ALT Week 10 Reflection (for assessment 6/6)

Mobile Learning

This week I have been reading about emerging trends and future directions in learning technologies and  mobile learning is considered to be an immediate priority in education (Johnson et al., 2012). I contrasted this with the fact that my project offered an opportunity for my students to dip a toe in the water of mobile learning, however they were reluctant to do so, implying that it was too intrusive.

It is frustrating to be exposed to so much potential in relation to learning technologies and to attempt to share this with students who do not want to work with it. In order to avoid becoming too demoralised I needed to better understand the reasons why students may not engage.

Mobile learning is defined  as  “the acquisition of any knowledge and skill through using mobile technology, anywhere, anytime” (Petley et al., 2011), and it is even suggested that this flexibility creates enhanced levels of student engagement with their learning journey (Johnson et al., 2012).  Reading more about mobile learning, and discussing it with my peers on the ALT module I realise that to be successful  mobile learning  relies on availability of high specification technology such as smart phones, and tablets (Evans and Matthew, 2011) and a willingness to engage in learning outside of traditional learning environments (Park et al., 2011).  It is possible that my students had neither the equipment, not the attitude

Like any other TEL initiative, mobile learning requires careful planning and preparation of all involved.  I need to remember that the most successful TEL initiatives are simple and sustainable and that I should cut my cloth according to  the resources available to ALL students.

 Reflection

EVANS, R. & MATTHEW, A. F. 2011. ‘Please leave your mobile phone on’: Social educational networking in a social society: Encouraging in-class engagement at QUT across physical and virtual learning environments.

JOHNSON, L., ADAMS, S. & CUMMINS, M. 2012. The NMC Horizon Report: 2012 higher education edition. Austin, Texas: The New Media Consortium.

PARK, S. Y., NAM, M. W. & CHA, S. B. 2011. University students’ behavioral intention to use mobile learning: Evaluating the technology acceptance model. British Journal of Educational Technology.

PETLEY, R., PARKER, G. & ATTEWELL, J. 2011. The Mobile Learning Network: Getting Serious about Games Technologies for Learning. International Journal of Game-Based Learning (IJGBL), 1, 37-48.

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ALT Reflection Week 8 – Access (for assessment 5/6)

This week has offered a contextual understanding of the drive for inclusive learning and the role of learning technologies in achieving this. Whilst inclusive learning relates not only to students with disabilities,  but also to those who may be precluded from Higher Education for socio-economic and other reasons  (Stuart, 2002) disability  will be the focus of this post.

(Phipps et al., 2002) outlines the policy drivers including the introduction of the Disability Discrimination Act (1995), the Dearing Report (1997) and the Special Needs Education and Disability Act (2001). The University of Salford remains committed to providing accessible learning for all students and technology enhanced learning is seen to play an important part in achieving this goal. The aim is for inclusive design generally, rather provision of programmes that require special adaptations to be made for  those with disabilities.

Facilitating accessible learning relies on understanding the needs of the student. Phipps et al (2002) discusses this at great length in relation to disabled students and facilitating accessible learning is clearly viewed as a collaborative venture between  an academic and learning technologist. I am unsure of the extent to which our learning technologists and academics understand human performance component issues relating to accessibility that arise from physical or mental impairment and I wonder if it could be improved further by including occupational therapists as experts in human occupational performance, activity analysis and provision of  assistive technologies (Hemmingsson et al., 2009).

This issue does not resonate directly with my project as although I need to consider inclusivity in relation to access to technology, learning styles, and ability to make use of audio feedback I do not have any disabled students in my groups. It does however have resonance with the UK Standards Framework (2011) professional values 1: Respect individual learners and diverse learning communities and 2: Promote participation in higher education and equality of opportunity for learners. I would therefore like to discuss this issue further with my academic and learning technology colleagues in order to determine whether or not the input of an occupational therapist may help the University achieve its goal in relation to using technology to facilitate accessible learning.

