A module ends, a networked community continues

catherinecronin:

My reflections on CT231 at the end of this academic year, and thanks to my students.

Originally posted on CT231:

To mark the end of the year of CT231, I’d like to begin by thanking you — all of the students who participated in the module. We’ve covered a lot of ground this year.

CT231 2012-13 image v2Many of the terms above may have seemed unclear or irrelevant last September, but hopefully you feel much more confident now about your research skills, your communication  skills (writing and presenting) and — as many of you wrote in your social media reflections — your digital identity and use of social media, especially for learning.

Working with you all this year has been a pleasure, an adventure, and a great learning experience. Exploring concepts both established (academic writing skills, referencing) and emerging (digital identity, privacy, social networks for learning), your ideas and your questions have helped me to think more deeply about my own practices, about creating learning spaces (physical and virtual), and about the always-fascinating…

View original 295 more words

A module ends, a hashtag continues

catherinecronin:

“Teaching and learning with social media changes the roles of students and lecturers and the scope of learning. We learn from one another, and from people across our networks. Our CT231 IT Professional Skills module ends this week, but we will continue connecting, sharing and learning via a variety of social media channels — all linked by our course hashtag, #ct231.”

..

Originally posted on CT231:

Tomorrow is our last class session of CT231 for 2012-13 with 6 Ignite presentations scheduled — looking forward to it! (There will be an opportunity next week for students who have had to postpone their presentations to deliver them — this has been scheduled outside of class time.)  We’ve covered a lot this year…

CT231 2012-13 image v2Many of these terms may have seemed unclear or irrelevant last September, but hopefully you feel much more confident now about your research skills, your communication  skills (writing and presenting) and — as many of you wrote in your social media reflections — your digital identity and use of social media, especially for learning.

Working with you all this year has been an absolute pleasure and a great learning experience. Exploring concepts both established (academic writing skills, referencing) and emerging (digital identity, privacy, social networks for learning), your ideas and your questions have helped me to…

View original 269 more words

Enacting digital identity

4244294556_7100077f6b_z

When we ask our students to share online — in a discussion forum within an LMS; in a wiki, course blog, Google Doc or Facebook group; on Twitter or anywhere on the open web — we are inviting not just online interaction but an enactment of each student’s digital identity. Involvement in or resistance to online interaction is largely rooted in ideas and beliefs about identity, privacy, voice, authenticity and power. These ideas and beliefs may be articulated easily or they may previously be unreflected, but they will be invoked each time we ask students to participate online.

As connected educators, it is essential that we think deeply about digital identity — both our own and our students’.

In previous posts, I’ve shared some of my ideas about exploring digital identities with students (Exploring digital identities, Resources for exploring digital identity, privacy and authenticity and Learning and teaching digital literacies). However, when asked recently to facilitate a discussion about digital identity with academic staff as part of the NUI Galway Learning Technologies module #cel263 (short presentation below), I opted not to share specific practices, but instead share some of the key ideas and resources which have helped me to reflect on my own ideas about digital identity and develop my learning and teaching.

dd

In research on social networking within education, for example, Keri Facer and Neil Selwyn (2010) found that students saw a clear divide between “social interaction” and “educational interaction” on social networking sites, based on existing educational assumptions that “learning is organised around the individual and… oriented around content rather than process”. However, this may be changing. In their review of the research, Facer and Selwyn concluded that educators might need to “pay attention to social networking sites as important for the social construction of identity, including personal, social and learner identity”.

IRL

IRL is the international abbreviation for Ireland as well as the acronym for In Real Life…

A key concept in considering digital identity is the relation between the physical world and the digital world, the organic and the technological. Nathan Jurgenson has written extensively about this, coining the term digital dualism to refer to the notion, held by many, of a clear separation between the ‘real’ and the ‘virtual’.  Jurgenson refutes digital dualism:

“…our reality is both technological and organic, both digital and physical, all at once. We are not crossing in and out of separate digital and physical realities, a la The Matrix, but instead live in one reality, one that is augmented by atoms and bits. And our selves are not separated across these two spheres as some dualistic “first” and “second” self, but is instead an augmented self. A Haraway-like cyborg self comprised of a physical body as well as our digital profile, acting in constant dialogue. Our Facebook profiles reflect who we know and what we do offline, and our offline lives are impacted by what happens on Facebook…”

Regarding digital identity and digital dualism, as educators we must be willing to critically examine our own assumptions as well as the expectations of our students. Are my online and offline identities enmeshed? Is my online identity reflective only of my professional self, or of me in other contexts as well? How comfortable am I with sharing online — with colleagues, students, an unknown audience? How comfortable are my students? How does the power differential in the educator-student relationship affect the enactment of our digital identities in online spaces? Important questions such as these must be explored. Embracing the notion of an augmented self does not preclude critical analysis of differences in the online/offline experiences of space, time, visibility, privacy and power.

