the critical literacies required to learn and search independently
      • Learning in my view is not synonymous with accessing information, and requires a level of reflection, analysis, perhaps also of problem solving, creativity and interaction with people to be able to get the best out of the structures and sub-structures of the Internet
      • the majority of people in the northern hemisphere should now have access to technology (so happy to see Rita qualify the statement with “…in the northern hemisphere…”)

      • The people least likely to use the Internet are also the least likely to participate in adult education
      • And I haven’t even spoken about the people on the southern half of the globe, where the access and participation rate to technology and learning is even lower and the group of vulnerable people greater. Should we just leave these people behind?
      • The components that were formulated in Stephen Downes’ vision for a PLE at the start of the PLE project of the National Research Council of Canada are the following: 1. A personal profiler that would collect and store personal information. 2. An information and resource aggregator to collect information and resources. 3. Editors and publishers enabling people to produce and publish artifacts to aid the learning and interest of others. 4. Helper applications that would provide the pedagogical backbone of the PLE and make connections with other internet services to help the learner make sense of information, applications and resources. 5. Services of the learners choice. 6. Recommenders of information and resources.
      • Having been born into a world where personal computers were not a revolution, but merely existed alongside air conditioning, microwaves and other appliances, there has been (a perhaps misguided) perception that the young are more digitally in-tune with the ways of the Web than others
      • Apparently, the students favor search engine rankings above all other factors. The only thing that matters is that something is the top search result, not that it’s legit.
      • many students trusted in rankings above all else
      • researchers found that even in this supposedly savvy minority, none actually followed through to verify the identification or qualifications of the site’s authors
      • students are not always turning to the most relevant clues to determine the credibility of online content
      • Several strands of research demonstrate that displaying a personal interest in students is not only effective as a way to encourage participation and engagement, but necessary for real learning negative emotions such as fear and shame, all too common in the college classroom, retard learning, due to “choking,” the shutting down of higher-order thinking, and the activation of more primitive areas of the brain associated with the fight-or-flight syndrome

        undergraduate students repeatedly mention the importance of one-to-one interaction with instructors. Displaying a personal interest in students is the first step toward demonstrating that community exists within the classroom and across the campus

      • Be available to students in ways that you judge are not too invasive of your personal boundaries

        Encourage and respond to email

        Solicit and respond to student feedback

      • Mid-semester evaluations that you create and use to fine-tune instruction midstream also convey to students that you care what they think and about their learning

        During discussions and other interactions with students, really listen to them, striving to hear what students are really saying; not what we want to hear and/or assume students are saying

      • making connections between academic material and students’ personal experience also conveys an interest in students and their learning.

    Twitter Weekly Updates for 2010-06-21

    Notes on podcast from Stephen Downes

    I thought I’d make some notes while listening to this podcast interview from Stephen Downes., where he talks about personal learning environments, problems with e-learning and open vs. closed educational content.

    ————————————

    Mentions Plearn as part of the opening discussion and bio.

    What is a PLE? Compares LMS to PLE. LMS is based around the institution, and when the student leaves the system, they lose access to that learning. Same applies when changing institutions, or learning in different environments. PLE provides access to services and educational services from a personal space, rather than an institutional one.

    Very new category of “learning system” right now, so there are no applications that exist that define a PLE. Rather, it’s a generic collection of tools and concepts.

    Most resources are accessed on the fly, through the browser. Some people have small libraries that they keep locally, but only for backup purposes or content they need to access offline. Students will access lectures as audio and video streams if available. I disagree with the assumption that we’re all connected all the time and that there is no longer a need to download content to be kept locally.

    There’s always going to be a mix of local and remote content that’s relevant for learning. A PLE should support whatever works best / whatever the learner needs in whatever context.

    Discussed the Khan academy and the role of online video (YouTube) as an educational resource. Quality of the video production isn’t as important as the quality of the video content. The problem is that the video format is linear, which means that it consumes time, it isn’t searchable (it’s not random access). You can’t find the specific piece of information you’re looking for. Content can be more efficiently acquired through text and images.

    Videos are also not social or interactive (although video conferences are). Skype conferencing mentioned. Contextual, flexible teaching and learning isn’t really possible when watching video.

    Classrooms are not especially well designed for personal learning “1 size fits 30+”.

    Is artificial intelligence a viable approach to education? “Going to be tricky”. Some components of the concept available in primitive recommender algorithms currently present in Amazon, iTunes, etc. But going to be a long time before true AI is going to be able to truly personalise the learning experience.

    Software will continue to get smarter and understand more and more about what we want to do. It will be able to aggregate, filter, categorise content dynamically.

