5/5 – Opening Up My Practice

The concepts of resilience, as applied and interpreted by Weller & Anderson (2013), are interesting to me, as it places the emphasis on my adaptability to technology in my teaching, ability to integrate it, rather than the reaction in isolation.

I’ve often perceived the technology as being the solution. Adopting it has been automatic, a default position, lending credence to Prensky’s concept of the digital native/immigrant.   As such, I should be more open with my materials and bringing ‘outsiders’ into the classroom, thereby exposing my learners to a better, richer experience, as well as giving them more freedom & control over their continued journey through open support.

OER’s allow this, by increasing the reach & scope of materials available. According to Strauss & Howe (2001), current learners are ‘Millenials’ – a definition based along similar lines to Prensky.  Rather than explicitly focusing on attitudes towards and use of technology, the definition refers to a Millenial as being “better educated”, focussed on “teamwork” – implying as does Prensky that the skill set required for online learning is a given of anyone born after a set time, in this case 1982.

I don’t agree. The skills required for online learning, are quite different. Given the fast-paced, ‘always connected’ nature of the modern learner, there is a huge amount of information filtering going on.  The skills are acquired over a longer period of time based on individual learner experience and preferred learning style, rather than simply enforced in a rigid environment.

Simpson (2008) provides a small scale application of Proactive Motivational Support (PaMS) which, on the basis of the limited data presented, would seem to suggest an increase in 20-30% in pass rates at completion.

What does that mean for my practice, as my learners are not graded and assessed in hard, numeric terms, but rather in ‘soft’ ways ( how much ongoing support do they need/access?)?  How can I ‘open the box’ and bring more to my learners?

My courses are built around tools for enhancement, support and delivery of learning. Yet so much of it, upon relfection, is fixed, static, routine.

These represent barriers to opening up my practice.  Groth & Peters (1999) flag up many well established barriers, which my practice can be affected by, both from my perspective as the educator and that of my learners.  Time , constraints, fear of failure (and perversely, also of the consequences of success), lack of knowledge, recognition (lack of) and pre-conceived notions.

I therefore need to get more creative in how I deliver (already attempting with flipped classroom & twitter) and what I deliver. I think it would be good to take the elements currently delivered via Youtube and develop into a more of a ‘master class’ offering, and link to re-usable resources that  exist (such as question pools for test etc).

Longer term, I will look to create an online community, initially within my learner pool, for sharing of tips, best practice and ideas.  I will also start to look into ways in which completion of a course could perhaps be gain an element of recognition, reflecting the growth in the area of ‘badges’ that has stemmed out from the world of online gaming.


Belshaw, D. (2012). Informal Learning, Gaming, & #Openbadges design. Retrieved from http://dougbelshaw.com/blog/2012/07/19/informal-learning-gaming-and-openbadges-design/#.UAviyURJH40 on 16th December 2013.

Groth, J.C. & Peters, J. (1999). What Blocks Creativity? A Managerial Perspective.  Creativity & Innovation Management, Volume 8, (3).pg 179-187. DOI: 10.1111/1467-8691.00135

Prensky, M. (2001). Digital natives, digital immigrants. On the Horizon, Volume 9 (5), MCB University Press.

Simpson, O. (2008). Motivating Learners in Open and Distance Learning: Do we Need a New Theory of Learner Support? Open Learning: The Journal of Open and Distance Learning. 23:3, 159-170.

Strauss, W. &  Howe, N.  (2000). Millennials Rising: The Next Great Generation. New York, NY: Vintage Original.

Wellor, M. & Anderson, T. (2013). Digital Resilience in Higher Education. European Journal of Open, Distance and E-Learning. Available from: http://www.eurodl.org/index.php?article=559 Retrieved 16th December 2013

In fulfillment of HEA UK Professional Standards Framework : A2, A4, A5, K3, K4, K5, K6, V2, V3

The Higher Education Academy (2011). UK Professional Standards Framework. Retrieved 06/11/2013 from http://tinyurl.com/d8qokjw

4/5 – How do I support my students & opportunities for further improvement

Most of the support I offer to my ‘learners’ tends to be ad-hoc, face to face or telephone or email based.  What could I possibly do in this arena that would demonstrate a commitment to FDOL in my practice?