Considerations of digital identity are personal and individual. Yet we negotiate them daily in the enactment of our digital identities — as individuals, citizens, learners and educators. Inviting our students to interact online is not a simple or neutral act. We invite more than just the sharing of information and opinions — we invite an enactment of digital identity in all its complexity. As Facer and Selwyn (2010) conclude:

“…learners need to practice and experiment with different ways of enacting their identities, and adopt subject positions through different social technologies and media. These opportunities can only be supported by academic staff who are themselves engaged in digital practices and questioning their own relationships with knowledge.”

aa

Additional resources were considered and discussed during the presentation and ensuing discussion, including the following contributions from danah boyd, Bonnie Stewart, Chris “moot” Poole, Alan Levine, Neil Selwyn, Howard Rheingold and Rhona Sharpe, Helen Beetham & Sara de Freitas (as shown below). My thanks to all.

Social Network Sites as Networked Publics by danah boyd @zephoria (2010)

Digital Identities: Six Key Selves of Networked Publics by Bonnie Stewart @bonstewart (2012)

High Order Bit by Chris “moot” Poole @moot (2011) at Web 2.0 Summit

We, Our Digital Selves, And Us – YouTube (2012) by Alan Levine @cogdog (2012)

Social Media in Higher Education by Neil Selwyn @neil_selwyn (2012)

Social Media Literacies syllabus by Howard Rheingold @hrheingold (2012)

Rethinking Learning for a Digital Age: How Learners are Shaping Their Own Experiences, by Rhona Sharpe, Helen Beetham & Sara de Freitas (2010)

Image source: CC BY-NC-ND Will Foster

Change, (Higher) Education, and Us

History has much to teach us about change. Time and again, social changes which begin with seemingly improbable goals bring about new realities, becoming the fabric of our lives. We each will have personal examples of this. From my childhood in New York City to my nearly 20 years living in the west of Ireland, examples abound. The remarkable becomes the accepted.  Looking back from our current vantage point, many major social changes seem as if they were inevitable.

Today we are living through a time of enormous change in education. The pace of developments in open online education, in particular, has been dizzying: OER, Open Courseware, iTunesU, the Khan Academy, connnectivist MOOCs, institutional MOOCs, open badges. In the past seven months alone, we’ve seen the launch of Udacity, Coursera, MITx, EDx and TEDEd. What might higher education look like in 10, 20 or 30 years? Will our universities look the same, serve the same purposes? In all likelihood, they will not. And when we assess our education institutions at that future point, will we say: “Of course. Given the changes occurring in technology and society, the change was inevitable.”

I was asked to give one of the keynotes at the recent Galway Symposium on Higher Education (described in a previous post). The theme of the symposium, “The Written Word”, gave much scope for participants to consider not just writing but learning, teaching, literacies, assessment, openness and creativity. I welcomed the opportunity to focus on change, particularly  recent developments in open education, and to consider re-imagining the future of higher education.

As with social change, our voice — our vote — in education is essential to creating the future. My heart sinks when I hear wonderful educators say, “I don’t know anything about/I don’t have time for… [fill in the blank: Twitter, blogging, even social bookmarking, etc.]“. I know that this means that their voices will likely not be part of educational futures which are being shaped now.

It’s not about age or the hopefully-dead Digital Natives/Digital Immigrants argument. (And anyway, why would it be about age, when our students are of all ages? As educators we surely are seeking to engage and include all of our students.) And it’s not about using this tool or that, or being for or against using a VLE. I think that the future is being shaped by educators who are open to change, open to continuing to learn, and open to learning from failure. These are the educators who inspire both their peers and their students.

In January 2012 Michael D. Higgins, Uachtarán na hÉireann (President of Ireland), received an Honourary Doctorate of Laws from the National University of Ireland. In his speech at that occasion he spoke of the role of the university in moving boldly into the future:

“The university is, and remains I suggest, a space from which new futures have always emerged and must do so again. The ethos of independent scholarship is what delivers a previous scholarship’s achievements into the present and challenges that scholarship for renewal and replacement… To navigate successfully through today’s troubled, uncertain, and probably uncharted, waters, now, more than ever before, we need vision, foresight and bold strategies. Now, more than ever, an original and confident education system is needed…”

We must be willing to ask the difficult questions. In moves toward open education, many long-held practices are being re-evaluated: open publishing questions (blind) peer review; the use of social media questions the “walled gardens” of classrooms and VLEs; pedagogical research questions the effectiveness of lecture as a teaching method, new educational initiatives outside higher education will continue to question the cost/benefit ratio of university degrees. What are your opinions? Which new practices are worth developing? Which current practices still hold value? Which practices do we wish to hold onto, and which should be left behind? Only those willing to engage with these new technologies and new practices will be in a position to evaluate them, and to make decisions which shape the future of education.