References

HEA. 2011. The UK Professional Standards Framework for teaching and Supporting Learning in Higher Education [Online]. Higher Education Academy. Available: http://www.heacademy.ac.uk/assets/documents/professional/ProfessionalStandardsFramework.pdf [Accessed 1.05.12].

HEMMINGSSON, H., LIDSTRÖM, H. & NYGÅRD, L. 2009. Use of assistive technology devices in mainstream schools: Students’ perspective. The American Journal of Occupational Therapy, 63, 463-472.

PHIPPS, L., SUTHERLAND, A. & SEALE, J. 2002. Access All Areas: disability, technology and learning, TechDis with the Association for Learning Technology.

STUART, M. 2002. Collaborating for Change? Managing Widening Participation in Further and Higher Education, National Institute of Adult Continuing Education, 21 De Montfort Street, Leicester LE11 7GE, United Kingdom. Web site: http://www. niace. org. uk.

 

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ALT Week 7 Reflection – Evaluation (for assessment 4/6)

This week’s reading has been focused around evaluating technology enhanced learning projects and I have become aware of the myriad issues to be considered as well as an overwhelming number of evaluation strategies to be reviewed for their suitability in evaluating my project (Garrison and Vaughan, 2011, Smyth and Mainka, 2006). I am aware that due to time and resource limitation I will not be able to carry out a hugely complex evaluation and that I should focus on key areas. One of these will be student feedback and will be presented in my critical report; however my reading has led me to two other areas that feel particularly relevant.

 Tutor Feedback

“Most tutors are still relatively new to using technology in their teaching….Many tutors therefore don’t have the same kind of intuitive, expert understanding about the kinds of technology-supported approaches that will work for their own courses and students as they do about the non technology-supported approaches they are highly experienced in using” (Smyth and Mainka, 2006). I will be the only tutor involved in this initiative, but it seems important that I reflect on my own experience and I will do this by keeping a reflective journal and presenting my observations and analysis within my critical report.

Ongoing IT support

This is highlighted by  JISC (2010) and by (Garrison and Vaughan, 2011) as important in relation to the initiation, design, development and sustainability of learning technology projects. It has been noted that unsupported projects are less likely to be adopted across programmes and organisations and this can result in silos of good practice delivered by academics with a personal interest and aptitude in the area (Newton, 2003). Although this may afford a good experience for some students, it can create frustration in terms of student expectation, equity and parity (Sharpe et al., 2006). As part of my evaluation I will record the support that is likely to be required and the support that is readily available. This will be presented in my critical report.

I consider this strategy to be a fairly robust approach to gaining formative feedback on a project that should be considered to be a work in progress. I will refine the evaluation strategy moving forwards, should preliminary feedback indicate that the project is worth further investment.

References

JISC  2010 EFX: Evaluation support for FAIR and X4L Projects JISC accessed at  http://www.cerlim.ac.uk/projects/efx/toolkit/index.html  on 1.5.12

 GARRISON, D. R. & VAUGHAN, N. D. 2011. Blended learning in higher education: Framework, principles, and guidelines, Jossey-Bass.

NEWTON, R. 2003. Staff attitudes to the development and delivery of e-learning. New library world, 104, 412-425.

SHARPE, R., BENFIELD, G. & FRANCIS, R. 2006. Implementing a university e‐learning strategy: levers for change within academic schools. ALT-J, 14, 135-151.

SMYTH, K. & MAINKA, C. 2006. Pedagogy and Learning Technology: A Practical Guide. Edinburgh Napier University, Edinburgh.

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ALT Week 5 Reflection – The learners experience of e-learning (for assessment 3/6

This week I have been exploring the student experience in relation to e-learning and have been reminded  of the fact that students will have different levels of confidence and skill in relation to technology enhanced learning. Whilst it is possible that students generally are more technologically aware, this may not necessarily translate to competence in using technology for learning, and nor can it be assumed that younger students are more able than older ones (JISC 2011).  Difficulty with technology is cited as frequent frustrations for students, impacting on their student experience and possibly being reflected in the NSS.

