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Snowed under… January 19, 2013

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snowed_under

I’ve really tried to keep up, but its all been too much, too fast, with no time to digest and think. I find it ironic that although the tutors profess a strong belief in learner-centred learning design they have created a relentless timetable of defined activities that seek to regulate when and how I interact with the course. Providing guidance and scaffolding for learning is great, but I’m feeling overwhelmed and micro-managed. I also think that the estimates they provide for the time required for the activities are wildly optimistic. For example, this weekend they want me to apply contextual approaches to my learning design using either personas and force maps or an Ecology of Resources approach.

Personas? Yesterday I was pointed at a list of ten academic papers about the subject I could read (which one or two should I choose?) On Friday evening, at the end of a long week? No thanks… I’m motivated, but not that motivated.

Force Maps? All I could find about them is on this page, which has three scrappy diagrams and a paragraph of explanation. What’s the point of them? How are they used? How do they influence our learning design?

Ecology of Resources? The page on these suggests ‘skimming through the presentations below’ – the first has 78 slides, the second has 63, the third 28 and the last a measly 15. Have none of the tutors discovered that students can’t learn anything from slides intended to support a talk? Have they forgotten the basics of good educational resource design in their enthusiasm for the ‘open’ part of OERs?

So just to recap, I have a pile of academic papers, three scrappy diagrams and some bloated PowerPoints which I’m supposed to read, understand and digest in one day so that I can apply them to my barely-formed project this weekend? Suggested total time: 1 hour 45 minutes. Maybe if if I’d spent the whole weekend reading and thinking about this I might have made some progress, but I’m afraid I just lost the will to keep going.

So, I’m still really interested in learning design, but have decided that this is not the way for me to learn about it. I’m a reasonably self-motivated active learner, so I’ll just do it at my own pace in my own time. Which brings me to a fundamental problem that seems to be a core ‘feature’ of all moocs: that they only work for students who are already independent and highly motivated learners. If they are going to be the solution to the challenge of affordable mass education, they are going to have to use learning designs that work for less motivated learners by providing the carefully scaffolded learning activities, feedback and sense of progress that they require. They will also need to be sufficiently flexible that the study activities can be fitted into busy lives.

So, farewell OLDS-MOOC; thanks for the hard work you’ve undoubtedly put into setting this up but I’m afraid it didn’t work for me.

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So, how’s this new mook going? January 15, 2013

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So, how’s this new mook going?

it’s mooc, not mook, and to be honest it’s been a bit of a wild ride so far…

?

well, it didn’t get off to a great start, y’know – the usual technical problems –

oh yeah, what is it they say – never work with animals or computers – ha!

Mmm – but I was one of the lucky ones who did get a link that worked, and to be honest it wasn’t that great. There was the usual vertigo-inducing Prezi that either skated past too fast or the guy read the words off the screen

so a big step forward from PowerPoint then? They need to get their heads around slideology and zen presentation…

exactly. Anyhow, the embedded videos had no sound, so it looked like they hadn’t tested it, which wasn’t too inspiring

ok, I get the picture – but what about the mook itself?

mooc. Well, the technical learning curve was kinda steep if you weren’t up to speed with all that web2 caboodle. Their Cloudworks space is a strange mix of cool and clunky, and I’m not sure I’ve really got to grips with it yet – and the embedded Google pages are a nightmare – two sets of scrollbars, can you believe it?

yeah, I bet that would get steam from Nielsen’s ears! and the accessibility crowd won’t be too thrilled either.

yup – although a rather lame accessibility statement appeared on the homepage a day or so back – seems like its a work in progress

well, we’ve all been there (laughs)

anyhow, Yishay, who’s kinda the main man, has really been putting in 110% to get this thing off the ground. I hope he’s not trying to do a day job at the same time like the rest of us! I thought the instructions were pretty clear, but lots of peeps just don’t seem to get it, which must be really frustrating for them – and him. There’s this awesome schedule of daily tasks, but it turns out now that these are only guidelines and we can take it a bit more at our own speed. There was a lot of stressing online like “it’s day 2 and I’m already behind (sob)” but, hey, this a free cmooc and you just need to chill.

cmooc? I thought it was called a..

the c stands for connectivist, or constructivist or something like that – means that this is more about what we bring to the party – not like one of those xmoocs from..

xmoocs? now I’m really getting confused –

well, the x stands for – er – er – the main point is they are all about the Content (with a capital C) and usually have some big-gun academic telling it like it is. Did I tell you about that one I took last year with the crazy guy?

