Having just emerged from the usual end of year exam marking frenzy I am now pushing ahead with a learning and teaching project supported by Warwick's International Higher Education Academy. The project team is an international mix, combining staff and students with a range of roles and experience and they are keen to investigate the new learning context we see all around us. We will be looking at how we can improve engagement in lectures, how the availability of information through digital devices changes the roles of student and teacher, how we manage our online presence and what sharing means today.
For me, this is an exciting development as so far my thinking in these areas has largely been with others outside my immediate context, through participating in online interactions in and beyond my own teaching and ed tech communities. I am interested to see if our collaborative discussions help shed some light on where the newly founded School of Modern Languages and Cultures can progress good practice informed by these pioneer researchers.
The project approach is heutagogic - participants will make their own decisions about the investigations they wish to contribute to, they will determine their own path, reflect on their learning and co-construct pages in Mahara (our e-portfolio tool) in order to make their findings explicit. Much of the activity will be mediated through our course areas and this in itself is a new challenge. My kick off meeting and drop in session so far have focused on making sure everyone gets to know each other and feels welcome in our digital spaces. We have a short project window (finishing at the end of July) and, given the nature of the project design each has to find their own way through our set of investigations, contributing to our shared goal as they go. Order will eventually emerge out of chaos, but we all have to be comfortable with the disruption involved in order to get to grips with some challenging ideas. Not surprisingly there are lots of questions for me as project manager: can I...? should I...? and the answer is typically Do you want to? Go ahead...try it...It is scary to have permission to follow your curiosity when you have been trained to meet targets and accomplish set goals. I am very grateful they are willing to give this a go. I can't wait to see what they think and to bring it back to the ALT conference in the autumn.