In order to ensure that students have a good experience it is important to consider

  • The purpose of the technology in relation to the pedagogy and teaching and learning need. It should be purposeful and as simple as possible (Garrison and Vaughan, 2011)
  • Students should be prepared adequately for using the technology. Consideration should be given to the diverse learning styles of students and any training should be provided ideally in multiple formats with opportunity for practicing (JISC 2011).
  • The technology should be evaluated regularly and explicitly in module evaluations and end of year evaluations or specifically in relation to any new initiatives(Garrison and Vaughan, 2011)

This reading has informed certain aspects of my project. I realise that I need to pay considerable attention to preparing the students to access the audio feedback, but also to learn how to make best use of it. To do this I will draw on the experience of a Learning Technologist in preparing educational materials and I will also draw up some hints and tips on making best use of audio feedback in relation to performance in problem based learning groups.  Together these factors will ensure I am practising at the required level of the areas of activity, core knowledge and professional values within the UK Professional Standards Framework for Teaching and Supporting learning in Higher Education (HEA 2011).

References

GARRISON, D. R. & VAUGHAN, N. D. 2011. Blended learning in higher education: Framework, principles, and guidelines, Jossey-Bass.

HEA (2011). The UK Professional Standards Framework for teaching and supporting learning in higher education. York, The Higher Education Academy.

JISC (2011) In Their Own Words –  Exploring the learner’s perspective on e-learning. Accessed at http://www.jisc.ac.uk/intheirownwords

 

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ALT Week 3 Reflection (For assessment 2/6)

Having last week become aware of the amount of time and effort I will need to put into learning about podcasting, this week I have begun to get on with it! I have been really surprised by ease in which I have been able to find high quality ‘how to’ materials which are presented in varying styles to account for individual learning preferences. This is a pertinent issue as this week we have been asked to consider the impact of learning styles on ALT projects, so it is heartening to see key providers of online training such as JISC and the HEA taking account of these theories.

I now feel fairly confident that I know what to do to produce audio feedback. Since my manager is very supportive of technology-enhanced learning and is prepared to invest a little bit of money in equipment I have the option of recording onto a Dictaphone and uploading to blackboard, or using Audacity and LAME as mentioned previously. I have found step-by-step instructions for both, and next week will be a test week.

I have also taken the opportunity this week to review the UK PSF (2011), and to check that this project is relevant to the dimensions of the framework and in particular those relevant to Descriptor Two which indicates practice at the level of Fellow of the HEA.

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ALT Module – Reflection One of Six (for assessment)

This week I have been preparing my project action plan and sharing my thoughts with my tutor, my action learning set and some of my peers. This has further developed my thinking, particularly around timeframes and achievability and has felt reassuring. I have however, also become aware that although there is a lot of support available to students on this module in relation to our individual TEL projects, there does not seem to be an obvious institutional approach to facilitating a strategic approach to embedding TEL initiatives into our curricula. I feel somewhat frustrated by the responsibility this places on the academic to independently learn when, where and how to use learning technologies. Sentences like this; “what you need to do is download Audacity and then convert files to MP3 using LAME” are a foreign language to many of us. On top of a tremendous workload, how do we find the time, energy and motivation to work all this out? (Unless needing to pass this module of course, then the motivation is obvious.) It is perhaps not surprising that the uptake of learning technologies has been patchy (Sharp et al 2006).

I do not want to be too negative, or to do the University a disservice. There are lots of online training courses available, however these do not suit everyone. We do have a few learning technologists however they are thinly stretched. Wilson et al (2005) suggest that in order for learning technologies to be successfully adopted consideration must be given to change management, resources, motivation and leadership. I  am interested and hopeful to watch this space as the University further develops its online and distance learning portfolio, and in the meantime I will be mindful that if I want to put what I learn on this module into practice across a programme, involving multiple staff with varying enthusiasm for TEL I should be prepared to devote a considerable amount of time to the job.

References

Sharpe, R. Benfield, G and Francis R (2006) Implementing a university e-learning

strategy: levers for change within academic schools. ALT-J, Research in Learning Technology.14, (2,). pp. 135–151

Wilson, B., Sherry, L., Dobrovolny, J., Batty, M., & Ryder, M. (2005). Adoption of learning technologies in schools and universities. In H. H. Adelsberger, B. Collis, & J. M. Pawlowski (Eds.), Handbook on information technologies for education & training. New York: Springer-Verlag.