yeah, completely bonkers!

pirate hat and all (laughs) But this one is completely different and is trying to get us to form teams and actually make something – learning by doing – and discussing, of course. In fact, given there were nearly 1000 people signed up for this, the open forum is actually pretty quiet.

anything interesting yet?

not sure – haven’t had time to read it all, of course – lots of people trying to define learning design. It’s a bit like the blind men describing an elephant. I guess I need to just listen for a bit and see if I can figure out the whole thing.I’m reading this neat paper by Falconer, Finlay and Fincher titled ‘Representing practice: practice models, patterns, bundles‘ which compares various methods for representing learning designs so they can be shared. And Yishay sent me a link to some examples – I took a quick look and there are all these perfect diagrams plus a narrative description – here’s my reply to him:

“I’ll spend some time comparing the various representations of the same activity (a session for school children on ‘healthy eating’). From a first browse through I was struck by the contrast between the neatness of the diagrams (“this is how it works”) and the messy reality of the Design Narrative (“this is how it really worked the first time we used it in a challenging school situation”). There is a military saying that no battle plan survives first contact with the enemy and perhaps the same is true of learning designs and learners! I suspect that as we approach the end of the first week here that you understand this all too well 🙂 Still, adapt, improvise and press on…”

and will you? I have to say you don’t seem overenthusiastic so far…

I hope so – they’re really jumping into the unknown with this mooc, so expecting it to be perfect – well, it ain’t gonna happen. Like I said, the trick is to chill and enjoy the ride. Besides, I’ve signed up for this project with a guy called Oli – it sounds really cool and is all about collaborative gamified simulations using WordPress Networks

yeah, I read about that in your last post – what the hell was that about? You’ve got to stop eating those Rarebits, y’know…

no-one said we had to take this seriously. Besides, all the serious talking has been in our study group –

?

just a bunch of us at work, sharing our thoughts. We’d planned on doing the mooc together, but real life has thrown a spanner for a few of us – the usual stuff; illness and pressure of work – did I tell you my daughter was rushed to hospital last week?

no! she ok?

yeah, back at uni now but it was a real worry for a couple of days – I got this midnight call like “I’m in an ambulance”. Major panic, as you can imagine. Thank god for the NHS – but as you can guess, that nearly derailed my mooc start…

no kidding – glad it wasn’t anything too serious. Good grief, is that the time? Listen, it’s been great yakking, but I’ve gotta go – catch up same time next week?

Sure – bye for now – going to catch that new Utopia on TV…

Little Nemo’s adventures in the Bazaar of Dreams January 13, 2013

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There was a note pinned to the door which read “Free dreams – come buy, come buy!”. ‘Curiouser and curiouser’ I thought, turned the brass knob and opened the door. Inside it was silent – I had been expecting a clamour of voices, with exotically-garbed dream merchants hawking their wares. Instead, there was a long table with a neat row of white paper bags along it. Each had a small label writtenwith blue ink. Coming closer, I looked at the first: “Ann’s Learning design for the whole institutional curriculum”. That seemed like a very big dream, and a bit scary, so I moved on, wandering down the table, looking at the labels as I went. Many seemed very vague; just a name and “my dream” or “my dream project proposal”. There was not much time before I had to wake up, so I didn’t peer inside these and just carried on along the row of paper bags, looking for a title that appealed. It felt like browsing through boxes of books at a jumble sale; I just knew that the right book/dream would make itself visible without too much determined searching. And there it was, nearly at the end of the table: “Oli Haslam: My dream: Learning design for a collaborative ‘gamified simulation’ environment in WordPress Multisite”. That sounded like a dream I might enjoy, so I picked it up.

“A good and wise choice, sir, if I may say so” said a unctuous voice at my shoulder. I turned, and there was a Dream Merchant, resplendent in his richly-embroidered robe and ornate snood. “How much is this dream?” I asked and he smiled like a crocodile. “They are all free, these dreams, kind sir. No fee, bill, charge or payment required, apart from the time taken to dream them, of course. However…” (and here he smiled even wider, if that was possible) “…turning that dream into reality may be a little more costly.” Suddenly I realised that the bag, which had seemed as light as a cloud, was getting heavier and heavier, pulling me down, tipping me forward until

I landed with a bump on the floor beside my bed. “No more Welsh rarebit for me just before bedtime” I groaned. Only then did I notice the paper bag with its neatly-written label in blue ink, resting on my bedside table…