CC and publicly available images:

Rosa Parks, donated by Corbis-Bettmann, Shavar Ross (Flickr); President Barack Obama on Rosa Parks bus, The White House (Flickr); Presidential Inauguration, Michael D. Higgins, Irish Defence Forces (Flickr); Separate factions on Irish Street, Downpatrick, Burns Library, Boston College (Flickr); Mary Robinson and Nadhifa Ibrahim Mohamed in Somalia, Trocaire (Flickr); Dunnes Stores strikers, Trocaire (Flickr) – used with permission; NUI Galway, Nelson Mandela visit, 20 June 2003

Volvo Ocean Race, NUI Galway and online learning

The Volvo Ocean Race is in town! As I write this, the boats are due into Galway (the finishing point of the race) after midnight tonight. The last time “the Volvo” was in Galway in 2009, an estimated 10,000 people crowded into Galway city to greet the boats arriving — at 3:00 in the morning — and enjoyed sunshine and a festival atmosphere for the next 10 days. Such is the spirit of Galway. [03/07/12 Update: huge crowds attended the race finish in Galway in the early hours of this morning.]

The event is about much more than the race. For the 2012 Volvo Ocean Race event, Galway has been transformed. We have a Race Village and a Global Village where you can find food stalls, musical entertainment, comedy, sports and adventure activities, crafts and fashion, as well as science, technology and education events. There is a great programme of events scheduled at the NUI Galway pavilion where I’ll be speaking in the Ideas Lab on Tuesday and Wednesday (July 3rd and 4th) at 2pm.

I’ve been asked to speak about “Online Learning for the Future” and I look forward to meeting people and engaging in discussion about social media in education, open learning, online and blended learning, and the range of opportunities for studying at NUI Galway. I’ve prepared the following short presentation as taster, but I hope that this will lead to conversations, both in person and online.

.

I didn’t want this presentation to be only about higher education and NUI Galway — online learning happens everywhere, formally as well as informally, and at all levels of education. So a few weeks ago I asked teachers involved in #edchatIE in Ireland if anyone would be willing to contribute a short video to show how they and their students are using technology. The results, from 10 different classrooms across Ireland, were amazing — see for yourself!

.

From my vantage point in higher education, these are our future students, as well as our future citizens. We need to be sure that we are doing our best to welcome, engage with and challenge these students as they enter post-secondary education. That’s a big challenge for us. May the conversation continue…

Image: PAUL TODD at www.volvooceanracegalway.ie

Pecha Kucha: tips, resources & examples

Some wonderful examples of Pecha Kucha presentations were a highlight of the recent Galway Symposium on Higher Education (#celt12) held at NUI Galway. If you’ve attended or delivered a Pecha Kucha presentation, you’ll know that it can be both a dynamic and challenging presentation format. Over the past two years I’ve had the opportunity to prepare and deliver four different Pecha Kucha presentations. Each time is a unique learning experience! This past year I did something I’d considered for quite a while: I assigned Pecha Kucha presentations to my students. In terms of presentation quality and the skills students developed, this was a great success. In this post I’ll share a few tips about Pecha Kucha presentations, some resources which my students and I found helpful, and a few examples of PK presentations.

I. Pecha Kucha presentation tips

A Pecha Kucha or 20×20 presentation contains 20 slides, with each slide shown for 20 seconds, for a presentation of exactly 6 minutes, 40 seconds. The format is similar to an Ignite talk, which is 20×15 (i.e. 20 slides, 15 seconds per slide, 5 minutes in length), so advice for preparing and delivering Ignite and Pecha Kucha presentations is similar.

The advantages of the Pecha Kucha format for a conference or a class are clear. Within a given time slot, more presentations can be scheduled and the schedule is predictable. In addition, the atmosphere in a Pecha Kucha session is usually very engaging. Once the “clock starts ticking”, the audience is on the side of the presenter, willing them to succeed. This is a wonderful atmosphere for both new and experienced presenters.