I’ve already detailed in this blog one way in which my practice is developing and advancing with the adoption of the flipped classroom idea, integrating video as a pre-activity and then working through in the session with my learners. This approach, I am finding, provides much more opportunity for feedback and dialogue around emergent skills and knowledge gaps, while reinforcing understood knowledge and technique(UK PSF A2,A4, K3,K5).

Margaryan et al (2010) argues that evidence shows students still seem to simply adopt the technology they are exposed to by their lecturer.  but they go further than this in suggesting that actually, students only engage with a limited subset of ‘mainly established technologies’.  The case is further simplified by asserting that of course, the needs of a specific course would expose a student to more technology-based tools dependent on subject area, but that simply equates to more use (quantitative), not better (qualitative) use.

Such an interpretation suggests is it the fault of the educator that learners don’t adopt technology. It makes me feel criminally negligent.  It also implies my practice as a factor as to why what technology a learner might use, is used poorly.

I had to take a more holistic look at my practice (UK PSF A1, A4, K2,K4, V3). Take the ‘educator’ hat off, and sit in the classroom, rather than in front of it.  What do my learners need?  What do they expect? What do they want? What do they actually get?

What they need is an understanding of the tools they are expected to use to deliver materials, assessment marking and feedback electronically.

Historically, and I’ve done this myself, the expectation as someone undertaking a piece of learning in relation to your core practice, is to be shown  what goes where and does what and then cut free and expected to make use of the  acquired “knowledge.”

What I want from the process is someone to appeal to me, to guide me firstly in the why I should want to do things this way, the benefits of doing it this way.  The how can either come later either explicitly or by prompting and a degree of serendipity.

What I actually get, or have gotten, has been exactly what I expected.

I haven’t been challenged or engaged. There’s no two way exchange.

Windham (2005) documents an exchange between her professor and herself where he simply, flatly, refused not just to engage, but to even accept the existence of technology and the role that it played for his students.

My practice, the opportunities for engagement with my learners has to match those tools and expectation of my learners – while providing discreet modification of their own use through showcasing new tools, strategies and best practice, if I’m to disprove Margrayan.

According to Vygotsky, social interactions do play a part in the learning process , but I do not believe, as some literature maintains (Palloff & Pratt, 2001) that this trumps content. I’d argue quite the opposite – social interaction depends on content to provide context and direction for learners.

So what supporting content do I provide, besides all my resources being available electronically?

I’m keen to supplement ( or move away from) the walk-through tutorial videos with more problem-based approaches  – “what to do when/if?” scenarios which more accurately reflect reality.  I’m also continuing to provide more flexible means of interaction through increasing my accessibility and availability through social media channels.


Margaryan, A., Littlejohn, A., Voight, G. (2010) Are digital natives a myth or reality? University students’ use of technologies.

McLeod, S. A. (2007). Lev Vygotsky. Retrieved from http://www.simplypsychology.org/vygotsky.html on 12th December 2013.

Palloff, R.M., & Pratt, K. (2001). Lessons from the Cyberspace Classroom. Paper presented at 17th Annual Conference on Distance Teaching & Learning, University of Wisconsin-Madison. Retrieved from http://www.uwex.edu/disted/conference/Resource_library/proceedings/01_20.pdf on 02/12/2013

Windham, C. (2005). ‘The Student Perspective‘ in Educating the Net Generation, Oblinger, D. & Oblinger, J. Educause. Available at http://www.educause.edu/educatingthenetgen/

In fulfillment of HEA UK Professional Standards Framework :      A1, A4, K2,K4, V3

The Higher Education Academy (2011). UK Professional Standards Framework. Retrieved 06/11/2013 from http://tinyurl.com/d8qokjw

3/5 – How I extend collaborative learning using digital technologies

I’ve been thinking hard about my teaching practice.  You see, I don’t consider myself a teacher.