    Discussion on online identity as a tangent to the above point i.e. that your point of entry into the network (i.e. the browser) would be the software that would aggregate, etc. the content you’re interested in. Downes created a tool that did something like this, but which was subsequently superseded by OpenID. Also a brief mention of OAuth.

    Briefly talked about SCORM / IMS and the Common Cartridge format (i.e. learning objects). Useful for closed organisations’ learning requirements e.g. the military. Not useful for learning content that needs to be interactive and to engage with other environments / scenarios. Doesn’t do much for the social component and is unnecessarily complex in trying to create “units of knowledge”. The best model is the open web. Many companies trying to create common formats, but also lock consumers in.

    Not an easy, decentralised way to create a “learning” management system. But the context there is in managing students or content, not learning. Nothing wrong with the LMS to manage students, but it’s not about learning. How do you give people the freedom to learn in a personal way?

    Ends with some discussion on revenue, profit and commercial aspects of education.

    Twitter Weekly Updates for 2010-05-31

    Posted to Diigo 05/22/2010

      • course management software leads universities to “think they are in the information industry”. In contrast to”the authentic learning environments prompted by advances in cognitive and constructivist learning theories”:

        “the industrial, course management model has its center of gravity in teachers generating content, teachers gathering resources, teachers grouping and sequencing information, and teachers giving the information to students.”

      • In contrast, socio-cultural theories of knowledge acquisition stress the importance of collaborative learning and ‘learning communities’
      • Based on these ideas of collaborative learning and social networks within communities of practice, the notion of Personal Learning Environments is being put forward as a new approach to the development of e-learning tools (Wilson et al, 2006) that are no longer focused on integrated learning platforms such as VLEs or course management systems
      • PLEs can be seen as the spaces in which people interact and communicate and whose ultimate result is learning and the development of collective know-how. A PLE can use social software for informal learning which is learner driven, problem-based and motivated by interest – not as a process triggered by a single learning provider, but as a continuing activity
      • a PLE should be based on a set of tools to allow personal access to resources from multiple sources, and to support knowledge creation and communication
      • a list of possible functions for a PLE have been suggested, including: access/search for information and knowledge; aggregate and scaffold by combining information and knowledge; manipulate, rearrange and repurpose knowledge artefacts; analyse information to develop knowledge; reflect, question, challenge, seek clarification, form and defend opinions; present ideas, learning and knowledge in different ways and for different purposes; represent the underpinning knowledge structures of different artefacts and support the dynamic re-rendering of such structures; share by supporting individuals in their learning and knowledge; networking by creating a collaborative learning environment
      • there is no tool that is adequate to all tasks
      • Jyri Engestrom (2005) says “the term ’social networking’ makes little sense if we leave out the objects that mediate the ties between people
      • Vygotsky’s research focused on school based learning. He developed the idea of the Zone of Proximal Development (ZPD) which is the gap between “actual developmental level” which children can accomplish independently and the “potential developmental level” which children can accomplish when they are interacting with others who are more capable peers or adults
      • Vykotsky called teachers – or peers – who supported learning in the ZDP as the More Knowledgeable Other. “The MKO is anyone who has a better understanding or a higher ability level than the leaner particularly in regards to a specific task, concept or process
      • But the MKO can also be viewed as a learning object or social software which embodies and mediates learning at higher levels of knowledge about the topic being learned than the learner presently possesses
      • The role of a Personal Learning Environment may be not only that of a tool to provide access to ‘More Knowledgeable Others’ but as part of a system to allow learners to link learning to performance in practice, though work processes
      • “In Vygotskian perspective, the ideal role of the teacher is that of providing scaffolding (collaborative dialogue) to assist students on tasks within their zones of proximal development”(Hamilton and Ghatala, 1994)
      • ”During scaffolding the first step is to build interest and engage the learner. Once the learner is actively participating, the given task should be simplified by breaking it into smaller sub-tasks. During this task, the teacher needs to keep the learner focused, while concentrating on the most important ideas of the assignment. One of the most integral steps in scaffolding consists of keeping the learner from becoming frustrated. The final task associated with scaffolding involves the teacher modelling possible ways of completing tasks, which the learner can then imitate and eventually internalise” (Dahms et al., 2007).
      • Social media and particularly video present rich opportunities for the modelling of ways of completing a task, especially given the ability of using social networking software to support communities of practice
      • PLE tools need to be able to support the visualisation or representation of models and to promote reflection on their relevance and meaning in context.
      • Within this perspective a Personal Learning Environment could be seen as allowing the representation of knowledge, skills and prior learning and a set of tools for interaction with peers to accomplish further tasks. The PLE would be dynamic in that it would allow reflection on those task and further assist in the representation of prior knowledge, skills and experiences.