Tips for presenters:

  • Images are the key to effective Pecha Kucha. Try to find images which are illustrations or metaphors of your key points and/or use words-as-image, as in the example above. This makes delivery of your presentation much easier, as you’re not trying to race through a list of points. It also makes your presentation more engaging. This is why Pecha Kucha is so successful, I think. It’s not the timing, as such, but the fact that it leads presenters to use best practice in creating presentations which are visually strong and appealing. Let’s banish the bullets! :)
  • Practice, practice and practice again. I’m not a person who tends to memorize my presentations. For a Pecha Kucha presentation, however, memorizing your key points for each slide is usually the best approach. I suggest writing down the 2 key points you want to make for each slide and trying to stick to that. Then practice delivering your presentation until it flows easily. Practice really makes the difference.
  • Hack the format! If you want to go into depth on one particular slide and 20 seconds just won’t be enough, repeat the slide and add text or graphics to develop your points. Your information will then be on-screen for 40 seconds, with small changes appearing midway through. This is a very graceful way to keep within the format but still go into depth.
  • When delivering the presentation, don’t worry if you finish making your points on one slide before the next slide advances. Pausing will break your flow. Just start speaking about your next slide; it will likely appear midway through your first sentence. This makes for a more polished presentation rather than pausing for a few seconds to wait for the next slide to appear.
  • In working with students, I found that it was important to spend plenty of time beforehand to help students to develop not just an understanding of good presentation skills, but also of copyright, Creative Commons, and how to find, use and assign CC-licensed images. Most students who completed Pecha Kucha presentations in my Professional Skills course assigned CC licenses to their presentations and uploaded their work to Slideshare, forming part of their e-portfolio and digital footprint (some examples below).

Tips for organisers:

  • If possible, schedule Pecha Kucha presentations in a room that is not too large. I’ve attended Pecha Kucha sessions in small rooms and in large lecture halls, and I’ve found the atmosphere in rooms with a higher density of people is more connected and more fun. Participants tend to feel in touch with the presenter and the presenter can feed off the positive energy of the audience.
  • If you are organising a Pecha Kucha conference session, make sure all presenters send you their presentations ahead of time so that you can be sure that the timings are set correctly to 20 seconds per slide. Another approach you might consider is creating one long presentation for each Pecha Kucha session, with a transition slide (or two) between each presentation. This makes for a seamless session.
  • In one conference I attended (#ece11) yet another element of excitement was added by putting the presentations in each session in random order. Presenters didn’t know where their presentation fell in the running order, so had to be prepared to pop up when their name appeared. This led to much hilarity and great audience engagement and support.
  • When organising Pecha Kucha presentations for a class, I took on less of the organising work. I asked students to bring their own laptops or share laptops. Students learned a lot from loading presentations, connecting to the projector system, adjusting the room lighting, etc. And in one or two cases where students had not set the slide timings correctly, it served as a great learning moment for everyone.

II. Pecha Kucha resources

Pecha Kucha 20×20 –  This page gives the basics and a brief history of Pecha Kucha.

Why and How to Give an Ignite Talk by Scott Berkun — This terrific presentation (in Ignite format) is relevant for both Pecha Kucha and Ignite presentations. Take Scott’s advice and “hack the format” if necessary. If it’s Pecha Kucha, just be sure your presentation is 6 minute and 40 seconds long.

Creating an Ignite presentation — This article was written by presentation expert Olivia Mitchell about creating an Ignite presentation, however the guidelines apply just as easily to Pecha Kucha. This is a terrific, visual article, very helpful for careful planning of your presentation.

Choosing good images for presentations — This blog post has excellent advice on finding relevant, potent images for your presentation.

Finding CC-licensed images — the following sites are helpful in finding Creative Commons-licensed images and learning how to reference them:

  • Compfight – excellent search tool for Creative Commons-licensed Flickr images
  • Creative Commons Wiki – a Creative Commons image directory
  • CC Search — powerful search across a variety of platforms (e.g. Flickr, Google images, YouTube) to help you find content you can share, use, remix
  • Flickr images – enter search term, click Advanced Search, then tick the box “only search within Creative Commons-licensed content”
  • Content Directories — extensive list of directories of Creative Commons-licensed materials (audio, video, image, text

40+ Tips for awesome PowerPoint presentations — This is a useful checklist for all presentations, not just PowerPoint.

Prezi workshop – Prezi videos, examples and templates

Great Presentations by Nancy Duarte — Nancy Duarte is the author of the excellent books Resonate and Slideology – unbeatable sources of ideas and inspiration for all presenters. This 25-minute video is worth viewing if you want a deeper understanding of what makes a presentation which truly connects with an audience.

III. Pecha Kucha examples

The first two presentations below are examples of student Pecha Kucha presentations. Each of these was the first presentation ever created by the student — wonderful work, I’m sure you’ll agree!

>> Also, please check out the CT231 Student Showcase on Scoop.it — an up-to-date collection of student work including Ignite & Pecha Kucha presentations, blogs and audio podcasts.