As a digital skills trainer, staff come to me with a scenario of wanting to do X and my role is to work with them on utilising the technology available, or introducing something new to them, in order to accomplish that.  We work together, even if I’m the person at the front of the room jumping and gesticulating at an 8 foot projected image behind me.

Still, I’m aware that while I do tend to put resources online that either mirror or accompany my real-world delivery and that’s still quite static and one way. It’s not what I would consider collaborative.

Dillenbourg (1999) understands the term ‘collaborative’ to mean two or more persons learning ‘something’ together.  Of course, there is a measure of collaborative learning going on in the sessions I deliver- attendees pick up and exchange tips and knowledge throughout, but such an interpretation fails to account for the differing objectives of those attending.  What they want out of the session is not always the same however  – so I’d argue  that when this occurs, they are not really learning together.

Through the FDOL module, I’ve actually begun embraced Twitter as a communication medium – initially in Unit 2, our group used it to provide a back channel for the online audience to follow and ask questions with, alongside the Collaborate online classroom.  That went quite well and I was surprised I’d suggested it.  The Twitter-based journal club was another activity that got my interest.


Because it was short, intensely focused in it’s objective and kept on-track.  That experience is in contrast to one of my colleagues who follows a Twitter feed that has a regular session each week where people discuss specific topics that have previously been communicated to the “membership.”  Their experience is that various contributors to the #tag or feed digress and are having several conversations, some of which are irrelevant to the topic under discussion, so mentioning things like plans for weekend etc.  That sort of poor experience, and personal conversations being shared in the public domain rather than private message etc can act as a switch off to learner engagement, at least from my perspective – when I engage, I want  the information I came for, answers to my questions and then for it to be over.  I’m not a social learner, I’m very goal oriented.

I sort of assume, in the wider context, that my “students” such as they are, have a similar approach, as coming to learn involves a time commitment from them, and time is a major factor that needs to be considered for FDOL type activities (Brindley, J. 2009)

But what can I change?

I’ve recently been developing a session on Blackboard Tests. Traditionally, this would have been delivered face to face.  That’s still the case, but I’ve introduced elements of the flipped classroom, with a series of small tutorial videos are emailed to those who sign up to the session, with clear objectives and tasks for them to complete prior to attendance.  In the session, they draw on what they’ve covered in the videos, in effect adopting the role of the instructor as I become the student, following their instruction.  They then get to create tests based on questions they were tasked to create beforehand, then evaluate each others questions for comprehension and pedagogy.

What else could I do?  

Maybe create a twitter hashtag for before and after use?  I’m not sure how to ‘degrade gracefully’ if nobody undertake the activities prior to attendence, as it hasn’t happened yet – one of the benefits of an ‘opt-in’ approach is that my ‘students’ tend to be quite motivated!  However, I do need to take account of the fat that while initial attendees at any given course may be motivated, keen to engage and competent with the core technologies, as time progresses, the attendees will be increasingly be those who are time-poor or skills-poor.  They see attendance and completion as something they are required to do, not something they may wish to actively do.  It ‘s perfectly acceptable to have prerequisites for each course, but that then means that the opportunity to pick up and use a new tool is delayed as they wait to attend another course that will provide the skills needed to effectively use another set of skills/tools.  According to Beetham (2007), there is a direct link between learner confidence with technology and how successful it’s use is in learning.  That poses a difficulty to me along the lines of having to teach technology A before I can teach technology B; there simply isn’t the time to do so in a session.

So one of the things I’m now thinking about doing are smaller, online video tutorials that address the prerequisites of courses.  That would help my students get more from sessions as they come already with a baseline skill set through facilitating better allocation of time to ‘up skill’ and prepare before booking or attending.