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Gaining and keeping perspective through reflection.

This reflection completes the assessment requirements for the teaching observation element of this module.

Description.

My observer kindly offered extremely positive feedback about my approach to teaching and the positive impact this had on the students, and commented that he had been inspired to explore teaching using role play. We also discussed some practical issues around a technology failure and a cluttered and noisy room.

Thoughts and feelings

I was pleased to hear the positive feedback, but was concerned that I had compromised the student experience by omitting to have a back up plan for the computer outage (the session required powerpoint). I worried about this for some time afterwards.

Evaluation

I was over critical of myself in this instance. My back up plan was to know my material and be able to deliver it without needing the slides. Student feedback did not indicate any concerns in this area, and I did not feel their learning had been compromised. The slides were available on Blackboard for the students after the session. It was also not helpful to carry this worry forwards.

Analysis

The pressure on UK Higher Education organisations to please students is immense and I have a definite sense that my job security rests heavily on National Student Survey scores and the various league tables that students will use to make decisions about where to study.  Students = money = a viable University = employment for lecturers such as myself. One of the questions on the NSS asks the students to rate their satisfaction with their teaching and learning experience.

Despite teaching on programme which attracts mostly local students and is funded largely by NHS Northwest (and is therefore less vulnerable than many other programmes) I realize that I am significantly affected by the pressure to ‘please’ students in order to keep my job.  Is it realistic though to expect students on a very demanding course to be happy all the time? Satisfied with their lecturers all the time? Satisfied with assessments all the time? And feedback?

Nonethless, the Universities buy-in to this system means I have to work within it and at times I find it stressful. Fry et al (2003) recognize the stressful nature of attempting to teach and facilitate learning, with maintaining academic rigor (and in my case producing capable occupational therapists) whilst managing external and sometimes apparently conflicting pressures and demands. Race (2010) suggests that lecturing is a stressful role and that lectures must take care of themselves. One of the strategies he suggests for this is reflection, however I think superficial reflection (Moon 1999) can encourage one to focus on negatives. To mitigate against this introspective approach and to develop a deeper level of reflection (Moon 1999) I have found discussing my thoughts with others in real time and using social media helps me to see alternative perspectives. In this case it as helped me to see that in order to maintain sanity I need to look at the bigger picture and recognize that most of my teaching is absolutely fine.

Conclusion

I began this process by discussing my reservations about reflection. My experience on this programme and particularly as I draw to the end of this module shows me that deep reflection, involving multiple perspectives, discussion, debate and reference to literature has a significant role to play not only in enhancing teaching and learning but also in relation to stress management. Being able to step back from ones own stress inducing assumptions, unpick them, discuss with professional networks (Bodell and Hook 2011), look at the evidence that supports or refutes them and formulate a more balances approach feels like a proactive rather than reactive stance. In this case, it doesn’t take away my anxieties about my professional securities, but it does mean they are not running away with me creating ever more dramatic images of myself as a destitute single mother. This can only be a good thing.

Action Plan

This module has allowed me to get into the habit of reflecting deeply and strategically on key issues and recording those reflections. My action plan now is to continue to do this which will also be useful if I am called for audit by the Health Professions Council. It is my intention to maintain this blog as a live environment for discussion of matters related to teaching and learning, with the aim of supporting my personal development and hopefully contributing to that of others. This account is liked to my Twitter feed, and I will also link it to Facebook, which is where I have found my online home amidst some wonderful occupational therapists, students and teachers.

References

Bodell, S & Hook, A 2011, ‘Using Facebook for professional networking: a modern-day essential. ‘, British Journal of Occupational Therapy, 74(12), pp.588-590.

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

Moon, J. (1999) Reflection in Learning and Professional Development. London: Kogan Page.

Race, P. (2010) Making Learning Happen (2nd edition).  London: Sage Publications

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