The final two presentations are conference presentations. The first is by Mary Loftus, an excellent presentation from #celt12 on ‘ways of being’ in the online classroom. The second is one of my own Pecha Kucha presentations, delivered at #ece11, on learning and teaching Professional Skills.

If you have additional advice or tips, I’d love to learn from you. Best of luck in creating and delivering your own Pecha Kucha presentations!

Image source: CC BY-NC-SA 2.0 edmontonnextgen

Galway Symposium on Higher Education #celt12

The 10th Galway Symposium on Higher Education will be held here at NUI Galway on June 7th and 8th. The theme is The Written Word: Writing, Publishing and Communication in Higher Education. The popular annual event, organised by CELT (Centre for Excellence in Learning and Teaching), attracts people from across higher education in Ireland and beyond. This year’s keynote speakers are a diverse and fascinating group including Adam Rutherford, Mary Lea, Aileen Fyfe, William St. Clair and Adrian Frazier. Symposium sessions — including workshops, papers and Pecha Kucha presentations — cover a broad range of topics, e.g. flipped learning and teaching, writing for publication, academic integrity, active learning, social media in research, developing online learning, and “serious play” (!).

I was delighted to be invited to speak at the conference this year, on the topic of open education. I’m following Brian Hughes’s lead and publishing my abstract here in my blog; I’ll follow up with a more detailed post after the symposium. In the meantime, I welcome your comments and feedback.

#CELT12 Plenary: Exploring Open Education, Re-imagining Higher Education

We are in the early days of open education. The boundaries are blurring between real and virtual spaces, formal and informal learning, educators and learners. Open, participatory and social media are not just enabling new forms of communication; they are enabling new ways of learning, and thus are transforming education. In Joichi Ito’s (2011) words: “I don’t think education is about centralized instruction anymore; rather, it is the process [of] establishing oneself as a node in a broad network of distributed creativity.” What this means for the future of higher education is still unclear. We have a great opportunity, however, as educators, scholars and students, to engage in re-imagining and creating that future – what Keri Facer calls future building (2011).

Catherine will explore current practices of open education, both within and outside HE, based on her research and learning and teaching experiences. Open practices in education will be explored: open research, open learning and teaching, open publishing; as well as the digital literacies required to engage in open education practices, particularly using social media. A radical approach to open education is to work metaphorically and physically (inasmuch as possible) beyond the confines of the classroom and lecture hall: engaging with students as co-learners; openly sharing ideas, feedback and reflections – with students and with wider learning communities; and acknowledging the value of informal learning and personal learning networks (PLNs) as the key to integrated and continual learning. As educators, we each must consider our own approach to openness and to open education. What role will we play in building the future – as individuals and as universities?

Resources for exploring digital identity, privacy and authenticity

At the CESI (Computers in Education Society of Ireland) conference last weekend (#cesi12), I presented ‘Social networking with our students: digital identity, privacy and authenticity’. A number of people have asked for details of the articles and resources I referenced, so here are both the presentation and a summary of resources.

Digital identity, privacy & authenticity – #CESI12

[=> presentation updated 18/04/12]  The presentation is based on student work in a Professional Skills module, in a 2nd year BSc Computer Science and IT programme (see our Scoop.it for additional resources). The module aims to help students to improve their research and communication skills. Students gain experience in writing and presenting, both online and in class. Together we explore digital identity, privacy, social media, openness, copyright and Creative Commons.

Authentic learning is at the heart of the module. It is unrealistic to believe that students can learn or practice modern communication skills effectively in a traditional academic situation — i.e. submitting assignments individually to a lecturer, in an essentially private transaction. Communication today, particularly for IT academics and professionals, often takes place in open, online environments: discussion boards, social networks, blogs, wikis, etc. Ideas can be presented, discussed and defended; collaboration and feedback are enabled; better solutions can be found. To make the most of communicating in these different modes, in different media, a good understanding of digital identity and privacy is essential.

My CESI presentation focused on our use of Twitter, and particularly Google+, in autumn 2011 as an environment within which to discuss digital identity and privacy. Following is a summary of resources which we found useful, thought-provoking, interesting.

Search for your digital footprint
Resources

This Is Me is an excellent set of learning materials about digital identity, produced by the This Is Me project and modified by Nancy White, Shirley Williams, Sarah Fleming and Pat Parslow.

danah boyd’s (@zephoria) work is essential reading for anyone seeking a deep understanding of digital identity, privacy and social networking, with a particular focus on young people. In her 2010 paper, Social network sites as networked publics, boyd identified 4 key attributes of information which exists (about us) online, i.e. it is persistent, replicable, scalable and searchable.