Beetham, H. & Sharpe, R. (2007). Rethinking Pedagogy for the Digital Age. London: Routledge

Brindley,  J., Walti, C., Blaschke, L. (2009). Creating Effective Collaborative Learning Groups in an Online Environment. International Review of Research in Open & Distance Learning, 10 (3) retrieved from http://www.irrodl.org/index.php/irrodl/article/view/675/1271

Dillenbourg, P. (1999). What do you mean by collaborative learning?  Collaborative-learning: Cognitive and Computational Approaches. Oxford: Elsevier

Lage, M., Platt, G., Treglia,M. (2000). Inverting the Classroom: A gateway to Creating an Inclusive Learning Environment, Journal of Economic Education, 31 (1), 30-43, doi :10.1080/00220480009596759

UK PSF A1, A2, A3, A5, V1,V2,K3, K4, K5

2/5 – My Digital Practice & Opportunities for Change

In looking at my own practice as dispassionately as possible, I think I have fallen into the conventional rut of didactic teaching (Entwistle, 1997).  Why?

I suppose its a mix of how I was taught at University and what I’ve experienced since. My lecturers were essentially my ‘role models’, for better or worse.  Thankfully, I’ve managed to avoid sitting in front of my ‘students’ (academic colleagues who could be considered adult learners) and simply reading pages from a proscribed text.  But it was very much one way, lecturer transmitting information.  It worked reasonably well for me, and as every lecture I attended pretty much followed the same format, I’ve considered it the norm.

Even with the increasing use of technology in delivery, this hasn’t really changed if I’m honest. OHP slides have been replaced by powerpoint slides and rich media use inside the lecture context. Charlton (2006) re-iterated the value of the ‘spoken lecture’ over that delivered in a text format.  Online course have sometimes seemed, in my experience, to be lots of on-screen reading and text books, with some online test at the end – a course I undertook in e-moderating was precisely that.  I can’t consciously recall a single element from that course that I’ve incorporated into my practice today.

So, has my teaching become stale?  From discussion with those who’ve attend course I’ve delivered, it’s clear that many come expecting the conventional model, to be told what to do, what does what, how to do.  They expect slides on screen, and to be talked through it.

Yet the most interesting and beneficial sessions I’ve encountered have been based around some portion of text or a slide, and then question and answer, discussion and discovery ; from didacticism to socratic method.

I’ve begun to consider, in light of this, how to get discussion and discovery into my delivery.  Overnight, wholesale changes aren’t going to be practical and would require re-write and re-design of materials and sessions that represent many hours of development.

So what small-scale change could I consider implementing that might begin this journey to a more open form of learning facilitiation?

Fry, Ketteridge & Marshall (2003) summarise that while the lecture remains a major method of teaching in education, and is still recognised “as a useful teaching tool” providing a framework upon which to build ideas and  integrate theories, in the context of my delivery, to adult learners of a professional nature in an academic context, it needs accompanying by interaction and adult learner strategies .

As a PBL scenario, the group I as assigned to decided to look into the use of Twitter as a tool for education.This brought up all manner of issues, such as inclusion and exclusion, reasons not to use twitter, elements of boundaries and safety.

It made me reflect on my own use of Twitter as a tool in my delivery.

Why don’t I use it more often?  I’m reluctant to use it personally – I think I’ve made one Tweet that I would classify as relating to my personal life.  The remainder (and it’s a small number) have been directly related to my professional role and promoting events the team have organised.

Why the reluctance to use it even professionally though?  I’ve read the experiences of my group members with ainterest, coupled with a dash of scepticism.  Can it really work as an effective learning tool?

I ‘get’ the point that Twitter is fast, concise, can break down boundaries, connect you with people or topics of current interest and unite otherwise disparate people around a common good (or bad….Arab Spring vs London Riots, anyone?).

What I’m struggling with is whether this race to be the first to know, to get your message out and to the point is of value in an academic setting?  To quickly fire off a tweet to remind students of an upcoming assignment or answer a question is one thing where I can see and grasp Twitter’s value.  But to me, learning is about a rich discourse, not some rapid exchange of soundbites with links attached.

