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One of the most enjoyable and inspiring books I have read this year has been Sir Ken Robinson's "Out of our Minds"  and my ref...

Friday, 17 July 2015

Open Education #FOS4L Getting creative

Open Education is dear to me, creating tailored learning resources has always been one of my favourite aspects of teaching, But what's the point of all that creation if you can't share it widely and be inspired by others who critique or improve on it? But the concept of open is often misunderstood

Since the advent of digital I have not only been able to clear out all the ancient worksheets from under my bed (25 years of dust collecting under there!) but I have also been able to refine the best ideas and develop them for digital practice, sharing using slideshare, TES resources, scribd, issu, dropbox, flickr and other sites and the engagement with them has helped me to realise how useful they are to others. It's not always easy to find sites that display the creative commons licence obviously, hence my campaign on slideshare recently. 

The new affordances of digital tools increase the impact that can be achieved from a teaching perspective considerably. Using digital video for example can revolutionise the authenticity of language teaching and learning scenarios. I have been involved in the EU Video for all project over the past year and a half and I have conducted piloting sessions with colleagues in HE to get their impressions of this approach to encouraging creativity. Of course using commercial video or "finding images on the web" can be problematic and sometimes teachers get caught like rabbits in the headlights, afraid to create or encourage creativity in case copyright is infringed. So for that reason I took one of the Video for All examples made by one of my students (using poetry for student creation) and made some resources about Creative Commons (including a wiki page here) to support language teachers in embarking on their own make to suit their context. 

I believe that supporting the confidence of teachers to create and within their Community of Practice is very important. We have been disempowered through a series of bureaucratic practices in education for too long, good teaching is a fundamentally creative process and skills development in the digital era should be a priority. This is why I embraced Terry Loane's suggestion of Open Guilds and participated recently in the webinar. I also set up an open badge for other language educators (see below, designed by @mearso) so we can start to build a cross sector CoP to promote such activity. If you know a language educator who practices openly, please share the badge claim link with them!

Wednesday, 15 July 2015

Flexible pedagogies FOS4L

An invitation to join #FOS4L this week arrived just as I was coming to the end of a week's leave and returning to work to catch up on over 300 emails! (most were quickly deleted thankfully). As I catch up on open discussions taking place within the #fos4l spaces online and I see happily that it will involve interacting with some of my favourite folk in #edtech and making new friends I am instantly inspired to get involved. The suggestions for activities over the short 5 day course coupled with the fact it is already day 3 meant I decided to draw together my reflections together on the first 3 topics through this post. 

Digital literacies and identity:

My professional identity puts my role as a language educator before my learning technology role, although both are clearly very closely connected. I have reflected on this before for #ocTEL last year. My access to French language use afforded by the interenet feeds my language teaching identity, leading to an ongoing connection to the language as it continues to evolve - see this for example on authenticity. I also curate content to help other language teachers explore and manage their journey towards greater digital awareness. I very much welcome the inclusion of Wellbeing in Jisc's digital capability model as a recognition of the time it takes to acquire skills and knowlege necessary to be an effective digital practitioner. 

Flexible pedagogies: 

I am not sure I like this term as it implies a kind of fuzziness around how learning happens. Personally my learning since the arrival of the internet has been best described by the term heutagogy and I feel this is a useful learning theory, essentially reflecting the ease with which we can follow our own learning paths since the advent of ubiquitous access to information. As I have worked using this to inform my practice with students I have certainly found it to increase their autonomy and engagement. If we direct our own learning it follows however that we can refuse to learn should we choose to do so, no amount of teacher encouragement, threat or reward can force an individual to learn something that he doesn't wish to. I see this in my own refusal to learn that eating chocolate is fattening! However, I have to accept that heutagogy is a newcomer. The HEA have a very useful site on flexible pedagogies which I see as an umbrella term to encompass the sort of toolset I have always supported. Flexibility, willingness to adopt a learner-centred approach, devolve the locus of control to them and learn from them are all positive in my opinion. It is time to change our understanding of how learning happens but change stands little chance of success institutionally despite the helpful advice in this report unless they accompanied by a flexible approach to assessment. We get what we assess, our assessments also show what we value. 

Supporting learning:

I am going to reflect on this with respect to my leadership role in supporting digital engagement with my teaching colleagues. I have adopted the following principles:- autonomy, mutual support and connected, open practice.
  • provision of self-service, just in time rescoures for skills acquisition e.g how to tutorials sandbox course spaces on our VLE and a central sharing community for all tutors to build a community of practice.
  • show and tell sessions every term for dissemination and celebration of the best teaching and tool use. (see slides below)
  • encouragement of PLN development through social media tools and open networks
Seems to be working for those who are prepared to accept that you have to make time in order to avoid reinventing square wheels.  A shift away from silos and towards a more open mindset are also required to value connecting for professional development.