The private/public debate is fascinating, and one in which students can actively engage. For example, while Mark Zuckerberg has asserted that sharing or “public” is the new social norm, 4chan founder Christopher Poole argues that anonymity allows users to reveal themselves in a “completely unvarnished, unfiltered, raw way”.

Helen Keegan (@heloukee) is a recognised expert in the areas of digital identity, digital media, social networking and learning. Keegan has written of the “tyranny of authenticity”, particularly in the dynamic between students and educators, and the challenge of authenticity in the context of higher education.

Videos

TED Talk: Beware Online Filter Bubbles by Eli Pariser

TED Talk: “moot” (on Anonymity) by Christopher Poole

I Know What You Did Five Minutes Ago by Tom Scott  (many of my students enjoyed this video — possibly better for older students)

Books

Eli Pariser (2011) The Filter Bubble: What the Internet is Hiding From You — The “filter bubble” concept is a great one to explore with students of almost any age; Pariser’s TED Talk is excellent and accessible, and the related website has useful tips.

Jeff Jarvis (2011) Public Parts: How Sharing in the Digital Age Improves the Way We Work and Live — Jarvis, espousing extreme “publicness”, acknowledges that fear accompanies the adoption of any new technology and notes that “we will make a lot of mistakes as we develop social norms around how to treat information online”.

Sherry Turkle (2011) Alone Together: Why We Expect More From Technology and Less from Each Other — Turkle has received praise and criticism for this book, in which she maintains that democracy requires that we retain a “zone of privacy” around the individual.

We’d love to hear about additional resources which you have found useful.

Distributed Creativity: open education and challenges for higher education

“I don’t think education is about centralized instruction anymore; rather, it is the process [of] establishing oneself as a node in a broad network of distributed creativity.”Joichi Ito

As an educator involved in online learning I’ve noticed a change this year. I’ve had more conversations about online learning with colleagues who teach in classroom-based programmes – particularly about open online learning – than ever before. The growing interest in Khan Academy, MOOCs and Stanford University’s online courses has made many in higher education realise that clear divides don’t exist any longer. The boundaries are blurring between real and virtual spaces, formal and informal learning, teachers and learners. Open, participatory and social media are not just enabling new forms of communication, they are transforming learning.

Learning is changing, but what of education? A couple of blog posts this week questioning the value of going to university at all are probably just the first of many.

A number of colleagues and I have been discussing these issues, as practitioners:  the opportunities and challenges of open online education, the role of the university, and our role as educators. Following is an edited draft of my initial contribution to these discussions. Your comments and feedback are welcome.

The growth of open online learning over the past decade has been steady. Open content, often discussed in terms of OERs (Open Educational Resources), is defined as “materials used to support education that may be freely accessed, reused, modified and shared by anyone”. The key to OERs is that they are openly licensed and thus available for use by all. The argument for using OERs is clear: if every university teaches introduction to programming, for example, then why should we all develop materials to teach this? Why not use openly available, openly licensed, excellent material, and spend more of our time on activities such as engaging with students, developing improved assessment strategies, etc.

There are many excellent sources of OERs (Open Educational Resources), including the NDLR; MERLOT; MIT OCW; OU Learning Space; OER Commons; Khan Academy; Stanford University’s online courses and more.

In terms of open online learning, MIT OpenCourseWare, Khan Academy and other video-based resources can be characterized as 1st generation, while the recent initiative by Stanford University, among others, can be considered 2nd generation, in that it includes not only learning materials, but instructional design, a learning structure and assessment – providing an experience closer to that provided within formal education. Stephen Downes recently suggested that the next generation will be widespread use of OERs along with automated, analytics-based, competency-based testing mechanisms, or open assessment. Indeed, this is precisely what OER university (OERu), among others, is setting out to do. Other open initiatives such as MOOCs and Open Badges have further potential to disrupt traditional higher education. Over 2000 people are currently participating in the #change11 MOOC “Change: Education, Learning and Technology”. Mozilla’s Open Badges project, particularly the DML competition on Badges for Lifelong Learning, is currently gaining a huge amount of attention as well.

Our challenges as educators in the further and higher education sectors? Here are just a few:

Open resources – Most students are aware of open educational resources, and these are shared widely, e.g. Khan Academy, YouTube, MIT OCW, and the recent Stanford University online courses. As educators, what are we doing to create or link to relevant online resources for students? Creating screencasts, video lectures, audio or video podcasts (and making these openly available) or linking to OERs (and OER repositories) can supplement lectures and provide students with valuable material for study and revision. Just as we refer students to the best textbooks, journals and databases, we should link to excellent, relevant, online open educational resources. Our challenge here is to create and share material in new ways, learn to use different tools, and stay abreast of online learning developments.