It also raises the issue of where the boundary is between personal and professional – if I’m going to use Twitter for students to ask me questions, what are the expectations of time to respond?  Will I really answer a tweted question at 11:30 at night?  How do I seperate the professional from the personal?  Do I want students etc knowing who my friends are and what they are up to?  it’s not such an issue for me (at least currently!) but it may be  very real issue for the more prolific.

I’d genuinely be interested in who uses it for professional or personal.  Vote below, and maybe we can pick up the explainations and how you maintain a boundary IRL.


Carrigan, M “Does blogging blur the boundaries between ‘public’ and ‘private’? Are there risks attached to this?”  Tweet, @Socio_Imagination, 21st September 2013.

Charlton, B. (2006). Lectures are an effective teaching method because they exploit human evolved ‘human nature’ to improve learning. Editorial. Medical Hypotheses 67: 1261-5

Coldewey, D, “Why I don’t use Twitter”, Techcrunch.com, http://techcrunch.com/2009/08/17/why-i-dont-use-twitter/, August 17th,2009

Entwistle, N. (1997). Contrasting Perspectives on Learning. In The Experience of Learning. Implications for Teaching and Studying in Higher Education. Marton, F., Hounsell, D. & Entwistle, W.J. (ed). 2nd Edition. Edinburgh: Scottish Academic Press. pp 3-22

Fry, H., Ketteridge, S. & Marshall, S. (2003) (Eds). A Handbook for Teaching & Learning in Higher Education. Enhancing Academic Practice. 2nd Edition, London: Kogan Page. pp. 9-26.

1/5 – The Digital Me – Past, Present & Future

Objective:  Reflect on who you are as an individual in the digital age today and your journey so far. Start making links between the digital me in your personal and professional life and start thinking what you would like to get out of FDOL, how and why. Capture your reflections in your portfolio/personal learning space. Use relevant literature.

My initial taste of the digital world was back in the mid 80’s, knelt before an Acorn Electron computer, willing the tape deck to load Pacman quicker.  I was one of the last of my classmates at the time to get a computer for playing games, as they all swapped games for their Spectrums and then, later, Amigas and later still, games consoles.  Me?  I soldiered on with the Acorn till the mid-90’s till I finally got a proper PC, ostensibly for word processing assignments at school and college.

It was at this point that, upon reflection, my digital self began to take shape.  I wasn’t so much interested in the ‘output’, the word documents, not even the games, but the actual technology, the hardware itself, took my imagination and propelled me down a path where technology was the solution to a problem. Any problem.

As I’ve developed professionally, that tech-centric persona has been mitigated by a degree of pragmatism.

Pragmatic Technology

Is technology really the answer?  Or is it more simply a means to an end?  This has at times created something of an internal tension as my inner geek has warred with the outer realist, and external limitations.

Reading through the literature, I found myself disagreeing with Prensky’s (2001) somewhat crude distinction between natives and immigrants.  Yes, it’s true that due to the timeframe you are born in you may have a predisposition towards embracing digital technologies, but as Oblinger (2005) explored, it’s not just an age or technology phenomenon.

That’s where the FDOL module comes into the picture in developing the future digital me. The technology genie is well and truly out of the bottle and it can’t be ignored.  Whether we are the educator or the student, there is an expectation of technology being present.  To try and bar it from the classroom, when it is all pervasive, is just impractical and will only attract unfavourable attention.

By exploring the digital technologies and professional experiences of colleagues, the current digital me will be shaped into a persona that is fluent with how technology can enable learning and development in line with expectations from both the educator and student.


Oblinger, D & E (2005) “Is It Age or IT: First Steps Toward Understanding the Net Generation“, Educating The Net Generation, https://net.educause.edu/ir/library/pdf/pub7101b.pdf (Accessed 3rd October 2013)

Prensky, M. (2001) “Digital Natives, Digital Immigrants Part 1″, On the Horizon, Vol. 9 Issue 5


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