Open, participatory and social media – Students use social media and social networks in many ways, not least to support their studies, e.g. DropBox, Google Docs, Facebook, Twitter. Once again, as academic staff, we must look to our own practice. Are we making use of tools such as social bookmarking, social networking, web-based applications, and online curation tools to model good academic practice and to share resources with students, and with one another? Not all student work must be submitted directly and privately to the lecturer – opportunities for openness, sharing and collaboration should be considered.  We are challenged to consider using open, social tools (at least sometimes) – instead of closed, 1:1 tools – in order to open up the learning process and make it more authentic.

Emerging technologies – In the 2011 Horizon Report, mobile devices and e-books are the most current of the emerging technologies identified. How are we addressing these trends? The Horizon Report lists examples of education institutions innovating in these areas for teaching, learning and research. Even if we are not at the front of the innovation curve, we must address these emerging technologies in our programmes in a coordinated way, and communicate to our students and others how we are doing that. For example, how are we making use of mobile apps, or making our own learning content available on mobile devices? How are we facilitating students in using open access or e-textbooks?

Openness – In most undergraduate and postgraduate programmes, students are encouraged to examine their digital footprint and digital identity, and to consider the value of building a deliberate, positive, digital identity. This is a core element of digital literacies. Our students are visible to us online, and we are visible to them. As academic staff, are we open and positively visible online, as professionals? Are we modelling academic values in virtual spaces? The best way to share and publicise open educational resources is through the use of social media and social networks, e.g. Facebook, Twitter, Google+, blogs. In order to communicate and share our work and our values, our challenge is to consider our approach to openness – as individuals, as departments, and as universities.

Again, I welcome feedback and would be happy to hear from anyone who is currently engaged in similar discussions at their own institution. If you are at NUI Galway and would like to join in this discussion, please get in touch. I can be reached at catherine.cronin[at]nuigalway[dot]ie.

Image: CC BY-NC-SA 2.0 yobink

Students, peer learning, and Google+

Two groups of higher education students in Ireland — IT Professional Skills at NUI Galway and Emerging Technologies & Trends at LIT-Clonmel — are engaged in a collaborative project using Google+. We are now midway through the project.

As described in my previous blog post, 2nd year students in IT Professional Skills (#ct231) develop research, writing and presentation skills, but the foundation of the module is the exploration and development of digital literacies. Students explore digital identity, changing definitions of privacy, search personalisation, social media, social networking, social bookmarking, and curating information.

When I learned that Bernie Goldbach was teaching a similar module (#litet) at LIT-Clonmel, and each of us planned to use Google+, we agreed to suggest a collaborative activity to our students. Both groups of students agreed to give it a try.

We began simply by creating a shared circle and outlining a joint assignment with specific discussion questions. For the past ten days, students have been posting ideas, reflections, links and comments on topics including privacy, digital identity, useful tech tools, and the use of social media in education. Students are referencing work by danah boyd, Jeff Jarvis, Cory Doctorow, Rey Junco, Eli Pariser and Ken Robinson, among others.

The most powerful aspect of the activity is the peer learning which is taking place. The dynamic is one of conversation and exploration. The asynchronous nature of the discussion allows reflection; engaging conversations are taking place over several days. Some students post public comments on Google+, and some post only to our shared circle. Interestingly, in this activity we are both practicing and teasing out the issues surrounding online privacy and digital identity.

What do students think? Below is a collection of student voices on the topics we are discussing, as well as opinions on Google+ itself. Students will be producing their own digital media creations later in the term — I look forward to sharing links to many of these.

We welcome your thoughts, feedback or questions: #ct231 and #litet on Twitter; #ct231 and #litet on Google+.

Student voices: Privacy and digital identity

“There is considerable debate about whether or not young people care about online privacy. Well as a young person I am very concerned about privacy and controlling the information I share online. I am very specific about what I want to make public about myself and even then I try to restrict who has access to that information.”

“I decided since Jeff Jarvis took interest in our work, I would return the favour and view his opinions on Privacy.”

“Just read an article online about privacy in the digital era. It’s amazing to see how the definition of privacy differs between people, companies, marketers etc… I never really appreciated the extent of how privacy influences an individual’s online experience. Privacy in itself is a fluid concept and users are not likely to read the privacy policy for each site mainly due to its length, this means users are placing a lot of trust in sites and effecting how comfortable they are socialising online.”

“‘Filter bubble’ is a new term to me since I started the CT231 module this September… The Filter Bubble is minimising the connections we can have and minimising the information we can share and, in turn, shared with us. IMO, to truly enjoy the Internet to its full potential, we must break out of our filter bubbles.”

“Before I started Professional Skills, I had little or no knowledge of the term ‘digital identity’. As I researched the topic, I slowly realised how much my digital identity affects me and will affect me in the future.  A shocking example is how employers commonly search for your online digital identity when you are in the running for a job. This is even more evident for the IT sector, where one could imagine the employers would have the relevant know-how to search for ones digital identity.”

“I do believe though that more of an effort should be made to educate users on the importance of online privacy but at the end of the day I guess it’s up to the individual how public or private he/she wants his/her social network to be.”

Student voices: Social media in education

“I think that using social media in the classroom is a great resource for students. If a student is working on an assignment and they don’t understand something, who better to ask then to ask the lecturer who set the assignment! Twitter allows this question to be posted instantly, the lecturer or indeed another student would be very prompt in their response. Twitter allows lecturers to instantly share their ideas or websites or posts that they have just discovered themselves with students, instead of having to wait until the next lecture. It can also allow people who are not in the class to engage in the classroom discussion, possibly including sources they know about or their opinion on a topic. Twitter lets the classroom open up and engage to a world full of people with experience and knowledge.”

“I have also noticed how well this particular class have taken to our use of Twitter and Google + to complete our assignments. It definitely feels like less of a chore when doing assignments on a social media site.”

“Students are willing to take on Facebook as an educational tool as well as a social one, whereas there is a reluctance amongst faculty members to do so. [This] mirrors the actions of our first year class, where most students welcomed the group, no faculty members did.”

“I agree there should be a more prominent link between sites like Khan Academy and social media sites. I’ve no doubt that in the future more sites like this will be established for the next generation of students to ensure even greater online collaboration between them and lecturers from all over the world.”

“I find sites like YouTube offer a great step by step solution to any questions you might have where the highlights from lectures are posted and are rated based on their quality. Recently our class has begun to use more social networking sites like Facebook and tools like DropBox to share notes and keep up to date with lectures I found this to be a great benefit in studying and managing my work.”

“Schools and colleges discourage students to go on their social networking sites during college/school hours by banning the sites on their computers. Yes, social networks could be a very distracting site for students while in school, but there are also many educational values to these social networks. I have a firsthand experience using social networks for educational purposes with this module and I feel that if more colleges and schools did it, using social networks for education could potentially rise by a high percentage.”

“I have only been a Dropbox user for an hour now and I have fallen in love with it.”

“Dropbox is an amazing site which enables you to save files and easily access them online. Since I have started to use the site I have found myself relying on it more and more. Before my introduction to the site, I would continually find myself in situations where I wanted to work on a project, but couldn’t due to the fact that my documents were stored on a computer at home or in college. Because of Dropbox, I am no longer faced with this problem. I look forward using the site for other reasons in the near future also. As we will be faced with many group work projects throughout the college year, I can imagine that it will be extremely useful to be able to share a folder as a group where we upload our part of the project as we do it.”

“I think a really big aid in learning these days is video tutorials. There are countless videos available on YouTube covering every aspect of every subject. It is really useful to be able to stop a lesson/lecture that is difficult to grasp at a certain point and rewind back and watch it again. I find it way easier to pick up a new concept if I am learning it through video as opposed to through a traditional classroom setting, or from reading textbooks. There is no pressure to grasp the concepts before the lecture moves on, maybe that is another factor that makes learning through video seemingly easier. The best videos I’ve found are from Khan Academy.”

Student voices: Using Google+

“I am liking Google+, I didn’t think I would like to make the transition from Facebook to Google+ but now I’m seeing that Google+ has all the best features from Facebook and a lot more good ones from other social networks.”

“I really dislike Google+ I have been using it since beta and have found that Facebook is much easier to navigate and share information, Google+ looks clean but I prefer Facebook’s layout, it is also restrained because you cannot create events and Facebook pages on certain topics and people. There are more options with Facebook although there may be issues with privacy.”

“I must admit at first I wasn’t overwhelmed by Google+ when initially joined. Facebook has become the norm for my social networking activates and trying to change over to Google+ felt like just what it was, an assignment for college. However, over the last couple of days Google+ has really grown on me. I like the idea of separating people into circles, social circles, academic circles and Career circles. Google+ is like a crossbred social network, trying to combine all the best bits from other social networks such as twitter and Facebook.”

Google+ seems to be more universal as in people will be able to use it for a lot more than just talking to friends (like Facebook), the idea of setting up different circles for different areas of your life will be very useful.”

“When I began to use Google+ I was instantly impressed by how we could filter the information that we wanted to share through the use of circles. I felt more secure in the fact that we could post something jokingly to friends and not be embarrassed when older relatives or people it was not intended to be viewed by see it.”

Image (created for @purposeducation): CC BY-NC-SA 2.0 Josie Fraser  
 
Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 143 other followers